Category: Georgia Politics

6
Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

Governor Brian Kemp lifted the mandatory evacuation of coastal Georgia.

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

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

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

From the Savannah Morning News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He became chief judge of the Southern Circuit in 2009.

Altman said his resignation becomes effective Jan. 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5
Sep

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

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

heartofatlanta.digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Click here for Georgia Power’s outage map.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4
Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Education is the cornerstone to building a more robust economy in any community, so it’s essential to begin this year’s work by examining the educational needs in our rural Georgia areas,” Lumsden said.

Floyd County is adding a parental accountability court, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Laura Lee, the regional child support services program director, said Floyd County has started a parental accountability court that targets chronic non-payers, many of whom have been in jail multiple times for failure to make support payments.

The court will have workers available to work one-on-one with the adult to “help them find work, help them find job skills, whatever barriers they may have.”

Floyd Superior Court Judge Kay Ann Wetherington will preside over the parental accountability court.

The child support recovery program served 5,487 children in Floyd County during FY 2018 — 4,288 are being served today.

A primary focus for the court’s programs is to help non-custodial parents find employment that would help them keep child support payments up-to-date.

Cornelia City Commission added a “Brunch Bill” referendum to the November 5, 2019 ballot, according to AccessWDUN.

Tuesday night, the city commission voted to place the “Brunch Bill” issue on the Nov. 5 municipal election ballot.

“The Brunch Bill is new legislation that was adopted last year, and it allows for the city to hold a referendum and let the voters decide whether or not restaurants can start serving alcohol beginning at 11 a.m. on Sunday mornings,” said City Manager Donald Anderson. “Currently, they can’t do it until 12:30 p.m., so tonight the commissioners adopted a resolution to instruct the county elections superintendent to do a call for this referendum to be held on Nov. 5 to let the voters decide.”

Also appearing on the city ballot Nov. 5 is a contested race for the Ward 1 City Commission seat. Incumbent Wesley A. Dodd Jr. will face Cornelia resident Mark Reed, a previous mayor of Baldwin.

Additionally, city voters, like those throughout Habersham County, will vote Nov. 5 on whether the county should issue $31.7 million in jail bonds to finance construction of a 314-bed jail to keep pace with the county’s growth.

Columbia County Commissioners voted to approve a rezoning for a new solar farm, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The project has caused debate among residents who are concerned about how it could affect property values, the environment and aesthetics.

The planning commission approved the rezoning Aug. 15 on the condition that the developer include at least a 25-foot buffer and provide a plat showing the portion of the property to be rezoned. The developer said there is not much data about how property values could be affected but that the land will be returned to its natural state at the end of the lease.

Residents questioned commissioners Tuesday about why they have not set a limit of how many solar farms can be built. The county has previously approved projects on Yelton Road and Ridge Road in Appling and on Parham Road in Grovetown.

“This commission has been very cognizant of the fact that we want to make sure that the landowners have the ability to do what they want to do with their property within reason, but we want to make sure we have what’s called smart growth,” county administrator Scott Johnson said.

A new record high toll rate was set on I-85, according to the AJC.

The cost to use the lanes between Old Peachtree Road to Shallowford Road hit a record $16.60 and promptly rose to $16.90 before topping out at an even $17, according to the State Road and Tollway Authority.

The previous record, set in August 2018, was $15.50.

3
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 3, 2019

The Stars and Stripes first flew in battle on September 3, 1776 at Cooch’s Bridge, Delaware.

A fleet of 22 French ships arrived off the coast of Savannah on September 3, 1779 to help wrest control of the city from the British.

On September 3, 1862, the writ of habeas corpus was suspended in Atlanta and within five miles of its border by the Confederate government. Two years later, September 3, 1864, General William T. Sherman would occupy Atlanta.

The Georgia General Assembly expelled 25 of 29 African-American members from the State House on September 3, 1868, arguing that Georgia’s constitution did not allow them to hold office.

Anne Frank, age 15, and seven other Jews who were hiding together in Amsterdam were the last Dutch prisoners transported to Auschwitz on September 3, 1944.

Having received the Democratic nomination for President, Jimmy Carter began the General Election with an address from his front porch in Plains, Georgia on September 3, 1976.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia State House District 71 voters will go to the polls today in a special election, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Governor Brian Kemp ordered the evacuation of areas east of I-95 along the Georgia coast.

A mandatory evacuation is in effect for individuals east of I-95 in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty, and McIntosh Counties due to Hurricane Dorian.

Contraflow of I-16 will begin at 8:00 am Tuesday morning. Now is the time to put your emergency plan into action. Stay tuned to your local news and follow all guidance from your local emergency management officials.

A state of emergency is still in effect for all of the following Georgia counties: Brantley, Bryan, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce and Wayne.

An Executive Order was issued temporarily suspending federal rules and regulations which would otherwise limit the hours that operators of commercial vehicles may drive.to ensure an uninterrupted supply of petroleum products, emergency supplies, and food. This Executive Order also temporarily waives specific weight, height, and length restrictions for vehicles traveling through Georgia for purposes of disaster preparation or relief, subject to Department of Public Safety oversight and permitting.

For the most current weather updates on Hurricane Dorian, check the National Hurricane Center website. Hurricane Dorian is currently a dangerous category 5 hurricane at this time. There is still time to prepare! Please visit our Hurricane Preparedness page for information on how to get ready.

Resources

Sheltering

Six shelter locations have been identified in Bibb, Columbia, Coffee, Laurens, McDuffie and Ware counties. Information regarding those shelter locations will be posted here and on GEMA/HS social media pages.

Currently. the following shelters are OPEN and ready to receive evacuees:

  • Bibb County – 1:00 PM

South Bibb Recreation Center - 7035 Houston Rd, Macon, GA 31216

  • Laurens County

Dublin High School:  1127 Hillcrest Pkwy. Dublin, GA 31021

East Laurens High School:  920 US Hwy 80 East. East Dublin, GA 31027

  • Coffee County

Central Square Complex:  216 South Madison Avenue. Douglas, GA 31533

  • McDuffie County

Sweetwater Recreation Park: 180 Sweetwater Road. Thomson, GA 30824

  • Ware County

Ware County HS:  700 Victory Drive. Waycross, GA 31503

  • Richmond County

Trinity on the Hill: 1330 Monte Santo Ave. Augusta, GA 30904

More locations will be added in the coming hours/days.

Ahead of the storm’s arrival the Atlanta Motor Speedway is opening its camping facilities to evacuees seeking refuge from Hurricane Dorian. The Speedway, which is equipped to handle thousands of campers during its annual NASCAR weekend, will provide camping space free of charge for dry RV and tent campers in its Legends Campground. A limited number of camping spaces with water, power and sewer are also available for a nominal fee of $20 per night in the Premier Campground.Located adjacent to the campgrounds, AMS will also open The Rinnai Shower Station camper bath house, allowing evacuees free access to hot showers and restroom facilities during their stay. More information can be found at https://www.atlantamotorspeedway.com/media/news/ams-opens-camping-facilities-dorian-evacuees.html

If you are looking for accomodations in Georgia visit the Official Georgia Tourism and Travel website at https://www.exploregeorgia.org/travel-alerts

Evacuees and their pets are welcome in Georgia’s State Parks, including horses at parks with equestrian facilities. Check GaStateParks.org for hurricane policies and status updates.

Pet Shelters

Several pet shelters are open to assist with placement of pets for evacuees. We recommend contacting the shelter to check availability for your pet:

  • Bibb County Animal Control: 4214 Fulton Mill Road, Macon, GA 31216 (Kennels)
  • Okefenokee Fairgrounds: 2451 Knight Avenue, Waycross, GA 31503 (Kennels, Livestock)
  • Augusta Animal Services: 4164 Mack Lane Road, Augusta, GA 30906 (Kennels)
  • Hippodrome Horse Complex: 5540 Jefferson Davis Highway, Beech Island, SC 29842 (Equine)
  • McDuffie Animal Control: 802 White Oak Road, Thomson, GA 30824 (Kennels)
  • Belle Meade Hunt: 3532 Wrightsboro Road, Thomson, GA 30824 (Equine)
  • Pine Top Farm: 1432 Augusta Highway, Thomson, GA 30824 (Equine)
  • Southern Pines: 575 Southern Pines Road, Dublin 31021 (Equine)
  • South Eastern Arena: 2410 Arena Road, Unadilla, GA 31091 (Equine)
  • Paws Humane Society: 4900 Milgen Road, Columbus 31909 (Kennels)

Pet friendly hotels can be found at this link: http://www.pet-friendly-hotels.net/

Governor Kemp also authorized the Georgia Department of Defense to call up to 2000 National Guard members to assist in preparation, response, and recovery to Hurricane Dorian. This executive order expires at 11:59 PM on September 9, 2019.

Gov. Kemp flew to Savannah yesterday to address the incoming storm, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“We strongly urge all residents to stay vigilant as we track its path and evaluate potential impact and damage,” Kemp said at a press conference in the Chatham County Commission chambers. “At noon, the mandatory evacuation will be in effect for those east of I-95. And I would like to ask everyone, heed those warnings, especially those that are on our barrier islands. You might be on your own if first responders are unavailable to get to you. We have the ability with first responders to move trees out of roads and cut trees up and clear roadway passes. That is a whole different story when we have flooding on causeways and we can’t get vehicle traffic to you in a time of need.”

“It is immensely powerful with strong winds of 40 to 60 mph here on the coast,” he said. “It also threatens to bring a very dangerous storm surge of 3 to 6 feet along the immediate coast with heavy rainfall of 4 to 6 inches, which may cause flash flooding.”

“On top of the storm surge potential, we’ve got those king tides that we’ve been experiencing over the last several days,” he said. “And we’re going to keep having those king tides over the next several days. So Dorian will be coming along our coast right at several high tide cycles. And with the king tides associated with the storm surge, we anticipate quite a bit of flooding throughout our community.”

Homer Bryson, director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, said the state had allocated over 1,500 state employees to the Hurricane Dorian effort.

“They range, as the governor mentioned, from law enforcement to debris removal to the swift water rescue, and we will continue to allocate resources to meet the needs of the local governments,” Bryson said.

Tybee Mayor Jason Buelterman cautioned that Hurricane Dorian had defied predictions so far. It didn’t hit Puerto Rico, he said. It didn’t weaken into a tropical storm before it got to the Bahamas. And it’s not crossing the Florida peninsula to go into the Gulf. He urged Tybee Islanders to play it safe, especially those who might be inclined to ride it out.

“Look at what happened to people who stayed for Hurricane Michael down in Florida; you don’t want to be in that situation,” Buelterman said. “So it might be an inconvenience. And you might leave, perhaps for no reason. That’s totally possible. But why would you risk that just so you don’t inconvenience yourself for a couple of days? It doesn’t make sense to risk your life. You know, it doesn’t make sense to risk your life and gamble everything on what is a very unpredictable storm.”

From The Brunswick News:

“Given the risk of strong winds and potential for flooding in these areas, if you decide not to evacuate, I want to be clear — you will be on your own if first responders are unable to reach you,” Kemp said at the Glynn County Emergency Operations Center. “We certainly have the threat of that, especially with flooding on … causeways and other roadways. Please, don’t take this risk if you are able to evacuate.”

The governor, Georgia Emergency Management Agency Director Homer Bryson and state Insurance Commissioner John King arrived in Brunswick to provide an overview of coordination between state, local and federal officials ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian, which at that moment continued to churn through Grand Bahama Island.

“It’s also going to bring a really tough storm surge force down here,” Kemp said. “I know right now we’re experiencing high tides because of the moon phase that we’re in — we’re predicting 3-6 feet of storm surge along the coast, and heavy rainfall of 4-6 inches, which may cause flash flooding.”

“Even with all this preparation, we still cannot stress enough that Hurricane Dorian remains a significant threat to our state,” Kemp said. “We strongly urge all residents to stay vigilant and track its path and continue to evaluate the potential impact on themselves and their families.”

“We’re rallying not only industry, insurance companies, but as soon as routes are open, we can start bringing teams in to help assist people getting back on their feet,” King said. “This is an incredibly resilient community. I’ve been coming down here in one way or another for over 20 years, and so I know the grit you all bring to this, and we all stand with you.”

United States Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue addressed the storm, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“I urge Georgians to take precautions ahead of Hurricane Dorian and follow the advice of Governor Kemp and local officials, including the mandatory evacuation of all individuals east of I-95 in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh counties,” said Senator Isakson. “If you are in these areas, please make arrangements to evacuate today. This is a dangerous and powerful storm with the potential to bring damaging winds and catastrophic flooding to parts of Georgia. Please stay informed and make sure you are taking steps to keep yourselves and your families out of harm’s way. Senator Perdue and I will continue to work with federal, state and local officials to ensure that Georgia has the resources needed to prepare now and recover fully from the impact of Hurricane Dorian.”

“Hurricane Dorian is a powerful storm with the potential to impact many Georgians as it approaches our coastline,” said Senator Perdue. “Governor Kemp and local officials are working hard to prepare for the hurricane and will continue to update Georgians as the situation develops. For everyone’s safety, including the safety of our first responders, please take this storm seriously and evacuate if you are directed to do so.”

The Savannah Morning News has ongoing news on local closings.

Savannah-Chatham County public schools will be closed through Friday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Talmadge Bridge in Savannah will close at 8 PM today, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Talmadge Memorial Bridge on U.S. 17 in Savannah will close at 8 p.m. Tuesday in anticipation of tropical storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian, according to a news release from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

“Motorists attempting to navigate vehicles across either of these bridges in conditions with the high wind levels anticipated from Hurricane Dorian may not be able to properly control their vehicles,” the release said.

It is unknown when the bridges will reopen, the release said.

Middle Georgia could see one million evacuees, according to the Macon Telegraph.

In a news release Monday, GDOT encouraged drivers to avoid the stretch of I-16 from Spring Street to the I-75 interchange to allow crews to work more quickly. The eastbound lanes of I-16 are set to close at 8 a.m. Tuesday for westbound traffic. Locals are being encouraged to avoid the interstates.

An American Red Cross shelter for evacuees opened up at the South Bibb Recreation Center at 7035 Houston Road Monday. Other shelters were opened Dublin High School and East Laurens High School. More shelter locations were expected to open later Monday. For an updated list of shelters, visit www.gema.georgia.gov.

Atlanta Motor Speedway also opened up to evacuees, offering a camping space free of charge for dry RV and tent campers. A limited number of camping spaces with water, power and sewer also were available for $20 per night.

Albany area government agencies are in a wait and watch mode, according to the Albany Herald.

“We’re standing by, though, keeping a close watch on things, monitoring the situation. There’s been no call (by local or state Emergency Management Agency officials) to open our emergency center, so we’re all just on standby right now. The people who would be called in (in the event of a local emergency) are listening out, ready to come in if they’re needed.”

Georgia Southern University and Ogeechee Technical Institute have canceled all classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the Statesboro Herald.

According to its website, East Georgia State College also is canceling all classes on Tuesday in Wednesday in Statesboro. Classes in Swainsboro and Augusta will go on without change.

Glynn County government has canceled public meetings, according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County Animal Control has evacuated all animals from the shelter, according to The Brunswick News.

Richmond County Schools are closed through Thursday to help evacuees, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

All Richmond County School System extracurricular events are canceled, including middle School and junior varsity football games.

All Richmond County School System 10-, 11-, and 12-month employees not directly supporting hurricane relief efforts will not report to work.

Any decision on make-up days will be made by the Richmond County Board of Education at a later date.

“Richmond County Schools are closing in order to host evacuees, however, our schools have not been designated as an evacuee host site,” the Columbia County School District said in a tweet. “We will provide updates if and when any decisions to close are made.”

Evacuees have started reaching Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Local emergency response officials prepared the city to support the evacuees after Gov. Brian Kemp ordered a mandatory evacuation of coastal communities.

Residents who needed transportation and have medical needs arrived first at the shelter at Westside High School. Trinity On The Hill United Methodist Church opened as a shelter for evacuees who were able to transport themselves. Additional shelters at locations including Butler and Glenn Hills high schools will be opened if needed, Augusta Fire Chief Chris James said.

“These are citizens that are in a bad situation; it’s unsafe to leave them at home,” James said. “Augusta has always stepped up to help. … Augusta’s attitude toward assisting the evacuees from Chatham County has been outstanding.”

The city can accommodate up to 3,000 evacuees, James said.

Local hospitals are taking in patients who require round-the-clock attention at a medical facility. University Health Care System planned to receive patients from Savannah Memorial Hospital and nursing home residents from Savannah. Four pediatric patients were set to arrive at AU Medical Center, which is using its Critical Event Preparedness and Response office to assist at shelters.

 

Gwinnett County‘s participation in the federal 287(g) program could be an election issue next year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The 287(g) issue in Gwinnett is complex combination of the debate over the program itself; the participation of Gwinnett’s sheriff’s office in the program; and the county’s growing diversity and shifting politics that loom on the political horizon as the 2020 elections approach.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement runs the 287(g) program where local law enforcement departments hold undocumented residents they arrest for various crimes until ICE agents take them into custody.

“In Gwinnett, (immigration issues) might be very important,” longtime University of Georgia political science professor and political observer Charles Bullock said. “It has a reputation of being the most diverse county in Georgia, some people would even say the most diverse urban county in America, so it means that a number of Gwinnett voters probably have relatives or neighbors or friends who may have immigration problems.

“I would be surprised if it’s not a significant issue brought up during the sheriff and the commission elections, and potentially in some of the legislative elections in this area,” said Gwinnett District 1 Commissioner Jace Brooks, who hasn’t made decision on whether he will run for re-election, seek a different political office or exit public office next year.

Conway asserted in a recent letter to the Daily Post that participation in the 287(g) program is “about criminals committing crimes in Gwinnett County” and “has nothing to do with immigrants or checking immigrant status.”

Chatham County Superior Court Judge Louisa Abbott ordered the current grand jury to remain in a special term, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The directive from Judge Louisa Abbot will mean the June term panel, which would have completed its three-month term Wednesday, will remain in place beginning Tuesday, Sept. 3, for an additional four to five weeks. The new panel, the September term grand jury, will be sworn once the error is corrected, Abbot’s order said.

The issue arose because the list of grand jurors provided by the state of Georgia “contained the names of deceased persons,” Abbot said in her two-page order.

“Because the county-wide list the state provided could be subject to challenge based upon the inadvertent inclusion of deceased persons, it is necessary to require the June term of 2019 grand jury to continue to serve as the special term 2019 grand jury until the error is corrected,” Abbot said.

“The alternative — suspension of the grand jury — would prejudicially delay the administration of justice. … Due to the volume of cases, even a temporary suspension of the grand jury would have grave consequences for those whose life, liberty and property could be at stake, for the victims of crimes and for public safety.”

“Every jurisdiction (in the state) is dealing with this issue,” she said.

The Georgia State House Rural Development Council discussed mental health needs in rural communities, according to the Moultrie Observer.

The state sent $69 million to Georgia’s public schools this year to beef up physical security after a string of school shootings in other states. Now, a north Georgia superintendent says educators need more state aid to address the less tangible side of the issue.

[Dawson County School Superintendent Damon] Gibbs said his district has had five student suicides in as many years, with neighboring Lumpkin County losing four students to suicide.

State lawmakers, at Gov. Brian Kemp’s urging, added another $8.4 million to this year’s budget to increase the number of high schools receiving community-based mental health services provided through a program called Apex.

“We need mental health counselors that are with our kids every day, that don’t worry about what type of insurance they have,” [Gibbs] said.

The first of the council’s five-meeting roadshow focused on education and workforce development. The council is also expected to delve into agriculture, economic development and rural health care in the coming months before offering up a slate of proposals in December.

The Rome News Tribune interviewed Senator Johnny Isakson after he announced he will retire at the end of 2019.

Q: You’ve amassed a 45-year political career, and we touched on this earlier, but what stands out to you as your greatest accomplishments? On three levels — for you personally, for the state of Georgia and for the nation.

[T]here’s no question that when I saved Delta’s pension fund … four minutes before midnight on August 4th of 2005, that was probably the most impactful thing I ever did. Delta was going bankrupt, going into a structured bankruptcy and we saved every pension for every employee in the state — whether a baggage handler or a teller or a stewardess or anything, not the pilots, but everybody else. They’re now the biggest airline in the world and have 35,000 retired employees on pensions they would’ve lost. That meant a lot to me. … the president of Delta was in the gallery when I did it, not because he was a plant, but because his company was on the line and we won with only four dissenting votes. That’s the hardest I ever worked on anything because we had no time.

Kate Puzey, the Peace Corps volunteer who was murdered in Benin (city in Nigeria). I saw an article in the (Atlanta) Journal Constitution on the Sunday after she had been killed. I did not know her. I said, gosh, I’m her congressman. So I went to the family funeral and I sat at the back of the church, didn’t know the family, but I just felt like I ought to be there. And when it was over, one of the family members came up to me and asked me who I was. I told them, they said, I thought that was you.

I said, well, here’s my card. If they ever need help, call me. And two weeks later they did. And I helped them get some things from Benin and one thing out of Ghana back to the family and we sat down and had some coffee and cried a little bit over their loss. It was a terrible loss for them. This girl was number one in her class at UVA, number one in her class at Forsyth County High School. She was a superstar and was brutally murdered as a Peace Corps volunteer. Then we passed The Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act, which is now known as the Kate Puzey Act. There’ve been a number of women who were sexually abused and now have found retribution or found justice because of that law. And it’s preventing a lot of problems in the future that happened in those countries. So that wasn’t meaningful for me to do.

I’m working on the port of Savannah, the work I’ve done in Metro Atlanta for transportation, which I was on the transportation committee in the house, but in the Senate I’ve had a lot of opportunities on transportation with the port and with Hartsfield(-Jackson airport) to work on.

Georgia Trend has a Q&A with Governor Kemp before Dorian became a threat.

GT: How would you appraise your first months in office?

Kemp: It’s really been two things. No. 1, we got a lot done. No. 2, we did a lot of historic things. I’m very proud of that. We had a lot of folks that helped. In the legislature, we had a very aggressive agenda. We were successful on just about all of it.

GT: Can you give us some specifics?

Kemp: First and foremost, the historic teacher pay raise, [one of] the largest teacher pay raises ever in the state’s history, fulfilling the down payment on a big commitment I had to our teachers to do a $5,000 pay raise. We did $3,000 this year.

We also fulfilled a promise of something else I campaigned on. That was school safety and doing school security grants. We did that in the amended budget – almost $70 million to help our administrators and school board members work with teachers, parents, students and law enforcement officers, with complete local control. The grant requests are just flooding in.

GT: Why was this the right year to do something about Medicaid? Your predecessor and many other Republicans were opposed to Medicaid expansion.

Kemp: Gov. Deal resisted Medicaid expansion, which I support. This is not Medicaid expansion. This is innovating and fixing a broken system. What got lost in that conversation, and what I heard in the campaign – we have an issue on the private sector side. I can’t tell you how many Georgians came up and said, “Look, my family, we can’t afford $1,500-$2,000 per month for a health insurance plan, and the dang thing has a $5,000 deductible.” Voters were calling on us to reform this.

GT: What’s the time frame?

Kemp: We are moving very rapidly on the waiver process. Deloitte won the bid. They’ve got a great team that’s been very successful working on this in other states. We’re focused every day on that process and working with the Trump Administration to make sure we’re going down the right lanes.

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

On August 31, 1864, Confederates charged Union forces at the Battle of Jonesboro, in which the CSA suffered more than 1400 casualties in one hour.

Atlanta Mayor James Calhoun surrendered the city to federal forces on September 2, 1864.

Calhoun’s two-sentence letter, directed to Brig.-Gen. William Ward stated: “Sir: The fortune of war has placed Atlanta in your hands. As mayor of the city I ask protection of non-combatants and private property.”

The cornerstone of the Georgia State Capitol was laid on September 2, 1885.

On August 30, 1888, Asa Griggs Candler bought one-third interest in the Coca-Cola company, bringing his total ownership to more than two-thirds of the company.

Georgia native Ty Cobb debuted with the Detroit Tigers on August 30, 1905.

The last hanging in Atlanta took place on September 1, 1922 outside the Fulton County jail.

On August 31, 1965, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation creating the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which this Senate had previously passed.

Author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien died on September 2, 1973.

On August 30, 1979, President Jimmy Carter reported being attacked by a rabbit near Plains, Georgia. Here’s an interview in which President Carter was asked about the rabbit incident.

Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell was indicted on August 30, 2004 on racketeering, bribery and wire fraud charges and would later plead guilty to tax evasion.

On September 1, 2004, United States Senator Zell Miller, a Democrat, spoke at the Republican National Convention.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in twelve counties in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian’s landfall through September 9, 2019 for the following counties:

Brantley, Bryan, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce, and Wayne.

Senator David Perdue (R) spoke about who should succeed Johnny Isakson in the Senate, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Georgia’s soon-to-be ranking U.S. senator, David Perdue, said the state needs a “warrior” with “depth and breadth” to follow Sen. Johnny Isakson, who announced Wednesday he plans to retire this year. Perdue also spoke to the area’s ongoing effort to preserve the Savannah River pool in a Thursday interview with The Augusta Chronicle’s editorial board.

“We want somebody who can go and represent the people of Georgia, but have the depth and breadth to add value to these international and domestic challenges we have as a country,” said Perdue, a Republican. “Georgia has a very healthy list of those people.”

Perdue said he remains an “outsider” in Washington who likes to say “we cannot afford it” because “in the federal government, I don’t ever hear it.” Cost is now the biggest issue in the area’s battle with the Army Corps of Engineers over plans to dismantle the New Savannah Lock and Dam, he said.

The fish passage is a requirement of the Savannah River harbor deepening project, which Perdue said he persuaded President Trump to support and cannot be delayed.

“When I showed (Trump) he had a poster child for infrastructure and it would take less than $1 billion dollars and the state had already put their $350 million, he jumped all over it,” he said. “Johnny and I really drove that. We now have three years funding that’s necessary to get that thing finished, hopefully by 2021, but the assumption of that is you get the lock and dam fixed.”

FiveThirtyEight looks at the two Senate contests on the ballot for Georgia next year.

With FiveThirtyEight’s partisan lean of R+12, Georgia is still a red state. But the steady growth of the state’s nonwhite population and the defection of voters in well-educated suburbs (such as those around Atlanta) to Democrats in the Trump era have caused it to drift left. In the 2008 presidential election, Georgia was 12.5 points redder than the nation as a whole; in 2012, it was 11.8 points redder; in 2016, it was 7.3 points redder. It is reasonable to expect, then, that Georgia could be even closer to the tipping point in 2020. In other words, a good national cycle for Democrats — or a good Democratic candidate — could be enough to flip the seat blue (or at least come close).

Furthermore, Georgia’s other U.S. senator, Republican David Perdue, was already up for reelection next year. That’s a big deal because chances are that the same party will win both Senate seats. Why? Because when both of a state’s Senate seats are on the ballot at the same time, they almost always go the same way. The last time there was a split decision in one of these “double-barrel” Senate elections was 1966. So Democrats might try harder in Georgia in 2020 than they were already going to, as they could get two Senate seats for the price of one. That said, with Senate results increasingly determined by presidential partisanship, both seats may simply go the way of the presidential race — and right now, handicappers expect President Trump to carry Georgia in 2020.

There’s also one final twist to be aware of — the reason it would behoove each party to rally around a single candidate: Instead of a normal primary followed by a general election, all candidates, regardless of party, will run in a single “jungle primary” on Nov. 3, 2020. So if no candidate receives a majority, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff. This makes the race extra unpredictable, as any runoff would occur without the increased turnout of the presidential election influencing the results of the race.

Finally, it feels like we say this about some runoff somewhere every election cycle and it never comes true, but it is possible that control of the U.S. Senate could hinge on the result of Georgia’s special-election runoff. That means we might not know which party is in charge until the cycle is essentially over: The runoff would take place on Jan. 5, 2021 (!), which is two days after the new Senate is scheduled to be sworn in.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told NewsMax that he won’t be appointed to the Senate after Johnny Isakson resigns.

[O]n Thursday morning, the former speaker of the House put to rest the idea of “Sen. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.” in an email to Newsmax.

“Won’t happen,” Gingrich, 76, emailed us.

Other Republican leaders who spoke to Newsmax agreed they still admired Gingrich and he would immediately emerge in the Senate as a force of intellectual firepower for the Trump agenda.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will suspend interstate lane closures for the Labor Day weekend, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“We are limiting construction and associated lane closures to make travel to Georgia’s mountains, beaches, parks and attractions easier and safer for all.”

The restriction goes into effect at noon Friday and last until 5 a.m. Tuesday. There is a caveat to the holiday treat, however: lane closures may still happen over the weekend if they are needed to accommodate responses to traffic accidents or if there is a road maintenance issue.

GDOT officials said 1,514 people died on roadways in Georgia over the course of 2018, and that unsafe driving behaviors caused the majority of preventable crashes in the state.

“During heavy travel holidays we typically see an increase in roadway fatalities,” Hancock said. “I urge drivers to slow down, drive alert and eliminate distractions. Buckle up, put down the cell phone and do not drive impaired. Focus on driving.”

Georgia State Patrol troopers will not be taking the weekend off, according to the Albany Herald.

Last year, 18 people lost their lives on Georgia roadways over the holiday period widely referred to as the unofficial end of the summer travel season that traditionally starts on Memorial Day weekend.

“Troopers and motor carrier officers will be on patrol in full force for the upcoming 78-hour Labor Day holiday travel period this weekend,” Col. Mark W. McDonough, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said. “They will focus their attention on speeders, unrestrained occupants, as well as distracted and impaired drivers.”

The DPS reckons the holiday period as being from 6 p.m. today through midnight Monday.

“Motorists should expect heavier traffic this weekend, as most people use the extended weekend to take their final family trips before the summer ends,” McDonough said.

During the 2018 Labor Day holiday period, troopers investigated 490 crashes with 296 injuries and nine fatalities. In addition to crash investigations, DPS officials said, troopers and motor carrier officers wrote 9,008 citations, 12,180 warnings and arrested 332 motorists for driving under the influence.

The Atlanta Regional Commission announced that Gwinnett County’s population grew by 15k in a year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The ARC announced Gwinnett’s population grew by 15,100 people between April 2018 and April 2019. That puts the county’s population at about 925,800 people as of this past spring, according to the regional group.

For some perspective, the ARC said Gwinnett’s population has grown by about 120,000 since 2010, when the last U.S. census was taken.

It’s been no secret for a while that Gwinnett is surging toward having more than 1 million residents. In recent years, ARC and county officials have been predicting that the county is expected to cross the 1 million population threshold in the next few years.

The projection is for Gwinnett to have 1.5 million residents, and become Georgia’s most populous county, by 2040.

A state Senate study committee is considering how to promote Georgia agriculture, according to the Georgia Recorder.

Wednesday afternoon, a tour of the new distribution center followed a state Senate committee meeting focused on ways to better promote agriculture in the Peach State. Those ideas include considering the potential of creating a Georgia Agricultural Marketing Authority to boost financial stability for the state’s farmers markets.

The Atlanta Farmers Market is billed as one of the largest of its kind in the world and is one of nine farmers markets operated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Roughly 100 small businesses, including trucking and recycling companies, wholesalers, processors and more are based at the Atlanta location.

A new state-level authority could provide some financial independence, said Matthew Kulinski, deputy director of the state Department of Agriculture’s Georgia Grown marketing division. It would become easier to issue bonds, raise money for capital and plan for the long haul.

The state will spend about $7.1 million this year to promote Georgia farmers, which includes funding for the state-run farmers markets, the Georgia Grown program and other marketing efforts here and around the globe.

The Atlanta Farmers Market makes up the bulk of the revenue of Georgia’s market program. It netted $3.3 million during the last budget year, which was the overall profit after accounting for results from the other eight locations.

Georgia’s scattered farmers’ markets deliver mixed results from Savannah to Augusta, Macon, Valdosta, Cordele, Moultrie, Thomasville and Cairo. The Macon and Cordele farmers’ markets are money pits, losing a combined $147,000 in fiscal 2019, according to figures from the Senate Research Office. Meanwhile, farmers’ markets in Valdosta and Thomasville consistently ring up profits.

The Albany Herald looks at the benefits of accountability courts.

Accountability courts that steer people with underlying mental health and drug abuse issues away from jail and into treatment programs are changing lives and also saving taxpayer dollars, a Dougherty County Superior Court judge said Thursday.

“The last numbers I received, it cost over $54 a day to keep someone in the Dougherty County Jail,” [Judge Victoria Darrisaw] said. “That does not include the cost of medical (care), because while you’re in Dougherty County Jail you’re our baby.”

There are five types of accountability courts — drug court, mental health, veteran’s court, DUI court and family court — of which Dougherty County has the first two.

“Many times a person who has an underlying mental health issue will self-medicate with drugs, so they go together,” Darrisaw said.

Those benefits include keeping a person who otherwise would be sitting in a county jail or prison at home with family and earning a living to support them.

“The reason they work is it’s tougher to be in the program than it is to be on regular probation,” she said. “The goal is to rehabilitate, to produce tax-paying citizens who can provide for their families.”

Darrisaw had no figures for the county, but statewide as of Fiscal Year 2017 each successful graduate of an accountability court meant a $22,000 benefit to the state in terms of money saved due to not having to keep an inmate behind bars. The total savings were estimated at $38 million through that time.

Dalton Public Schools will partner with City of Refuge to provide services to at-risk elementary school students, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Burke County law enforcement issued more than 100 tickets after beginning to use a school bus camera system, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

In February, the school system and sheriff’s office announced a partnership with BusPatrol, a Virginia-based company that installs cameras outside buses, to catch violators. The seven-camera system was installed on 10 Burke County School District buses.

Chief Deputy Lewis Blanchard said 118 citations have been given out since it launched earlier this year, with 19 so far for the current school year. He said it is too early to tell if it’s having a positive effect.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the data to answer the question. I don’t know how many people pass (school buses) that don’t get caught,” Blanchard said. “I don’t know how many people were doing it before, compared to now, so it’s hard to articulate, but we’ve been blessed that we still haven’t had any student hit.”

Hank Ford withdrew as a candidate for Eton City Council, leaving a single candidate in the race, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The city of Eton will not hold an election in November after all.

The Floyd County Police Department will provide resource officers for county schools, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Beginning in January, the Floyd County Police Department will permanently assign two officers each to the four county school districts.

The County Commission ratified this week a memorandum with Floyd County Schools that renews automatically each year. The idea is to foster relationships between students, parents, teachers and police that will help reduce crime in the long run.

City Clerk Kim Hall says Hank Ford, who qualified last week for City Council Post 3, has withdrawn his candidacy. Qualifying ended last Friday. That leaves Post 3 incumbent Jim Bartley and Post 4 incumbent Joan Dooley unopposed in November.

No one has qualified in Cohutta for the November Town Council elections. The seats held by J. Shane Kornberg and Shelia Rose are up for election. Qualifying concludes on Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the office of the city clerk in the Town Hall. There is a $75 qualifying fee.

The Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department will provide resource officers for their county schools, according to the Statesboro Herald.

After emphatic objections from two members, the Bulloch County Board of Education by a 5-2 vote last week approved an agreement with the Board of Commissioners and Sheriff Noel Brown to continue providing deputies as school resource officers.

District 4 school board member April Newkirk wanted to add language cautioning the officers against “using the schools as a venue for questioning and searching students” about alleged law violations unrelated to school.

Valdosta City Council voted to adopt the rollback rate for property taxes, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The city approved the rollback millage rate of 7.809 for the city, 5 mills for property located in the Central Valdosta Development area and 16.751 mills set by the Valdosta City School System. A move that should have most homeowners paying about the same property taxes as last year.

At a special called meeting Wednesday, the Valdosta City Council voted 6-0 to reduce the millage rate by 0.107 from the 7.916 mills approved last year. Councilwoman Vivian Miller-Cody was absent.

The rollback rate is computed under Georgia law to account for an increase in property values.

If the city wanted to increase the millage rate beyond the rollback rate, then three public hearings would be required and the city would have to run advertisements advising the public of a proposed tax increase.

The State Charter School Commission approved a new charter school for Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

About three months after the Savannah-Chatham County school board rejected a petition for a new charter school, the State Charter Schools Commission has approved the new school’s petition, giving the green light to its director, Roger Moss, and a governing board to proceed.

The State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia unanimously approved the petition Wednesday, Aug. 28, for Savannah Exploratory Charter Academy to operate as a state charter school, independent of the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System in the fall of 2020, said Lauren Holcomb, executive director of the State Charter Schools Commission. The school plans to release information about registration and an entrance lottery in October.

“We’re kind of ecstatic. We’re thrilled,” said Julie Diebolt, a human resources generalist at Brasseler who sits on the new school’s board. “We’re just expanding choice in Chatham County.” The charter school expects to be located near Georgia Southern’s Armstrong campus and has a tentative existing site selected, Diebolt said.

Suicide prevention signs have been added to the Sidney Lanier Bridge, according to The Brunswick News.

Those signs are now clearly visible at various locations on the 185-foot-high bridge over the Brunswick River. Each of the four signs installed Aug. 13 on the bridge offer a reminder that the person considering this final desperate act is not alone.

“When it seem like there is no hope,” the signs read, “THERE IS HELP.”

Above this is the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 800-273-8255, or TALK. Beside it is the same message in Spanish, with the Spanish language National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number: 888-628-9454. There is a 6 foot x 5 foot sign at the approach on either side of the bridge; smaller 2 1/2 foot x 2-foot signs are located on the barrier along the walkway at the top on each side of the bridge.

While the signs were installed by the DOT at a total cost of $836.50, the real impetus behind these suicide prevention measures was a group of concerned citizens. It started in March when hundreds took part in the Shine A Light Bridge Walk at the Sidney Lanier Bridge.

29
Aug

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

General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates met General John Pope’s federal forces at the Second Battle of Manassas on August 29, 1862.

Union General William T. Sherman’s forces tore up 12 miles of railroad between Red Oak and Fairburn on August 29, 1864.

The United States Air Force Academy moved to its permanent home in Colorado Springs on August 29, 1958.

The Beatles played their final concert at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966.

On August 29, 1971, Hank Aaron broke the National League record for most seasons with 100 or more RBI, as he drove in his 100th run to make 11 seasons hitting that mark.

On August 29, 1977, Lou Brock stole his 893d base, to surpass the record set by Georgia-born Ty Cobb.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Funeral arrangements for the late Georgia State House Clerk Robbie River have been announced, according to the AJC Insider:

Funeral services for Robert E. “Robbie” Rivers Jr., the longtime former clerk of the state House of Representatives, will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the First Baptist Church of Bremen, at 331 Pacific Ave., Bremen, Ga. 30110.

Visitation will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. today at the church. Hightower Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Yesterday, United States Senator Johnny Isakson (R) announced he will retire from the Senate before his term ends, at the close of 2019.

“After much prayer and consultation with my family and my doctors, I have made the very tough decision to leave the U.S. Senate at the end of this year. I have informed Georgia Governor Brian Kemp today that I will resign my Senate seat effective December 31, 2019.

“I am leaving a job I love because my health challenges are taking their toll on me, my family and my staff. My Parkinson’s has been progressing, and I am continuing physical therapy to recover from a fall in July. In addition, this week I had surgery to remove a growth on my kidney.

“In my 40 years in elected office, I have always put my constituents and my state of Georgia first. With the mounting health challenges I am facing, I have concluded that I will not be able to do the job over the long term in the manner the citizens of Georgia deserve. It goes against every fiber of my being to leave in the middle of my Senate term, but I know it’s the right thing to do on behalf of my state.

“I look forward to returning to Washington on September 9 when the Senate goes back into session. And after December 31, I look forward to continuing to help the people of Georgia in any way I can and also helping those who are working toward a cure for Parkinson’s.”

Isakson’s Senate term ends in 2022, and there will be three years left in the term when he vacates the seat in December.

Isakson, 74, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013. In July, Isakson fell in his D.C. apartment and suffered four fracture ribs and a torn rotator cuff. On Monday, Isakson underwent surgery at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta to remove a 2-centimeter renal cell carcinoma from one of his kidneys.

In 2016, Isakson won re-election with 54% of the vote and became the first Republican in Georgia to be elected to a third term in the U.S. Senate. After more than three decades in the real estate business, Isakson became the only elected official in Georgia to serve in the Georgia House, the Georgia Senate, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.

Governor Kemp‘s office released the following statement:

“No one embodies the heart and soul of Georgia more than Johnny Isakson,” said Governor Kemp. “Our state and country have been immeasurably blessed by his leadership in the Georgia General Assembly, U.S. House, and U.S. Senate. Senator Isakson’s list of accomplishments on behalf of the state that he loves is long and revered, but what Georgia should be most thankful for is the high standard that Johnny held as a true gentleman, a fighter for his constituents, a trusted advocate for our nation’s veterans, and one of the greatest statesmen to ever answer the call of service to our country. Marty and I are forever grateful for the friendship that Johnny and Dianne have shown us over the years and wish them the very best in the years to come. I will appoint Senator Isakson’s replacement at the appropriate time.”

“Senator Isakson is a lifelong family friend, and we are deeply grateful for his dedicated service to our state and nation, including alongside my father in the Georgia General Assembly,” said First Lady Marty Kemp. “Georgia is incredibly blessed to have had Johnny on our side for all these years. Our family is praying for Johnny and Dianne as they embark on this new journey.”

Applicable Law

Ga. Const. Art. V, § II, Para. VIII

(a) When any public office shall become vacant by death, resignation, or otherwise, the Governor shall promptly fill such vacancy unless otherwise provided by this Constitution or by law; and persons so appointed shall serve for the unexpired term unless otherwise provided by this Constitution or by law.

(b) In case of the death or withdrawal of a person who received a majority of votes cast in an election for the office of Secretary of State, Attorney General, State School Superintendent, Commissioner of Insurance, Commissioner of Agriculture, or Commissioner of Labor, the Governor elected at the same election, upon becoming Governor, shall have the power to fill such office by appointing, subject to the confirmation of the Senate, an individual to serve until the next general election and until a successor for the balance of the unexpired term shall have been elected and qualified.

O.C.G.A. § 21-2-542

Whenever a vacancy shall occur in the representation of this state in the Senate of the United States, such vacancy shall be filled for the unexpired term by the vote of the electors of the state at a special election to be held at the time of the next November state-wide general election, occurring at least 40 days after the occurrence of such vacancy; and it shall be the duty of the Governor to issue his or her proclamation for such election. Until such time as the vacancy shall be filled by an election as provided in this Code section, the Governor may make a temporary appointment to fill such vacancy.

Background

This morning, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson spoke with Governor Kemp to inform him of his decision to resign public office, effective December 31, 2019. Senator Isakson provided a formal letter (attached) to the Governor. There is no vacancy until Isakson’s formal resignation on December 31, 2019. Under Ga. Const. Art. V, § II, Para. VIII and Ga. Code. Ann. § 21-2-542, the Governor will make a temporary appointment where such person will serve until a special election is held on November 3, 2020.

Among his many accomplishments and service, Senator Isakson is also a veteran of the Georgia Air National Guard, former member of the State School Board, and a graduate of the University of Georgia.

Georgia State House Speaker David Ralston released a statement:

“The loss of Johnny Isakson from public life will leave a void in Georgia which is beyond comprehension. While I respect his reasons, I feel a tremendous sense of personal sadness – Johnny is a mentor, role model and friend. Over a distinguished career in the Georgia House, Georgia State Senate, State Board of Education, U.S. House and U.S. Senate, Johnny Isakson demonstrated that civility and reasonableness are virtues that will never go out of style. My family and I will continue to pray for Johnny, Dianne and the Isakson family.”

Georgia Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller released a statement:

“Senator Isakson is a true statesman whose leadership and effective representation have made our country and state a better place. Teresa and I ask that you join us in thanking Senator Isakson for his exemplary service, and join us in continued prayer for his good health.”

Current status of potential candidates:

Democrat Stacey Abrams won’t run – The Hill.com

Democrat Jon Ossoff seriously considering running – BuzzFeed

A Democratic source with direct knowledge of Ossoff’s conversations spoke on the condition of anonymity and said Ossoff is already considering a run in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent Sen. David Perdue. On Wednesday, Georgia’s other Republican senator, Johnny Isakson, announced Wednesday he would resign at the end of the year, citing health issues. Two sources said the development made Ossoff more likely to run, with some kind of a formal announcement about his intentions coming soon.

Ossoff did not respond to an email from BuzzFeed News seeking comment. In a brief interview, an Ossoff aide declined to speak about Ossoff’s future plans on the record.

Republican Doug Collins “something I would look at” – Politico

“You know, to be considered for that, I’m humbled by folks who are considering that,” Collins, a Republican, told Fox News, adding that filling Isakson’s Senate seat “is something that I would look at.”

“Johnny Isakson is a man of stature. He is one of the politicians that have come forward and shown what leadership and statesmanship is like,” Collins said, adding: “We in Georgia stand on his shoulders because he has provided Republican leadership for so long.”

Republican Nick Ayers is not interested – Politico

“My decision to leave the White House and Washington, D.C. earlier this year was for the sole purpose of stepping back from politics and enjoying this season of life with my wife and three young children. They are the priority now and for the many years to come,” the 37-year-old Ayers said in statement lavishing praise on Isakson. “Gov. Kemp has a number of great options to choose from who will represent our state with success and distinction — but I won’t be one of them,” Ayers added.

From the AJC’s Greg Bluestein:

Three Georgia Democrats have already announced challenges to U.S. Sen. David Perdue, a first-term Republican who is up for election in 2020. Isakson’s seat will likely draw several other Democrats, who see Georgia as increasingly competitive.

It’s not yet clear who Kemp will appoint to fill Isakson’s seat, though potential candidates include Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, state Senate Pro Tem Butch Miller, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Among the potential Democratic contenders for the seat are the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church; Jon Ossoff, a former candidate for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District; Jason Carter, the runner-up for governor in 2014; and Michelle Nunn, who was defeated by David Perdue in the 2014 Senate race.

And Bluestein on the process by which Georgia’s next United States Senator will be chosen.

The first will involve quiet jockeying to sway Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who will soon tap someone to fill out the next year of Isakson’s term. Already, Republicans are making behind-the-scenes moves to position themselves for an appointment – or rule themselves out.

The second will be a much noisier Democratic race to fill the seat. Three Democrats have already launched challenges to U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is seeking a second term next year, and the list of potential candidates for Isakson’s seat is growing.

“Georgia is now ground zero in national politics and there’s no doubt about it,” said Chip Lake, a veteran Republican strategist and adviser to Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan. “How often can we say we’re the center of the political universe? Well, right now we are.”

Kemp’s advisers say they are starting from square one and that they won’t be beholden to anyone from his 2018 campaign. That’s important because he picked up several key endorsements, most notably Trump’s support at the behest of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

He’ll be among the candidates rumored for the job, as will other high-profile Republican officials: Attorney General Chris Carr, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and U.S. Reps. Doug Collins and Drew Ferguson.

From Chris Cillizza at CNN:

Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson’s announcement Wednesday that he will resign from the chamber at the end of the year is just the sort of break Democrats hoping to retake the majority next November badly needed.

Democrats desperately need to expand the playing field to have any sort of margin for error in their quest to win back the Senate in 2020. The addition of one more seat — and one in a state where Democrats have been making gains at the ballot box in recent elections — is a major boon in that effort.

Let’s do the math.
To control the Senate in 2021, Democrats need to pick up three seats if they win the White House in 2020 or four if they don’t. (The vice president breaks all tie votes in the Senate, meaning that if the Senate was split 50-50 and President Donald Trump was still in the White House, Republicans would have effective control.)

Republicans will now have 23 seats to defend in November 2020 as compared to just 12 for Democrats. Prior to Isakson’s surprise announcement on Wednesday, the Cook Political Report, a non-partisan campaign handicapping service, rated just three GOP seats as “toss up”: Arizona, Colorado and Maine. Widening the aperture, Cook rated 7 more seats — including Georgia Sen. David Perdue’s — as potentially competitive. Democrats, on the other hand, had just four total seats rated by Cook as even marginally competitive with Alabama as the only one, at the moment, in real danger.

From the PBS NewsHour:

The decision has national implications in the heated battle for control of the Senate. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate and will head into 2020 defending fewer competitive seats. Isakson’s retirement gives Democrats another potential pickup opportunity.

Still, Democrats will still face a steep uphill climb in a state that has not elected a Democratic U.S. senator since Zell Miller in 2000. Miller retired four years later and Isakson won the race for his seat by nearly 20 points. Isakson won reelection in 2010 and 2016 by double-digit margins.

Abrams’ decision not to run for Senate in 2020 opens the door for several Democrats reportedly eyeing a run for the seat. The list includes Michael Thurman, the chief executive of DeKalb County and a former state legislator and government official, and Jon Ossoff, a progressive Democrat who lost a special election for an open House seat in 2017.

Several other leading Democrats in the state have already launched campaigns for Perdue’s seat. Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry announced his Senate bid in July, and Sarah Riggs Amico, Abrams’ running mate in 2018, entered the race Tuesday.

Isakson’s decision “presents a unique opportunity for Democrats to come together to figure out who would be the best person to run for the Senate in 2020 for both races,” said Tharon Johnson, an Atlanta-based Democratic strategist.

“We are a battleground state that is, I believe, purple now,” Johnson added. “A lot of it is going to be about putting together the right coalition of voters and deciding which candidate can best get that coalition.”

From yet another Bluestein article:

“First and foremost, Georgia needs to say a long and thoughtful thank you to Johnny Isakson,” said John Watson, a former Georgia GOP chairman. “But as we witnessed last election cycle, when we had unprecedented money and attention, we ain’t seen nothing yet.”

He added, “This puts Georgia front and center on every political map, and the times will only get more interesting.”

Democrats are quick to agree. State Sen. Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, predicted that Isakson’s retirement will clinch Georgia’s status as a swing state.

“We are the battleground state, and Georgia Democrats are ready to fight and deliver both the Senate and the presidency for Democrats across the country in 2020,” she said.

“It’s a complicated chess game. It’s not just about one seat,” said Jay Morgan, a veteran operative and former executive director of the Georgia GOP. “You have to think about how it affects (David) Perdue’s race and, ultimately, about Kemp’s own re-election campaign in 2022.”

[Senator David] Perdue had already drawn three challengers, and all of them — car-hauling executive Sarah Riggs Amico, Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson — said they will stay in the race.

From Politico:

Republicans are confident they will be able to hold Isakson’s seat, alongside that of Sen. David Perdue, who is running for a second term. They point out that Abrams lost the 2018 gubernatorial race in a high-turnout contest — and that Democrats have not attracted top recruits to the first race, let alone to a second.

“Dems were having a hard enough time figuring out who they were going to get behind” against Perdue, said John Watson, a former state GOP chairman. “Now they have the double problem of figuring out two races.”

Republicans acknowledge that the pending Georgia vacancy is an unwelcome development, but they argue that it was a state they were already confident they could hold. Some found a silver lining in the effect it would have on the rest of the map.

Dan Eberhart, a major Republican donor, said he thinks the special election strengthens Perdue’s reelection bid and makes the state that much more expensive for Democrats in a contest that was already an uphill battle.

“This will ultimately reduce the resources Democrats have in Arizona, Maine, North Carolina and Colorado down the stretch as they strive for two slightly-out-of-reach Senate seats in Georgia,” Eberhart said.

Asked Wednesday if he would consider running for Senate, Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, said, “I think anybody would think about it.”

“This is yet another seat Republicans will need to defend next year in an increasingly competitive battleground where the president’s approval has plunged by double digits since taking office,” said Stewart Boss, a spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Governor Kemp‘s appointments have been notable for the number of African-Americans he’s named to posts in the justice system, according to the AJC.

At the state Capitol, Tadia Whitner took the oath to become the first black judge on Gwinnett County’s Superior Court bench. In a ceremonial courtroom in Marietta, Kemp also swore in Joyette Holmes as the first African-American district attorney of Cobb County.

“It’s kind of neat,” Kemp said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You can tell they’re historic from the level of excitement at the swearing-ins. There’ve been huge crowds. You see the whole community come out because people recognize the historic nature. It’s exciting.”

During his seven months in office, Kemp has appointed blacks to other key positions in the state’s justice system. He tapped former police chief Tyrone Oliver to head the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice. He also put former prosecutor Shondeana Morris on the DeKalb County Superior Court bench and elevated Judge Jeffery Monroe to the Superior Court of the Macon Judicial Circuit.

Kemp’s appointments so far have been a welcome sight, said Atlanta lawyer Liz Broadway Brown, president of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys.

“We are paying close attention to the governor’s judicial appointments and are energized to see the diversity in the candidates selected to fill these very important positions,” Brown said.

“I think we’ve sent a message to everyone that if you’re qualified and you feel like you’re the best person to serve in that role we’ll take a hard look at you,” the governor said. “I don’t think people are saying, ‘Well, there’s no need for me to apply because Brian Kemp’s governor.’ And that’s good. They shouldn’t, because we’re looking for qualified people.”

Gov. Kemp announced his support for a new approach for extending health care insurance to rural Georgia, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced a partnership Thursday between the Georgia Farm Bureau and insurance firms to offer new coverage options to rural residents.

The program, targeted at farmers and employees of agricultural-related firms, gives residents the option to join an association health plan underwritten by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Groups with between 2 and 50 employees can join the program, as well as sole proprietors. Each employee must become a member of the farm bureau to be eligible.

In Stonecrest, a possibly-former city council member is running for Mayor, leading to a bizarre situation, according to the AJC.

It was a bizarre scene at this week’s Stonecrest City Council meeting after Diane Adoma showed up at City Hall and attempted to participate, despite a state law that city officials say removed her from office immediately upon qualifying for the upcoming election. Although she took her usual seat at the council meeting, her nameplate had been removed and she was mostly ignored by city staff and the other officials. She also tried to vote on some measures, but her votes were not counted.

Friday, Adoma turned in the paperwork to run for mayor, challenging incumbent Mayor Jason Lary in the November election.

“The (city) clerk asked for my keys, my computer, and my phone. And I told her I wasn’t vacating my seat,” Adoma said in a recent interview. “Immediately, they deactivated my official city email and my official city phone.”

Since Friday, Adoma’s picture in City Hall was taken down, and her profile was removed from the city’s website.

She launched a legal challenge against the constitutional law on Monday, claiming she was unlawfully removed from office. The law, she said, is unclear over what it means to “qualify” for office.

Representing herself, Adoma filed for an emergency injunction in DeKalb County Superior Court requesting that she be able to keep her City Council seat while running for mayor. Judge Mark Anthony Scott denied the motion Monday.

The city is now waiting for a judge to sign off on a restraining order against Adoma, Stonecrest spokesman Adrion Bell said. The restraining order will “prohibit her from accessing areas such as the council chambers dais and the executive session chambers as she did on Monday,” Bell said. “We are taking these steps to ensure the safety of our staff and the orderly, legal fashion in which our meetings should be conducted.”

The Gwinnett County Board of Elections is considering adding a week of early voting next year, according to the AJC.

Gwinnett County could have three weeks of continuous early voting in multiple locations for 2020 elections if its budget request is approved.

The county elections office is part of the department of community services. In that department’s 2020 budget presentation Tuesday, Director Tina Fleming asked the county budget committee for nearly $1.8 million to increase the availability of satellite voting.

In the most recent countywide election, March’s MARTA referendum, satellite voting was available for two weeks, while advance voting at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration and Elections Office was available for three. The proposed budget for 2020 allows for three weeks of advance voting at the elections office and three weeks of satellite voting at locations across the county.

Satellite polling places would be open for three weeks straight, including Saturdays and Sundays. The polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, Fleming said. Gwinnett’s first Sunday of early voting didn’t occur until 2018.

Early voting will also be expanded from one week to two weeks for runoff elections. Satellite sites have not been previously used for runoff elections, but would under this plan.

The Chatham County Board of Elections will not open new voting precincts in Pooler for this year’s local elections, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Pooler will not be receiving any new voting precincts for the Nov. 5 municipal elections, the Chatham County Board of Elections confirmed at a special meeting on Wednesday.

The decision boiled down to a change in the law, and time.

A change in Georgia law that went into effect in July 2019 lengthened the amount of time required for published public notification of a proposed change in a polling place or precinct.

Before 2019, such notification had to be published in the legal organ of the county — in this case the Savannah Morning News — 10 days prior to the approval of any precinct changes. Now, that notification must be published 30 days before the changes can be made.

The adoption of any precinct changes must be made at least 60 days before an election.

The additional 20 days push the window for the board to enact any precinct changes in Pooler beyond the Nov. 5 municipal election, making it unlawful.

Cordele has contested elections for city commission this year, according to the Cordele Dispatch.

Incumbent commissioners Vesta Beal-Shephard, who represents Cordele’s First Ward, and Wesley Rainey, who represents Cordele’s Fourth Ward, will face challengers in the contest.

Beal-Shephard will face political newcomer Milton Holly, Jr. Rainey faces Joshua Deriso, who was unsuccessful in his campaign last November for the Georgia House of Representatives seat now occupied by Noel Williams.

Beal-Shephard and Rainey were elected to the city commission in 2015. Rainey won his seat against Billy White by a tally of 155 to 99. Beal-Shephard bested Sammie Hill, Sr. 115-43.

In Deriso’s race for the State House 148 seat, he was bested district-wide by Williams by a vote of 12,657 to 5,567, but in Crisp County, the tally was slightly more narrow with Williams’ 4,451 votes to his 2,493.

Charles Love withdrew as a candidate for Rome City Commission, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Love, a co-founder of the North Rome Community Action Committee, qualified last week to run for one of the three Ward 1 seats. As part of qualifying for the post he submitted a statement from the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles certifying that his civil and political rights are restored.

He served nearly a year in federal prison for his part as a lobbyist who delivered money to lawmakers in exchange for their votes in the 2005 “Tennessee Waltz” bribery sting. Since coming to Rome, he’s been active in the community.

Love was originally qualified to run, but there was a question of whether the time elapsed from the completion of his sentence equaled a mandated 10-year period.

Former Warner Robins city council member John Williams also withdrew from the election he qualified for, according to the Macon Telegraph.

John Williams, a former Warner Robins city councilman convicted of a felony, has withdrawn his candidacy for council.

Williams qualified last week to run for the Post 6 seat he formerly held.

A hearing was set Tuesday for Williams to make a case as to why he should be able to run, despite having served time in federal prison. But on Monday Williams sent a letter to the city elections office stating he was withdrawing his candidacy.

Lowndes County set its millage rate for FY 2020, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The county set its millage at the rollback rate of 10.938, a reduction of 0.126 mills from last year.

The rollback essentially leaves Lowndes County property taxes unchanged.

According to county documents, the county will receive 8.688 mills, the industrial authority will receive 1.00 mill and the parks and recreation authority will receive 1.25 mills.

Paige Dukes, county clerk and public information officer, said a county resident’s property taxes will go down if their property was not evaluated higher than last year. If someone’s property value increased, their taxes will go up, but by a smaller amount due to the lower millage rate, she said.

In years where property values have increased due to reassessment, local governments must either adopt the state-recommended rollback rate or publicly advertise a proposed tax increase.

The Valdosta Board of Education also adopted the rollback property tax millage rate, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

After increasing property taxes for the last five years, Valdosta City Schools is rolling back its millage rate. A move that should have most homeowners paying about the same property taxes as last year.

The decision to approve the millage rate moving from 16.98 to 16.751 came out of the Valdosta Board of Education meeting Tuesday with unanimous votes from everyone except Tyra Howard, who was absent from the meeting.

Dr. Alvin Hudson, assistant city school superintendent, said the school system can accept the rollback millage rate and still fund its 2020 budget.

“If the rollback rate is approved by the board, our district will still meet its budgetary obligations for the Fiscal Year 2020 school year,” Hudson said. “This will also amount to a 0 percent tax increase for our homeowners on their upcoming property taxes.”

The Whitfield County Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) committee voted to cap future sales tax referenda at four years, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

“More than a cap, this is a framework for the committee to work from,” said committee member David Pennington IV, who made the motion. “I do think the public has spoken over the last several SPLOST votes that longer SPLOSTs are not an option. The cap is not a hard cap. However, within our framework, it is our job to create a project list under that cap. And based on that list, make a determination as to the proper length of any SPLOST.”

According to data presented by county officials, a SPLOST would be expected to bring in about $16 million a year, so a four-year SPLOST would raise about $64 million. A SPLOST is a 1% tax on most goods sold in the county. The revenue can only be used for capital spending and special projects.

“I think one of the primary reasons that [March 2019] SPLOST failed was the length,” said committee Chairman Chris Shiflett. “A shorter SPLOST, three or four years, would be prudent, and the four-year cap would be something for this committee to work towards. I think it’s a good number.”

The committee will make recommendations for a SPLOST that is planned for the May 2020 primary election ballot. But the elected officials will have the final say on which projects are placed on a SPLOST referendum.

28
Aug

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

August 28, 1929 saw Governor Lamartine Hardman sign a Constitutional Amendment authorizing the levy of a state income tax.

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the “I Have a Dream Speech” on the Mall in Washington, DC.

An obscure college professor named Newt Gingrich began his political career on August 28, 1974, as he kicked off his first campaign against Congressman Jack Flynt.

Old Newt Pic

On August 28, 2008, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked the accreditation of the Clayton County Public Schools. Later that day, Governor Sonny Perdue removed four members of the Clayton County Board of Education upon the recommendation of an administrative law judge.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Longtime Clerk of the Georgia State House Robbie Rivers has died, according to the AJC.

Rivers served as the clerk for more than 20 years until his retirement in 2013, responsible for managing thousands of bills, amendments and voting records.

“No one loved serving others as much as Robbie Rivers,” said House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge. “Robbie was never too busy to help a new representative who sincerely wanted to learn the legislative process. We have lost an institution.”

Rivers, who grew up in Bremen, originally received the clerk’s job from Democratic Speaker Tom Murphy, who also was from Bremen, and survived the Republican takeover of the House in 2004.

“Robbie Rivers was a dear friend who always put others before himself,” said Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. “At the Capitol, you could count on him to bring a smile to people’s faces. He was a pillar of institutional knowledge in Georgia’s legal and political communities.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams (Not Governor) says she was pressured by campaign staff to pretend she had a boyfriend, according to Elite Daily.

Apparently, while campaigning for governor of Georgia in 2018, Abrams’ advisers had a whole list of things she could do to be more appealing: change her hair, lose some weight and, yes, get a boyfriend. In an Aug. 27 interview, she told Bustle that she had been pressured to adjust, and even maybe fib a little. She decided not to take heed of the suggestions.

“I was not going to fake a boyfriend,” Abrams told the publication for its Rule Breakers series. “If I find him, great, but I wasn’t going to pretend that he existed or create some notion of relationship.”

Rather, she decided to do her best with what she has. Instead of denying the reality of public expectations, she chose to “give people some space to accept me,” she told Bustle. For instance, she chose to keep her natural hair during the campaign but regularly asked her stylist to make sure it looked great while staying comfortable, and herself.

It may be a little ridiculous that her relationship status was even an issue, but it’s sadly not out of the norm. According to a September 2018 study in the Columbia Journalism Review, media coverage of female politicians includes more questions about family roles and work-family life balance. Even the most seemingly harmless word choices can lead respondents to see male candidates as up to 15% more qualified than female candidates.

For now, Abrams doesn’t seem too concerned about finding a boyfriend. She’s too busy fighting voter suppression and preparing for whatever’s next on her political bucket list. The right guy just hasn’t presented himself, she told Recode, and “as an introvert, I’ve been inside my house.” I can’t blame her. Politicians, they’re just like us.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan will announce a task force on healthcare, according to Georgia Health News.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan announced Wednesday that he has formed a task force to tackle health care access and costs in Georgia.

Duncan said the group will study medical price transparency and other “free-market’’ solutions, the use of data and technology, and employer innovations in health care.

The task force will consist of state lawmakers and academic and industry leaders. It will also include Atlanta-based consumer advocate Clark Howard, who’s nationally known as an author and broadcaster. The first meeting will come next week.

“Georgia has taken huge steps toward being a leader in the field of health care,” he said in a statement. “I am proud of the work we accomplished to pass 22 health care bills this past legislative session, but there is still much to be done. Now is the time to build on that momentum and find high-quality, affordable and accessible health care solutions. I am looking forward to working with this distinguished and diverse group of individuals to find common-sense solutions for all Georgians.”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced the state’s opioid lawsuit will be moved to business court, according to the Albany Herald.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has announced that the Metro Atlanta Business Case Division Judges Committee has granted a motion to transfer the state’s opioid litigation to the business case division of Gwinnett County Superior Court.

“As we continue our multi-pronged fight against the opioid epidemic, we are pleased our lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors has been transferred to the Business Case Division of the Gwinnett County Superior Court,” Carr said. “This is the proper venue for a case of this complexity and is good news for the people of Georgia.”

Carr’s office said it filed this action to protect its citizens from the effects of the nationwide opioid crisis. Defendants are manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids.

Carr said this case requires a forum equipped to handle significant demands on time and resources, prompting a request that this matter be approved for transfer to the business case division of Gwinnett superior court.

U.S. Congressman Rick Allen (R-Augusta) spoke about divided government and gridlock, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Allen blamed votes by some fellow Republicans for earlier failures to replace the Affordable Care Act and pass an immigration bill, but extolled tax reform as a success. He called a push by the Democrat-controlled House Education and Labor Committee “socialism” and said “Medicare for All” would nearly double federal spending. He expressed continued support for President Donald Trump, particularly in his trade dispute with China.

“I was elected in 2014 and we had divided government then, meaning that we didn’t have all the branches, and so we’re a little used to it being divided and trying to get things done for the American people,” Allen said. “Very difficult, because they’re really two different philosophies. There was difference back then; there is a big difference today on what America should look like, the vision for the country.”

Besides the health care reform, “the other big disappointment was the immigration reform,” Allen said. He didn’t mention Trump’s insistence on border wall funding, which was the focus of much of the debate at the time, although the legislation had other aspects.

“We had the votes in the House to do that, because we had the majority, but we had 30 (Republican) members who refused to vote for that legislation,” Allen said. “All we needed was about 18 of them to vote for it and we could have gotten it to the Senate.”

“We’ve got a mess at that border. We’ve got a mess in this country,” Allen said. “And those 30 people, on our own side, who voted against that legislation, they voted against it because they said they were going to lose their seat.”

The Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team confiscated more meth than any other drug, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Glynn County Commission Finance Committee recommended hiring a consultant to develop and implement a new impact fee, according to The Brunswick News.

The finance committee makes recommendations to the county commission. It does not make final decisions on financial matters.

According to a draft of the proposed contract, the consultant would look at what it would take to implement both countywide impact fees and fees specifically for St. Simons and Sea islands.

“Ross Associates’ services will include advice and assistance to Glynn County in general on impact fee matters, the preparation of an impact fee methodology report (including all impact fee calculations), preparation of a capital improvements element, the preparation of a final impact fee schedule for adoption, preparation of an impact fee ordinance conforming to all current state law requirements and assistance to staff in implementing the program,” the draft contract states.

According to the draft contract, revenue from impact fees would be set aside specifically for roads and bridges, stormwater drainage, flood control, bank and shore protection, parks, recreation areas and related facilities, public safety facilities and libraries, among other things.

If the contract is approved, Ross Associates would also help the commission create an impact fee advisory committee.

Carroll County Commissioners are considering placing a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum on the 2020 ballot, according to the Carrollton Times-Georgian.

Harris County voters will decide this year on an E-SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education) in November’s election, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

For the sixth time in three decades, Harris County voters will be asked to approve a sales tax to help fund school projects. But for the first time, the request will come in the form of two questions on the ballot.

When county voters go to the polls Nov. 5, and during early voting Oct. 14 through Nov. 1, they will see the Harris County School District’s asking:

▪ Whether to continue an existing 1% sales tax

▪ Whether to try a different way of financing the projects, which would include the possibility of an increasing property taxes.

Burke County dedicated a new judicial center, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

It was a celebration befitting a $20 million building that took nine years to build but left Burke County taxpayers with no debt.

Tuesday in the heart of Waynesboro, just across the street from the historic courthouse with its iconic clock tower that began ticking in 1898, the Burke County Judicial Center opened to the public with a dedication ceremony featuring Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton as the keynote speaker.

Burke County residents voted to use special purpose local option sales tax funds to build the judicial center in 2010. Unlike the old courthouse, the new 83,000-square-foot building has courtroom space for State, Probate and Superior courts.

The Athens-Clarke County Commission and the Board of Education held a joint meeting, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The joint meeting of the two elected bodies, engineered mainly by school board member Greg Davis, was the first time they’d sat down together in years.

The moderated meeting focused on two issues, and the meeting divided into two smaller groups to talk about each: housing and economic development.

Before they met in small groups, the commissioners and board of education members heard from the heads of each group about some of the things going on in their organizations, and then from Athens-Clarke County Director of Economic Development Michelle Nguyen and Planning Director Brad Griffin.

Whitfield County Commissioners cut the property tax millage rate, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

It took three votes and about 20 minutes of discussion, but on Monday the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to cut the property tax rate by .5 mill to 8.812 mills, down from 9.312 mills in 2018.

Chairman Lynn Laughter cast the dissenting vote. Laughter typically votes only in the event of a tie but said she felt it was important for her to vote because it was a tax matter.

Commissioners had been scheduled to vote to set the tax rate at the rollback rate, 9.196 mills, the rate that would offset any increased revenue from growth in the tax digest. Commissioner Barry Robbins appeared to catch some of the commissioners off guard when he made a motion to cut the tax rate 1 mill.

Commissioners voted 4-0 to amend the bylaws of the 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) Advisory Committee to allow a citizen or group with a project idea to present it to the committee. The bylaws had stated that citizens had to present the idea to the government that would be affected prior to bringing it to the committee.

Henry County Commission Chair June Wood will run for reelection in 2020, according to the Henry Herald.

“These are exciting times for Henry County, including Stockbridge, McDonough, Hampton and Locust Grove,” Wood said in a release. “Henry County is the second-fastest growing county in the metro Atlanta area. As our community experiences this rapid growth, I’m proud to let you know our crime index is still the lowest compared to surrounding counties.”

Wood, a Republican, will be seeking her second term as chairwoman of the BOC.

“We are putting Georgia on notice, this train is on the move,” Wood said. “We put in the time and work, and it’s extremely gratifying to see those endeavors come to fruition. There is still more work to be accomplished, but I’m confident that we will continue to see growth and enrichment, and this train will certainly keep moving.”

Johns Creek has three contested city council elections, according to the Johns Creek Herald.

Two sitting council members, Jay Lin and Steve Broadbent, have decided not run again, while Councilman Chris Coughlin will see reelection. In Johns Creek, all City Council members represent the city at-large.

Three nominees will compete for Post 2: Royce Reinecke, Brian Weaver and Dilip Tunki.

Three challengers will face Coughlin for Post 4. Coughlin is a research scientist elected to the council for an interim term in 2015 and again through a special election April 2017.

Other Post 4 candidates are attorney and professor Kent Altom, wealth adviser Adam Thomas and financial analyst Marybeth Cooper, who has served as president of the Johns Creek Community Association.

Three candidates have thrown their hat into the ring for Post 6: attorney Erin Elwood, consultant Issure Yang and massage therapist Judy LeFave.

Early voting will be held Oct. 15 through Nov. 1, and early voting locations will be posted on the Fulton County elections website, fultoncountyga.gov/rae-home. Absentee voters can view application information on the same website.

The Chatham Area Transit agency’s Board of Directors voted to eliminate all 12 bus stops in Thunderbolt, according to the Savannah Morning News.

During CAT’s Aug. 27 board meeting, directors approved an action item to end service to Thunderbolt’s stops along bus route 12 Henry in October because this area falls outside the tax district that funds CAT operations. While CAT buses have served passengers at these Thunderbolt stops since 1987, last year transit officials received complaints about the independent town receiving bus service without paying taxes to support it.

CAT subsequently attempted to forge an agreement to continue serving these dozen stops, but during the Town of Thunderbolt’s regular monthly meeting on Feb. 13, council members unanimously voted against raising taxes to maintain the bus stops, according to the meeting minutes.

“Unfortunately, CAT is prohibited by the state constitution from continuing operations within Thunderbolt under the present circumstances,” CAT interim Executive Director/CEO Michael Brown stated in a press release. “For service to continue, Thunderbolt would have to become a part of the transit district and be subject to the associated tax levied by Chatham County to help pay for the service.”

Buford Board of Education member Beth Lancaster will not run for another term, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Beth Lancaster, first elected to the Board of Education in 2011, did not qualify for re-election according to Buford City Clerk Kim Wolfe. In a written statement issued after Monday night’s monthly board meeting, Lancaster said she did not feel she could give the school board what it needed to continue to grow after her term expires in December. She cited increased work commitments as the reason.

“It was a very difficult decision for me to not run again, but I feel sure that someone in our community will step up and continue to do what’s best for our school system,” the statement said. “It has been an honor to serve with Phillip Bear, Pat Pirkle, Daren Perkins, and Bruce Fricks. These board members have served diligently and been a constant example to me of having a servant’s heart. I am grateful to the Buford community for allowing me to be a small part of their long-standing tradition.”

Two of the three candidates running for her seat attended Monday’s meeting. Matt Peevy is a Buford City Schools alumnus and nephew of former Georgia State Senator Donn M. Peevy. Matt Peevy’s father, Mitch Peevy, was a Buford City manager. Peevy said he’s made a living in environmental restoration and sits on the Georgia Restoration Board. He has a daughter in the Buford City school system.

Lien Diaz also introduced herself at Monday’s meeting. She is a 14-year resident of Buford with four children in the school system. She is a former science teacher and multi-sport coach. Her career in education spans 23 years and she currently serves as the Director of Educational Innovation and Leadership at Georgia Tech.

David Jerome Carter, the third candidate that qualified to run for Beth Lancaster’s seat, did not attend the meeting.

Daren Perkins is running to defend his seat against Melissa Ferris-Ozkan, who did not attend Monday’s meeting. Perkins was elected to the Buford City Board of Education in a special election in 2005. He is is currently the gas supervisor for Buford Gas.

Duluth City Council member Kirkland Carden is asking the Gwinnett County Commission to rebuke Sheriff Butch Conway, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Carden held a press conference at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center Tuesday to call on the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners to issue a public statement recognizing the contributions of immigrants and their descendants to Gwinnett; rebuking Conway for supporting King, who has been attacked by critics for using what they see xenophobic language against immigrants; and to conduct an informal investigation of Conway’s ties to the Dustin Inman Society and similar groups.

“I was shocked that our sheriff, who was elected to represent and serve all of Gwinnett, would invite D.A. King as a spokesperson to represent his department on such a controversial, significant (and) impassioned issue,” Carden said. “D.A. King should be able to enjoy the same First Amendment protections as we all are, as any other American. However, hateful xenophobic rhetoric has no place in our county and should never be elevated to a public platform by the sheriff.”

Meanwhile, Conway has also been vocal in his support for King in recent weeks.

“I’ve known D.A. King for years as a passionate advocate whose life’s work is raising awareness of the importance of immigration enforcement,” Conway told the Daily Post earlier this month. “Mr. King has worked extensively with Georgia legislators over a period of many years to help create immigration laws in Georgia and has been featured in numerous mainstream media publications over the years, including a front-page profile in the New York Times.

“I consider D.A. King a personal friend and appreciate his support of the 287(g) program and his willingness to assist us in our efforts to educate the public about the importance of this program to our community.”

Albany Mayoral candidate Tracy Taylor will take unpaid leave from his job as a firefighter to run for office, according to the Albany Herald.

Tracy Taylor, a part-time Albany Fire Department firefighter, said city regulations require him to take a leave of absence while running for a city office.

“My chief called me Monday morning,” said Taylor, who is employed full-time as a Waycross firefighter, during an interview at his Dawson Road campaign headquarters on Tuesday. “I was told I have to fill out a request for leave of absence with no pay.”

He said he suspected that would be the case but was not sure, as his human resources handbook said the city encourages employees to be active in the political process. However, in another section it states that employees cannot actively be employed while running for office and he said he will fill out paperwork seeking to leave his position until after the completion of the campaign.

“I was somewhat unsure of it, and thought since I was part time and didn’t receive benefits from the city it would preclude that,” Taylor, who is one of seven candidates seeking the mayor’s position on the Nov. 5 ballot, said.

The other candidates are Edward Allen, Bo Dorough, incumbent Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, Henry Mathis, James Pratt Jr. and Omar Salaam.

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

Advertising in the rights of way of state roads and placing signs on private property without the owner’s approval were prohibited in the first Georgia law regulating outdoor advertising, which was signed by Governor Richard Russell on August 27, 1931. Over the years, both practices would become enshrined in Peach State political strategy.

Former Georgia Governor Lester Maddox was nominated for President on the American Independent Party ticket on August 27, 1976, making the race probably the only one to ever feature two former Georgia governors. During the campaign, Maddox described Jimmy Carter as “the most dishonest man I ever met.”

On August 27, 1982, Oakland Athletics outfielder Rickey Henderson broke the record for stolen bases in a season, nabbing number 119 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Georgia Governor Zell Miller addressed the Democratic National Convention on August 27, 1996. In 2004, Miller would address the Republican National Convention, likely becoming the first Georgian to address both major parties’ national conventions. Congressman John Lewis and Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney also addressed the ’96 DNC. That day, President Bill Clinton signed a Welfare Reform bill, called the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.

On August 27, 2008, Barack Obama became the Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, the first African-American nominee of a major United States political party.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp ordered flags on state buildings and properties to fly at half-staff on Wednesday, August 28, 2019 in memory of the late Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Goss.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has ruled the death of Judge Goss a suicide, according to the Rockdale Newton Citizen.

Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler said the death of Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Goss has been determined to be a suicide.

Goss’ body was sent to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab, where an autopsy was performed at 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning. Fowler announced the results of the autopsy in a midday news conference.

Fowler stated clearly that special care was taken to investigate the incident thoroughly.

“I would like for (the public) to trust the investigation,” the coroner said. “We did not rush through this. We took our time and went through it. It is a suicide; it is not a homicide. I just think we need to keep the family in prayer.”

“I would not put something out there that is not true.”

“Judge Goss was a man who brought so much dignity and compassion to the delivery of justice all across this great state,” Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton said upon learning of Goss’ death. “He was a national figure, known for his work on mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. His legacy is as great as our sense of loss.”

“Our Court and this state’s judiciary express our profound condolences to the Goss family.”

Governor Kemp spoke to MerionWest about his governing strategy.

So now moving on to some of the more expressively economic things—when you spoke with us during the interview during the campaign, you described how you were running into various regulations when you were in construction and that a priority for your office would be to, “look into ridiculous and redundant or outdated government regulations.” And now you’ve been doing this with this Four Point Plan and looking to cut, “obsolete and unnecessary hurdles.” So could you talk about some of the regulations you’re looking at considering and how they might help to promote this pro business climate in Georgia? I see outside your office that picture on the wall of the various companies coming here, and that gets a lot of press—how do you see that intersecting with your effort at looking at regulations?

BK: We’re very proud of Georgia’s economic climate and our business environment. We’ve been the number one state in the country for six years in a row from a site selection standpoint. CNBC just moved us up a notch—from number seven to number six on best states for business. So we have a lot of great things going on here, but I ran for office the first time back in the early 2000’s because I was frustrated with government, and I’ve been in the private sector as a small business person for over 30 years, including today. So we’re still dealing with taxes, we’re dealing with insurance, we’re dealing with regulations and bureaucracy and red tape. And also being in government—on the government side—I’ve seen how that hinders people that we were trying to give better service to. And I did a lot to make that better when I was Secretary of State: tackling issues in our call centers to make more efficient use of private sector technology. We train people to manage that. We used information technology and IT services to do a better job—to do more work with less people. When you think about corporate filings, we changed the whole system in the Secretary of State’s office—our voter registration system, which started doing more work for the county election officials without more people and saving them work. That is the kind of things that we’ve done to cut bureaucracy, cut red tape, and make government more efficient. So as promised, during the campaign, I signed an executive order the first day I was in office at this desk right behind us here and created the Georgians First Commission.

And you had mentioned that even in the campaign interview. That that was what you wanted to do the first day in office. And you mentioned that when we spoke even before the runoff of this longstanding plan.

BK: Yes, so it fulfilled that promise, and it appointed a lot of great small business folks from all over the state—a lot of different backgrounds. When you think about their businesses: an IT lawyer, innovation lawyer that’s helping startup businesses. We have a guy that owns a restaurant and is a real estate guy. We have a guy that owns hotels, and they’re from all over the state; and they’re literally going and talking to people every single day asking them, “What is it we need to be doing in state government to cut down on bureaucracy? Red Tape? Redundancy? Looking at tax environments.” Access to capital is a big issue with small business people. And so they’re moving the needle on that. They’ve got a great small business survey on their website. Just go to Google “Georgian First Commission” and you can go on and take the small business survey and give them your feedback. So those are the kinds of the kinds of things, the recommendations that they’re going to be coming back with is what we’ll be working on this session. And some of it maybe even over the next year or two to move us to build off where we are and takes to the next level and make Georgia number one for small business too.

I wanted to ask you about the state income tax, which I understand was recently lowered from 6% to 5.75%, and now there’s talks underway to bring it down further to 5.5%. And I remember there were some rumors floating around around 2015—in U.S. News and World Reports about and other [outlets]—about maybe South Carolina and Georgia looking to phase it down even further maybe towards 0%. What are your thoughts about the state income tax? Some folks like me from up north—I remember in North Carolina, for example, when I first moved down there, it was 7.75%, and they brought it down under McCory. So where do you see the debate on the state income tax in Georgia and [other Southern states]?

BK: I certainly support the tax cut we’ve had in Georgia. We’ve got another one slated for the first week in session. The legislature has voted on a resolution to further cut the tax the first week. I’m certainly supportive of that, but we gotta be able to pay for it. And that’s the one reason that we’ve taken a very conservative approach to our budgeting in the state so we can be able to fund our priorities: like tax cuts, teacher pay raise.

It’s an excellent interview that I recommend reading in its entirety.

Gov. Kemp spoke last week to the ALpharetta Rotary Club, according to the Dunwoody Crier.

Speaking at the Aug. 23 Alpharetta Rotary Club Meeting at Alpharetta Presbyterian Church, Kemp updated the capacity crowd on his latest legislative efforts and changes coming to Georgia.

“As you all know, on the campaign trail, I made a lot of promises,” Kemp said. “I talked about making Georgia No. 1 for small business, reforming state government, investing in education and keeping taxes low… Over and over again — not just myself, but also the people who have been serving with me down there in the Capitol — we have been keeping our promises.”

Education was one of the top priorities. The state not only fully funded the school district formula for the second year in the row, Kemp said, they have also passed a flat $3,000 pay raise for all certified teachers in the state to help with retention rates.

“We were losing 44 percent of our educators in the first five years that they got into the profession,” Kemp said. “It’s happening in urban areas. It’s happening in suburban areas. It’s happening in rural areas.”

“We must budget conservatively, save for a rainy day, and keep our taxes low,” Kemp said. “The time to do this is when we’re in a great economy instead of waiting for a disaster to make government more efficient. We should do this now, because it helps us fund our priorities for today and tomorrow.”

Gov. Kemp addressed President Trump’s trade policy in a meeting in Peachtree Corners, according to WABE.

He spoke in Peachtree Corners to a group of Vietnamese-American small business-owners Monday at an event sponsored by Trump’s reelection campaign. Much of the discussion revolved around contentment with the current strength of the economy, but one question asked how the tariffs flying back and forth between the U.S. and China might dampen that growth.

Kemp said he’s heard from Georgia companies that are both hurting and benefiting from the tariffs. He argued China has been “taking advantage of us” a long time and said he believes the government waited too long to “fight this battle.”

“I think we have to continue to trust the President, Senator [David] Perdue, Secretary [Sonny] Perdue, really the whole team he’s got working on that,” Kemp responded. “The one thing I have heard is most people know why we’re in the trade war.”

“I remain hopeful that a lot of this that’s gone on recently is just posturing. And the president said over the weekend they were back to the negotiating table,” he said. “I’m very optimistic about where we are, and we’ve just got to continue to fight on through until they get a trade deal done.”

Members of Georgia’s Congressional delegation are questioning dock fee hikes by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to the AJC.

U.S. Reps. Doug Collins, Jody Hice and Barry Loudermilk are not satisfied with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ explanation for plans to increase dock fees by up to $660 at bodies of water including Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona.

Lakefront residents, including Collins, first learned about the planned increase in letters sent by the Army Corps in June. Since 2006, new five-year permits have cost $400 and renewals have cost $175 on seven Corps-managed Georgia lakes. The agency announced in its letter to dock owners that new and renewed permits would both go up to $835 as of Jan. 1, 2020.

Collins, Hice, Loudermilk and three fellow congressmembers sent the Army Corps a letter in June asking the agency to explain the increases. Brig. Gen. Diana Holland, commander for the corps’ South Atlantic Division, responded, saying the cost was determined by calculating administrative costs and passing those costs on to dockholders.

The group of congressmembers send Holland a follow-up letter Monday, saying their initial questions were “not sufficiently answered.” The letter also asks why residents were not asked or warned in advance of the rise in fees. The congressmembers charge that this could violate a federal statute that requires agencies to publish notice of plans to change a rule or make a new rule.

Hundreds attended an Atlanta City Council meeting to discuss banning e-scooters, according to the AJC.

The meeting, held in city council chambers, was called after four people died in electric scooter accidents since May. One of those deaths occurred outside the city limits.

As complaints, injuries and e-scooter-related deaths have mounted, city officials have turned to various measures for help. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has issued executive orders prohibiting new permits and banning their use after 9 p.m.

The city is considering further regulations that would limit the number of scooters and how to create protected bike lanes with temporary barriers.

“Our streets are too dangerous,” said Councilwoman Jennifer Ide. “It’s tragic that it has taken people dying to get this point.”

Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico will run for the United States Senate in the wake of her company filing for bankruptcy, according to the AJC.

Sarah Riggs Amico entered the race for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, making her the third Democrat to challenge Republican David Perdue in a contest that could help determine control of the chamber.

Amico is launching her run less than a year after she lost the race for Georgia lieutenant governor, and weeks after the car-hauling business she led filed for bankruptcy protection.

In an hour-long interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Amico said her company’s financial struggles clinched her decision to challenge Perdue, a first-term incumbent and ally of President Donald Trump.

Democrats consider Georgia crucial to regain control of the U.S. Senate, though they’ve lacked a big-name candidate since Abrams decided against a run.

Instead, two lower-profile Democrats have announced challenges: Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. Jon Ossoff, who raised $30 million for his unsuccessful run in the 2017 special election for the 6th District, is also considering a bid.

Perdue’s allies immediately drew a line between the bankruptcy and Amico’s candidacy. John Burke, head of the pro-Perdue Georgia Action Fund, said Amico “ran her company into the ground but now she’s asking Georgia families for a new job.”

“Amico mismanaged her family business into bankruptcy and legal jeopardy, she can’t be trusted to be an advocate for the people of this state in the nation’s most important deliberative body,” he said.

Cohutta will have municipal elections in November and no one qualified on the first day, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The seats held by J. Shane Kornberg and Shelia Rose are up for election.

Qualifying continues Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the office of the city clerk in the Town Hall. There is a $75 qualifying fee.

Alto in Habersham County will reopen qualifying for Town Council Post 2 after nobody stepped forward to run, according to AccessWDUN.

At the request of the Town of Alto, Habersham County Elections Superintendent Laurel Ellison has reopened qualifying for the vacant Post 2 seat on the town council.

In accordance with OCGA 21-2-32(c)(3)(B), Ellison said Monday afternoon that qualifying was open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday.

No one qualified for the Post 2 seat last week.

That seat, left vacant by the resignation of John Closs, has been open for about 2.5 years with no qualifiers during several Special Elections to fill it, Ellison said.

Canton City Council voted to leave a seat vacant until March, according to the Cherokee Tribune.

The Gainesville Times spoke to candidates for Gainesville City Council in the November 5 elections.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency proposed a delay on requirements for environmental controls on pilot boats, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday announced a proposed rule that gives Savannah’s harbor pilots more time to comply with required pollution controls on their boats.

When the national marine diesel engine program was approved, regulators didn’t realize the impact on smaller critical vessels like pilot boats that transport the local maritime pilots to and from the container ships they pilot into and out of the port, said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker. Also impacted are lobster fishing boats.

“Given that there are not that many pilot boats and lobster boats being produced, manufacturers really needed the time to design a vessel and an engine that would work together to provide the needed emission controls with the power y’all need,” Walker said at a roundtable discussion at Georgia Ports Authority headquarters Monday.

At the roundtable discussion, U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-District 1, who pushed for the delay, said the bar pilots were in need of a new boat but there wasn’t a manufacturer who could meet the new requirements. For pilot boats the pollution control requirements would be delayed until 2022.

“When we talk about the cargo out here getting ship to shore it really does take a whole team,” he said. “And the bar pilots play an important role in that making sure the ships get into dock and making sure they get in there safely. They have to have the equipment to make sure they do that.”

Opioid prescription numbers are falling in Georgia, according to the Associated Press.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports new figures released by the state Public Health Department show prescriptions for opioids fell 13% from 2016 to 2018.

Preliminary numbers show opioid-related overdose deaths of Georgia residents dropped by 12% between 2017 and 2018, falling from 996 to 873. Opioid deaths dropped 2% nationwide.

Laura Edison, an epidemiologist at the state’s Public Health Department, says reducing prescription helps cut addiction and illicit resales. She notes Georgia’s requirement that physicians and dentists check a state prescription database before prescribing new drugs.

“Getting these drugs off the street and keeping people who have alternatives to opioids from using opioids to manage their pain is going to help prevent addiction and overdose,” Edison said.

One statistic that could indicate addiction — the number of patients who got such prescriptions from five or more doctors, dispensed at five or more pharmacies — fell by more than half from 2016 to 2018. That number is now 12.2 people per 100,000, down from 30.8.

The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office will spend $1.9 million dollars on the federal 287(g) program, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Sheriff’s Office was one of several departments which presented their 2020 business plans to the citizens budget review committee. There wasn’t much mention of the 287(g) program — the presentation instead focused heavily on the 95 new positions, including 79 sworn deputies, that Sheriff Butch Conway wants in the budget — but a few slides did show it will continue to have a presence in Gwinnett next year.

One of the slides, which outlined the areas of the Sheriff’s Office’s proposed $104.9 million 2020 operating budget showed Conway is planning to spend $1.94 million on participation the 287(g) program next year. After the presentation ended, Chief Deputy Bill Walsh said the money covered the salaries and benefits for about 18 deputies at the jail who deal with 287(g) cases.

“That’s salaries for the deputies and it’s really important to state that they’re deputies assigned to 287(g), that does not preclude them from doing other jobs within the facility, providing security and assisting in admissions,” Walsh said. “Their primary duty is (287(g)) but they’re still a deputy sheriff and if they’re asked to, they can perform other duties.”

Commissioners have previously said that while they can set the amount of money allocated to Conway’s office in the county’s annual budget, the fact that the office of sheriff is a constitutional office in Georgia means they do not have the ability to tell him how he can spend the money he receives in the budget.

While the commissioners have, in the past, voted on renewing participation in 287(g) as a formality, Conway opted to forego that route and renewed it himself earlier this year.

Walsh said, “This is something Sheriff Conway, and the Sheriff’s Office sees as being able to make the community safer. No one who is brought to our facility is brought there because they were walking down the street and we checked to see whether they were here legally or not. That’s one thing that’s really important.”

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter is asking for increased staffing levels to accomodate plans to add more judges, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

A new Gwinnett Superior Court position is coming in January, and District Attorney Danny Porter told a budget review committee on Monday that he’ll need additional staff to accommodate the new seat on the bench.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation creating an 11th seat on the county’s Superior Court bench into law earlier this year. That act gave the county nearly year to prepare, but as county departments began making their 2020 budget requests this week, Porter said his office needs to look at staffing to get ready for the new judge.

“We are victims of forces that are beyond our control,” Porter said. “In last year’s legislature, the legislature approved an 11th Superior Court judge for Gwinnett County. You would think that that would just be the judge, but in fact you’ll hear as this budget committee goes on, not only from me, but almost every other affected department, that an 11th judge requires a support staff …”

In all, Porter is asking for nearly $1.69 million in requests for new positions and equipment — requests that are also known as “decision packages” in the business plan presentation process taking place this week. The district attorney is seeking a total proposed 2020 general budget of $19 million for his office.

The Glynn County Commission‘s Finance Committee is considering using an consultant to develop and implement an impact fee, according to The Brunswick News.

The commission will look at both countywide impact fees and fees specifically for St. Simons and Sea islands, according to a draft contract with impact fee consultant Ross Associates.

Impact fees are imposed on developers to offset the cost of the public serves or infrastructure needed to serve new development.

“Ross Associates’ services will include advice and assistance to Glynn County in general on impact fee matters, the preparation of an impact fee methodology report (including all impact fee calculations), preparation of a capital improvements element, the preparation of a final impact fee schedule for adoption, preparation of an impact fee ordinance conforming to all current state law requirements and assistance to staff in implementing the program,” the contract states.

As for the proceeds, the contract states the fees would go towards roads and bridges, stormwater drainage, flood control, bank and shore protection, parks, recreation areas and related facilities, public safety facilities and libraries, among other things.

Hall County School District adopted a new 10-year facilities plan, according to AccessWDUN.

Members of the school board unanimously approved the plan, which includes the construction of a new middle school and the replacement of some aging elementary school buildings, at a meeting Monday night.

District Superintendent Will Schofield said the plan cannot be financed, however, without the passage of ESPLOST VI and a bond referendum; both of those questions will go before Hall County voters in March 2020.

The Rome City Commission banned ATVs on public streets, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Rome City Commissioners unanimously adopted two ordinances Monday that ban fireworks and all-terrain vehicles on public property.

City Manager Sammy Rich said the regulations clarify their use.

“We all know ATVs can’t be ridden on public streets, but we had a court case thrown out recently because of an ambiguity,” he told the board.

The fireworks ordinance also makes it clear that fireworks are limited to people age 18 and older and they can’t be shot off at parks, recreation areas or other public property without a permit.

The Glynn County 2016 SPLOST Oversight Committee will hear updates for projects funded by the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, according to The Brunswick News.

Port Wentworth City Council member Debbie Johnson is suing a resident alleging defamation, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Johnson claims in the court filing from Aug. 8 that Jodi Hawks of Port Wentworth has posted defamatory statements about Johnson on Facebook.

Statements on Facebook that Johnson claims are defamatory include that Johnson has acted “illegally, is corrupt, has potentially committed a crime, and engaged in unethical behavior.”

Johnson’s complaint states that in addition to defamatory statements on Facebook, Hawks has “taken various steps to disrupt and tarnish plaintiff’s relationship with her employer.”

She claims that emails and documents requested by Hawks from her employer were an attempt to cause problems at her job.

Johnson’s complaint also states that Hawks’ conduct was malicious and has caused Johnson physical injury as well as emotional distress.

26
Aug

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

Georgia and American History

On August 26, 1864, having withdrawn from trenches and fortifications outside Atlanta the previous day, U.S. General Sherman sent most of his forces westward around Atlanta and toward the south of the city. Sherman’s forces tore up 12 miles of railroad between Red Oak and Fairburn on August 29, 1864.

On August 26, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted. Ratification took place on August 18, 1920, as the Tennessee House of Representatives adopted it, but adoption became official on August 26, when United States Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the Amendment. It reads:

The right of 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.

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

On August 26, 1939, the first televised major league baseball game aired, as the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds split a doubleheader in Ebbets Field.

On August 26, 1961, the 718th Engineer Light Equipment Company of Fort Valley and the 210th Signal Base Depot Company of Augusta were called up to take part in the American response to the crisis in Berlin.

President Lyndon B. Johnson was nominated for President by the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey on August 26, 1964.

On August 26, 1965, Sonny & Cher were at No.1 on the UK singles chart with ‘I Got You Babe’, the duo’s only UK No.1. Sonny Bono was inspired to write the song to capitalize on the popularity of the term “babe,” as heard in Bob Dylan’s ‘It Ain’t Me Babe.’

On August 26, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed a Welfare Reform bill, called the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Goss was found dead of a gunshot wound, according to News4.

An appeals judge in Georgia was found Saturday shot dead behind his Albany home, but officials do not believe it was a homicide.

Albany police were dispatched to the residence and found Judge Stephen Goss, 60, in a wooded area dead from a gunshot wound, news outlets reported.

Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards said the investigation is ongoing, but it doesn’t appear to be a homicide.

A statement from Chief Justice Harold D. Melton said Goss brought “dignity and compassion to the delivery of justice all across this great state” and was known nationally for his work on mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.

“His legacy is as great as our sense of loss,” Melton said. “Our court and this state’s judiciary express our profound condolences to the Goss family.”

Gov. Brian Kemp offered his support to the Goss family.

“A native Georgian, trusted counsel, and man of integrity, Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Goss will be sorely missed by countless people across our state and nation,” Kemp said in a tweet. “The Kemp family asks God to give comfort to his loved ones, friends, and colleagues in this difficult time.”

In 2002, Goss founded Georgia’s first felony mental health court and substance abuse treatment program in Dougherty County. It was one of the early programs of its kind in the country, according to his online bio. The program assists those with felony probation or pending felony charges, many of whom have a long history with substance abuse or diagnosed mental illness. For the past decade, the Dougherty County program has been a designated learning site for mental health courts, one of only four in the nation.

From the Albany Herald:

Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler said the body of Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Goss would be sent to a GBI crime lab on Monday morning for a thorough examination before Fowler issues a final report on Goss’ death.

“We give this kind of attention to every death in the county, but we are being especially cautious since the deceased is a state-level judge,” the coroner said shortly after noon on Saturday. “Right now, we are still treating this as a homicide, and we won’t close that chapter until we’ve exhausted all efforts to determine what happened.

“We’ve been in the woods this morning going over the scene thoroughly. We will issue a more complete report once we hear back from the crime lab.”

Goss, who’d served as judge in Dougherty Superior Court for 19 years after being appointed to that position in 1999, was named to the Georgia Court of Appeals by then-Gov. Nathan Deal on Aug. 1 of 2018. He’d been re-elected to his post as Superior Court judge five times after being appointed to the position by Gov. Roy Barnes.

The Georgia Department of Health will track vaping-related illnesses, according to the Albany Herald.

Georgia has joined other states in investigating possible cases of severe respiratory illness that may be linked to vaping.

The CDC said it’s aware of about 190 cases of severe lung disease in 22 states that could be caused by vaping.

The Georgia Department of Public Health said Friday that it’s investigating possible cases of severe respiratory illness linked to vaping.

In Georgia, Public Health has requested that health care providers ask patients with severe respiratory illness whether they have used devices for vaping nicotine and/or THC.

The agency also is asking the providers to report possible cases to the Georgia Poison Center.

State Senator Jen Jordan (D-Cobb) spoke to the Glynn County Democratic Party, according to The Brunswick News.

The debate lasted five hours, but it was state Sen. Jen Jordan’s speech to her fellow senators and the state in general before the vote on House Bill 481 that got other people talking. Her emotional recounting of her own pregnancy struggles and defense of reproductive rights led to the speech going viral. People began talking about her as a candidate for statewide office.

What lies in the future for Jordan may remain unknown at present, but she brought her health care message Saturday to Brunswick as a featured speaker for the Glynn Democrats’ annual banquet.

“The lack of access to basic, essential health care — pap smears, contraception, things all of us in this room may take for granted. This lack of access for poor, frightened women in this state, working mothers who are raising children, is simply untenable. It hasn’t gotten any better.”

“In current-day Georgia, before H.B. 481, it was difficult to get an abortion, but I will tell you, it’s even more difficult to give birth, and exceedingly more dangerous,” Jordan said.

She noted that’s more pronounced in poor, rural areas of the state, and worse for black women in particular.

“You are four times more likely to die in childbirth if you are a black woman in this state…,” Jordan said. “It is something that kind of blows you away, when you think of where are our priorities in terms of health care.”

D.A. King has filed an ethics complaint against Gwinnett County Commissioner Marlene Fosque, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Two weeks after Gwinnett County Commissioner Marlene Fosque publicly accused Dustin Inman Society President D.A. King of “spewing hatred and bigotry and racism,” King has filed an ethics complaint requesting Fosque be verbally reprimanded for her comments.

In the complaint, which was filed Thursday, King asked that Fosque immediately apologize to him during a board meeting, requested that the Board of Commissioners “take out an advertisement in the legal organ of Gwinnett County” apologizing to him, asked that Fosque be fined an undetermined amount and requested that he be granted “any further relief deemed just under the circumstances.”

King has accused Fosque of violating six of the 16 ethical standards listed in the county’s ethics ordinance.

“Defendant has violated the Georgia law regarding defamation … by making charges against Plaintiff’s work with his non-profit organization the Dustin Inman Society and by uttering disparaging words causing special damages to Plaintiff,” the complaint said. “… the actions of the Defendant clearly demonstrate an occasion where she did not uphold the laws of the State of Georgia as required by the relevant portion of the Gwinnett Code of Ordinances.”

King’s complaint also alleges that Fosque “placed her own, anger, bias and loyalty to her political party above that to the highest moral principles and the county by defaming the Plaintiff with her inflammatory remarks,” thus violating the county’s code of ordinances.

“It is most unbecoming of the Defendant as a member of the Board of Commissioners to verbally assault the reputation of the Plaintiff, someone who merely responded to an invitation to participate in a public forum on a matter of public concern and who was not present or able to respond to false allegations,” King wrote in the complaint.

The Georgia Department of Driver Services is leading in issuance of RealID driver licenses, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

As the deadline of Oct. 1, 2020, approaches, DDS has issued 96.2 percent of its customers a Real ID driver’s license or ID card. With more than 8 million cardholders, it is expected that less than 20,000 of those on Georgia’s driver history data base could be without a Real ID by Oct. 1, 2020, state officials said.

At that time, individuals will not be allowed to clear TSA or enter a federal building using a non-compliant state-issued driver’s license/ID card. state officials said. Real ID cards show the holder has presented the required Homeland Security information during the issuance process and have a card marked with a gold or black star in the righthand corner.

“I am very proud of the position that Georgia is in,” DDS Commissioner Spencer R. Moore said.

Georgia’s process proactively issues Real IDs to all customers who presented the required documentation, state officials said. Many states created a separate credential or allowed customers to opt out of Real ID issuance which likely added to their scramble now.

Sports betting may be an issue in the next General Assembly, according to the AJC.

Earlier this month, House Speaker David Ralston issued a press release announcing a Special Committee on Economic Growth. Little deciphering was required.

This House panel is to look at new industries that would “require legislation creating a new regulatory framework.” One of the committee’s leaders will be state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, a long-time advocate of allowing casinos – er, destination resorts – to operate in Georgia.

In his statement, Ralston referred to budget cuts that Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered up. “We would be remiss if we did not explore options for new sources of revenue to continue funding priorities while keeping the tax burden on Georgians as low as possible,” the speaker said.

On Tuesday, Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, will convene the Senate Study Committee on Gaming and Para-Mutual Wagering on Horse Racing and Growing Georgia’s Equine Industry. Beach, who is also running for Congress, is a veteran advocate of horse-racing, which he argues could generate jobs in rural Georgia.

In the House, Stephens hasn’t given up on casinos, nor has Beach abandoned horse-racing on the Senate side. But both lawmakers say the priority of their committees will be to examine whether Georgia should join a massive, national rush toward sports betting.

Georgia Republicans met in Perry for another annual fish fry, according to WMAZ.

Prominent state Republican leaders, like Governor Brian Kemp and Senator David Perdue, spoke at the event about GOP achievements and the upcoming election.

Governor Kemp says the GOP is gearing up to keep a Republican majority across the Peach State and in the White House.

“Republicans gotta get fired up for this election to elect our president, Donald Trump, and I think they’re fired up in this room,” Kemp said.

An Op-Ed in The Hill suggests that Georgia’s most famous Governor sore loser is benefiting from lying talking about voter suppression.

Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams lost her 2018 gubernatorial bid to Republican Brian Kemp by nearly 55,000 votes, but she still refuses to concede. Instead, she claims the election was stolen from her. She has uncritically peddled that falsehood in countless interviews on national television and has capitalized off of it, by starting the group Fair Fight.

A conservative watchdog group, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, filed an IRS complaint pointing to “roughly $100,000 worth of Facebook ads featuring Abrams, an advertisement for a ‘Stacey Abrams Fundraiser’ that featured Fair Fight Action’s logo, travel for Abrams’ post-election ‘thank you’ tour of Georgia and a professionally produced ‘highlight reel’ of Abrams footage on the group’s website.” Fair Fight is also staffed by her former campaign aides.

This isn’t the first time that Abrams appears to have benefited from the issue of voters’ rights. The Atlanta Journal Constitution raised other concerns ahead of the 2018 election. Between 2013 and 2016, the newspaper reported, Abrams raised $12.5 million for the Third Sector Development and the Voter Access Institute, both non-profits and tax-exempt. Abrams wouldn’t say “where the money came from, even though the two foundations paid her, over three years, nearly half a million dollars,” the newspaper reported.

What’s even worse than Abrams using these groups as a launchpad for her career is the fact that Fair Fight appears to be predicated on a false premise. Despite her claims of voter suppression, Georgia had more than 6.9 million registered voters heading into the 2018 midterm elections. That is the most registered voters in the state’s history. Almost 4 million Georgians voted in the midterm elections, which neared presidential levels. Further, minority voters made up a record 40 percent of the electorate, 30 percent were African American.

Despite her unfounded claims of voter suppression and a history of using voting groups to raise her profile, the media has uncritically pushed her false narrative and fawned over her. Vogue even recently profiled her in a piece called, “Can Stacey Abrams Save American Democracy?” But if her past foundations are any indication, Abrams’ isn’t trying to save democracy — she’s trying to boost her own career.

Congressman Tom Graves (R-Ranger) spoke to the Floyd County Republican Women, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Northwest Georgia’s congressman, Rep. Tom Graves, acknowledged the partisan divisions in the House during an August recess meeting with the Floyd County Republican Women.

But the Ranger Republican held out hope of closing the chasm through the bipartisan Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. The goal is to recommend reforms in staffing, technology and accessibility.

“It’s one of only two committees split down the middle, six Republicans and six Democrats,” Graves said.

“We’ve passed out nearly 30 recommendations to fix the place. Now the challenge is to implement them,” he said.

While it might seem a bit wonky to outsiders, Graves said it’s important work that strikes at the heart of the current gridlock and incivility. One example is to overhaul the new-member orientation process to make it nonpartisan.

Savannah-Chatham County public schools spent nearly $8 million dollars on substitute teachers in the last year, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The cost of hiring substitute teachers in Savannah-Chatham County public schools to cover for absent teachers and staff increased to $7.9 million a year in fiscal 2019 from $7.5 million in fiscal 2017, according to an internal audit Leah Underwood presented Thursday at a Savannah-Chatham County public school board Audit Committee meeting. She is senior internal auditor for the district.

But the cost of using substitutes also should consider the impact on student achievement, said Larry Lower, a former Savannah-Chatham County school board member who sits on the Audit Committee. “What’s the impact on students of having substitutes in the classroom?” Lower asked.

During the past three years, about 9% of a school’s workdays were used for teacher leave. About 1,842 teachers in Savannah-Chatham County public schools used zero to 10 days of leave in the 2018-19 school year, while 750 teachers used 11 to 17 days and 395 teachers used 18 or more, according to the audit report.

The average hourly rate for substitutes in Savannah-Chatham County public schools is $13.83 per hour, compared with an average hourly rate of $12.12 for the state and of $15.56 for the nation, based on May 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Savannah saw a dramatic increase in violence, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah police chief Roy Minter said “Savannah has a gun problem.” He said when it comes to shootings, they aren’t random crimes — the victims and suspects usually know each other….

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more incidents where people are resolving conflict or challenging each other by the use of the weapon,” Minter said. “We’re seeing situations where people are not resolving conflicts with fistfights or some type of physical altercation. A lot of times these conflicts are being resolved by the use of weapons.”

By July 20 of this year, violent crime in Savannah, which includes robberies, rapes, aggravated assaults and homicides, was up 32% from last year.

According to Savannah police’s crime statistics, police had investigated 662 violent crimes by July 20. At that point last year, the number was only 494.

The largest increase in violent crime this year was aggravated assaults.

This year, Savannah police have investigated 180 aggravated assaults with guns, 62 more than those investigated by July 20 last year.

The largest percentage increase across the board came in the way of aggravated assaults without guns. Police have investigated 289, 113 more than they had at that point in 2018.

The Rome City Commission is considering new ordinances addressing homeless people, according to the Associated Press.

The Rome City Commission is considering ordinances that would ban “urban camping” and regulate panhandling.

There have been complaints about people begging for money at stoplights and outside of shops; and about garbage and human waste left in public spaces, The Rome News-Tribune reported .

Police officers need clearer direction about how to deal with people living on the streets, Rome Police Chief Denise Downer-McKinney said.

Two proposed Rome ordinances have been adopted recently in a number of northwest Georgia communities, the newspaper reported.

In Rome, there were preliminary plans to enact the new laws later this month. However, City Manager Sammy Rich said the board wants to get more input first.

Four candidates qualified for Mayor of Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

It will be a familiar line-up for the most part in the mayor’s race with qualifiers including, Mayor Eddie DeLoach, Alderman Van Johnson and two former candidates, Regina Thomas and Louis Wilson Sr.

Albany had six qualified candidates for Mayor, according to the Albany Herald.

One candidate joined the field of Albany mayoral candidates on the second-to-last day of qualifying, but the incumbent had not made her intentions known as of Thursday afternoon.

Omar Salaam qualified on Thursday morning to seek a four-year term as mayor. Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard also paid his qualifying fees for the November election.

On Monday, Edward Allen, Bo Dorough, Henry Mathis and James Pratt Jr. qualified to seek the mayor’s seat currently held by Mayor Dorothy Hubbard. Tracy Taylor qualified on Wednesday, making Salaam the sixth in the race.

Two candidates, John Hawthorne and Leroy Smith, have qualified to run in Ward VI, and Chad Warbington qualified on Wednesday to challenge incumbent Roger Marietta in Ward IV.

And then the incumbent Mayor made it seven, according to the Albany Herald.

The field of candidates to lead the city of Albany as mayor grew to seven on Friday when incumbent Mayor Dorothy Hubbard filed paperwork to seek a third term in the city’s November municipal election.

On the same day, which ended the qualifying period, Demetrius Young became the third candidate to qualify to fill the Albany City Commission Ward VI seat now held by Tommie Postell, who is not seeking re-election.

Smyrna has five candidates for Mayor after incumbent Max Bacon announced he will not run again, according to the AJC.

Mayoral candidates include Alex Backry, a retiree; Ryan Campbell, a business owner; Laura M. Mireles, a business owner/contractor; Mayor Pro Tem and Ward 1 Councilman Derek Norton, director of Governmental Affairs for the Medical Association of Georgia and Steven Rasin, a real estate consultant.

A self-described former gang member said Albany doesn’t understand the extent of the problem, according to the Albany Herald.

Colby Carroll said a white businessman convinced him to attend the Thursday Criminal Network of Action Task Force meeting. He was a member and a leader in the Rolling 30 Crips.

“I feel like the city of Albany does not know the magnitude of the gang problem here,” he told the audience. “I have three preteens in my neighborhood who have AK-47s, with two drums (magazines).

The task force meeting began in a conference room at the Albany-Dougherty Government Center, but with some 80 people in attendance, many standing around the walls, the group moved to the larger room where Albany City Commission meetings are held.

During the meeting, Albany Police Chief Michael Persley said his officers will enforce the law, but more is needed to address the issue of street gangs in the city.

“It will take the involvement of everybody to make people not want to go down that road,” he said. “Making arrests won’t solve it all. What is going to help this is (the involvement of) whoever has resources, whoever has capabilities to reach the people before they go down this path.”

The Dougherty County District Attorney’s Office has pledged to put as many gang members as possible in jail. Officials in that office say they plan to do this by enforcing terms of probation, parole and bond agreements that prohibit association with known gang members. Those who violate those agreements will be arrested.

The Dougherty County School System is looking to reach some of the children who are in danger of falling into gang activity due to dropping out of school, retired educator Jessie Massey told the group. Turning Point Academy will start on Sept. 4, he said.

 

Brooklet, Statesboro, and Register will have contested municipal elections in November, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Brunswick also has contested city elections, according to The Brunswick News.

Incumbent Brunswick City Commissioner Julie Martin qualified to seek a third term in office on Monday. After she filed the paperwork, nobody stepped up to challenge Martin or seek the North Ward seat held by Johnny Cason.

Friday, however, was a different story.

Al Verheyn qualified to challenge Martin for the South Ward seat.

Three challengers filed the paperwork Friday to qualify for the North Ward seat held before incumbent Johnny Cason filed the paperwork to seek a third four-year term in office.

Cason will face Gary Cook, John Perry II and Zack Lyde. Both races will be determined in the Nov. 5 elections.

Warner Robins voters will choose among candidates for City Council, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Ten people have qualified to run for three Warner Robins City Council seats up for grabs Nov. 5, including a former Warner Robins councilman who went to prison.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether John F. Williams can actually run for office having been in prison. He served 11 months of a 15-month sentence.

Election Superintendent Michelle Riley is expected to hold a hearing next Wednesday to decide whether Williams’ name will go on the ballot, a city official said. Riley declined comment.

Williams joins Miranda Britt and Jonathan Nichols as having qualified to run for the Post 6 seat held by Larry Curtis, according to the city of Warner Robins website. Curtis, who also qualified, was appointed by council to fill the unexpired term of Mike Davis, who died in office.

Stephen Baughier, Charles “Charlie” Bibb and Zachary Adam Collins and Eric Langston qualified to run for the Post 2 seat held by Carolyn Robbins. Robbins, who has been battling health issues, did not qualify to seek re-election.

Tim Thomas qualified to seek re-election in Post 4. Kevin Lashley has qualified to run for that seat.

The Ledger-Enquirer looks at how new legislation may protect some renters from eviction.

Columbus officials are hoping a new Georgia law that went into effect July 1 will help curb the number of evictions in the city caused by unresolved repair issues.

The law, created by the adoption of House Bill 346, means that tenants who seek repairs to their housing can be legally protected from retaliation by their landlords, including rent hikes and eviction.

According to Capt. Curtis Lockette with the Muscogee County Marshal’s Office, between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018, the office served 8,854 dispossessory warrants, which means landlords filed with the court to evict a tenant.

Meanwhile, the marshal’s office performed 1,221 evictions, where marshals physically removed the belongings of the tenants from the rental properties.

The Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office said it performed an additional 489 evictions.

According to the new law, if a landlord files a dispossessory action in retaliation to a tenant requesting repairs, the tenant can use that as a defense in court. If a landlord is unable to provide proof in court that an action was not retaliatory, the tenant may recover one month’s rent, plus $500, court costs and attorney’s fees.

The Hog Hammock Library on Sapelo Island will be largely solar powered, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Sixteen solar panels sit atop a newly constructed pavilion outside the small library that serves Hog Hammock, a Gullah-Geechee community of about 40 permanent residents who trace their Sapelo roots to people enslaved on the island’s plantations in the 1700s.

The donated installation, at nearly 5 kilowatts, is about the size of a residential rooftop array. The panels should offset much of the energy needed to power the library, with any excess fed back onto the grid for a modest reimbursement from Georgia Power.

Sapelo sits about 60 miles south of Savannah in McIntosh County and is accessible by boat only, with a regular ferry service from the mainland. The location’s remoteness was the main challenge in installing the solar panels, said Bret Sowers, principal and vice president of development and strategy at Charleston-based Southern Current LLC. Sowers said he’s aware of only one other solar array on the island, a two panel array that powers a pump on a rain-collection cistern at the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The $35,000 project, which includes a playground upgrade, was funded through donations. Southern Current donated the solar panels. Yellawood donated materials for a pavilion. EDF Renewables donated the construction costs. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources donated ferry time to bring materials to the island. DS Smith provided services to clear dilapidated trees. The University of Georgia is providing students to landscape. Darien Telephone donated picnic tables. Island residents are assisting with site preparation and assembly of picnic tables and playground equipment.

The idea for the solar addition to the library came from Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, who challenged the Georgia Large Scale Solar Association to coordinate a project on Sapelo after he visited there. Most of the solar in Georgia is in large, utility-scale installations, like projects on former landfills in Savannah and on Jekyll Island.

A solar farm in Appling is under scrutiny from local residents, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

As a solar farm project in Appling moves forward, residents are concerned it eventually could cause erosion, devalue property and become an eyesore.

The Columbia County Planning Commission voted unanimously last week to approve rezoning land at 2734 Scotts Ferry Road for Inman Solar to develop about 32 acres on the back of the property.

“Solar farms are all throughout Georgia, but I think a lot of people (in Appling) are misinformed because they’re still new to our area,” Buckner said. “I wanted to be a good steward of my property, and I wanted to use the land as best I could.”

The county has previously approved the addition of separate solar farms on Yelton Road and Ridge Road and does not have plans to set a limit on additional similar projects.

23
Aug

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

On August 25, 325, the Council of Nicea adopted the Nicene Creed.

General Charles Lee of the Continental Army told Congress that Georgia’s value to the young nation required more forces to defend against the British on August 24, 1776.

On August 23, 1784, four counties is western North Carolina declared themselves the State of Franklin, setting up its own Constitution and treaties with local Indian tribes. In 1788, they rejoined North Carolina but would eventually become part of a new state, Tennessee.

On August 25, 1864, Union troops stopped artillery bombardment of Atlanta and withdrew from fortifications around the city. On the same day, in Virginia, Confederate forces attacked Federals under Gen. Grant at Ream’s Station.

The Kimball Opera House, serving as the Georgia State Capitol, was sold to the state on August 23, 1870.

On August 25, 1877, delegates to the state Constitutional Convention approved a new post-Reconstruction state Constitution, the seventh in state history, to be submitted to the voters on December 5, 1877.

The all-time highest score in a professional baseball game was recorded on August 25, 1922, as the Chicago Cubs beat the Philadelphia Phillies by 26-23.

On August 24, 1931, the Georgia General Assembly adopted a joint resolution appointing a committee to work with the Governor in planning a bicentennial celebration to be held in 1933.

Paris was liberated from German army control on August 25, 1944.

On August 24, 1945, the United States Postal Service held a first day of issue ceremony in Warm Springs, Georgia for the release of a stamp bearing the images of Franklin D. Roosevelt and The Little White House.

FDR Warm Springs

On August 25, 1950, President Harry S. Truman ordered the seizure of the nation’s private railroads by executive order.

On August 23, 1961, four African-American citizens attempted to play tennis at Bitsy Grant Tennis Center in Atlanta, which was informally “whites only.” The Tennis Center was hastily closed rather than allow them to play, but it was the first volley leading to the eventual desegregation of Atlanta’s public recreation facilities.

On August 25, 1973, the Allman Brothers of Macon, Georgia released “Ramblin’ Man” as the first single from the album “Brothers and Sisters.” From the Wall Street Journal,

Dickey Betts: In 1969, I was playing guitar in several rock bands that toured central Florida. Whenever I’d have trouble finding a place to stay, my friend Kenny Harwick would let me crash at his garage apartment for a few days in Sarasota. One day he asked me how I was doing with my music and said, “I bet you’re just tryin’ to make a livin’ and doin’ the best you can.”

Then one day in 1972, I was sitting in the kitchen of what we called the Big House in Macon, Ga.—where everyone in the band lived—and decided to finish the lyrics.

My inspiration was Hank Williams’s “Ramblin’ Man,” from 1951. His song and mine are completely different but I liked his mournful, minor-chord feel.

Except for Kenny’s line, the rest of the lyrics were autobiographical.

The WSJ article is worth reading in its entirety if you’re a fan of the Allmans.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) was given an award by the Chamber of Commerce, according to The Brunswick News.

Carter was recognized for his strong support for pro-business legislation with the Spirit of Enterprise Award, presented to him Thursday at a special-called Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Many members from the business community were in attendance for the ceremony where Carter was presented the award by Moore Hallmark, executive director of the Southeast regional office of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Carter said he takes his role in Congress as a supporter of small business very seriously.

“I get it. I understand,” he said. “Small business is so very important to our economy.”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced a court victory in a lawsuit over the Obama administrations “Waters of the United States” rules, according to the Albany Herald.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has announced that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia granted summary judgment in favor of Georgia and nine other states in their lawsuit challenging the Obama Administration’s 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule.

At the same time, an injunction was kept in place against the rule while federal agencies finalize its replacement.

“For more than four years, Georgia has led a multistate coalition in the fight against the 2015 WOTUS Rule, a clear example of federal overreach that infringed on the states’ traditional role as primary regulators of land and water resources within their borders,” Carr said. “We are proud to have fought for this relief, and we look forward to reforms that will permanently relieve farmers and landowners of the unnecessary burdens that the 2015 WOTUS Rule created.”

The court explained, “Congress has delegated the important role of protecting the nation’s waters to the agencies, but in fulfilling that role, the agencies must comply with the law. Here, they have failed to do just that.” As a result, the court left in place its preliminary injunction that blocks the rule from going into effect in any of the coalition states while the agencies “continue their efforts to change the WOTUS Rule in light of the serious defects identified in this order.”

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army proposed rules that would rescind and replace the 2015 WOTUS rule. In April of this year, Georgia joined 16 other states in submitting comments supporting that proposal.

A Gwinnett County forum included discussion of future transit plans, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

As he juggled his hats as Lawrenceville’s city manager and a member of the Atlanta Regional Transit Link Authority board Thurday, Chuck Warbington expressed certainty about the chances of a future MARTA in Gwinnett County.

It would benefit from being on the November 2020 ballot, he said.

Warbington was part of a trio of government and business officials who were asked to weigh in on a possible 2020 MARTA vote during a development forum hosted by Bisnow in Peachtree Corners. Joining him were Gwinnett Chamber President Nick Masino and Ackerman Retail President Leo Wiener.

“When there is a vote that is held at a general election, I have no doubt it will pass,” he said. “It was put on a ballot (in March) that limited the interest in people wanting to vote for a variety of reasons. So I would say once it put in a general election, which will possibly be next year when there’s a presidential election, there’s a lot of interest.”

The Athens-Clarke County Commission passed a resolution supporting local “Immigrant, Undocumented, and Latinx Community,” according to the Athens Banner Herald.

District 7 Commissioner Russell Edwards was the first to speak, and began in English but soon switched to Spanish, sometimes translating himself for the non-Spanish speakers who may have been the majority in the audience as the commission met Tuesday night.

“For me, this is not a political statement. It is a statement of beliefs” about principles in Christianity and in the U.S. Constitution, said District 6 Commissioner Jerry NeSmith.

“I just felt that it was the least we can do,” said District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson, who had brought forth the resolution with Latinx activist Beto Mendoza.

AdvancED, the regional accrediting agency, is investigating the Athens-Clarke County Board of Education, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The investigation is the result of contentions by unnamed “community stakeholders” that the conduct of some board members is “interfering with the district’s ability to function responsibly and effectively” and that “the Board’s conduct is impeding the autonomy of district leadership to meet student achievement goals and effective management of the day-to-day operations of the district.”

Under Georgia law, school boards set policies and approve budgets for a school district, but may not interfere in operations.

The new investigation mirrors an earlier ethics investigation, still unresolved, of Clarke County School Superintendent Demond Means — also triggered by anonymous accusers. A Newnan lawyer filed that complaint in May on behalf of those complainants, alleging plagiarism and questioning Means’ Ph.D. dissertation and his advocacy of hiring an education company he has worked for in the past.

Valdosta voters will have at least four candidates to choose for Mayor, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Kevin J. Bussey filed to run for Valdosta mayor, according to the Lowndes County Board of Elections. David Sumner, J.D. Rice and Brooks D. Bivins filed earlier in the week to qualify to run for mayor in Valdosta.

Bussey, Sumner and Rice, along with Scott James Matheson, declared their intent to run for mayor months ago. Rice and Bivins ran for mayor four years ago. Sumner briefly served as mayor following the death of Mayor James H. Rainwater in the early 2000s.

Mayoral candidates seek the office that’s been held by John Gayle for two terms. Gayle has said he is not seeking reelection to a third term.

Valdosta City Council approved a “Brunch Bill” referendum for the November 5 ballot, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

At a Valdosta City Council meeting Thursday, the council voted 5-1 to give voters the opportunity to move alcohol sales from 12:30 p.m. to 11 a.m. on Sundays. Councilwoman Vivian Miller-Cody voted against.

Senate Bill 17, known as the “Brunch Bill,” was signed into law May 8, 2018 and permits counties and municipalities with Sunday alcohol sales, such as Valdosta, to allow earlier Sunday sales.

If the referendum is approved by voters, establishments eligible for Sunday sales would be able to serve alcohol from 11 a.m. until midnight Sundays only if they have purchased a Sunday sales license.

The Statesboro Herald reviews local election qualifying. Brooklet Mayor William Hendrix is not running for another term.

The Gainesville Times looks at local races as candidate qualifying wraps up.

Rome has contested elections in both city council wards, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Two more candidates qualified Wednesday, setting up contested races in both Rome City Commission wards — and Cave Spring’s Nov. 5 election is canceled.

Cave Spring City Clerk Judy Dickinson said just three candidates had filed to run for the three open seats by the time the qualifying period ended at 4:30 p.m.

Rome candidates have through Friday at 5 p.m. to qualify for the six open seats on the City Commission.

Dalton may have a contested city council race, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Former Dalton State College athletic director Derek Waugh qualified on Thursday to run for the Ward 1 post on the Dalton City Council currently held by Denise Wood, who has not yet qualified.

Qualifying for Dalton concludes Friday from 8:30 a.m. at 4:30 p.m. in the city clerk’s office at City Hall. The qualifying fees are $360 for the City Council, $576 for mayor and $35 for the Board of Education.

The other City Council seat up for election in November is the Ward 3 seat held by Tyree Goodlett, who qualified earlier this week. No one has yet qualified to oppose him. Also, no one else has qualified for the mayor’s race after Mayor Dennis Mock and former mayor David Pennington qualified earlier this week.

Savannah-Chatham Public Schools are considering revising policy on standardized tests, according to the Savannah Morning News.

High school students taking Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses and exams would be exempt from the Georgia Milestones Assessment System test for those subjects if the Board of Education adopts an amendment initiated Thursday at the board’s August meeting.

The Board of Education is expected to vote at its next meeting on the amendment to Rule 160-3-1-.07 Testing Programs – Student Assessment that would eliminate double-testing for high school students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades taking AP or IB courses by exempting them from the related GMAS tests.

The grades a student earns in the AP or IB course would be used in the state accountability system instead of the GMAS, according to amendment documents.

“I think it’s a good move,” said Savannah-Chatham County public schools Superintendent Ann Levett. “We just think it’s not good for the students” to be expected to do double testing, she said. The Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests are considered more rigorous than the GMAS, Levett said.

Brunswick has no candidates yet for a city council seat representing the North Ward, according to The Brunswick News.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Julie Martin was the only candidate to qualify for the Brunswick City Commission’s South Ward seat, while no one had qualified for the North Ward race.

Currently, Johnny Cason holds the seat.

Richmond County Board of Education voted to hire Dr. Kenneth Bradshaw as the county’s new school superintendent, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Dr. Kenneth Bradshaw was unanimously voted in as superintendent of schools during a called board meeting Thursday. He was offered and accepted a 34-month contract.

Board member Marion Barnes made the motion to hire Bradshaw. According to the motion, there is a 10-day waiting period before the contract is effective, during which time he will continue to work in Chattanooga.

Lawrenceville City Council member David Still will serve as the city’s next Mayor, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

City Councilman David Still will become the city’s new mayor, taking over from retiring Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson, in 2020 after no one signed up to run against him in the open race. He is guaranteed election this fall because of the lack of opposition.

That, of course, also means Still and Johnson have months to prepare for a transition of power in Lawrenceville without having to wait for the results of a mayoral election.