Category: Georgia Politics

28
Jun

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

On June 29, 1565, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sailed from Cadiz, Spain to invade Florida.

On June 30, 1665, England’s King Charles signed a royal charter for Carolina, defining its southern border and also claiming all land in what is now Georgia.

Johan De Kalb was born on June 29, 1721 in Germany. In 1777, De Kalb joined the Marquis de Lafayette in supporting the Americans against British forces, dying in Camden, South Carolina in 1780. In 1822, the Georgia General Assembly created DeKalb County.

On June 28, 1742, Spanish forces based in Florida invaded Georgia.

On June 29, 1767, the British Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, levying a tax on glass, paint, oil, lead, paper, and tea in order to raise funds from the colonies.

On June 30, 1775, the Continental Congress passed the Articles of War, laying out complaints against Britain’s Parliament.

“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

On June 28, 1776, Thomas Jefferson’s second draft of the Declaration of Independence was presented to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

On June 28, 1887, John Pemberton patented Coca-Cola Syrup and Extract.

Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia on June 28, 1914, sparking the First World War.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell first went on sale on June 30, 1936; on June 30, 1986, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating Margaret Mitchell.

Sunday could well be called Intermodal Transportation History Day in Georgia. The first four-lane highway in Georgia was announced on June 30, 1937 from Atlanta to Marietta. The first C5 air flight took place from Dobbins in Marietta on June 30, 1968 and MARTA rail service began on June 30, 1979.

Superman made his first appearance in Action Comics #1 on June 30, 1938.

The first production Corvette was assembled on June 28, 1953 in Flint, Michigan.

Ohio became the 39th state to ratify the 26th Amendment on June 30, 1971, lowering the voting age to 18.

The United States Supreme Court released its 5-4 opinion in Furman v. Georgia on June 29, 1972, holding that the death penalty violated the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing was released on June 30, 1989. Lee was born in Atlanta and graduated from Morehouse College.

On June 29, 1993, Governor Zell Miller bought the first ticket in the Georgia Lottery.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a federal lawsuit seeking to invalidate the “heartbeat bill,” according to The Hill.

“This legislation is blatantly unconstitutional under nearly 50 years of U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Politicians should never second guess women’s health care decisions,” said Sean J. Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, in a statement.

“Politicians have no business telling women or a couple when to start or expand a family. Our lawsuit asks the court to block the law from taking effect.”

The law, passed earlier this year, is expected to take effect Jan. 1, 2020. It is one of a number of restrictive abortion laws passed recently by GOP-led state legislatures.

Chatham County is gearing up to maximize its census count, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Population totals from the census are used in a number of ways, including determining federal dollars provided to communities. The population numbers are also used to determine how many seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. They are also used for redistricting at the state and local levels. Georgia gained one seat from the last census in 2010.

To help make sure Chatham County gets an accurate count, commissioners approved a resolution on June 14 to create a complete count committee.

Complete count committees have been recommended nation-wide to maximize participation.

[Chatham County Manager Lee] Smith said the cost of the committee’s work will be shared and billed to each municipality based on current population numbers.

Smith said the committee will be reaching out through advertising, clubs, churches, groups, libraries and news stories to educate the public about the census.

Cobb County Assistant District Attorney Hannah Palmquist was named by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to lead the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, according to the AJC.

“We will work every single day with all of our law enforcement partners to protect our state’s most vulnerable and put buyers and traffickers behind bars,” Carr added. “This work requires an experienced and aggressive prosecutor of those who have abused our children, and that is what Georgians are getting with Hannah Palmquist leading this Unit.”

Palmquist said she’s honored to join the team announced in May by Carr and Gov. Brian Kemp. The unit will be part of the Department of Law’s Prosecution Division.

“Beginning on day one, this team will fight alongside local, state and federal partners and will utilize every weapon in our arsenal to imprison those who seek to buy or sell our children, disrupt human trafficking networks and rescue those who are victims of this horrific industry,” she said.

The six-person unit will consist of a senior prosecutor, junior prosecutor, criminal investigator, crime analyst, victim advocate and administrative assistant.

Glynn County Commissioner Bob Coleman denied the allegations against him and his wife in relation to their insurance business, according to The Brunswick News.

“My wife Sherry and I are innocent of the charges that have been made against us. We intend to prove our innocence in the courts of Glynn County. Nothing is more important to us than our good name and reputation. In the meantime, I am going back to work on behalf of the people of Glynn County,” Coleman said, according to the release.

Lowndes County has filed a lawsuit alleging the Georgia Department of Community Affairs exceeded its authority when it invalidated the county’s service agreement with its municipalities, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The state Department of Community Affairs flagged a 2008 agreement among the county and the five municipalities within it borders as expired after it did not receive a revised agreement in 2016.

The county updated its comprehensive plan that year, triggering the need for a fresh look at an agreement that outlines which governments will provide what services and at what cost. It’s a state-mandated agreement that is meant to avoid redundant services.

Local officials were in the midst of sorting out the terms of a new agreement when the state agency declared the existing deal void. The decision initially made the local governments ineligible to receive state grants, permits and other essential state-administered assistance.

Walter Elliott, the county’s attorney, argues the old agreement should have remained in place until local officials were able to hammer out a new one.

A Whitfield County Grand Jury named Ron Johnson to the District 1 seat on the Whitfield County Board of Education, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

A Whitfield County grand jury on Thursday named Ronald “Ron” Johnson to fill the unexpired term of the late Thomas Barton, who was the District 1 representative on the school board. District 1 represents parts of south Whitfield County.

Barton passed away unexpectedly on May 17 at the age of 61. He had served on the school board since 2008. The term ends on Dec. 31, 2020.

Michael Kinsey, Charles Oliver and Nicky Starling also applied for the seat. The grand jury interviewed all four this week.

Last August, the grand jury appointed Jamie Johnson, a captain with the Dalton Police Department, to the school board to fill Rodney Lock’s unexpired term, which ended Dec. 31, 2018, after Lock stepped down from the District 2 seat.

Jamie Johnson won a special election in March to a four-year term in the District 2 seat.

The Gwinnett County Commission issued a proclamation recognizing Pride Month, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The proclamation issued by Gwinnett commissioners Tuesday highlights contributions made by the county’s LGBTQ residents to a variety of professions and states that a diversity of sexual identities, as well as ethnicities, cultures, races and genders strengthen Gwinnett.

“It is imperative that every member of our community, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, feels valued, safe, empowered and supported by their peers, educators and community leaders,” commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said in the proclamation.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis is attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Honolulu, Hawaii, his sixth city-funded trip of the year, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Davis, Augusta’s mayor since 2015, will moderate a session on cyber innovation Sunday at the conference, held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu. It will be at least his sixth out-of-state trip this year requiring airfare and lodgings.

“Augusta is leading the way in cyber, and the rest of the country is taking note,” Davis said in a statement announcing the trip. “It is exciting to highlight and share the great work happening in our local cyber sector.”

According to a recent analysis of Davis’ use of his city credit card, his prior out-of-state trips this year include the mayors’ conference January winter meeting in Washington, D.C., Black Tech Week and the mayors’ conference winter leadership meeting held in Miami on separate dates in February, a March diversity and inclusion conference in Philadelphia and an April trip to Houston, where the African-American Mayors Association conference was being held. Also included were a handful of in-state trips with hotel stays.

The Augusta Commission is considering removing four members from the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Coliseum Authority Chairman Cedric Johnson said the authority has tried at least three times to get a vote on moving forward with completing a $142,000 study on the suitability of using its current 11-acre site for a new arena but those four members have blocked it. The four are Booker Roberson, Bonita Jenkins, Linda Edney-Wiley and Darren Smith.

“The vote has been not to go forward,” he said.

Those same four members voted in August 2017 to build the new arena at the old Regency Mall, a move that the Augusta Commission has twice rejected in favor of building a new arena downtown. The matter was put to a straw vote during a May 2018 election and authority members said they would abide by the results of that vote even though it was nonbinding. More than 60 percent of voters chose the downtown site but those members still have not budged, Johnson said.

The Albany City Commission approved a $288.3 million dollar FY 2020 budget, according to the Albany Herald.

With much of the talk — and community outrage — surrounding the proposed (and eventually approved) $31.6 million supplemental budget for the current fiscal year to account for costs related to Hurricane Michael cleanup (much of which is expected to be eligible for FEMA reimbursement), the ongoing LED light installation program, the purchase of The Albany Herald building for development purposes and the ongoing revamp of the city’s antiquated sewer system and other infrastructure upgrades, the commission actually passed the FY ‘20 spending plan with little fanfare.

The Albany Commission also voted against allowing a zoning request for a 25-acre solar farm due to “noise” from solar panels, according to the Albany Herald.

The Glynn County Board of Education adopted a $216 million dollar FY 2020 budget, according to The Brunswick News.

The $216 million budget includes several changes this year, including the addition of nearly 18 new staff members and the return of a retirement plan for school system employees who are not included in the Teacher Retirement System.

The millage rate will remain the same at 16.157. The budget assumes a 2.5 increase in the tax digest.

The state will provide an additional $4.8 million through a change in the QBE formula approved by Gov. Brian Kemp, so that teachers across the state will receive a $3,000 raise. Other employees in Glynn County Schools will also receive a 2 percent raise.

The school system will add 17.5 new positions, 11.5 of which are teachers, and will also reinstate the matching retirement plan option for employees who are not in the Teacher Retirement System plan, including custodians, food service employees, bus drivers and others.

Flowery Branch City Council adopted a $9.2 million dollar FY 2020 budget with no change to the property tax millage rate, according to AccessWDUN.

Included is a flat millage rate for city property owners, which will stay at 3.264 mills for the third consecutive year after the city lowered it to that number in fiscal year 2018. That flat millage rate along with rising property values is expected to mean an increase in city property taxes by just over one percent.

27
Jun

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

On June 27, 1864, Sherman’s Union forces attacked General Johnston’s Confederates at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.

One year later, the Military Department of Georgia was created to oversee Reconstruction in the state.

The Gone with the Wind scene that includes the line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” was filmed on June 27, 1939, along with an alternate that used the line, “Frankly, my dear, I just don’t care.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The U.S.Environmental Protection Agency is turning over responsibility for oversight of ash ponds to the State of Georgia, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Federal regulators are proposing to approve Georgia’s program for the disposal of coal ash generated at power plants and allow state regulators to manage the process going forward.

“EPA encourages other states to follow Georgia’s lead and assume oversight of coal ash management within their borders,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a press release issued Monday. “EPA is committed to working with the states as they establish coal ash programs tailored to their unique circumstances that are protective of human health and the environment.”

The AJC looks at legislation going into effect beginning July 1st.

A new law will protect renters from eviction when they complain about unhealthy conditions.

The law makes it easier for renters to win court cases and remain in their homes. Landlords who wrongfully try to evict tenants would have to pay them one month’s rent, plus $500 and legal costs.

The minimum marriage age will increase from 16 to 17.

After approving the use of medical marijuana by registered patients in 2015, the General Assembly this year approved a way for the drug to be dispensed.

Still, the unique distribution system for medical marijuana could force patients to wait months or years before they’re legally able to obtain medical marijuana oil in Georgia.

State Representative David Stover (R-Newnan) has resigned, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Citing the needs of a growing family, Republican State Rep. David Stover said he’ll be resigning his office immediately.

Since 2013, Stover has represented voters in District 71, which includes most of Coweta County east of Interstate 85, as well as a section of north Coweta including Madras.

In his resignation letter to Gov. Brian Kemp, Stover said his time in the Georgia General Assembly has been “one of the greatest honors of my lifetime.

Kemp will call for a special election to fill Stover’s unexpired term. The election will likely be held in either September or November.

“It is my hope and desire that my resignation date gives you the timing flexibility you will need to ensure a new representative has been sworn in before the end of the year and ready to go in the 2020 Session,” Stover wrote to the governor.

Glynn County Commissioner Bob Coleman has been indicted on charges related to his insurance business, according to The Brunswick News.

A Glynn County grand jury handed down another indictment Wednesday against insurance agent and county commissioner Bob Coleman.

In it, the grand jury charged Coleman with committing two counts of insurance fraud and four counts of violating the insurance reporting and disposition of premium requirement of the Georgia Insurance Code.

Wednesday’s charges are the second set of such charges against Coleman. A grand jury charged both Coleman and his wife Sherry in January with 15 counts of felony violation of the Georgia Insurance Code.

He was re-elected to serve a third term in the At-large Post 2 seat on the Glynn County Commission in 2016. His current term ends at the end of next year.

Glynn County’s 2016 SPLOST Oversight Committee is seeing delays in completion of projects, according to The Brunswick News.

Members of the SPLOST 2016 oversight committee took county personnel to task over a new animal control shelter and veterans memorial park, both of which the county commission told voters to expect when they approved the penny tax at the ballot nearly three years ago.

Both projects are fully designed, but no dirt has yet been turned on either. Both also came in well over budget.

Road, drainage and sidewalk projects are all otherwise moving along, Austin said. They are either complete, under construction, pending right of way acquisition or making their way through county and state approval processes.

The Lowndes County Commission adopted a $108 million dollar FY 2020 budget, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The $108 million is the total cost of expenditures for Fiscal Year 2020. The general fund is at $58 million, which will afford services to the public.

After the unanimous vote, Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter said the vote made it seem like an easy process, but it was not.

The Lee County Commission approved a FY 2020 budget, according to the Albany Herald.

The budget includes cost-of-living increases for county employees, provides for new public safety positions and does not include a tax increase for residents.

The Oconee County Commission voted to buy land for a new administration building, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The Henry County Adult Felony Drug Court administered by Judge Holly Veal was cited as a “Model Court” by the Council of Accountability Court Judges, according to the Henry Herald.

Duluth will install license plate readers in school zones, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Earlier this month, the Duluth City Council approved a “comprehensive school zone safety program” that enforces existing school speed limits through the use of cameras, which will be installed by RedSpeed Ga., a subsidiary of Illinois-based RedSpeed USA.

When the cameras are not in use for speed enforcement, they will “act as a regular tag reader” and pick up on cars registered to users with Temporary Protection Orders or other criteria that bar them from being in school zones, said Duluth Police Department spokesman Officer Ted Sadowski.

“It’s kind of two-fold,” Sadowski said. “It (records) speed but also can pick up on Amber Alerts and stuff like that.”

Though sex offenders in Georgia are required to register their vehicles and tags in the statewide offender database, it’s not immediately clear whether the RedSpeed cameras have access to that database and thus can pick up sex offenders who travel through school zones.

The cameras, which have been implemented in other counties and cities in recent months, including Henry and Clayton counties and Morrow, Jonesboro and Milledgeville, are not taxpayer funded, Sadowski said.

“It’s violator funded,” he said. “We’re not paying (RedSpeed); they sign a contract where they get 35 % and we get 65 % of the revenue from the violations.”

Cave Spring City Council approved a rewrite of the municipal alcohol ordinance, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The council adopted its 2019-2020 budget at the special called meeting Tuesday, along with a comprehensive alcohol ordinance.

Shoaf said the general fund budget was set at $844,000. The city gets revenue from a permanent 1-cent local option sales tax and does not levy a property tax.

The $1.27 million water and sewer budget, funded through customer charges, also is balanced.

“There are a lot of microbreweries and distilleries popping up all over Georgia and I think this is going to be a good thing for the city,” [Mayor Dennis] Shoaf said.

“The City Council and attorney have done their due diligence to make it restrictive while allowing the flexibility for new businesses. … People don’t want a big change in our way of life. That’s not going to happen,” he added.

Swainsboro has reinstated a curfew for juveniles, according to WSAV.

According to the Swainsboro Police Department, the curfew applies to any person under the age of 17 within city limits between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. every day.

The department says it’s in an effort to protect the youth in the community.

“This curfew makes it illegal for any male or female juvenile to be on or at a public street, other public places, as well as any commercial or non-commercial venue,” the Swainsboro Police stated, adding, “This curfew remains in effect until further notice.”

Columbus renovated a softball complex in advance of a softball tournament next month, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

26
Jun

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

On June 26, 1918, the Georgia General Assembly ratified the Eighteenth Amendment, which outlawed the production, sale, and transportation of alcohol. Governor Hugh Dorsey did not sign it for nearly a week, but the United States Secretary of State considers an Amendment ratified when the state legislature has voted on final passage.

On June 26, 1945, the United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco.

The Berlin Airlift began on June 26, 1948 after the Soviet Union had blockaded West Berlin, which was occupied by the United States, Great Britain, and France.

The first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was released in the UK on June 26, 1997.

Gone with the Wind was re-released on June 26, 1998.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Democrat Stacey Abrams urged Congress to increase federal regulation of state voting, according to the AJC.

Stacey Abrams urged members of Congress to bolster federal voting protections on Tuesday, six years to the day after the U.S. Supreme Court nullified key sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act for being outdated.

“The Shelby decision created a new channel for the troubling practice of voter suppression during a time of dramatic demographic change,” Abrams told members of a House Judiciary subcommittee.

Georgia’s Republican governor wasn’t at Tuesday’s hearing, but Texas Solicitor General Kyle Hawkins said the Voting Rights Act provision that required federal involvement in state and local elections was “inconsistent with the central pillars of federalism.” He said the courts currently offer critics of voting laws adequate recourse and that Congress doesn’t need to step back into the debate.

In its 5-to-4 Shelby decision, the Supreme Court tossed out the nearly 50-year-old formula that had required Georgia and 15 other jurisdictions with histories of voting discrimination to pre-clear their proposed election changes with the Justice Department.

“Voter turnout is expanding mightily” in the state, [U.S. Rep. Doug] Collins [R-Gainesville] said. “Between 2014 and 2018, turnout among Hispanic and African American voters has soared, increasing by double digits in a state that more and more Americans are choosing to call home.”

Abrams voiced support for a pair of recently introduced proposals, including legislation co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat and civil rights leader.

That bill, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, would set a new formula that applies to all 50 states and “hinges on a finding of repeated voting rights violations in the preceding 25 years,” according to a fact sheet. If enacted, it would once again give the Justice Department veto power over any of Georgia’s proposed voting changes.

Clint Eastwood announced he will begin filming “The Ballad of Richard Jewell” in Georgia this summer, according to The Hill.

“The Ballad of Richard Jewell,” is set to start production this summer, according to NBC’s WCNC in Charlotte, which added that the film will star Kathy Bates, Olivia Wilde, Jon Hamm, Sam Rockwell among others.

Eastwood will also direct the movie, according to Variety. It will center around Richard Jewell, a security guard who discovered bombs at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia and was accused of planning an attack, although he was later exonerated.

Chatham County Board of Elections member Antwan T. Lang wants to create a new voting precinct for Savannah State University students, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The University spans two separate precincts, 3-10 and 3-13. The former gets the same ballot as the rest of Savannah’s third district, but the latter — which has the majority of registered student voters — gets the ballots for Chatham County.

Currently, the university has two addresses that students can use when they register to vote in Chatham County.

Lang said approximately 1,500 to 2,000 students are registered using 3219 College St., and vote on and Unincorporated Chatham ballot at precinct 3-13.

But approximately 155 to 200 students are registered to 147 Tompkins Rd., and vote on a Savannah ballot at precinct 3-10.

Lang’s proposed solution is to make Savannah State its own precinct and put a poll on campus that could serve all students. He said that would eliminate any confusion about which poll students should cast their ballots at and allow students to vote without leaving campus.

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Sarah Hawkins Warren spoke to the Statesboro Rotary Club, according to the Statesboro Herald.

A question after Monday’s meeting was, does Warren think there should be more women on the court again?

“I don’t think I can answer that question, but what I’ll say is, we have a tremendous court,” she said. “I have eight great colleagues, we have racial diversity, we have age diversity, we have geographic diversity, and I think there’s always room for improvement in the future, but I really love my colleagues now, and it’s a real privilege to work with them.”

Another question from the Statesboro Herald was, does she aspire to follow further in the path of Grant, whom she called “a great friend and mentor to me,” from the state high court to the federal system?

“You know, I love serving the state and it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time doing, and I’m just happy to be here and look forward to many years of serving on this court,” Warren said.

To remain on the court, she will have to win a six-year term in next May’s nonpartisan statewide election.

Bibb County Sheriff David Davis said a shortage of deputies led to more than $1.3 million dollars in additional overtime pay, according to WMAZ.

Sheriff David Davis says right now, they have about 400 deputies, but 135 vacancies.

“Any time there’s a type of serious incident — a violent incident, a presidential visit, or something not foreseen — overtime is issued for that,” said Davis.

The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office budgets $3 million for overtime, but they need another $1.3 million to pay for their extra overtime for 2019.

Davis asked Bibb County commissioners to move $1.3 million out of payroll to pay overtime costs.

Commissioner Mallory Jones proposed a solution for the deputy shortage. He sponsored a resolution to take $2 million from the county’s reserves to give employees in the sheriff’s office and the fire department $2,000 raises.

The Hall County Commission adopted a $276.7 million dollar budget for FY 2020 that includes a property tax rate rollback, according to the Gainesville Times.

Hall County will be going with the rolled back general fund millage rate of 5.098 mills, after commissioners unanimously approved the new tax rate and budget on Tuesday.

One mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. The rolled back tax rate adjusts for increased assessed property values in the county.

The next fiscal year begins July 1.

The total budget is $276.7 million, a 2.5% increase from the current year. Hall has seen some growth and a strong economy over the past year, leading to increases in revenues from some sources like property taxes, sales taxes and the ad valorem tax.

The Helen City Commission adopted a FY 2020 budget that includes an increase in water and sewer rates, according to AccessWDUN.

During a called meeting to finalize the FY2020 budget Tuesday, the Helen City Commission voted unanimously to increase the base rates for water and sewer by 50 cents each, and to bump the per-thousand-gallon cost for water by 20 cents per 1,000 gallons for the upcoming fiscal year.

Helen is unique because of the number of hotel rooms and restaurants, so commercial water and wastewater are billed by residential equivalent units based on peak consumption.

The base rate for a residential equivalent unit for a water customer inside the city is $8, while it’s $15.50 outside the city. The wastewater base rate for sewer inside the city is $14.86, while the rate is $18.10 outside the city.

“About eight or nine years ago, we actually hit our residents with a large increase – nearly double what they were paying at the current time,” said City Manager Jerry Elkins. “Since that time, we’ve tried to plan and increase our water and sewer rates a little each year where it doesn’t affect them so greatly all at one time.”

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is impacted by low water levels, according to The Brunswick News.

Water levels at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge are still about a foot below normal, despite recent rains.

Some canoe trails leading to overnight camping platforms remain inaccessible because of the low water levels.

Several weeks ago, the refuge began restricting the booking of overnight camping permits to two weeks in advance. Normally, campers can apply for permits as early as two months in advance.

The low water levels have concentrated alligators into some areas where canoeists and kayakers can paddle.

“They’re just following their food sources,” Heisey said.

Bonaire Elementary School in Houston County is currently overcrowded, but a new school expected to open next year should ease that, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Augusta’s 5th Street Bridge is being converted from automotive traffic to pedestrian, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority is at an impasse in selecting a site for a new James Brown Arena, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences gave public tours of a research farm, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

25
Jun

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

On June 25, 1788, the Commonwealth of Virginia became the tenth states to vote for ratification of the United States Constitution by a vote of 89 to 79. A committee was appointed to be chaired by George Wythe to draft a proposed Bill of Rights.

On June 25, 1868, the United States Congress provisionally readmitted Georgia to the Union following the Civil War with the requirements that they ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and never deprive any citizens of voting rights.

On June 25, 1876, Indians under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse defeated the U.S. Army 7th Cavalry under Lt. Colonel George Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

On June 25, 1888, the Republican National Convention nominated Benjamin Harrison for President of the United States; Harrison’s grandfather was WIlliam Henry Harrison, ninth President of the United States.

On June 25, 1990, the United States Supreme Court released its opinion in Georgia v. South Carolina, a boundary dispute. From Wikipedia:

A… 1922 Supreme Court decision, also called Georgia v. South Carolina, 257 U. S. 516, also held that all islands in the river belong to Georgia, but that the border should be in the middle of the river between the two shores, with the border half way between any island and the South Carolina shore.

Since the 1922 case, a number of new islands were created in the river between the city of Savannah and the ocean, due to the deposit of dredging spoilage or the natural deposit of sediments. In some cases, the new islands were on the South Carolina side of the previously drawn boundary, and Georgia claimed that once a new island emerged, the border should be moved to the midpoint between the new island and the South Carolina shore of the river. In some cases, the state of South Carolina had been collecting property tax from the land owners and policing the land in question for a number of years.

When an island causes the border to leave the middle of the river, it raises the question as to how the border line should return to the middle of the river at each end of the island. South Carolina advocated a right angle bend at each tip of the island, while Georgia advocated a “triequidistant” method which kept the border an equal distance between the two shores and the tip of the island (resulting in a smooth curve.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Slow Your Roll, Hipsters: the Atlanta Beltline will lower the speed limit for e-scooters, according to the AJC.

Riders on e-scooters must now abide by an 8 mph speed limit along a portion of the Beltline Eastside Trail between Monroe Drive and DeKalb Avenue, which has been designated as a reduced speed zone for scooters, Atlanta Beltline officials announced in a news release. The city previously set a speed limit of 15 mph for scooters in the city.

The reduced speed zones are in effect every day from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and on state holidays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., including the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.

The new scooter rules were announced Friday, days after Atlanta police announced they were beginning to enforce scooter laws after a period of leniency. Riders face a fine of up to $1,000 if they do not follow transportation laws.

Parking zones for scooters have also been identified along the Eastside and Westside Beltline trails to reduce the clutter of discarded scooters, allowing residents to easily enter the trails.

Scooters will not be allowed anywhere on or along the multi-use trails except in the authorized zones, which will be marked with signs.

In January, Atlanta passed legislation regulating scooters and imposing fines on companies for violations. Under the law, scooters must be parked upright on sidewalks in a manner that allows pedestrians five feet of space.

Scooter companies can be fined up to $1,000 per day for violations.

The Atlanta History Center will host a Civil War flag painted in Philadelphia and carried by an African-American regiment, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Six feet wide and more than four feet tall, the silk flag was painted by an African American artist in Philadelphia. It is now in the collection of the Atlanta History Center, and represents the most expensive artifact the center has acquired.

It shows a black soldier carrying a rifle and bidding goodbye to a white figure dressed as “Columbia,” representing the U.S.

According to the history center, at least 180,000 African Americans served in the United States Colored Troops, a branch of the U.S. Army formed after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

The flag had previously been displayed at the Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum and Library in Philadelphia. Silk is a particularly fragile material, said Jones, and much of the flag had deteriorated. He said fragments of the original painting had been reassembled, “like pieces of a puzzle,” during extensive restoration of the artifact.

Liberty County Commissioners adopted a resolution opposing offshore drilling, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The June 4 resolution notes the seismic airguns used for oil exploration fire intense blasts of compressed air, “one of the loudest manmade sounds in the ocean every 10-12 seconds for days, weeks or months on end, that “has been shown to harm and injure dolphins, whales, endangered sea turtles, fish, and other marine life.”

It goes on to note that drilling poses “a significant risk of an oil spills and chronic leakage” and that the associated infrastructure “would harm the character of the coast, and local communities.”

As did the Georgia General Assembly in a similar resolution passed earlier this year, Liberty County emphasized the threat to tourism and fisheries on the coast.

“Liberty County recognizes that the tourism and fishing industries, which depend on a healthy and vibrant coastal environment, both serve as major economic drivers benefiting the current and future residents, property owners, and visitors to Georgia,” the resolution reads.

Savannah added two new electric vehicles to their parking enforcement fleet, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“This vehicle is really an efficient way of getting things done, especially in the metropolitan area around here,” said Mayor Eddie DeLoach, who took a test drive around Warren Square.

A pilot program in Savannah in 2018 compared the efficiency of Parking Services’ Nissan Versas with the LEAF, equipping each vehicle with an onboard computer to record data during actual use for a week. The electric vehicle was the clear winner. The gas-powered Versa, while rated at 35 miles per gallon highway by the EPA, was getting closer to 12-14 mpg doing the work of issuing parking tickets. Parking Services officers typically drive 25-30 miles in a day, meaning they’d go through two or three gallons of gas.

“The way they work requires them do a lot of start and stopping,” said Sean Brandon, director of Mobility & Parking Services.“We don’t like idling but sometimes they’re trying to give someone a chance to move a vehicle so they’re just going to sit there and wait. When you factor that all in, the Versas weren’t that efficient. The electric vehicle turns out to be pretty perfect for this use.”

Adding electric vehicles to the city’s fleet is in accord with the Savannah Forward strategic plan that calls for 15% of the city’s vehicle fleet to be powered by alternate fuels or hybrid technology by 2023.

The strategic plan came from public input, including feedback that talked specifically about not only cost savings with electric and hybrid vehicles but also reducing the city’s carbon footprint to reduce its contribution to global warming, Sustainability Director Nick Deffley said.

Brunswick and Savannah have rolled out a program using goats for vegetation control, according to The Brunswick News.

Brunswick and Savannah began sharing a herd of goats earlier this month, and interim assistant city manager Beatrice Soler said the animals have been effective. She said they cleared an area in the Magnolia Park neighborhood in a span of three days.

“The goats have been able to address multiple areas within the city other than College Park, including Magnolia Park area, areas by the hospital and other overgrowth in other ditch areas,” Soler said. “Currently, Public Works is working with Get Your Goat Rentals on a list of areas that need to be addressed within the city before heading over to Savannah.”

Soler said that, aside from inclement weather, there were few issues getting the goats to Brunswick from Savannah.

The goats have not only been a positive addition to the city, but they have also helped cut back on the use of chemicals that hurt the environment. Soler said the city would like to continue using them if the program is sustainable.

“Having the goats around has been an informative and enlightening overall,” Soler said. “Instead of using hazardous chemicals that can be costly and unhealthy for the environment, having goats is a greener way of approaching overgrowth and mitigating areas — especially because we’re in hurricane season.”

Whitfield County Commissioners will extend the deadline to apply for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) Citizens Committee, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

At their work session Monday, members of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners agreed to extend the deadline to apply for the SPLOST 2020 advisory committee to Monday, July 8, when commissioners have their next meeting. The application deadline had been Monday, July 1, at 5 p.m.

“There was no vote. We don’t vote at work sessions,” said board Vice Chairman Harold Brooker, who presided over the meeting in the absence of Chairman Lynn Laughter. “But there was unanimous consensus.”

The committee will help select the projects for a SPLOST that is expected to be put before county voters in the May 2020 general primary. The committee will be composed of 16 individuals and two alternates. Each of the five commissioners will appoint two people to the committee from their district. Laughter is elected county-wide. And the board will appoint one alternate. The Dalton City Council will appoint three members and one alternate, and the three smaller cities in the county — Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell — will appoint one member each.

Even with the applications that came in Monday, no one from the town of Cohutta has applied and only one person each has applied from Tunnel Hill and Varnell.

Dougherty County Commissioners adopted a budget for FY 19-20, according to the Albany Herald.

The budget accounted for $69,829,147, with $15,000 in funding added Monday to mow rights-of-way on state roads on a complaint basis from the public.

Dalton Public Schools have implemented new security measures, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

From the Dalton Board of Education funding four new school resource officers to the installation of “intruder locks” on all classroom doors, administrators and school board members have stressed security and safety since a Dalton High teacher barricaded himself in his room and shot a bullet through a window.

The newest tool teachers and administrators have is a crisis management system. Earlier this month, the Dalton Public Schools Board of Education approved a $325,000 purchase to install the CrisisAlert system from Centegix, an Atlanta-based company specializing in safety and security technology for schools.

At the heart of the system are badges that staff and administration at the school wear that are linked by wireless communication beacons. The badges, which match the size of the plastic identification badges all school employees wear, can relay alerts from any employee to a designated response team at the school.

Pressing a button on the badge three times signals an alert — an injury, a medical emergency, etc. — and seven presses of the button in rapid succession can place the entire school under lockdown for more serious situations.

The Hall County Board of Education adopted a FY 2020 budget and property tax millage rate rollback, according to AccessWDUN.

Thanks to lower than expected expenditures at the end of the year, the Hall County School Board rolled back the millage rate more than originally planned for the FY 2020 budget.

Board members Monday night set the rate at 17.55 mills, down from the proposed rate of 17.8. The current millage rate is 18.2.

“We are about 3.4% behind on expenditures, so we could have either added that to the ending balance for this year…or we could reduce the millage rate,” said Board Chairman Nath Morris. “We always wanted to reduce the millage rate to the extent that we could without dipping too much into reserves.”

The bulk of the $270 million budget for the new year, which goes into effect on Monday, July 1, will be spent on employee salaries and benefits. Superintendent Will Schofield noted that 87% of the budget goes to salaries and benefits, and a large portion of that expenditure is dictated by the state.

The Georgia Department of Public Health awarded funding for the Georgia Strong Families Program, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Funds will support the Georgia Strong Families Program that will be implemented in South Health District (Valdosta District) and the West Central Health District (Columbus District), state health officials said.

“Healthy Start programs provide information, resources, and support to pregnant and parenting women and their families to ensure a healthy pregnancy and to help nurture their newborns,” said George Sigounas, MS, Ph.D., HRSA administrator. “This support is critical to addressing the significant racial and ethnic disparities in preterm birth and infant death in the U.S.”

The Georgia Strong Families Program will allow existing services through South Health District’s BABY LUV/PAT program to expand into Brooks and Echols counties while continuing to serve families in Lowndes.

“The Healthy Start funding fills a tremendous gap in Echols and Brooks counties,” said Dr. William Grow, district health director. “Families in these counties will now be afforded the opportunity to receive evidence-based home visiting and other valuable Healthy Start services. We are certainly excited and glad to be a part of this initiative and we anticipate these services will improve the wellbeing of families in our area.”

The Muscogee County Board of Education voted to drop a proposal to extend school hours, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

In a unanimous vote during its monthly meeting Monday night, the board dropped from the agenda the action item that was Superintendent David Lewis’ revised proposal.

It would have extended the elementary school schedule by 15 minutes in the afternoon. It also would have made the middle school day 10 minutes longer, starting 5 minutes earlier and ending 5 minutes later. The high school day would have remained the same amount of time but would have shifted the start and end times 5 minutes later.

Board chairwoman Pat Hugley Green of District 1 began Monday’s meeting by asking Lewis to pull his recommendation from the agenda. She said the delay will allow the administration more time for a more accurate survey of parents. She noted the survey allowed anyone to submit multiple responses.

The Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau recommended policies on film production to the City Commission, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The visitors bureau, which showed its board members a draft of the regulations Thursday, presented them Monday at a meeting attended by Mayor Hardie Davis, two Augusta commissioners, several city employees and the director of the Augusta Regional Film Office, an independent production-assistance company.

The Monday meeting to discuss the regulations that ostensibly will become city policy was held in a city hall conference room. Davis said the meeting was not open to the public and asked the Augusta Chronicle reporter in attendance to leave.

Documents the visitors bureau provided to The Chronicle before the meeting show a nine-page application form that includes a property-use release and an indemnification agreement.

The bureau said the film registration process was created with the input of several city departments, including Central Services, Recreation and Parks, Traffic and Engineering and Planning and Development. It also said it studied the permit systems of several Georgia cities to determine best practices.

The Hall County Commission is considering regulations for “agri-entertainment” facilities, according to AccessWDUN.

The topic came up at Monday’s Hall County Commission work session as commissioners considered a special use agri-entertainment application made by Michelle Gibbs regarding a 4.65-acre tract on Ransom Free Road in the northern end of the county.

Hall County Planning and Development Director Srikanth Yamala explained Gibb’s request to the commission. “The application is for…wedding and similar gatherings that would occur (at) an existing barn on the property. As a part of the request the applicant has requested two variances.” Both requests, Yamala explained, concerned required property line setbacks.

District 1 Commissioner Kathy Cooper asked how many agri-entertainment applications had been approved. Planning Department Manager Sarah McQuade said thirteen, as best she could remember.

Powell looked at his fellow commissioners and asked if developing similar rules for agri-entertainment business license holders as were in place for short term rental business license holders was something they thought needed to be undertaken.

Chairman Richard Higgins and Commissioner Cooper agreed the need was there.

24
Jun

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

On June 24, 1497, John Cabot first sighted North America, claiming it for the British Crown.

On June 24, 1795, the United States Senate voted to ratify Jay’s Treaty between the UK and United States. The terms of the treaty required an appropriation from the U.S. House of Representatives to implement it, and Congressional opponents tried to defeat the appropriation, which was approved by a 51-48 margin on April 30, 1796. Click here for more background on the treaty and controversy.

On June 24, 1853, President Franklin Pierce signed the Gadsden Purchase, acquiring what it now southern Arizona and New Mexico from Mexico.

General Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River toward Pennsylvania on June 24, 1863.

John R. Lynch was the first African-American elected Chairman of the Republican National Convention on June 24, 1884; Lynch was nominated by Theodore Roosevelt.

Woodrow Wilson married Ellen Louise Axson of Rome, Georgia in Savannah on June 24, 1885.

On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blockaded West Berlin from all road, rail, and barge traffic.

Following World War II, Germany was divided into occupation zones. The United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and, eventually, France, were given specific zones to occupy in which they were to accept the surrender of Nazi forces and restore order. The Soviet Union occupied most of eastern Germany, while the other Allied nations occupied western Germany. The German capital of Berlin was similarly divided into four zones of occupation.

The United States response came just two days after the Soviets began their blockade. A massive airlift of supplies into West Berlin was undertaken in what was to become one of the greatest logistical efforts in history. For the Soviets, the escapade quickly became a diplomatic embarrassment. Russia looked like an international bully that was trying to starve men, women, and children into submission. And the successful American airlift merely served to accentuate the technological superiority of the United States over the Soviet Union. On May 12, 1949, the Soviets officially ended the blockade.

General Lucius D. Clay of Marietta, Georgia was military Governor of occupied Germany at that time.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show was released in West Germany on June 24, 1977. It’s astounding.

Rickey Henderson made his major league debut with the Oakland A’s on June 24, 1979, stealing his first base.

On June 24, 1982, the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution was defeated, having garnered the ratification of thirty-five states, three shy of the requisite Constitutional Majority.

Hopes for ratification before the deadline next Wednesday were dashed this week when the amendment was rejected by the Illinois House and the Florida Senate, two states in which supporters felt they had a fighting chance.

Had Illinois and Florida ratified the amendment, there was at least some chance that either Oklahoma or North Carolina would have provided the final needed vote.

Prospects were far slimmer in the other nonratifying states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

Phyllis Schlafly, a leader of a group called Stop-ERA, hailed the defeat of the amendment tonight, saying: ”They realized E.R.A. is dead and I think that that is an admission they have lost the battle. My feeling is that E.R.A. will take its place with the prohibition and the child labor amendments as ones which did not have enough support of the American people to be in the Constitution.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Trump Campaign Manager Brad Parscale predicted the President will win Georgia in 2020, according to Politico.

Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign chief, said the president would win Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, South Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Nevada if the election were held this week. All eight are considered to be up for grabs, to varying degrees, in 2020 and the latter three were all won by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. and Trump won Florida by 1.2 percentage points and North Carolina by 3.6 points.

The comments came ahead of Trump’s rally in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday and were released in full on Friday, the same day Quinnipiac University released a poll that showed Trump trailing both former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in prospective general election matchups.

He also predicted that Trump will win in “an electoral landslide,” securing more electoral votes than in 2016. “I think we win Florida, yeah,” Parscale told Garrett. “I think we win in an electoral landslide, as of today.”

Democratic voters favor using the national popular vote to decide Presidential elections, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Among Democrats, 81% said electing a president by who received the most votes nationally would in some way improve democracy, as opposed to through the current electoral college system. That compared with 52% of independents and 32% of Republicans. In both the 2000 and 2016 presidential election, Democratic candidates won the popular vote but lost the electoral college.

The poll found that Democrats were more in favor of automatic voter enrollment than Republicans or independents, with 85% believing this would fix the political system. Fifty-one percent of the other two groups shared the sentiment.

The notion of congressional districts being drawn by nonpartisan commissions draw also drew majority support from all three groups: 77% of Democrats said that could improve democracy, while 52% of Republicans and 67% of independents agreed.

Governor Brian Kemp arrived in South Korea for his first foreign trade mission, according to 11Alive.

Kemp posted about the visit – which was covered in a front-page spread in English-language newspaper Korea JoongAng Daily – on Sunday.

“Governor Kemp was truly honored to see this cover in the Korea JoongAng Daily today,” the post read. “The Governor looks forward to a week of productive economic development meetings with Korean leaders.”

Kemp said firms from that country have created 9000 jobs in Georgia, including the giant Kia auto plant in West Point, Georgia, near the Alabama border. The governor’s office says that South Korean companies have also invested $2 billion into Georgia’s economy in the last 12 months alone.

Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch said high tariffs on specialized cranes could hurt Georgia ports’ expansion plans, according to the AJC.

The White House is currently mulling whether to add ship-to-shore cranes to its fourth batch of Chinese tariffs. The state’s Ports Authority has already ordered six such cranes, costing some $70 million.

Executive Director Griff Lynch said instituting a 25 percent tariff could have a “substantially negative impact” on work to expand the Savannah harbor, the state’s top economic development project.

“It would also hinder our plans for additional future purchases of these large, purpose-built cranes required for our expanding operations,” he wrote in a recent letter to U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer. “There is no domestic source for these cranes and, indeed, there is no manufacturing facility for these cranes except in China.”

Lynch’s letter, which also included a plea for Lighthizer to exempt port yard equipment from any future tariff discussions, was quickly followed up by Georgia U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson.

A test by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and Office of Homeland Security alarmed some residents, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The alert read: “EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM PAGE (1/1) A Civil Authority has issued a RADIOLOGICAL HAZARD WARNING at 7:59 a.m. on June 20, 2019 until 8:59 a.m. on June 20, 2018 for the following counties/areas – GEORGIA STATEWIDE.”

The National Weather Service said a radiological hazard warning “alerts the public to the loss, discovery or release of a radiological hazard.” The alert went out via cell phones and on TV stations, according to the AJC. “A warning of that type could be issued of radioactive materials are spilled, like in a traffic accident, or stolen.”

According to the statement issued by Lisa Rodriguez-Presley, GEMA external affairs supervisor, the release said “The Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency conducted a test of the emergency alert system today regarding radiological emergency. We conduct regular testing of our emergency alert systems in order to ensure we are capable of reaching the public in the event of an actual emergency. Although the message stated that it was a test, we are aware that there was confusion on the part of some. We have since issued a cancellation message to ensure that the public is clear that this was a test message only.”

The Valdosta Daily Times looks at new legislation going into effect July 1.

The minimum age to marry in Georgia is about to become 17, up from 16. Anyone who tries to sic law enforcement on another person – a prank known as “SWATing” – will face serious penalties. And blind Georgians will now be protected from discrimination in child custody battles.

Public schools will also be required to post signage about reporting suspected child abuse. And military service members can be freed from their local gym contract, and other such obligations, when deployed.

[State Rep. Sharon] Cooper sponsored a measure that, starting next month, requires health practitioners to inform women with dense breast tissue that it can be more difficult to detect cancer through a mammogram and that additional tests may be needed.

Law-enforcement agencies will soon be required to save evidence collected from sexual assaults for as long as 50 years.

Today, they are only required to preserve the evidence for a decade.

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) introduced legislation to govern sites under the Superfund, according to The Brunswick News.

The legislation is geared toward more access for the public and more weight given to the will of the community, instead of what can be worked out by the attorneys of the Justice Department and those representing the party responsible for handling the contamination.

“With Superfund sites in the 1st District of Georgia, it’s imperative that the process be updated to maximize the input and participation from the local community,” Carter said in a statement Thursday. “Those with the Superfund sites in their backyards should absolutely be involved with the cleanup throughout the entire process. I introduced this legislation today to ensure their voices are heard.”

The Gwinnett County Board of Elections voted to end its prohibition on running municipal elections, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Gwinnett County Board of Registrations and Elections amended an existing policy which blocked cities from asking the county to run their elections. The change came after Peachtree Corners City Councilman Eric Christ approached the elections board in April about changing the rules on whether the county could be involved in municipal elections.

“It basically strikes out the prohibition we would have against engaging in municipal elections,” board member Stephen Day said of the amendment as it was being considered. “It doesn’t obligate the county in any way, shape or form to conduct it. It just takes (out) an overt statement saying we don’t do it and then under Georgia election law, it’s totally up to (the county) to negotiate with municipalities.”

The move to let the county negotiate with cities about running municipal elections had some support. The Peachtree Corners City Council adopted a resolution asking the elections board to change the policy at its May 28 meeting. The Gwinnett League of Women Voters had also asked the board to change the policy.

League of Women Voters co-acting Presidents Diane Fisher and Stephanie Wright said there have been issues when cities hold special elections on the same day that the county is holding a regular or special election because it has meant voters in those cities have had to go to two separate polling locations to cast ballots in each election.

“Just opening it up to the possibility and taking that prohibition out of there will make it so that the discussions can be had,” Fisher said. “Nobody is forcing cities to take advantage of the opportunity and nobody is forcing the county to do it, but at least now they’re not prohibited from doing so.”

The Georgia Supreme Court heard a lawsuit between Glynn County Public Schools and the Brunswic-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission, according to The Brunswick News.

The issue arose in 2014 when the school board decided that the debt service portion of its bill could not be interpreted as an educational purpose — a constitutional requirement of school expenditures.

“The issue, in this case, is whether school property tax dollars can be used to fund the payment of bonded indebtedness and the construction of capital improvements for the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer (Commission), a separate governmental local entity and a separate political subdivision,” said Phillip Hartley, an attorney for the school board.

The debt service charge included in JWSC water and sewer bills is used to pay off debt incurred as a result of water and sewer improvements to benefit Glynn County as a whole. As such, the school board can’t pay that portion of its bill, according to court filings. Additionally, Hartley argued the school board can’t pay the JWSC’s debt service fee because the Georgia Constitution prohibits the school board from carrying over debt from year to year. If it can’t take on debt for longer than a year, it can’t pay for other public agencies’ long-term debt either.

Because the debt service fee is presented as a separate charge from actual water and sewer usage and because the amount charged is calculated based on something other than actual usage, the school board considers the debt service fee distinct from their usage bill.

The Hall County Commission is considering a proposed ordinance to regulate the build-out of wireless services in the county, according to the Gainesville Times.

The proposed rules, up for a vote from the Hall County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, would regulate the sizes and fees for poles and the technology such as antennas that may be moving in.

Srikanth Yamala, the county’s planning and development director, said the county does not currently have an ordinance that would address this technology’s installation in the public right of way.

Under the new ordinance, any new, modified or replaced pole on a right of way zoned residential cannot be more than 50 feet tall. In areas that are not zoned residential, poles must be 50 feet or shorter, or within 10 feet in height of the highest pole within a 500-foot radius, whichever is higher.

The rules would provide some direction in what is largely uncharted territory, as residents in more rural areas have long wanted easier access to broadband services.

Commissioner Shelly Echols has seen the need firsthand. Her family relies on using cellular hotspots for internet access at their home in Alto. The hotspots aren’t always enough, especially when her daughter needs to get her homework done.

The Habersham County Commission will meet this week to discuss the proposed FY 2020 budget, according to AccessWDUN.

The Habersham County Commission will hold a called meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, to conduct public hearings on the proposed FY2020 budget and millage rate.

Commissioners have announced the need to increase the 2019 property taxes it will levy by 1.93% over the rollback millage rate.

The commission will hold a called meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, at the Habersham County Administration Building, 130 Jacob’s Way, Clarkesville. The purpose of the third reading of the 2019 millage rate and scheduled commission approval of the FY2020 budget and the 2019 millage rate.

Three candidates have announced for the Republican Primary for Floyd County Sheriff, according to the Rome News Tribune.

[Sheriff Tim] Burkhalter, who’s held the office since 2005, has said he won’t seek a fifth four-year term.

Qualifying isn’t until the first week of March 2020, but Tom Caldwell, Ronnie Kilgo and Dave Roberson have announced they’re running and have filed notices of intent to accept campaign contributions. The party primary election is April 20.

Hall County is receiving increased numbers of building permit applications, according to the Gainesville Times.

A surging economy has meant a significant uptick in building inspections, pressuring area governments to ensure residents are stepping into safe homes and businesses.

“Basically, what you want to do is make sure you grow (the department) slowly. If you (hire) because you have a busy year, then the next year things slow down, you wind up struggling to justify them.” [said Hall County's Lamar Carver.]

[T]he number of building permits in unincorporated Hall County has jumped over the years, going from 1,916 in 2012 to 3,292 in 2018.

The number of building inspections has soared, as well, increasing to 15,171 in 2018 from 8,056 in 2010.

Gainesville has three inspectors, adding the third one in the past year “because of our load,” said the city’s building official, Joe Davidson. “If we get overwhelmed between (city) budgets, we can get (Bureau Veritas) to help us. As of now, we’re able to handle our workload.”

In going through steps to approve its fiscal 2020 budget, Flowery Branch is taking into account its own response to growth.

The city is looking to add about $130,000 for contracted labor for building inspections and code enforcement, as the city has approved hundreds of homes and apartments since last year.

The Cherokee County Board of Education adopted a FY 2020 budget, according to the Cherokee Tribune Ledger News.

The budget, approved at last Thursday’s board meeting, includes a pay raise for teachers and other staff and reductions in classroom size with no change in the millage rate.

Three public hearings were held on the budget and millage rate, with no speakers signing up.

Local property tax revenue is projected to increase 5.3%, which allows the district to increase investments in employees without increasing taxes.

The $481 million general fund operating budget includes raises for certified and classified employees and higher salaries for starting teachers and some other positions. Part of the state’s budget this year includes a $3,000 raise for teachers, and the school district is using local funds to extend that increase to all certified employees. Classified employees will receive a 2% raise. CCSD’s starting teacher salary is increasing by $3,000, to $46,000, and salaries for specific positions, including police officers, are rising. Also included are longevity step increases for all eligible employees. The district reports 67% of spending is in the classroom, 27% is in student support, such as counselors and nurses, and 6% is in other operating costs.

A new initiative in the proposed budget is the creation of two new mental health counselor positions, who will work districtwide with students, specifically focusing on those in crisis.

Savannah‘s poverty rate is persistently higher than the national average, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah’s most recent rate of 24 percent living in poverty is slightly down from the pre-Recession number of 26 percent. But it’s still nearly double the national rate of 12.3 percent and 10 percent higher than the state level of 15 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Savannah has intergenerational poverty,” said Step Up Savannah Executive Director Jen Singeisen. “It’s not reflective of the way of the rest of the economy has bounced back . . We see better gains in other areas. If you look at the stock market — the stock market is at record highs. You see unemployment at historic lows and yet our poverty rate hasn’t moved that much.”

The percentage of Savannah’s population living below the poverty level was almost 27 percent in 2015 — up from almost 22 percent in 2000.

The increase occurred as the city invested $2.7 million in general funds in anti-poverty programs between 2011 and 2016, and another $1.1 million was spent supporting Step Up Savannah’s job training and anti-poverty initiatives, and $981,304 went toward various social service agencies.

“It’s not just one thing that creates poverty,” Singeisen said. “So it’s not just one thing that’s going to fix it. You have to wrap around those services and resources for individuals. They want to take care of themselves. They want to take care of their families and they want to live with dignity. But there are systems that make it really difficult.”

Cave Springs City Council will vote tomorrow on a FY 2020 budget and a revised alcohol ordinance, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Cave Spring operates on a fiscal year basis, with budgets covering periods from July 1 through June 30. The city’s operating expenses are offset by a 1-cent local option sales tax so residents are not assessed a municipal property tax.

Council members have been working on a comprehensive revision to the alcohol ordinance since voters approved liquor sales in February.

A first reading June 11 netted approval from all five members. Mayor Dennis Shoaf is on a leave of absence.

The ordinance also allows for liquor package sales outside a half-mile radius from the downtown district. But the biggest changes are provisions for innovative new business models such as craft breweries and micro-distilleries.

The Gainesville Times spoke with newly-elected Flowery Branch City Council member Ed Asbridge.

What started as a social gathering grew into an organized group, South Hall Republican Club, in 2011, with Asbridge as the founding president.

“It grew and grew, and that was really what got me very interested in politics and government in general,” including local issues, Asbridge said.

And that led eventually to him seeking and winning Flowery Branch City Council’s Post 2 seat in a special election Tuesday, June 18. He is scheduled to be sworn in Thursday, June 27.

Retired from J.C. Penney management, the 76-year-old Louisville, Ky., native talked — as he did during the campaign — about delaying an earlier desire to run for office because of his late wife’s illness. His wife of 56 years died in December after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Qualifying is set Aug. 19-21 for the seat’s four-year term beginning Jan. 1, with that election taking place Nov. 5. Asbridge said he plans to seek the four-year term.

Lisa Noel Babbage announced she will run in the Republican Primary for the 7th Congressional District being vacated by Rep. Rob Woodall, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Babbage’s Republican credentials include serving on the Gwinnett County Republican Party’s executive board and the Georgia GOP State Committee.

“She vows to keep the open seat being vacated by Congressman Rob Woodall in the ‘Republican camp,’ “ her campaign said in an announcement. “She further pledges to contribute a significant portion of her legislative salary back to small businesses and community programs in the seventh district.”

She is also an educator in DeKalb County and has received endorsements from National Black Pro Life Union and Babies Lives Matter.

Babbage is one of several Republicans that have jumped into the race to replace Woodall. The growing GOP field already included state Sen. Renee Unterman; Mark Gonsalves, Joe Profit; Ben Bullock, Richard Dean McCormick and Lynne Homrich.

Bulloch County Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Paul Webb will move to Bryan County Public Schools, according to the Statesboro Herald.

21
Jun

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

On June 23, 903 AD, the Icelandic Parliament, the Althing or Althingi, was established and is the world’s oldest.

In honor of the Icelandic Parliament, here’s the greatest Icelandic band ever, the Sugarcubes, playing at Auburn in 1988.

On June 22, 1633, Galileo Galilei recanted his published theory that stated the sun was the center of the world and the earth was not.

Georgia’s Trustees voted on June 22, 1737 to seek bids for building churches at Savannah and Frederica.

Georgia’s Royal Colony Seal was approved on June 21, 1754.

Georgia Colony Seal

Georgia Whigs voted on June 22, 1775 to join a boycott against British goods. That same day, the Continental Congress approved the issuance of $2 million in debt-backed currency.

Off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, British Commodore Sir Peter Parker spent June 23, 1776 preparing to land the next day, charged with supporting loyalists to the British crown.

The Constitution of the United States of America was ratified on June 21, 1788, when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify.

On September 17, 1787, after three months of debate moderated by convention president George Washington, the new U.S. constitution, which created a strong federal government with an intricate system of checks and balances, was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the convention. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states.

Beginning on December 7, five states–Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut–ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In February 1788, a compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. In June, Virginia ratified the Constitution, followed by New York in July.

On June 23, 1819, Texas declared its independence from Spain.

The donut was invented on June 22, 1847.

On June 23, 1862, General Robert E. Lee met with his commanders in preparation for what would be known as the Seven Days’ Battles.

The Battle of Kolb’s Farm was fought near Marietta, Georgia on June 22, 1864.

On June 23, 1865, Georgia-born Cherokee Stand Watie became the last Confederate general to surrender.

The United States Department of Justice was established on June 22, 1870.

On June 23, 1888, Frederick Douglass became the first African-American nominated for President, receiving one vote from Kentucky at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

On June 22, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill.

A lynch mob including members of the KKK killed three young civil rights activists who were trying to register African-Americans to vote near Meridian, Mississippi on June 21, 1964.

When Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, a young black man, were coming back from a trip to Philadelphia, Mississippi, deputy sheriff Cecil Price, who was also a Klan member, pulled them over for speeding. He then held them in custody while other KKK members prepared for their murder. Eventually released, the three activists were later chased down in their car and cornered in a secluded spot in the woods where they were shot and then buried in graves that had been prepared in advance.

When news of their disappearance got out, the FBI converged on Mississippi to investigate. With the help of an informant, agents learned about the Klan’s involvement and found the bodies. Since Mississippi refused to prosecute the assailants in state court, the federal government charged 18 men with conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney.

On June 23, 1969 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, Mrs. GaPundit was born. She would have turned 50 on Sunday.

On June 22, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon signed a law extending the 26th Amendment Right to Vote at age 18 to all federal, state, and local elections.

John W. Hinckley, Jr. was acquitted of attempted murder of President Ronald Reagan and others in the Presidential party by reason on insanity on June 21, 1982.

Former Atlanta mayor Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. died on June 23, 2003.

Voters in Sandy Springs approved the new city’s incorporation on June 21, 2005.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Carroll County voters will return to the polls on July 16, 2019 to vote in runoff elections for Chairman and District 4 and 5 Commissioners, according to the Star News Online.

From the Carroll County Board of Elections:

Runoff for County Chairman

Michelle Morgan

John Wilson

Runoff for Carroll County Commissioner District 4

Steve Fuller

Mark T Sullivan

Runoff for Carroll County Commissioner District 5

Ernest “Ernie” Reynolds

Jay Williford

Governor Brian Kemp told the Gwinnett Daily Post that his economic development trip to South Korea may benefit the county.

Kemp is leaving for South Korea on Saturday and is scheduled to return June 28. He will be joined by members of his administration, including representatives of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, as well as Georgia-based officials from Korean companies that already have a presence in the state.

“I think it’s certainly a good opportunity for Gwinnett and anybody that’s on the (Interstate) 85 corridor kind of coming out of Atlanta through Gwinnett, up through Jackson County and going north on 85,” Kemp said. “It’s a growing corridor, has been for years, and we’re going to continue to push that narrative to folks that these kind of jobs are good opportunities for them.”

The governor’s office had previously said he will meet with South Korean Prime Minister Nak-yon Lee and U.S. Ambassador to Korea Harry Harris as well as local officials in South Korea to discuss relations between the state and the Asian nation.

“We’ve got a jam-packed agenda,” the governor said. “I think we’ve got a dinner with a company Sunday night right after we arrive and then we meet from daylight until dark Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

“We’re meeting with a bunch of different companies over there, some of them are well known in Georgia like Kia and SK Innovations, which just did the big project (that’s) the largest foreign investment ever up in Jackson County.”

Governor Kemp’s Georgians First Commission visited Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

“The governor will tell you himself that we are not the No. 1 state for small business,” said [Scott] Hilton, director of the Georgians First Commission. “There is a lot we can do to promote what is really the backbone of the economy.”

The former commercial banker and state representative spoke Thursday during the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Member Economic Luncheon about Gov. Brian Kemp’s initiative to cut red tape, streamline government and promote small business.

The commission is tasked with making the state’s 81 different agencies provide a better “customer experience” to small business owners, entrepreneurs and the self-employed.

Part of the commission’s strategy will be creating a “one-stop” internet portal for people interested in starting or relocating a business, similar to websites used in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. Another will be implementing occupational license reciprocity for military spouses to keep them from having to get re-licensed when moving to Georgia.

As the “chief complaint officer” for small business, Hilton urged business owners and entrepreneurs to share their problems with state government through the agency’s website at georgiansfirst.georgia.gov.

A customer service experience survey conducted by McKinsey & Co. in 2016 showed state government earned a 6.2 with consumers on a scale of one to 10. Only the federal government, with a score of 5.6, was lower.

Gov. Kemp announced that the State of Georgia had sold $1.03 billion dollars in general obligation bonds.

Governor Brian P. Kemp announced the State of Georgia successfully sold $1.03 billion in three different series of general obligation bonds to fund new construction projects and equipment, make repairs and renovations to existing facilities, and refund outstanding bonds to achieve debt service savings.

“Georgia works diligently to maintain our coveted triple-A bond rating,” said Governor Kemp. “I am incredibly proud of our state’s fiscal responsibility efficient use of taxpayer resources. This successful sale allows us to continue to invest in vital infrastructure projects across the Peach State to support economic growth, provide job opportunities in the construction industry, and meet the future needs of our citizens.”

The largest amount of funding provides over $246 million for Board of Regents projects for the University System of Georgia. The second largest amount of funding provides for $199 million for local school systems’ K-12 and state schools projects. The Technical College System of Georgia will receive over $121 million for various projects located throughout the state.

“Providing state-of-the-art facilities and equipment for educating Georgia’s elementary, secondary, and higher education students is an important component of preparing children and young adults for future employment opportunities,” said Governor Kemp.

A State Senate Study Committee has been empaneled to consider defining crimes of moral turptitude that warrant stripping a convict of their voting rights until their sentence is completed, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Under existing state law, anyone convicted of a felony involving “moral turpitude” is barred from voting until they complete all of their sentence, including probation, parole and payment of all fines and fees. But the state has never defined the term and interprets it to mean any felony.

On Thursday, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan named Jones and three other senators to the committee and made Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Columbus, its chairman.

[State Senator Harold] Jones said the committee work will likely include eliminating “moral turpitude” and instead determining which crimes should disqualify people from voting while on probation or parole.

“I would think that crimes which involve life sentences would fit into that category,” he said. “Crimes which involve having to register on sex registry may also constitute such a crime that is so against the public good that such a person should not be able to vote while incarcerated, on probation or parole.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will move 350 jobs from Midtown Atlanta to Fort McPherson, according to the AJC.

The Glynn County Commission adopted a FY 2020 budget, according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County officially approved its budget for the next fiscal year Thursday, along with two new taxes.

As with the last two budgets, each expenditure in the fiscal year 2019-2020 budget is justified via its association with one or more of the six overarching categories the Glynn County Commission laid out in its strategic plan in 2017: “safe community,” “financially responsible government,” “exceptional customer service,” “planned and managed growth,” “great place to live” and “valued employees.”

The fiscal year 2019-2020 budget is slightly smaller than last year’s budget, mostly due to fewer large expenditures and an expected drop in property taxes from Brunswick city and Jekyll Island residents.

Prior to adopting the budget, the county commission passed two resolutions to impose two new taxes in the next fiscal year.

Both the Glynn County Police Department and EMS will draw the majority of their funding from individual tax rates. Most county residents won’t see a difference in their tax bills because the county’s maintenance and operations tax rate — from which the Glynn County government gets most of its money — will drop to compensate.

The Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission set fees and rates for the next year, according to The Brunswick News.

The utility’s rate resolution includes some new fees, but water and sewer rates will not change and some fees were reduced.

To avoid a rate increase, Administration Director Jay Sellers said the utility did have to make cuts. Most came out of the JWSC’s administration and operations divisions, he explained.

The rate resolution also introduced new permitting and inspection fees, a $5,000 fee charged to developers for unsolicited proposals and a decrease in the service disconnection fee from $135 to $75.

In the hopes of preventing service disconnections entirely, the new rate resolution offers customers a way to freeze late fees and to have past late fees forgiven starting July 1.

The Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce has joined the “Certified Military Friendly” program, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The program allows business to provide discounted service to active-duty service members, veterans and retirees as well as employment opportunities for military spouses.

Participation in the program allows businesses around Valdosta to show their support for military members in the community.

“Moody Air Force base is a big part of Valdosta and we want to see the service men, women and their families who move here to serve be well taken care of,” Sutton said. “Being a prior military family, we know what it is like to be new to the community and not know who to trust with our family and business. We feel the CMF program can provide businesses an opportunity to stand out and stand up to support our military community.”

The Gwinnett County Board of Education approved a one-time $300 salary adjustment for existing employees, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Members of the Gwinnett County Board of Education on Thursday unanimously approved a one-time salary adjustment payment of $300 to all active full-time, benefited employees in Gwinnett Count Public Schools who received a payroll check in May 2019.

The one-time adjustment is due to savings related to the employer contribution the district pays to the State Health Benefit Plan. GCPS superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks elected to pass that savings on to teachers.

The Gainesville City Council is supporting legislation by U.S. Representative Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) that give local municipalities a right to approve new post office relocations, according to AccessWDUN.

Dalton Public Schools Superintendent Tim Scott said he anticipates the Dalton Board of Education will approve a new contract for school resource officers, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Several Chatham County court officials asked the County Commission for additional funding, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham County Acting Chief Public Defender Todd Martin on Thursday told Chatham County commissioners in asking for one additional attorney that the caseload in his office is scary and dangerous.

Martin said he initially wanted to ask for three new attorneys, but after listening to presentations by Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap and Probate Judge Tom Bordeaux he would only ask for one.

“We’re in a crisis situation,” Martin said, adding that he has only held the top job for three weeks. “This has been coming for a long time. You should have been told.”

And he pointed out that when Heap asked for an additional assistant district attorney to allow her to speed up prosecutions, adding a prosecutor but no new public defendants was not going to move cases through the courts any faster.

Bordeaux asked for one position – a senior state attorney at an estimated coast of $103,034 including a $69,388 salary.

Wendy Williamson, who filled Burge’s position as chief clerk, characterized Birge’s time with the court as the “period of unaccountability” Birge fostered to conceal her activities.

She said the local court is underfunded compared to other Probate Court in Georgia counties and that the request would bring the local court in line with her sister courts.

And Heap told the commissioners she was asking for an assistant prosecutor and legal secretary to help deal with an increased case count and move cases through the courts more efficiently.

Savannah City Council heard public feedback on a proposed comprehensive rewrite of the zoning code, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Statesboro and Bulloch County agreed to a 10-year Service Delivery Strategy agreement that maintains the status quo, according to the Statesboro Herald.

20
Jun

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

On June 20, 1732, the signing of the Georgia Charter was completed by the British government.

On June 20, 1782, Congress adopted the Great Seal of the United States. Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, was responsible for the final design presented to Congress. The design approved by Congress was a written description without any sketches.

On June 20, 1819, the SS Savannah entered the port at Liverpool, England, marking the first transatlantic crossing by a steam-powered ship, having sailed out of Savannah on May 20th.

General Robert E. Lee moved on Union forces under General Ulysses S. Grant at Petersburg, Virginia on June 20, 1864.

Jaws was released on June 20, 1975.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A Savannah personal injury lawyer was bitten by a another shark, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds spoke about gang crime, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Contrary to what a lot of folks may believe, criminal street gang issues aren’t limited to urban areas; they’re in suburban areas, they’re in rural areas,” Reynolds said. “The Georgia Gang Investigators Association, GGIA, did a survey in the summer of 2018 — the soft numbers on that survey show about 71,000 validated gang members in our state, from north to south. What I’ve seen and given the fact that some law enforcement agencies did not respond, I’m convinced that those are soft numbers.”

“Just recently, GISAC, our information sharing analysis center, sent out a survey statewide to law enforcement agencies,” Reynolds said. “We sent it to 159 sheriffs — every sheriff’s department (in Georgia) — and we got 153 responses back. We sent it to over 560 police departments; we got about 510 responses back. We’re talking about 655 or so responses, and we asked them, ‘Tell us the number one issue, or the top issues facing you as law enforcement agencies.’ Around the state, regardless of the area — urban, suburban, rural — the number one issue facing them is criminal street gangs.”

“What I think has happened in the past, and I don’t mean just with the GBI but with law enforcement in general, is let’s say hypothetically, we respond to a homicide case and investigators get there. They tend to focus, as they should, on investigating and solving the homicide,” Reynolds said. “What we’ve done previously is even though there may be a gang connection, a gang nexus, law enforcement has tended to step over the gang charge and go directly to the underlying charge and predicate charge, whether it’s murder, armed robbery or drug trafficking, without pursuing that gang connection. That’s what we’re going to change … no longer will we step over that; we will investigate the gang connections, and if we can make the gang charges under the gang statute, we will do that.”

“As a society, we have to provide kids who are vulnerable, who are recruitable, who are at a point in their life where they could go street A or B, (the resources) to make sure they go down the correct street,” he said. “That’s a task that churches, community groups, civil organizations, schools are all involved in day in and day out. We need to do that as fellow human beings for the next generation.”

“But the truth is, sometimes people enter into gangs, they commit acts, and the only way to deal with it is with an aggressive, assertive law enforcement approach,” Reynolds continued. “That part of the equation I believe the Bureau can do (well).”

Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg will visit South Carolina this week, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

He will be the second presidential hopeful to visit the Augusta area ahead of South Carolina’s Feb. 29 Democratic presidential primary and Georgia’s March 24 primary. Last month, Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders spoke at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater in Augusta. Last week, actor and activist Danny Glover campaigned for Sanders in Aiken.

This weekend, 17 major Democratic hopefuls including Buttigieg and Sanders have confirmed they will appear at several South Carolina events, including the state Democratic convention Saturday in Columbia, according to the state party.

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

“We see children at 5 years old when they enter the public school system, but having a window to the brain from 0 to 5 can be so impactful,” Dempsey said Wednesday. “A million new neuron connections are formed every second in those early years.”

Dempsey, who’s spent several years as chair of the Georgia House Appropriations human resources subcommittee, said she was convinced of the need to look at help for pre-schoolers by a number of advocacy groups such as GEERS, the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students.

“It’s easy to focus on the end result, the increase in jail population, homelessness and other challenges that come later in life,” Dempsey said. “But with early intervention, the right diagnosis, and the proper treatment, some changes can be made. They can be redirected to a happy life.”

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter promoted Lisa Jones to Chief Assistant District Attorney, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioners are being challenged over their reasons for turning down some alcohol licenses, according to the Macon Telegraph.

One of the latest rejections came after a housing official asked commissioners to stop allowing alcohol to be sold at a convenience store near a public housing complex, partly because it was a “bad influence” on children.

In another case, some commissioners questioned allowing beer and wine to be sold at a movie theater, again citing the presence of children.

After a denial, business owners have two options: appeal the decision in hopes that commissioners change their minds, or file a lawsuit.

[A]n attorney for AmStar 16, Mindy Thompson, referenced a letter by the sheriff’s office that said there have not been reoccurring problems at the theater that should prevent it from getting the license.

She argued the county is breaking law by not allowing the license. The presence of children is not a legally sound argument, she said, especially when businesses that cater to the under-21 crowd like Chuck E. Cheese’s and Pin Strikes bowling alley have alcoholic beverage licenses.

“The denial of AmStar’s application would be an equal protection violation,” she said. The U.S. Constitution’s 14th amendment guarantees equal protection under the law.

“I think AmStar has shown they have the law on their side,” Commissioner Joe Allen said. “I’ve learned something myself, that with the sheriff giving his approval, with the engineer giving his approval, we cannot deny anyone a license based on certain issues that our heart feels. We’ve got to go by what the law says.”

The transgender former Byron fire chief is demanding reinstatement, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The city fired [Rachel] Mosby on June 4 citing failing job performance, but her attorney charged that the action was discriminatory based on her gender identity.

Mosby was assigned male at birth and has transitioned and identifies as a female, her attorney said. She came out to fellow employees in late 2017 and informed her supervisors in early 2018 of her transition and gender identity.

“The reasons the city has cited for its termination of Chief Mosby are both inaccurate and wholly inadequate reasons,” said her attorney Kenneth E. Barton in the letter. “The chief has served the city and its citizens for over 12 years and her performance has been exemplary.”

However, Byron Mayor Pro Tem Michael Chidester, also an attorney, said Mosby was fired solely for her failing job performance that’s “been going down hill for over a year, if not closer to two.”

The letter to council, which was provided to The Telegraph by Barton, asks that the city reinstate Mosby within two days of receipt of the letter. The letter also serves as a notice of claim for a possible lawsuit.

Byron City Attorney Thomas F. Richardson declined comment on the letter.

The Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education adopted a $633 million dollar FY 2020 budget, according to the Savannah Morning News.

After a public hearing that drew five more Chatham County residents, most of whom who urged the board to reconsider adopting the 18.881 millage rate, the Savannah-Chatham County school board Wednesday adopted a $632.6 million budget and voted to maintain the millage rate.

With the 18.881 millage rate expected to generate more revenue from new and appreciated property values, the adopted fiscal 2020 budget provides a larger reserve fund, while trimming about $2 million from general maintenance and operations through cuts in staff and equipment. Eight of the nine board members voted for the $632.6 million budget and the 18.881 millage rate in two separate actions. Board member Julie Wade of District 1 was absent.

As the public hearing and special-called board meeting, the discussion about whether the 18.881 millage rate amounted to a tax increase continued. State law requires three public hearings when the school board is considering a tax increase. Budget director Paige Cooley said the 18.881 millage rate is considered a tax increase despite the fact the board also adopted an 18.881 rate a year ago, because the value of the tax digest is expected to rise.

Many homeowners with the Stephens-Day exemption will see an increase in the schools portion of their property tax bill even if their property value stays the same because an amount related to the Consumer Price Index is added each year, Conley said.

School board president Joe Buck said the larger budget provides the $1,000 the school district needs to cover costs related to a $3,000 raise for certified teachers that Gov. Brian Kemp campaigned on and signed into law as part of the fiscal 2020 appropriations bill.

“What the public does not understand sometimes is, in order to give the $3,000, there’s about an additional thousand dollars per person in benefits and fringe that’s coming out of the school district,” Buck said.

“We are indeed giving the $3,000, but we are also paying the extra.”

Rome City Commission is expected to adopt a budget and millage rate, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“When we reviewed the school budget there was no millage rate increase proposed, and there’s none for the city,” said Commissioner Randy Quick, who chairs the board’s finance committee.

Commissioners have set three dates for public hearings before they adopt what they expect to be a rate of 27.536 mills. That’s equal to a levy of $1,377 on a home valued at $125,000, less any exemptions.

The board will take comments at its regular 6 p.m. meeting on July 8; at 10 a.m. July 18; and again at its regular 6 p.m. meeting July 22. Adoption is scheduled for the July 22 session.

City Clerk Joe Smith said the three public hearings are required because the total value of property in the city has risen and will bring in more revenue. Under state law that’s considered a tax increase, although only those whose assessments have gone up will pay more.

The Glynn County Commission will consider the FY 2020 budget at its meeting today, according to The Brunswick News.

The upcoming year’s budget is slightly smaller than the current year’s budget. Most of the difference comes down to fewer large expenditures and a drop in taxes from the city of Brunswick and Jekyll Island, interim Chief Financial Officer Tamara Munson told The News during an interview in late May. Five funds will be balanced using their respective reserve balances, including the Glynn County Fire Department’s fund in the amount of $616,456, the building inspection fund in the amount of $239,621 and the solid waste fund in the amount of $386,288.

Along with the budget, the commission will consider approving two resolutions to establish police and EMS tax districts.

With the city of Brunswick no longer paying a tax to support the county police department, the county plans to fund the police department primarily with its own dedicated tax. The county will lower its maintenance and operations tax — its primary source of revenue — to compensate.

Because Brunswick and Jekyll Island will be exempt from both taxes, the two districts will see a drop in taxes starting in July.

The Elbert County Board of Education adopted a $30.5 million dollar FY 2020 budget, according to the Elberton Star.

The Elbert County school board approved a $30,477,073 fiscal year 2019-2020 general fund budget Monday night after a budget process that began when Georgia Governor Brian Kemp proposed a state budget back in January.

“The budget development process for the 2019-2020 school year was set into motion over six months ago, even before the governor proposed his state budget,” Elbert County School Superintendent Chuck Bell said at the board meeting.

“We had a big increase in federal and state funds that went toward $1.4 million in pay increases for certified staff,” said School Board Chairman Ben Baker. “There were no increases in the local budget that would have an impact on property taxes.”

The Glynn County Board of Education was named an Exemplary School Board by the Georgia School Boards Association, according to The Brunswick News.

Tybee Island hosted its Fourth Annual Juneteenth Wade-In, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Congratulations and condolences to Conrad Puryear, who was elected to a full four-year term on the Murray County Board of Education, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Puryear, who has been serving on the school board since April when he was appointed by the other board members, received 398 votes (59.58%) to 270 votes (40.42%) for Joshua Abernathy, according to the elections office.

Last year, Mitchell Wilson, a Republican who was appointed to the seat when Frank Lloyd resigned, was the only person to qualify for the seat for the November 2018 election from either party, but Wilson moved out of the district and could no longer serve on the board. Ray Ingle was appointed to fill the rest of that term that ended on Dec. 31. And because of the timing of Wilson’s resignation, it was too late to get new candidates for the November 2018 election, so a special election had to be held. Ingle was then appointed to serve until the special election. Qualifying was held for a March 19 special election for Republican candidates since no Democrat had originally qualified, but no one qualified then. Qualifying was held again, and Abernathy and Puryear qualified for Tuesday’s special election.

19
Jun

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

The Georgia Whig Party held its first convention on June 19, 1843 in Milledgeville and elected ten delegates to the 1844 National Convention.

The first Republican National Convention, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ended on June 19, 1856.

The Republicans, who called for the abolition of slavery in all U.S. territories, rapidly gained supporters in the North, and in 1856 their first presidential candidate, John Fremont, won 11 of the 16 Northern states. By 1860, the majority of Southern states were publicly threatening secession if a Republican won the presidency.

The Civil War firmly identified the Republican Party as the official party of the victorious North. After the war, the Republican-dominated Congress forced a radical Reconstruction policy on the South, which saw the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, abolishing slavery and granting voting rights to African American men in the South. By 1876, the Republican Party had lost control of the South, but it continued to dominate the presidency, with a few intermissions, until the ascendance of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.

On June 19, 1864, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston retreated from Pine Mountain and Lost Mountain toward Marietta. Click here to watch a two-minute video by Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Atlanta History Center about this week in Georgia in 1864.

On the same day, USS Kearsarge sank CSS Alabama off the coast of Cherbourg, France in one of the most-celebrated naval battles of the Civil War.

Under its captain, Raphael Semmes, the Alabama prowled the world for three years, capturing U.S. commercial ships. It sailed around the globe, usually working out of the West Indies, but taking prizes and bungling Union shipping in the Caribbean, off Newfoundland, and around the coast of South America. In January 1863, Semmes sunk a Union warship, the Hatteras, after luring it out of Galveston, Texas.

During its career, the Alabama captured 66 ships and was hunted by more than 20 Federal warships.

Shortly after the battle between Alabama and Kearsarge, Edouard Manet painted the scene from newspaper accounts. The painting hangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where I viewed it late last month.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek) announced that the 2020 Presidential Preference Primary will be held on March 24.

From the AJC:

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office confirmed the timing Wednesday but had no further comment. County elections supervisors said they received a bulletin that also said early voting would start March 2 and end March 20.

Raffensperger’s office told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week the state was holding off on deciding a date for the 2020 primary until the government completes its $150 million purchase of new statewide voting equipment, likely in July. It’s not immediately clear why the timeline changed.

The March 24 date means that the presidential primary won’t take place until after many other states have already weighed in, potentially diminishing Georgia’s relevance in deciding each party’s candidate.

The later date is a departure from recent policy. The Georgia primary was held on Super Tuesday — the first Tuesday in March — in each of the past two presidential election years. Then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp orchestrated an “SEC primary” on that date with other Southern states in 2016.

The timing was a relief for elections officials. Nancy Boren, the chief elections official in Muscogee County, said she was already expecting a primary sometime in the first quarter of next year but said she needed an exact date to finish her planning.

“Having the date is great – we can start setting the dates for early voting and absentee ballot mailings,” said Boren. “We can now complete all those things we normally do in preparation for an election.”

Kemp Tweet Hunter Airfield

Governor Brian Kemp greeted troops returning from Afghanistan in Savannah on Monday, according to WSAV.

Dozens of troops from the Georgia National Guard 48th Brigade returned from Afghanistan Monday morning. The group flew into Savannah, but they are based out of Macon.

Gov. Kemp tweeted a video of him welcoming soldiers and said he was honored to be there.

Governor Kemp has also made a number of judicial appointments in recent days.

Appointing DeKalb County State Court Judge Stacey Hydrick to Superior Court

Appointing DeKalb County State Court Judge Shondeana Morris to Superior Court

Appointing Troup County Solicitor General Nina Markette Baker to Coweta Superior Court

Appointing Tadia Whitner to Gwinnett County Superior Court

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Tadia Whitner, who has worked for the juvenile court since Oct. 2016, her LinkedIn profile says, was named to the new position on Tuesday.

“After serving our country as a captain in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard, Tadia Whitner brought invaluable leadership and legal expertise to her work as a prosecutor, private attorney and judge for municipal and juvenile court,” Kemp said. “Now, I am honored to appoint her to the Gwinnett Judicial Circuit Superior Court where I am confident that she will govern her courtroom with the utmost integrity and impartiality.”

Whitner graduated from Howard University, where she received both her bachelor’s and law degree, then served as an attorney and earned the rank of captain in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard.

Following her military service, Whitner prosecuted cases for the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Justice and then the Florida Office of the Attorney General, then represented clients through the Savannah Office of the Public Defender. She also served as a staff attorney for the Chatham County Juvenile Court.

The AJC looks at Gov. Kemp’s appointments:

The first Hispanic to serve as a state constitutional officer in Georgia history. The first African American woman to work as Cobb County’s top prosecutor. The first woman to sit on the superior court bench in a stretch of west Georgia counties.

In the five months since he took office, Gov. Brian Kemp has tapped a diverse group to fill some of the state’s highest-profile openings.

“Governor Kemp seems to be focused on qualifications and not so much on ideology,” said former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears, who was the nation’s first African American woman to preside over a state Supreme Court.

It’s “refreshing in this day and age because, as you know, judges aren’t supposed to be politicians and district attorneys aren’t supposed to prosecute based on political considerations,” she added.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis found that Kemp selected women for about half of the roughly 80 appointments he has made to state boards and criminal justice posts since January. About a quarter of those appointees are minorities, mostly African American officials. At least three are LGBTQ.

Two of the new female jurists — Shondeana Morris, who is black, and Stacey Hydrick, who is Jewish — were tapped for open seats on the bench in heavily Democratic DeKalb. And Markette Baker is the first woman to ever sit on the Superior Court in the Coweta Judicial Circuit, a five-county span in west Georgia.

The Chatham County Board of Elections is considering some changes to polling locations, according to WSAV.

New precincts may soon bring relief to people in Pooler who stood in crazy long lines during the Georgia governor’s race. Also, some Savannah college students could be able to vote on campus.

“We don’t want a repeat of the lines that occurred in the polling places last year, and we certainly don’t want the voters to have to stand in line for two or three hours,” Bridges said.

Bridges says Pooler has had three voting locations for about the last 10 years, but with more people moving into the city, the number of people voting in each precinct is increasing too. Bridges proposed, and City Council is considering adding two more ahead of November’s municipal election.

“These actions are essentially to add new voting locations to spread those voters out and to do it in a logical plan that can balance the distribution of the voters and to absorb the growth that’s still ahead of Pooler,” he said.

Someone please alert Governor Stacey Abrams so she can file a federal lawsuit over this attempt to suppress votes.

The Gwinnett County Board of Elections is having difficulty hiring a new director, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Gwinnett County Board of Registrations and Elections recently reposted the job for a second time with a higher pay range to attract more candidates. That netted a few more applications, but the board is still struggling to find someone.

“Basically (since) we’re getting new applications, we’re kind of at ground zero again so we’ll have to start all over again,” board chairman John Mangano said.

The latest posting included a possible salary range in the neighborhood of roughly about $75,000 to $85,000, Ledford said.

“It’s not (going) as well as I would have liked, and I’m not sure why,” Mangano said. “I don’t know if it’s the size of the county. I don’t know if it’s just the job itself. I don’t know if it’s because we’re heading into a big presidential election.”

Coastal Georgia Republicans gathered in Savannah for a watch party celebrating President Trump’s reelection announcement, according to WSAV.

Around 200 members of the Republican Party in Chatham County and around Savannah gathered at the Coach’s Corner to watch the announcement on television. Organizers told us a little about why small events like these mean so much in national elections.

“I actually worked for the Trump campaign back in 2015 and ’16 for Donald Trump, and I know most people in town that support Trump. I have never recognized these names before, so it’s really exciting to bring new folks together,” said Republican watch party organizer, Jeanne Seaver.

Several groups helped host the watch party, including the Chatham County Republican Party, Savannah Area Republican Women, Savannah Young Republicans, and the Skidaway Island Republican Club.

“We love our president. He is loyal to us. We are loyal to him, and we are going to go out there and fight and do whatever we can because we believe he’s what is best for America’s future,” Seaver said.

Gwinnett County Commissioners are considering whether and to what extent to roll back the property tax millage rate, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Due to a projected 7.3% increase in the county’s tax digest, property owners in Gwinnett County could see the part of their tax bill devoted to funding county government either stay roughly the same this year — or they could see an increase.

It all depends on what county commissioners decide to do.

The county’s finance staff presented information on the preliminary county tax digest as well as options for the millage rate Tuesday. Commissioners could opt to go for the rollback rate of 6.876 mills in an attempt to keep tax income at as close to a revenue neutral level as possible.

On the other hand, they could instead opt to stick with last year’s millage rate of 7.209 mills, which would net an additional $11 million in revenues but be legally considered a tax hike.

“The reason why that 6.876 is important is that if it’s anything higher than that, we have to advertise that as a tax increase,” Gwinnett County Deputy Financial Services Director Buffy Alexulian said.

The Augusta Commission voted to sign a contract with Gold Cross EMS to provide ambulance services, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Bulloch County seniors asked for property tax relief in the form of a school tax exemption, according to the Statesboro Herald.

After spending an hour Tuesday morning hearing senior citizens talk about school tax exemptions, Bulloch County commissioners approved a FY 2020 budget that includes a small millage rollback.

“We will have at least a half-mil rollback, to compensate for property taxes going up,” said Bulloch County Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson. “We saw a way to be able to do this and that and roll it back, hoping this will please people.”

More than 100 people, including state Rep. Jan Tankersley and Sen. Jack Hill, filled the commission meeting room Tuesday and stood in the hallway as well, listening to several residents talk about the need for allowing senior citizens an exemption from paying the portion of property taxes that go to the Bulloch County Board of Education.

Although it is the Bulloch County school board that would be responsible for sending a resolution to the state government seeking approval of a local referendum for the exemption, commissioners listened to several senior citizens express their feelings.

Residents who spoke about the suggested school tax exemption listed several reasons for the exemption, including people struggling to survive on fixed incomes and people with no children or whose children graduated decades ago who still have to pay the school tax.

The Savannah Morning News looks at why school board property taxes rise faster than county operations taxes.

Many homeowners believe the Stephens-Day homestead exemption specific to Chatham County freezes their property’s value, but the schools version of the Stephens-Day allows for an annual increase to the schools portion of the tax bill, said Roderick Conley, chief appraiser for Chatham County.

The Consumer Price Index determines the amount of the annual adjustment in the Stephens-Day exemption for the schools portion. This index is not applied to the county portion of the tax bill.

“It creates an adjustment to that base year and it compounds every year,” said Carol Osborne, supervisor of homesteads and transfers.

Chatham County homeowners age 62 or older who qualify for a regular homestead exemption can apply for the Senior School Tax Exemption, Osborne said. They will be asked to provide their most recent income tax forms or Social Security and pension statements. The state provides the amount of the exclusion, Osborne said. In 2018, it was $68,664. “We haven’t been given that number from the state yet,” she said.

If after the $68,664 is excluded, the homeowner’s annual net household income is $25,000 or less, the homeowner should qualify for the Senior School Tax Exemption, which provides a $30,000 reduction to the property’s assessed value. “Whatever is left over is taxable,” Osborne said. “Unless their assessed value is $30,000 or less, they’ll have a liability.”

Lenn Wood has been elected as the new Coweta County Sheriff, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Lenn Wood defeated three opponents – with 74.6 percent of the vote – to hold onto the sheriff’s post on Tuesday night.

Wood went into the race as the incumbent, but also as someone who had not been elected to the post. The vote was required because of the retirement of Mike Yeager, the longtime sheriff who was appointed as a federal marshal by Pres. Donald Trump.

Wood, who had been Yeager’s chief deputy, became sheriff – taking the oath on March 1.

Final results were posted on the Coweta County website about 8:40 p.m. Wood had 7,559 votes to 1,466 for James “Jimmy” Callaway, 931 for Randolph Collins and 171 for Doug Jordan.

Ed Asbridge was elected to Flowery Branch City Council and Patrick Ledford was elected to the Mount Airy City Council, according to AccessWDUN.

Macon-Bibb County and Columbus were awarded Georgia Smart Communities Challenge Grants by Georgia Tech, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Columbus program will focus on improving safety in the Uptown district, while the Macon program’s goal is to provide better access to government resources in underserved communities, officials said.

In both cities, the public will get free access to beefed-up Wi-Fi networks in certain areas.

Macon and Columbus will provide a local match of $25,000 to go along with the $50,000 grant. A Georgia Tech researcher and other experts will work with the local communities on the projects that will run for one year beginning in September.

A South Georgia farmer was chosen to provide cotton for a special Georgia version of Wrangler jeans, according to the Albany Herald.

Leary farm McLendon Acres is among those in five states chosen by Wrangler for a signature line of locally grown and manufactured jeans.

The Wrangler Rooted collection is a “limited, premium line made from 100 percent sustainable, locally sourced cotton,” the company said.

The South Georgia farm selected to represent Georgia, among states that also include Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, has made protecting the farm environment a priority, said Adam McLendon.

“We started planting a sustainable-type cotton several years ago, and through Stoneville got in touch with Wrangler,” McLendon said, referring to Stoneville cottonseed. “They (Wrangler) were interested in promoting and purchasing a sustainable crop. We kind of got into communication then, and one thing led to another.”

The McLendons and the four other family farms that are supplying cotton to the Rooted Collection are the original growers in the Wrangler science and conservation program, which advocates for land stewardship and best practices for soil health, the company said. These science-backed methods build crop resilience to weather disruptions while improving yield, reducing water and energy inputs, fighting erosion and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Georgia Jean has a unique wash, as well as trim and patch details featuring the state’s silhouette and other embellishments. Additionally, the denim fabric was made in Trion, by Mount Vernon Mills. The collection also includes two Georgia T-shirt designs.

The Wrangler Rooted Collection initially will be available through Wrangler.com and participating retailers. Jeans will retail for approximately $100, with T-shirts priced from $30 each.

18
Jun

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

British forces under General Sir Henry Clinton left Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 18, 1778 after occupying the former capital for nine months.

On June 18, 1807, commissioners from Georgia and North Carolina agreed to recognize the 35th parallel as the boundary between the two states. North Carolina conducted a survey that placed the boundary further South than the 35th parallel, though Georgia never accepted the survey and continues to argue that the 35th is the proper boundary against both North Carolina and Tennessee.

As of today, the dispute with Tennessee continues.

The War of 1812 began on June 18, 1812, as President James Madison signed a declaration of war against Great Britain passed by the House and Senate.

On June 18, 1873, Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for illegally voting in Rochester, New York. At the conclusion of her trial, the judge read a statement that, “The Fourteenth Amendment gives no right to a woman to vote, and the voting by Miss Anthony was in violation of the law,” and directed the jury to convict her. Anthony responded,

“Yes, your honor, I have many things to say; for in your ordered verdict of guilty, you have trampled underfoot every vital principle of our government,” Anthony said. “My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored. Robbed of the fundamental privilege of citizenship, I am degraded from the status of a citizen to that of a subject; and not only myself individually, but all of my sex, are, by your honor’s verdict, doomed to political subjection under this, so-called, form of government.”

The Southern Railway Company was organized on June 18, 1894 and through predecessor railroads traces its heritage to the nation’s first regularly-scheduled railroad service, The Best Friend of Charleston. Samuel Spencer, of Columbus, Georgia, was the first President of the Southern. In the 1980s, the Southern merged with Norfolk & Western Railway to form Norfolk Southern.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Donald Trump will kick off his reelection campaign tonight. Check with your local GOP organizations for watch parties.

Coweta County Trump Rally Watch Party

Women for Trump and Paulding GOP Watch Party

Buckhead Young Republicans Panel and Watch Party

Democrat Joe Biden put down a marker on his ability to win Georgia in the 2020 Presidential election, according to CBS News.

Joe Biden believes that if he’s the Democratic nominee, he’ll win the South. Though in the past, some Democrats have contemplated skipping over the South, where it’s been notoriously difficult for a Democrat to win, the former vice president claimed that wouldn’t be his strategy.

“I plan on campaigning in the South,” Biden said at the Moral Action Congress of the Poor People’s Campaign, in Washington, D.C. Monday. “I plan on, if I’m your nominee, winning Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, believe it or not, and I believe we can win Texas and Florida, if you look at the polling data now.”

Leaked polls from Trump campaign pollsters suggest that Biden leads Trump in Georgia, according to the AJC.

Less attention was paid to the fact that in that leaked poll data, which Trump campaign officials say is outdated, Trump trailed Biden by 8 points in North Carolina and 6 points in Georgia.

With the exceptions of 1976 (Jimmy Carter) and 1992 (Bill Clinton), Republicans have had a lock on the South since the Civil Rights era in the 1960s.

Trump won North Carolina in 2016 with 50.5% of the vote. He took Georgia by 51.3%.

But both states have large urban populations, and equally large suburbs, where Republican support among college-educated women diminished sharply in the 2018 mid-terms.

President Trump will kick off his 2020 re-election bid on Tuesday with a rally in Florida.

Voters in Coweta County will choose a new Sheriff today, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Four men are vying to serve as Coweta County’s sheriff for a year, and voters will make their decisions today.

Many Cowetans have already voted early or cast an absentee ballot. The candidates for sheriff are Jimmy Callaway, Randolph Collins, Doug Jordan and Lenn Wood. All have participated in forums in recent weeks.

Wood has been serving as sheriff since March 1. He succeeded Mike Yeager, the longtime sheriff who retired after his appointment as a U.S. marshal.

All precincts in the county will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

Murray County voters will choose a new school board member in a special election today, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Murray County residents will decide on Tuesday who will fill a four-year term in the District 5 seat on the Board of Education.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Mitchell Wilson moved out of the district last year and could no longer serve on the board. Board members named Ray Ingle to serve the remainder of that term, which ended on Dec. 31, then reappointed Ingle to serve in the seat until a special election could be held to fill a full, four-year term on the board. That special election was to have been held on March 19, but no one qualified. When that election didn’t take place, board members appointed Conrad Puryear, who is running in Tuesday’s special election, to the District 5 seat. The Board of Elections called another special election for Tuesday.

Joshua Abernathy and Puryear, both Republicans, qualified for this special election, which is nonpartisan.

Governor Brian Kemp asked that former U.S. Attorney and Congressman Bob Barr be added to a shortlist for appointment to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, according to the Daily Report.

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr is Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s likely pick to fill a position opening July 1 on the state’s judicial watchdog commission, according to two State Bar of Georgia officials.

Barr—a former U.S. attorney and the Libertarian Party’s 2008 presidential nominee—was added at the request of Kemp’s staff to a list of lawyers the bar recommended to replace Athens attorney Edward Tolley on the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. Kemp’s request to add Barr was confirmed by Ken Hodges—now a judge on the state Court of Appeals—and Dentons partner Edward Lindsey, chairman of the bar’s JQC nominations committee.

State law governing JQC appointments gives the governor authority to appoint one lawyer to the commission’s investigative panel, which reviews allegations of potential judicial misconduct and brings ethics charges when warranted. The governor also appoints a citizen member to the JQC’s three-person judicial panel.

Lindsey said members of the governor’s staff “asked for us to vet [Barr], and we did, along with the others.”

Lindsey said his committee unanimously agreed to forward a list of six lawyers, including Barr, to the state bar’s board of governors for approval. Hodges said the board unanimously approved the list and then forwarded it to Kemp.

Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter filed a federal lawsuit seeking $5 million dollars from the county, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

In a new lawsuit filed in federal district court last week, Hunter’s attorney, Dwight Thomas, asserted Hunter’s Facebook comments — in which the commissioner called U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a “rascist pig” — constituted “political speech” and was therefore protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Hunter’s colleagues on the commission issued a written reprimand against him following a months-long ethics investigation and hearing process.

“The defendant, Gwinnett County, acquiesces in sanctions, the reprimand and chilling of First Amendment political speech that does not, and never will, constitute any ‘clear and present danger,’” Thomas wrote in the lawsuit.

In addition to $5 million in general and special damages, Hunter also wants the reprimand rescinded, attorneys fees, unspecified punitive damages and unspecified compensatory damages for “lost income, costs associated and humiliation, emotional distress, inconvenience and loss of economic opportunities caused by the defendants actions and statements.”

Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash declined a request Monday to comment on Hunter’s latest lawsuit.

Forsyth County Commissioners are considering a novel approach to issuing Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) bonds, according to AccessWDUN.

County Manager Eric Johnson recommended the transition as a best practices move advised by financial advisors Davenport and Company but District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent expressed concerns.

He said, “The fact that we’ve got a AAA bond rating when we can get a better rate on these markets when people are bidding direct with what they charge us on bond a lot of it rests back on we have AAA rating with two of the biggest companies out there.”

Johnson … called the competitive sale method the best practices, which allows any broker-dealer or dealer bank to bid on them.

Previously, the bonds were sold via a negotiated sale, meaning the underwriter bought them first before selling them off.

Gainesville Board of Education adopted a $75 million dollar FY 2020 budget with a full rollback of the millage rate, according to the Gainesville Times.

The board held two public meetings before casting the final vote on the budget and a millage rate of 6.614.

That figure is a full rollback of the tax rate, down from 6.85, to account for increases in revenue from property tax reassessments.

The tax rate was 7.48 mills just five years ago, but it has decreased as residential and commercial growth expands throughout the city.

From AccessWDUN:

The board unanimously approved the millage rate and the budget at their meeting Monday night, following the second and final public hearing for the budget.

“We’re looking to go into our reserves slightly, but the great part about all of it is that we’re able to bring forth a budget that allows us to roll the millage rate all the way back to 6.614, the first time in a number of years we’ve been able to do that,” said Superintendent Jeremy Williams, adding that he was proud of the hard work Chief Financial Officer Kathy Pethel and the finance department did to make the budget and millage rate a success.

The budget includes 4% raises for classified staff, a $3,000 legislative pay increase for teachers, and some new buses.

The Floyd County Board of Education adopted a partial rollback millage rate, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The county schools board of education met Monday morning where they recognized retiring personnel, approved the fiscal year 2020 budget and rolled back the county millage rate by .05%.

A millage rate is the rate per $1000 of property value and is used to calculate local property taxes. Rates vary by property value.

The board lowered the rated .05% last year as well making the rate 18.3% for 2018. The proposed rate of 18.25% will receive two public hearings.

The board finalized the FY 20 budget which is posted on their website at https://www.floydboe.net. The budget includes a $3,000 raise for certified employees and a 2% raise for classified employees.

Warner Robins City Council voted to double the salary for council members, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The council voted 3-1 to raise its annual salary from $5,000 to $10,000.

Councilman Tim Thomas cast the only opposing vote, while council members Daron Lee, Clifford Holmes and Larry Curtis voted for it.

Councilwoman Carolyn Robbins, who has been battling health issues, was absent, as well as Councilman Keith Lauritsen. Mayor Randy Toms said after the meeting that Lauritsen was recovering from dental surgery.

Holmes was the leading proponent of the increase. He said the council had not had an increase in 22 years and that council members in many smaller cities in the state make more money. The Macon-Bibb commissioners, who preside over a population of approximately 152,000 people, make $15,000 annually. The population of Warner Robins is about 75,000.

Grantville City Council adopted a new policy on travel, according to the Newnan Times Herald.

Grantville city officials will have to get approval from the city council to travel at city expense, effective July 1, no matter what type of event they will be attending.

The council made the decision at its last meeting, 3 to 1. Councilmembers Jim Sells, Alan Wacaser and Mark King voted in favor of the change. Councilwoman Ruby Hines was against it. Mayor Doug Jewell was also against it.

Sells had the issue placed on the agenda and said citizens should be informed when they’re footing the bill and that the travel policy has been abused.

Derik Minard was sworn in as the new Savannah Fire Chief, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Questions surround language used to describe the Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education’s proposed property tax millage rate, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Several Savannah-area residents say the information the school district has posted to its website on the millage rate is inconsistent and inaccurate.

A large headline at the top of the school system’s homepage says, “Budget Millage Rate to Remain Unchanged,” while the notice of a public meeting scheduled for Wednesday says, “Public Hearing #3 — Proposed Millage Rate Increase.”

So which is it? The answer depends on whether you are considering the rollback rate to be the school system’s millage rate or if you are comparing the proposed millage rate with the millage rate this time a year ago for the school’s fiscal 2019 budget. Citizen Paul Giguere said he was confused by an ad the school board placed in the newspaper that said, “This tentative increase will result in a millage rate of 18.881 mills, which is no increase in mills.”

The school board’s public notice, published June 5, states the 18.881 millage rate is expected to provide a 5.35% increase in net tax revenue. It set a rollback rate of 18.284. The previous rollback rate was 16.323.

A year ago, the school board adopted a millage rate of 18.881 mills, up 15.67% from the rollback rate of 16.323 and an increase of 13.5% from the previous rate of 16.631 mills. A mill is a rate per $1,000 in property value, but the local assessor deducts a proportion from a property’s valuation to determine the value used. Exemptions also might apply to reduce the value multiplied by the millage rate. Many exemptions vary by county and special exemptions apply to some qualified homeowners but not others.

The Dougherty County Commission discussed developments in the proposed FY 2020 budget, according to the Albany Herald.

The commission is expected to vote on the budget at its meeting scheduled for next week.

The United States Department of Energy awarded grants to five organizations to train Augusta’s workforce, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration in the U.S. Department of Energy, was surrounded by the heads of the five institutions – Augusta and Aiken technical colleges, Augusta University and the University of South Carolina’s Aiken and Salkehatchie campuses – along with two U.S. congressmen and numerous other officials when she made the announcement Monday at Aiken Tech.

“As many of you know, our mission at Savannah River Site will be growing, not decreasing,” Gordon-Hagerty said. “The Department of Energy and NNSA are committed to this partnership and helping sustain the great work being done.”

The grant doubles the current annual funding for a regional nuclear careers program administered by the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization, which since 2016 has received $1 million per year to coordinate programs across the institutions, the NNSA said in a news release.

17
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 17, 2019

On June 17, 1759, Sir Francis Drake claimed California for England.

On June 17, 1775, British forces under General William Howe engaged American colonists at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

On June 17, some 2,200 British forces under the command of Major General William Howe (1729-1814) and Brigadier General Robert Pigot (1720-96) landed on the Charlestown Peninsula then marched to Breed’s Hill. As the British advanced in columns against the Americans, Prescott, in an effort to conserve the Americans’ limited supply of ammunition, reportedly told his men, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” When the Redcoats were within several dozen yards, the Americans let loose with a lethal barrage of musket fire, throwing the British into retreat.

After re-forming their lines, the British attacked again, with much the same result. Prescott’s men were now low on ammunition, though, and when the Redcoats went up the hill for a third time, they reached the redoubts and engaged the Americans in hand-to-hand combat. The outnumbered Americans were forced to retreat. However, by the end of the engagement, the Patriots’ gunfire had cut down some 1,000 enemy troops, with more than 200 killed and more than 800 wounded. More than 100 Americans perished, while more than 300 others were wounded.

A distant ancestor of mine, John Logue, fought with the Americans at Bunker Hill, though he was not yet an enlisted soldier.

President Andrew Johnson appointed John Johnson (no relation) provisional Governor of Georgia after the Civil War on June 17, 1865; John Johnson had opposed secession.

France announced its intention to surrender to Germany on June 17, 1940.

Five men were arrested for burglary of the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate office and apartment complex in Washington, DC on June 17, 1972.

The affair began with the arrest of five men for breaking and entering into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate complex on June 17, 1972. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) connected cash found on the burglars to a slush fund used by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, the official organization of Nixon’s campaign.

In July 1973, as evidence mounted against the president’s staff, including testimony provided by former staff members in an investigation conducted by the Senate Watergate Committee, it was revealed that President Nixon had a tape-recording system in his offices and he had recorded many conversations.

After a protracted series of bitter court battles, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the president had to hand over the tapes to government investigators; he ultimately complied.

Recordings from these tapes implicated the president, revealing he had attempted to cover up the questionable goings-on that had taken place after the break-in.

Facing near-certain impeachment in the House of Representatives and equally certain conviction by the Senate, Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974. His successor, Gerald Ford, then issued a pardon to him on September 8, 1974.

Newton Leroy Gingrich was born on June 17, 1943 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Gingrich graduated from college at Emory University, where he founded the Emory College Republicans. Gingrich’s congressional papers are collected in the the Georgia’s Political Heritage Program at West Georgia College, where he taught before being elected to Congress. Also at West Georgia are the papers of former Congressmen Bob Barr, Mac Collins, and Pat Swindall, along with a near-perfect replica of Georgia Speaker Tom Murphy’s office.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The AJC reports that the 2020 Presidential Preference Primary date has not yet been set because the state has not yet implemented new voting machines.

Georgia election officials won’t set the state’s presidential primary election date until new voting machines are in place.

The delay raised concerns from some county election directors who said they might have to move polling places if churches and other facilities get booked before an election date is announced.

The uncertain timing also creates the possibility that the presidential primary won’t take place until after many other states have already weighed in, potentially diminishing Georgia’s relevance in deciding each party’s candidate. The Georgia primary was held on Super Tuesday — the first Tuesday in March — in each of the past two presidential election years.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is holding off on deciding a date for the 2020 primary until the government completes its $150 million purchase of new statewide voting equipment, likely in July.

U.S. Representative Rob Woodall (R-Gwinnett) said he hasn’t read the Mueller Report, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“I have not,” Woodall said. “I said when we started this conversation that I trusted Mr. Mueller. He took a lot of slings and arrows, but every U.S. attorney I knew said this is a man of great integrity … I have a concern when you put the entire power of the United State Justice Department behind anything. You can achieve an agenda. You can drive a message.”

“Volume II says after we’ve done 200 pages of research in Volume I, to say absolutely no conspiracy took place between the Trump administration and the Russian government, then Volume II goes to all the efforts they believe might have been involved to cover up the crime that never existed to begin with,” Woodall said.

The Association of County Commissioners of Georgia named Gwinnett County Commission Chair Charlotte Nash a County Leader of Distinction, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Rome News Tribune looks at some legislation that takes effect July 1, 2019.

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, sponsored the bill creating the Georgia Data Analytic Center. It will be a warehouse of information on people receiving state services.

Currently, the information is collected and housed separately by the various agencies. The GDAC will merge that data, which can be used to track trends, zero in on efficiencies and provide an overall picture to assist in policy-making.

Rep. Eddie Lumsden’s bill to extend the weapons permit renewal time for active duty military serving overseas becomes law July 1.

The Armuchee Republican also helped private nonprofit volunteer fire departments who are called to fires by people who don’t chip in for the service. They’ll be able to take out liens against non-subscribers to recoup their cost.

Brunswick and Glynn County elected officials will hear from a representative of the Census Bureau, according to The Brunswick News.

The Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission and the Glynn County Elections Board are disupting a $35k bill for the 2016 runoff election, according to The Brunswick News.

“Joint water and sewer had an existing legislation on how they appoint members to the board. You have members appointed and elected positions. Initially, the (races for) elected positions were to be held in November elections,” former Elections and Registration Supervisor Tina Edwards said. “When state legislation pushed (non-partisan races) to the primary, JWSC submitted a new bill to mirror the state legislation.”

After the bill’s passage, the JWSC would hold its elections during primaries instead of general elections, and its runoffs would coincide with local primary runoffs, which the county pays for.

However, then-Gov. Nathan Deal didn’t sign the bill until nearly a day before the deadline to get new candidates on the primary ballot, Brunson said.

As a result, the utility held its 2016 race during the general election that year. Because no other local races went to a runoff, the utility’s race was the only one on the ballot. Because of that, the JWSC received a $35,000 bill to pay for poll worker labor, absentee ballot postage and rental fees, security and office supplies for polling places, among other things.

Bulloch County Commissioners are expected to adopt a FY 2020 budget, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Bulloch County commissioners are preparing to approve the fiscal year 2020 budget following a second public hearing during the upcoming commission meeting on Tuesday.

While the general millage rate will remain unchanged, the county will discuss a proposal to raise the millage rate for the rural fire district, which excludes the city of Statesboro and its surrounding five-mile district, which are taxed separately.

The Bulloch County Board of Education‘s new sex ed curriculum will discuss gender identity, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Bulloch County’s school system is rolling out a sex education curriculum that – in its second year, 2020-21 – will include gender identity and sexual orientation among lessons for ninth grade and in 2021-22 expand this to seventh and eighth grades.

The annual 10-day units of lessons during health and physical education classes in middle and high schools will address topics from the facts of the female and male reproductive systems in sixth and seventh grades to birth control methods in eighth and ninth grades. But abstinence is to be emphasized at every grade level, and sexual assault and violence prevention lessons are part of the curriculum for grades 7, 8 and 9.

“Because our teachers are new to teaching sex ed – not all of them but mainly our middle-grades teachers are new to teaching sex ed – we wanted to roll out the sex ed curriculum without gender identity and sexual orientation lessons the first year, because we felt like we wanted them to get comfortable with teaching the material,” Sarratt said.

Some Bulloch County seniors are asking for a property tax exemption, according to the Statesboro Herald.

A group of concerned senior citizens seeking exemption from local school taxes plan to attend Tuesday’s Bulloch County Commission meeting at 8:30 a.m. in the Bulloch County Annex.

Sen. Jack Hill, who said he was invited by area residents, also plans to attend the meeting and “listen to what my constituents have to say.”

A percentage of county taxes paid by property owners goes to the local school board. Some senior citizens are asking to be exempt from paying those taxes, as they do not have children in the school system.

And, in order to accomplish such an exemption, a local governing body would have to request it by resolution, and a state representative would have to introduce a bill in the state legislature, Scott said.

“The citizens would have to talk to the school board,” who would have to make the request to the legislature, he said. Then if it is approved by the school board, it would go to the governor to be signed, and returned back to the county for a referendum for voters to decide.

Bibb County and Houston County Boards of Education were recognized as 2019 Exemplary Boards by the Georgia School Board Association, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Savannah will unveil a new zoning ordinance this week, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The first public hearing on Savannah’s long-awaited new zoning ordinance will be held at the 2 p.m. June 20 city council meeting.

“Our zoning ordinance has never been overhauled to reflect the numerous changes that have occurred in the last 50 years,” said Bridget Lidy, director of Planning and Urban Design. “This proposal will simplify our zoning code and provide much needed updates to parcels of land that have seen their use change as Savannah has grown.”

Flowery Branch voters will choose a new City Council member on Tuesday, according to the Gainesville Times.

Voting will take place 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at City Hall, 5410 W. Pine St. Early voting ended Friday, June 14.

Ed Asbridge, Missy Brooks and Chip McCallum are vying for the office vacated in December 2019 by Mary Jones, who died May 2.

The winner will serve out Jones’ term, which ends Dec. 31.

Kesha Gibson Carter announced she will run for an at-large Board of Aldermen seat, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources will hold hearings on regulations governing live-aboard vessels, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The new regulations are required after state lawmakers passed House Bill 201 regarding so called “live-aboards,” vessels on which boaters stay overnight or longer. The law authorizes the Board of Natural Resources to establish an anchorage permit and to establish where vessels can anchor.

Boaters and people who live along estuaries may want to weigh in, said Karl Burgess, assistant director of the DNR’s Coastal Resources Division. Comments can be made at a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. June 17 in Brunswick or in writing.

“The first thing the department will have to determine is where anchorage areas can be or maybe where they shouldn’t be,” he said. Burgess predicted that the likely outcome will be exclusion zones that prohibit anchoring within a certain distance of features such as docks or developed shorelines.

While the legislation was supported by the Georgia Wildlife Federation and Georgia Conservancy, the Georgia Marine Boaters Association has concerns it outlined in a two-page statement it prepared to submit to the DNR.

It suggests that attended boats anchoring for less than 60 days shouldn’t be required to get a permit. GAMBA also “would not object” to a monthly anchorage fee of $40 or less with a 50 percent discount for seniors, military and veterans. The association requests that all coastal waterways be open to anchoring with specific restrictions it lists, including shellfish beds, navigation channels, and within 150 feet of marine infrastructure, including marinas, permanent moorings, boat yards, or other vessel launching or loading facilities.