Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 30, 2016


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 30, 2016

On June 30, 1665, England’s King Charles signed a royal charter for Carolina, defining its southern border and also claiming all land in what is now Georgia.

On June 30, 1775, the Continental Congress passed the Articles of War, laying out complaints against Britain’s Parliament.

“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

Today could well be called Intermodal Transportation History Day in Georgia. The first four-lane highway in Georgia was announced on June 30, 1937 from Atlanta to Marietta. The first C5 air flight took place from Dobbins in Marietta on June 30, 1968 and MARTA rail service began on June 30, 1979.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell first went on sale on June 30, 1936; on June 30, 1986, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating Margaret Mitchell.

Superman made his first appearance in Action Comics #1 on June 30, 1938.

Ohio became the 39th state to ratify the 26th Amendment on June 30, 1971, lowering the voting age to 18.

Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing was released on June 30, 1989. Lee was born in Atlanta and graduated from Morehouse College.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

In a sweet piece of judicial jiu-jitsu, a federal judge held that Georgia can continue requiring proof of citizenship for people applying to vote. Here’s the best quote:

Judge Richard J. Leon said that while it may be an inconvenience to require proof of citizenship, and voter registration drives may have to do more work to get folks signed up, it’s not an insurmountable burden — and certainly less so than trying to explain Obamacare.

“The organizational plaintiffs and their members will undoubtedly have to expend some additional time and effort to help individuals,” Judge Leon wrote. “But let’s be candid: doing so pales in comparison to explaining to the average citizen how the [Affordable Care Act] or tax code works!”

Latino voter registration is rising in Hall County, according to the Gainesville Times,

Nearly 800 Latinos in Hall joined the voter rolls between October and April, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Of 81,535 active voters in Hall in 2014, just 3,822 were Latinos.

This year, however, there are already 4,552 active Latinos among 81,204 total voters in the county, according to Hall Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee.

“There is a big increase of the Latino vote happening statewide and locally, which is outpacing other demographic groups,” said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. “As we get closer to the voter registration deadline, we will see an unprecedented spike in Latino voter registration and engagement.”

Across Georgia, more than 16,000 Latinos registered to vote since October, marking a 20 percent increase statewide. Hall trails only Gwinnett, Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb counties in the number of new Latino voters registered. Forsyth County, meanwhile, reports having 360 new Latino voters on its rolls this election cycle.

Latinos make up 2.1 percent of the Georgia’s 4.9 million voters, while whites account for 58.2 percent and African-Americans 29.3 percent.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle writes about the upcoming fight over the Constitutional Amendment to create the Opportunity School District.

Gov. Nathan Deal appealed to Atlanta’s business community Monday to help build support for a referendum this fall on a proposal to let the state take over chronically failing schools.

The National Education Association is preparing to spend $1.5 million on an ad campaign opposing a constitutional amendment passed by the General Assembly last year, Deal told members of the Atlanta Rotary Club.

“I don’t understand why people are satisfied with a status quo of chronically under-performing schools,” the governor said. “It is not a power grab by me, as they will argue. … It is a critical step for us to change the dynamics of our education system.”

If voters ratify the constitutional change in November, the state would be permitted to intervene in schools that score below 60 on the Georgia Department of Education’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) for three straight years. Such persistent failure would put those schools under the supervision of a statewide “opportunity” school district that would operate them through the governor’s office.

A bipartisan group of state legislators met to lay the groundwork for a Convention of the States to amend the United States Constitution. From the Gainesville Times,

Article V of the U.S. Constitution authorizes 34 states to call a convention for proposing amendments to the Constitution.

Once the convention is called, delegates — or commissioners, as they would be called — from each state would propose, discuss and vote on constitutional amendments. Approved amendments would go back to the states for ratification.

For an amendment to become part of the Constitution, it must be ratified by 38 states.

“I believe the founders of our great republic gave direct responsibility to the state legislatures in our Constitution because they knew there would come a time when the federal government would need to be reined in,” Rep. Tim Barr, R-Lawrenceville, said.

However, no such convention has ever been held in the history of the country, and the Constitution provides no specifics for how the convention should be conducted.

Barr was among some 60 members of the Assembly of State Legislatures, representing 30 states, who attended a recent meeting at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Berrien County Sheriff Anthony Heath has been removed from office after pleading guilty to violating the civil rights of two individuals who had been arrested.

County officials said Heath was removed from office following the guilty plea and Chief Deputy Ray Paulk was appointed as sheriff until the November election.

Prosecutors said Heath kicked [one arrestee] in the ribs, punched him in the head with a closed fist multiple times and forcefully kneed him in the ribs multiple times.

During a separate incident, on Oct. 1, 2014, prosecutors said Heath repeatedly punched and kicked an arrestee … even though the man surrendered, laid down on the ground and did not attempt to flee or threaten anyone at any point after his arrest.

State Rep. Kevin Cooke (R-Carrollton) has endorsed Mike Crane for Congress in the Third District.

“Mike Crane is a perfect example of someone who stands on principle over politics,” Cooke said in a statement released by the Crane camp. “During my time with Mike in the General Assembly I saw this man fight daily to preserve our liberties and freedoms. In order to restore our great republic we must send leaders who are proven in these areas. That’s why I’m casting my vote for Mike Crane.”

Crane is facing former West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson in a July 26 Republican primary runoff election to succeed incumbent U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland.

In the South Georgia Judicial Circuit – covering Baker, Calhoun, Decatur, Grady, and Mitchell counties – Heather Lanier has received endorsements from two former Dougherty County District Attorneys.

A different type of endorsement came for Amanda Jones-Holbrooks, a candidate in the runoff for Lumpkin County Coroner. A judge signed a warrant for her arrest on a forgery charge.

On June 1st, Holbrook’s ex-husband Ricky Edmondson Jr. filed a report with Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office alleging Holbrooks had filed a Quit Claim Deed for a piece of property owned by him with the Lumpkin County Clerk of Courts. Mr. Edmondson further stated his signature on the Quit Claim Deed had been forged by Ms. Holbrooks.

Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division along with Lumpkin County District Attorney’s office investigated the allegation and determined there to be sufficient probable cause to seek formal charges.

Today, Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office applied for and received an arrest warrant for Ms. Holbrooks, charging her with first degree forgery, a felony.

Legal fees in a lawsuit by Columbus elected officials over the city/county budget have reached $3.26 million dollars, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Sheriff John Darr’s attorneys in his lawsuit against the city have submitted affidavits seeking more than $326,000 in attorney fees for December through June.

The fees bring the total taxpayer bills for lawsuits filed by Darr, Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce, Marshal Greg Countryman and Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop to over $2.8 million.

The four elected officials filed lawsuits in November 2014 saying the Consolidated Government underfunds their offices and the method by which the city formulates the budget violates the city charter, if not the state constitution. Darr and Pierce filed individual lawsuits. Countryman and Bishop co-filed one suit.

The suits name the city of Columbus, members of Columbus Council, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and several of the city’s executive leadership.

Countryman-Creighton Bishop suit and Pierce’s suit are currently in Superior Court in the discovery phase, after having been to the State Court of appeals and State Supreme Court, respectively, on unsuccessful attempts by the city to have them dismissed. What remains of Darr’s case is also in Superior Court, but the majority of it was recently dismissed by Superior Court Judge Philip Raymond.

A report on results of a 2010 settlement between the State of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Justice examines how Georgia is serving people with mental illness and finds the state coming up short.

[T]he independent reviewer, Jones, says in her June 20 report, “At this time, as a result of the lack of inclusion of individuals exiting most jails, all of the state’s correctional institutions and state/private psychiatric hospitals, the [Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities] has not demonstrated that it has met the threshold requirement of identifying the need for supported housing for the target population.”

A spokeswoman for DBHDD, Angelyn Dionysatos, said in an email statement to GHN last week that “we highly value the reflections and recommendations offered by the independent reviewer and her experts. Their thoughtful work will continue to inform our planning as we embark on the next phase of our strategic transformation, which will position us to fulfill the obligations expressed in the extension agreement that was signed in May.”

Richard Dunn has been appointed Director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

The Forsyth County Commission is considering a FY2017 budget that retains the current millage rate, and will result in property tax increases for owners of property that has been assessed at a higher value.

A news release from the county states that because of growth in the tax digest, leaving millage rates as is will generate property tax revenue of 1.89 percent more than a rollback, or revenue-neutral, rate would.

Three public hearings are scheduled on the rate next month.  Commissioners are scheduled to adopt a millage rate at 7:00 p.m. July 21, following the final hearing.

The Gwinnett County Commission approved a resolution supporting redevelopment at Infinite Energy Center.

The [Explore Gwinnett] tourism group has developed a master plan for the center that calls for development of what is now parking lots with parking decks and an entertainment district with restaurants and a small theater around the center. The goal is to create an atmosphere where people who visit the center for events can “come early and stay late.”

County officials peg the center’s annual economic effect at more than $175 million.

“We are excited about the master plan that’s being put forward and we wanted to do something that officially endorsed that plan,” commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said before the vote was taken.

Another part of the master plan, however, is the full-service Marriott hotel slated to be built between the conference center and the arena. Other parts of the plan include adding an outdoor green space with an amphitheater and expanding the conference space and the arena’s seating capacity.

Finally, a letter to the editor in the Valdosta Daily Times thanks Senator Johnny Isakson and his staff for helping a citizen get benefits approved through the Veterans Administration.

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