Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for January 29, 2016


Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for January 29, 2016

On January 29, 1779, British forces captured Augusta, Georgia.

Walter F George Vienna Georgia

Walter F. George was born on January 29, 1878 in Preston, the county seat for Webster County, Georgia. Ron Daniels has a brief bio of the United States Senator who gave his name to a Law School, a courthouse, and a lake. The photo above is a bust in the town square of Vienna, Georgia, in Dooly County, where George made his home.

On January 29, 1892, the Coca Cola Company was incorporated in Georgia in Fulton County Superior Court.

On January 29, 1955, Georgia Governor Marvin Griffin signed legislation granting the power to take land needed for the Stone Mountain Park through condemnation if negotiations to buy it fell through.

On January 29, 1977, Congressman Andrew Young resigned his seat to accept the nomination by President Carter as United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

On January 29, 1998, a bomb exploded in a Birmingham, Alabama abortion clinic, killing a police officer. Eric Rudolph would later admit to setting that bomb, along with the Centennial Park bombing in 1996, and the bombing of a Sandy Springs abortion clinic and an Atlanta bar in 1997.

Under the Gold Dome

SG DMST Lobby Day

Join GeorgiaCares, Street Grace, and Wellspring Living in fighting against Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking at Lobby Day 2016 at the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday, February 11, 2016. Register for free here.

The General Assembly will be in recess today and convene on Monday, February 1, 2016 at 10 AM.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Athens Banner-Herald notes that some Georgians have already cast ballots in the March 1 Presidential Preference Primary, in advance of Iowans going to the polls shiver in freezing barns at caucuses.

Athens-Clarke County elections officials began mailing out absentee ballots on Jan. 12, both to county residents who won’t be able to make it to the polls on election day, and to people registered to vote in the county who are serving elsewhere with the military or are living overseas.

As of Thursday, the Athens-Clarke elections office mailed out 61 absentee ballots, seven of which were sent overseas, according to Paula Williams, the county’s absentee ballot clerk. Of those 61 ballots, 13 have already been returned to the elections office, Williams said, where they will await counting as other votes are tallied when the polls close on March 1. County elections officials will continue to mail out absentee ballots until the Friday before the primary election, Williams said.

On March 1, Georgia joins a number of other states in what has been alternately called the “SEC primary” (a nod to the collegiate Southeastern Conference) or the “Waffle House primary” (a nod to the ubiquitous restaurant chain popular across the southern United States).

In addition to the votes cast locally in the presidential preference primary in advance of Monday’s Iowa caucuses, Georgia voters will also have a chance to cast ballots beginning on Feb. 8, one day ahead of the New Hampshire primary, as advance voting gets under way across the state. As with the absentee ballots, advance votes won’t be tallied until March 1.

+3 to the ABH for the “Waffle House Primary” reference.

Candidates and elected officials who have elections this year are required to file Campaign Disclosures on January 31st, with a grace period running until February 5th.

Our friends at Dentons note that the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission have raised contribution levels, which happens periodically to keep pace with inflation. The topline numbers are that maximum contributions for statewide candidates have been raised to $6600 and for all other offices to $2600. Limits for runoff elections have also risen.

If you are a lobbyist, candidate, or will be helping a candidate file, you might also wish to check out Dentons explanation of other rule changes by the Commisson that may affect things like what is considered an in-kind contribution or the standard for beginning a Commission investigation. Here are a couple we took note of:

Date of contribution receipt clarification. The Commission clarified that campaign contributions made by check or negotiable instrument will be deemed “received” when a candidate or his committee physically receives the check or negotiable instrument.

“Independent expenditure” definition. The Commission added a definition of “independent expenditure” to the Rules. An “independent expenditure” is defined to be “a political campaign communication that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identifiable candidate that is not made in cooperation, consultation, or concert with or at the request or suggestion of a candidate, candidate’s authorized committees.”

New investigation standard. The Commission will no longer be required to have probable cause in order to initiate an investigation. The Commission staff will be able to initiate an investigation whenever it discovers evidence of a violation and deems that an investigation is necessary.

Those are some pretty important changes, but the most interesting revision lies in how the Commission says candidates should disclose travel in private aircraft.

  • Travel in non-commercial aircraft partially or completely owned. When a candidate or campaign travels on a non-commercial aircraft partially or completely owned by the candidate or a family member, he or she will be required to report the cost in regular fillings pursuant to the following formula:

(1) In the case of travel on an aircraft that is owned or leased under a shared-ownership or other time-share arrangement, where the travel does not exceed the candidate’s or immediate family member’s proportional share of the ownership interest in the aircraft, the candidate must pay and report the hourly, mileage, or other applicable rate charged the candidate or immediate family member for the costs of the travel; or

(2) In the case of travel on an aircraft that is owned or leased under a shared-ownership or other time-share arrangement, where the travel exceeds the candidate’s or immediate family member’s proportional share of the ownership interest in the aircraft, the candidate must pay and report the normal and usual charter fare or rental charge for travel on a comparable aircraft of comparable size.

If you think back to 2011 and earlier, it is precisely the question of valuing air travel on a plane partly-owned by a candidate that led to an ethics case that lasted until at least 2014 and tore apart the Commission and its staff.

Yet another candidate has declared for the Third Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland.

Newnan businessman Richard Mix has joined the race for the Georgia Third District race for U.S. Congress.

Mix, owner of Full Circle Toys in downtown Newnan, joins State Sen. Mike Crane, West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson and Cowetan Hayden Marlowe in the race to replace Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, who is not seeking reelection.

“I am a businessman, a father of two teenage daughters, and a citizen that is concerned about the direction the country is headed,” Mix said. “Traveling to more than 40 countries around the world has given me a unique perspective on the concerns of our country and how we are perceived globally. When you look at the current state of affairs in the U.S., it is quite obvious that it is time for a change. As a well-rounded, seasoned businessman, I am the clear choice for positive change.’’

I had missed the announcement by Hayden Marlowe, also running for Westmoreland’s seat.

Marlowe, 25, challenged Coweta County Commissioner Al Smith in 2012.

“I have a passion for politics in general,” Marlowe said. “The fact that Lynn Westmoreland isn’t running is an opportunity that is too great to pass up. I think people are sick and tired of standard politicians. And they want somebody with real personality, somebody who can actually relate to the average American worker. I believe that’s me.”

Marlowe works in management at Piedmont Springs, a private label bottled water manufacturer in Norcross. He is married with a daughter and three stepchildren.

Cowetan Paul Hyatt said he is 90 percent sure he will be running for the congressional seat, but has not made his final decision yet.

WABE writes about the raft of religious protection laws currently in the General Assembly.

In an election year, the issue has the state Republican Party divided on how to appeal to Christian conservatives and business interests.

“We have to balance everyone’s rights,” says Rep. Kevin Tanner (R–Dawsonville). He’s the sponsor of a bill supporters call the Pastor Protection Act. It affirms a clergy’s First Amendment right to refuse to marry a same-sex couple.

But Tanner is also sponsoring a more controversial bill that would allow businesses to deny service to same-sex couples.

“It’s specific that you cannot be required to provide goods or services for a religious ceremony,” he said.

A group of six Democrats and Republicans have a proposal on voluntary prayer in schools. Another proposed bill would protect religious nonprofits that don’t want to work with same-sex couples.

There’s also two separate Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, or RFRA, designed to keep state government from interfering in religion.

“We are still, of course, in the Bible Belt,” Gov. Nathan Deal said. “And I think we have to be accommodating to their views as much as possible. Without, at the same time, creating a situation that Georgia’s going to be regarded as a state that allows discrimination at the sanction of the state.”

We have just witnessed the first death in 2016 of a piece of legislation from foot-in-mouth disease. State Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jackson County) was discussing his bill to protect public monuments.

“I’m tired of the anti-Confederate rhetoric toward Stone Mountain and any other Confederate monument that’s out there,” said Benton, a retired middle school history teacher. “We’re entitled to our heritage just like other people are entitled to theirs, and there seems to be an attempt to do Confederate cleansing.

“I refer to that more as cultural terrorism than anything. They’re attacking us for no reason at all. We’ve not done anything to provoke them or anything else.

“They’re very similar to what’s going on in the Middle East with ISIS that’s destroying all those mosques and temples and everything because they don’t agree with that history over there, so they’re just destroying it and doing away with it.”

He says slavery was not the chief reason for the Civil War, but rather economic policies that hampered Southern businesses. And he says his reading of the Ku Klux Klan shows it was a vigilante group rather than largely focused on race.

So, I’m going to proffer two suggestions for politicians that might prevent winding up in the national news.

First, never compare anyone to terrorists or ISIS unless you’re discussing foreign affairs.  Second, never say anything remotely sympathetic or defensive toward Nazis, the Klan, or Mussolini. Simple enough, right?

The Gainesville Times spoke to local legislators about legislation by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) to legalize in-state cultivation of marijuana for medical patients.

There appear to be enough votes in the House to pass the bill, but pushback in the Senate, as well as from Gov. Nathan Deal, could scuttle the proposal.

“There are aspects of it that are problematic,” Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said. “It’s much broader in scope than I am personally comfortable with.”

Reps. Carl Rogers, Emory Dunahoo and Lee Hawkins, all Gainesville Republicans, said they support the bill.

“It’ll be fixed properly,” Rogers said, adding that he believes restricting cultivation to one or two sites at the University of Georgia or the Medical College of Georgia will alleviate concerns.

Rogers did, however, acknowledge that much of law enforcement, including Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh, oppose the bill in its current form.

“From what we hear, law enforcement is our biggest opponent,” said Katie Harrison, a Hall County resident who treats her young son suffering from seizure disorders with cannabis oil.

Miller said he wants any profit motive curtailed and more safeguards in place.

“I will not go down any path that I believe leads to a recreational application of marijuana,” he added.

I shudder when I read a headline that includes the words “streaking” and “seniors,” though the article is about the winning run of a high school basketball team.

Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) announced during yesterday’s Savannah-Chatham Day measures to improve public safety in the coastal Georgia community.

Sen. Lester Jackson announced during Savannah-Chatham Day in Atlanta on Thursday that he intended to add $900,000 in funding to Georgia’s budget for additional surveillance cameras to assist the Savannah-Chatham police. Another $700,000 for cameras would go to the Garden City, Port Wentworth and the Savannah-Chatham School Board.

He made his announcement in the Georgia State Capitol building’s appropriations meeting room, which was packed with elected officials and administrators from Savannah, the county and other municipalities, as well as business and nonprofit representatives.

“Murder is on the rise,” Jackson said. “We have to give the chief the tools he can use to solve these issues.”

The Bibb County Board of Education denied a request by Macon Charter Academy to revise its charter.

Richmond County schools will repay a local aircraft maintenance business $2.2 million that was overpaid in sales taxes.

“Our recommendation is to pay in one lump sum so we avoid any future interest,” she said. “By paying in one lump sum, it will conclude this particular matter.”

The school board was being charged 1 percent interest per month, which was required by state law.

The base amount of what the school system owed was $1,866,132. However, adding nearly three years’ worth of interest, the total grew to $2.284 million. The amount of interest owed by the school system is $418,450.

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