Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 12, 2017


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 12, 2017

Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the Constitution on December 12, 1787.

Guglielmo Marconi completed the first transatlantic radio transmission from Cornwall, England to Newfoundland on December 12, 1901.

Jimmy Carter announced he would run for President of the United States on December 12, 1974.

Dickey Betts, guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, was born on December 12, 1943.

The United States Supreme Court released its decision in Bush v. Gore on December 12, 2000, stopping manual recounts of contested ballots in Florida.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former State Rep. John Yates (R-Griffin), the last World War 2 veteran to serve in the Georgia legislature, died at the age of 96.

Yates became one of a small number of Republicans in the Georgia House at the time he was first elected in 1988. After losing re-election, he ran again in 1992 and remained in office until 2016 representing a district based in Griffin.

Yates flew more than 200 missions near or over enemy lines for the U.S. Army, and he was awarded six air medals and four battle stars, according to his House biography. He served during the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive on the Western Front in 1944 and 1945.

His death was confirmed Monday by the office of House Speaker David Ralston.

“John Yates was a public servant and a patriot — a hero in the truest sense of the word,” Ralston said. “He understood better than most the meaning of sacrifice.”

Qualifying for a pair of January special elections for the Georgia legislature closed on Friday:

SD 17
Brian Strickland – R
Ed Toney – R
Nelva Lee – R
Phyllis Hatcher – D

HD 111
El-Madhi Holly – D
Geoffrey Cauble – R
Larry K. Morey – R
Tarji Leonard Dunn – D

Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Branch will testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow on her nomination by President Trump to the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. R. Stan Baker will appear before the committee on his nomination as a United States District Judge for the Southern District of Georgia.

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Harold Melton will address Auburn University’s fall graduation ceremony on December 16th.

Auburn University alumnus Harold Melton, presiding justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, will be the speaker at the university’s fall graduation ceremonies. Approximately 1,683 degrees will be conferred during the two ceremonies set for Saturday, Dec. 16, in Auburn Arena.

Melton was appointed to the Supreme Court of Georgia by Gov. Sonny Perdue on July 1, 2005, and was sworn in as presiding justice Jan. 6, 2017. Prior to joining the court, Melton served as executive counsel to Perdue. Before that, he spent 11 years in the Georgia Department of Law under two attorneys general where he dealt with issues ranging from the creation of the Georgia Lottery Corporation to the administration of Georgia’s tobacco settlement.

Melton, who was elected Auburn’s first African American SGA president in 1987, earned his Bachelor of Science degree in international business from Auburn in 1988. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Georgia in 1991. He serves on the Board of Atlanta Youth Academies and is on the local and national board for Young Life youth ministry. A native of Washington, D.C., Melton currently resides in Atlanta with his wife, Kimberly, and their three children.

Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler helped open a home for abused and neglected girls in Douglasville, GA.

He met the residents, many of whom became emotional greeting the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, and toured the facility he helped to establish.

Tyler told CNN it’s hard for him to grasp what many of them have been through.

“You can see in their faces and hear in their voices how broken they are,” he said.

“While I was in (rehab), I found out most of women in there were battered and beaten and abused verbally and sexually in huge numbers,” he said. “It was like seven out of 10, eight out of 10.”

He said he has high hopes for the residents, who, along with their families, will have resources, including therapy, to help better their lives.

“I can only speak from my own 12-stepness, which is to say when you have an ‘ism’ which you wish was a ‘wasim,’ you need therapy,”] he said. “I’m hoping that they get some tools, some advice, some ways to work stuff out, some words of wisdom that they can then live by.”

State Rep. Rick Williams, (R-Milledgeville) says he has pre-filed legislation to require schools to post a toll-free number for DFCS.

“We’ve got to let them know they don’t have to tolerate that. Tell someone,” Williams said last week.

“There’s a lot of children hurt out there,” Williams said. “We’ve got to protect our children, and we’ve got to start somewhere.”

“This is just clean, simple, plain – put up signs telling children, ‘It’s OK to tell if someone hurts you. You can say no. Go to a safe place. Tell a trusted adult,’” he said.

DFCS’s toll-free number – 1-855-GA CHILD – is monitored around the clock and children can call anonymously. Last year, there were about 118,000 reports received. About 11 percent of those were substantiated cases.

Cobb County Commission Chair Mike Boyce wants the county to consider a penny sales tax to fund public safety.

County Chairman Mike Boyce and Commissioner Bob Weatherford spent Friday and Monday making a sales pitch to the Cobb Legislative Delegation for a new tax to pay for public safety costs.

The proposal would raise the county’s sales tax from 6 to 7 cents if passed in a November 2018 referendum. A chunk of the money from the additional 1 percent sales tax would be placed in a restricted fund to pay for public safety, freeing up the county’s general fund to pay for other things, such as the county’s anticipated $30 million budget shortfall.

“This would allow us not to have to raise the millage rate,” Weatherford said.

Weatherford told lawmakers that a 1 percent sales tax collects about $130 million a year in Cobb. After the county’s six cities were given their cut, the county would be left with $96.2 million.

Included in the proposal would be a millage rollback equal to whatever a family of four would spend on a 1 percent sales tax for a year, Weatherford said.

The referendum would require a bill through the Legislature in the coming session before the Cobb Board of Commissioners could call for the referendum.

Emory Healthcare provided more than $73 million dollars in uncompensated care in FY 2017.

Lilburn City Council is eliminating the alcohol review board as it adopts a new alcohol ordinance.

Whitfield County Commissioners approved a $46.7 million dollar budget for 2018, up from $45 million in 2017.

Robins Air Force Base will host an air show including the US Air Force Thunderbirds on September 28-29 2019.

Four Rome City School Board members sat in their last official meeting yesterday.

Outgoing board members are Richard Dixon, Cheryl Huffman, Bruce Jones and Dale Swann. All seven seats on the board were up for grabs in November’s election.

Huffman, who has been on the board for 20 years, and Jones, who has served two four-year terms, did not seek re-election in November’s election. Dixon and Swann did not secure enough votes on Nov. 7 to be among the top seven vote-getters.

Incumbents Elaina Beeman, Will Byington and Faith Collins were the only current board members who were elected for the next term. They will be joined by newcomers Dr. Melissa Davis, Jill Fisher, Alvin Jackson and John Uldrick.

Parking on the front lawn will be prohibited under new zoning rules in Macon.

Macon’s zoning commission agreed Monday to not allow cars to be parked on the lawn in the front of residences in some historic districts.

In a 4-0 decision, the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission voted to amend the Comprehensive Land Development Resolution “regarding parking of vehicles on lawns visible from public right-of-way.” Commission Chairman Kamal Azar was absent.

The amendment would only apply to single-family residential property specifically in “designated design review designation districts,” said Executive Director Jim Thomas. These include the Intown, Vineville, Cherokee Heights, Beall’s Hill and downtown districts.

The new regulation is effective immediately, Thomas said after the meeting.

The Georgia Public Service Commission has moved up the date for a decision on Plant Vogtle.

A decision on whether to complete two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle has been moved up from February to next week, the chairman of the Public Service Commission said Monday.

Commissioner Stan Wise said it will decide Dec. 21 after he received a request from Georgia Power Company to move the decision to this year in case the commission rules the projects should not proceed so that the company could take advantage of $150 million in benefits it might lose next year due to changes in tax law.

Commission staff also want Georgia Power to bear more of the risk for the project and oppose the company’s request to find “reasonable” its new schedule and costs of $12.2 billion to complete the reactors by 2021 and 2022, calling that “uneconomic” to ratepayers by $1.6 billion.

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) is touting a poll of Republican voters on medical marijuana.

The telephone poll of 511 likely Republican primary voters by the Tarrance Group found 71 percent were in favor of Georgia allowing cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes only. About 77 percent of those surveyed approved giving patients permission to use the drug for treatment of diseases, which is already allowed in Georgia.

Peake, R-Macon, paid for the poll as he is seeking legislation, House Bill 645 and House Resolution 36, that would permit medical marijuana possession or sale.

He said Georgia should have a system to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana. Twenty-nine other states already allow medical marijuana cultivation.

“I did the poll because I wanted to be confident of what I already saw: Hard-core Republican voters do significantly support this issue,” Peake said. “It’s a clear indication the momentum on this is clearly shifting on this topic as more and more people see the benefit of medical cannabis oil.”

Among Georgia Republican voters surveyed on in-state cultivation of medical marijuana, 46 percent were strongly in favor and 16 percent were strongly opposed, according to results released by Peake. The poll was conducted from Nov. 27 to Nov. 29.

Georgia State Budget

Federal tax reform and it’s consequences for state tax income have created uncertainty in Georgia’s state budget process for 2018.

Income taxes are the state’s No. 1 source of revenue, and because of the uncertainty, Gov. Nathan Deal is trying to put final touches on the budget he will propose to lawmakers in January not sure of exactly how much money the state will have to spend.

Weeks before the start of Georgia’s legislative session, it’s unclear whether the federal tax plan could mean more money for the state because Georgians will lose key deductions on their state income taxes. Officials don’t know the impact of any last-minute add-ons or subtractions to the bill, which are common in horsetrading at both the state and U.S. Capitol.

Because of all that, the governor’s office, budget and tax staffers and top lawmakers are keeping a close watch on what Congress does in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 8 start of the the 2018 General Assembly session, when lawmakers will consider a $26 billion state spending plan for the upcoming year.

“You can stay awake worrying about what will happen,” said state Rep. Terry England, R-Auburn, the chairman of the House Budget Committee. “As quick as things change, what you were worrying about is not the thing you have to worry about now.”

When federal funding is included, the state of Georgia spends about $45 billion a year. A little over 30 percent of that goes to the Department of Community Health, which runs Medicaid and provides health care to the poor, disabled and nursing home services to the elderly. About two-thirds of Medicaid is paid for by the federal government, so any cutback could have a dramatic impact.

In addition, Congress has yet to reauthorize the money that pays for the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, called PeachCare in Georgia, which has been around for about 20 years and is also run by the Department of Community Health.

Andy Miller of Georgia Health News looks at how PeachCare funding might be affected.

CHIP covers almost 9 million children nationally. Through PeachCare, it covers roughly about 130,000 children in Georgia.

The program provides insurance to children in working families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid for their kids, but cannot afford or obtain private coverage.

The U.S. House passed a bill in early November that funds the CHIP program for five years, but the U.S. Senate has yet to act.

Members of both parties in Congress agree that money should be approved for CHIP for five years. But they disagree over how to pay for it.

The Georgia Department of Community Health said Monday that if the state maintains its current funding, Georgia will run out of money for PeachCare in March, if the congressional impasse continues.

Georgia receives about $400 million in federal funding annually for PeachCare.

The Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption (GATE) is under scrutiny after a recent audit.

About 38,000 people and businesses participate in a program known as GATE – for Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption – that allows eligible producers to buy work-related items without paying sales tax.

That perk likely costs state and local coffers $300 million in lost revenue, according to state auditors. But an audit, which was released in October, found it’s unclear what economic impact the program is offering in return – and if the right people are getting the tax break.

The state Department of Revenue has uncovered misuse through dozens of GATE audits. The agency can reclaim the unpaid taxes, plus penalties and interest, when it catches such abuse.

About two-thirds of the 42 audits the department has performed found improper use of the tax break, according to the report. Of those, 14 audits flagged cardholders who made non-qualifying purchases. Another 15 audits found cardholders who weren’t eligible to have the card.

But state law bars the agency for sharing its findings with the state Department of Agriculture, which has the authority to revoke card privileges.

The scrutiny frustrated some. Rep. Sam Watson, R-Moultrie, who chairs the rural caucus, said the audit unfairly singles out the state’s agricultural industry.

“It’s economic development. It’s no different than the film industry getting what they’re getting, Delta getting what they’re getting, manufacturing getting what they’re getting,” Watson said last week, referring to other industry tax exemptions. “What’s the difference?

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