Category: Georgia Politics

16
Sep

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

The Mayflower left Plymouth, England, for the New World on September 16, 1620. Thirty-five of 102 passengers were members of the English Separatist Church seeking religious freedom from the Church of England. Originally aiming to reach Virginia, Mayflower eventually landed at Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

A single pistol shot on September 16, 1920 opened former Cherokee land in Oklahoma to white settlers in a “land run” to claim property.

The original stimulus act was announced to bring $70 million in federal money to Georgia to build roads and public buildings on September 16, 1933.

On September 16, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Selective Service and Training Act requiring males 26-35 years of age to register for the draft. On the same day, Sam Rayburn of Texas was elected Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and would go on to hold the post for 17 years total, the longest tenure of any Speaker.

R.E.M. and Gregg Allman were among the inductees into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame on September 16, 2006.

GPB has an article on the 1957 Les Paul Goldtop guitar used by Duane Allman on the first two Allman Brothers records and on “Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes. That guitar recently sold for $1.25 million dollars.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp appointed Gwinnett County Commissioner Jace Brooks (R) and Tucker Mayor Frank Auman to the Georgia Regional Transit Board, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Governor Kemp spoke in Swainsboro last week about the Rural Strike Force, according to WTOC.

In his announcement, the governor says his creation of a team to work on rural economic development is not creating another government agency, but getting existing ones that are already working to work together to bring more business, jobs, and growth to rural areas outside Atlanta. He says he’ll use the Department of Agriculture, Department of Labor, and economic development to work together on what they can do to help rural communities bring about new projects and jobs.

“We’re moving the needle all around Georgia, but we want to bring more to rural Georgia because they’re the ones that need it the most right now,” Governor Kemp said.

He says by bringing agencies, utility companies, university research, and more together, they can make it more effective and bring growth to rural Georgia.

Atlanta may host a debate for the Democratic candidates for President, according to the AJC.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she and other state Democrats are in “very active discussions” with the party to schedule a debate in Georgia.

“I’m absolutely lobbying for it,” she said after the debate in Houston. “When you look at what’s at stake in Georgia – two Senate races – there aren’t many opportunities like that. To have that opportunity in Georgia, it only makes sense that we bring this field of candidates to our state.”

“Georgia represents the future of the Democratic Party,” said Nikema Williams, chairwoman of the state party. “We would love to see national candidates debate the issues in front of the Georgia voters who will take us to victory next year.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams launched another fundraising scheme vanity project political organization, according to the AJC.

The Georgia Democrat, the runner-up in last year’s gubernatorial election, kicked off the new initiative by Supermajority with a speech to hundreds in Atlanta who broke into applause when she recounted how she refused to concede to Gov. Brian Kemp.

“As women, we are taught there are certain rules we have to follow,” she said, adding: “We are taught that it’s our responsibility to meekly accept the outcome and to trust the rules as they were written down. I don’t.”

Supermajority was founded earlier this year by several well-known liberal leaders: Alicia Garza, who helped start Black Lives Matter; Katherine Grainger, a partner with Civitas Public Affairs Group; Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance; Cecile Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood; Jess Morales Rocketto, the alliance’s political director; and Deirdre Schifeling, a Planned Parenthood adviser.

“Our world is at stake, because the values that made us the strongest nation in the world — those values are being shaken,” said Abrams, who slammed Republicans who “celebrate racism and misogyny, who revel in their xenophobia, who put children in cages and call it good, or worse, look away and say, ‘It doesn’t really matter because they’re not us.’”

“We’re not going to shut up. This is our nation,” said Abrams. “These are our people. And it’s our responsibility: When the rules are broken, you fix them. When the system is broken, you take it over.”

Dueling rallies were held in Dahlonega this weekend, according to the Gainesville Times.

Ralliers separated by barricades Saturday afternoon in the downtown Dahlonega square shouted chants across the space usually filled with tourists to the mountain town.

“God, Family, Country, Trump” was met with “Racists, Sexists, Anti-Gay, All the Nazis Go Away” as about 250 gathered, monitored by a law enforcement presence about 600 strong and representing 36 agencies.

Chester Doles organized the rally in support of President Donald Trump but withdrew his application for a permit to rally amid growing concern of white supremacist undertones.

Doles is a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and was an organizer for the National Alliance, a mostly defunct white supremacist group with deeply anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant beliefs.

Counterprotesters, supported by the Socialist Coalition of North Georgia, who spoke at the event claimed the family-friendly advertisement for the rally was a “facade” in order to build a fascist movement.

Two were arrested at 1:22 p.m. on North Park Street for inciting a riot, according to a news release from the city of Dahlonega. Earlier, University of North Georgia Police had arrested someone at 10:30 a.m., before the demonstrations began, for obstruction and possession of a weapon in a school safety zone.

From the AJC:

The rally numbered somewhere between 35 and 50 self-described patriots on one side of the square, countered by three times that number of counterprotesters shouting from behind barricades on the other side. Both groups were outnumbered by 600 state and local law enforcement officers, many sweating out the afternoon heat in full riot gear.

“We know we are on the right side of history,” said rally organizer Chester Doles. “With the rise of socialism, American patriots are standing up.”

Yellow ribbons hung outside businesses and on street lamps and traffic signs in silent protest of the rally, said Charlotte Arsenault, minister of Georgia Mountains Unitarian Universalist Church in Dahlonega. Arsenault was one of 10 pastors who helped organize about 30 parishioners who attended the counterprotest.

On the counterprotesters’ side, people were filtered through a security checkpoint about a block away from the Gold Museum. Law enforcement used hand-held metal detectors to scan each protester. No backpacks were allowed in the area cordoned off for counterprotesters on the south side of the square, but firearms were allowed as long as they weren’t loaded with any ammunition. No visible guns were seen on any counterprotesters or rally supporters.

“It’s presented as a pro-Trump rally, but they’re trying to get conservatives to go along with white supremacy and that’s not OK,” [Atlanta resident Aileen] Loy said.

Is anyone else reminded of what happened in Forsyth County in 1987?

Oglethorpe County was named the first “broadband ready community by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, according to the AJC.

Oglethorpe, located east of Athens, earned the designation by passing an ordinance requiring the county government to decide whether to approve or deny broadband network projects within 10 days after their applications are deemed complete by the county. The ordinance also limits internet application fees to no more than $100.

The broadband certification means internet projects in Oglethorpe will receive priority for potential future state funding for internet expansion in rural areas, according to a bill passed by the Georgia General Assembly last year.

Local governments can apply for the broadband ready certification through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

Five Georgia schools are adding girls flag football to their athletic programs, according to the AJC.

With funding from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, support from the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons and several corporate sponsors, the gridiron is becoming an equal-opportunity athletic field for youngsters of both genders. After a well-received inaugural season last year in Gwinnett County, five other school systems came on board this fall — Cherokee, Forsyth, Henry, Muscogee and Rockdale. That comes to 52 high schools in the program.

The grant covers fees for referees, field costs, jerseys, equipment, athletic trainers, administrator fees and coaching stipends. The purpose of this initiative is to provide an opportunity for high school girls to participate in football activities and be part of an organized high school sports team.

Proposed cuts to the state budget will largely relty on eliminating authorized positions, according to the Tifton Gazette.

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget publicly posted a document online late Wednesday that summarizes where state agencies plan to find the savings. The document was released the same day the state announced last month’s revenue were down 2.8%, or $50.3 million, compared to last August. Revenues for the new fiscal year are up just 0.2%.

Most of the proposed reductions will be found through personnel cuts or eliminated vacant positions.

Positions going unfilled or eliminated in the current budget include 12 full-time consumer protection workers in the Department of Agriculture, 16 regional investigators with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and 21 child welfare workers in the Department of Human Services. The state expects to save $4.3 million by not paying 49 people to do those jobs as provided for in the state budget the governor signed in May.

“Some proposals lack specifics. That’s normal. They’re not final. We’re early in the process,” Candice Broce, the governor’s communications director, said on Twitter, noting that the budget cuts are still subject to the governor’s review and change.

From the AJC:

While several agencies proposed cutting jobs and programs, K-12 schools and colleges requested about $400 million in additional funding this year and next to meet enrollment growth, and the agency that runs Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, disabled and elderly, asked for nearly $300 million, according to a review of budget plans by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Some of the most costly things the state does — educating students, providing health care to the poor, and building roads — were exempt from Kemp’s edict to cut spending. In fact, about three-fourths of what the state spends — much of it for programs that are funded based on the number of Georgians enrolled in them — didn’t have to be cut back. Many of those areas asked for more money because their costs are rising.

“Most of government is people driven, driven by the number of people who come through the door,” said Ben Harbin, a former Republican lawmaker who headed the state House Appropriations Committee during the Great Recession. “Education is seats in the desk. Medicaid is people walking into the doctor’s office. You can’t cut that.

Kemp ordered the cuts in August to both prepare the state in case of an economic downturn and provide the money needed to meet his priorities, such as higher teacher pay.

Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols will bring the Clean Energy Roadshow to Albany, according to the Albany Herald.

Taking place at Albany State University’s West Campus from 9 a.m.-noon on Sept. 24, the event is designed to open attendees to a world of new possibilities for saving money.

“The Alternative Fuel Vehicle Roadshow and clean tech seminar help you prepare for resiliency and sustainability in your business or community,” coordinators of the event said in news release. “Energy costs can capture a major portion of any fleet operating budget, so it pays to be efficient with those dollars. Whether you refit or replace vehicles, install solar, upgrade lighting or make energy-efficiency improvements, our experts guide you through the planning and decision-making stages to make you RFP-ready.

A two-hour seminar and commercial vehicle display allows attendees to map their sustainability and economic development plan using natural gas, electric and propane gas vehicles. Echols will host a guided, walking showcase of alternative-fuel cars, trucks and buses followed by a seminar on current trends in alternative fuel vehicle technology, transportation, energy security, and resilience for rural and urban communities.

Technology Association of Georgia and Clean Cities Georgia are also expected to highlight their work building a clean tech future.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr joined elected officials in 20 states in supporting the Trump Administration’s new proposed energy rules, according to the Albany Herald.

Attorney General Chris Carr has announced that the state of Georgia has joined a coalition of officials from 20 states in supporting the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy rule as it faces a challenge in court. The coalition, in a motion filed Thursday, seeks to intervene in defense of the rule’s repeal of the so-called Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulation.

“The Clean Power Plan was a far-reaching attempt by the prior administration to regulate what it could not legislate,” Carr said. “We oppose regulatory overreaches like the Clean Power Plan, which would have killed jobs and raised electricity prices, and we appreciate President Trump’s commitment to repeal it and replace it with the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which will restore the state’s proper authority to regulate energy.”

Georgia joined the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming, along with the governors of Kentucky and Mississippi, and the Mississippi Public Service Commission, in supporting the rule.

The Rome News Tribune covers the off-season work of local legislators.

Three of Floyd County’s four state lawmakers spent several days this summer as guests at an education seminar hosted by the Medical Association of Georgia.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome; Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome and Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, also attended the National Conference of State Legislatures’ legislative summit in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dempsey was a presenter at the NCSL summit, which ran Aug. 4 through 8. She joined panelists from Virginia, Utah and Kansas to discuss “The Lawmaker’s Role in Tackling the Data Conundrum” on Aug. 6.

Glynn County Commissioners will discuss a proposed 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation (T-SPLOST) proposal, according to The Brunswick News.

All seven commissioners have expressed their desire to impose another 1 percent sales tax once SPLOST 2016 collection ends on or before September 2020. At a meeting earlier this month, the commission indicated that it wants to put the questions on the May 2020 primary election ballot.

Collection of SPLOST 2016 began on April 1, 2017, to pay for infrastructure projects, equipment purchases and two brick-and-mortar projects — a new animal control shelter at the county’s public safety complex and a veterans memorial park between I and J streets.

At a past meeting, most county commissioners said they would like to see the list remain mostly dedicated to road, bridge, sidewalk and drainage projects. A special committee is in the process of determining the best way to address a space shortage in the Glynn County Courthouse, an issue that may result in a “vertical” SPLOST project on the 2020 ballot.

Murray County voters will vote on a T-SPLOST this November, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Sole Commissioner Greg Hogan says the county needs to repave about 50 miles of roads each year just to keep them maintained and probably more like 60 to catch up on a backlog of work.

“We currently only pave about 10 miles of roads a year,” Hogan said.

That’s why he has placed a five-year Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) on the Nov. 5 ballot. The TSPLOST is a 1% tax on most goods sold in the county.

If approved by voters, the tax would begin April 1, 2020. Hogan says that over its five-year life, he expected the tax will bring in about $23.5 million.

“It can only be used for acquiring rights of way, moving utilities, bridges, culverts, patching, milling and widening roads, shoulder preparation,” he said. “You can’t use this for anything other than roads or sidewalks, things like that. You can use it for bike paths. But I’m not interested in that. Right now, I just want to get our roads into good shape.”

Would-be candidate for Mayor of Dallas Narda Konchel plans to appeal her removal from the ballot, according to the Rome News Tribune.

A former Dallas mayoral candidate says she plans to appeal the county election board’s action earlier this week to throw her off the Nov. 5 ballot after upholding a challenge to her city residency.

Narda Konchel posted on her campaign’s Facebook page today that she planned to petition through Superior Court to appeal the board’s unanimous decision Wednesday to disqualify her as a candidate for Dallas mayor against incumbent Mayor Boyd Austin.

Austin, who is seeking re-election to a seventh term, challenged Konchel’s candidacy by saying she had not satisfied the city charter’s requirements for living in the city and being a registered voter for one year before her qualifying date of Aug. 19, 2019.

The Paulding County Board of Elections and Registration voted to uphold Austin’s challenge and disqualified Konchel.

13
Sep

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

The Second Continental Congress opened in Philadelphia on September 13, 1775; Georgia was represented by Archibald Bulloch, Lyman Hall,  John Houstoun, and John Zubly.

On September 13, 1788, the Confederation Congress voted to implement the Constitution and authorized states to elect Senators and Representatives and called the first Presidential election, with selection of presidential electors in the states to be held on January 7, 1789, and February 4, 1789 as the day electors would cast their ballots.

Francis Scott Key composed the lyrics to “The Star Spangled Banner” on September 14, 1814.

On September 15, 1831, Dr. Samuel Worcester and Dr. Elizur Butler – missionaries – were tried in a Lawrenceville courtroom for living as white people among the Cherokee and refusing to take an oath of loyalty to Georgia, convicted and sentenced to hard labor. Some historians refer to this case, which went to the United States Supreme Court on appeal, as the beginning of the events that led to the forced removal of the Cherokee people from Georgia on the “Trail of Tears.”

HMS Beagle, carrying Charles Darwin, arrived at the Gallapagos Islands on September 15, 1835.

On September 14, 1885, Georgia Governor Henry McDaniel signed legislation granting up to 200 acres in Fulton and DeKalb Counties to the federal government to be used in the constuction of Fort McPherson, which was named after Union Maj. Gen. James McPherson, who was killed in the Battle of Atlanta in 1864.

On September 14, 1885, Georgia Governor Henry McDaniel signed legislation granting up to 200 acres in Fulton and DeKalb Counties to the federal government to be used in the constuction of Fort McPherson, which was named after Union Maj. Gen. James McPherson, who was killed in the Battle of Atlanta in 1864.

On September 14, 1901, President William McKinley died of an infection from gunshot wounds suffered eight days earlier.

On September 15, 1904, Wilbur Wright made the first in-flight turn in an airplane.

The first two women to enter the Georgia General Assembly, Viola Ross Napier of Bibb County and Atlanta Constitution reporter Bessie Kempton of Fulton County, were elected on September 13, 1922.

Early on the morning of September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls.

On September 15, 1996, the Texas Rangers retired #34 in honor of the most dominant pitcher in professional baseball history, Nolan Ryan.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp has created a rural strike team to showcase Georgia businesses, according ot GPB News.

Gov. Brian Kemp is launching a new statewide initiative to promote Georgia-made products and bring new business to rural parts of the state.

At Faircloth Forest Products in Swainsboro, midway between Macon and Savannah, Kemp said he was fulfilling another campaign promise: to showcase economic opportunities available to companies that choose to invest in Georgia outside of the metro Atlanta area.

“While Atlanta is our capital, and serves as our logistics hub and jobs magnet, 74% of our total economic development announcements in 2019 were made outside the perimeter in Atlanta,” he said. “I want you to know that I’m laser focused on bringing projects of regional significance to communities that want to grow.”

Thus begins the “rural strike team,” a group that will create an economic development plan to market sites for large-scale development, attract businesses to rural Georgia and work with existing partners and organizations to better grow the state’s economy.

The governor will be crisscrossing the state in coming weeks to places like Faircloth Forest products, a new family-owned business midway between Macon and Savannah, to raise awareness for Georgia-made products.

“Rural Georgia is right for economic investment, and economic growth companies large and small agree,” he said. “We are proud of our worldwide appeal, and our partnership with countries across the globe.”

The Port of Brunswick has resumed shipping on a limited basis, according to The Brunswick News.

U.S. Coast Guard officials determined Thursday morning that the Port of Brunswick could resume shipping on a “case by case” basis, five days after the freighter Golden Ray rolled over in the St. Simons Sound in the early morning hours on Sunday, said Kathy Knowlton, spokeswoman with Unified Command Center that is responding to the shipwreck.

Shipping to the port has been closed since the since the incident, which left the 656-foot, 25,000-ton freighter and its cargo of 4,200 cars floundering on its left side in the sound between St. Simons and Jekyll islands. All 24 members of the ship’s crew were safely rescued. Norm Witt, a Coast Guard Commander and the Captain of Ports for Brunswick and Savannah, indicated as early as Tuesday night that the port could reopen on a limited basis by Thursday.

“We tested two outbound vessels yesterday afternoon with positive results,” Witt said Thursday afternoon.

Around 1:30 p.m. Thursday, the first incoming freighter was seen passing by the Golden Ray and into the port. Meanwhile, six more ships waited offshore from Glynn County with hopes of also being granted passage to the port.

The Port of Brunswick typically accepts 50 vessels per month. The vessels awaiting entry Thursday included five Ro Ro passenger vehicle ships and a freighter from Trinidad that is here to pick up its regular supply of chicken feed, according to Vicki West of the International Seafarers Center in Brunswick, a nonprofit organization that serves incoming merchant mariners.

From the Associated Press:

At the Georgia Ports Authority’s annual “State of the Ports” event Thursday in Savannah, officials including Gov. Brian Kemp praised the Coast Guard for the successful rescues and the swift reopening of the Brunswick port.

“We are back open for business in Brunswick, another remarkable achievement,” Kemp told about 1,400 business leaders, elected officials and others attending the event in Savannah, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of the port.

Coast Guard Capt. John Reed told The Associated Press the port was allowed to resume operations once crews determined ships could safely pass the Golden Ray, which measures more than 650 feet (nearly 200 meters) long. Two vessels stuck at the port since Sunday had been allowed to depart Wednesday as a test to make sure their passing didn’t jostle the overturned ship.

Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, told reporters after his Savannah speech that port officials are working closely with the Coast Guard. He said initial traffic would likely be limited to daylight hours.

“We want to make sure we go at slow speeds, that there’s no wake from the vessel that would shift the capsized vessel in any way,” Lynch said.

Brunswick is one of the busiest U.S. ports for shipping automobiles. More than 613,000 vehicles and heavy machinery units moved across its docks in the 2019 fiscal year that ended June 30.

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency will build a new facility near Columbus, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Fort Benning is the planned home to a new “hyper-realistic” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) training complex meant to mimic the layout and design of U.S. cities and buildings.

ICE is set to spend more than $961,000 to purchase five different training structures — the first steps toward a complex that will emulate buildings and structures the agency’s expanding Special Response Teams would encounter across the United States and Puerto Rico, according to a federal contract.

The agency has plans to expand the training site at Fort Benning beyond these five facilities. It could include up to 50 additional buildings and additional U.S. city layouts and designs, according to the federal contract.

The army post is currently home to ICE’s Office of Training and Tactical Programs. Many of the agency’s new hires were receiving training at Benning in “defensive tactics, firearms, lethal weapons, restraints technique, intermediate batons and empty-handed techniques,” according to a 2017 news release. The agency’s Special Response Teams, which conduct a variety of high-risk operations, are also trained at Fort Benning, according to an ICE news release published in 2015.

Georgia Chamber of Commerce President Chris Clark discussed demographics changes, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

By 2020, Georgia is projected to have 11 million residents, and that figure is predicted to rise to 12.2 million by 2030, but 1.1 million of those folks are expected to move into the Atlanta area, Clark said. It behooves the rest of the state outside Atlanta to devise ways to lure at least some of this incoming population so that counties like Murray can remain viable, and that includes nurturing small businesses and entrepreneurs, he added.

Furthermore, Georgia is on track to be a “minority-majority” state by 2030, and by 2040, the state’s population will be 52% non-white, he said. The Atlanta area alone is projected to add a million Hispanic residents by 2040.

Murray County, with a population of nearly 40,000, is 96% white, and the median age is 37.6, which is “pretty good,” Clark said. The state average age is 36, and “you don’t want to be over 40.”

The median household income of $41,617 is “still good for a community this size,” but roughly $15,000 lower than the state average, he said. The home ownership rate of 68% is “very strong,” he added.

What really concerns Clark is the county’s 18.8% poverty rate.

“I think that’s high for a community like this,” he said.

Congressman Buddy Carter voted against legislation to ban offshore drilling, according to the Savannah Morning News.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, a Republican whose district spans the coast of Georgia, voted against legislation that passed the House of Representatives Wednesday to ban offshore drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

“I value the beautiful coastline that we have in my district,” he said on the house floor Wednesday. “But blanket bans instituted by these bills across the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf, and Arctic are misguided and are, quite plainly, the wrong approach.”

“It really is unfortunate that we’re voting on bills which would sacrifice tens of thousands of jobs and millions in economic benefits for political grandstanding,” Carter said on the house floor Wednesday. “To step back on domestic energy development is to promote foreign energy consumption. I still remember when the United States was held hostage to Middle Eastern resources and we can’t allow that to happen again. While I believe Georgia should be removed from consideration, these bills are not the solution.”

Savannah City Council approved a resolution urging other elected officials to adopt gun control measures, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The vote by the aldermen and the mayor was met with applause by members of the public, mainly a group from Moms Demand Action that attended the meeting. Moms Demand Action is a national group with a website description that states they are a grassroots group with the mission of fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence.

The approved resolution asks legislators to take action on a list of “common-sense” items to curb gun violence, including universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.

“It’s time for leaders to stand up and say something,” Alderman Julian Miller said. Miller had asked for the resolution at the city’s Aug. 15 council meeting.

The Rome News Tribune covered a State House Study Committee chaired by State Rep. Katie Dempsey.

Infant mental health is a real thing, a range of experts told a House study committee Thursday — and it may be one of the most important things in life.

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, chairs the House Study Committee on Infant and Toddler Social and Emotional Health. Other members are Reps. Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock; Pam Dickerson, D-Conyers; Robert Dickey, R-Musella; and Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur.

In a nearly five-hour inaugural session, they heard repeatedly — from the perspective of doctors, a judge, caregivers and advocates — that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Dempsey said she intends to listen to the day’s testimony again, via the archived video, because there is so much information to absorb. She urged everyone with a professional or personal interest to follow the committee deliberations, which are livestreamed on the Georgia General Assembly website.

“There is so much to dive into … We need a lot of people paying attention to this subject,” she said.

The committee will meet four more times through Nov. 30. It’s tasked with reporting their findings, including any recommendations for action, to the 2020 legislative session.

The Athens-Clarke County Commission‘s audit committee wants an audit of animal control, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The commission’s audit committee voted unanimously in a Wednesday meeting to ask the full commission to assign the audit to Athens-Clarke Internal Auditor Stephanie Maddox’s office for investigation.

The committee’s vote comes after blistering criticism from local animal welfare groups and commissioners following a series of mishaps at the shelter that led to the unnecessary deaths of more than 100 cats, according to an open letter signed by members of the Athens Area Humane Society, Three Paws Animal Rescue, Athens Canine Rescue and other organizations.

Those deaths “were directly due to a disturbing pattern of poor and uninformed decision-making by shelter management with respect to the health and lives of the shelter animals,” according to the Sept. 3 letter. Many of the signers of the letter raised their concerns publicly during a portion of a commission meeting last week during which members of the public can directly address the commission.

Forest Park City Council Ward 3 candidate Patricia Manley faces a residency challenge, according to the Clayton News Daily.

[Incumbent Sandra] Bagley claims that Manley registered using an Evelyn Drive address from which Manley allegedly had been evicted July 17. Clayton County Magistrate Court records confirm the eviction, as well as several others since 2013.

Attempts to reach Manley for comment were unsuccessful by press time. A campaign flyer on her Facebook page notes, “I will address vacant homes, compliance, trash and crime.” A video on Manley’s Facebook page shows Manley campaigning while offering residents free grass-cutting services.

A hearing was scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12. After some question as to whether or not the hearing would be open, members of the public were allowed to attend. They, the News, and city officials, including Mayor Angelyne Butler, waited in council chambers for half an hour.

About 1:30 p.m., City Attorney Mike Williams announced the meeting had been postponed until 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13.

In 2015, Manley ran against Morrow Councilman Larry Ferguson. Similar questions came up then about Manley’s eligibility to run based on residency and evictions. Ferguson beat Manley 358 to 230.

Newton County Probate Judge and Chief Magistrate Melanie Bell announced she is running for reelection in 2020, according to the Covington News.

“Since taking office in January 2017, I have worked to increase the use of technology in both courts, making court processes more user-friendly for citizens, law enforcement and attorneys,” she said in her campaign announcement. “Each day, our team works together to provide excellent customer service, while we implement changes to comply with Georgia law and to make the system more accessible to the public.”

“I have had the pleasure of calling Newton County home for 19 years,” she said. “I live here with my husband of 11 years, Travis, and we enjoy spending time with our families who also live in the community. We are active in our church, the Covington Campus of Eastridge Community Church, and I am looking forward to being sworn in as president of the Kiwanis Club of Covington at the end of this month.”

“I was humbled and honored to have been elected to serve the citizens of Newton County in 2016, and hope they will continue to place their trust in me as their Probate Judge and Chief Magistrate in the future.”

Right whales, the official state marine mammal of Georgia, are facing extinction, according to the Savannah Morning News.

At least 38 years old and named for the comma- and dash-shaped scars on her head, Punctuation gave birth off the Southeast coast eight times since 1986. Two of her offspring had calves of their own. She was spotted in the calving grounds off Georgia numerous times, most recently in February 2018 when she was photographed swimming with seven other whales 30 miles east of Jekyll Island.

“The sighting was interesting because we don’t typically see reproductive females in social groups in the Southeast,” wrote Clay George of the Georgia DNR. “She was quite large in the photo, so it’s possible she was pregnant at the time. She was not seen subsequently with or without a calf, so there’s no way to know for sure.”

Like most of the approximately 400 remaining right whales, Punctuation bore scars from entanglements in fishing gear and from ship strikes. In her case she had been entangled in fishing gear five separate times. She was struck by vessels at least three times, the last one leading to her death in June.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., earlier this week introduced The Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered (SAVE) Right Whales Act, S.2453, to establish a grant program to promote collaboration between states, nongovernmental organizations, and members of the fishing and shipping industries to reduce human impacts on right whales and promote the recovery of the population.

“The North Atlantic right whale was named the official Georgia state marine mammal when I served as minority leader in the Georgia State House, and I am proud that my state’s coast is still home to one of the few known calving grounds for this magnificent animal,” Isakson said in a press release. “I’m glad to introduce the Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered Right Whales Act to help learn about how we can better protect this important animal whose numbers continue to dwindle.”

“Earlier this year, researchers looked at the causes of 70 North Atlantic right whale deaths recorded between 2003 and 2018 in the U.S. and Canada. Where the cause of death could be determined, nearly 90% died as a direct result of fishing gear entanglements or ship strikes,” reported the nonprofit conservation group Oceana, whose right whale campaign kicked off Thursday.

12
Sep

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

James Oglethorpe arrived at Augusta on September 12, 1739, 279 years ago today.

French troops arrived near Savannah to prepare for a siege against British forces there on September 12, 1779.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp‘s office released Augusta 2019 revenue numbers yesterday.

Georgia’s net tax collections for August totaled roughly $1.75 billion for a decrease of $50.3 million, or -2.8 percent, compared to August 2018 when net tax collections totaled just over $1.80 billion. Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled nearly $3.59 billion for an increase of $5.4 million, or 0.2 percent, compared to FY 2019 after two months.

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections during the month totaled $880.1 million, down from $939.4 million in August 2018 for a decrease of $59.3 million, or -6.3 percent.

▪ Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were down $26.4 million, or -27.4 percent.
▪ Individual Withholding payments fell by $90.9 million, or -9.4 percent, compared to last fiscal year.
▪ Individual Income Tax Return payments increased by $4 million, or 31.6 percent, over last year.
▪ All other Individual Tax categories, including Income Tax Return payments, increased a combined $1.2 million.

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections increased by $62 million, or 6.1 percent, in August, up from roughly $1.02 billion in FY 2019. Net Sales and Use Tax, which totaled $535.6 million for the month, increased $17.4 million, or 3.4 percent, compared to last year. The adjusted Sales Tax distribution to local governments totaled $537.3 million for an increase of $43.5 million, or 8.8 percent, compared to August 2018. Sales Tax refunds increased by nearly $1.2 million, or 28.2 percent, over last year.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections totaled roughly $5.3 million, which was a decrease of $12.7 million, or -70.8 percent, compared to last year when net Corporate Tax revenue totaled nearly $18 million.

▪ Corporate Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) increased by $3.5 million, or 21 percent.
▪ Corporate Income Tax Return payments decreased by roughly $10 million, or -68.8 percent, from FY 2019.
▪ All other Corporate Tax categories, including Estimated Tax payments, were up a combined $0.8 million.

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections during the month increased by $2.4 million, or 1.6 percent, compared to August 2018 when Motor Fuel Tax collections totaled roughly $153.7 million.

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fee collections decreased by almost $0.2 million, or -0.5 percent, compared to August 2018. Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections totaled $71.5 million for a decrease of roughly $1 million, or -1.3 percent, compared to the previous fiscal year.

Governor Kemp addressed a 9/11 ceremony in Brunswick yesterday, according to The Brunswick News.

“Those first responders, they were just doing their job, just as you are today,” said Gov. Brian Kemp, addressing a crowd at a 9/11 Remembrance ceremony hosted Wednesday morning at the Glynn County Fire Department Ballard Station in Brunswick. “And they went to bed that night not knowing what the next day would bring. But like you all, they put on that uniform, they went to work and they answered that call.”

“That day changed our country, but it also changed the world forever,” he said. “And for some, unfortunately, this tragedy has faded into the rearview mirror of everyday life. You may not see it in the paper quite as much or on television or even on social media, and sometimes it’s easier to forget something so painful and something so traumatic.”

“Those families will never be able to forget, and those New York fire stations will never forget,” Kemp said. “Those police forces won’t forget. And neither should we.”

The event included a ceremonial striking of the four fives, in which a fire station bell is rung five times, repeated in four series, to honor a first responder who dies in the line of duty.

Gov. Kemp also announced that Georgia has been chosen the “Top State for Business” by Area Development magazine for the sixth consecutive year, according to the Albany Herald.

“I am exceptionally proud that Georgia has once again been named the Top State for Business by Area Development,” Kemp said. “This announcement serves as a powerful testament to what we all know to be true: Georgia is the best place to live, work and raise a family. Our efforts to cut red tape and ensure our business environment leads the nation continue to lure world-class companies to the Peach State from every corner of the map.

“Our world-class work force is a direct result of our top-ranking colleges and universities, and Georgia Quick Start, the best work force development program in the nation. The state’s innovative and comprehensive logistics network makes Georgia a gateway to the global economy by land, air and sea. In the coming years, my administration is committed to building our state’s economic development toolbox so that we continue to attract leading companies in manufacturing, FinTech, information technology, and other industries ready to invest in a state that values their business and positive impact on local communities.”

Area Development’s 2019 Top States for Doing Business results reflect the rankings that states receive based on weighted scores in the following 12 categories: overall cost of doing business, corporate tax environment, business incentives programs, access to capital and project funding, competitive labor environment, shovel-ready sites program, cooperative and responsive state government, favorable general regulatory environment, speed of permitting, favorable utility rates, leading work force development programs, and most improved economic development policies.

Along with the Top State ranking, Georgia was ranked No. 1 in cooperative and responsive state government, leading work force development programs, competitive labor environment and speed of permitting.

“We are honored to receive the title of Top State for Business for the sixth year in a row,” Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said in a news release. “Each day, our team is out on the front lines, working with companies to spread the good news of Georgia’s top-ranked business climate, and because of Gov. Kemp’s strong leadership, they certainly have a lot to talk about.

Kemp also announced with the Georgia Department of Economic Development the impact of the Global Commerce and Film Divisions for the last fiscal year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Global Commerce Division supported the creation of 28,960 new jobs, generating more than $7.4 billion in investment through the location of 332 projects, while 399 productions filmed in Georgia resulted in a record $2.9 billion invested in the state.

“With record-breaking years in global commerce and film, Georgia leads the nation as the best state for business for the sixth straight year,” Kemp said. “The Peach State remains the Hollywood of the South, and companies across the globe have Georgia on their minds as a great place to invest, expand and relocate.”

Georgia has become one of the top filming locations in the world. The productions filmed in Georgia in FY ’19 included 26 feature films, 31 independent films, 214 television series, 91 commercials and 29 music videos. The FY ’19 spending figure is preliminary and expected to increase as productions finalize their numbers.

In FY ’18, film and television productions spent $2.7 billion in Georgia.

“The entertainment industry has found a home in Georgia,” GDEcD Deputy Commissioner for Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Lee Thomas said. “While the spotlight certainly shines on our competitive incentive, it is the Georgia-based skilled crew, diverse topography, available infrastructure, and the hundreds of small businesses that support our productions that keep us ranked as one of the top filming locations in the world.”

A car carrier ship passed by the capsized M/V Golden Ray in the St Simons Sound yesterday, according to The Brunswick News.

The Golden Ray, an auto cargo ship that capsized shortly after 1:30 a.m. Sunday, will likely not be removed for severals weeks or months, according to U.S. Coast Guard officials. The port, though, was expected to be opened again, at least in a limited fashion, as early as Thursday. The Coast Guard, along with the National Transportation Safety board, is investigating what caused the Golden Ray to tip over.

The Emerald Ace was allowed to leave port as a test run of sorts to see how shipping traffic would be affected when passing the shipwrecked Golden Ray, said Coast Guard Lt. Kit Pace.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan plans to work on making Georgia the tech capitol of the East Coast, according to the Gainesville Times.

During the University of North Georgia’s Regional Education and Economic Development Summit on Tuesday, Duncan spoke before community members about his focuses in Georgia.

The second annual event brought together economic development professionals, business and community leaders, state legislators and representatives, educators and students to showcase educational pathways and career opportunities in North Georgia.

Going forward with economic growth in the state, Duncan said people need to understand that every single business is a technology company.

“To become the technology capital of the East Coast, we’ve got to continue to make great strides, especially around K-12,” Duncan said. “We need to make sure that kids and communities understand the importance of educating and creating that next generation of talents because we need to create an ecosystem much like the film industry.”

“There’s no way to economically develop, if you don’t have quality health care that’s within arm’s reach of your community,” Duncan said.

Former State Rep. Beth Beskin announced she will run for Georgia Supreme Court, according to the AJC.

Beskin announced on Thursday that she has entered the race for an upcoming vacancy on the Georgia Supreme Court. She joins former U.S. Rep. John Barrow and state Court of Appeals Judge Sara Doyle in a bid to sit on the court.

The nonpartisan race, to be held in May, will decide who replaces Justice Robert Benham, the high court’s first African-American jurist. He is retiring.

“I am running to bring my experience in business and law to the Supreme Court and to defend our shared values of what makes Georgia such a great place to live, work, own or run a business and raise a family,” Beskin said.

Early this year, Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Beskin to the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission, which screens and recommends judges for the governor to appoint when vacancies arise. She previously served on the Georgia Commission on Child Support.

Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown spoke about mental health of accused criminals, according to the Statesboro Herald.

He spoke Monday to a group at the Statesboro Regional Library, where several attended a meeting of the Statesboro chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness. He outlined the challenges law enforcement and jailers face when dealing with people who suffer from a variety of mental illnesses.

Law enforcement officers “come into contact with these people every day,” he said. Deputies are trained to recognize and respond properly to persons experiencing mental breakdowns, but even so, arresting such a person and placing them in a jail cell never helps the situation, he said.

Writing lawmakers, making phone calls and taking an interest in the issue is what is needed to get the state to increase funding for more hospitals and programs for the mentally ill, he said.

There is a need for more programs and resources to help monitor such people to help keep them on track, he said.

Brown spoke of pending expansions at the Bulloch County Jail that will provide padded cells, a separate unit for inmates at risk, and a medical unit to house staff to provide better treatment and care for inmates with special needs. However, until the state steps up and improves the way mentally ill residents are treated, the problem will remain, he said.

When a crime is committed that involves a suspect with mental illness, and there are no beds available at area hospitals and treatments centers, the only choice “is to lock them up,” he said.

Steven Grimberg was confirmed by the United States Senate for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, according to GPB News.

Former federal prosecutor Steven Grimberg was confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia 75 to 18 in the U.S. Senate Wednesday. Georgia Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga., both voted yes.

“I’m glad the Senate has confirmed Steven to serve Georgia and the United States on the bench in the same district where he compiled an impressive record for the U.S. attorney’s office. I thank him for his past service and his continued willingness to serve,” Isakson said in a statement.

Perdue also appluaded the confirmation. “As a first-generation American and proud graduate of Emory University, Steven Grimberg has distinguished himself by spearheading the development of a cybercrime unit in Georgia to prosecute criminal organizations around the world,” Perdue said in a statement. “I’m confident Steven Grimberg will continue to serve Georgia with integrity in this new role, just as he has throughout his impressive legal career.”

Grimberg formerly led a team of prosecutors in Atlanta’s U.S. Attorney’s office for cybercrime. He will be leaving his current role as the managing director and General Counsel of global investigations firm, Nardello & Co. He’s a graduate of Emory Law School, and current adjunct professor.

Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks spoke to the Gwinnett Chamber, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

One note that Wilbanks touched on at the end of his address pertained to the idea of a teacher pipeline. A school system as large and heavily staffed as GCPS would ideally like to mold its own future employees. Only that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Gwinnett County Public Schools started the school year with no teacher vacancies. It’s not rare to start the school year in that manner, but the size of the school district makes the task of keeping all positions filled both daunting and likely temporary.

“We do like to start the school year on a full staff,” Wilbanks said. “Now, I think we just got that the last week, we just got the last teacher. It’s getting tougher. The pipeline is not as plentiful as it used to be.”

Wilbanks believes the difficulty to fill all teaching vacancies year-after-year is linked to frustration and that fewer people are going into the teaching profession. Of those who do become teachers, some studies show more than half leave the profession in the first five years.

Wilbanks said during his address that the $3,000 teacher bonus approved this summer is a positive step in retaining staff and facilitating a teacher pipeline. The raises were a one-time salary adjustment that affected all teachers evenly, rather than starting at the top with veteran teachers and trickling down to the rest.

Savannah City Council will address a resolution on gun control, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The resolution asking for “common-sense” gun legislation is on Thursday’s regular meeting agenda.

Alderman Julian Miller asked for the resolution on the issue at the Aug. 15 council meeting following a recent mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, with nine dead and a Philadelphia, Pa., incident where six police officers were shot.

Miller, who is not running for re-election, said there were a number of areas where he’d like to see legislative action, including limiting magazine rounds, banning assault weapons and background checks.

The resolution states that the city of Savannah urges the Georgia General Assembly and the United States Congress to take action to address gun violence, and “echoes the calls for ‘votes and laws,’ not just thoughts and prayers to address the emergency of gun violence in our nation.”

Specifically, the resolution asks that members of Savannah’s legislative delegation support gun-safety legislation, including:

- universal background checks for all gun buyers;

- red flag or extreme risk protective order legislation, creating a legal process for temporary removal of firearms from those deemed to pose an imminent risk of violence;

- bans on assault weapons, high capacity magazines, armor-piercing ammunition and bump stocks;

- legislation granting localities the authority to restrict or prohibit the possession, transportation or carrying of firearms into public buildings, publicly approved events, or on other property owned by a locality;

- legislation granting local municipalities the authority to determine how to dispose of weapons that are unclaimed or have no evidentiary value.

Floyd County election officials will train on new voting systems next month, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Floyd County elections officials are scheduled to get their first round of training on the new Dominion Voting System machines on Oct. 1 and 2.

It’s a tighter schedule than Chief Elections Clerk Robert Brady had been hoping for, since they’ll be used in the March 2020 presidential preference primary.

The secretary of state training module will be in Atlanta and involve eight separate equipment stations.

The old electronic voting machines will be used for the Rome City elections in November but six counties will be piloting the DVS: Bartow, Paulding, Catoosa, Carroll, Lowndes and Decatur.

Brady said the county would be responsible next year for supplying toner and paper for the DVS machines, estimated at about 13 cents per ballot. The state is paying for the system.

“But there’s a fly in the ointment,” he noted. “They don’t come with stands, so we’ll also have to come up with a way to display these things in a usable fashion. Private and secure.”

Georgia had higher voter churn than most states, according to the AJC.

Georgia both canceled more voter registrations and registered more new voters than most states before last year’s election, according to a recent federal report on elections.

The data were less clear-cut when it came to absentee ballot rejections, where Georgia ranked in the middle of the pack when compared to other states.

Election officials removed more than 797,000 voters from the rolls between 2016 and 2018, according to the Election Administration and Voting Survey 2018 Comprehensive Report. That amounts to 11% of the state’s registered voters, the eighth-highest rate in the nation.

At the same time, Georgia signed up more than 902,000 new voters, including 697,000 who were automatically registered when they got their driver’s licenses. The federal data support the findings of a study by the Brennan Center for Justice earlier this year, which estimated that 94% more voters registered in Georgia than if the state hadn’t implemented automatic voter registration in September 2016.

Those new registrations boosted the state’s total number of voters to a record high of more than 7 million. Georgia’s voting rolls grew 14% since 2016, the nation’s ninth-largest increase.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a former state lawmaker, said the report invalidates accusations that he and other Republican officials have been disenfranchising voters.

A community center in Columbus that is being closed could be turned into a new YMCA facility, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

A new branch of the YMCA in Columbus could be coming to the site of a closing community center and a former school, according to Muscogee County School District officials.

The Muscogee County School Board was scheduled to vote Sept. 16 on the proposed sale of the 5.31 acres at 1282 Rigdon Road for $460,000, but superintendent David Lewis pulled the agenda item because the paperwork isn’t ready, he said during Monday night’s work session.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 11, 2019

911 memorial 2

I was in my car that morning, on the way to my job when I heard on the radio of the first plane hitting. The announcers thought at first that it must be a small plane and likely an accident. Seventeen minutes later all doubt vanished as the second hit. Over the next hour, a third plane hit the Pentagon and a fourth went down in a field in Pennsylvania. We watched on television as the towers burned, then collapsed.

Shortly afterwards, the Family Room opened in a nearby tower to provide a place for loved ones to grieve out of the public eye.

The Family Room opened in April 2002 in space donated by Brookfield Office Properties, the owners of 1 Liberty Plaza, across Church Street from the trade center site. By presenting what was known as a medical examiner’s family identification card, victims’ relatives were admitted during regular workdays and at night, on weekends and on holidays.

On the 20th floor, behind a door marked “The Family Room,” relatives could settle into ample leather couches or stand at windows 15 and 20 feet wide. The room was intended for “quiet contemplation,” said a 2002 notice from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which created and maintained the space, just a few doors down from its own headquarters and those of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation.

When the Family Room at 1 Liberty Plaza was replaced this summer by a new private gathering space in the National September 11 Memorial Museum pavilion, the [New York] State Museum and the memorial museum painstakingly documented the older room, and the State Museum acquired what contents family members themselves did not choose to reclaim.

There are materials in the Family Room collection related to about 1,000 victims, Mr. Schaming said, or roughly one-third of all casualties that day. “It is the most singular collection of the faces of people who were killed on 9/11,” he said.

A monument on Long Island to victims of 9-11 will include the names of 582 people who later died of conditions related to the aftermath of the attacks.

A separate plaque will have the names of 582 police officers, firefighters, construction workers, cleanup volunteers and others who spent time in the rubble of the World Trade Center in the days or months after the attacks and, years later, died of a variety of causes that they, their families or their doctors suspected were linked to toxic ash and smoke at the site. There will be room to add more names.

“I think what the town of Hempstead is doing is nothing short of honorable,” said John Feal, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders with health problems. “People who lost a loved one to illness suffer just like someone lost on that day. Hopefully this will offer some ease and comfort to them.”

In May, officials at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum announced plans to set aside a commemorative space at the World Trade Center to honor rescue and recovery workers.

New York’s police and fire departments also have memorials for personnel who have died of illnesses since Sept. 11. A 9/11 memorial in Staten Island recently added a plaque with the names of residents there who have died of illnesses.

Feal’s charitable organization also maintains a memorial wall to 9/11 responders in Nesconset, New York.

One day after Perry’s victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, American Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough led American forces in the Battle of Plattsburg at Lake Champlain, New York on September 11, 1813.

The Union Army began evacuating civilians from Atlanta via Lovejoy’s Station on September 11, 1864.

Georgia-born Ty Cobb took his last at-bat on September 11, 1928.

After a week-long Presidential campaign swing through ten states, former Governor Jimmy Carter returned to Plains on September 11, 1976.

On September 11, 1985, Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s career hit record, notching number 4,192 against the San Diego Padres.

Two years ago today, all 159 counties in Georgia were under an emergency declaration from Hurricane Irma.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp ordered flags on state buildings and grounds flown at half-staff today and a moment of silence at 8:46 AM.

It may take months to move the M/V Golden Ray from where it capsized in the St Simons Sound, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A Coast Guard officer says it could take “weeks, if not months” to remove a cargo ship that overturned while heading to sea from a port on the Georgia coast.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Norm Witt told news reporters Tuesday that marine salvage experts are working on a plan to remove the 656-foot (200 meter) long Golden Ray from St. Simons Sound near the Port of Brunswick. Asked how that would be done, he said: “We don’t have all the answers right now.”

Meanwhile, Witt says the Coast Guard is trying to reopen the port to limited commercial traffic by Thursday — though he called that timeline “aggressive.”

From The Brunswick News:

The priorities of Coast Guard, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and other agencies handing the shipwreck’s aftermath now include combatting water pollutants in nearby waters, removing the behemoth 25,000-ton, 656-foot-long ship from the sound and reopening the shipping lane to the Port of Brunswick — a vital cog in the community’s economy.

The investigation is being headed by the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board. It could take a long time before that investigation is completed and shared with the public, officials agree.

The Coast Guard updated Glynn County Commissioners:

Cmdr. Norman Witt took the podium to give the commissioners the latest on the situation.

Once the crew was safely away, the salvage operation began. He told the commissioners he didn’t want to sugarcoat the situation, and that it looked like salvage operations would take a month or more.

“It could go a month or potentially longer. Months, plural,” Witt said.

The Coast Guard established a unified command composed of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, contractor Gallagher Marine Systems and the ship’s owner, Hyundai Glovis, among several others, he said.Along with the members of the command, Witt said “world leaders” in salvage operations have been brought in to assist. Salvage rests in the hands of the unified command, while the investigation into exactly what caused the ship to tip is handled separately.

The command is very cognizant of the risks posed by pollution and loss of business at the Port of Brunswick, he said.

While he said the estimate seems aggressive to him, he told commissioners the channel may be open to commercial traffic by Thursday.

It won’t be open to full operations, however. Precautions will have to be taken to ensure ships coming in don’t destabilize the Golden Ray.

“I don’t want to say there will be no pollution. That’s not realistic,” Witt said.

Containment booms — inflatable barriers used to contain oil spills — have been deployed, he said, but they are less effective in strong currents than they are in calm waters.Commissioner Bill Brunson asked if the salvagers will attempt to pump the fuel tanks out.

Any oil in the water and on the beaches will impact wildlife in some way, Witt said.

The Coast Guard has called in conservation groups and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, to help track the current and mitigate the harm to local wildlife.Witt wrapped up by saying he appreciated how helpful the Golden Isles community has been and offered to meet with the commissioners in the future or hold town halls for the public.

A case of West Nile virus in a human has been reported in Chatham County, according to the Savannah Morning News.

An adult living in Chatham County has been diagnosed with West Nile virus, a potentially serious illness transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.

This is the first human case in the eight-county Coastal Health District in 2019, and the fourth human case of West Nile virus in Georgia this year.

Chatham County Mosquito Control first detected and reported West Nile in a sample of local mosquitoes in early July, and the virus quickly spread throughout the mosquito population across the county. Already, 2019 is the second most active year for West Nile virus in Chatham County mosquitoes after 2011. That year 10 people contracted the disease.

“We’ve been telling people all along it’s in mosquitoes,” said Coastal Health Spokeswoman Ginger Heidel. “We let them know it was widespread. It’s not surprising we’re seeing it in a person.”

The State of Georgia has banked a record $3 billion dollars in the rainy day fund, according to the AJC.

Despite some iffy revenue numbers at times during the year, the state ended the recently completed fiscal 2019 with a record nearly $3 billion in its rainy day reserves.

Preliminary figures set the reserves at $2.971 billion for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The reserves are important because they potentially cushion the impact of any economic downturn by helping the state fund everything from schools to health care programs for a quarter of Georgians.

The current reserves equate to funding state government for about a month, which is more than many if not most states have set aside.

Kemp has ordered state agencies to cut 4 percent from their budgets this year and 6 percent next year. He was recently praised by one of the agencies that rates bonds – money the state borrows for construction projects – for being fiscally proactive.

State agency responses to Gov. Kemp’s requested budget cuts include hundreds fewer jobs, according to the AJC.

Hundreds of state jobs would be eliminated and positions frozen — from consumer protection staffers and drivers license workers to school safety coordinators — under plans drawn up to meet Gov. Brian Kemp’s demand to cut spending.

Many state programs would be scaled back or eliminated too, according to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the state Open Records Act. Some of the proposed cuts have trickled out in recent weeks as state agencies worked to meet the governor’s demand to reduce spending.

Their submissions are the first step in Kemp’s plan to cut 4 percent from most program budgets this fiscal year and 6 percent next year — which begins July 1 — to both prepare the state in case of an economic downturn and provide the money needed to meet his priorities, such as higher teacher pay.The state is expected to announce Wednesday that tax collections for August fell 2.8 percent, or about $50 million, from August 2018. The state saw up and down revenue collections earlier this year, but the administration was able to increase the state’s rainy day reserves to a record nearly $3 billion when fiscal 2019 ended on June 30.

The Georgia House and Senate are planning budget hearings later this month and officials said the meetings will go forward, despite earlier objections from the Kemp administration, which initially didn’t want to participate. In typical years agencies submit spending proposals to the governor, who reviews them over the fall and makes recommendations to the General Assembly in January.

All at a time when a lot of current economic signs point to Georgia’s economy being in pretty good shape overall.

Some of the agency budget plans submitted to the Office of Planning and Budget are vague and will leave the governor with a lot of questions when he meets with department leaders in coming weeks.

Their submissions are the first step in Kemp’s plan to cut 4 percent from most program budgets this fiscal year and 6 percent next year — which begins July 1 — to both prepare the state in case of an economic downturn and provide the money needed to meet his priorities, such as higher teacher pay.

The state is expected to announce Wednesday that tax collections for August fell 2.8 percent, or about $50 million, from August 2018. The state saw up and down revenue collections earlier this year, but the administration was able to increase the state’s rainy day reserves to a record nearly $3 billion when fiscal 2019 ended on June 30.

The Georgia House and Senate are planning budget hearings later this month and officials said the meetings will go forward, despite earlier objections from the Kemp administration, which initially didn’t want to participate. In typical years agencies submit spending proposals to the governor, who reviews them over the fall and makes recommendations to the General Assembly in January.

Kemp surprised lawmakers, and many agency leaders, by calling for budget cuts in August. Allotments to agencies for most programs will be reduced starting Oct. 1.

Not everything will be cut equally across state government. Some massive enrollment-driven programs — such as K-12 schools, universities and Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled — are exempt.

In all, only about 23% of the state-funded portion of the budget was not exempted. Agencies on the hook for cuts include the departments of Agriculture, Corrections, Driver Services, Public Health, public defenders, the Georgia State Patrol, the GBI, most of the Department of Natural Resources, and the administration of K-12 schools and colleges.

Federal relief money for last year’s Hurricane Michael will start flowing soon, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Monday that his federal department would begin accepting applications for more than $3 billion in aid that Congress set aside for farmers in a disaster relief package signed into law earlier this summer.

Farmers in roughly 80 Georgia counties that were designated presidential emergency disaster zones in 2018 are eligible for the money, as well as the victims of floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters over the last two years, Perdue said.

That includes Hurricane Dorian, which plowed through the Bahamas and the Southeast coast last week.

The agriculture money is the first major chunk of disaster relief funding to be released since President Donald Trump cleared a $19 billion emergency relief package in June, ending eight months of partisan gamesmanship over Puerto Rico aid.

Yet another federal lawsuit has been filed over Georgia voting procedures, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Coalition for Good Governance, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law and a group of attorneys — including Atlanta attorneys Bruce Brown and Cary Ichter — filed a supplemental complaint challenging the reliability of the state’s new touch-screen voting system, saying it violates constitutional amendments.

The voter advocates filed the complaint after a federal judge ruled last month that Georgia needed to do away with its old voting system. Widely opposing electronic voting, the nonprofit group, the Coalition for Good Governance, was planning to sue over the new system as well.

The suit says the new Dominion Voting System has security flaws similar to the previous DRE system, was not tested and certified properly and, if implemented, violates the First and 14th Amendments protecting voters rights to a transparent and anonymous process.

Tess Hammock, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office, said the new system is separate from the old DRE system being challenged in court.

“The new Ballot Marking Device system is completely different from the DREs which are the subject of the suit,” Hammock wrote in a statement. “It is a different technology, on a different platform, from a different vendor. To try to say they are related somehow is an illogical leap. These machines haven’t even been used yet in Georgia so they aren’t even ripe to be litigated at all.”

New voting machines were on display in Duluth yesterday, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

On Tuesday in Duluth, the Georgia Secretary of State’s office offered a first look at new voting machines that will be used in the 2020 presidential primaries in March, and eventually the 2020 general election in November.

These machines won’t be utilized in Gwinnett County election precincts until March 2020, but a storefront at Duluth’s Paragon Shopping Center was the site of a preview of the new technology on Tuesday. Johns Creek City Councilman Jay Lin introduced officials with the Secretary of State’s office before representatives with the company that will provide new machines conducted a demonstration.

The poll machines are a hybrid touch-screen and paper ballot voting device. The voter inserts a card into a machine with a touch screen to cast their ballot. A paper ballot is printed and delivered to a device that scans and records both the original paper ballot and a digital image of the ballot.

“We really improved the confidence in the elections,” [Georgia Secretary of State Brad] Raffensperger said. “When we do that, I think it really helps take out some of the polarization that we have and some of the concerns that people have. We can drill down and get those answers, then the race is over and we can move on to the next race.”

Starting with fall municipal elections, there will be six pilot counties using the ballot marking device with touch screen technology— Lowndes, Decatur, Carroll, Paulding, Bartow and Catoosa. Raffensperger said there are approximately 2,000 machines that will operate in those counties.

“They’ve not been hacked, but we understand that hackers never sleep, and nor can we,” Raffensperger said. “That’s the advantage of this. When you have a paper ballot, first of all, you can do a physical recount. So when you have a close election that’s within a half percent, we can open up the box and have a paper ballot to count.”

There will also be a hand-marked paper ballot pilot in Cobb County, a test of a system that would be used in the event of a power outage or weather event, as Raffensperger put it, but theoretically also in the event of human or mechanical error.

The Glynn County Board of Elections complained about a lack of information from the state on new voting machines, according to The Brunswick News.

A lack of information from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office may disrupt the Glynn County Board of Elections’ plans to educate the public on the state’s new voting machines.

At the board’s Tuesday meeting, Elections and Registration Supervisor Chris Channell said the secretary of state’s office told local officials they would get a few voting machines early for training and public information purposes. Glynn County will not use the new machines in an election until the March 2020 presidential primary.

Two weeks into September, and he’s received no word on when those machines might arrive.

“This is government inaction,” said board member Tommy Clark. “They told us one thing, and now we’re learning the real story.”

In other business, the board continued discussing plans to move three polling places.

State House District 152 voters will elect a new State Representative (or send two candidates into a runoff) on November 5, 2019, according to the Albany Herald.

[State Rep. Ed] Rynders announced last week that he is stepping down after 17 years in the House because of health issues and a recent move to St. Simons Island, where his wife, Jane, is working as a teacher. Rynders revealed in an interview with The Albany Herald that he suffered a heart attack last June and continues to have health concerns.

“Several have encouraged me to finish my term (the special election will fill the HD 152 unexpired term, which runs through the 2020 session),” Rynders told The Herald last Thursday. “I don’t ever want to be seen as a quitter, but my health and my family’s future have to be my No. 1 priorities.”

In a move that will save the state money, the special HD 152 election will be held in conjunction with the Nov. 5 municipal elections being conducted in the communities that encompass the district, including Leesburg and Sylvester.

As word of Rynders’ decision spread throughout the region, a number of candidates started to express interest — some openly, others behind closed doors — in a run for the seat. Among those who have been mentioned as possible candidates are Lee County Commission Chairman Billy Mathis, Lee Commissioner Rick Muggridge, Leesburg Mayor Jim Quinn, Dennis Roland, Gail Drake, Tyler Johnson, Jim Thurmond and Mary Egler.

Georgia has the nation’s 3d-highest rate of people without health insurance, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Georgia’s uninsured rate rose slightly in 2018, to 13.7%, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

That gives Georgia the nation’s third-highest rate of people without health insurance. The state trails only Texas and Oklahoma.

Georgia had the fourth-highest percentage in 2017.

The Georgia increase is small enough not to be statistically significant, said Bill Custer, a health insurance expert at Georgia State University. But he added, “We’ve lost ground to other states’’ whose uninsured rates have dropped in recent years.

Custer pointed to several possible factors in the rise in the uninsured rate. They include cuts in federal funding to publicize the ACA’s health insurance exchanges, which offer a way for low-income people to buy coverage. The feds have also cut funding for special counselors, or “navigators,” who assist people in using the exchanges.

State Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) Chairs the House Study Committee on Infant and Toddler Social and Emotional Health, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Rep. Katie Dempsey will convene on Thursday the first of several meetings examining how – and why – the state can encourage better models for early childhood development.

The Rome Republican chairs the House Study Committee on Infant and Toddler Social and Emotional Health. She said the inaugural session will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Room 606 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building in Atlanta.

Among the scheduled speakers is Douglas County Juvenile Court Judge Peggy Walker. She’ll talk about how early intervention in cases of “social-emotional health challenges” can affect the criminal justice system.

Erica Ferner-Sitkoff, executive director of Voices for Georgia’s Children, will talk about the current state of behavior health services for children and several pediatricians will explain how toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences affect brain development.

The committee is tasked with evaluating a range of mental health services and making legislative recommendations on how to best support young children and families. It runs through Nov. 30.

Candidates for Mayor of Valdosta met in a public forum Monday night, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Hosted by the Lowndes County Democratic Party, Kevin J. Bussey, Scott James Matheson, J.D. Rice and David Sumner answered questions and each explained why he should be the next mayor of Valdosta. Five people qualified for mayor but candidate Brooks D. Bivins failed to attend the event.

Each of the mayoral candidates took answers from a moderator for about an hour. The event began at 7 p.m. and ended at about 9 p.m.

Before the mayoral candidates forum, three of the four candidates for the at-large Valdosta City Council seat answered questions. Adrian J. Rivers, Jeremy L. Stone and Edgar “Nicky” Tooley attended the event. Incumbent Councilman Ben H. Norton, who qualified for reelection as a candidate, did not attend.

Dr. Debra Tann, who moderated the event, said there will be another debate held for candidates at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, Serenity Church, 1619 N. Lee St.

Rome has hired a herd of goats to control vegetation, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Goats are being used to clear overgrowth in order to provide a view of the river to the picnic areas behind State Mutual Stadium.

A crew of 10 Kiko goats was cut loose near one of the picnic areas spaced out on the trail behind the ballpark Tuesday. Rome Public Works Director Chris Jenkins hopes they will have a large area cleared to provide views of the river, perhaps even access to the riverbank for fishermen.

Ashley Lindsay of Glitzy Goats said the goats will clear any of the aggressive vines, briars and privet.

“They don’t eat grass and things like that. They’ll clear it out real well. All of this camouflage and treescape you see will be gone.”

Augusta Technical College will receive a federal grant from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The school received $150,000 to continue its Nuclear Engineering Technology Workforce Scholars Program. The program aims to further the accomplishments of previously funded projects, to recruit and train students to work in a nuclear environment and provide scholarships to at least 16 students.

NRC awarded 45 grants to 33 academic institutions in 19 states and Puerto Rico for a total of $15 million in the 2019 fiscal year, according to the commission. Congress authorized the funds for scholarships, fellowships and faculty development.

Bulloch County public school students will make up days missed due to Hurricane Dorian in November, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The Bulloch County Schools will add two class days, Nov. 25 and 26, to make up for the two days cancelled during the area’s near miss by Hurricane Dorian, Superintendent Charles Wilson has decided.

Since Sept. 2 was Labor Day and Sept. 3 was a scheduled student-free workday for teachers, the cancellation of classes on Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 4-5, left students with only Friday as a school day last week.

Nov. 25 and 26 are the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, which is Nov. 28 this year. Previously, students and school employees would have had the entire week, Nov. 25-29, as holidays. But Nov. 25 and 26 had been designated as potential make-up days since the current school year, 2019-20, calendar was approved by the Board of Education back in January 2018.

10
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 10, 2019

An American fleet of nine ships under the command of Captain Oliver Hazard Perry routed a British fleet in the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813.

After the battle, Perry sent a famous dispatch to U.S. General William Henry Harrison that read, “We have met the enemy, and they are ours.” The Battle of Lake Erie forced the British to abandon Detroit, ensuring U.S. control over Lake Erie and the territorial northwest.

Years later, Pogo, Georgia’s Official State Possum, would paraphrase Perry’s dispatch.

Pogo Enemy

And eventually, Pogo’s statement that, “We have met the enemy and he is us” would become the official slogan of the Georgia Republican Party.

On September 10, 1991, Senate confirmation hearings began for Georgia-born Clarence Thomas, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush (41) to the United States Supreme Court.

Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit was released as a single on September 10, 1991.

On September 10, 2002, the Atlanta Braves clinched an eleventh straight division title without playing, as a loss by the Philadelphia Phillies assured the Braves the title.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp issued a Writ of Election for a Special Election on November 5, 2019 in House District 152, to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of State Rep. Ed Rynders.

Governor Kemp told the AJC he’s in no rush to appoint a new United States Senator to take the seat being vacated by Sen. Isakson.

The governor told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his administration is “starting to figure out how we’re going to conduct the process” after a busy week that included a state scramble to respond to Hurricane Dorian.

“There’s no timeline. I have a lot of good options,” he said. “There’s a lot of different ways we can go. I want to be very thoughtful and diligent in the process.”

Kemp must also factor into the mix a potential 2021 election sandwiched between the two votes. Since the race for Isakson’s seat is a “jungle” special election with no party primaries to decide nominees, a January 2021 runoff would be needed if no candidate gets a majority of the vote.

Democrat Jon Ossoff announced this morning he will run for the United State Senate seat curently held by Sen. David Perdue. From Politico:

Ossoff, 32, became a political sensation during his run for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District in 2017, one in a series of special elections that attracted wide notice amid backlash to President Donald Trump before Democrats took the House majority in the midterm election.

“Georgia is the most competitive state in the country and the Senate majority will be decided in Georgia,” Ossoff said in an interview.

“Failed congressional candidate Jon Ossoff’s serial resume inflation and extreme left-wing views will fit in with the rest of the crowded Democratic primary but will stand in sharp contrast to David Perdue’s positive record of delivering results for all of Georgia,” said Nathan Brand, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

“What I learned having been through the fire is that I will not ever be intimidated from telling my own story and touting my own accomplishments by inevitable partisan smears,” Ossoff said.

He said he remains friends with and is in regular contact with Stacey Abrams, the party’s nominee for governor in 2018 who passed on running for Senate. Abrams is likely to remain neutral in the primary, and Ossoff declined to discuss private conversations with her.

But Ossoff does have powerful backing: Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon and longtime Georgia congressman, supports his Senate bid. Ossoff said in the interview he was “honored” to have the endorsement, and plans to launch a voter registration effort with the congressman later this month.

In a statement, Lewis said he would do “everything in my power to support Jon’s election to the United States Senate.

“Jon’s 2017 campaign sparked a flame that is burning brighter than ever, in Georgia and across the country,” Lewis said. “Like the many thousands Jon has already organized and inspired, I am ready to work tirelessly to elect him.”

“David Perdue in half a decade has not come down from his private island to hold a single public town hall,” Ossoff said of the Republican senator. “We are going to raise a grassroots army unlike anything Georgia has seen to defeat him.”

From the AJC:

Former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff said he will challenge Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue and “mount a ruthless assault on corruption in our political system” that’s prevented Congress from addressing urgent issues.

The Democrat told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he would “raise a grassroots army unlike any this state has ever seen” by expanding the network of supporters who helped him raise roughly $30 million in a 2017 special election he narrowly lost.

“We have squandered trillions on endless war. We have squandered trillions on bailouts for failed banks. We have squandered trillions on tax cuts for wealthy donors. Then we’re told there’s nothing left over for the people,” he said, adding: “The corruption must be rooted out. And Sen. David Perdue is a caricature of Washington corruption.”

He said he chose to run against Perdue rather than compete for the soon-to-be-vacated seat held by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down at year’s end for health reasons, because Perdue “is one of the least effective and most out-of-touch members of the U.S. Senate.”

“We’re in a state where one in three rural children live in poverty, where we have the worst maternal mortality in the entire country, and in a half a decade, this guy hasn’t come down from his private island to do a single town hall meeting,” Ossoff said. “He hands out favors to his donors. He runs errands for the president.”

“My candidacy was such a threat that Republicans at the highest level made my destruction their highest priority,” Ossoff said. “And I narrowly lost that race, but we built something special and enduring. And I’m still standing and ready to fight.”

“Right now, the job is to build the most potent grassroots organization the state has seen to defeat Sen. Perdue … Stacey Abrams’ campaign was historic. I have never seen a more talented politician in Georgia, and she’s an inspiration to me. When you push on the wheel of history, sometimes it takes time to get where you want to go. But one of the things I learned from my race in ’17 is a fight well fought – even if you lose it – can be worth what you build in the process. That’s how I look back on my race in 2017 and that’s certainly how I look at Stacey Abrams’ historic, extraordinary performance in 2018.”

“I support banning the sale of assault weapons to the general public – weapons that are derived from modern military technology should not be sold commercially absent some specific need … Nine out of 10 Americans support universal background checks, and the failure of Congress to support universal background checks is a textbook example of Washington corruption.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams said her party’s candidates should concentrate on “unlikely voters,” according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Abrams, who lost the Georgia governor’s race by 1.4 percentage points but set a state record for Democratic votes, made her case Monday in a letter and strategy memo obtained by The Associated Press and sent to top Democratic presidential candidates, national party committees and key strategists and groups on the left.

“Democrats, let’s do better and go big,” Abrams wrote, arguing that her historic bid to be the first black female governor in U.S. history wasn’t the sole driver of her near-win. “I am not the only candidate who can create a coalition and a strategy to win this state,” she wrote, adding that “any decision less than full investment in Georgia would amount to strategic malpractice” and arguing that her 2018 coalition of nonwhites and whites from the cities and suburbs is the blueprint “to compete in the changing landscape of the Sun Belt.”

The assertions from Abrams and her campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, highlight a fault line for Democrats. Some party leaders want to focus on flipping white voters who helped Trump flip Great Lakes states including Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Others want to drive turnout across Democrats’ growing base of minority voters and college-educated whites in the suburbs and cities, constituencies that could put states like Georgia, North Carolina and Arizona in play, while also helping in the Upper Midwest.

Groh-Wargo did not put a price tag on a 2020 campaign in Georgia, but noted the combined Democratic investment in Georgia last year was $42 million, compared to $70 million in Ohio and $32 million in Iowa, where Democrats lost statewide midterm races two years after Hillary Clinton lost to President Donald Trump by nearly double-digit margins.

Groh-Wargo wrote that Abrams was able to take advantage because the campaign spent time and money reaching Democratic-leaning residents who aren’t regular voters. With new registrations since 2018, Groh-Wargo put that number of such voters for 2020 at 1.7 million — more than six times the GOP’s typical advantage in Georgia and about 28 times larger than Abrams’ margin of defeat last year.

The universe of truly persuadable “swing voters” in Georgia, Groh-Wargo wrote, is about 150,000. Groh-Wargo said the campaign spent money targeting those voters, but not as much as in traditional campaigns that would have relied heavily on expensive television advertising in the Atlanta market.

“Democratic committees, consultants and the media do not factor unlikely voters into their polling, strategy and prognostications, effectively making their analyses by re-litigating the prior election as if nothing had changed in the electorate since,” she wrote.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will begin accepting applications for federal aid to address last year’s Hurricane Michael, according to GPB News.

It took eight months for a federal aid package to pass, caught up in the government shutdown of early 2019, as well as a disagreement about how much funding should go to border security and to Puerto Rico, also recovering from hurricanes.

On Wednesday, the Department of Agriculture just announced, those farmers will be able to apply to receive some of the $3 billion aid package.

“U.S. agriculture has been dealt a hefty blow by extreme weather over the last several years, and 2019 is no exception,” Secretary of Agriculture and former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue said in a statement.

“The scope of this year’s prevented planting alone is devastating, and although these disaster program benefits will not make producers whole, we hope the assistance will ease some of the financial strain farmers, ranchers and their families are experiencing,” he said.

All crew members from the M/V Golden Ray, which capsized off Saint Simons Island, have been rescued, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Three of the four crew members were extracted Monday before 3:30 p.m. and the fourth was rescued just before 6 p.m

The Coast Guard Sector Charleston was first notified by the Glynn County 911 dispatch around 2 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, that the M/V Golden Ray had capsized in the St. Simons Sound, according to a release from the Coast Guard. The vessel was leaving the Georgia Ports Authority Colonels Island Terminal just prior to the accident, GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch confirmed Sunday..

The first three crew members were rescued after USCG rescue and salvage teams drilled a hole measuring about two feet by three feet into the ship’s hull, Capt. John Reed, Commander of Coast Guard Sector Charleston, said.

The fourth crew member was stuck behind glass enclosed in an engineering control room in the ship’s stern. In a video posted on Twitter by the USCG Southeast the man can be seen climbing out of an opening as rescuers assist him.

The Golden Ray may remain in St Simons Sound for weeks, according to The Brunswick News.

The channel leading to the Port of Brunswick is closed and a Coast Guard spokesman said it’s uncertain how long it will take salvage crews to upright the vessel.

State Rep. Jeff Jones spoke at a public event on St. Simons Island on Monday, where he discussed the accident and when the channel will be cleared by salvage teams.

“This is going to be a unique kind of a challenge,” Jones said. “They sort of set themselves up for scenarios like this on how to handle situations like this, but they don’t yet know.”

The Coast Guard has currently closed the channel but Clayton said the Port of Brunswick remains open “with restrictions.”

Lowndes County will be one of six to pilot new voting machines, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

“Now, for the first time in 20 years when we have those close elections, we’ll be able to do a physical recount,” [Georgia Secretary of State Brad] Raffensperger said. “We’ll be able to mathematically prove that the winner really won and the loser really lost.”

The state approved buying 30,000 new machines in July for a cost of $107 million. For now, only six counties will be testing the machines. The rest of the state will switch to the new system by the 2020 presidential election.

Raffensperger said they decided against paper ballots because not everyone can use a paper ballot. The touch-screen will make it easy for every voter to fill out a ballot, he said.

Deb Cox, Lowndes County supervisor of elections, said she is excited for the new machines and is honored Lowndes County has been chosen as a pilot community.

“The system is phenomenal, and I think the voters are going to love it,” Cox said. “It’s amazing, high-tech and easy to use because it’s not connected to the internet in any way shape or form.”

“It’s the most secure system I’ve ever seen anywhere in the United States,” Cox said. “There is no way anyone can get into this system. It’s as secure as anything I’ve ever seen.”

The AJC reports on polling location closures in Georgia.

“In Georgia, we’re seeing a lot of rural counties close their polling places, leaving voters with only one polling place, which can create many hurdles if you have to drive many miles to vote,” said Leigh Chapman, a co-author of the report and the voting rights program director for The Leadership Conference Education Fund.

The AJC found that the 214 precinct closures in Georgia since 2012 often occurred in counties with high poverty rates and significant African American populations.

The only states to close more precincts than Georgia were Texas with 760 and Arizona with 320, according to the report.

County election officials said precinct closures saved taxpayers’ money that was being spent on low-turnout locations staffed by at least three poll workers. They said so many voters take advantage of early and absentee voting — 55% in last November’s election — that there’s no longer a need to have so many in-person polling places on Election Day.

“In our little county, we could struggle. If I could save the county money, that’s what I wanted to do,” said Warren County Elections Superintendent Janice Thigpen. “A lot of these precincts were created because we had farmers in the field and people who didn’t have transportation into town. That’s not the case anymore.”

The Muscogee County Board of Education is planning to place an E-SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education) on the March 2020 ballot, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Muscogee County School District is planning to ask Columbus voters to renew the sales tax that helps pay for its capital projects.

And that question is expected to be on the March ballot — beating by seven months the sales tax referendum Columbus Council is planning for November.

As the Muscogee County School Board’s monthly work session ended Monday night, chairwoman Pat Hugley Green of District 1 asked her fellow board members whether there is a consensus for superintendent David Lewis to bring the board a recommendation to renew the five-year 1% Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (or, ESPLOST), which expires June 30.

But the superintendent made it clear: The March election is the best option, he said, because that’s the traditional time frame for the sales tax referendum.

Asked whether it benefits the school board to ask voters to renew the ESPLOST before the city council’s sales tax referendum in November 2020, Lewis said, “We don’t look at it one way or the other as an advantage. It’s just our routine process.”

Rome City Commission voted to add a “Brunch Bill” referendum to the November ballot, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Sunday brunch enthusiasts looking forward to having a mimosa or bloody mary before noon in Rome can now toast the Rome City Commission for unanimously agreeing Monday to allow voters to decide Nov. 5 whether local establishments can serve alcohol as early as 11 a.m. on Sundays.

As the law stands now, those who wish to imbibe must wait until 12:30 p.m. There were no public comments and very little discussion on the matter during the Commission’s regular meeting at City Hall.

Democrat Jordan Johnson will run for Augusta Commission District 1, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Jordan Johnson, the chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party, announced Monday that he is running for the District 1 seat on the Augusta Commission.

Johnson joins former District 1 candidate Michael Thurman and downtown businesswoman Shawnda Griffin in the May 2020 election. Term limits prevent incumbent Bill Fennoy from seeking a third term.

Westside Elementary School in Valdosta will add agriculture education, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center moved back into its normal quarters after evacuating ahead of Hurricane Dorian, according to The Brunswick News.

“Starting a couple weeks ago, we knew that Hurricane Dorian was heading our way, and we prepared early for that,” said Katie Mascovich of the GSTC. “We started getting things together in case we needed to transport animals in the event of an evacuation.

“We actually released seven of our healthy sea turtle patients that were on the release track as it was, because we didn’t want to put them through the shock of evacuation, if we had to do that. You may notice we have some empty tanks here, and that is why, because we released about half of our patients.”

For the turtles staying, in addition to getting the patients ready to move, staff also had to put equipment up, literally, so it would be OK if the facilities flooded. Staff loaded the 89 creatures — sea turtles, diamondback terrapins, etc. — and the equipment that came with them into two vans and a minibus for the trip to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.

9
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 9, 2019

The Continental Congress renamed their new nation the United States of America, from the previously used “United Colonies” on September 9, 1776.

On September 9, 1933, WSB Radio in Atlanta was upgraded to broadcasting via 50,000 watt transmitter. The first broadcast included Will Rogers and a letter from President Roosevelt.

On September 9, 1939, an audience at the Fox Theater in Riverside, California watched a preview of Gone With the Wind.

The first actual computer bug was identified on September 9, 1947, when Grace Hopper removed a moth from an electrical relay in the Harvard Mark II computer. Hopper received her Ph.D. in Mathematics from Yale in 1934 and attained the rank of Rear Admiral, Lower Half in the United Stated Navy. USS Hopper (DDG-70) was named after her.

On September 9, 1954, Marvin Griffin won the Democratic Primary election over Melvin Thompson.

Elvis Presley first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956.

Happy 77th birthday to former Congressman John Linder. Linder served in the State House from 1974-1980 and 1982-90. In 1990 he ran unsuccessfully for Congress against incumbent Democrat Ben Jones; in 1992, after redistricting, Linder was elected to Congress from the 7th District and served until his retirement after the 2010 election.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A cargo ship capsized in St Simons Sound, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Coast Guard Capt. John Reed said Sunday afternoon that rescue teams safely evacuated 20 people from the ship in St. Simons Sound near Brunswick, but then determined the situation was too risky to go farther inside the vessel.

Reed said rescue teams, which involve federal, state and local agencies, are trying to stabilize the M/V Golden Ray cargo ship to continue their search for the missing crew members. He said they have been unable to determine if the fire has been extinguished.

Four people remain unaccounted for on the 656-foot vehicle carrier. The vessel is turned on its side in the St. Simons Sound about 400 feet off the St. Simons village fishing pier, said Robert Morris, senior communications officer for Georgia Ports Authority.

The [Brunswick] port is closed as search and rescue efforts continue. Morris said he didn’t know of any vessels that have been delayed and the focus remains on the rescue efforts.

Senator David Perdue (R) will speak at UGA on October 9 at 11:15 AM, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The Associated Press writes that Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) expressed interest in appointment to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Now, amid speculation over whom Gov. Brian Kemp might appoint to replace Isakson until a special election is held, some hopefuls are raising their hands for consideration.

One of those prominent contenders is Rep. Doug Collins, who has emerged as one of President Donald Trump’s chief defenders in Congress through his role as the top Republican on the House Judiciary panel.

But what exactly Kemp is looking for in a replacement is still largely unknown.

There will be no primary elections for Isakson’s seat, meaning the special election will be open to qualified candidates from all political parties. That could significantly increase the likelihood of a runoff, required by Georgia law if no candidate receives over 50% of the vote.

Republican strategists say other potential candidates include U.S. Rep. Tom Graves and statewide officers like Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Attorney General Chris Carr.

When asked about Isakson’s seat in a recent interview, Collins told The Associated Press: “If the governor were to ask me, would I like to take that position and begin that cycle? I would say yes.”

Democrat Lucy McBath (TN) didn’t rule out a Senate bid, according to the AJC.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath signaled Sunday that she hasn’t ruled out a bid for a newly-opened U.S. Senate seat, telling the crowd at a town hall meeting in Sandy Springs that she’s ignoring the “chatter” about her potential candidacy.

“What I will tell you is that I’m invested in your future,” she told an audience of hundreds, responding to a pointed question pressing her on whether she would commit to seeking a second term in Georgia’s 6th District.

McBath is said to be seriously considering a run, though some state and national Democrats are urging her to stay in the U.S. House, where she has the advantage of incumbency against former Republican Rep. Karen Handel and several other Republicans looking to win back the seat.

Former State Rep. Clay Cox (R-Lilburn) will run for the seat he lost in 2018, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Cox has announced he will run for the Republican nomination for the State House District 108 seat. Cox, a resident of Lilburn, represented the district several years ago and came back to serve a second two-year stint as the district’s representative during the 2017-2018 legislative session. He is seeking a rematch against state Rep. Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn, who defeated Cox in the November 2018 general election.

“After much prayer, discussion with my family, and encouragement from so many throughout our community, I am proud to announce my candidacy for the State House of Representatives,” Cox said in a statement. “I love Lilburn, I grew up here, started a successful business in Lilburn and this is where we have raised our family. I have a strong desire to see our community reinvigorated and our economy growing.”

Municipal tourism groups are reportedly discussing tax collection with AirBNB, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

As travelers increasingly opt for online platforms such as Airbnb over traditional hotels, municipalities are looking for ways to recoup the loss in lodging taxes. Many have entered into “voluntary collection” agreements with online providers, where the company itself handles collection and remittance of taxes from those using their service. Other cities, such as Savannah, have enacted registration ordinances for short-term rental property owners.

In Augusta, where the Masters Tournament fills hotels and many private residences for one week a year, officials estimate they are losing up to $200,000 a year in lost lodging taxes.

The city’s tourism-marketing organization, the Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau – one of two recipients of city lodging taxes – has begun laying the groundwork for a voluntary tax-collection agreement with home rental giant Airbnb.

Though Airbnb has such agreements with municipalities across the nation, it has none in Georgia, one of the few states that has not negotiated a deal with the San Francisco-based company.

Airbnb rentals are on the rise in Augusta. The company reported a 42 percent increase in bookings during Masters Week 2018 compared to the previous year. It has not disclosed figures for the 2019 tournament.

The Georgia Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus, headed by Augusta resident Jay Markwalter, a former executive with the Augusta CVB, said in a statement that Georgia is going through a learning process, and acknowledged some of its member organizations are interested in pursuing tax-collection options for short-term rentals.

“As with many new platforms in the shared economy, the learning curve is often steepest in the beginning. Short-term rentals have grown into a significant option as part of the total tourism package,” Markwalter said. “We recognize that economic benefit to homeowners, local businesses, and destination marketing organizations around the state. We believe that communities throughout Georgia benefit when the entire lodging industry collects and remits appropriate taxes and fees.”

The Ledger-Enquirer looks at the current regional Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) and projects.

Your sales tax dollars will help pay for more thanr $260.3 million worth of roads, bridges and pedestrian pathways in Muscogee County by the year 2022.

The 10-year tax, approved by voters in 2012, is budgeted to fund transportation improvements in 16 counties including Muscogee.

The other counties are Chattahoochee, Marion, Talbot, Harris, Stewart, Webster, Taylor, Schley, Macon, Sumter, Quitman, Clay, Randolph, Dooly and Crisp.

The original approved budget for all 23 of the region’s projects is $410,754,730.

All of the counties recently passed resolutions in favor of a second 10-year sales tax except Muscogee County, which effectively began the process of bringing the proposal to voters.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson said that a conflict with the city’s proposed 1% sales tax could mean the Columbus Council actively campaigns against the transportation tax.

Despite Columbus Council’s decision not to endorse another transportation tax, the process to put it on the ballot will still continue, as the counties could be penalized for not bringing a project list before voters.

The current tax ends Dec. 31, 2022. A second tax could be seen on the ballot in 2020, 2021 or 2022.

The Glynn County Board of Elections meets Tuesday to discuss implementing new voting machines, according to The Brunswick News.

Elections and Registration Supervisor Chris Channell said he couldn’t talk specifics. Due to the hurricane, board staff members had yet to fully prepare for the meeting, he said.

Glynn County is one of the counties that will continue to use old voting machines in the November municipal elections. Channell has previously said he expects Glynn County will get a few machines soon to use for training and public education before the 2020 elections.

The board is scheduled to meet at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday on the second floor of the Office Park Building, 1815 Gloucester St. in Brunswick.

Hall County will begin mailing property tax statements on September 13, with a November 15 due date for payments, according to the Gainesville Times.

Statesboro City Council voted to appoint Leah Harden as the new City Clerk, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Williams partially reopened shellfish harvesting, according to The Brunswick News.

The closure of the state’s shellfish fishery as a preemptive, protective measure ahead of Hurricane Dorian ended Friday morning as state Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Williams issued a new administrative order reopening harvesting for clams and other bivalve mollusks.

However, oyster harvesting remains closed until at least the beginning of October, when ocean temperatures are projected to drop below 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

“The harvest of shellfish was previously closed out of caution to protect public health and in accordance with the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference and Federal Food and Drug Administration guidelines,” according to a release by the DNR’s Coastal Resources Division.

Floyd County Commission will vote on whether to renew a road maintenance contract with the Georgia Department of Transportation, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Hall County Superior Court Judge Kathy Gosselin will Chair the Council of Accountability Courts beginning July 1, 2020, according to AccessWDUN.

Gosselin has 15 years of experience presiding over a mental health court and five years of experience with the veteran court.

Her election as Chair to this state-wide council comes after serving as the mental health court representative on the Executive Committee for three years (the initial three years of the Council’s formation), the Funding Chair for the last four years (overseeing grants to all the accountability courts in the State), and as Vice-Chair last year.

6
Sep

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

Join us Saturday, September 14, 2019 at Georgia State Stadium formerly Turner Field, for the ALS Walk to benefit the ALS Association Georgia Chapter.

My late wife, Stephanie Lotti, known here previously as Mrs. GaPundit, died in 2018 from ALS. During her disability, the ALS Association provided tremendous support to our family, for which I remain grateful.

The Mayflower left Plymouth, England for a voyage to America on September 6, 1620.

On September 7, 1864, General William T. Sherman sent a letter to his Confederate counterpart, General John Bell Hood, offering to transport civilians out of Atlanta for their safety.

The Georgia General Assembly appropriated $1 million for construction of a new State Capitol on September 8, 1883.

President William McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901. He is buried in Canton, Ohio, not far from the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

Alonzo Herndon founded the Atlanta Life Insurance Company on September 6, 1905, one of Georgia’s great success stories.

The Fulton County Courthouse was dedicated on September 8, 1914.

The first supermarket, a Piggly Wiggly, opened on September 6, 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee.

On September 6, 1941, Margaret Mitchell christened the cruiser USS Atlanta – Atlanta would later sink after being hit by 50 shells and a torpedo during the Battle of Guadalcanal.

The Professional Football Hall of Fame opened on September 7, 1963 in Canton, Ohio.

The Summerhill Race Riot broke out in Atlanta on September 6, 1966.

Future Atlanta resident Curtis Mayfield saw his song, “Superfly” turn gold on September 7, 1972.

Here’s my favorite song by Curtis Mayfield, “People Get Ready.”

President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon on September 8, 1974 for “all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.”

Former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter returned to the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, on September 6, 1976 to kick off the final phase of his presidential campaign.

On September 8, 1976, the Georgia State Board of Education began reviewing the FY 1977 Department of Education budget, the first to exceed one billion dollars.

On September 7, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaty, which promised to turn over control of the canal to Panama by 2000.

On September 8, 1986, Herschel Walker made his professional football debut with the Dallas Cowboys.

Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin on September 7, 1998.

On September 6, 2014, USS John Warner (SSN-785), a mighty Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine, was christened at Newport News Shipbuilding. Big John calls Naval Station Norfolk its homeport. USS John Warner was commissioned on August 1, 2015 at Norfolk Naval Station.

Happy 81st birthday on Sunday to Sam Nunn, who graduated from Emory College (1960) and Emory University School of Law (1963) before being elected to the United States Senate in 1972. If you were born before November 6, 1972, you’ve never seen his name on your ballot.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early voting is open in the September 17 Special Election for Mayor of Perry, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Randall Walker, a former city councilman, and Robbin Jackson, a Perdue Farms employee, qualified for the race to finish out [former Mayor Jimmy] Faircloth’s term, which ends in 2021. The City Council has called a special meeting Sept. 23 to swear in the winner of the election as mayor.

Governor Brian Kemp lifted the mandatory evacuation of coastal Georgia.

[Thursday] at 9:30 AM, Governor Brian P. Kemp lifted the mandatory evacuation order for people east of Interstate 95 in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty, and McIntosh Counties.

So far, Bryan, Camden, Glynn, and Liberty Counties have authorized re-entry for residents and visitors. The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has begun inspection of roads and bridges in affected counties. Some roads and bridges may remain impassable even after rescission of the mandatory evacuation order. The F.J. Torras (St. Simons Island), Downing Musgrove (Jekyll Island), and Tybee Island Causeways are cleared for travel. The Sidney Lanier Bridge is also clear for travel. GDOT is inspecting the US-17 Savannah River Bridge.

“I want to thank the countless emergency management officials, law enforcement, first responders, local leaders, and Georgians who worked together to prepare and respond to Hurricane Dorian. As Governor, I am incredibly proud of our statewide collaboration and deeply grateful that we experienced no loss of life. Many Georgians still have challenges ahead – power outages, fallen trees, and property damage – in the aftermath of this powerful storm, but I am confident that we will address them and emerge even stronger,” said Governor Kemp. “Now, we must stand together and offer our assistance to the Bahamas and our neighbors, South Carolina and North Carolina.”

From the Savannah Morning News:

Chatham County Emergency Management officials tweeted that all who evacuated may re-enter.

CEMA said they will be working throughout the day to return those who evacuated to an inland shelter through the Evacuation Assembly Area. In coordination with the State of Georgia and Department of Public Health, efforts to return our Functional Access and Medical Needs population are underway and planning efforts to return them to their homes will begin tomorrow.

Soldiers, civilians, and family members of Hunter Army Airfield (HAAF) are to follow the guidance of the Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield senior command.

Savannah had no reported injuries from the storm, according to the Savannah Morning News.

No injuries were reported from the storm. Dorian toppled about 20 trees countywide. Power outages peaked at around 16,000 county-wide Thursday morning and dropped quickly as crews made repairs. Outages occurred throughout the county but were highest on Tybee and Wilmington islands, Isle of Hope, and Ferguson Avenue near Skidaway Island.

Emergency managers are looking at data from Georgia Power, AT&T and Verizon to determine usages before and after the evacuation order and estimate how many people actually evacuated, Jones said. He downplayed the notion that Savannah residents’ experience with Dorian would make them less likely to evacuate in the future.

“Well, we have a very well educated community,” he said. “They saw the damages that we have with previous storms, they saw the storm that was coming our way. And you know, a lot of the decisions that were made to evacuate were personal decisions based on history.”

The storm brought 1.29 inches of rain to Hunter Army Airfield. The actual storm surge of 3.5 feet fell within the predicted 3-5 feet, but did not coincide with the high tide as forecasters initially worried it would. U.S. 80 to Tybee did not flood and never closed. The tide gauge at Fort Pulaski reached 9.55 feet at its height, lower than was seen last weekend during high tides unrelated to Hurricane Dorian.

The sustained winds at Fort Pulaski topped out overnight at tropical storm force of about 41 mph, gusting to about 60 mph. Gusts at the Savannah Hilton head International Airport reached 45 mph. Sustained winds there reached 28 mph.

Savannah and Thunderbolt lifted their 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfews as of Thursday.

Most of Augusta’s evacuees are returning home, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

With Gov. Brian Kemp lifting the evacuation order for Savannah on Thursday, most but not all of some 1,300 evacuees staying in Augusta shelters headed for home.

As Hurricane Dorian churned up the South Carolina coast toward North Carolina and away from coastal Georgia, the evacuees who’d been bused in from Savannah began boarding charter buses at 2 p.m., starting with 228 staying at Butler High School.

President Trump will get another appointment to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the AJC.

President Donald Trump has yet another seat to fill on the federal appeals court in Atlanta, giving him the chance to appoint almost half of the court’s judges during his first term in office.

Judge Stanley Marcus became the latest member of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to tell Trump he will take senior status with a reduced caseload. Marcus said he will become a senior judge when his successor is sworn into office or on March 2, whichever comes first.

Although Marcus was appointed by a Democrat, President Bill Clinton, he has often sided with the 11th Circuit’s conservative wing.

The 11th Circuit is allotted five judges from Florida, four from Georgia and three from Alabama.

Trump previously filled two Georgia seats with former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Britt Grant and former Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Elizabeth Branch. Trump filled an Alabama seat with former state Solicitor General Kevin Newsom.

Last month, Judge Gerald Tjoflat told Trump that he, too, will take senior status. Trump has yet to nominate Tjoflat’s successor.

Trump’s nominees to succeed Marcus and Tjoflat must be from Florida, because Marcus’ chambers are in Miami and Tjoflat’s are in Jacksonville.

Southern Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Harry Jay Altman, II is resigning his seat on the bench, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Southern Circuit Chief Judge Harry Jay Altman has submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Brian Kemp.

“… It is time for me to retire. It is time to pass on the responsibilities of my position,” according to a copy of the letter sent to The Valdosta Daily Times.

Altman, 68, was appointed to the bench in August 1994, serving in the position for a quarter-century. The Southern Judicial Circuit covers Brooks, Colquitt, Echols, Lowndes and Thomas counties.

He became chief judge of the Southern Circuit in 2009.

Altman said his resignation becomes effective Jan. 1.

Altman, a Thomasville native, graduated from Thomasville High School, Washington and Lee University and the Georgia Law School, returning to Thomasville after finishing law school in 1975.

State Rep. Ed Rynders (R-Albany) is resigning his seat, according to the Albany Herald.

A 17-year House veteran, Rynders revealed to The Albany Herald that he has health concerns that are part of a “perfect storm” of issues that led him to make the decision to step down from his seat in the House with a year left on his current two-year term.

“My wife, Jane, and I had already been talking about what we would do when we retire, and two of the places we talked about were the Georgia Coast and Athens,” Rynders said during a lengthy Thursday-morning conversation. “The local (Lee County) school system also made some personnel changes that would have made my daughter (Megan Ealam) one of my wife’s supervisors (at Twin Oaks Elementary School), which had the possibility of being awkward.”

“Plus, and not a lot of people know this, I had a heart attack in June and needed three stents. I had health issues going back to the last session of the Legislature — I even missed a couple of votes because of these issues, which I rarely do — and knew something was wrong. I’m not one who shares my personal issues with a lot of people, but I was doing some cleaning (on rental property) while Jane was out of town and it grabbed me. I got in my truck, tried to catch my breath, drove home and went to bed. But (the symptoms) did not go away.”

“I called (now former Phoebe CEO) Joel Wernick and told him I thought I was having a heart attack,” Rynders continued. “I managed to walk in, and within a minute of getting there they had me hooked up.”

“But going through the voting machine issue during the last session required a lot of ‘heavy lifting’ on my part, and with redistricting coming up, I knew there was going to be a great deal of pressure once again. In the end, I look at the distinguished careers of two men I admire, Doug Everett and Johnny Isakson, and one thing I took from conversations with them is ‘It’s OK to walk away.’”

When Rynders sends a resignation letter he has written to Gov. Brian Kemp, Kemp will set a date for a special election to complete the year left on Rynders’ current term.

Deloitte Consulting issued a report on Georgia health care to Gov. Kemp, according to the AJC.

Enabled by a new law granting him a budget and power to draw up new health care proposals for the state, Gov. Brian Kemp hired the consulting firm Deloitte to report back to him on the landscape of Georgia health care. The goal of the report is to help him chart the new path. He recently got Deloitte’s findings.

Georgia has worse access to health care than most states, such as available doctors and mental health care providers. In one recent year, 17% of Georgians said they needed to see a doctor in the past 12 months but couldn’t because of cost.

And it shows in health outcomes. Georgia, the home of nationally known hospitals and other top health programs, ranks in the bottom one-third of states for the health outcomes of its residents, such as premature deaths, infant mortality or diabetes.

Large numbers of uninsured means people who don’t get care until it’s an emergency, or ever. It means people who get care in emergency rooms, leaving hospitals and caregivers with unpaid bills.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan convened a Task Force on Healthcare Access and Costs, according to the AJC.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan convened the meeting with the goal of guiding future legislation, he said.

“Ultimately, the goal of this task force is to create a plan,” Duncan told the attendees. “It’s not already written. But to create a plan for us to be able to tackle some of the biggest initiatives in Georgia.”

Duncan announced the task force as a means to find private-sector-oriented solutions for Georgia health care. Thursday’s meeting was the first of several, and it focused on data.

The task force also heard from speakers on telemedicine and using data analytics to detect fraud. The committee, which includes health lobbyists, officials and policymakers, is scheduled to meet again Oct. 9.

Bulloch County was minimally damaged by Dorian, according to the Statesboro Herald.

In Bulloch County, only one tree was reported to have fallen Wednesday night — a tree on Niver Road, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn. No damages were reported anywhere in the county, and “sporadic power outages” experienced in some small areas were not caused by wind, he said.

With Dorian taking a path similar to Hurricane Matthew, wavering from Category 5 to Category 2 and then back to Category 3 strength, Bulloch County public safety was prepared for the worst, he said. Work crews, emergency responders and law enforcement stayed out all night, a curfew was set for midnight to daylight, and everyone was ready to handle high winds, flooding rains and power outages. Fortunately, those never appeared.

Georgia Southern University remains closed for classes Friday, but offices will be open. Ogeechee Technical College is normally closed on Fridays.

Bulloch County public schools and related activities will resume a normal schedule Friday, said marketing director Hayley Greene.

Also suffering minimal impact, according to The Brunswick News were Camden County, Glynn County, and the Golden Isles.

Damage to Tybee Island was de minimis, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is assessing coastal damage from Dorian, according to The Brunswick News.

“It’s a little early to even get people on the islands. We’re still kind of assessing what the status of the infrastructure out there is…,” said Mark Dodd, head of the state Department of Natural Resources’ sea turtle program. “It’s going to be a couple days before we’re able to get people out on the islands and get roads cleared and get equipment running again. The islands we work on, they’re mostly remote islands, and it’s really logistically difficult — without a hurricane — to get to all the beaches.”

“We had to move the equipment and kayaks and canoes and ways that we access the more remote parts of the beaches have all been put up for the hurricane,” Dodd said. “So, we’ve got to get all that back into place before we can get to some of these areas.”

“Just looking at the tide gauge data … the tides were actually higher prior to the storm during the new moon period,’ Dodd said. “Obviously, with the storm there was a lot of wave energy associated with that, so we expect that we lost some beach, and certainly that we lost some of the nests that were at low elevations on the beach. But, we also think that a lot of nests probably weather the storm — the higher nests on the beach weathered the storm without any negative effect.”

Over on Cumberland Island, assessment continues as U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, announced late Thursday that the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a grant of more than $3.5 million for repair of the Cumberland docks damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017.

“As the representative of the entire coast of Georgia, I understand the critical importance of not only preparing for severe weather, but also ensuring recovery,” Carter said in a statement. “This grant is very important as it will work to return the docks to pre-disaster conditions.”

Augusta law enforcement agencies will purchase crime fighting technology with a federal grant, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

At a joint press conference Thursday, U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine announced the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and the Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s office have been awarded grants through the DOJ’s Project Safe Neighborhoods program to purchase expensive equipment.

Sheriff Richard Roundtree said the $35,790 grant for his department will be used to buy GPS tracking equipment, covert cameras and more mobile fingerprint scanners. The department will have enough scanners now to ensure there is one available in each zone so officers can confirm identities in the field.

Whitfield County‘s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) advisory committee announced criteria for projects to be included in a prospective referendum, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Committee members agreed that any SPLOST projects should be non-recurring, agreeable to the voters and positively impact a substantial portion of the population.

The committee members appeared in favor of paying off at least some — or all — of the $2.955 million remaining on a bond for construction of a fire station on Riverbend Road in the county’s southern section. That was listed as the top priority by Edward O’Brien, the fire chief for Whitfield County.

“We need to establish some sort of general guidelines” for what a SPLOST project ought to be in Whitfield County, said Chris Shiflett, chairman of the committee. For Shiflett, projects warranting consideration should be extraordinary, “truly beneficial to the community,” and outside the normal budgets of the respective governmental entities.

SPLOST is a financing method for funding capital and other special projects; if approved by voters, the 1% tax is levied on most goods sold in the county.

A SPLOST allows a county to receive revenue that would otherwise have to derive from property taxes, said Pam Partain, a committee member, noting, “I’m a fan of SPLOST.”

Bob Huskey, another committee member, believes projects covered by a SPLOST need to benefit a significant number of residents to succeed at the ballot box. This community has a history of voting against SPLOST referendums, including earlier this year, he noted. However, “if we come up with the right list, I think we can get it done,” he said.

Chatsworth will open qualifying for a November 5 special election to city council, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Qualifying will take place Wednesday, Sept. 18, and Thursday, Sept. 19, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday, Sept. 20, from 8:30 a.m. to noon for the unexpired term for the Post 1 seat formerly held by K.W. Gong. That term expires on Dec. 31, 2021.

Gong stepped down last month to run for mayor. He is unopposed in that race. Mayor Tyson Haynes did not seek re-election.

Nine candidates for Atlanta Board of Education will meet in a forum before the September 17 special election, according to the AJC.

Voters will have a couple of opportunities to hear from Atlanta school board candidates before the Sept. 17 election for the District 2 seat.

The need for the special election was caused by the departure earlier this year of former school board member Byron Amos, who left to run for Atlanta City Council.

A League of Women Voters of Atlanta-Fulton County forum will take place at 6 p.m. Sept. 10 at Lindsay Street Baptist Church, 550 Lindsay St. NW.

KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools will host a forum at 6 p.m. Sept. 11 at KIPP Atlanta Collegiate High School, 98 Anderson Ave. NW. The charter school network operates several schools in District 2.

The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension completed its “Great Georgia Pollinator Census” last month, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

More than 4,500 people participated in the nation’s first statewide pollinator census and recorded seeing about 134,000 insect pollinators.

Volunteers from 133 of Georgia’s 159 counties participated, said Becky Griffin, school and community garden coordinator with the extension and the count’s organizer.

Volunteers, including many school groups, were asked to watch a blooming plant for 15 minutes, counting the insect pollinators that visited and putting them into broad categories such as honeybees, bumblebees, butterflies and so on, along with information about time of day and location.

Griffin expects to be able to derive some scientific data from the count — for example, the presence of native bees.

“That’s a really important piece of data,” she said. Georgia has about 400 species of native bees.

Norcross is soliciting bids to install speed cameras, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The city issued an invitation for companies to submit bids for the purchase and installation of speed cameras, which would capture speeders without the presence of an officer. The cameras capture the plates of speeder and notify police, who issue tickets to offenders.

The bid invitation says the chosen vendor will provide and install all equipment and monitor the camera system for violations. The equipment and monitoring will be provided at no cost to the City of Norcross with revenue sharing of collections.

“Like many agencies now in Georgia, we are asking for bids to place speed cameras at four of our city school zones where we have had a history a chronic speeding problems,” Norcross Police Chief Bill Grogan said. “This is all under House Bill 978 approved last year by house and senate.”

House Bill 978 amended state laws regarding penalties and fees for overtaking stopped school buses and opened the door for cities to install automated traffic enforcement safety devices in school zones.

Suwanee City Council voted to amend their alcohol ordinance, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

A recent amendment to an ordinance approved by the Suwanee City Council will allow patrons of licensed restaurants or vendors to carry mixed drinks outside at Town Center Park.

The City Council’s minutes from that meeting specifically say that Chapter 6 of the City Code of Ordinances will now allow mixed drinks outdoors in the Town Center District. The language of the ordinance states “licensed eating establishments, downtown pubs, and mobile food vendor-served establishments located in the Town Center District may sell individual alcoholic beverages for consumption to persons authorized to possess or consume alcoholic beverages in the Town Center District including Town Center Park.”

5
Sep

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

On September 5, 1774, the Continental Congress convened for the first time at Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia; delegates attended from all the colonies except Georgia.

heartofatlanta.digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu

The Heart of Atlanta Motel opened at 255 Courtland Street in downtown Atlanta on September 5, 1956. It included a three-story diving platform reached by spiral stairs and a pool large enough to hold a ski boat. African-Americans were not allowed at the Heart of Atlanta. [Photos © Georgia State University]

heart of atlanta pool.digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu

After passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned racial discrimination in interstate commerce, the Heart of Atlanta’s owner sued the federal government, asserting that the Act was an overly broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

The resulting decision by the United States Supreme Court upheld the Act, finding that Congress was within its authority to ban racial discrimination in businesses affecting interstate commerce.

Atlanta Time Machine has a webpage with interesting images of the Motel.

On September 5, 1969, United States Army Lieutenant William Calley was charged with murder in connection with the deaths of 109 Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. An Army inquiry listed 30 people who knew of the event and charges were filed against 14; Calley was the only conviction. Later, President Nixon paroled Calley. From 1975 to 2005 or 2006, Calley lived and worked in Columbus, Georgia, before moving to Atlanta. In 2009, Calley apologized for the events at My Lai while speaking to a meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Click here for Georgia Power’s outage map.

Glynn County experienced light power outages yesterday due to Hurricane Dorian, according to The Brunswick News.

A large Georgia Power Company crew is already on standby in the Golden Isles and working to repair any power outages that may occur today as Hurricane Dorian nears and weather intensifies, according company officials said.

There were scattered power outages in Glynn County, according to Georgia Power’s outage map. As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, there were 49 total outages with more than 2,400 people affected, according to the map.

Additionally, Georgia Power line crews statewide were summed to pack for a mission of up to one week and be “ready to roll” as soon as Dorian passes. Staging areas along the coast already are set up to receive these crews. Neighboring power crews in Alabama and Mississippi also are on standby.

Coastal Georgia hospitals have evacuated some patients, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Ahead of Dorian’s approach, several babies in neonatal intensive care units have been transferred to Augusta University Medical Center and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Piedmont Columbus hospitals, the Georgia Hospital Association said Monday.

The Augusta Chronicle reported five neonatal patients were brought to University Hospital from Memorial Health in Savannah, one by airlift and two sets of twins by ambulance.

And Fox 5 Atlanta said that a team from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta transported 10 babies from Savannah, who are now in a neonatal intensive care unit at the pediatric organization’s Scottish Rite hospital.

Senior care centers in Brunswick and St. Marys were being evacuated and family members had been notified. All outpatient services and elective surgeries were canceled, and patients were to be contacted later to reschedule the procedures.

More than 1300 evacuees are being hosted in Richmond County school facilities, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Richmond County Schools are now the temporary home of 1,321 Savannah residents evacuated in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian.

The evacuees, bused from Savannah, are being housed at five Richmond County high schools, when two additional shelters opened at Glenn Hills Middle School and Pine Hill Middle School, Augusta Fire Chief and Emergency Management Agency Director Chris James said.

Richmond County public schools will remain closed on Friday, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Richmond County School System will remain closed on Friday to continue shelter support for Hurricane Dorian evacuees currently housed on school campuses from Savannah.

The decision to remain closed on Friday is a direct result of Gov. Brian Kemp’s remaining mandatory evacuation order and the resources necessary to support each shelter site, according to a school system release. The school closings had originally been set for Monday through Thursday.

United States Marine Corps recruits were evacuated from Parris Island, SC to Albany, according to the Albany Herald.

arine Corps recruits from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, totaling nearly 7,000 in all, have come to stay at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany while evacuation orders remain in effect due to Hurricane Dorian.

With their drill instructors alongside them, a relocation does not stop the recruits’ training.

“Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany is in a unique position to service some of the military units on the Gulf Coast and up and down the Eastern Seaboard as safe haven missions, which is one of our primary missions,” Col. Alphonso Trimble, commanding officer of MCLB-Albany, said in a social media video clip.

Following an evacuation order issued by South Carolina officials that went into effect Monday, the recruits began arriving Tuesday evening and into Wednesday. Brig. Gen. James Glynn, commanding general for the depot, said in a video message that the evacuation order is expected to be lifted this afternoon, and that normal operations at Parris Island ought to resume at noon Friday.

Former State Representative Roger Williams has died, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Roger Williams, who served 22 years in the Georgia House of Representatives from Dalton and later was a member of the State Transportation Board, died Wednesday at the age of 85. Allyson Williams said her father had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Williams was elected as a Democrat and served five consecutive terms from 1977 to 1986. He was elected as a Republican in a 2001 special election to finish the unexpired term of the late Harold Mann and was re-elected each time until he did not run for re-election after the 2012 legislative session.

Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said Williams enjoyed a level of trust and respect among legislators that few have attained.

“Roger Williams served with grace, dignity and integrity,” Ralston said. “He cared deeply about his community and worked hard every day to represent Dalton and Whitfield County. Not only was he a great leader, but he was a dear friend of mine and a solid rock of wisdom and good counsel.”

After he left the state legislature, the local legislative conference elected Williams as the area’s 14th Congressional District representative on the State Transportation Board.

The Georgia Senate Study Committee on Passenger Vehicle Seat Safety Belts met yesterday to discuss the existing exemption for backseat passengers, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

State Sen. Tonya Anderson, D-Lithonia, is leading the initiative to fill in the gap in the current law that exempts adult passengers in the back seat of vehicles from having to wear a seat belt.

“To find this loophole and to bring it in front of the general assembly is in the interest of public safety and saving lives,” Anderson said.

Georgia is one of the 20 states that do not enforce the use of rear seatbelts. Nationally, 47% of motorists killed in car crashes were not wearing seat belts, said Allen Poole, director of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

“Just because you’re in the back of the vehicle doesn’t mean you’re more safe than in the front of the vehicle,” Poole said.

Insurance rates are high in Georgia because of the state’s high number of car crashes — especially in the metropolitan area, Poole said. Georgia is ranked in the top five states nationally that have the highest number of car accidents.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Williams signed an order temporarily halting the shellfish harvest, according to The Brunswick News.

“This closure is precautionary and made in the interest of protecting public health,” according to a statement by the DNR’s Coastal Resources Division. “Shellfish harvest will reopen after DNR has conducted water quality and shellfish meat samples and ensured bacterial thresholds are safe for human consumption.”

“Predicted impacts from Hurricane Doran include heavy rains and larger than normal tidal surges that may result in elevated bacterial levels from run off into the growing areas resulting in potential contamination of shellfish beds. This closure includes clams and any other bivalve molluscan shellfish from all Georgia waters at this time.”

Lake Park City Council will hold an emergency meeting today, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Lake Park City Council has called an emergency meeting for Thursday to discuss finding a new municipal court judge — a move the current judge says is financially motivated.

The city clerk’s office sent out a statement Wednesday that the meeting will be held 6 p.m. The clerk’s office also confirmed that discussing a change of judges is the reason for the meeting.

The current municipal court judge, Carlos Rodgers, says council wants him out because he is too lenient on fines.

“If someone comes in with a ticket for “no insurance,’ which is a $600 fine, but has proof he’s corrected the problem, I’ll cut it in half,” he said. “All the classes judges take tell us not to be hard on fines.”

Statesboro City Council adopted a new blight tax, according to the Statesboro Herald.

City Council took another step Tuesday toward a carrot-and-stick approach to compel repair or removal of dilapidated, abandoned houses and the cleanup of other “unsafe” properties, approving a first reading of a blight tax ordinance.

If enacted after a second reading, the ordinance as drafted would impose a special tax, seven times the city’s regular millage rate, on properties deemed “blighted” by the Municipal Court, until ordered improvements are made. After improvements, the tax rate would rate would be reduced to one-half the regular rate for from one to four years.

“This is a hybrid carrot-stick approach to blighted properties within the community,” said City Attorney Cain Smith, presenting the draft ordinance.

Medical College of Georgia is working to reduce the physician shortage in rural Georgia, according to the Statesboro Herald.

A plan by the Medical College of Georgia, part of Augusta University, to send more new doctors to underserved, rural counties has executives of some hospitals in the area interested. MCG intends to shorten medical school by one year and make it tuition-free for up to 50 new physicians each year who fulfill a commitment to complete their post-graduate residencies in Georgia and then serve at least six years in underserved, rural Georgia counties.

Currently, about 75 percent of the new doctors graduating from the five medical schools in Georgia go to other states for their residencies. Where new physicians complete their residency then becomes the largest factor in deciding where they will practice, so most do not return home, Augusta University President Brooks Keel, Ph.D., said in an interview in Statesboro last week.

He is seeking support from state lawmakers and the public for the Medical College of Georgia’s plan to place newly educated physicians in rural communities in Georgia and eliminate much of their student debt load. Even at MCG, which has the lowest tuition for in-state students of any medical school in Georgia, student loan debt averages $150,000 to $200,000 by the time a new physician graduates, Keel said.

So far, Augusta University has been allotted $500,000 for continued planning in this year’s state budget, and Keel said Gov. Brian Kemp has been “tremendously supportive.” Philanthropic and corporate support will also be sought, said Keel, who suggested that communities will need “buy-in,” such as providing a building for a medical practice or having a car dealership furnish a car for a new doctor.

Warner Robins Election Superintendent Michelle Riley addressed challenges to two city council candidates, according to the Macon Telegraph.

After a hearing earlier this week, City Election Superintendent Michelle Riley found that Zachary Adam Collins is not qualified to seek the post, according to a city of Warner Robins news release.

Another candidate, Eric Langston, also challenged due to residency, was found to be qualified to run after a separate hearing earlier this week.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson raised the possibility of an active campaign against a regional sales tax for transportation, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

In order to keep the transportation tax from competing head-to-head with a new local sales tax set to appear on the ballot for Muscogee voters next fall, Henderson asked leaders from 15 neighboring counties to consider delaying a vote until 2021 or 2022.

The region has the option to put the transportation tax on the ballot in 2020, and again in 2022, should it fail.

Henderson made the comments Wednesday morning during a meeting of the River Valley Regional Transportation Roundtable. He said Muscogee County has an “overwhelming critical need” to replace the government center, which will cost anywhere from $100 million to $150 million.

To do that, council will ask voters to approve a 1% sales tax as opposed to issuing debt, the financial burden of which would fall on property owners.

But if it ends up head-to-head on the 2020 ballot with the county’s local tax (called special purpose local option sales tax or SPLOST), it would put the council in an “awkward position” to “actively campaign against the TSPLOST,” Henderson said.

The Floyd County Democratic Party will host an event Saturday, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Republican Matt Reeves will run again for State Senate District 48, according to the Forsyth Herald.

Reeves was the 2018 Republican candidate for the seat, which represents parts of Duluth, Johns Creek, Suwanee, Peachtree Corners and Berkeley Lake. He lost to Democrat Zahra Karinshak 53.6 percent to 46.4 percent.

“First, I want to thank the over 30,000 citizens who voted for me last cycle, and I will continue to keep reaching out to voters who didn’t,” Reeves said. “If you want a bipartisan problem-solver focused on health care, our schools, keeping our community safe and fiscal conservatism, then I’m your candidate.”

“I care deeply about our families, homeowners, working people, and small businesses and will fight hard in the State Senate for our values and quality of life, working with our local elected officials,” Reeves said. “We are going to work hard to raise money and bring our message to all the voters in District 48 in 2020.”

Reeves could be running for an open seat. Karinshak announced earlier this month she intends to run for U.S. House District 7.

My favorite headline of the week comes from the Cherokee Tribune & Ledger News: Lawn parking dispute leads to aggravated assault arrest

A 70-year-old Woodstock man was jailed Saturday after he allegedly pulled a gun on a man he had reportedly ordered to get off his lawn.

Malone then told the deputy that visitors to a nearby house had parked on his lawn, which he pays to have maintained. He said he went over to the house and asked the woman who lives there to have the vehicles removed from his lawn.

The 80-year-old woman who owns the house told a deputy she was hosting a family reunion and that Malone was yelling and using profanity, including in front of children.

The AJC looks at why some municipalities in Georgia are sticking with paper ballots for local elections.

[I]n Chattahoochee Hills and about 70 other cities, residents vote using paper ballots. In many of those cities, the votes are even tallied by hand.

On election night in Chattahoochee Hills, residents can pile into City Hall to watch City Clerk Dana Wicher and a handful of poll workers open a locked metal ballot box and call out the names on each ballot. Like keeping score at a baseball game, they can even tally along.

“Folks like coming in and doing the paper ballots. It’s that old-town community feeling,” Wicher said. “There is some suspense. There’s probably more transparency with the paper system.”

Residents in six Georgia cities will even use mechanical lever machines during November’s elections. Those machines have been known to occasionally fail to record votes, and they lack the kind of paper trail provided by paper ballots. But they also avoid the risks of hacking inherent to computerized voting systems.

Kristi Ash, the elections superintendent in Loganville, said she expects this election will be the last one where residents vote on such machines. While they’re relatively reliable, she said only two people in the state know how to program the machines, and they are getting older. Residents often ask whether the city ever plans to update its technology.

[S]tate Sen. Jeff Mullis, a Chickamauga Republican who thought he won his first election to the state Senate, in 1998, by 23 votes. But when election officials conducted a recount, they found 151 additional paper ballots, with just six of those new votes being cast for Mullis.

“I am totally 100% against a handwritten paper ballot. It can be fraudulently done in a back room somewhere and added to the ballot box,” said Mullis, the chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee. “I’m glad we got the electronic machines because I think they’re very trustworthy.”

In Chattahoochee Hills, it cost $1,800 to run city elections in 2017; the cost to contract with Fulton County this fall would have been $6,722.

4
Sep

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

On September 4, 1682, Edmund Halley first sighted the comet that bears his name.

Scheduled steamship service first began on September 4, 1807, when Robert Fulton’s North River Steamboat began plying the trade on the Hudson River.

General William T. Sherman ordered all civilians out of Atlanta on September 4, 1864.

Vince Dooley was born on September 4, 1932. Happy birthday, coach!

Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called out National Guard troops to prevent the desegregation under court order of Little Rock’s Central High School on September 4, 1957.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp has expanded the emergency declaration to now include 21 counties.

This morning, Governor Brian P. Kemp has issued an Executive Order expanding the State of Emergency declared on August 29, 2019 to include Appling, Bacon, Bulloch, Clinch, Echols, Evans, Screven, Tattnall, and Ware Counties.

Currently, there are twenty-one Georgia counties under a State of Emergency declaration. They are Appling, Bacon, Brantley, Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Clinch, Echols, Effingham, Evans, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce, Screven, Tattnall, Ware, and Wayne Counties.

For up-to-date information on Hurricane Dorian, visit Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security, call 1-800-TRY-GEMA (1-800-879-4362), or follow @GeorgiaEMA and @GovKemp.

State House District 71 voters will return to the polls in a Special Runoff Election featuring Philip Singleton (R – 36.84% – 1843 votes) and Marcy Westmoreland Sakrison (R – 34.20% – 1711 votes).

Bulloch County continues preparing for Hurrican Dorian, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Hurricane Dorian was shifting westward, moving closer to the United States coast late Tuesday afternoon and disturbing earlier predictions that the storm may move away to the northeast, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn.

However, although Savannah and South Carolina are “back in the cone,” no one yet knows what the hurricane’s next move will be, he said.

“For now, we are preparing for a (Hurricane) Matthew scenario.”

As evacuees flee from Savannah and other coastal areas, shelters and hotels are filling quickly. Justin Samples, marketing director for the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Tuesday that area hotels are primarily full.

“We have some cancellations that are immediately filled with new reservations,” he said.

Camden County has initiated a curfew in preparation for Dorian’s landfall, according to The Brunswick News.

A curfew from 10 a.m. to 6 a.m. beginning Tuesday has been imposed in Camden County for all areas east of Interstate 95.

The curfew, in effect until further notice, means increased law enforcement will be in place to ensure the safety of property for residents who have evacuated in advance of Hurricane Dorian.

Individuals can expect to be stopped and checked by authorities if they are traveling in the mandatory evacuation area.

Cumberland Island National Seashore are closed in anticipation of potential impacts from Hurricane Dorian. The barrier island will remain closed until the storm has passed and damage assessments have been made.

All government offices in Camden County will remain closed through Thursday.

Camden County schools have cancelled classes through Thursday because of the uncertainty of the storm’s arrival and impacts to the region.

Dorian could affect wildlife in coastal Georgia, according to The Brunswick News.

The ocean already rose with vigorous waves to the edge of dune fields at high tide Tuesday, previewing likely heavy beach erosion and sand movement. That comes after the gradual rebuilding of dues laid waste by Irma’s tides.

“On the beach and the dunes, even though to the human eye it looks like a lot of damage — we did have some dunes washed away, and thank goodness they were there to protect everything that lies behind them,” Ben Carswell, JIA conservation director, said Aug. 29. “But wildlife and plant communities have adapted over hundreds of thousands of years to these major disturbances. The dunes, that sand doesn’t wash too far away, and they start building back up pretty remarkably quickly.”

Sea turtle conservationists have been busy for days preparing for the eventual arrival of Dorian — there are still nests in the sand that have yet to hatch.

Haley Watkins at Sea Island reported Aug. 31 that staff inventoried 13 nests and left 18 nests on the beach to continue incubation. Workers on all the barrier islands have been busy removing screens from nests and pulling up stakes from inactive nests. Caleigh Quick on Ossabaw Island reported Aug. 30 they pulled 99 screens and inventoried 11 nests.

Dorian could have a significant effect on sea turtle hatching numbers by the time it’s all over. Irma went through the area in the second week of September 2017, and tides and storms accounted for around two-thirds of all nest losses in Georgia for that year, with 481 nests — 21.9 percent — lost. The losses were 12.4 percent on Jekyll, 24.6 percent on Cumberland, 4.4 percent on Little Cumberland Island and 9 percent on Little St. Simons Island. There was only one nest lost on Sea Island for the year, according to seaturtle.org.

Chatham County Sheriff’s deputies will work with Chatham County police, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher said today he has brought all of his deputies assigned to street duties and the Chatham County courthouses to assist Chatham County police in maintaining law and order during the duration of Hurricane Dorian.

Begining today, that will add 60 certified officers who will work in two 12-hour shifts with their county police counterparts, Wilcher said, adding that he and Chatham County Police Chief Jeff Hadley have a great working relationship and remain on board in their planning.

Another 18 deputies in training with jail duties are being assigned to assist the jail staff.

In addition, the sheriff will feed those officers and give them a place to sleep in a refurbished, but unoccupied, area of the jail, Wilcher said, adding that will accommodate 427 people.

Wilcher also reported that he will continue to house the 1,862 inmates now in the jail with no plans to evacuate them.

Chatham County reiterated warnings about evacuating, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“I would say to the folk out there though, if your street homes flooded during Matthew, you should pretty much expect you’re going to flood in Dorian, and you’re encouraged to leave,” County Commission Chairman Al Scott said at a 1 p.m. press conference at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm.

Gov. Brian Kemp on Sunday announced an evacuation for coastal Georgia east of I-95, an area in Chatham County that is designated as zones A and B. That evacuation began Monday, with I-16 converted to a contraflow west from Savannah to Dublin at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Scott said he wasn’t planning to call for an evacuation west of I-95 unless the storm path shifted.

“It will be off the coast of Georgia, roughly in the next 36 hours, which is a very dangerous time for us,” Scott said. “No one can predict whether or not that storm with the stall off the coast of Georgia or whether or not it drifts to the left. That’s the worst case for Chatham County.”

Chatham Emergency Management Agency Director Dennis Jones said “tropical storm force winds are projected to pass through Chatham County sometime Wednesday into Thursday.”

“Rainfall and flooding with inundation three feet or higher above ground is expected,” he said. “We could have upwards of four to seven feet of storm surge. The high tide sequence is also significant for us. We’re looking at a high tide over 11 feet over two different time periods. One of them is one o’clock tomorrow. The other one is going to be 1am on Thursday.”

Savannah homeless advocates are working to get homeless people evacuated ahead of Dorian, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As Hurricane Dorian makes its way toward Savannah Wednesday, Cindy Murphy Kelley said she has been repeatedly visiting the camps and other sites where homeless gather to try and get them to leave town ahead of the storm.

“Unfortunately we have some folks who will kind of hunker on down,” the executive director of the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless said. “We can’t make them go.” According to a recent census, Savannah has about 700 chronically homeless people on any given day.

Kelley said her efforts began last week as the hurricane started its trek toward the Bahamas and then Florida, including sending out fliers urging the homeless population to leave.

She praised the efforts of City of Savannah, police officers, firefighters and volunteers for their efforts there, adding that the Salvation Army provided meals for volunteers.

Chatham residents without transportation are being evacuated by bus, according to the Savannah Morning News.

They came by CAT bus and car and on foot to evacuate from Chatham County by charter bus. By about 8 a.m. Tuesday hundreds of people were gathered at the Savannah Civic Center to get a free ride to an inland shelter.

A line of people and luggage snaked across the front of the building and down the sidewalk to the corner with Liberty Street, resigned to biding their time in the muggy pre-storm weather.

About 130 staffers including 25 volunteers were running the evacuation assembly area at the Civic Center, said Chatham County Police spokeswoman Betsy Nolen. The county chartered 56 buses to convoy 16 at a time to shelters in Augusta. The same buses will return evacuees after the storm.

During Irma about 2,300 local residents took advantage of the free service, available to residents without their own form of transportation to evacuate. Pets are welcome if they have proof of vaccination and are crated. No pets were in evidence by 8 a.m., however.

Bus evacuations from the Civic Center were scheduled to continue until 6 p.m. Tuesday.

A Red Cross shelter in Macon is hosting almost 100 coastal evacuees, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Nearly 100 evacuees from Georgia’s coast have settled in at an American Red Cross emergency shelter in south Macon after many began arriving Monday to escape the likely path of slow-churning Hurricane Dorian.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, the shelter inside the South Bibb Recreation Center at 7035 Houston Road just south of Sardis Church Road was housing upward of 90 displaced residents, many from Glynn and Liberty counties in southeast Georgia.

Roughly a third of those at the shelter were described as people with medical needs and they were brought in by bus. Others traveled on their own, said shelter manager Stephen Pollitt.

Meanwhile, United Way of Central Georgia said its 2-1-1 Contact Center will continue to operate 24-hours a day, 7 days a week during Hurricane Dorian.

Evacuees can call 2-1-1 or text DorianGA to 898-211 to access information on food, shelter, and emergency relief services available in our area, according to a news release.

“We are deeply concerned about our neighbors fleeing the storm destined for the East Coast,” said George McCanless, President and CEO of United Way of Central Georgia. “Before, during, and after the storm, our 2-1-1 Contact Center is here to help our communities recover and rebuild. We want to spread the word, so people know, they can make a free call or text to get the help they need.”

A Red Cross shelter in Columbus has more than 240 evacuees, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The American Red Cross of West Central Georgia, in partnership with the city, began using the civic center as a shelter Monday night. It opened just hours before the first busload of evacuees arrived, said Adelaide Kirk, executive director, Red Cross of West Central Georgia.

As of Tuesday afternoon, around 240 people were being housed at the shelter. Six buses had already dropped off evacuees, and at least one more bus was expected Tuesday. The civic center could hold 800 to 1,000 evacuees, Kirk said.

Pet evacuees could also be arriving in Columbus. Paws Humane Society at 4900 Milgen Road is housing pets, according to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency. It’s unclear how many evacuee pets have arrived in Columbus.

Nearly all of the people currently housed at the civic center are residents who couldn’t have left without assistance, but the shelter is open to all Dorian evacuees. All of the evacuees the civic center Tuesday afternoon were from Glynn County in southeast Georgia, Kirk said. The county is home to St. Simons Island and the city of Brunswick.

Augusta hotels are filling with evacuees, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Being “two hours from the beach” is a key quality-of-life attribute for metro Augusta residents. But it’s also a highly desirable distinction for tens of thousands of coastal evacuees during a hurricane.

And Hurricane Dorian is proving to be no exception. Area hotels are beginning to fill up with residents from Savannah, Ga., Charleston, S.C. and other coastal communities in its path.

“People understand Augusta is far enough away, but not too far,” said Tijuana Jenkins, general manager of The Partridge Inn. “Augusta has the recognition and the (hotel) bandwidth for people who don’t want to travel too far.”

The region’s inventory of 7,200 hotel rooms gives it the ability to handle more than 22,000 visitors, assuming an occupancy of three people per room. The actual number of visitors could be much higher because of evacuees staying in shelters, with friends and family or at homes or rooms rented through third-party services such as Airbnb.

Governor Kemp wants state agency heads to skip House budget hearings, according to the AJC.

Legislative plans are to send out letters to state agency directors asking them to copy House and Senate leaders on their proposals to deal with the 4% budget cuts Kemp is requiring this year and 6% next year. House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, said he hoped to invite department heads to attend the Sept. 26-27 hearings to discuss what they propose to cut.

But the Kemp administration will tell agencies to ignore those requests, saying it wants to consider the proposals like it would any other budget plans, without legislative interference.

Kemp said the state would begin withholding money from agencies starting Oct 1.

Some massive enrollment-driven programs — such as k-12 schools, universities and Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled — are exempt from the cuts.

In all, only about 23% of the state-funded portion of the budget was not exempted, but that still leaves several agencies on the hook for cuts, including the departments of Agriculture, Corrections, Driver Services, Public Health, public defenders, the Georgia State Patrol, the GBI, most of the Department of Natural Resources, and the administration of k-12 schools and colleges.

“We will work to take the governor’s concerns about a slowing economy into account as we begin this important work, and we look forward to working with Governor Kemp’s staff, state agency heads and economists to determine the prudent way forward,” England said last week.

But the Kemp administration plans to make clear it won’t participate, and neither will the people it has appointed to run state agencies.

Nick Conner may step off the Whitfield County SPLOST committee after qualifying for Cohutta Town Council, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Conner qualified on Friday for the November election for the Cohutta Town Council, one of four candidates seeking two seats on the council.

A bylaw of the SPLOST committee says a member can “not currently (be) an elected official nor expected to be a candidate for an election during the term of service.” The committee is expected to meet at least through mid-November.

Conner said it would be “understandable” if he is now removed from the SPLOST committee.

“There would be no negative feelings,” he said. “I understand their point of things. When I filled out the application form I said that I planned to run. But if it means resigning from the SPLOST committee, to better serve my town, that’s what I will do.”

Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Lynn Laughter said Conner became ineligible for the 16-member committee when he qualified to run for office, and his position will be filled by county alternate Micheal E. Kelley II.

Groundbreaking for a new Georgia State Patrol post in Suwanee was held, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Local elected officials, members of law enforcement, contractors and engineers celebrated the “groundbreaking” of a roughly $5 million Georgia State Patrol facility that will serve as a command post for 16 troopers and a HERO Unit along the Interstate 85 corridor in Suwanee.

“I’ve seen their (temporary) facilities on Plaster Avenue, and it’s been a great holding place for the time being, but this will be a much better spot,” Georgia State Patrol Public Information Officer Stephanie Stallings said. “One of the big words we heard today was teamwork, and that’s exactly what this is. There was huge teamwork today between the Gwinnett County commissioners — we’re so thankful for them to see the project through as well as DOT — and for us to be on board and to get the benefits of this building will be fantastic for Post 51-Gwinnett.”

State Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Rome) discussed the House Rural Development Council, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The House Rural Development Council will focus on jobs and high-speed internet access next week when it holds its second of five scheduled meetings this year.

This is the third year Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, has served on the council, which was established to address the economic disparity between rural and urban counties in Georgia.

He gave as an example the proposal to expand telemedicine. That would ease the doctor shortage that makes industries shy away from rural areas and leads their young people to head for bigger cities.

“But you need rural broadband,” Lumsden said. “If you don’t have good access, how does that expand healthcare? And education — we have broadband at all the schools but students don’t have it at home.”

“Education is the cornerstone to building a more robust economy in any community, so it’s essential to begin this year’s work by examining the educational needs in our rural Georgia areas,” Lumsden said.

Floyd County is adding a parental accountability court, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Laura Lee, the regional child support services program director, said Floyd County has started a parental accountability court that targets chronic non-payers, many of whom have been in jail multiple times for failure to make support payments.

The court will have workers available to work one-on-one with the adult to “help them find work, help them find job skills, whatever barriers they may have.”

Floyd Superior Court Judge Kay Ann Wetherington will preside over the parental accountability court.

The child support recovery program served 5,487 children in Floyd County during FY 2018 — 4,288 are being served today.

A primary focus for the court’s programs is to help non-custodial parents find employment that would help them keep child support payments up-to-date.

Cornelia City Commission added a “Brunch Bill” referendum to the November 5, 2019 ballot, according to AccessWDUN.

Tuesday night, the city commission voted to place the “Brunch Bill” issue on the Nov. 5 municipal election ballot.

“The Brunch Bill is new legislation that was adopted last year, and it allows for the city to hold a referendum and let the voters decide whether or not restaurants can start serving alcohol beginning at 11 a.m. on Sunday mornings,” said City Manager Donald Anderson. “Currently, they can’t do it until 12:30 p.m., so tonight the commissioners adopted a resolution to instruct the county elections superintendent to do a call for this referendum to be held on Nov. 5 to let the voters decide.”

Also appearing on the city ballot Nov. 5 is a contested race for the Ward 1 City Commission seat. Incumbent Wesley A. Dodd Jr. will face Cornelia resident Mark Reed, a previous mayor of Baldwin.

Additionally, city voters, like those throughout Habersham County, will vote Nov. 5 on whether the county should issue $31.7 million in jail bonds to finance construction of a 314-bed jail to keep pace with the county’s growth.

Columbia County Commissioners voted to approve a rezoning for a new solar farm, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The project has caused debate among residents who are concerned about how it could affect property values, the environment and aesthetics.

The planning commission approved the rezoning Aug. 15 on the condition that the developer include at least a 25-foot buffer and provide a plat showing the portion of the property to be rezoned. The developer said there is not much data about how property values could be affected but that the land will be returned to its natural state at the end of the lease.

Residents questioned commissioners Tuesday about why they have not set a limit of how many solar farms can be built. The county has previously approved projects on Yelton Road and Ridge Road in Appling and on Parham Road in Grovetown.

“This commission has been very cognizant of the fact that we want to make sure that the landowners have the ability to do what they want to do with their property within reason, but we want to make sure we have what’s called smart growth,” county administrator Scott Johnson said.

A new record high toll rate was set on I-85, according to the AJC.

The cost to use the lanes between Old Peachtree Road to Shallowford Road hit a record $16.60 and promptly rose to $16.90 before topping out at an even $17, according to the State Road and Tollway Authority.

The previous record, set in August 2018, was $15.50.

3
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 3, 2019

The Stars and Stripes first flew in battle on September 3, 1776 at Cooch’s Bridge, Delaware.

A fleet of 22 French ships arrived off the coast of Savannah on September 3, 1779 to help wrest control of the city from the British.

On September 3, 1862, the writ of habeas corpus was suspended in Atlanta and within five miles of its border by the Confederate government. Two years later, September 3, 1864, General William T. Sherman would occupy Atlanta.

The Georgia General Assembly expelled 25 of 29 African-American members from the State House on September 3, 1868, arguing that Georgia’s constitution did not allow them to hold office.

Anne Frank, age 15, and seven other Jews who were hiding together in Amsterdam were the last Dutch prisoners transported to Auschwitz on September 3, 1944.

Having received the Democratic nomination for President, Jimmy Carter began the General Election with an address from his front porch in Plains, Georgia on September 3, 1976.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia State House District 71 voters will go to the polls today in a special election, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Governor Brian Kemp ordered the evacuation of areas east of I-95 along the Georgia coast.

A mandatory evacuation is in effect for individuals east of I-95 in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty, and McIntosh Counties due to Hurricane Dorian.

Contraflow of I-16 will begin at 8:00 am Tuesday morning. Now is the time to put your emergency plan into action. Stay tuned to your local news and follow all guidance from your local emergency management officials.

A state of emergency is still in effect for all of the following Georgia counties: Brantley, Bryan, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce and Wayne.

An Executive Order was issued temporarily suspending federal rules and regulations which would otherwise limit the hours that operators of commercial vehicles may drive.to ensure an uninterrupted supply of petroleum products, emergency supplies, and food. This Executive Order also temporarily waives specific weight, height, and length restrictions for vehicles traveling through Georgia for purposes of disaster preparation or relief, subject to Department of Public Safety oversight and permitting.

For the most current weather updates on Hurricane Dorian, check the National Hurricane Center website. Hurricane Dorian is currently a dangerous category 5 hurricane at this time. There is still time to prepare! Please visit our Hurricane Preparedness page for information on how to get ready.

Resources

Sheltering

Six shelter locations have been identified in Bibb, Columbia, Coffee, Laurens, McDuffie and Ware counties. Information regarding those shelter locations will be posted here and on GEMA/HS social media pages.

Currently. the following shelters are OPEN and ready to receive evacuees:

  • Bibb County – 1:00 PM

South Bibb Recreation Center - 7035 Houston Rd, Macon, GA 31216

  • Laurens County

Dublin High School:  1127 Hillcrest Pkwy. Dublin, GA 31021

East Laurens High School:  920 US Hwy 80 East. East Dublin, GA 31027

  • Coffee County

Central Square Complex:  216 South Madison Avenue. Douglas, GA 31533

  • McDuffie County

Sweetwater Recreation Park: 180 Sweetwater Road. Thomson, GA 30824

  • Ware County

Ware County HS:  700 Victory Drive. Waycross, GA 31503

  • Richmond County

Trinity on the Hill: 1330 Monte Santo Ave. Augusta, GA 30904

More locations will be added in the coming hours/days.

Ahead of the storm’s arrival the Atlanta Motor Speedway is opening its camping facilities to evacuees seeking refuge from Hurricane Dorian. The Speedway, which is equipped to handle thousands of campers during its annual NASCAR weekend, will provide camping space free of charge for dry RV and tent campers in its Legends Campground. A limited number of camping spaces with water, power and sewer are also available for a nominal fee of $20 per night in the Premier Campground.Located adjacent to the campgrounds, AMS will also open The Rinnai Shower Station camper bath house, allowing evacuees free access to hot showers and restroom facilities during their stay. More information can be found at https://www.atlantamotorspeedway.com/media/news/ams-opens-camping-facilities-dorian-evacuees.html

If you are looking for accomodations in Georgia visit the Official Georgia Tourism and Travel website at https://www.exploregeorgia.org/travel-alerts

Evacuees and their pets are welcome in Georgia’s State Parks, including horses at parks with equestrian facilities. Check GaStateParks.org for hurricane policies and status updates.

Pet Shelters

Several pet shelters are open to assist with placement of pets for evacuees. We recommend contacting the shelter to check availability for your pet:

  • Bibb County Animal Control: 4214 Fulton Mill Road, Macon, GA 31216 (Kennels)
  • Okefenokee Fairgrounds: 2451 Knight Avenue, Waycross, GA 31503 (Kennels, Livestock)
  • Augusta Animal Services: 4164 Mack Lane Road, Augusta, GA 30906 (Kennels)
  • Hippodrome Horse Complex: 5540 Jefferson Davis Highway, Beech Island, SC 29842 (Equine)
  • McDuffie Animal Control: 802 White Oak Road, Thomson, GA 30824 (Kennels)
  • Belle Meade Hunt: 3532 Wrightsboro Road, Thomson, GA 30824 (Equine)
  • Pine Top Farm: 1432 Augusta Highway, Thomson, GA 30824 (Equine)
  • Southern Pines: 575 Southern Pines Road, Dublin 31021 (Equine)
  • South Eastern Arena: 2410 Arena Road, Unadilla, GA 31091 (Equine)
  • Paws Humane Society: 4900 Milgen Road, Columbus 31909 (Kennels)

Pet friendly hotels can be found at this link: http://www.pet-friendly-hotels.net/

Governor Kemp also authorized the Georgia Department of Defense to call up to 2000 National Guard members to assist in preparation, response, and recovery to Hurricane Dorian. This executive order expires at 11:59 PM on September 9, 2019.

Gov. Kemp flew to Savannah yesterday to address the incoming storm, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“We strongly urge all residents to stay vigilant as we track its path and evaluate potential impact and damage,” Kemp said at a press conference in the Chatham County Commission chambers. “At noon, the mandatory evacuation will be in effect for those east of I-95. And I would like to ask everyone, heed those warnings, especially those that are on our barrier islands. You might be on your own if first responders are unavailable to get to you. We have the ability with first responders to move trees out of roads and cut trees up and clear roadway passes. That is a whole different story when we have flooding on causeways and we can’t get vehicle traffic to you in a time of need.”

“It is immensely powerful with strong winds of 40 to 60 mph here on the coast,” he said. “It also threatens to bring a very dangerous storm surge of 3 to 6 feet along the immediate coast with heavy rainfall of 4 to 6 inches, which may cause flash flooding.”

“On top of the storm surge potential, we’ve got those king tides that we’ve been experiencing over the last several days,” he said. “And we’re going to keep having those king tides over the next several days. So Dorian will be coming along our coast right at several high tide cycles. And with the king tides associated with the storm surge, we anticipate quite a bit of flooding throughout our community.”

Homer Bryson, director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, said the state had allocated over 1,500 state employees to the Hurricane Dorian effort.

“They range, as the governor mentioned, from law enforcement to debris removal to the swift water rescue, and we will continue to allocate resources to meet the needs of the local governments,” Bryson said.

Tybee Mayor Jason Buelterman cautioned that Hurricane Dorian had defied predictions so far. It didn’t hit Puerto Rico, he said. It didn’t weaken into a tropical storm before it got to the Bahamas. And it’s not crossing the Florida peninsula to go into the Gulf. He urged Tybee Islanders to play it safe, especially those who might be inclined to ride it out.

“Look at what happened to people who stayed for Hurricane Michael down in Florida; you don’t want to be in that situation,” Buelterman said. “So it might be an inconvenience. And you might leave, perhaps for no reason. That’s totally possible. But why would you risk that just so you don’t inconvenience yourself for a couple of days? It doesn’t make sense to risk your life. You know, it doesn’t make sense to risk your life and gamble everything on what is a very unpredictable storm.”

From The Brunswick News:

“Given the risk of strong winds and potential for flooding in these areas, if you decide not to evacuate, I want to be clear — you will be on your own if first responders are unable to reach you,” Kemp said at the Glynn County Emergency Operations Center. “We certainly have the threat of that, especially with flooding on … causeways and other roadways. Please, don’t take this risk if you are able to evacuate.”

The governor, Georgia Emergency Management Agency Director Homer Bryson and state Insurance Commissioner John King arrived in Brunswick to provide an overview of coordination between state, local and federal officials ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian, which at that moment continued to churn through Grand Bahama Island.

“It’s also going to bring a really tough storm surge force down here,” Kemp said. “I know right now we’re experiencing high tides because of the moon phase that we’re in — we’re predicting 3-6 feet of storm surge along the coast, and heavy rainfall of 4-6 inches, which may cause flash flooding.”

“Even with all this preparation, we still cannot stress enough that Hurricane Dorian remains a significant threat to our state,” Kemp said. “We strongly urge all residents to stay vigilant and track its path and continue to evaluate the potential impact on themselves and their families.”

“We’re rallying not only industry, insurance companies, but as soon as routes are open, we can start bringing teams in to help assist people getting back on their feet,” King said. “This is an incredibly resilient community. I’ve been coming down here in one way or another for over 20 years, and so I know the grit you all bring to this, and we all stand with you.”

United States Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue addressed the storm, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“I urge Georgians to take precautions ahead of Hurricane Dorian and follow the advice of Governor Kemp and local officials, including the mandatory evacuation of all individuals east of I-95 in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh counties,” said Senator Isakson. “If you are in these areas, please make arrangements to evacuate today. This is a dangerous and powerful storm with the potential to bring damaging winds and catastrophic flooding to parts of Georgia. Please stay informed and make sure you are taking steps to keep yourselves and your families out of harm’s way. Senator Perdue and I will continue to work with federal, state and local officials to ensure that Georgia has the resources needed to prepare now and recover fully from the impact of Hurricane Dorian.”

“Hurricane Dorian is a powerful storm with the potential to impact many Georgians as it approaches our coastline,” said Senator Perdue. “Governor Kemp and local officials are working hard to prepare for the hurricane and will continue to update Georgians as the situation develops. For everyone’s safety, including the safety of our first responders, please take this storm seriously and evacuate if you are directed to do so.”

The Savannah Morning News has ongoing news on local closings.

Savannah-Chatham County public schools will be closed through Friday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Talmadge Bridge in Savannah will close at 8 PM today, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Talmadge Memorial Bridge on U.S. 17 in Savannah will close at 8 p.m. Tuesday in anticipation of tropical storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian, according to a news release from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

“Motorists attempting to navigate vehicles across either of these bridges in conditions with the high wind levels anticipated from Hurricane Dorian may not be able to properly control their vehicles,” the release said.

It is unknown when the bridges will reopen, the release said.

Middle Georgia could see one million evacuees, according to the Macon Telegraph.

In a news release Monday, GDOT encouraged drivers to avoid the stretch of I-16 from Spring Street to the I-75 interchange to allow crews to work more quickly. The eastbound lanes of I-16 are set to close at 8 a.m. Tuesday for westbound traffic. Locals are being encouraged to avoid the interstates.

An American Red Cross shelter for evacuees opened up at the South Bibb Recreation Center at 7035 Houston Road Monday. Other shelters were opened Dublin High School and East Laurens High School. More shelter locations were expected to open later Monday. For an updated list of shelters, visit www.gema.georgia.gov.

Atlanta Motor Speedway also opened up to evacuees, offering a camping space free of charge for dry RV and tent campers. A limited number of camping spaces with water, power and sewer also were available for $20 per night.

Albany area government agencies are in a wait and watch mode, according to the Albany Herald.

“We’re standing by, though, keeping a close watch on things, monitoring the situation. There’s been no call (by local or state Emergency Management Agency officials) to open our emergency center, so we’re all just on standby right now. The people who would be called in (in the event of a local emergency) are listening out, ready to come in if they’re needed.”

Georgia Southern University and Ogeechee Technical Institute have canceled all classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the Statesboro Herald.

According to its website, East Georgia State College also is canceling all classes on Tuesday in Wednesday in Statesboro. Classes in Swainsboro and Augusta will go on without change.

Glynn County government has canceled public meetings, according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County Animal Control has evacuated all animals from the shelter, according to The Brunswick News.

Richmond County Schools are closed through Thursday to help evacuees, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

All Richmond County School System extracurricular events are canceled, including middle School and junior varsity football games.

All Richmond County School System 10-, 11-, and 12-month employees not directly supporting hurricane relief efforts will not report to work.

Any decision on make-up days will be made by the Richmond County Board of Education at a later date.

“Richmond County Schools are closing in order to host evacuees, however, our schools have not been designated as an evacuee host site,” the Columbia County School District said in a tweet. “We will provide updates if and when any decisions to close are made.”

Evacuees have started reaching Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Local emergency response officials prepared the city to support the evacuees after Gov. Brian Kemp ordered a mandatory evacuation of coastal communities.

Residents who needed transportation and have medical needs arrived first at the shelter at Westside High School. Trinity On The Hill United Methodist Church opened as a shelter for evacuees who were able to transport themselves. Additional shelters at locations including Butler and Glenn Hills high schools will be opened if needed, Augusta Fire Chief Chris James said.

“These are citizens that are in a bad situation; it’s unsafe to leave them at home,” James said. “Augusta has always stepped up to help. … Augusta’s attitude toward assisting the evacuees from Chatham County has been outstanding.”

The city can accommodate up to 3,000 evacuees, James said.

Local hospitals are taking in patients who require round-the-clock attention at a medical facility. University Health Care System planned to receive patients from Savannah Memorial Hospital and nursing home residents from Savannah. Four pediatric patients were set to arrive at AU Medical Center, which is using its Critical Event Preparedness and Response office to assist at shelters.

 

Gwinnett County‘s participation in the federal 287(g) program could be an election issue next year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The 287(g) issue in Gwinnett is complex combination of the debate over the program itself; the participation of Gwinnett’s sheriff’s office in the program; and the county’s growing diversity and shifting politics that loom on the political horizon as the 2020 elections approach.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement runs the 287(g) program where local law enforcement departments hold undocumented residents they arrest for various crimes until ICE agents take them into custody.

“In Gwinnett, (immigration issues) might be very important,” longtime University of Georgia political science professor and political observer Charles Bullock said. “It has a reputation of being the most diverse county in Georgia, some people would even say the most diverse urban county in America, so it means that a number of Gwinnett voters probably have relatives or neighbors or friends who may have immigration problems.

“I would be surprised if it’s not a significant issue brought up during the sheriff and the commission elections, and potentially in some of the legislative elections in this area,” said Gwinnett District 1 Commissioner Jace Brooks, who hasn’t made decision on whether he will run for re-election, seek a different political office or exit public office next year.

Conway asserted in a recent letter to the Daily Post that participation in the 287(g) program is “about criminals committing crimes in Gwinnett County” and “has nothing to do with immigrants or checking immigrant status.”

Chatham County Superior Court Judge Louisa Abbott ordered the current grand jury to remain in a special term, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The directive from Judge Louisa Abbot will mean the June term panel, which would have completed its three-month term Wednesday, will remain in place beginning Tuesday, Sept. 3, for an additional four to five weeks. The new panel, the September term grand jury, will be sworn once the error is corrected, Abbot’s order said.

The issue arose because the list of grand jurors provided by the state of Georgia “contained the names of deceased persons,” Abbot said in her two-page order.

“Because the county-wide list the state provided could be subject to challenge based upon the inadvertent inclusion of deceased persons, it is necessary to require the June term of 2019 grand jury to continue to serve as the special term 2019 grand jury until the error is corrected,” Abbot said.

“The alternative — suspension of the grand jury — would prejudicially delay the administration of justice. … Due to the volume of cases, even a temporary suspension of the grand jury would have grave consequences for those whose life, liberty and property could be at stake, for the victims of crimes and for public safety.”

“Every jurisdiction (in the state) is dealing with this issue,” she said.

The Georgia State House Rural Development Council discussed mental health needs in rural communities, according to the Moultrie Observer.

The state sent $69 million to Georgia’s public schools this year to beef up physical security after a string of school shootings in other states. Now, a north Georgia superintendent says educators need more state aid to address the less tangible side of the issue.

[Dawson County School Superintendent Damon] Gibbs said his district has had five student suicides in as many years, with neighboring Lumpkin County losing four students to suicide.

State lawmakers, at Gov. Brian Kemp’s urging, added another $8.4 million to this year’s budget to increase the number of high schools receiving community-based mental health services provided through a program called Apex.

“We need mental health counselors that are with our kids every day, that don’t worry about what type of insurance they have,” [Gibbs] said.

The first of the council’s five-meeting roadshow focused on education and workforce development. The council is also expected to delve into agriculture, economic development and rural health care in the coming months before offering up a slate of proposals in December.

The Rome News Tribune interviewed Senator Johnny Isakson after he announced he will retire at the end of 2019.

Q: You’ve amassed a 45-year political career, and we touched on this earlier, but what stands out to you as your greatest accomplishments? On three levels — for you personally, for the state of Georgia and for the nation.

[T]here’s no question that when I saved Delta’s pension fund … four minutes before midnight on August 4th of 2005, that was probably the most impactful thing I ever did. Delta was going bankrupt, going into a structured bankruptcy and we saved every pension for every employee in the state — whether a baggage handler or a teller or a stewardess or anything, not the pilots, but everybody else. They’re now the biggest airline in the world and have 35,000 retired employees on pensions they would’ve lost. That meant a lot to me. … the president of Delta was in the gallery when I did it, not because he was a plant, but because his company was on the line and we won with only four dissenting votes. That’s the hardest I ever worked on anything because we had no time.

Kate Puzey, the Peace Corps volunteer who was murdered in Benin (city in Nigeria). I saw an article in the (Atlanta) Journal Constitution on the Sunday after she had been killed. I did not know her. I said, gosh, I’m her congressman. So I went to the family funeral and I sat at the back of the church, didn’t know the family, but I just felt like I ought to be there. And when it was over, one of the family members came up to me and asked me who I was. I told them, they said, I thought that was you.

I said, well, here’s my card. If they ever need help, call me. And two weeks later they did. And I helped them get some things from Benin and one thing out of Ghana back to the family and we sat down and had some coffee and cried a little bit over their loss. It was a terrible loss for them. This girl was number one in her class at UVA, number one in her class at Forsyth County High School. She was a superstar and was brutally murdered as a Peace Corps volunteer. Then we passed The Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act, which is now known as the Kate Puzey Act. There’ve been a number of women who were sexually abused and now have found retribution or found justice because of that law. And it’s preventing a lot of problems in the future that happened in those countries. So that wasn’t meaningful for me to do.

I’m working on the port of Savannah, the work I’ve done in Metro Atlanta for transportation, which I was on the transportation committee in the house, but in the Senate I’ve had a lot of opportunities on transportation with the port and with Hartsfield(-Jackson airport) to work on.

Georgia Trend has a Q&A with Governor Kemp before Dorian became a threat.

GT: How would you appraise your first months in office?

Kemp: It’s really been two things. No. 1, we got a lot done. No. 2, we did a lot of historic things. I’m very proud of that. We had a lot of folks that helped. In the legislature, we had a very aggressive agenda. We were successful on just about all of it.

GT: Can you give us some specifics?

Kemp: First and foremost, the historic teacher pay raise, [one of] the largest teacher pay raises ever in the state’s history, fulfilling the down payment on a big commitment I had to our teachers to do a $5,000 pay raise. We did $3,000 this year.

We also fulfilled a promise of something else I campaigned on. That was school safety and doing school security grants. We did that in the amended budget – almost $70 million to help our administrators and school board members work with teachers, parents, students and law enforcement officers, with complete local control. The grant requests are just flooding in.

GT: Why was this the right year to do something about Medicaid? Your predecessor and many other Republicans were opposed to Medicaid expansion.

Kemp: Gov. Deal resisted Medicaid expansion, which I support. This is not Medicaid expansion. This is innovating and fixing a broken system. What got lost in that conversation, and what I heard in the campaign – we have an issue on the private sector side. I can’t tell you how many Georgians came up and said, “Look, my family, we can’t afford $1,500-$2,000 per month for a health insurance plan, and the dang thing has a $5,000 deductible.” Voters were calling on us to reform this.

GT: What’s the time frame?

Kemp: We are moving very rapidly on the waiver process. Deloitte won the bid. They’ve got a great team that’s been very successful working on this in other states. We’re focused every day on that process and working with the Trump Administration to make sure we’re going down the right lanes.