Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 6, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 6, 2017

On April 6, 1776, the Continental Congress announced that all ports in America would be open to trade with other countries not ruled by the British. The action was taken several months after Britain passed the American Prohibitory Act which forbade trade with the colonies and was intended to punish colonists for the growing rebellion.

John Tyler was sworn in as the tenth President of the United States on April 6, 1841.

Tyler was elected as William Harrison’s vice president earlier in 1841 and was suddenly thrust into the role of president when Harrison died one month into office. He was the first vice president to immediately assume the role of president after a sitting president’s untimely exit and set the precedent for succession thereafter.

The first modern Olympic Games opened in Athens, Greece on April 6, 1896.

The United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, when the US House of Representatives voted 373-50 on a declaration of war that passed the Senate two days earlier.

2001: A Space Odyssey was released on April 6, 1968.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Deal signed an Executive Order creating a Court Reform Council on March 30, 2017.

Whereas: A trusted an modernized judiciary is a vital component of society; and

Whereas: Proposals to amend the judicial process and the administrative law hearing process in Georgia require a thorough analysis; and

Whereas: A study of best practices would be a required aspect of the analysis,

Now, therefore, pursuant to the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Georgia, it is hereby

Ordered: That the Court Reform Council is hereby created to review current practices and procedures within the judicial court system and the administrative law hearing system and make recommendations to improve efficiencies and achieve best practices for the administration of justice.

It is further

Ordered: The following individuals are hereby appointed to serve on the Court Reform Council:

The Honorable Chris Carr – Attorney General of Georgia

The Honorable Bill Cowsert – Majority Leader, Georgia State Senate

The Honorable Christian Commer – Majority Whip, Georgia House of Representatives

The Honorable Stacey Abrams – Minority Leader, Georgia House of Representatives

The Honorable Nels Peterson – Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia

The Honorable Charlie Bethel – Judge, Court of Appeals of the State of Georgia

The Honorable Trent Brown – Judge, Superior Court of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit

The Honorable Michael Malihi – Chief Judge, Office of State Administrative Hearings

David Werner – Executive Counsel, Office of the Governor

Dennis T. Cathey – member, Cathey & Strain, LLC

Chris Cummiskey – Executive Vice President of External Affairs, Georgia Power

Ordered: That Attorney General Chris Carr shall serve as Chairman of the Court Reform Council

It is further

Ordered: That the Court Reform Council shall submit a final report of their findings and recommendations to me on or before December 1, 2017.

Yesterday, Governor Deal signed House Bill 595, local legislation affecting the City of Doraville, and House Bill 406, related to reciprocity for carry permits.

Senator Johnny Isakson sat for an interview with Georgia Trend.

Georgia Trend: What are you hearing from constituents about the early days of the Trump Administration?

Isakson: There’s a very good feeling on the part of a lot of our constituents that we have somebody elected president who is actually going to do what he says he’s going to do.

Georgia Trend: What’s your reaction?

Isakson: As a part of the government and a member of the U.S. Senate, I think the executive branch needs to understand that it is one-third of the government, not 100 percent. You have a Congress, and you have the courts. I think we’d have been better off if some of these executive orders had been vetted to us before they went public. We were caught red-handed without knowing any details – particularly the heads of the departments that need to execute the game plan. You’ve got to have your Cabinet secretaries fully briefed in advance.

The speed with which it’s been done left some vetting undone. Some changes probably need to be made to some of the executive orders, like the immigration order. But I have to give President Trump credit because in 10 days he’s taken almost every major point he ran on and executed it by executive order.

Georgia Trend: What do you see as the most pressing issues for Congress?

Isakson: The growing debt is something we have got to pay attention to. We’re getting ready to bump up the debt ceiling. We’ve got to get to the process of reducing rather than increasing our debt. That’s something I’ve worked on very hard with the biennial budget proposal.

State Senator Freddie Powell Sims spoke about House Bill 338, the school turnaround bill.

Sims, a Democratic co-sponsor of the original Amendment 1, said 338 is needed — especially in rural counties.

“There are still things we need to do to assure all our children get a quality education in Georgia, and HB 338 will address the state’s chronically failing schools,” she said. “It will put some of the rigor back in the education process. Sadly, rather than address issues that impact our students, we’ve had adults more concerned with how those issues impact them. But that’s their job. That’s what they’re paid to do.”

“Nobody’s blaming the teachers in this. … It may be administrators, school boards or others officials who are part of a school system. But we have to, at some point, look at ourselves and say, ‘How can we keep telling parents that, yes, our school is failing, but just give us a little more time and we’ll fix it?’”

“I have 11 school districts in (Senate District 12), and each of them has different needs And each entity in those school systems matters. Because when we say we want business and industry to move into our region, we have to understand that they’re not going to come unless we can supply them a well-educated work force. One of our primary problems is that we’re afraid of hurting anyone’s feelings,” she said. “But at some point, people have to be held accountable. If a school board member or an administrator or a teacher or a staff member is not doing his or her job, we have got to step in and say we’re not satisfied with their work and we want to find a way to help them do their job better.

“Then, if they don’t improve, we need to tell them that perhaps that job is not right for them and find someone who will do the job. But we’re afraid of hurting feelings, and we’ve gotten away from holding people accountable.”

David Pendered of the Saporta Report looks at environmental legislation that passed or failed in the legislative session.

Coastal Georgia may see wind turbines rising offshore soon.

Republic Services will withdraw three applications to dump tons of coal ash in Wayne County, GA.

State Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island, said he was happy to hear the applications were withdrawn. Jones had sponsored legislation that would have put limits on burying coal ash in Georgia, but the bills got no traction in the recently completed session of the General Assembly.

“We were not going to be able legislatively to stop them from moving coal ash into that landfill,” Jones said.

Jones said it was a frightening prospect that the company would move 1,000 tons per day by rail into the facility, likely from coal ash impoundments at power plants outside Georgia.

The US Army Corps of Engineers announced that the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will come in at $267 million more than previously announced.

Army Corps of Engineers officials said Wednesday they now estimate that the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project — or SHEP — will cost $973 million, 38 percent more than the $706 million price tag the agency cited in 2014.

Army Corps Savannah District spokesman Russell Wicke said the increase can be attributed to increased dredging and construction costs, development of complex designs on unique features, and a 24-month timeline extension.
Off-setting the higher cost is an increase in the benefit-to-cost ratio, now growing to $7.30 in benefits for every $1 spent on construction, Wicke said. The previous ratio was $5.50-to-$1.

Based on this increase, SHEP is now expected to yield a net benefit of $282 million a year to the American economy, up more than $100 million a year over the previous estimate of $174 million.

The Bibb County School System amended its lawsuit against former Superintendent Roman Dallemand to include allegations that the system was defrauded of $3.2 million for fake software and a website that didn’t exist.

Georgia Gwinnett College will host Button Gwinnett Day next Wednesday, April 12, from 10 AM to noon in Cisco Auditorium, Building C.

In partnership with Gwinnett County Public Library, the event is a celebration of Gwinnett’s history and in recognition of the Georgia signer of the Declaration of Independence. After Gwinnett served a two-year term in the Continental Congress and co-signed the Declaration of Independence, he returned to Georgia and helped write the state’s first constitution. Several accounts indicate he used a pamphlet he received from John Adams as a blue print.

The event is scheduled to begin with a literary summit featuring authors Thomas Mullen and Richard Hoard, followed by a panel discussion on the process of writing, the new world of journalism and what it takes to become a published author. Guest panelists are Bob Babcock, chief executive officer and founder of Deeds Publishing, Steven Brown, professor of business at GGC and Will Hammock, sports editor of the Daily Post.

Craig Lutz, who has been named to serve on the Hall County Board of Elections but hasn’t yet taken office, called the decision to offer bilingual election materials “fiscally irresponsible” and not “well thought out.”

On the Campaign Trail

Nick Ayers for Governor in 2018? Politico says that some in Washington, DC are considering how it would work.

Ayers is 34 but already a veteran Republican strategist who burst onto the political scene a decade ago as the wunderkind executive director of the Republican Governors Association. In 2016, he served as a senior adviser to Pence after Donald Trump tapped him as his running mate, and Ayers served on the executive committee of Trump’s presidential transition team. He has not previously run for office.

While it is not clear yet whether Ayers will jump into the contest, people close to the White House are already discussing what impact an Ayers run would have on the pro-Trump nonprofit group America First Policies, where he has worked as an adviser and fundraiser since January.

Ayers declined to comment on his plans.

Ayers, who lives in Georgia with his family, is in Washington D.C. this week and expected to discuss his future with senior Trump officials, including Pence, chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen Bannon, according to a person familiar with those meetings.

From the AJC:

His supporters say he’ll be a fundraising force, able to tap not only the Perdue network in Georgia but also out-of-state behemoths from his time working with Pence and other national politicians. And he would likely bring an outsider’s flair to the race backed by his ties to the Trump-Pence administration.

A run for governor would be a new ballgame. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who hasn’t formally announced, is considered the presumptive Republican frontrunner and has long been gearing up for a gubernatorial run. Secretary of State Brian Kemp has already joined the race and has also spent years crisscrossing the state and earning IOUs. A handful of other candidates – some high-profile, some not – could jump in by the summer.

Ayers, the father of three-year-old triplets, has been tight-lipped about his future, though his friends have said he’d be just as content to run his businesses and stay behind-the-scenes.

Roll Call reports that Democrat Jon Ossoff has raised $8.3 million for the Sixth District Congressional Special Election.

Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff raised $8.3 million during the first quarter of the year, his campaign announced Wednesday night.

It’s a stunning haul, especially for a 30-year-old first-time candidate who’s running as a Democrat in a traditionally Republican House district.

95 percent of his donations came from out of state, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which reviewed his first quarter filing. His report has not yet been filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The former Hill staffer and documentary filmmaker ended the quarter with $2.1 million. The average donation was $42.52, according to the campaign. The liberal website Daily Kos says its supporters have given Ossoff $1.25 million.

His campaign haul dwarfs those of his GOP opponents who have already announced theirs. Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel raised $463,000 and has $183,000 cash on hand. Her campaign noted that 90 percent of her individual donors were from Georgia. Former state Sen. Judson Hill’s campaign said he raised $473,000 and has $113,000 in the bank. Several GOP self-funders have yet to announce their figures.

Ossoff’s quarterly haul isn’t that far off from what some U.S. senators raised for their re-elections during the entire 2016 cycle. Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, for example, raised about $11 million.

From the AJC:

Ossoff was also questioned about the millions in donations that have come his way, most of it from outside the state. The Democrat said much of that money was being donated in small increments and was indicative of his grass-roots support.

“One of the things I’m proud of about my campaign is that we’ve raised money in small-dollar contributions, which means that folks running for office are accountable to a broad range of people who dig deep for small amounts of money,” Ossoff said.

“Let’s be realistic,” Republican Karen Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, said, “$4 million is not being raised in $10, $20, $30, $40 increments. He is being bankrolled by Nancy Pelosi and the liberal left.”

This is a good time for Republicans to panic.

Tim Bryant tweeted yesterday that former State Rep. Doug McKillip (DR) will challenge State Rep. Regina Quick to take back the seat she won from him in the 2012 Republican Primary.

Doug McKillip Regina Quick

Donald Ferguson announced he will run as a Democrat against Republican State Representative Dale Rutledge (R-McDonough) in the 109th District.

Conyers City Council member Vince Evans will run for Mayor in November.

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