Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 26, 2018

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 26, 2018

On March 26, 1734, the British House of Commons voted £10,000 to subsidize the Georgia colony, down from £26,000 the previous year.

On March 26, 1920, This Side of Paradise, the debut novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald was published. The author was 23 years old.

On March 26, 1982, a groundbreaking ceremony was held in Washington, DC for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; the design approved a couple weeks earlier was by 21-year old Yale architecture student Maya Lin.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal released a statement on the death of former Governor Zell Miller.

“It is with a heavy heart that Sandra and I offer Shirley our deepest condolences on the passing of her devoted husband, Zell. Georgia has lost a favorite son and a true statesman, and I’ve lost a dear friend. Zell’s legacy is unequaled and his accomplishments in public service are innumerable. Without question, our state and our people are better off because of him. But the mark Zell made in his private life—as a dutiful son, a loving husband, and a proud father and grandfather—are the ones of which I’m sure he was most proud. I was honored to serve with him in the Senate and have cherished his counsel for decades. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones, of which he had many. May God bless him and keep him.”

Gov. Deal also ordered flags on state properties to be flown at half-staff through sunset on Thursday.

Former Governor Zell Miller will lie in state at the State Capitol on Wednesday from noon until 4 PM. A public memorial service will be held this morning at 10 AM in Young Harris and a celebration of life on Tuesday at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.

Vice President Mike Pence spoke about the late Governor and Senator at an event in Atlanta on Friday.

“[L]et me take a moment to acknowledge that Georgia lost one of its greatest leaders today — Zell Miller.”

“Zell was a leader of great character and great integrity. He dedicated his life to public service and to serving this country. He was a United States Marine, a governor, a United States senator. And the difference he made in the life of this great state and the life of this nation will impact this country for generations to come.”

“Zell Miller was a great champion of public education, and, as governor, he helped establish the HOPE Scholarship that opened so many doors of opportunity for students across this state.”

“And above all, Zell was a proud Georgian, and he always put the interests of the hardworking men and women of Georgia first, even when it wasn’t popular within his own political party. He remains an inspiration not just to the people of Georgia, but to leaders all across this country, on this day.”

“So let me say our prayers are with his family and all those who love, and cherish, and admire this great man. And I know I speak for all of Georgia when I say that Zell Miller will be missed. He was a great Georgian. He was a great American. And we will long remember the life and legacy and contributions of Zell Miller.” (Applause.)

The Senate Rules Committee meets at 10 AM this morning in Room 450 of the Georgia State Capitol. The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee meets at 1 PM in 606 Coverdell Legislative Office Building and the House Appropriations Higher Education Committee meets at 3 PM in Room 341-CAP.

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle discussed the FY 2019 state budget, according to the Albany Herald.

According to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the FY 2019 budget is a testament to Georgia’s continued leadership in cutting back government waste and investing responsibly in the future. Beyond simply balancing the budget, Georgia has also increased its reserves to more than $2.5 billion.

“Notwithstanding a significant increase in population, our state’s per capita spending remains flat at 2007 levels,” Cagle said. “The State of Georgia is doing more with less, ensuring state spending remains at the lowest possible level. Conservative spending and tax policy is the key to continued growth and economic prosperity for our state’s citizens and their communities.

“This budget maximizes our opportunities for economic growth and generates momentum for investment in the essential services that families across our state rely on every day, while maintaining one of the lowest state tax burdens in the nation. I’m proud of the work by (Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill) and members of the Appropriations Committee in prioritizing Georgia’s greatest needs.”

“Thanks to the leadership of Lt. Governor Cagle and the Senate, Georgia will have a commonsense, conservative budget that meets our state’s fiscal obligations and addresses the needs of our children and families, while keeping taxes low,” Hill said after the budget was passed by the Senate. “Combined with our $5 billion income tax cut, Georgia’s residents and employers are better positioned now than ever before to take advantage of our economic and financial success.”

The Associated Press writes that the Georgia legislature will address using paper ballots for future elections.

A proposal that has passed the Senate but awaits a vote in the House would move Georgia from its 16-year-old electronic touchscreen voting system with no paper backup, to either a touchscreen system that prints a paper ballot or paper ballots marked by pencil.

But critics, including advocacy groups and several Democratic lawmakers, say the measure doesn’t go far enough. Verified Voting, a group that advocates for transparent elections, said that the legislation falls short because it does not fully commit to manual counting of “voter-marked paper ballots” for audits and recounts.

Verified Voting released a statement on the ballot proposal.

“Election Integrity experts are not happy with Senate Bill 403 because it leaves the door wide open for Georgia to select insecure systems rather than slamming that door shut in favor of secure and verifiable systems. SB 403 does not mandate a voter-marked paper ballot, marked either by hand or accessible ballot marking device that is counted by a ballot scanner. It allows that possibility, but it also allows for insecure voting machines that record, count and report the voter’s selections while purporting to offer a paper record to the voter. Not only is the door to insecure voting wide open, but the bill language could be read to require all voters to vote on an electronic ballot marking device. That outcome would be needlessly expensive for Georgia taxpayers but it would be more than a welcome outcome for voting system vendors who are anxious to sell as many machines as possible.”

“The other major flaw with SB 403 is its failure to ensure that the voter marked paper ballots are preserved and available for recounts and audits. It also fails to mandate that the human readable marks and texts on paper ballots control over any electronic reporting of voter choices. Even though Verified Voting and others tried to insert language in the bill that would require audits and recounts to be conducted using the human readable parts of the paper ballots, that language was stripped out of the bill in the House. Without a trustworthy record of the voters’ choices and without an audit process that is a meaningful check that the electronically recorded and reported results are accurate, SB 403 will perpetuate the cycle of unverifiable voting in Virginia.”

“Georgia voters need a verifiable and secure voting system so that they can be confident election results are accurate. SB 403 does not guarantee that. The only people who are happy with SB 403 are voting system vendors who are salivating over the chance to sell many more machines than necessary.”

Two competing versions of transit reform will meet in a cage match at the General Assembly this week. From the AJC:

Each chamber has offered its own vision of what regional transit cooperation should look like. The Senate on Friday used an administrative move to again approve what in reality is its version of the transportation bill.

As originally drafted, House Bill 930 and Senate Bill 386 would both allow 13 metro Atlanta counties to impose 1-cent sales taxes to support transit construction and operations.

Each bill passed its respective chamber. And each chamber has since taken the other’s bill and — in essence — replaced it with its own version. Now the two chambers must reconcile their differences — likely through a conference committee.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, will appoint three members from their respective chambers to the [conference] committee. Those members will have until Thursday, the final day of the session, to reach an agreement.

Gwinnett County Board of Elections Chairman Stephen Day told the Gwinnett Daily Post that Senate Bill 363 conflicts with county plans for weekend voting.

The bill passed out of the Senate as a measure to address the counting of ballots cast before election day and set voting hours as 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. After the House Governmental Affairs Committee went over the bill, however, it included a section that said a county can only offer weekend voting on one Saturday or one Sunday, but not both.

“I don’t want to speculate about how, or why or what (caused it to be added),” Day said. “I just know it takes away local control decision making as far as early voting goes, as far as doing it on the weekend.”

The bill is currently sitting in the House Rules Committee, which gets to decide the bills that go to the House floor for a vote. It was presented to the committee on Friday, but Rep. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, said it had not yet been added to the full chamber’s legislative calendar for Tuesday. Brockway is carrying the bill in the House.

Gwinnett County has a vested interest in what happens to the bill because the county’s adopted 2018 budget set aside funding for two days of Saturday voting and a half day of Sunday voting.

“Gwinnett County will have over 500,000 registered voters by the 2018 fall general election,” Day wrote in his letter to the legislators. “Senate Bill 363 ignores the great population differences among Georgia counties and usurps the local control needed to manage and optimize voting processes, especially in large population counties such as Gwinnett County.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee amended the House version of the Hidden Predator Act, according to WABE.

The bill would expand the statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

A version of the bill that passed the House raised the age limit for victims to sue their alleged abusers from 23 to 38. The Senate committee capped the age at 31.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, said he’s unhappy with the change.

“If this bill were to pass today and become law, I would have to look constituents in the face at home that I tried to help them, but we gave them a bill that didn’t help them,” Spencer said. “We helped those going forward, but going back, we helped some.”

House Bill 876, which is on the Governor’s desk for signature or veto, is picking up opposition from Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

H.B. 876 would prohibit counties and municipalities from forbidding the use of wood in the construction of certain buildings when state minimum standard codes are met. The bill, sponsored by State Rep. John Corbett, R-Lake Park, passed the House in February and the Senate on March 19. The Savannah area delegation was largely in favor of the bill, with State Rep. Craig Gordon, D-Savannah, the lone local “no” vote.

“My issue was local control,” Gordon said.

Georgia is a home rule state that prides itself on the sanctity of local government. But “government isn’t without its hypocrisy,” noted former state senator Eric Johnson, an architect with Hussey Gay Bell who also consults with government affairs firm McGuire Woods Consulting. “We’re all for local control until we’re not.”

“Savannah has been battered by flooding and high winds the last couple years – first from Hurricane Matthew then Hurricane Irma – bringing along mold and costly cleanups,” Johnson is quoted as saying in the coalition’s press release. “If it’s decided that stronger local codes would help prevent high reconstruction costs, we should be allowed to put them in place.”

The bill pits one of Georgia’s largest industries – timber – against local control, making an awkward situation for lawmakers, Johnson said. He noted, though, that Georgia’s timber industry supplies largely paper and pulp wood, not building materials. And the bill is aimed at allowing wood framing in four-story or taller multi-family residential structures, a relatively small part of the construction market.

Two bills to improve healthcare services through data sharing and analysis have low prospects for passage, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Two Rome Republicans — Sen. Chuck Hufstetler and Rep. Katie Dempsey — submitted separate bills aimed at making it easier and more cost-efficient to deliver health care and other social supports.

The measures were a recommendation from the committee they co-chaired: the Joint Study Committee on Transparency and Open Access in Government. Neither Dempsey’s House Bill 996 nor Hufstetler’s Senate Bill 184 made it through the opposite chamber.

“I asked for mine several times but the Senate committee never called it up,” Dempsey said. “Senator Hufstetler’s bill was stripped in (the House) Judiciary (Committee) and is a completely different bill.”

SB 184, to establish the Integrated Population Health Data Project, passed the Senate 54 to 0. The House version, however, now calls for exempting ambulatory surgery centers from Certificate of Need requirements.

The Ninth District Georgia Republican Party will host a debate among the candidates for Governor on Saturday, March 31 at 5:30 PM, according to the Gainesville Times.

Seven candidates will take part in the debate at The Venue at Friendship Springs in Flowery Branch organized by the 9th District Republican Party.

While tickets are sold out, the Saturday, March 31, debate will be streamed online by The Times and staff at White County High School at www.whiteco.tv. Debate begins at 5:30 p.m.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, a Republican, endorsed Tracie Cason in the non-partisan race for an open seat on the Gwinnett County Superior Court. From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

“I’m honored to receive this endorsement, as I have been honored for over 18 years to work as a Gwinnett County Assistant District Attorney, entrusted to help protect my fellow citizens,” Cason said in a statement.

Cason has worked in Porter’s office for 18 years. He cited her involvement in prosecuting human trafficking cases in Gwinnett County in a statement released by her campaign.

An operation last year resulted in the arrest of 23 people who tried to meet up with minors for sex. Porter said those people were indicted within two days through a collaboration with area law enforcement and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

“Tracie Cason, a Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney in my office led our collaboration with law enforcement, and she personally oversaw the indictments of these predators,” Porter said.

“Tracie Cason has been an outstanding prosecutor, she’s dedicated her career to Gwinnett County and to protecting our most vulnerable residents, and I am proud to endorse her for Gwinnett County Superior Court.”

Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Suburbia) will run for reelection, according to the Forsyth County News.

“I’m excited about this year’s election,” Woodall said. “Nobody talks about what it means to be a Republican, to be a Democrat until we get around to election time. It’s just talk until you get to an election, so to have a year like the one we’ve had where we’ve gotten so much accomplished and to be able to go into an election where American nationally is divided on politics but has a bit of a united front on policy, is a unique opportunity.”

“You have to be pleased with getting tax reform done for the first time since Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil did it together in 1986,” he said. “Is there more to be done? Of course there is, but I travel to businesses all across the family, and you can feel it. I sit with families all across the district and you could feel it, this collective sigh of relief that the government’s not going to fight me any longer, it’s going to partner with me in order to make tomorrow better than yesterday was.”

“I’ve been with President Trump or Vice President [Mike] Pence dozens of times in just this first year working on public policy,” Woodall said. “We’re in a place where we can really move the needle, so there is no limit to what I’m excited about getting done.”

Augusta Mayoral candidate Gould Hagler outlined a three-point platform, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The first prong of Hagler’s platform is cutting the mayor’s office budget, he said in an interview.

“We want to slash that,” Hagler said. “I don’t know how much – we want to take a look at it – but we’ll save some money there, and what we save, we’re going to contribute to law enforcement.”

Hagler’s campaign strategy includes yard signs he said are going out as quickly as he gets them. He’s hired former Davis consultant Ryan Mahoney as a political strategist. Last year, Davis dismayed some taxpayers by paying Mahoney using funds from the My Brother’s Keeper account.

The second prong of Hagler’s platform is cutting red tape, something Augusta’s mayor has little structural control over, but Hagler said he’ll advocate for businesses to ensure the city receives them with welcoming arms. He cited a handful of examples of small business owners who faced intimidation, excessive procedural hurdles or other roadblocks in attempting to establish businesses in Augusta.

The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office held a “Responsible Carry for Educators” class this weekend, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The class, which was held at 12 Stone Church’s Hamilton Mill campus in Buford and geared towards educators, stressed responsible gun ownership, overviewed the laws surrounding guns, gun use, use of force and citizens’ rights and emphasized situational awareness.

The event did not include firearms demonstration, nor did it urge teachers to arm themselves any more than regular citizens — it was intended as just another tool for educators to have to protect themselves, their students and their families, said Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Lou Solis.

“The sheriff wanted to be ahead of the game,” Solis said. “He said, ‘I want to put together a program so that we can be ahead of the game and we can offer something that the educators can use as a tool.’ This is one of many tools that are available, and I say that because (a Pennsylvania) superintendent came out the other day and passed out 5-gallon buckets of rocks to all the classrooms in his district, so that’s his tool. Everyone has a different tool.”

Hoschton City Council member Tracy Jordan stepped down in order to run for Insurance Commissioner, according to AccessWDUN.com.

A special election will be held May 22, the same day as the statewide primary elections, in Hoschton to elect a candidate for the city council, though residents will have to make a special trip to the Hoschton Depot to cast a ballot in the council race.

As expected, Tracy Jordan resigned from the council on March 7 to make a run for Georgia Insurance Commissioner, according to April Plank, city manager.

On May 22, though, voters will have to go to two different precincts to vote in the primaries and the special election, should they want to do both.

The City of Bainbridge and the Memorial Hospital and Manor Authority are joining the nationwide lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.

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