Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 31, 2017


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 31, 2017

On January 31, 1733, six boats carried Georgia’s first colonists to Trench’s Island, now called Hilton Head Island, where they spent the night before continuing on to land in Georgia at Yamacraw Bluff on February 1, 1733.

On January 31, 1865, Robert E. Lee began service as Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate armies.

On January 31, 1865, Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing slavery.

General William Tecumseh Sherman visited Kimball Opera House in Atlanta on January 31, 1879, which was then serving as State Capitol, fifteen years after burning the city.

On January 31, 1893, the trademark for “Coca-Cola” was filed.

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker was suspended on January 31, 2000 for remarks made to ESPN.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Sen. Josh McKoon announced yesterday he will not run for reelection. More below.

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens announced a Catastrophe Claims Village in South Georgia for tornado victims.

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens will host a Catastrophe Claims Village in Albany, on Tuesday, Jan. 31, and Wednesday, Feb. 1, according to a statement from the Georgia Department of Insurance. The purpose of the event will be to assist area residents with their insurance questions and claims resulting from severe weather and tornadoes.

“Thousands of South Georgia residents have suffered tremendous losses from the violent weather this month, and my office is here to help them on the road to recovery,” Hudgens said. “I encourage all residents who have insurance questions or need help filing a claim to visit our Claims Village.”

The Catastrophe Claims Village will operate in the parking lot of the Albany Civic Center, located at 100 W. Oglethorpe Blvd. Hudgens’ Consumer Services staff along with representatives from many of the major insurance companies are scheduled to be in attendance. Insurers interested in participating can contact Glenn Allen at

Residents who cannot attend the Catastrophe Claims Village can call the Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Hotline at 1-800-656-2298.

President Donald Trump told former Georgia United States Attorney Sally Yates, “You’re fired,” as acting Attorney General.

President Trump fired his acting attorney general on Monday night, removing her as the nation’s top law enforcement officer after she defiantly refused to defend his executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees and people from predominantly Muslim countries.

In an escalating crisis for his 10-day-old administration, the president declared in a statement that Sally Q. Yates, who had served as deputy attorney general under President Barack Obama, had betrayed the administration by announcing that Justice Department lawyers would not defend Mr. Trump’s order against legal challenges.

The president replaced Ms. Yates with Dana J. Boente, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, saying that he would serve as attorney general until Congress acts to confirm Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. In his first act in his new role, Mr. Boente announced that he was rescinding Ms. Yates’s order.

Pure speculation: imagine Sally Yates returning to Georgia and running for the Sixth District Congressional seat. Assuming she retained her Georgia residence while serving at US DOJ, it could be an interesting scenario. Yates was first hired as a United States Attorney by Bob Barr, who would go on to serve in Congress. Shortly after Yates was nominated for Assistant Attorney General, Congressman John Lewis registered an objection he later withdrew.

Legislative Committee Meetings




1:00 PM SEN APPROP – Insurance Sub 341 CAP

1:30 PM House Ways & Means Sales Tax Sub 133 CAP



2:00 PM SEN APPROP – Ed Sub 341 CAP






3:00 PM SEN APPROP – Fiscal Mgmt & Gen Govt Sub 307 CLOB

3:00 PM SEN APPROP – Community Health Sub 341 CAP



4:00 PM SEN APPROP – Ag & Nat’l Res 341 CAP


The Senate Regulated Industries Committee yesterday endorsed passage of Senate Bill 85, which represents a compromise between craft beer brewers and wholesalers.

The state Senate’s Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee approved the legislation with just “one” no vote and sent it on to the Rules Committee, which determines which bills reach the Senate floor.

Senate Bill 85 would let the breweries sell up to 3,000 barrels of the beer they manufacture to customers visiting the brewery. Customers would be able to buy beer by the glass, take up to one case home with them, and purchase food without the tour package that is currently required.

The committee approved one change to the original bill introduced last week by Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough, the committee’s chairman. At the request of the Georgia Department of Revenue, the bill’s effective date was moved to Sept. 1 of this year.

The Gainesville Times spoke to a local craft brewer about the legislation.

“We are very hopeful that this new bill will make its way through our state’s legal process and be enacted to change the current, very restrictive laws we have to contend with,” LNB founder Pap Datta said.

Datta said the current regulations are “cumbersome to manage, added overhead costs and created confusion among visitors” while also limiting brewery hours.

Georgia is one of the last states in the nation to require patrons to purchase a tour in order to buy beer direct from manufacturers, and business leaders think the proposed change will grow the industry locally.

“Basically, this allows the breweries to not just be limited to selling to wholesalers, and opens up a nice pathway for meaningful, incremental revenue,” Datta said.

“We expect our tap room to experience a higher volume of business with less overhead to manage,” he added. “The additional income could be used to continue to improve the facility, hold more events, contribute to the community and more readily allow our visitors to take home the beers, so proudly crafted in Gainesville.”

Senate Finance Committee voted to recommend passage of Senate Bill 70, which renews the hospital provider fee.

On Monday, a Senate Finance Subcommittee approved the proposal unanimously. In the Senate Finance Committee later the same afternoon, it passed 10 to 1. The lone dissenter was Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, who tends to take some of the most anti-tax positions among his anti-tax colleagues. When it came time to move for a vote on the bill there were so many seconds that the committee chair had to choose; he awarded the second to Renee Unterman, R-Buford, the chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee.

After the vote, Williams said he voted to approve the bill because it was needed to pay for health care for Georgians. He said even hospitals testified in favor of it, saying that “without it they would have to eliminate services.”

One of the most high-profile opponents of the payment has been Grover Norquist, a Washington-based anti-tax activist who has pressured many legislators into signing a pledge to never raise taxes for any reason. He has called the Georgia measure a “bed tax” and a step on the path to big government and dependence on taxes.

Monty Veazey, president of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, said in a statement that “the provider fee has made a critical difference in (the hospitals’) ability to stay open.”

Disclaimer: I work as a communications consultant for the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals.

Senator Renee Unterman will introduce legislation to combat opioid addiction in Georgia.

“It’s an omnibus bill that addresses not only the heroin overdose epidemic but (also) prescription meds,” said state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, author of Senate Bill 81. She’s also chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and she chaired an opioid abuse state Senate study committee.

Unterman wants closer state regulation of Georgia’s 70 methadone clinics: places that offer the synthetic drug that can help people beat an addiction to opioid drugs. The details about setting up minimum standards for such clinics are set up in her bill, along with Senate Bill 88, by the powerful Senate Rules Committee chair, Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga.

Unterman’s bill also requires all opioid prescriptions go into a state database, part of what’s called the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Doctors would be able to see if a patient has recently gotten an opioid prescription.

“What it does is prevent doctor hopping. It prevents these legal drugs from becoming street drugs and sold at exorbitant prices,” Unterman said.

But the [Medical Association of Georgia] doesn’t support that part of the bill because, Walsh wrote, “Physicians should not be required to check the PDMP, the bill covers an impractical number of substances, and the penalties for physicians are unreasonable and punitive.”

But the association does support another part of the bill — permanently allowing over-the-counter sales of naxolone, a drug that can reverse heroin overdoses.

Medical Cannabis is the subject of several bills in the General Assembly.

Advocates and lawmakers are skeptical that much more will be done in the state legislature this year to expand access to cannabis oil to treat medical conditions like seizure disorders.

“It’s only a guess, but probably not,” Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gillsville, said. “I hope to see (it) done this session.”

Moreover, a few setbacks could come if a current Senate proposal to reduce the THC content in cannabis oil is approved.

A new medical cannabis study committee has been formed in the state House, and its chairman, Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said he supports a statewide voter referendum on allowing the cultivation and distribution of medical cannabis in Georgia.

Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said he supports adding autism to the list of approved medical conditions that can be treated with cannabis oil, which has anti-anxiety effects, among other beneficial properties, and lack the levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC that gets marijuana smokers high.

However, calls to expand legal use of the drug to those with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain have not been met with the same level of support.

Miller said he opposes attempts to “monkey” with the drug’s chemistry by lowering THC levels.

“The bill will definitely be improved by the inclusion of autism, but also calls for the reduction of active ingredients,” he added. “We have a bad habit of trying to fix problems that don’t exist, and not one single complaint to the health department would indicate active ingredients need to be changed.”

Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) introduced legislation to add a fifth judge to the Northeastern Judicial Circuit, comprising Hall and Dawson Counties.

Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, is sponsoring House Bill 138 along with other members from the Hall and Dawson delegations in the state House of Representatives.

Hawkins said he sees “no impediment” for the bill to move forward. The Northeastern Judicial Circuit qualified for an additional judge a few years ago, but allowed another circuit to go ahead of it, Hawkins said.

“I think it’s come to a point now that they really need the fifth judge,” he said.

The effective date for the bill is Jan. 1, 2018. The additional judge would be appointed by the governor for a term continuing through Dec. 31, 2020.

There would then be a nonpartisan judicial election in 2020.

Governor Nathan Deal announced formation of the Georgia’s Older Adults Cabinet, c0-chaired by First Lady Sandra Deal and Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Robyn A. Crittenden.

The Older Adults Cabinet seeks to identify ways for Georgia to improve the well-being of its older residents by bringing together state agency heads whose work supports older Georgians, as well as stakeholders in the business, philanthropic and education communities.

“Georgia has one of the fastest-growing populations of older adults in the country — a statistic we expect to continue to rise as baby boomers reach the age of retirement,” said Deal. “The members of this cabinet will be instrumental in examining issues that affect elderly Georgians and ensuring we have the infrastructure to meet their needs and the needs of their caregivers. I am confident that the Older Adults Cabinet will bring together leaders from across the state to effectively address the issues affecting older individuals and families in Georgia.”

“I am honored to serve older adults in our state and be a part of the effort to develop long-term solutions that help Georgians live longer, live safely and live well, especially as the need for services to help older adults maintain independence and remain safely in their homes and communities increases each year,” said First Lady Deal.

The cabinet comprises an executive committee made up of leaders representing DHS, Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Community Affairs, Community Health, Public Health, Transportation, Early Care and Learning, the Technical College System of Georgia, Family and Children Services and Bureau of Investigation agencies and a larger committee that includes partners from the University System of Georgia, providers of health care and community-based nutrition programs, advocacy organizations and members of the Georgia General Assembly.

Southern Company and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources work together on conservation programs at Plant Vogtle, including land and wildlife management programs on 3100 acres.

About 700 of those acres are enrolled in the safe harbor program to maintain habitats and populations of red-cockaded woodpeckers. Voglte has a zero baseline for the woodpeckers, meaning that none were found to live on the site.

However, just across the river at Savannah River Site, those woodpeckers have been the focus of conservation efforts since the 1980’s that resulted in bolstered populations and habitats. Savannah River Site and Vogtle are only separated by several hundred feet along their Savannah River borders.

In order to maintain and control wildlife populations around the site, employees are allowed to bow hunt in certain areas of the property. Feral hogs are known to damage the land and property, so the hunting zones help keep those populations under control, according to a company spokesperson.

In addition to the other measures, Vogtle also oversees a prescribed burning program to maintain habitats and lower the facility’s risk if a wildfire was ever to threaten the area. According to Georgia Power, company efforts are aimed at responsible environmental stewardship while trying to meet customers’ growing energy demands.

Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel A. Dailey spoke to a group of ROTC cadets and adults at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, GA.

The City of Cornelia, Georgia was awarded a $1.2 million loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority to pay for water meter replacement.

The City of Flowery Branch broke ground on a new City Hall.

Macon-Bibb County faces a shortfall of sales tax revenues and is considering cost-cutting measures.

Augusta will consider creating Community Improvement Districts.

Deputy Administrator Ted Rhinehart placed a request for legislation enabling Community Improvement Districts, or CIDs, on the agenda for Tuesday’s Finance Committee to consider. The agenda item states that CIDs were discussed at recent meetings held across Augusta-Richmond County as a development tool used by many Georgia counties.

There are 25 active CIDs in Georgia, most in metro Atlanta, according to a 2016 report by the Andrew Young School at Georgia State University’s Center for State and Local Finance. The CIDs have an appointed board and their primary funding mechanism is an ad valorem tax that averaged 4.7 mills in 2014, the report said.

Once the enabling legislation is created, the CID requires approval by a majority of commercial property owners within its boundaries and by the owners of 75 percent of the properties’ value, it stated. CIDs are a type of Business Improvement District or BID, with which downtown Augusta has previous experience.

The Finance Committee, now chaired by Commissioner Sean Frantom, also will review a detailed five-year capital improvements plan created by staff to spend remaining sales tax 5, 6 and 7 funds on Recreation and Parks projects, bond funds on sanitary sewer extension and other work and Transportation Investment Act discretionary funds on transportation projects.

Campaign Announcements

Johns Creek City Council Member Bob Gray announced he will run for Congress in the Sixth Congressional District.

“We have a narrow window of opportunity to affect real change in America. President Trump is going to need willing partners in Congress to make that happen,” said Bob Gray. “While the political elite is obsessed with serving their own interests, the American people are ready for business leaders who can deliver results in Washington. After being blessed with three decades of success in the private sector, I’m ready to serve my country and community in Congress.”

As a business executive, Bob Gray has worked with dozens of Fortune 500 and private equity companies across a range of industries. His responsibilities have taken him to nearly 30 countries including China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, and the UK.  As an investor in technology businesses, Bob serves on the board of directors of Ammacore, an Alpharetta-based North American network solutions company.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Purdue University and studying Accounting at the University of Illinois, Bob earned a Masters in Business Administration in Finance from the University of Chicago. Bob is married to his high school sweetheart, Susanne. The Grays raised their four children – Madeline, Marshall, Savannah and Allie – in Johns Creek, Georgia where they currently reside. They’re active members at Passion City Church where they serve in a variety of volunteer positions.

“Having first met at Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church, Tricia and I have known Bob and Susanne for 15 years now. Bob brings just the right intellect and ability to root out government overspending and waste. He’s a Donald Trump ally with the demeanor of Mike Pence and the resume of David Perdue.” – State Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek)

Click here to visit Gray’s website.

Mike Welsh, Chairman of the Twelfth Congressional District Georgia Republican Party, announced he will run for Chair of the Georgia GOP.

Augusta, GA- Today, 12th District Republican Party Chairman Mike Welsh announced his candidacy for Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party. He is a dedicated servant of grassroots Republican politics. In his role as 12th District Chairman he led the 2014 ground game effort to defeat the last blue dog Democrat in the South by electing Republican Rick Allen. Capitalizing on the midterm victory, he went on to open, fund, and staff the only non-metro victory campaign headquarters in the 2016 Presidential race. Additionally he was instrumental in planning and executing the 2016 state convention in Augusta.

Mike will bring a business based outside approach to the challenges that face our State Party. As Chairman he will focus on four main areas.

  1. Communicating a vision to unite the Party
  2. Developing a digital infrastructure that launches the Party to the leading edge of political engagement with new and existing voters
  3. Reaching out to 2016 voters through coalition development
  4. Eliminating the debt of the State Party and building a cash reserve to maintain Republican control of government at every level

Mike works with Augusta Coating and Manufacturing, LLC in Thomson, GA.  Under his direction the company completed a major facility expansion and is undertaking a Lean Manufacturing transformation.  Previously he worked as an independent consultant for 17 years helping companies develop strategies on how to locate, evaluate, and develop new business opportunities while working with banks and potential investors. Mike also helped companies streamline infrastructure and operations to make them more profitable. In 2007, Mike provided leadership training for members of the U.S. Navy who were assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps before deployment to Iraq in 2007.

Mike and his wife Susie have been married for 34 years and are active members of Kiokee Baptist Church. They are proud parents of four children and 2 grandchildren with another on the way. Their daughter Grace was named 2016 Teen Age Republican of the Year and their son Samuel is 2nd Vice Chairman on the State Board for Georgia Teen Republicans and both are heavily involved in the GOP on both the state and local level.

To learn more about where Mike stands on the issues, please visit his website

Senator Josh McKoon yesterday announced he will not run for reelection to the state Senate in 2018. From the AJC Political Insider’s helpful transcription:

After a great deal of thought and prayer, I have decided not to stand as a candidate for reelection to the state Senate in 2018.

So what’s next?  Jacqueline and I will be prayerfully considering how best to continue to serve others. Whether that means a future in politics or some other path remains to be seen. What is clear is the amazing work that has been done here at the Capitol by grassroots advocates and citizens who want to change their government for the better. I thank you all.

In closing, let me say how humbling it has been to be elected and reelected as your senator.

Every senator defines success differently. Some define success by the leadership positions they hold. Others by what they bring to their district.‎ Others by the number of their bills signed into law.
My service has always been about ideas. Some of my ideas have caused discomfort. I‎ make no apologies for any of my ideas or the role I have played in forcing them to be considered and discussed. But I do want to thank the entire body, particularly our leadership, for their patience with me.   I salute the lieutenant governor for the private encouragement and support he has given me.   And the majority leader for the role he played in helping me understanding the nature of politics. And the president pro tem who has demonstrated fairness and humor in the most difficult of circumstances. Most of all I would like to once again thank the voters of the 29th District for giving me the honor of serving you.

May God Bless the Georgia Senate and God Bless America.


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