Category: Georgia Politics

26
Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

From the Brunswick News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25
Apr

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

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

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

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

Click here for the text of the bill.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From WSB-TV:

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

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

Trump won Georgia in 2016.

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

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

Trump blamed congressional Democrats.

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

From the AJC:

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Georgia Public Broadcasting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Associated Press:

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the AJC:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 From 13-WMAZ:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24
Apr

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

23
Apr

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

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

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

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

New Coke was announced on April 23, 1985.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From AccessWDUN:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22
Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former President Richard Nixon died on April 22, 1994.

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where do you see cyber security today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19
Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18
Apr

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

On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere and William Dawes mounted up on horseback to warn of British troops on their way to confiscate American arms and to warn patriots Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who the British sought to capture.

By 1775, tensions between the American colonies and the British government had approached the breaking point, especially in Massachusetts, where Patriot leaders formed a shadow revolutionary government and trained militias to prepare for armed conflict with the British troops occupying Boston. In the spring of 1775, General Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, received instructions from Great Britain to seize all stores of weapons and gunpowder accessible to the American insurgents. On April 18, he ordered British troops to march against Concord and Lexington.

The Boston Patriots had been preparing for such a British military action for some time, and, upon learning of the British plan, Revere and Dawes set off across the Massachusetts countryside. They took separate routes in case one of them was captured….

About 5 a.m. on April 19, 700 British troops under Major John Pitcairn arrived at the town to find a 77-man-strong colonial militia under Captain John Parker waiting for them on Lexington’s common green. Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation, the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, the “shot heard around the world” was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead and 10 others were wounded; only one British soldier was injured. The American Revolution had begun.

President William H. Taft learned on April 18, 1912 of the death of his military aide, Major Archibald Butts of Augusta, Georgia on RMS Titanic.

The honeybee was recognized as the official state insect of Georgia on April 18, 1975.

On April 18, 2006, Governor Sonny Perdue signed legislation establishing February 6 of each year as “Ronald Reagan Day” in Georgia and celebrating the date of President Reagan’s birth.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania will be in Atlanta to attend the 8th annual Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday signed House Bill 324, which will allow limited in-state cultivation and processing of medical marijuana, according to ABC News.

Current state law allows people with 16 specific conditions, including cancer, seizure disorders and Parkinsons disease, to possess cannabis oil with less than 5 percent THC, the chemical that gets users high.

Kemps spokesman, Cody Hall, said the law takes effect July 1.

It grants up to six growing licenses to private companies — two for larger organizations and four for smaller organizations. It also gives pharmacies priority for distributing the drug, but allows a state commission to seek out independent retail locations if it determines there is a need. The commission can also attempt to legally obtain the oil from other states. Two universities will be allowed to seek federal approval to research and produce the oil.

The Republican-controlled legislature approved the measure despite objection from many Georgia sheriffs, who absolutely do not support allowing so many private producers to grow marijuana to produce the oil, said Terry Norris, executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs Association.

From the Macon Telegraph:

It also gives state permission to grow and manufacture medical cannabis to two colleges: Fort Valley State University and the University of Georgia. The schools also may apply for federal licenses to become medical marijuana research schools.

It is unclear what the new law could mean for Fort Valley State University. Asked whether the school would pursue plans to grow cannabis, university spokeswoman Teresa Southern said, “at this time we have no comment regarding this matter.”

A University of Georgia spokesman referred comment to the University System of Georgia. Jen Ryan, spokeswoman for the system, said it is “reviewing the legislation and will work closely with the governor’s office, our institutions and other stakeholders regarding implementation of the law.”

Kemp called the new law a “carefully balanced” measure, saying it would expand access for patients in need without opening the door to recreational drug use.

From the AJC:

While medical marijuana sales are now legal, that doesn’t mean they’ll start anytime soon. It will likely take well over a year before state-sanctioned medical marijuana oil reaches the hands of patients.

The state government still needs to appoint members of an oversight board, create regulations and license up to six private companies to grow medical marijuana. Then seeds will have to be planted and harvested, and the government will have to approve dispensaries to sell the product.

At least three companies hired lobbyists to push the bill during this year’s legislative session.

It’s still illegal in Georgia to smoke or vape marijuana. Only marijuana oil with less than 5% THC, the compound that gives pot its high, is allowed.

“Now the hard work starts,” said Allen Peake, a former state representative from Macon who led the effort to legalize medical marijuana. “The implementation of the bill is crucial to making sure we get the process done efficiently and quickly, and get medicine to families as soon as possible.”

Governor Kemp is expected to sign three bills today against human trafficking, according to the AJC.

The first measure, House Bill 281, increases penalties for those convicted of pimping or pandering. A first offense would increase jail time from 24 hours to three days, a second offense would now be a felony and allow a judge to sentence up to 10 years in prison upon a conviction.

A second, Senate Bill 158, gives the state new powers to provide emergency care for a child victim of human trafficking without a court order or the consent of a parent or legal guardian, and bars authorities from prosecuting them for prostitution if they are under 18 years old.

And the third, House Bill 424, broadens the definition of criminal gang activity to include sex trafficking, giving authorities new powers to seek penalties.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr joined a multistate effort urging the EPA and US Army Corps of Engineers to adopt new “Waters of the United States” rules, according to the Albany Herald.

“Our office has been leading litigation to prevent the implementation of the 2015 WOTUS rule for almost four years,” Carr said. “That rule would have given the federal government jurisdiction to implement complex federal mandates over state natural resources, including roadside ditches, streams and many other areas.”

“That’s unacceptable, and Georgia is proud to be at the forefront of these efforts to stand up for our farmers and landowners.”

“The new rule also respects the primary responsibility and right of states to protect their own water resources,” a news release from Carr’s office said.

In addition to this joint effort, Georgia currently leads litigation challenging the 2015 rule on behalf of an 11-state coalition. Last June, that coalition secured a preliminary injunction to block its implementation.

Congressman Austin Scott (R-Tifton) toured the Lowndes Advocacy Resource Center in Valdosta, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

LARC, an agency that serves individuals with disabilities, works to improve the quality of life of each person they serve, according to the agency’s website.

Based on the client’s choice, LARC provides support on the job, at home or at various sites in the community. Support and training are designed to enable people to experience success and pleasure in life.

“We’re down here with the Lowndes Advocacy Resource Center, seeing their facilities and meeting with their clients. It’s a wonderful organization and doing a lot to help people,” Scott said. “We have a lot of people out there with developmental disabilities, and certainly, we want to find ways to help them. It’s been a great opportunity to visit with them and see this operation.”

“We need to make it easier for people like this resource center to provide those services,” Scott said. “The people who work here have value and take pride in their work, and I think it is a wonderful mission.”

“The main thing you need to do is listen to them,” Scott said. “They are able to tell us where the rules and regulations are coming from and what the threats to them are.”

New locomotives producing lower emissions were rolled-out in Macon, according to the Macon Telegraph.

New locomotives at Macon’s giant Brosnan Yard rail hub have big implications for health and jobs in Middle Georgia and Robins Air Force Base.

The yard received its first Eco locomotive about a year ago, replacing decades-old engines that towed freight cars around the yard tracks. The yard now has six Eco locomotives with lower pollution emission, plus three “slugs” used to provide weight for traction.

The program cost $10 million, said Mark Duve, manager of locomotive engineering for Norfolk Southern. Federal and state funds secured by the Middle Georgia Clean Air Coalition accounted for $6.3 million.

According to a release, the EPA estimates that in the first six months of operation the Eco locomotives reduced particulate matter emissions by a rate of 3.44 tons annually, while nitrogen oxides were reduced by 100 tons. Particulate matter and nitrogen oxides are associated with smog and acid rain.

Augusta, GA and North Augusta, SC, appear to be preparing for a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the water level of the Savannah River, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The cities of Augusta and North Augusta appear to be laying the groundwork for a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over a proposed plan to remove New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam in favor of a rock weir fish passage, according to the joint comments filed by those cities.

The public comment period ended Tuesday afternoon on the Corps’ recommended plan for the lock and dam and the cities submitted a 32-page “Legal Comments” that lays out a number of arguments against the plan and how they believe the Corps violated federal law and its own policies and procedures in formulating that recommendation. Chief among them is that the recommended plan does not adhere to the relevant section of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016 that the Corps is proceeding under.

“It is inappropriate, illegal and patently unfair to place such a significant impact on the Augusta region simply to permit benefits to another region,” they said.

Mayor Pro Tem Sean Frantom alluded to a potential need to file a lawsuit during an address Wednesday to the CSRA Home Connections Networking Breakfast, adding “I think we have some legal standing. As a region we are very concerned about it.”

He alluded to support for the cities’ position offered last week by Gov. Brian Kemp, and the city and Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis are working on setting up a further meeting with Kemp. But the city is also hopeful that the public comments and the arguments the cities put forward will convince the Corps to be more open to negotiation.

Floyd County Commissioners are moving toward placing a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation (T-SPLOST) on the ballot, according to the Rome News Tribune.

A transportation special purpose local option sales tax for individual counties has been allowed under state law since July 2017. Only communities that already impose a regular SPLOST may add a TSPLOST.

“Let the voters decide,” Commission Chair Scotty Hancock said, following a lengthy discussion at the board’s planning retreat held at the training room of FM Global Emergency Response Consultants in Coosa.

The issue is expected to be presented to members of the SPLOST Citizen Advisory Committees tonight, as part of an update on projects in the 2013 and 2017 packages.

The county’s parameters appear to mirror the standards Rome city commissioners backed during their informal discussion earlier this month: The TSPLOST would be for a short period and for a specific set of projects.

Hall County is now home to 200,000 residents, according to the Gainesville Times.

Savannah is considering dropping prices for parking in some downtown areas, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Dredging at Jekyll Creek has begun, according to The Brunswick News.

The plan, announced several weeks ago, is to take around 3 percent of the dredged material and spray it in thin layers over a nearby marsh in order to, hopefully, find a beneficial reuse for it. A pipeline extends from the Dredge Rockbridge, initially above the water, then submerged, and it comes back out of the water further north along the marsh bank.

“It’s going to come to a nozzle, and it sprays — it rainbows — in the air, and then as they’re doing that, at different points of time this week, they’re going to move it around to different places,” said Tyler Jones, communications specialist with CRD. “So, they’ll be between 3 inches and up to a foot in sediment that will be deposited here, and they should be done with that by Sunday.”

Three candidates qualified for a special election for Flowery Branch City Council, according to WDUN.

17
Apr

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

The Trustees of the Georgia colony learned on April 17, 1737 that Spain had 4000 soliders and two warships in Havana, Cuba and was planning on invading Georgia or South Carolina. Thus began the rivalry between then-Spanish occupied Florida and Georgia. Floridians would have to wait until after the 1873 invention of blue jeans by Levi Strauss to develop their modern uniform of jean shorts.

On April 17, 1944, a fifteen-year old Martin Luther King, Jr., a junior at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, traveled to Dublin, Georgia to give a speech in a contest sponsored by the local black Elks club. During the bus ride to Dublin, King and his teacher had to give up their seats to white riders and stand for much of the ride. King won the contest, delivering his oration, “The Negro and the Constitution.”

On April 17, 1950, the United States Supreme Court dismissed South v. Peters, a complaint against Georgia’s County Unit System of elections.

Each county is allotted a number of unit votes, ranging from six for the eight most populous counties, to two for most of the counties. The candidate who receives the highest popular vote in the county is awarded the appropriate number of unit votes. Appellants, residents of the most populous county in the State, contend that their votes and those of all other voters in that county have on the average but one-tenth the weight of those in the other counties. Urging that this amounts to an unconstitutional discrimination against them, appellants brought this suit to restrain adherence to the statute in the forthcoming Democratic Party primary for United States Senator, Governor and other state offices. The court below dismissed appellants’ petition. We affirm.

On April 17, 1964, the Ford Mustang debuted at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. The world has been a better, if somewhat louder, place ever since.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former State House Majority Leader Larry Walker has written a new book about his region of Georgia, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Walker, a lifelong Perry resident who served 32 years in the General Assembly, is author of “Tales From Georgia’s Gnat Line.” The gnat line, he explains, is an imaginary line that runs from Columbus to just south of Macon, to Augusta. Below it, he says, gnats are abundant.

But he offers another, and possibly more important, explanation from a fellow state representative, Marcus Collins. Collins, a south Georgia farmer, in the 1970s kept complaining “We never get any money south of the gnat line.” State Rep. Joe Frank Harris, who would go on the become governor, finally heard enough.

“One day, in an exasperated tone, Appropriations Committee chairman Joe Frank responded ‘Exactly where is this gnat line?’” Walker recalls in the book. “Marcus retorted in his deep southern drawl, ‘Well, it’s that line below which we never get any money.’”

The Perry Area and Chamber of Commerce and The Perry Arts Commission will hold a book signing for Walker Thursday from 5-7:30 p.m. at the Perry Arts Center at 1121 Macon Road. The book will be available for $30, and is also available at Amazon. The book is published by Mercer University Press.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) spoke to the White County Rotary Club, according to the Gainesville Times.

On Tuesday, Georgia’s 9th District Congressman Doug Collins told the White County Rotary Club the investigations have pretty well dominated this year’s congressional session.

“The Mueller report is already out – we’ve already got the findings,” Collins said. “The full report coming out Thursday is going to say the same thing that the summary said.”

Collins told the group he sees Congress working on meaningful legislation the remainder of the year.

“The presidential cycle has already started,” Collins noted. “It seems like everything is viewed through a political lens, so we are going to focus on things we think we can get done – hopefully, infrastructure, hopefully, work on immigration doing the things that can get done and then we’ll have to live through the rest of the political cycle.”

The Brunswick News looks at the most recent campaign disclosure reports.

2018 1st Congressional District Democratic nominee Lisa Ring already announced she would seek the nomination again to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter. She lost in November by 15.4 points — a difference of 38,799 votes out of 250,683 cast — but in doing so notched a generationally high performance for a Democrat in that district. By taking 42.3 percent of the vote, Ring topped the percentage by every Democratic nominee going back to 1992.

However, as with 2018, Carter comes into this election cycle with a decided edge. The Cook Political Report shows the 1st District with a nine-point GOP advantage. That’s not a closed door — a Democrat represents the 6th District, which has a eight-point GOP lean, and Dems have their eyes on the 7th District, which has a nine-point lean.

The campaign lost money according to its end-of-year disclosure and first quarter 2019 disclosure, ending March with more than $1.123 million on hand. That’s mostly because of refunds and a significant amount of continued spending in relation to money raised. Ultimately, from the post-election report through the first quarter of this year, are $251,241 in contributions, taking into account $9,950 in refunds in the year-end report.

On the consulting front, Carter spent $129,668 with Kansas City, Mo., firm Axiom Strategies, $50,059.38 with D.C. firm High Cotton Consulting, $18,739.51 with The Lukens Company of Virginia, $16,878.48 with Monroe Marketing of Savannah, and $13,500 with McLaughlin & Associates of New York.

In getting things started for her 2020 run, Ring gave $5,500 to her campaign in the last two reporting periods, and ended March with $24,558.59 on hand. Her post-election report showed one contribution for $25 from Glynn County, four for $379 from Camden, and three for $118 from out-of-state. However, it also didn’t list a location for 19 contributions.

From the AJC:

All told, candidates for Georgia’s two most competitive U.S. House seats raised more than $1.5 million over the past three months. And U.S. Sen. David Perdue, up for another term in 2020, tallied nearly $2 million in what’s expected to be the most expensive Senate race in state history.

One of the most watched reports came from U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, who is both the newest member of Georgia’s congressional delegation and its most vulnerable. She raised more than $481,000 during the first three months of the year, a formidable sum for this stage in the election cycle.

Former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, who announced her comeback bid late last month, raised nearly $240,000 in about a week. That includes donations from groups affiliated with U.S. House Republican allies, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Her Republican opponent in the 6th District race, state Sen. Brandon Beach, said he’ll report about $125,000 in contributions — largely from a pair of fundraisers he held during the legislative session. Georgia law prohibits state officials from raising cash during the session, but not federal candidates.

Next door in the 7th Congressional District, three Democratic candidates combined to raise about $500,000. But this is but the opening salvo: No high-profile Republican has entered the race yet, and more Democrats could also join the contest.

Democratic State Senator Freddie Powell Sims (D-Albany) has taken issue with a fellow Democrat over legislation, according to the Albany Herald.

Sims and other Democratic state legislators were part of a study committee last summer that looked into the financial issues that confront the state’s historically black colleges and universities: Albany State, Fort Valley State and Savannah State universities. The committee put together its findings for use in a resolution, a legislative tool used to urge action.

Senate Bill 273, a measure that calls for the creation of a Georgia Agricultural and Mechanical University System that would, in essence, make Albany State, Fort Valley and Savannah State separate entities from the University System of Georgia. The newly named colleges (Albany A&M, Fort Valley A&M and Savannah A&M) would be governed by a 19-member board comprising 11 members appointed by the governor, one member each appointed by the presiding officer of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, and two members each appointed by the board of trustees of each institution.

“When I saw that there was indeed a bill, not a resolution, I was incensed,” Sims said. “Every person on the study committee went to an HBCU, and we could not believe (Savannah state Sen.) Lester Jackson went behind our backs and did this. There’s no way any of us would have signed onto this bill without discussing it, but he put our names on the bill.”

“Lester and I have been friends for years; we’re suitemates at the Capitol,” Sims said. “For him to betray the trust I and others on the committee had with him is just unspeakable. I’m still having to struggle to manage the anger I feel.”

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved tuition rates that are up 2.5%, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The increase, which takes effect starting this fall, will support professional advising, supplemental instruction and data analysis with a goal of improving student outcomes. It’s also expected to help retain workers and will cover the university’s portion of the 2 percent merit increase for workers contained in House Bill 31. Without it, Georgia Southern University would be expected to pick up about 25 percent of the merit increase to cover benefits.

The Board of Regents held tuition flat for two of the past three years, and over the past five years, tuition increased about 1.7 percent total. Graduate tuition is expected to remain flat with the current year at Georgia Southern and Savannah State, though it will rise at some University System of Georgia schools.

The Regents said 92 percent of student fees across the University System of Georgia will remain unchanged.

The Regents also agreed to update the minimum freshman admission requirements.

Effective this month, the minimum SAT scores for freshman are 480 for evidence-based reading and writing and 440 for math. The evidence-based reading and writing section is new but not expected to affect admissions. “Based on all data presented, [it] will lead to admission for the same students with the similar outcomes once enrolled,” said Amy Smith, associate vice president and division of enrollment management at Georgia Southern University. Georgia Southern requires at least a 1030 SAT total for admission on top of the other minimums.

Voters in Atlanta Board of Education District 2 will fill a vacancy on the board in a September 17, 2019 special election, according to the AJC.

Gwinnett County will continue accepting applications for a new elections supervisor after Lynn Ledford announced she will take a new job. From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

After some debate Tuesday night — which was the deadline for hopefuls to send in their applications for the position — the Gwinnett County Board of Registrations and Elections opted to continue taking applications. The application window had been open for three weeks although news that a search was taking place did not surface until last week.

[Elections Board Chair John] Mangano said 42 people have applied for the position. That is twice the number of applicants that he told the Daily Post had applied as of late last week.

A new nonprofit will provide housing and services for human trafficking victims, according to The Brunswick News.

Hall County is moving forward with SPLOST VII, a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax expected to be on the ballot in November, according to the Gainesville Times.

A Georgia Tech economist has projected revenues for SPLOST VIII, which could go to voters as a referendum on Nov. 5, at $232 million, Propes said.

But officials have trimmed that amount to $216.9 million “because we wanted to be conservative,” [Hall County Financial Services Director Zach Propes] added.

The SPLOST is 1 percent on items also subject to state sales tax. If SPLOST VIII is approved, it would be in effect July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2026.

Propes said that in May “we’ll begin the process of involving community groups, such as the (Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce), and beginning to educate everyone on what is the SPLOST VIII program.”

Columbus City Council will consider allowing horse-drawn carriages in uptown Columbus, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The ordinance has been requested by District 1 Councilor Jerry “Pops” Barnes, and two businesses have approached the city in the hopes of being able to provide rides for a fee on Broadway, Front Avenue and Bay Avenue.

According to the draft ordinance, the horses and carriages would only operate on Broadway between 4th Street and 13th Street, on Front Avenue between 6th Street and 14th Street and on Bay Avenue between 9th Street and 12th Street.

A public hearing was held last July about the same issue, and more of the people there were against the idea than those who were proponents, said Ross Horner, president of Uptown Columbus.

“Our board has not taken a position on this,” Horner said. “I don’t know if they actually would, they haven’t come up against it. They just kind of wanted to see it play out and see how the public felt as well.”

Mark Barber signed a contract as City Manager for Valdosta after a year on the job, according to the Valdosta Daily News.

Gainesville and the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission will work together to apply for a grant to renovate the Olympic rowing venue, according to the Gainesville Times.

Three candidates qualified for an open seat on Flowery Branch City Council, according to AccessWDUN.

Flowery Branch City Clerk Melissa McCain confirmed Ed Asbridge and Chip McCallum qualified on Monday, April 15 for the post left vacant by the resignation of Mary Jones in December. Melissa Brooks filed her qualifying paperwork on Tuesday, April 16.

The qualifying period for the special election runs through 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

16
Apr

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

April is the national month set aside to recognize Autism Awareness, Sexual Assault Awareness, and National Pecan Month. We are in the middle of National Library Week. April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day.

George Washington, recently elected President, left his Mount Vernon home on April 16, 1789 for his inauguration in New York.

“I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity; and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express.”

On April 16, 1865, Columbus, Georgia fell to Union forces. The Battle of Columbus is widely considered to be the last battle of the Civil War. Though it is not unanimously held to be, a 1935 Act of the Georgia General Assembly declared it the war’s last battle.

Hall of Famer Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians threw his first no-hitter on April 16, 1940 against the Chicago White Sox in Comiskey Park.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” on April 16, 1965. On April 16, 2006, a new, larger portrait of Dr. King was unveiled in the Georgia State Capitol.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson visited Augusta, Georgia on a campaign stop this week in 1964.

He came with Gov. Carl Sanders, an Augusta native, as well as U.S. Sen. Herman Talmadge, an influential state leader.

Johnson’s national election over Republican Barry Goldwater appeared certain, and a week later he would easily trounce the Arizona Republican.

Lyndon Johnson, however, would not carry Richmond County on Election Day 1964, and he probably got a hint of things to come during his speech before a crowd gathered in front of the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building.

He was heckled.

At least four times during a routine stump speech, calls from the crowd interrupted the former vice president who had taken office less than a year before with John Kennedy’s assassination.

“We want Barry!” people would shout.

Johnson didn’t carry The Peach State because he had become unpopular among whites in the Deep South for his civil rights initiatives, according to Merle Black, an Emory University professor who has spoken and written on Southern politics over the years.

Black recalled the Augusta incident in his 1992 book The Vital South: How Presidents Are Elected, which he wrote with Earl Black. He also described Johnson gaining the crowd’s support with the anecdote about his earlier abuse by hostile crowds.

“Earl Black and I wrote in The Vital South that, ‘There was no more booing from the young Goldwaterites after he finished his story,’” Merle Black wrote in an e-mail from Atlanta. “President Johnson’s leadership in passage of the civil rights bill was the main reason he lost Georgia that year.”

Thirty years ago this month “Say Anything” was released, marking the directorial debut of Cameron Crowe, who wrote “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and later directed “Singles.”

John Cusack, four years past playing a college freshman in The Sure Thing, plays graduating high school senior Lloyd Dobler. Ione Skye, three years after her debut in the very dark dramaRiver’s Edge, plays the brilliant and shy Diane Court. And John Mahoney, four years before he found sitcom immortality as Frasier Crane’s father Martin, plays Diane’s adoring and deeply flawed father, Jim. Writer and first-time director Cameron Crowe was best-known at the time for the screenplay for Fast Times at Ridgemont High — which is fondly remembered now as the launching pad for many respectable careers, but which Roger Ebert had called “a failure of taste, tone and nerve.”

Next month, John Cusack will appear for a Q&A and screening of “Say Anything” at the Savannah Civic Center.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Anne Ware Lewis, a long-time Republican election lawyer, has died, according to the AJC.

Georgia GOP Chairman John Watson said Lewis died late Sunday.

He praised her “unprecedented level of passion and leadership” as the state party’s longtime attorney.

“Her work as legal counsel was critical to the success of our party,” he said, “and Republicans across our state are devastated by her passing.”

“For decades, Anne Lewis used her passion, intellect and legal expertise to serve the Republican Party and advance the conservative movement,” said Kemp, now the governor. “Anne’s resilience — in the courtroom and in her battle against cancer — inspired countless Georgians.”

The Lewis family will receive friends 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at A.S. Turner & Sons Funeral Home in Decatur. A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Decatur. More information can be found here.

Voters in Atlanta City Council District 3 go to the polls today in a runoff, according to the AJC.

Governor Brian Kemp and GBI Director Vic Reynolds announced the appointment of Jaret Usher to lead a new anti-gang task force, according to GPB News.

The anti-gang task force is part of Kemp’s campaign pledge to “stop and dismantle criminal gangs,” and will be used as a tool to help local prosecutors build cases against alleged street gangs across Georgia.

Jaret Usher, a former Cobb County gang prosecutor, will lead it.

“We have the unique opportunity to go to every corner of this state,” Usher said. “We have the ability to collaborate with local, state and federal partners, share information, share knowledge and to combat the gangs as extensively as we need to and as extensively as they’re committing crimes.”

Kemp said that nearly every county in Georgia has reported gang activity, and said the task force will help law enforcement crack down on gangs and keep Georgians safe.

Governor Kemp will address Valdosta State University’s spring graduations, according to WTXL.

Governor Brian Kemp will deliver the keynote address during Valdosta State University’s Spring 2019 commencement ceremony.

More than 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students will be recognized during Valdosta State University’s 227th commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 10, and Saturday, May 11.

“We are delighted that the governor of this great state will be joining us as we recognize the outstanding efforts of our spring graduates and celebrate education as the foundation upon which success is built,” said Dr. Richard A. Carvajal, president of VSU. “As a self-made businessman and public servant, Governor Kemp’s message will inspire and empower our students as they head out into the workforce and navigate life’s ups and downs, while pursuing their personal and professional goals.”

United States Senator David Perdue (R-Sea Island) spoke about President Trump’s plan to ship illegal aliens to sanctuary cities, according to the AJC.

Perdue said Monday that Trump’s comments were aimed at spurring Congressional action to stem “an explosion at the borders and exploding illegal drug traffic” at the border with Mexico.

“I don’t understand why the cities are trying to stand against the federal law,” he said of local governments that adopted sanctuary policies. “What the president is saying is right – there is an absolute five-alarm crisis at the border. It’s not just human trafficking, it’s drug trafficking.”

In the interview, Perdue was asked if he still supports the policy if those detained immigrants were moved to Atlanta. He shifted his criticism to cities that ignore federal immigration policies, and brought up the death of Kate Steinle, who was killed by an undocumented immigrant in 2015.

“That’s the unconscionable thing that happens when these people think they’re doing the liberal thing – good people suffer for that,” Perdue said. “And that’s what I think most people want to end.”

State Rep. Timothy Barr (R-Lawrenceville) spoke about the journalism legislation he co-sponsored, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Ethics in Journalism Act was introduced by State Rep. Andy Welch, R-McDonough, on April 2, the last day of the legislative session this year. It won’t be available for lawmakers to consider until they return in January 2020. Media outlets have since reported that Welch has resigned.

Barr said the voluntary nature of accreditation addresses First Amendment concerns.

“We’re taking nobody’s First Amendment away. It’s completely voluntary. The board is made up of journalists,” he said.

Accreditation could be a “stamp of good housekeeping” for news organizations, particularly smaller blogs or websites, Barr said. The accreditation could be a way for news outlets to prove accountability in reporting, he said.

“Mostly this would be directed toward folks that wouldn’t have a big organization behind them,” Barr said. “I think it would be a good way for smaller organizations, smaller internet blog-type outlets to be able to get a stamp of approval such as, I keep referring back to, maybe a chamber of commerce.”

Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Suburbs) told the Rotary Club of Lawrenceville that he believe bipartisanship is still possible, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“The House is very partisanly divided but there are going to be lots of bipartisan opportunities,” Woodall said. “I’ve spent the last eight years generating bipartisan chips in the chip jar and working together to get things done (and) I’m going to use every one of those over the next 18 to 20 months to try and move the needle forward.”

The congressman said he sees some potential for bipartisanship in areas such as the reauthorization of the federal highway bill and a major infrastructure package that touches on transportation, water and Internet infrastructure. He also said he believes there are opportunities for bipartisan work in the House Education and Labor Committee.

A fourth area where Woodall believes there could be room for bipartisanship is the National Defense Authorization Act. He warned that is not a given, however.

“That’s going to be the really interesting one this year,” Woodall said. “The National Defense Authorization Act lays out our entire national security posture for the year. No matter who’s been in the White House, no matter who’s been leading Congress, we’ve passed it every single year for 50 years.”

Glynn County government agencies reported on projects funded by the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to The Brunswick News.

The Athens-Clarke County citizens committee on the SPLOST is working on a list of projects ahead of a projected November vote, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The commission, which has the final say on the project list, have already signaled that they intend to include several projects on the list — a $44.5 million affordable housing program, an $82 million “space modernization program” which is primarily for a new courthouse, and, if voters approve, $21 million in interest on money the government would borrow to get some of the projects going right away.

Commissioners have penciled in a November date for a vote on whether to extend the tax until collections reach about $248 million, or $278 million if the commission opts for a higher goal.

It would take about nine years to collect $248 million from the penny tax, and 10 years to reach $278 million, according to estimates. The 1 percent tax would not be a new tax, but an extension of the Special Local Option Sales Tax voters approved in a vote nearly a decade ago.

Now the citizen committee, appointed last year by commissioners and then-Mayor Nancy Denson, has asked commissioners to tell them which of the remaining 80-plus projects they favor, not as a group but with each commissioner indicating all the projects he or she would put on the final list.

Dalton Public Schools will spend $2 million dollars more without raising taxes under their next draft budget, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

State funding for Dalton Public Schools will increase by nearly $2.3 million to fund $3,000 pay raises for teachers and other certified staff, according to a draft fiscal year 2020 budget presented to the Board of Education Monday night.

“State funding is the most exciting part of this budget,” said Chief Financial Officer Theresa Perry.

The state budget approved by the legislature earlier this year provides funding for a $3,000 pay increase for teachers, counselors and other certified personnel.

Fiscal year 2020 starts July 1.

The budget calls for $84.9 million in spending, up from $81 million in the fiscal 2019 budget. It anticipates $83.6 million in revenue, up from $80 million in the 2019 budget. The school system will reach into its fund balance to cover the difference. The budget forecasts ending the 2020 fiscal year with a fund balance of $16 million.

The property tax rate would remain at 8.2 mills for the sixth year in a row. The budget projects that tax rate would bring in $31.909 million, up from $30.374 million thanks to growth in the tax digest.

Augusta is revising its safety code after a 12-year old was electrocuted last year, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Savannah continues to see deployment of new solar installations, according to the Savannah Morning News.

15
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 15, 2019

On April 15, 1776, the Georgia Provincial Congress issued “Rules and Regulations,” which would serve as an interim state Constitution until the Constitution of 1777 was adopted.

On April 15, 1783, the United States Congress ratified a preliminary peace treaty with Great Britain, which was signed in November 1782.

RMS Titanic sunk at 2:20 AM on April 15,1912.

Jackie Robinson, born in Cairo, Georgia, became the first African-American professional baseball player in the Major Leagues on April 15, 1947, playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Boston Braves. Robinson scored the winning run in that game.

The Atlanta Ladies Memorial Association was formed on April 15, 1966 to assist and honor Confederate veterans. One of its most well-known projects was the “Lion of the Confederacy” memorial in Oakland Cemetery.

Photo: J. Glover (AUTiger)

On April 15, 1989, Chinese students and intellectuals in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, mourned the death of Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaoban, considered a liberal reformer.

DeForest Kelley, born in Atlanta and known for playing Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Star Trek series, was inducted into the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame on April 15, 1992.

Fort Pulaski National Monument in Savannah celebrated the 175th Anniversary of a battle for control of the fort, according to the Savannah Morning News.

[Park Ranger of Interpretation Jamie] Niles said the battle for Fort Pulaski made history. It was the first time that rifled cannons breached heavy masonry walls in combat.

“When the fort was completed in 1847, those new rifled guns didn’t exist. They were in development at the time,” Niles said. “It was considered state of the art technology.”

Union forces fired at the Confederate fort from Tybee Island — over a mile away — with the rifled cannons. The artillery burst through the southeast wall, exposing the powder magazine on the other side of the fort.

Confederate forces surrendered within 30 hours.

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation presented awards for preservation, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Kehoe Iron Works in Savannah received the Marguerite Williams Award, presented annually to the project that has had the greatest impact on preservation in the state. The building also received an award for Excellence in Rehabilitation.

Kehoe Iron Works was recognized for the sheer scale and impact of its rehabilitation while overcoming significant challenges, including remediation of a brownfield site, according to a press release from the Georgia Trust.

Today, the complex features 8,000 square feet for events and gatherings and an outdoor plaza and amphitheater featuring a commanding view of the Savannah River. This project is an excellent example of the vision and historic preservation ethic that has brought an important piece of the city’s industrial, cultural and architectural history back to life, the Georgia Trust wrote in a press release.

Also winning an Excellence in Rehabilitation award was the 12 W. Oglethorpe Ave. project in Savannah, now home to Husk restaurant.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp sat for a Q&A, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Q: What are your thoughts on the medical marijuana cultivation bill and how that settled out? That one went to conferences as well, didn’t it?

A: Yes, it did. It was a long conference, too. You know, the speaker and the lieutenant governor and I, and all the legislative leaders that we’re working on that issue, we were all working on that, which is a little bit unusual, I think. Most of the time, it’s the legislators doing that with just direction from the different parties, but we were all actually in the same room … got a lot done. You know, some people feel like the House bill was where we needed to be, and some people felt like the Senate bill was too restrictive. And we ended up somewhere in between, which I think is probably a good fit. I have very mixed emotions on that bill. I do believe there’s people in the industry that are pushing the medical side to lead to recreational marijuana, which I’m absolutely against. You won’t see that happen on my watch as long as I’m governor. That concerns me greatly. I think that’s a bad way for us to go.

Q: … Now that the session is over, what are some of the main things you’re planning to work on?

A: Well, doing exactly what I said I would do. … We’re going to start working on what we need to do next session. We had a very aggressive agenda this year. I think we got a lot more done than people thought we would, but now we’re already digging in on really reforming, streamlining and looking at ways (to) make state government more efficient.

… And then we got a lot of other big issues on our plate. … It’s taken a lot of my time dealing with D.C. on this whole disaster relief thing. Absolutely ridiculous that they cannot get a bill passed up there to help our farmers. And our folks down there are literally dying on the vine. I will say that Sens. Isakson and Perdue, I had been working constantly with them. They are doing everything in their power to get a deal done. It’s just the Democrats don’t want to play ball with them. And they probably won’t come out and say this because they’re still hopeful that they can get something done. It’s all politics.

Gov. Kemp will sign House Bill 324, the medical cannabis bill, this week, according to the AJC.

Kemp’s office said he plans to sign House Bill 324 on Wednesday at the state Capitol, which would for the first time legalize the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana through small growers, state universities and licensed sellers.

In an interview earlier this month, Kemp expressed his support for the measure but said he was torn over whether it was the best way to expand the program.

“It’s a very, very tough issue. But there’s a lot of legislative support for it. I respect the legislative process, and I understand why people are doing it, and I understand why people have grave concerns about this,” he said. “I have all of those feelings. It’s a really tough spot.”

Six private companies can grow medical marijuana, but no dispensaries will be allowed until a state board licenses them.

Pharmacies can provide medical marijuana oil to patients, but few pharmacies are likely to participate because doing so could jeopardize their federal permission to sell other drugs. And two proposed university-run marijuana programs will be dependent on federal approval.

David Emadi, the new Executive Director of the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, said they will issue subpoenas in delayed investigations, according to the AJC.

The new director of the state ethics commission plans to subpoena bank records from the campaign of 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams and groups that raised money to help her in last year’s nationally watched race.

Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams’ former campaign manager, said, “The Abrams campaign worked diligently to ensure compliance throughout the election and, had we been notified of any irregularities, would have immediately taken action to rectify them.”

“The new ethics chief — a Kemp donor and former Republican Party leader — is using his power to threaten and lob baseless partisan accusations at the former Abrams campaign when they should be focused on real problems like the unethical ties between the governor’s office and voting machine lobbyists instead.”

“Those investigations are all moving forward,” Emadi said. “What I can say about the investigation into the Abrams campaign is, in the relatively near future, I expect we will be issuing subpoenas for bank and finance records of both Miss Abrams and various PACs and special-interest groups that were affiliated with her campaign.”

Congress failed to fund Hurricane relief measures in Georgia, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The $14 billion aid package is desperately needed by farmers and others who suffered losses when Hurricane Michael swept across the state in October, Gov. Brian Kemp said recently.

Kemp said the lack of action by Congress shows “we have reached a low point as a nation.”

“This gridlock exposes the rotten core of some in Congress,” Kemp said. “They would rather crush an entire industry — destroying the livelihood of countless Americans — than do something that the opposition party wants. This dire situation highlights the brokenness in Washington.”

Liberal Democrat Jon Ossoff is looking at a run for United States Senator, according to the AJC.

As he weighs a U.S. Senate run, Democrat Jon Ossoff is sharpening a populist message that echoes his party’s liberal wing: a pledge to stop “criminalizing poverty,” a promise of a debt-free higher education system, a vow to legalize recreational marijuana and a guarantee of health insurance for all Americans.

The Democrat is one of a half-dozen high-profile contenders eyeing a race for the seat if Stacey Abrams, who is set to decide this month, sets her sights elsewhere. Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson already filed the paperwork necessary to run, while other contenders could do so soon.

“It’s past time to legalize, regulate and tax cannabis – whose prohibition only enriches cartels, bail bondsman and the owners of private prisons. And we should be enlightened enough now to treat addiction and mental illness with healthcare, not with prison.” [said Ossoff]

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles will host private meetings with crime victims, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Georgia’s Parole Board and Office of Victim Services  are inviting crime victims  from anywhere in the state to Augusta Technical College to meet confidentially with board members and staff during a Victims Visitors’ Day, April 24.

Victims of crimes whose perpetrators may eventually be considered for parole will be able to meet with the Parole Board members and staff from the board’s Clemency Division. This is the 31st such event the five-member board has hosted since the Victims Visitors’ Day program was launched in 2006, but only the second time the board has visited Augusta.

“This event affords the crime victim an opportunity to speak directly to the Parole Board and give us information for the case file that will be important when we make a parole decision,” Terry Barnard, State Board of Pardons and Paroles chairman, said in a news release.

“Not only is the information the victims provide important to the parole process, we want victims to understand the parole process and their role, which again is vital to the board making informed parole decisions,” Barnard said. “We consider every item of information in the case file before making a decision, and that includes the victim’s information.”

A Skidaway Island creek has been renamed from Runaway Negro Creek to Freedom Creek, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names voted last Thursday to rename Runaway Negro Creek, a creek near Skidaway Island, to Freedom Creek.

On Jan. 5, Georgia Archives officials submitted the application for the name change to the USBGN to change the waterway’s name. The federal board is responsible for determining geographic name usage across the country.

The name change was originally proposed after a public interest meeting during the summer of 2017, according to a press release from Sen. Lester Jackson (D-District 2).

Qualifying for a vacant seat on Flowery Branch City Council runs today through Wednesday, according to AccessWDUN.

The post was left vacant when Mary Jones resigned in December, citing health concerns.

Jones’ term was set to expire in 2019, so the special election will fill the vacancy through the end of the year. Another election will be held in November for the next term.

Middle Georgia peach crops may be doing well this year, according to the Macon Telegraph.

“We’ve got a really good crop of peaches on the trees,” said Will McGehee, sales manager at Pearson Farm in Peach County. “We are as excited this year as we have been in a long time.”

The peach crop is particularly important in Middle Georgia because it’s labor intensive and employs hundreds of people, including migrant workers who come up from Mexico on a temporary work visa during the season. Stores in the area see an impact during a bad year when the workers aren’t here.

In a good year, the crop generates about $50 million in Georgia, and most of that comes from Middle Georgia. Growers produce about 140 million pounds of peaches in a typical year, according to the Peach Regional Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to the jobs that peaches bring the Middle Georgia, the crop is also responsible for a significant amount of tourism. Pearson Farm, Lane Southern Orchards in Peach County and Dickey Farms in Crawford have packing houses that are open to the public and draw thousands of tourists when the crop is coming in.

Warner Robins Economic Development Director Gary Lee is appealing his suspension after being indicted, according to the Macon Telegraph.

A Warner Robins city official who was suspended after being accused of criminal misconduct has requested a hearing before the mayor to appeal his suspension.

Gary Lee, 54, the city’s economic development director, is on suspension without pay, after his indictment on a felony charge of making a false statement to a sheriff’s investigator during a criminal investigation.

One of Lee’s attorneys said the suspended director is innocent of charges against him and was, in fact, acting “in the capacity of a whistleblower.”

Rome and Floyd County will present an update on SPLOST projects on Thursday, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The 2013 special purpose, local option sales tax package contained $1,379,000 used to renovate the former Zartic plant for expanded recycling operations.

Collections for the $64.9 million SPLOST package ended March 31 but the 1-cent sales tax continued. Revenue since April 1 is funding a $63.9 million package of projects approved by voters in 2017.

City Manager Sammy Rich and County Manager Jamie McCord are slated to present status reports to each SPLOST Citizen Advisory Committee. Most of the 2013 projects are done, but Chulio Hills subdivision is still waiting for its secondary access road.

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