Category: Georgia Politics

26
Feb

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

On February 26, 1868, the Atlanta City Council offered use of the combined City Hall and Fulton County Courthouse as a temporary capitol if the Constitutional Convention meeting in the city would designate it the capital city.

On February 26, 1877, Governor Alfred Colquitt signed legislation calling a June 1877 election of delegates to a state Constitutional Convention to be held in July of that year.

Johnny Cash was born on February 26, 1932.

The World Trade Center in New York City was bombed on February 26, 1993, killing six and causing half-a-billion dollars in damage.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome – Legislative Day

7:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEES 341 CAP

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

8:00 AM HOUSE Motor Vehicles Driver Safety & Service Subcommittee 515 CLOB

8:30 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 515 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 22) House Chamber

12:00 PM SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT

1:00 PM SENATE ETHICS – CANCELLED 307 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 515 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Tax 133 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE MARTOC 406 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE INTERSTATE COOPERATION 341 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS 307 CLOB<

2:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITES 450 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT 515 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 606 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY (CIVIL) 132 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE GAME, FISH AND PARKS 403 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Admin/Licensing Subcommittee 406 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE REGULATED INDUSTRIES 506 CLOB

2:30 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Sales Tax 133 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE FINANCE- HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SUBCOMMITTEE 450 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT 310 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE BANKING & FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS MEZZ 1

3:00 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Ad Valorem 133 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE Telecommunications Subcommittee of Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications 403 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE Property & Casualty Subcommittee of Insurance 415 CLOB

3:30 PM SENATE DOT BOARD ELECTIONS- DISTRICT 12 SENATE CHAMBER

4:00 PM SENATE AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

4:00 PM HOUSE ENERGY, UTILITIES AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS 403 CAP

4:00 PM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary (Civil) 132 CAP

5:00 PM SENATE SPECIAL JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

5:00 PM HOUSE Kelley Subcommittee of Judiciary 132 CAP

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 18 – “Direct Primary Care Act” (Substitute)(RULES-32nd)

HB 62 – Margie’s Law; enact (H&HS-1st) Cooper-43rd

SB 115 – “Medical Practice Act of the State of Georgia”; telemedicine licenses for physicians in other states; engage in the practice of medicine with patients in this state through telemedicine; provide (S&T-45th)

SB 118 – Insurance; Georgia Telemedicine Act; modernize; Telemedicine Act the Telehealth Act; rename (S&T-45th)

SB 106 – “Patients First Act” (H&HS-19th)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule

HB 319 – Georgia Firefighters’ Pension Fund; member’s benefits payable after death shall be paid to his or her estate when such member failed to designate a beneficiary or his or her designated beneficiaries are deceased; provide (Ret-Williams-148th)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 185 – Financial institutions; change certain definitions (B&B-Williamson-115th)

HB 228 – Marriage; change minimum age from 16 to 17 and require any person who is 17 to have been emancipated (Substitute)(JuvJ-Welch-110th)

HB 284 – Cobb County; Magistrate Court chief judge; provide nonpartisan elections (GAff-Carson-46th)

HB 285 – Cobb County; probate judge; provide nonpartisan elections (GAff-Carson-46th)

Pursuant to House Rule 33.3, debate shall be limited to one hour on HB 316. Time to be allocated at the discretion of the Speaker.

HB 316 – Elections; definitions; provide for uniform equipment and ballot marking devices (Substitute)(GAff-Fleming-121st

Governor Brian Kemp said he will not veto legislation to allow a statewide referendum on horse racing, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp said he remains a staunch opponent of legalized gambling but signaled he won’t stand in the way of a constitutional amendment that would let voters decide whether to allow casinos in Georgia.

His aides added that Kemp, who campaigned against the expansion of gambling, will insist that the new funds be used for the popular lottery-funded HOPE scholarship if a constitutional amendment passes.

Kemp’s stance seems likely to rev up debate over an issue that its champions feared was effectively dead after his November victory. During the campaign, Kemp and other Republicans touted their opposition to casinos and other forms of gambling.

Since the measure is a constitutional amendment, it wouldn’t require his signature – instead it needs two-thirds support in the Legislature and approval by a majority of voters. But his position could pave the way for other skeptics of the measure in the Legislature to follow his lead.

Senate Bill 48 by Sen. P.K. Martin (R-Gwinnett) passed the Senate, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Senate Bill 48 is now moving through the Georgia House of Representatives. If signed into law, however, it would require the Georgia Department of Education to put dyslexia guidance and training in place for teachers and the state school superintendent would have to create a dyslexia education pilot program.

“Dyslexia is one of the most common learning challenges for school-aged children,” Martin said in a statement. “Catching the symptoms early, and developing a plan for remediation is vital to their future educational development and success. Currently, there is no statewide standard regarding the education of dyslexic students.”

“The provisions of Senate Bill 48 will help to ensure that students are properly screened and those with dyslexia are given the opportunity to prosper in a learning environment best suited for their needs,” Martin said.

Senate Bill 158, the “Anti-Human Trafficking Protective Response Act,” was recommended for passage by the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to The Brunswick News.

“This is from the Kemp administration, and this is the next step for us in taking on human trafficking in our state — something that the governor’s cared a lot about, and in particular, the first lady has taken a lead on as well,” [State Senator Brian] Strickland said. “I’ll walk through this bill with you. There is a similar bill that’s also in the House, that’s currently in House Judiciary, that’s carried by Chairman (Chuck) Efstration, as well. You may have heard of that bill over there — very similar bills.”

“This is simply giving more resources for these victims that are found when we get these busts in our state,” Strickland said. “Under Section 1-3, we’re saying where those children should be referred, and this code section confirms that a child that is suspected of being a victim of these crimes will be sent to a certified victim service organization that will provide the services that they need.

“And, Section 1-4 goes in the juvenile code and dependency proceedings and adds a child that is a victim of trafficking to the list of those orders where a child can be removed from a home without the consent of parents, if they’re the victim of that crime.”

“We’re trying, again, to get to the source of these crimes and give prosecutors a tool of going after those who are knowingly benefitting financially from these offenses taking place,” Strickland said.

House Bill 217 by State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) passed out of the House, according to AccessWDUN.

The measure aims to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C infections among drug users who share needles. The House approved the bill 166-3 Monday. It now goes to the Senate.

Republican Rep. Houston Gaines of Athens, the bill’s main supporter, says people who use needle exchange programs are far more likely to enter treatment programs.

House Bill 202 by State Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) would require statistics from the state Department of Corrections on numbers of prisoners who are illegal aliens, according to The Brunswick News.

“The subset of inmates in this state who are illegally here are about 3 percent,” Petrea said. “So, this is a smaller subset. However, it is an impactful subset, because when you think about the fact that if indeed our federal government, our federally elected officials from both parties, if they were doing their job and dealing with the very important issue of immigration in this country, and making sure we have a legal and vigorous immigration system, if they were doing that job, then none of those crimes, perhaps, would have occurred.”

“And so I had received this information at the request of the (state Department of Corrections) a couple of years ago, and discovered that I could get it, but it wasn’t available to the public.”

The aggregate data would include numbers on those under detainers from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, offenses committed and the home countries of the inmates “who are not United States citizens and who are confined under the authority of the department and, with regard to the total population in confinement, the percentage that comprises persons who are not citizens of the United States.”

The first report would go out Oct. 1, and then every 90 days thereafter.

I am awarding five points for draftsmanship for proper use of “comprise”.

Buford City Schools has a new superintendent and assistant superintendent on duty, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Catoosa County voters are beginning to vote early on a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation (T-SPLOST), according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Early voting on the T-SPLOST began Monday. Polls are open in two locations: the Freedom Center at 5238 Evitt St. in Ringgold, and the Westside precinct at 3319 Lakeview Drive in Rossville.

The county projects the T-SPLOST will generate about $60 million over five years, with the county holding on to $42 million. Fort Oglethorpe gets $12 million, and Ringgold gets $6 million, the difference agreed upon by the governments’ officials based on the physical size of the cities and their populations.

The Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce board voted Jan. 22 to endorse the T-SPLOST.

“When new businesses are looking to relocate here, [good roads are] important,” Chamber President Amy Jackson said. “We believe the T-SPLOST will allow the roads to be in the best shape and be repaired faster.”

Cave Springs voters are heading to the polls to decide whether to allow liquor sales, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Elections Supervisor Judy Dickinson said early voting started Monday and will run through March 15, on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in City Hall. Voting will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day, March 19.

Dickinson said one ballot had been cast Monday — hers.

The city already allows beer and wine sales. Adding distilled spirits would clear the way for a craft distillery touted as a potential tourism draw.

Two out-of-town businessmen want to capitalize on Cave Spring’s famed water to open a micro-distillery in a downtown historical building next to The Peddler antiques store on Alabama Street. In addition to making flavored spirits, they’d have a sipping room and store on site.

Question 1 would allow distilled package sales from Monday through Saturday. Question 2 would allow distilled spirits to be served by the drink from Monday through Saturday. Questions 3 and 4 are repetitions that would extend the sales to Sundays, from 12:30 p.m. in the afternoon to 11:30 p.m. at night.

Savannah City Council will hear a developer’s plan to tear down an old freight station to make room for new apartments, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority has asked the County for more than $476,000 dollars it claims to be owed, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Rage Against the (Voting) Machine

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said new voting machines would give greater certainty to elections, in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer.

In an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer on Friday, Raffensperger said he sees the bill as a way to gain back voter trust after a contentious 2018 election process.

“When there’s an election … we want the winner to know they truly did win but also the loser knows ‘yeah I really did lose, I thought I had it’ — no but nice try,” he said. “You won’t have that consternation or concern or belly-aching you could have after an election.”

The bill cleared the House Governmental Affairs Committee Feb. 21 and will head to the full state House for a vote Tuesday morning.

Fair Fight Action the Stacey Abrams-sponsored leftist group is opposing the legislation to buy new voting machines, according to the AJC.

“With so much at stake, our supporters across Georgia are fighting back against this horrible bill,” said Fair Fight chief executive Lauren Groh-Wargo, who was Abrams’ campaign manager.

That will kick off with a TV ad in the Atlanta market that contends the bill’s plan to switch Georgia’s voting system to computer-printed paper ballots – rather than hand-marked ballots Abrams and other allies support – will make Georgia’s elections less secure.

“Those faulty machines – the ones that could get hacked to steal our vote – Governor Kemp wants to spend $150 million of our taxpayer dollars to spend more,” said the ad, which invokes Kemp’s hire of an election company’s former lobbyist to a prominent role on his staff.

25
Feb

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

The first prisoners of war were moved to Andersonville on February 25, 1864.

The United States Congress pass the Legal Tender Act on February 25, 1862, allowing the government to pay its bills with paper money it printed.

On February 25, 1870, Hiram Rhoades Revels (R-Missippi) was sworn in as the first African-American Congressman in history.

In 1867, the first Reconstruction Act was passed by a Republican-dominated U.S. Congress, dividing the South into five military districts and granting suffrage to all male citizens, regardless of race. A politically mobilized African American community joined with white allies in the Southern states to elect the Republican party to power, which in turn brought about radical changes across the South. By 1870, all the former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union, and most were controlled by the Republican Party, thanks in large part to the support of African American voters.

On January 20, 1870, Hiram R. Revels was elected by the Mississippi legislature to fill the Senate seat once held by Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy. On February 25, two days after Mississippi was granted representation in Congress for the first time since it seceded in 1861, Revels was sworn in.

On February 25, 1876, the first Georgia state law against abortion was passed.

On February 25, 1999, Johnny Isakson was sworn into Congress from the Sixth District, a seat vacated by the resignation of then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

National Democrats are targeting elections in Georgia and other Southern states, according to USAToday.Continue Reading..

22
Feb

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

The British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act on February 22, 1766.

Georgia’s first Governor Archibald Bulloch died mysteriously on February 22, 1777.

[Bulloch] became a leader in the state’s Liberty Party and was elected to the Commons House of Assembly in 1768, to the post of speaker of the Georgia Royal Assembly in 1772 and finally to the Continental Congress in 1775.

On June 20, 1776, Bulloch was elected the first president and commander in chief of Georgia’s temporary government, posts he held until February 5, 1777, when Georgia adopted its state constitution. Just over three weeks later, on February 22, 1777, Georgia faced a British invasion, and the state’s new government granted Bulloch executive power to head off the British forces. A few hours later, Bulloch was dead. The cause of his death remains unknown but unsubstantiated rumors of his poisoning persist.

[H]e is also known as the great-great-grandfather of America’s 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt.

On February 24, 1803, the United States Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall decided the case of Marbury v. Madison, enunciating the principle of judicial review under which the Court has authority to review Congressional action and hold them unconstitutional.

In writing the decision, John Marshall argued that acts of Congress in conflict with the Constitution are not law and therefore are non-binding to the courts, and that the judiciary’s first responsibility is always to uphold the Constitution. If two laws conflict, Marshall wrote, the court bears responsibility for deciding which law applies in any given case.

The first Georgia state law allowing divorce was signed on February 22, 1850 by Governor George Towns.

President elect Abraham Lincoln arrived in Washington, DC on February 23, 1861.

Union troops under General George Thomas attacked Confederates led by General Joseph Johnston near Dalton, Georgia on February 24, 1864.

Casualties were light. Thomas suffered fewer than 300 men killed, wounded, or captured, while Johnston lost around 140 troops. The Union generals did learn a valuable lesson, however; a direct attack against Rocky Face Ridge was foolish. Three months later, Sherman, in command after Grant was promoted to commander of all forces, sent part of his army further south to another gap that was undefended by the Confederates. The intelligence garnered from the Battle of Dalton helped pave the way for a Union victory that summer.

The first prisoners of war were moved to Andersonville on February 24, 1864.

The Atlanta Journal was first published on February 24, 1883.

The Cyclorama painting of the Battle of Atlanta went on display on Edgewood Avenue on February 22, 1892. The Atlanta History Center recently began the process of moving the Cyclorama to a new building from its long-time home in Grant Park.

On February 23, 1945, United States Marines raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi, the highest point on the Pacific island Iwo Jima.

This first flag-raising was photographed by Marine photographer Sgt. Louis R. Lowery. On Lowery’s way down Mt. Suribachi, he ran into AP photographer Joe Rosenthal and two other Marine photographers, PFC Bob Campbell and PFC Bill Genaust, who was shooting movies, informing them that the flag-raising they were looking for had already occurred, but encouraging them to check out the view from the top of the hill. The three men continued up the volcano.

Once atop Mt. Suribachi, Rosenthal attempted but was unable to find the soldiers involved in the first flag-raising, deciding instead to photograph the second flag-raising, which featured a much bigger and more photogenic Stars and Stripes. Lowery’s film was sent back to military headquarters for processing via ordinary army post–and took a month to arrive. Rosenthal’s film was sent by seaplane to Guam, and sent from there via radio-photo to the United States. The photograph so impressed President Roosevelt that he ordered the men pictured in it to return home for a publicity tour. Rosenthal later won a Pulitzer Prize for the photo, but for years was forced to deny erroneous reports that he personally staged the second flag-raising and attempted to pass it off as the original.

Although the famous photograph has long led people to believe that the flag-raising was a turning point in the fight for Iwo Jima, vicious fighting to control the island actually continued for 31 more days.

Today, the first and second flags flown atop Mt. Suribachi are held at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia.

On February 23, 1954, the first children in the U.S. were inoculated against polio using a vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk.

On February 22, 1976, a series of U.S. Postage stamps commemorating the Bicentennial was issued, featuring the state flags.

GeorgiaFlagStamp1976white

On February 24, 1988, the United States Supreme Court held in the case of Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, that the First Amendment protects publishers against claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress where the plaintiff is a public figure being parodied by the publication.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under The Gold Dome Today – Legislative Day 20

8:00 AM HOUSE Regulated Industries Occupational/Professional Licensing Subcommittee 606 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE Lumsden Subcommittee of Public Safety & Homeland Security 406 CLOB

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

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

9:30 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 20) House Chamber

12:00 PM SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

12:00 PM HOUSE JUDICARY (CIVIL) 132 CAP

12:00 PM HOUSE CODE REVISION 403 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES- DEALER FRANCHISE AGREEMENT REVIEW SUBCOMMITTEE 450 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE Regulated Industries Low THC Oil Access Subcommittee 406 CLOBContinue Reading..

21
Feb

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

The Washington Monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885.

Happy Birthday to Congressman John Lewis, who was born on this date in 1940 in Pike County Alabama. In 1963, Lewis became President of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, based in Atlanta. In 1981, Lewis was elected to an at-large seat on the Atlanta City Council, and in 1986, he was elected to Congress, defeating Julian Bond in the Democratic Primary.

On February 21, 1958, Governor Marvin Griffin signed legislation creating the Stone Mountain Memorial Association to oversee construction and operation of a Confederate memorial and public park at the site.

On February 21, 1998, Julian Bond was selected as Chairman of the NAACP. Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, but the House initially refused to seat him due to his opposition to the war in Vietnam. The United States Supreme Court eventually ruled against the House and Bond was sworn in on January 9, 1967, serving there until his election to the Georgia State Senate. In 1986, Bond left the Senate to run for Congress.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Ivanka Trump visited a UPS facility in Duluth yesterday with Governor Brian Kemp, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.Continue Reading..

20
Feb

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

On February 20, 1792, President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act, creating the United States Postal Service.

The act allowed for newspapers to be included in mail deliveries and made it illegal for postal officials to open anyone’s mail.

On February 20, 1970, Georgia ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote.The Amendment states:

Section 1. The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Seriously. 1970. Luckily ratification occurred when Tennessee approved adoption of the Amendment on April 18, 1920.

Interestingly, the only case in which the United States Supreme Court has addressed the Nineteenth Amendment arose in Georgia. Breedlove v. Suttles was a suit brought in Fulton County Superior Court concerning the poll tax. Here’s an excerpt:

The tax being upon persons, women may be exempted on the basis of special considerations to which they are naturally entitled. In view of burdens necessarily borne by them for the preservation of the race, the state reasonably may exempt them from poll taxes.

The laws of Georgia declare the husband to be the head of the family and the wife to be subject to him. To subject her to the levy would be to add to his burden. Moreover, Georgia poll taxes are laid to raise money for educational purposes, and it is the father’s duty to provide for education of the children. Discrimination in favor of all women being permissible, appellant may not complain because the tax is laid only upon some or object to registration of women without payment of taxes for previous years.

Privilege of voting is not derived from the United States, but is conferred by the state and, save as restrained by the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments and other provisions of the Federal Constitution, the state may condition suffrage as it deems appropriate.

It is fanciful to suggest that the Georgia law is a mere disguise under which to deny or abridge the right of men to vote on account of their sex. The challenged enactment is not repugnant to the Nineteenth Amendment.

Bless their hearts.

On February 20, 1974, Reg Murphy, an editor for The Atlanta Constitution was kidnapped and held until managing editor G. James Minter delivered $700,000 in ransom. I’m not sure if they’d pay 700 cents to get any employee back nowadays.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – Legislative Day 18

8:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS EDUCATION 506 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS 403 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE INSURANCE 606 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 18) House Chamber

12:00 PM SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY MEZZ 1

1:00 PM HOUSE Resource Management Subcommittee of Natural Resources and Environment 403 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs Elections Subcommittee 406 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE BANKS AND BANKING 506 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION 606 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Tax 133 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE STATE INSTITUTIONS AND PROPERTY 450 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE VETERANS, MILITARY AND HOMELAND SECURITY 310 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE BUDGET & FISCAL AFFAIRS OVERSIGHT 506 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of the House Judiciary 132 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Sales Tax 133 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Academic Innovation Subcommittee 417 CAP

2:15 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Ad Valorem 133 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & TOURISM MEZZ 1

3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 450 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE Industry and Labor Subcommittee 506 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE CREATIVE ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT WORKING GROUP 403 cap

3:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 406 CLOB

3:30 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HEALTH 341 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE RETIREMENT 125 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

4:00 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs State & Local Government Subcommittee 133 CAP

4:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS 341 CAP

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 17 – Public Utilities and Public Transportation; authorize telephone cooperatives and their broadband affiliates; provide broadband services (Substitute) (RI&U-51st)
SB 48 – Dyslexia; identification of and support for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade; provide (Substitute) (ED&Y-9th)
SB 55 – Retirement; method and manner by which a member of the Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia may purchase an annuity; revise (RET-52nd)
SB 75 – State Board of Veterinary Medicine; professional health program for impaired veterinarians; provide (Substitute) (AG&CA-8th)
SB 79 – Outdoor Advertising; references to the term “mechanical” in relation to multiple message signs; remove (TRANS-51st)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule
HR 165 – Property; conveyance of certain state owned real property; authorize (SProp-Greene-151st)
HR 182 – Property; granting of non-exclusive easements; authorize (SProp-Greene-151st)

Structured Rule
HB 35– Sales and use tax; certain poultry diagnostic and disease monitoring services; create exemption (W&M-Watson-172nd)
HR 164 – General Assembly; dedication of revenues derived from fees or taxes to the public purpose for which such fees or taxes were imposed; authorize – CA (W&M-Powell-171st)

Ivanka Trump will visit Georgia this morning, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Trump, who serves as an advisor to her father, President Donald Trump, will visit and tour UPS Integrad, a driver training facility, according to Jessica Ditto, White House Deputy Director of Communications.

“During the visit, Ivanka will receive a tour of the facility, experience the training program first-hand and meet with students,” Ditto said. “Ivanka Trump will also participate in a roundtable discussion with Gov. Kemp and (UPS CEO David) Abney and hear directly from the UPS employees who are learning valuable skills to be able to succeed in their skills at UPS and beyond.”

Trump will also be briefed on UPS’ efforts to combat human trafficking.

“The Trump administration has made the fight against human trafficking one of its highest priorities,” Ditto said. “The President recently signed into law four robust pieces of bipartisan legislation to prevent human trafficking, punish perpetrators and support victims.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams spoke about voting rights during a Congressional hearing in Atlanta, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Abrams, who narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race last year, told a congressional subcommittee examining ways to boost voting rights that a toxic combination of “incompetence and malfeasance” led to a systemic voter suppression effort in Georgia.

“Incompetence and malfeasance operates in tandem and the sheer complexity of the state’s voting apparatus smooths voter suppression into a nearly seamless system that targets voter registration, ballot access and ballot counting,” Abrams told the House Administration’s subcommittee on elections. “These hurdles have had their desired effect.”

Republicans lambasted Tuesday’s hearings, calling it a congressionally-funded ad for a potential Abrams 2020 Senate run against incumbent Sen. David Perdue, R-Georgia.

“This hearing as well as her State of the Union address (response) are part and parcel of a Democratic desire to see that race,” said John Watson, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party. “This is the next stage of the promotion of Stacey Abrams on the taxpayer’s dime. I believe these are in-kind contributions for her campaign for the United States Senate.”

Some House Democrats at the hearing voiced strong support for Abrams. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Georgia, called her “Senator Abrams” when he began questioning her. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, praised Abrams’ gubernatorial run, adding “All I can say is ‘Black Girl Magic.’”

The Georgia Senate Health and Human Services Committee recommended passage of Senate Bill 106, according to AccessWDUN.

A proposal to allow Gov. Brian Kemp to pursue Medicaid waivers from the federal government was approved by a Georgia Senate committee Tuesday.

The Senate Health & Human Services Committee voted 9-4 to approve a bill authorizing Kemp’s office to pursue the waivers after lawmakers sped through testimony and questions in a one-hour meeting.

A federal waiver, as opposed to a full Medicaid expansion backed by Democrats, would give Georgia the flexibility to adopt a more conservative plan.

“That waiver doesn’t just come as a blank check,” Tillery said, adding that the waiver would be subject to annual appropriations and other guidelines.

From Curt Yeomans at the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Full Medicaid expansion, as called for under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), would cover people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty rate, and the federal government has pledged to provide 90 percent of the cost for these newly eligible members.

Kemp’s bill would allow a Medicaid waiver of up to 100 percent of poverty (roughly $12,500 of income for an individual).

Federal health officials have not allowed the 90 percent match if a state requests the lower eligibility limit.

So at 100 percent of poverty, the state presumably would be in line for its regular Medicaid match, which in Georgia would be 67 percent.

[Democratic Senator Steve] Henson said that because of those restrictions, the legislation would cost Georgia more money and cover fewer people than full expansion, which he has proposed under Senate Bill 36. He said the Kemp waiver bill had been ‘‘rushed through,’’ with much more time spent on studying legislation to improve rural broadband.

From the AJC:

[Senate Bill 106] would authorize the governor to seek two “waivers” from the federal government that would allow the state to create government-funded health care initiatives here, but to reshape the rules for them in a way that Georgia officials believe would work better for this state. But the bill, 17 lines long, doesn’t get too specific about how ambitious the goals of those initiatives would be. It gives the governor the power to make those choices after the bill becomes law.

Then Georgia would apply for the waivers, and the federal government would decide whether to grant them.

One of the waivers would be for a new initiative under the Medicaid program, possibly to expand coverage to poor people who currently have no insurance.But Medicaid, the state and federal program that pays for health care for the poor and some disabled people, mostly does not cover low-income childless adults in Georgia.

The other waiver would be for a new initiative under the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange aimed at helping to stabilize the private insurance market.

One of the issues Democrats wanted to discuss was the cap within the bill on the poor population to be considered for the Medicaid waiver. The bill caps the population who could benefit at those who make up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $12,000 a year for a single individual. Federal law gives states the option to consider more people for Medicaid, up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $16,000 a year for an individual.

The State House Judiciary (Non-Civil) Committee recommended passage of House Bill 258, according to The Brunswick News.

A select number of sex crimes in Georgia exist outside of the statute of limitations for when they’ve allegedly been committed against someone who was younger than 16 years old at the time of the crime — the legislation first went into effect following the 1992 session of the General Assembly. A new bill would add aggravated sexual battery to that list, beginning in July of this year.

“Basically, what it’s doing is adding the offense of aggravated sexual battery to the tolling statute, which is dealt with in (Chapter 3 of Title 17 in the state code),” said the bill’s sponsor, state House Minority Whip William Boddie, D-East Point. “And, it’s dealing with tolling crimes for individuals who are victims under the age of 16 years of age.”

“So, basically, what we’re doing in line 51 (of the bill) is adding the offense, so therefore it’s just like trafficking for sexual servitude, cruelty to children in the first degree, rape, aggravated sodomy, child molestation, aggravated child molestation, incest and enticing a child for indecent purposes. It is adding that charge, so a prosecutor can prosecute those, or that particular offense, without a statute of limitations. Again, for whatever reason, it was erroneously left from the list, and so I want to include that with the other listed charges for this particular code section.”

The crime carries with it a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and lifetime probation.

The State House Governmental Affairs Election Subcommittee heard House Bill 316 by State Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), which would require new voting machines, according to the AJC.

A state House subcommittee didn’t vote on House Bill 316 on Tuesday after hearing three hours of testimony from voters who passionately opposed the proposed $150 million voting system.

But election officials said at the Capitol that ballot-marking devices help avoid errors introduced by voters marking their ballots by hand.

“Ballot-marking devices are best because they ensure more accuracy for the voters’ intent,” said Lynn Bailey, the elections director for Richmond County. “Voters stand a better chance of having their choices more accurately reflected on a ballot marked by a machine rather than by a human hand.”

From another article at the AJC:

Last October, Gwinnett County election officials were found to be rejecting 10 percent of absentee ballots, alleging that signatures on the mailed ballot didn’t match the signature on a voter’s registration form. A federal judge was required to step in.

In HB 316, a suspected mismatch of signatures would require county election officials to automatically mail the voter a provisional ballot, which would be counted when the situation is resolved.

In HB 316, before serving notice to voters that their registration is suspect, the state would be required first to make sure that “the failure to verify is not the result of a data entry error or other fault of the board of registrars.”

The Gwinnett County Commission approved $950,000 dollars to combat homelessness, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The commissioners unanimously approved the HomeFirst Gwinnett Initiative’s $950,000 request for funding to several efforts designed to ultimately get homeless residents back on their feet and into permanent housing. HomeFirst Gwinnett was set up last year through a partnership between the county, the United Way and Primerica.

“We have many organizations and individuals in the community who are working on different aspects of service to the homeless population, but it is not always well-coordinated,” commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said. “Partnering with the private sector and with United Way, the County is helping fund the HomeFirst Initiative in order to help create a system that is coordinated and that does the most with each dollar that is available to address the homelessness issue.”

Suicide stats are rising in Lowndes County, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

In 2015, there were 12 suicides followed by 15 in 2016, 21 in 2017 and 30 in 2018. The victims in these situations are overwhelmingly white males who predominantly use firearms to end their lives, according to statistics provided by the coroner’s office.

“It’s definitely going up,” [Lowndes County Coroner Austin] Fiveash said. “Most of the time it’s a gunshot wound. There has been a growing number of older people suffering from what I call ‘health care induced depressions.’”

Fiveash said older people are becoming more prone to suicide from being in constant pain because they are not receiving proper treatment or because they see themselves as a burden on their family.

Valdosta Police Lt. Adam Bembry said he has noticed an increase in calls related to people suffering from mental health issues and thoughts of suicide since he joined the department in 2005.

He said when he joined the force, police received maybe one call a week. Now, it’s one call every 12-hour shift, he said.

Law enforcement is not intended to deal with suicide threats, Bembry said. The mission is to enforce the law and fight crime.

“These are mostly medical issues,” Bembry said. “Although we are trained in it to a point, we’re not counselors. We’re not psychologists. My officers are doing the best they can, but when you are dealing with the mentally ill, it is very difficult.”

Whitfield County SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) advocates are being questioned about proposed projects, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

A plan the proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) would fund increases by about 33 percent the amount of office space for the county’s administrative employees, and former Dalton Mayor David Pennington asked why the county needs so much more space since county officials say they don’t plan to immediately add employees.

Under the plan, the county would tear down Administrative Buildings 1 and 2, which are both near the Whitfield County Courthouse, and replace them with two new buildings.

Pennington questioned the need for the added space at a meeting of the Dalton Rotary Club following a presentation on the proposed SPLOST on Tuesday.

But Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Lynn Laughter said later Tuesday that Pennington’s numbers about the amount of space that would be built were incorrect.

Whitfield County voters go to the polls on March 19 to vote on a six-year, 1 percent SPLOST expected to bring in $100 million. Early voting starts Feb. 25. If approved, the SPLOST would begin on July 1. There is currently a four-year SPLOST that expires on June 30 that is projected to collect $64 million.

The Glynn County SPLOST Citizens’ Oversight Committee heard updates on projects, according to The Brunswick News.

Statesboro City Council is reviewing applications for City Manager, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Rome City Commission passed an ordinance requiring adult stores to apply for a permit, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

The ordinance requires the owner — or “an individual with an influential interest in the business” — to get a license specific to a sexually oriented business. Each employees also must be licensed.

The application includes disclosure of any criminal convictions and if the applicant has held an interest in any sexually oriented business within the past five years that had been declared a nuisance or court-ordered to close.

The license fees are set at $100 for a business, going to $50 for annual renewals; and $50 for an employee, dropping to $25 for renewals. Hours of operation are limited to between 6 a.m. and midnight.

Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan delivered the State of the City, according to the Gainesville Times.

19
Feb

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

On February 19, 1807, Aaron Burr was arrested in the Mississippi Territory, in what is now Alabama. Burr had served as Vice President during the first term of President Thomas Jefferson, leaving the administration after the 1804 election; later Jefferson issued a warrant accusing Burr of treason.

On Febrary 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the military to remove from military areas any people whose exclusion was “necessary or desirable.” By June 1942, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans had been interned in concentration camps in the western United States. On the same day, the United States War Department announced that a new bomber plant would be built in Marietta, Georgia.

The Macon Telegraph looks at a museum plane that served as Air Force One.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – Legislative Day 17

8:00 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 515 CLOB

8:30 AM HOUSE JUDICIARY (NON-CIVIL) 132 CAP

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 17) House Chamber

12:00 PM SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

12:00 PM HOUSE Regulated Industries Alcohol & Tobacco Subcommittee 132 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE ETHICS- CANCELLED 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS – CANCELLED 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 450 CAP

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

2:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 406 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 606 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT 515 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Finance and Policy 133 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE REGULATED INDUSTRIES 506 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Agriculture Subcommittee 502 CLOB

2:30 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax Expenditure 133 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT 310 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE BANKING & FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS MEZZ 1

3:00 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs Elections Subcommittee 406 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE ENERGY, UTILITIES AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS 403 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS GENERAL GOVERNMENT 415 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE Telecommunications Subcommittee of Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications 403 CAP

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

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY- Subcommittee A 307 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

5:00 PM SENATE SPECIAL JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

United States Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) will visit Atlanta this week to raise money for her presidential campaign, according to the AJC.

The Minnesota Democrat’s fundraiser will be held at the Buckhead home of Gordon Giffin, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada and a vice-chair of the Dentons law firm. Other co-hosts include former Gov. Roy Barnes and Sheri and Steve Labovitz, prominent donors to Democratic causes.

Klobuchar, who announced her bid last week in a driving snowstorm, becomes the second presidential candidate to visit Georgia since formally entering the race. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren held a rally in Gwinnett County on Saturday, followed by a private dinner in downtown Atlanta with Stacey Abrams.

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday swore in six appointees to executive positions.

Senate Bill 48 by State Sen. P.K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville) takes a comprehensive view to educating students with dyslexia, according to GPB News.

The state Senate is considering a bill that provides for dyslexia screening and additional resources for students with language-based disabilities.

Senate Bill 48 has received bipartisan support from state lawmakers, who want to implement dyslexia testing in pre-K through 2nd grade along with remediation opportunities.

The bill would also require the Georgia Department of Education to create a dyslexia informational guide for parents and each board of education to provide additional learning opportunities for dyslexic students within their county. Under the law, supplementary training would also be required for teachers to better educate dyslexics.

Currently, Georgia is one of few states with no dyslexia laws on the books. While federal law lists dyslexia as a type of learning disability, it merely cites it as an example and does not define it nor provide for remediation.

Voting rights and procedures in Georgia will be under the microscope today, according to the AJC.

On Tuesday morning, U.S. House Democrats will hold a hearing that will probe allegations of voter suppression in Georgia, part of a string of events designed to set the stage for a revival of the Voting Rights Act.

And on Tuesday afternoon, a Georgia House committee will weigh new legislation that could curtail large-scale cancellations of voter registrations and switch the state from an electronic voting system to touchscreen machines that print ballots.

The morning hearing, staged by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Voting, will be held at the Carter Center and start with testimony from Abrams, along with Sean Young of the Georgia ACLU, Cliff Albright of Black Voters Matter and Gilda Daniels of the Advancement Project. Lawmakers will also hear from Stacey Hopkins, a Fulton County voter who said she will testify about her struggle to cast a ballot.

The afternoon committee meeting, in an office building across from the statehouse, will be the first test for Republican-sponsored legislation that could pave the way for a proposed $150 million replacement of Georgia’s voting system.

Dalton City Council is considering an ordinance to crack down on unattended donation boxes, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Dalton City Council member Gary Crews said,… “We’ve had a lot of complaints from citizens. We’ve had complaints from property owners,” he said. “These boxes are placed by people from out of town. They often place them in areas where it isn’t clear who owns the property. They don’t maintain them regularly and stuff starts to pile up outside the boxes, and when you try to call and get the box removed it can be difficult to reach anyone.”

Members of the City Council on Monday held the first reading of an ordinance aimed at reducing such eyesores. The proposal would require those placing donation bins inside city limits to obtain a license. It would require the bin owners to provide their contact information and to file a plan stating how often materials will be removed from the bins and how often the boxes will be checked for “general cleanliness, graffiti and litter or other rubbish.”

The proposed ordinance also states such boxes can only be placed in areas zoned commercial and cannot be placed on empty or abandoned properties, and the owner of the property must certify that permission has been granted to place the box there.

Whitfield County Magistrate Judge Shana Vinyard will be paid more than $26 thousand dollars while on paid leave, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Since she was placed on “voluntary paid leave” in October of last year, Whitfield County Magistrate Judge Shana Vinyard has been paid $19,612.57, according to a county official. By the time she leaves office on April 1 following her letter of resignation, the total will be $26,102.06, all of it paid for by the taxpayers of Whitfield County.

Vinyard’s yearly salary is $52,492. Her resignation letter from last week and the fact she has been getting paid for not working have some county residents irate and some county officials frustrated.

“I think that we feel the same way as a lot of the taxpayers do — frustrated,” county Commissioner Roger Crossen said. “It is not a good situation at all. It is tough to be in this position where you really can’t do anything about it.”

A judge with Magistrate Court confirmed last week that Vinyard has been under investigation by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. Chief Magistrate Judge Haynes Townsend has said he can’t comment on any ongoing investigation.

Dalton City Council has approved limited use of “personal transportation vehicles” on public roads, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The City Council voted 3-1 on Monday to designate all streets in Windemere [subdivision] for PTV use. Council member Tyree Goodlett cast the dissenting vote, and Mayor Dennis Mock typically votes only in the event of a tie.

PTVs are essentially golf carts but by law must have a number of safety features — seat belts, headlights, turn signals, etc. — that aren’t necessarily found on golf carts used on golf courses.

The state legislature changed the law a couple of years ago to allow PTVs to be operated on city streets if a city OKs them, subject to certain limitations. PTVs can’t be operated on federal highways, state roads or heavily-trafficked cross streets. They can only be operated on residential streets with speed limits of no more than 25 mph.

University of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart visited Robins Air Force Base, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The 116th Air Control Wing is set to deploy out of Warner Robins Air Force Base in the coming weeks but before heading out, the group got a pep talk from a pair of special guests from the University of Georgia.

Head coach Kirby Smart and new secondary coach Charlton Warren spoke to a crowded room of service members preparing for deployment.

“I don’t think people really acknowledge and understand what exactly you guys do,” Smart said. “The group you’re able to have here that is out of Warner Robins, it means a lot to me being a kid from the state of Georgia.”

The Glynn County Commission will hear updates on a beach restoration plan and a code rewrite, according to The Brunswick News.

Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols spoke about the state’s energy sources, according to The Brunswick News.

Every three years, since 1991, the state requires Georgia Power to submit a new 20-year plan detailing how it’s going to meet the state’s energy needs. The company filed its latest 20-year plan Jan. 31 to the Public Service Commission.

“So, this is the year where we’re doing this, and the five commissioners — which you have a hand in electing, because all five of us stand in staggered elections every six years,” Echols said. “The commissioners, after everybody has their say — nonprofits, businesses, lobbyists for the industrial groups, lobbyists for the Georgia Restaurant Association — after everybody has their say on how they think it should work, the five commissioners will vote later this year on this Georgia Power written plan and exactly how we think it should go in the final version.”

There’s 180 days of consideration. After that, the PSC has to either nix the plan outright, amend it or approve it. A significant aspect is the growth of renewable energy to the mix within the next five years.

“In 2005, coal was 50 percent of what we had,” Echols said. “Now, it’s 23, and it’s going to go down to 21 by 2024. You can see it’s decreasing. Look at renewables — they don’t even show up here (in 2005) — 8 percent in ’19, and we’re about to approve a bunch of solar at the commission, probably more than, I’ll make (Georgia Power area manager) Paulo (Albuquerque) put earplugs in right now, but Georgia Power wants to do 1,000 megawatts, but I’ve heard from one of my colleagues, who’s about to retire, who wants this to be his legacy, he said, ‘No, no, no. We’re going to double it. At least.’”

The Albany Herald reports that federal inaction on Hurricane Michael cleanup is impacting Georgia’s cotton crop.

Leaders in the state’s $1 billion cotton industry say they’ve been left with more questions than answers. With Georgia cotton planting season quickly approaching, farm leaders say, lenders will be reluctant to provide production loans without a promise of disaster assistance.

“It’s frustrating to meet with our leaders face to face and be promised assistance and nothing come in return,” said Bart Davis, a cotton farmer from Colquitt County who chairs the Georgia Cotton Commission.

That concern was shared by U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, in an email statement to constituents on Sunday.

“For months, I have worked tirelessly with my colleagues in the House for timely disaster relief for farmers and communities impacted by Hurricane Michael and the other natural disasters of 2018,” Scott said. “When the most recent spending package was released this past Thursday without disaster assistance, I was disappointed and frustrated that the assurances we have heard for months that relief would be included in spending measures to reopen the government were empty promises.”

Scott cited that lack of disaster action and lack of funding to secure the U.S. Southern border as reasons he voted against the spending package.

Savannah City Council voted to increase the quota on local and disadvantaged businesses contracting with the municipal government, according to the Savannah Morning News.

the Savannah City Council voted to increase the disadvantaged-business participation goal established in February last year from 18 percent to 20 percent. The local goal was set at 10 percent.

Prior to joining the rest of the council in supporting the change, Alderman John Hall touted the program as a way “to move the needle down on the city’s poverty rate.”

“We are keeping the money local where it should be kept and I think that’s a good thing,” Hall said.

A new solar farm in Savannah is sited on a former landfill, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The new solar farm sits atop the Deptford Landfill, disused for more than 50 years, at the entrance to Dulany Industries’ new multi-use industrial complex called SeaPoint. Georgia Power personnel were readying the solar panels’ connections to the grid Thursday.

With landfill debris underground and heavy scrub growing over it, the five acres required expensive preparation, including a blanket of enough clean soil to fill about four Olympic-sized swimming pools, said Philip Rowland, the vice president of operations for Dulany Industries. Solar farms are rare in urban areas.

He credited the city of Savannah, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, former site owner Greenfield Environment Trust, plus contractors including Terracon and Triplett Land Clearing for assistance with the project, which took more than seven years to come to fruition. When up and running in a month or two, the solar farm’s 1.2 megawatt capacity will be enough to power about 240 homes.

The project suffered a setback in August 2017 when Georgia Power at the last minute pulled out of a previous deal that would have provided community solar, a project that renters or homeowners without suitable site conditions on their own property could buy into. At the time, Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said “it did not prove to be a suitable location because of the high cost to construct the facility.”

The Newnan Times-Herald has published the first of a series of interviews with five candidates for Coweta County Sheriff.

A vacancy on the Coweta County Superior Court will be filled by Gov. Brian Kemp, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Coweta Circuit Superior Court Judge Jack Kirby’s retirement was effective Jan. 31, but the process to replace him still hasn’t begun.

While Kirby’s replacement will be appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp, most of the replacement process is handled by the Judicial Nominating Commission.

Each governor appoints his own JNC, and Kemp’s commission was appointed Feb. 7.

Atlanta attorney Vincent Russo, administrative co-chair for the JNC, said Monday that he anticipates application dates for the vacancy will be announced soon.

Trump Administration official Ashley Bell received the Drum Major for Justice Award from the Perry County [Alabama] Civic League, according to the Gainesville Times.

Lula City Council voted to oppose State House Bill 302, which would limit local governments power to regulate single family homes and duplexes, according to the Gainesville Times.

HB 302, sponsored by four Republicans and two Democrats in the Georgia House of Representatives, would prohibit local governments from adopting or enforcing ordinances or regulations relating to building design elements on single-family homes or duplexes.

Lula officials said Monday they want to retain some local control over building architecture and passed a resolution expressing their opposition to the state bill. The resolution will be passed on to Hall County’s legislative delegation.

“County and municipal governments use building design standards to protect property values, attract high quality builders and block incompatible development. … Building design standards assure residents and business owners that their investments will be protected,” Lula’s resolution reads.

Councilman Mordecai Wilson also said the control should stay local.

“Are they saying we don’t have a voice in selecting what type of home or materials go in it? They want to take that away from us?” Wilson said. “… I oppose it.”

18
Feb

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

Alexander Stephens, who was born in Crawfordville, Taliaferro County, Georgia, was inaugurated as Vice President of the Confederate States of America on February 18, 1861. Stephens graduated from Franklin College, later known as the University of Georgia, and served in the Georgia legislature. Stephens opposed Georgia’s secession. One year later, Georgia’s delegation to the Confederate Congress, numbering ten members, was sworn in.

Ina Dillard was born on February 18, 1868 in Oglethorpe County Georgia. She married Richard Russell, who served on the Georgia Court of Appeals and as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. Their son, Richard B. Russell, Jr., would be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, where he served as Speaker and became the youngest Governor of Georgia in the 20th Century. In 1932 he ran for United States Senate and was elected.

In 1936, Russell was elected to his first full term in the Senate over former Governor Eugene Talmadge. In 1952, Russell ran for the Democratic nomination for President and he was an early mentor for Lyndon B. Johnson, who later served as President. Russell served on the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President Kennedy.

Russell served as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee for many years. Russell was an acknowledged leader within the Senate, and especially among Southern members, and he led much of the opposition to civil rights legislation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The municipal powder magazine in Savannah, built in 1898, may be restored, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Historic Savannah Foundation credits the internet for bringing the building to their attention again.

Carey says the small grant will facilitate a conditions assessment and integrity report for the building, which will yield some important information.

“It will tell us what the existing conditions are, what kind of shape the building is in, but also what are the priority areas that need repair and what order, what things we need to take care of first, and also some sense of the cost associated with the restoration, repair and rehabilitation of the building,” Carey said. “It’ll be a roadmap that the city can use when it plans for the eventual restoration of the building.”

Carey said it would take several months to get a completed assessment report for the building, which will help inform their decisions going forward.

Bret Bell, assistant to the Savannah city manager, said the roof will likely need to be replaced, but for the most part, the building itself was made to be extra sturdy — its 3-foot-thick brick walls were literally built to stand up to explosions.

Bell said City Manager Rob Hernandez is behind the project as well.

“His position on the powder magazine is it’s a city building, a historic city structure, and it’s the city’s responsibility to preserve the structure so it lasts, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Bell said. “What it will be, well, we’ll figure that out as we go along.

A replica of the Santa Maria will dock in Brunswick next month, according to The Brunswick News.

The Nao Santa Maria was built in Spain in 2017 by the Nao Victoria Foundation. The ship crossed the Atlantic and is making its first visit to the United States. Brunswick is the ship’s only stop in Georgia. After it leaves the Golden Isles, he ship will sail to St. Augustine. Later this year, the Santa Maria will make an appearance in the Great Lakes for the 2019 Tall Ship Festival.

The Santa Maria will be in Brunswick from April 8 to 15 at the marina’s Dock One. Dockside deck tours will be offered to the public. Advance tickets are available online at naosantamaria.org or go to the link at stmarystallshipalliance.org. The tours are also open to local schools.

Two days after the Santa Maria departs, another tall ship, Privateer Lynx, will sail into the Brunswick Landing Marina. The ship will be in town from April 17 to 28 and daily public sailings lasting 2.5 hours will be offered, as well as free dockside tours and an educational program. Ticket prices for the public sailings at 3 to 5:30 p.m. are $55 for adults and $25 for youths under 16 years old Ticket prices for the sailing from 6 to 8:30 p.m. are $65.

Crawford said the Lynx was in Brunswick last year and all 13 sailing tours sold out in one day. This time, the Lynx will be in town for 10 days to accommodate the demand for the sailing tours.

The Lynx is described as an “interpretation” of a privateer named Lynx that was built in 1812.

A plane that served as Air Force One occasionally for President Lyndon B. Johnson, is on display at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Lockheed VC-140B Jetstar ferried President Lyndon B. Johnson on short trips while he was in office from 1963 to 1969. The plane was often used to transport Johnson to his Texas ranch, where unlike the big Air Force One, it could land on the short runway there. Johnson flew on it hundreds of times, said Mike Rowland, the museum curator.

It’s likely that on the plane, intense discussions were held about the raging war in Vietnam, the investigation into President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the civil rights movement and the war on poverty, among other things.

Rowland said there are plans to restore it but he isn’t sure when that will happen. The restoration will include a new paint job to make it correct to the Air Force One color scheme when it flew, which currently is not the case. The plane is blue on the bottom and white on the top, but that is supposed to be the other way around. The restoration also would add the presidential seal and other markings that are now missing.

There were other VC-140s that served as Air Force One during Johnson’s presidency, Rowland said, but the one at the museum was Johnson’s favorite and was the one he used the most often.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The State Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet at 1 PM today at Mezzanine 1 in the State Capitol.

United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) campaigned in Lawrenceville for the 2020 Democratic nomination for President, according to WSB-TV.Continue Reading..

15
Feb

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

On February 17, 1739, Thomas Jones wrote to the Georgia Trustees in London of the appalling conditions in Savannah.

“The profanation of the Lord’s Day. When at church in the time of divine service, can hear continual firing of guns by people that are shooting at some game, others carrying burdens on wheelbarrows by the church door.

“The uncommon lewdness practiced by many and gloried in.

“The negligence of officers in permitting several in this town to retail rum and strong liquors, unlicensed, who have no other visible way of livelihood, where servants resort and are encouraged to rob their masters… .

“I need not mention profane swearing and drunkenness, which are not so common here as in some other places, and few are notorious therein, besides Mr. Baliff Parker, who I have seen wallow in the mire….

The Georgia legislature, on February 17, 1783, passed legislation granting land to veterans of Georgia militia who served during the Revolutionary War.

On February 15, 1796, Georgia Governor Jared Irwin and legislators gathered with a crowd for the burning of the “Yazoo Act.”

On February 17, 1784, the Georgia legislature passed a bill to increase an earlier formula for settling the state, allotting 200 acres to each head of a family, plus 50 acres for each family member (including up to 10 slaves) up to a maximum of 1000 acres.

Thomas Jefferson was elected Third President of the United States on February 17, 1801. The election was deadlocked for three months between Jefferson and his running-mate Aaron Burr.

On November 4 [1800], the national election was held. When the electoral votes were counted, the Democratic-Federalists emerged with a decisive victory, with Jefferson and Burr each earning 73 votes to Adams’ 65 votes and Pinckney’s 64 votes. John Jay, the governor of New York, received 1 vote.

Because Jefferson and Burr had tied, the election went to the House of Representatives, which began voting on the issue on February 11, 1801. What at first seemed but an electoral technicality–handing Jefferson victory over his running mate–developed into a major constitutional crisis when Federalists in the lame-duck Congress threw their support behind Burr. Jefferson needed a majority of nine states to win, but in the first ballot had only eight states, with Burr winning six states and Maryland and Virginia. Finally, on February 17, a small group of Federalists reasoned that the peaceful transfer of power required that the majority party have its choice as president and voted in Jefferson’s favor. The 35th ballot gave Jefferson victory with 10 votes. Burr received four votes and two states voted blank.

On February 17, 1820, the United States Senate passed the Missouri Compromise to govern the admission of new states as either slave-holding or not.

On February 17, 1854, Georgia Governor Herschel Johnson signed legislation by the Georgia General Assembly placing on the ballot for the next generation the question of whether to move the state capital from Milledgeville to Atlanta.

On February 15, 1898, the battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana harbor, Cuba.

On February 16, 1923, Howard Carter and his archaeology party entered the burial chamber of King Tutankhamen.

The steps led to an ancient sealed doorway bearing the name Tutankhamen. When Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered the tomb’s interior chambers on November 26, they were thrilled to find it virtually intact, with its treasures untouched after more than 3,000 years. The men began exploring the four rooms of the tomb, and on February 16, 1923, under the watchful eyes of a number of important officials, Carter opened the door to the last chamber.

Inside lay a sarcophagus with three coffins nested inside one another. The last coffin, made of solid gold, contained the mummified body of King Tut. Among the riches found in the tomb–golden shrines, jewelry, statues, a chariot, weapons, clothing–the perfectly preserved mummy was the most valuable, as it was the first one ever to be discovered. Despite rumors that a curse would befall anyone who disturbed the tomb, its treasures were carefully catalogued, removed and included in a famous traveling exhibition called the “Treasures of Tutankhamen.”

On February 16, 1948, the United States Air Force renamed Robins Air Field to Robins Air Force Base. Robins AFB and the City of Warner Robins are named for Air Force General Augustine Warner Robins.

On February 15, 1952 Gov. Herman Talmadge signed a joint resolution directing the purchase of Stone Mountain for development as a Confederate Memorial.

Fidel Castro was sworn-in as Prime Minister of Cuba on February 16, 1959.

On February 16, 1968, Speaker of the Alabama House of Representative Rankin Fite placed the first 911 call from Haleyville City Hall to Congressman Tom Bevill at the Haleyville police station.

The first portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to hang in the state capitol was unveiled on March 17, 1974 and was replaced in 2006 by the current portrait.

On February 15, 2011, Georgia Congressman John Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in the civil rights movement.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM HOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE Life & Health Subcommittee 506 CLOB

9:30 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 16) House Chamber

11:00 AM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary (Non-Civil) 132 CAP

12:00 PM SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT – CANCELLED 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE FINANCE- Ad Valorem Subcommittee 307 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Academic Achievement Subcommittee 406 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary (Civil) 132 CAP

United States Senators Johnny Isakson (R) and David Perdue (R) signed a letter asking for quicker action on disaster relief, according to the Albany Herald.

Supplemental disaster funding was supported by 98 U.S. senators, including Isakson and Perdue, in funding proposals voted on earlier this year, but this week’s initial agreement to fund the government after Friday does not include this funding.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Isakson and Perdue joined with a bipartisan group of senators representing states recovering from recent hurricane and wildfire damage to urge an immediate vote on disaster recovery funding for states working to rebuild, writing, “We insist you bring a disaster supplemental bill to the floor for consideration at the earliest opportunity to ensure that the federal government fulfills its responsibility.”

As part of an effort to ensure Georgia farmers and others recovering in the wake of Hurricane Michael receive federal aid, Isakson and Perdue have twice introduced a $3 billion agriculture disaster relief amendment to bills under consideration before the Senate in the 116th Congress.

Tamar Hallerman of the AJC writes about Georgia legislators’ reactions to the border security funding deal.

The spending deal, which would set aside nearly $1.4 billion for President Donald Trump’s border wall and stave off another government shutdown through September, prompted “yes” votes from four Georgia Republicans.

One of the more notable votes in favor came from Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue, an immigration hawk who has often sought to pull his White House ally to the right.

All five of the state’s Democrats opted to support the plan, bucking some House progressives who rejected the compromise.

Seven Georgia Republicans voted against the compromise. Most said it did not include enough money for the wall, and others griped about the lack of money for Hurricane Michael cleanup.

Governor Brian Kemp helped unveil a free app to connect users in crisis with mental health resources, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Downloadable to Apple and Android smartphones, the My GCAL app connects via text and chat with the confidential Georgia Crisis and Access Line. The hotline is now staffed 24 hours a day with counselors and clinical professionals.

“It’s good for all ages, adults too, but young people in particular are reluctant to talk about behavioral health issues,” said Rep. Katie Dempsey. “This is a way to explore resources through text with people trained to listen, assess and help someone decide what services they need.”

Dempsey and Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, were among the lawmakers who stood with Gov. Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp as they unveiled the app. The two helped push for funding in the state budget to modernize the 13-year-old GCAL system.

“Our youth prefer to text instead of calling. They also may be in a crisis situation where they can’t call,” Hufstetler said. “This just makes our crisis hotline more accessible, particularly to our younger population.”

Kemp called the My GCAL app an “innovative tool” to address what parents, students and educators have convinced him is a growing mental health crisis in schools. His budget this year includes increased funding for intervention and school security measures.

Anyone in Georgia can contact GCAL for help for themselves or on behalf of someone else at 800-715-4225 or via the app. Callers in crisis can speak with live clinicians trained in de-escalation and, when needed, mobile crisis response teams can be dispatched. Information specialists also can provide referrals for treatment in a caller’s area.

A joint meeting of the Senate and House Natural Resources Committees heard about coal ash, according to The Brunswick News.

Senate committee Chairman Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla, let it be known this joint meeting was just on the basics, and anything further — including likely testimony from a number of interested parties — would occur as the committees handle bills in their regular course of business.

“I think it’s important to note this is an oversight hearing this morning — that’s the purpose of the meeting,” Harper said. “We’ve asked the Environmental Protection Division and the director to come, and others, to get us up to date on what’s going on, and that’s what this hearing is about. Obviously, today we will not be taking any testimony.

“Under both the state and federal rules, all 30 ash ponds in Georgia must cease accepting waste and close,” [EPD Director Rick] Dunn said. “Most impoundments in Georgia must cease accepting waste in April of this year. … And, they must complete closure of these surface impoundments or ash ponds within five years, although extensions of that requirement are available.”

[Georgia Power General Manager of Environmental Affairs Aaron] Mitchell said Georgia Power is looking at taking their coal ash reuse project from its active sites and use it with ash from closed sites — the utility filed a notice with the state Public Service Commission to begin an ash beneficial reuse research center at a Georgia Power facility, partnering with the Electric Power Research Institute. Staff at the center would study the beneficial reuse of coal ash and experiment with technology to condition the coal ash for best reuse.

From WABE:

Georgia Power is continuing to clean up coal ash, a byproduct from burning coal for electricity that can contain toxic materials. The utility presented its progress to state lawmakers at a hearing Thursday.

The utility is closing all 29 of its coal ash ponds, big, open ponds of water mixed with ash that run the risk of leaching toxics into groundwater, or having it flood over the top of the pond into neighboring waterways.

“In a short couple of months, we will cease to place ash in ash ponds forever,” Aaron Mitchell, general manager of environmental affairs at Georgia Power, told legislators from the Georgia House and Senate.

“From a water quality standpoint this is very good,” said Jac Capp, chief of the water branch of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

Dalton Utilities is seeking the ability to borrow money without public approval, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Mark Woodall with the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club argued that the real driving force for the bill was the ongoing expansion of Plant Vogtle, which is a nuclear power plant near Augusta. That work is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

“Taking away the right of the people of Dalton to vote — that’s not going to solve our issues with Vogtle,” Woodall told lawmakers.

Sen. Chuck Payne, a Republican from Dalton, claimed that the utility’s push to end the public vote requirement is unrelated to its small stake in the project.

“Dalton Utilities has 1.6 percent interest in Vogtle. So Vogtle is not the reason that they’re doing this,” Payne said.

A Senate committee unanimously approved the measure on Thursday after a brief discussion. If it clears the Senate, the proposal will face opposition in the House, where some lawmakers remain unconvinced.

Rep. Jason Ridley, a Republican who represents a portion of Whitfield County, said he is against giving Dalton Utilities what he said amounts to an open checkbook for Plant Vogtle.

The State House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care heard House Bill 198 by Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin), which would repeal the state Certificate of Need program, according to Georgia Health News.

State Rep. Matt Hatchett, a Dublin Republican and sponsor of the bill, said Wednesday that the legislation seeks to stabilize rural hospitals, promote transparency among nonprofit hospitals, and drive down health care costs and insurance rates.

Rep. Terry England, an Auburn Republican and also a sponsor, added, “We’re trying to do what’s best for the patient.’’ It aims to promote access, affordability and quality of care, he said.

Hospital opponents of the bill told committee members that it would hurt health care, especially in rural areas.

“We’ve been hit over the head on this,’’ Ethan James, a Georgia Hospital Association vice president, said of the legislation. It would do “tremendous damage to our rural health care system,” he said.

James said 60 rural hospitals in Georgia are against the bill.

Hospital groups, though, have voiced deep concern about the lifting of restrictions on ambulatory surgery and imaging centers, saying they would siphon off privately insured patients. Lewis of HomeTown Health said his hospital members are united against easing the surgery center rules.

The Medical College of Georgia is working on plans to increase the number of rural doctors in Georgia, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Expanding Medical College of Georgia by 50 students and shortening medical school to three years while offering loan remission for those who serve in rural areas could put dozens of new doctors in areas of need across the state.

It is “the biggest thing we’ve done since 1828,” when the Medical College of Georgia was founded, Dean David Hess said. An expansion and radical change to the education of medical students also could provide dozens of new doctors to rural areas of Georgia in need of them.

Hess and Augusta University President Brooks Keel have approached state leaders about expanding the medical school by 50 students and shortening medical school from four years to three, while also pitching the idea of the state paying the tuition of those students who agree to spend at least six years in underserved areas of the state, which is almost every county outside of the metro areas. Those students who complete the three-year program would then go into a three-year primary care residency in the state, Hess said.

The looming physician shortage breathed new life in adding those additional 50 students and ensuring they were looking at primary care, he said. Georgia ranks near the bottom in physicians per capita.

Homeowners on the Savannah River are not amused by the lowering of the water level, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

About 30 people showed up Thursday on Riverwalk Augusta to form an unsmiling half circle around a spokesman of the Savannah District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as he explained to reporters why the river had been deliberately shrunk in the past several days and the agency’s plan to keep it that way after New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam is removed and replaced by a rock weir allowing migratory fish to get through.

The weir and fish passage are part of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project and serve as mitigation for damage that project is causing to spawning grounds in the river near Savannah from the harbor deepening, which is allowing saltwater to creep further up the river, spokesman Russell Wicke said. The passage near Augusta would allow endangered fish such as the shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon to access historic spawning grounds in the Augusta shoals currently blocked by the 80-year-old lock and dam, he said.

The lowered river pool now is part of a simulation to show what the river would look like once the weir is built and corps engineers and experts showed up in the Augusta area Thursday to begin making their own observations and readings. The corps was using two boats going up and down the river, one flying a drone to take aerial photos, taking measurements and depths at various points, Wicke said. So far, there have been no surprises, he said.

Eleven Georgians were elected to leadership in the National Cotton Council, according to the Albany Herald.

Trees Columbus will add 1000 trees to their area to restore part of the canopy, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms said City Council will likely appoint Larry Curtis Jr. to the District 6 seat vacated by the death of Council member Mike Davis, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert delivered the State of the Community address, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The mayor briefly highlighted some of the challenges still facing Macon-Bibb County, but primarily focused on why he says many residents are optimistic about the direction in which the county is headed. Reichert also challenged those in attendance and other residents to express why they love Macon.

“There are concerns about crime, poverty and economic security, but nearly 70 percent felt our community is changing for the better,” Reichert said during the event at the Edgar H. Wilson Convention Center.

Reichert also discussed the county’s financial situation after four consecutive years of deficits.

Last year’s budget of $154.7 million was still considerably lower than the $165.6 million in the combined city and county budgets from the year prior consolidation, Reichert noted.

Former unincorporated residents are now paying more taxes than before 2014. but those who lived in the former Macon city limits are paying less, Reichert said.

Loganville Mayor Rey Martinez gave his State of the City speech, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The speech was the first State of the City report given by Martinez since he took office last year and made history as the first Hispanic mayor of a Georgia city. He reflected on the changes that occurred in the city’s leadership. Not only did Martinez become mayor, but the City Council also welcomed two new members.

But while Martinez reflected on what he had learned after his first city in the city’s top official, he also unveiled a motto of “Keep Loganville rolling, Keep Loganville growing and Keep Loganville clean” that shaped the theme of his speech.

The motto that Martinez uttered at the beginning of his speech referred to three main focus areas that he said the city will work on this year: traffic, downtown economic redevelopment and beautification efforts around Loganville. The majority of the city is located in Walton County, but part of it is located on the other side of the county line in Gwinnett County.

Whitfield County Magistrate Judge Shana Vinyard is resigning effective April 1, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Whitfield County Magistrate Judge Shana Vinyard, who has been on “voluntary paid leave” from the judge position since Oct. 3, 2018, on Wednesday submitted her resignation effective April 1, fellow Magistrate Judge Chris Griffin said.

Griffin confirmed Vinyard, who has been drawing her yearly salary of $52,492, has been under investigation by the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC).

“The Judicial Qualifications Commission investigator did inform us yesterday that she submitted her resignation to Gov. (Brian) Kemp and it was accepted,” Griffin said.

14
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 14, 2018

On February 14, 1779, Lt. Col. Elijah Clarke led a charge against British forces at the Battle of Kettle Creek.

On February 14, 1956, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation calling for the protection, cleaning and maintenance, and display of historic Confederate flags at the State Capitol.

On February 14, 1958, the Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution purporting to censure President Dwight D. Eisenhower for using National Guard troops in the integration of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.

On February 14, 1977, the B-52s played their first gig at a Valentine’s Day party in Athens.

Later that year, the group began making regular runs in the Wilson family station wagon up to New York City for gigs at seminal New Wave clubs like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s. With Kate and Cindy in their mile-high beehive wigs and 60s thrift-shop best, and Fred looking like a gay, demented golf pro, the B-52s made an immediate impression on the New York scene, and their independently produced single, “Rock Lobster,” became an underground smash.

The B-52s are still in business three decades later, minus Ricky Wilson, who died of AIDS in 1985. Significantly, their success is widely credited for establishing the viability of the Athens, Georgia, music scene, which would produce many minor successes and one massive one—R.E.M.—in the years immediately following the breakthrough of the B-52′s.

On February 14, 2012, we published the first edition of the GaPundit daily political news, featuring dogs. We originally thought that the dogs would be temporary until enough people complained about them that we felt the need to go to once a week. We were surprised that the adoptable dogs have become the signature of GaPundit’s otherwise-political offerings and our greatest success.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:15 AM SENATE FINANCE- Sales Tax Subcommittee 318 CLOB

12:00 PM SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT 125 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION 450 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

3:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 450 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY – CANCELED MEZZ 1

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION – CANCELED 310 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HEALTH 506 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE JOINT HOUSE AND SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT 341 CAP

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HUMAN RESOURCES 415 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE 341 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 406 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE EDUCATION 606 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE BANKS AND BANKING 506 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY (CIVIL) 132 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION 506 CLOB

2:00 PM< HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HIGHER EDUCATION 403 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Insurance – Property & Casualty Subcommittee 514 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS PUBLIC SAFETY 406 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE WAYS & MEANS 606 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE Motor Vehicles Tags & Title Subcommittee 515 CLOB

3:30 PM HOUSE Motor Vehicles Driver Safety & Service Subcommittee 515 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR LEGISLATIVE DAY 15

SB 6 – Correctional Institutions of the State and Counties; use of unmanned aircraft systems to deliver or attempt to deliver contraband to a place of incarceration; prohibit (Substitute)(PUB SAF-32nd)

SB 8 – Specialty License Plate; benefit the Atlanta United Foundation; establish (PUB SAF-9th)

SB 52 – Code Revision Commission; statutory portion of said Code; revise, modernize, correct errors or omissions in and reenact (JUDY-3rd)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR LEGISLATIVE DAY 15

Modified Open Rule

HR 51 – Joint Georgia-North Carolina and Georgia-Tennessee Boundary Line Commission; create (IntC-Morris-26th)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 184 – Streamlining Wireless Facilities and Antennas Act; enact (Substitute)(ED&T-Harrell-106th)

Governor Brian Kemp‘s Senate floor leader introduced Senate Bill 106, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Legislation unveiled Wednesday by state Sen. Blake Tillery would let Gov. Brian Kemp seek federal waivers for programs that would increase the number of people covered by Medicaid.

Kemp called a press conference to announce he is committed to working with lawmakers to “craft a Georgia-centric healthcare system that ensures a bright and healthy future for all Georgians — no matter their zip code.”

His Patients First Act, SB 106, would restore the governor’s authority to negotiate with federal officials on how to serve more low-income residents. The measure has more than a dozen Republican co-signers, including Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome.

“The goal is to help improve the health of Georgians,” he said. “The idea is that preventative care would be a lower cost so there will be an effort to move healthcare upstream.”

Hufstetler said a quasi-governmental test project at Grady Memorial Hospital and several rural hospitals showed a healthcare management-type program reduced costs by 43 percent.

From a press release by the Governor’s office:

“Georgians deserve a health care system that is accessible, affordable, and second to none – and the Patients First Act will allow us the flexibility to craft such a system,” said Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan. “I look forward to working with Governor Kemp and Speaker Ralston to find innovative solutions and advance substantive policies that will dramatically improve health care for hundreds of thousands of Georgians. I sincerely believe our solutions are going to mirror advances we’ve seen from the private sector.”

“I appreciate Governor Kemp working with the legislature to find a conservative way to ensure access to healthcare for more Georgians,” said Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). “We are committed to moving forward in a fiscally-responsible way that avoids the perils associated with Medicaid expansion.”

From the AJC:

Several Democratic leaders said they would support nothing short of full-scale Medicaid expansion and worried that the measure gives Kemp too much power over the process.

The governor pushed back on those concerns, telling reporters he wants to find a way “that’s focused on Georgia.” He added that he’s mindful of the broad leeway the legislation gives him, including the final signoff on any agreement proposed to the federal government.

“It is giving me the authority to do this, and I take great responsibility with that,” he said. “But I’m not trying to be the Lone Ranger on this — we’re all in this together, we’re all working to together to tackle all the issues we have.”

“Look, everybody keeps talking about Medicaid expansion. We are working on a couple of things here. We want to lower private-sector health care costs — that’s what’s killing hardworking Georgians out there,” he said. “And we want to innovate a health care system that’s not working.”

House Bill 189 by State Rep. Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain) would exempt railroad fuel from state sales tax, according to the AJC.

A subcommittee Wednesday held a hearing on legislation that would exempt fuel used by railroads from the state’s 4 percent sales tax.

It’s similar to the deal legislators have given airlines on jet fuel off and on for more than a decade.

Legislation by State Rep. Micah Gravley (R-Paulding) would set up a marijuana distribution system in Georgia, according to the AJC.

The proposal calls for up to 10 medical marijuana dispensaries to serve the state’s rising number of registered patients — 8,400 so far. The drug would be legally grown, manufactured, tested, tracked and distributed for the first time if the legislation passes.

The bill is the next step for Georgia’s medical marijuana program, which since 2015 has permitted patients to possess and use marijuana with less than 5 percent THC, the main psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.

“The problem is that there’s nowhere to purchase the oil here in the state of Georgia,” said Gravley, a Republican from Douglasville. “We know it’s beneficial. We’ve seen seizures reduced, we’ve seen the easing of the effects of Parkinson’s, cancer, MS, Crohn’s, sickle cell anemia and autism.”

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has left open the possibility for in-state cultivation of medical marijuana.

“I sympathize and empathize with them on that issue, and I support research-based expansion,” Kemp said in an interview on Georgia Public Broadcasting last month. “Thankfully, there is some research that’s going on in this field that will give us some good data that will kind of tell us how to move forward.”

Federal legislation passed by the United States Senate would give Macon a path to creating a national park, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Supporters of making Ocmulgee National Monument a national park scored a major new victory when the U.S. Senate for the first time approved the designation.

Bills that would create the park have twice passed the House only to fall in the Senate, but this time a bill went through the Senate first and passed by a 92-8 vote on Tuesday. It was part of a larger bill, called the Natural Resources Management Act, that protects 2 million acres of land nationwide. Ocmulgee is one of two new national parks in the bill.

The bill still needs to pass the House and get signed by President Donald Trump to become law, but supporters are optimistic that the long-time goal is now within reach.

Congressman Tom Graves (R-Ranger) will serve as the senior Republican on the bipartisan Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

The Northwest Georgia congressman is one of 12 House members appointed to study, investigate and recommend operational efficiencies.

“As technology rapidly evolves, it’s important to give every member of the House access to new resources that will help them better serve their constituents,” Graves said in a Tuesday announcement.

“It’s my goal to ensure this team is able to identify ways to serve the American people more effectively and efficiently while ensuring we also have the tools to recruit and retain top talent,” Graves said.

Abit Massey, longtime lobbyist for the poultry industry, was inducted into the Poultry Industry Hall of Fame, according to the Gainesville Times.

Abit Massey, president emeritus of the Georgia Poultry Federation, was inducted in to the Poultry Industry Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

Massey retired as the Gainesville-based organization’s president in 2009 after serving in that role since 1960. He advocated for the poultry industry and worked to expand research in the field. The Georgia Poultry Lab sits on Abit Massey Way off of Ga. 365.

Before working in the poultry industry, Massey was head of the Georgia Department of Commerce, now Economic Development, and oversaw the creation of the tourist division and the building of the first welcome station.

“I was surprised and I am highly honored,” Massey said Tuesday. “I have loved working for the Georgia Poultry Federation and being in the great poultry industry.”

The Georgia General Assembly passed school bus safety legislation, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Senate Bill 25, approved Wednesday, changes the law to state that only drivers on highways with roadways that are separated by a grass median, unpaved area or physical barrier are allowed to pass a stopped school bus on the other side of that barrier.

“We are very relieved that the state legislature realized that there was a serious safety issue created by last year’s version of that law,” said Doug Moore, director of operations and school safety for the Coweta County School System. “They’ve taken a tremendous step forward to establishing a more safe environment for our students.”

The bill was introduced on Jan. 16 and voted out of the Senate Public Safety Committee on Feb. 5. The Senate approved it unanimously on Feb. 17, and the House approved it Wednesday.

The Georgia Court of Appeals needs more staff, according to The Brunswick News.

Denied the chance in the amended Fiscal Year 2019 budget, Georgia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Stephen Dillard requested from the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety at least two new central staff attorneys in the FY 2020 budget.

“There’s really a dire need for additional assistance — that’s why we asked for at least one (for FY 2019),” Dillard said. “We asked for one last year, we didn’t get it, I understand that. But this year we’re asking for the one that we asked for last year, and also another one. So, we’d be asking for two central staff positions.

“What that would do is it would bring our central staff up to 15, which would match the number of judges we now have with the expanded Court of Appeals. And we feel like that would give us a good, core unit to have handle the additional cases that have come down, that would allow us the flexibility when we have people out in chambers that are sick. That’s happened quite a bit.”

A United States Court of Appeals upheld a lower court order to open records on a 1946 lynching, according to the Statesboro Herald.

A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a lower court ruling to unseal the transcripts of the grand jury proceedings that followed a monthslong investigation into the killings.

Roger and Dorothy Malcom and George and Mae Murray Dorsey were riding in a car that was stopped by a white mob at Moore’s Ford Bridge, overlooking the Apalachee River, in July 1946. They were pulled from the car and shot multiple times along the banks of the river.

Anthony Pitch, who wrote a 2016 book on the lynching — “The Last Lynching: How a Gruesome Mass Murder Rocked a Small Georgia Town” — has sought access to the grand jury proceedings, hoping they may shed some light on what happened.

A federal judge in 2017 granted Pitch’s request to unseal the records, but lawyers with the U.S. Department of Justice appealed, arguing grand jury proceedings are secret and should remain sealed. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday ruled 2-1 to uphold the lower court’s order.

A casino boat previously located at Tybee Island will not seek to operate on the Island, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A Columbus forum on possible plans for the Government Center included calls for price estimates, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center Authority is seeking state funding to expand the Savannah Convention Center on Hutchinson Island, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The GIMTCA requested $234 million for the expansion, which would be among numerous statewide projects funded through revenue public bonds underwritten by the state, which typically issues more than $1 billion in bonds each year.

President and CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council, Michael Owens, who has been working as a go-between between the board and Governor Brian Kemp’s office, told the board on Wednesday during its monthly meeting, that he believes [Governor] Kemp understands the importance of this project economically not only to Savannah and the local municipalities, but to the region and to the state.

State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Dist. 164), who serves as chairman of the Economic Development and Tourism committee, previously told the Savannah Morning News that it’s time for the state to step up and get the ball rolling on the expansion. Stephens could not be reached before press time for this story.

“The locals have put up the majority of the money through hotel/motel taxes, so it’s time for the state since it’s their convention center and on their property. It’s time for the state to ante up,” Stephens said in December.

13
Feb

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

On February 13, 1941, Gov. Eugene Talmadge signed legislation that proposed a Constitutional Amendment changing the 2-year terms for Governor and other statewide Constitutional Officers to 4-year.

On February 13, 1956, Gov. Marvin Griffin signed legislation adopting a new state flag incorporating the Confederate battle flag.

On February 13, 2007, United States Congressman Charlie Norwood (R-Augusta) died at home.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

State Rep. Chris Erwin (R) has appealed a court decision that removed him from office, according to AccessWDUN.

Now-former Georgia House District 28 State Rep. Chris Erwin has appealed Senior Judge David Sweat’s ruling that grants Petitioner Dan Gasaway’s petition and threw out the Dec. 4 House District 28 Special Election, removing Erwin from office.

That appeal now heads to the Supreme Court of Georgia.

“The Supreme Court, rather than the Court of Appeals, has jurisdiction to hear this appeal because this is an appeal of an election contest and the Supreme Court has ‘exclusive appellate jurisdiction’ over appeals involving ‘cases of election contest’,” the appeal filed by Erwin’s attorney, Bryan Tyson, states.

Meanwhile, Superior Court Senior Judge David Sweat‘s order under appeal also included a re-do of the election in question, according to AccessWDUN.

“The Special Election in which Respondent Chris Erwin was certified the winner is hereby declared invalid; having been sworn into office as Representative of Georgia House District 28 … Mr. Erwin hereby ceases to hold this office and ceases to exercise the powers, duties, and privileges of the office immediately,” Sweat’s ruling states.

“The third 2018 Georgia House District 28 Republican General Primary Election shall take place on April 9, 2019, with all absentee ballots, early voting ballots, and other ballots to be administered in accordance with Georgia’s Election Code,” Sweat’s order states.

Matt Barton was sworn in as the newest State Representative, according to GPB News.

“Everybody has been great,” he said. “and, that’s what other freshmen have told me. They’ve been here 12 days, so I’m looking forward to meeting everybody.”

The former school board member and city councilman won the seat in a runoff election in Calhoun last week. Barton fills the position once held by John Meadows, who died last November.

“Those are shoes I won’t be able to fill,” said Barton of Meadows. “Johnny was a special man, who lived about five houses up from me. I saw him all the time.  He was a great man.  He was in very important positions. I’m the low man on the totem pole.  To fill Johnny’s shoes would be hard to do.”

“I have a servant’s heart. I was on the school, and I was on the city council. I just want to do good for my community. I’m a staunch conservative. I want to keep taxes low, as low as possible,” said Barton. “My mom and wife are both educators. My daughter’s going into education, so education is a big part of my life. I’m on board with Governor Kemp trying to get a raise for them, as long as we can do it without raising taxes.”

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS TRANSPORTATION 515 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS 403 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE INSURANCE 606 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 14) House Chamber

12:00 PM SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – Community Health Subcommittee 341 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY – CANCELLED MEZZ 1

1:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HIGHER EDUCATION 415 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs State & Local Government Subcommittee 406 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION 606 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HUMAN RESOURCES 403 CAP

1:15 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Tax 133 CAP

1:30 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – Fiscal Management & General Government Subcommittee 123 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE STATE INSTITUTIONS AND PROPERTY 125 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee 341 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION AND YOUTH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 515 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE STATE PROPERTIES 132 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM MEZZ 1

3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 450 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HEALTH 341 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE WORKING GROUP ON CREATIVE ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT 403 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE INDUSTRY AND LABOR 506 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE RETIREMENT 125 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY- Canceled 307 CLOB

Senate Rules Calendar for Legislative Day 14

SB 38 – Courts; electronic filing requirements of superior and state courts; certain types of filings; exclude (Substitute)(JUDY-3rd)

Franklin Patten (43.13%) and James Burchett, (42.50%) both Republicans, head to a Special Runoff Election in House District 176, to succeed former State Rep. Jason Shaw.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

In a county-by-county break down, Patten overwhelmingly took Lowndes County and Lanier County with 63 percent and 76 percent, respectively.

The race was tightest in Atkinson County with Patten receiving 44 percent and Burchett getting 40 percent.

Burchett caught up with Patten in Ware County by a large margin, earning himself 75 percent of the county’s vote or more than 1,000 votes.

Governor Brian Kemp visited Meadowcreek High School in Gwinnett County to discuss mental health needs in the education system, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Kemp’s first state budget calls for an $8.4 million increase in funding for what is known as APEX mental and behavioral health services. During the governor’s visit to Meadowcreek, he and his wife participated in a discussion on the issue with Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, school officials and state behavioral health officials.

Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said the governor visited Meadowcreek for the discussion and a school tour because the school receives APEX funding from the state. Kemp also visited Dawson County High School for the same reason Monday.

Governor Kemp also announced appointments to the Georgians First Committee, according to GPB News.

Kemp named Cade Joiner and James Whitley to co-chair the commission. The two will lead the 18 member organization and report recommendations back to the governor’s office.

The Commission was established last month through an executive order and is a followup on a campaign promise to promote small business growth in the state. In the order, Kemp states that he hopes to promote growth through common-sense initiatives and by applying successful private-sector solutions to state government.

“Right now, as you know, our state is the epicenter for job growth,” Kemp said Tuesday during a press conference. “We have been the top state for business for six years, a leader in countless industries, but we cannot rest on our laurels, we have to keep chopping, as we say. And I believe together we can make Georgia the best state in the nation for small businesses as well.”

Click here for the Executive Order that includes all appointees.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and several professional baseball players served as guest judges in a fundraiser for Extra Special People in Athens, according to WGAU.

On Feb. 9, Georgia’s Lt. Governor, Geoff Duncan, and several other MLB players were guest judges for Extra Special People (ESP) Big Hearts at Bat. The line-up included Duncan, who played for the Florida Marlins early in his career before being elected as Georgia’s Lt. Governor. Kyle Farmer of the Cincinnati Reds, Gordon Beckham formerly with the Atlanta Braves and now with the Detroit Tigers, Brooks Brown formerly with the Colorado Rockies, and Trevor Holder of the San Diego Padres were also guest judges.

“One of the best parts about being lieutenant governor is having the opportunity to find out about organizations like ESP and the huge impact they have on a community and the joys they bring to people’s lives,” Duncan said.

In its 12th year, ESP’s Big Hearts pageant showcases kids of all abilities as they perform for thousands of guests in Athens, Ga. This year, money was raised to build a Miracle League baseball field and sports complex. Through generous donations at Big Hearts at Bat, ESP reached the $1.1 million mark of a $1.4 million campaign goal. The Miracle League sports complex will bring the magic of baseball to kids of all abilities in Northeast Georgia. Additionally, funds were raised at the pageant and silent auction to send hundreds of kids to summer camp.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced the first of its kind prosecution for alleged violation of the Open Records Act, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Jenna Garland, former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s then press secretary, was issued two citations for violations of the Georgia Open Records Act by Attorney General Chris Carr.

The citations state that on two separate occasions Garland told the director of communications for the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management to drag out a records request response to a news agency. This is a direct violation of the Open Records Act that states it is a misdemeanor to knowingly and willingly attempt to frustrate access to records.

Garland’s attorney has publicly denied the allegations.

Carr said in a statement that openness and transparency in government are vital to upholding the public trust.

“I am confident that this action sends a clear message that the Georgia Open Records Act will be enforced,” Carr said. “I commend the Georgia Department of Law’s Prosecution Division and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for their work on this first of its kind prosecution.”

Senate Bill 56 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) will be heard by the Senate Committee on Insurance and Labor, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, is sponsoring Senate Bill 56, which has provisions applying to scheduled and emergency procedures. It aims to address the financial hardship patients sometimes face when they discover later that some of the services were done by out-of network providers.

“The lieutenant governor sent it to the Insurance Committee and it will possibly get a hearing next week,” Hufstetler said Tuesday.

Lawmakers have tried for several years to rein in the charges, and the surprises. But the measure has been caught between the interests of the insurers and the providers — such as radiologists, pathologists and anesthesiologists who are hospital contractors rather than employees.

The Senate passed on Monday a measure he co-sponsored that would create a streamlined method of licensing physicians to work in Georgia when they’ve been licensed in other states.

SB 16, the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Act, now moves to the House for review.

Senate Bill 72 by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) passed out of the state Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, according to The Brunswick News.

“Last year, the majority of this bill passed out of the Senate about four times, if I remember correctly,” said state Sen. Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla and chairman of the committee. “We just didn’t quite get across the finish line. I’ll just leave it there.”

Included in the bill — Senate Bill 72 — is the codification of board rules for the state Department of Natural Resources and the legalization of air gun hunting. Air guns could be used “for big game only during primitive weapon hunts, primitive weapon seasons and firearm seasons.” That provision sunsets in 2024, but would be reviewed as to whether it should be renewed.

Section Four is a significant update to the game code. Harper said that basically, what they’re doing in the section is giving DNR the authority to make some decisions in regard to seasons for game to where the code will reflect bookends, and they’re giving the department the authority to make those decisions within those bookends.

“Section Five deals with feral hogs and the baiting of feral hogs,” Harper said. “Baiting of feral hogs is legal in Georgia. All this does is it kind of cleans up the code and makes it read a little bit better, and the only thing that this does is it does away with the 50-yard prohibition (on bait from a property boundary).”

The United States Senate passed legislation that would expand the boundaries of Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island, according to The Brunswick News.

“I am so pleased to see the Senate pass this legislation to preserve the rich, historical significance and archaeological heritage of some of Georgia’s oldest landmarks,” U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said in a statement. “This legislation will give visitors a chance to experience Georgia’s history while also providing an economic boost for the tourism industry. I thank the many federal, state and community leaders who have supported these efforts and congratulate them on today’s good news.”

The legislation would mend a 1936 law to allow the maximum boundary limit to increase from 250 acres to 305 acres. That would include 21 acres owned by the St. Simons Land Trust that the trust bought for $3.5 million in 2007 for this purpose. This particular effort’s been in the works for at least nine years.

The vote was 92 in favor and eight against. U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., presided over the vote, which also included provisions for the Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon and Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park in Kennesaw.

“Expanding the parks’ boundaries and preserving their history is a top priority for many Georgians and will boost tourism in our state. I’m hopeful the House will get this bill across the finish line and to President Trump’s desk soon.”

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, worked on a number of House bills in recent years to expand Fort Frederica’s boundaries, including the latest — House Resolution 114 — which was referred to a House subcommittee Feb. 5.

Four candidates for Augusta Commission District Five met in a public forum, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Savannah City Council will consider a $1 million dollar rehab of City Hall, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The planned renovations include the construction of offices for the city attorney’s office and for any aldermen who would like an office there, according to city spokesperson Ken Slats.

The city attorney’s office is being relocated as a result of the city’s decision to sell the Gamble Building, where the office is currently located. Located next to City Hall along River Street, the six-story building is expected to be converted into a condo complex after a majority of the city council voted in August to sell the historic structure for $8.5 million to Foram Development.

The Glynn County Board of Elections project to computerize voter records is taking longer than anticipated, according to The Brunswick News.

The Floyd County Board of Elections is considering how to run elections while the state government considers new voting equipment, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“If the Legislature mandates new equipment, they will mandate how they’re going to pay for it … We shouldn’t have any terrible expenses coming up,” Brady said.

This is a slow year for elections, with only six Rome City Commission seats slated for a vote. Brady said he’s working with City Clerk Joe Smith on the details “and we’re right on schedule.” Qualifying for the Ward 1 and Ward 3 contests is slated for the last week in August.

Meanwhile, Elections Board members are holding on to their equipment funding in case the General Assembly doesn’t provide enough for incidentals.

Two types of systems are under consideration. One would maintain an electronic touchscreen voting method but print out a paper ballot for scanning. The other would use paper ballots filled in by hand, which also would be counted by optical scanning machines.

Northside Hospital and the Gwinnett Health System say they have final regulatory approval to merge, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

In a statement, the systems said that late last week, the Federal Trade Commission completed its review of the merger and gave its approval to move forward. The agreement was approved by the State of Georgia Office of the Attorney General in November 2017.

“We are excited to move forward on the merging of our two health systems,” said Bob Quattrocchi, president and CEO of Northside Hospital. “Leaders from both systems are already meeting to develop a comprehensive integration plan that honors our employees and physicians. This plan ensures that our patients continue to receive quality health care with no disruption of service.”

“Through the merged entity, Gwinnett County will continue to have access to world-class medical treatment,” said Philip Wolfe, president and CEO of Gwinnett Health System. “Health care is a dynamic industry that requires complex technology, highly skilled medical professionals and exceptional leadership. I’m confident the merger will help sustain our ability to offer leading-edge, compassionate and effective health care close to home for many years to come.”

Anchored by five hospitals in Sandy Springs, Lawrenceville, Cumming, Canton and Duluth, the new nonprofit health system will also operate additional sites of care including cancer treatment, imaging, surgical, urgent care and other outpatient centers throughout the state.

Altogether, the Northside-Gwinnett combined system will have 1,604 inpatient beds, over 250 outpatient locations, 21,000 employees and more than 3,500 physicians on staff.