Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 28, 2016

28
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 28, 2016

William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, invaded England on September 28, 1066.

Washington Yorktown

General George Washington led continental troops into the siege of British forces under General Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia on September 28, 1781.

On September 28, 1863, two Union generals lost their commands after the Confederates routed federal forces at the Battle of Chickamauga.

On September 28, 1889, Georgia Governor John B. Gordon signed legislation designating January 19th a state holiday in honor of Robert E. Lee’s birthday. Lee’s birthday is still a state holiday, though it has become “a moveable feast.”

On September 26, 1928, future President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke in Atlanta on behalf of Democrat Alfred Smith’s campaign for President.

Atlanta-born Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones won his first Grand Slam on September 27, 1930.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle spoke yesterday at a legislative meeting to kick ff the Rural Healthcare 180 task force.

Andy Miller of Georgia Health News wrote about the kickoff.

The chief executive of two financially stressed hospitals in southwest Georgia looks forward to the promise of donations under a new state tax credit program.

“The tax credit legislation is a lifeline for us, helping us keep essential services in our rural communities,’’ said Kim Gilman, who runs Phoebe Worth Hospital in Sylvester and Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center in Cuthbert.

Since the beginning of 2013, five rural hospitals in the state have closed, and many others are struggling financially, such as Phoebe Worth and Southwest Georgia Regional.

Gilman’s remarks illustrated how small hospitals often feel caught between forces they can’t control. Each of her hospitals, she said, has had to sink more than $1 million into an electronic medical records system to comply with federal regulations. Meanwhile, “we are unable to improve our facility infrastructure.”

The tax credit program can help sustain the state’s rural health care network, said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is honorary co-chairman of the new task force. “We have way too many of our rural hospitals closing.”

The big news yesterday was supposed confirmation that Attorney General Sam Olens will be appointed President of Kennesaw State University, leaving a vacancy to which Georgia Economic Development Commissioner Chris Carr is expected to be appointed.

No source is named nor timing. Make of it what you will.

I texted the AG at about 10 PM last night asking for comment, to which he replied, “no comment.” So, I’d say the party balloons are premature at this time. If this were to happen, I would expect no announcement until at the earliest November 1, 2016.

Georgia Constitution Article V, Section II,Paragraph VIII reads:

Filling vacancies.

(a) When any public office shall become vacant by death, resignation, or otherwise, the Governor shall promptly fill such vacancy unless otherwise provided by this Constitution or by law; and persons so appointed shall serve for the unexpired term unless otherwise provided by this Constitution or by law.

Georgia Code §45-5-3 says,

(a) In those instances where the law applicable to an elective public office does not provide for filling a vacancy in such office and the Governor fills such vacancy pursuant to the authority of Article V, Section II, Paragraph VIII, subparagraph (a) of the Constitution and in those instances where the Governor fills a vacancy in the office of district attorney pursuant to Article VI, Section VIII, Paragraph I, subparagraph (a) of the Constitution, the vacancy shall be filled as follows:

(1) If the vacancy occurs during the final 27 months of a term of office, the Governor shall appoint a person to fill such vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term of office;

So for a vacancy in the office of Attorney General to be filled by gubernatorial appointment, it must occur in the final 27 months of the AG’s term in office. The term of the current Attorney General ends on the second Monday in January, 2018. The way I count the months, the 27-month period in which the Governor appoints a new Attorney General starts October 1, 2016.

While we’ve cracked open the Constitution, I’ll also note the following qualification for Attorney General:

Article V. Section III. Paragraph II(b) :

No person shall be Attorney General unless such person shall have been an active-status member of the State Bar of Georgia for seven years.

The person rumored to be in line for AG if an appointment should occur is currently an inactive-status member in good standing of the State Bar, having been a member since 1999. I don’t see a requirement in the Constitution that the seven years on active status be consecutive. Lawyers sometimes change their bar status to inactive so they don’t have the fulfill the continuing legal education requirements of active status or to avoid having to carry malpractice insurance. Changing from inactive status to active status for a member in good standing is pretty simple.

Georgia Trump campaign State Director Brandon Philips has resigned and Billy Kirkland will lead the team.

Other political jobs to be filled include Communications Director and Political Director at the flailing Jim Barksdale Senate campaign.

We’ve gotten word that two more senior staffers are no longer with the campaign: Communications Director Emily Oh and Political Director Lacey Morrison.

Their departure comes shortly after Barksdale cut ties with Campaign Manager Dave Hoffman, replacing him with Bernie Sanders alumna René Spellman. All of this comes on the heels of a tough couple of weeks that showed the investment manager with dipping poll numbers and middling support from top Georgia Democrats.

Johnny Isakson appears to face no fall out from the Trump campaign, according to Bloomberg News.

Republican Donald Trump holds a narrow 3 percentage-point lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential race among Georgia voters, according to a Sept. 19 Monmouth University poll.

That’s a surprise for a state that hasn’t sided with a Democrat in a presidential election since 1992, but it hasn’t yet translated into a tight Senate contest for Isakson: The same poll shows the second-term lawmaker enjoys a 16-point lead over challenger Jim Barksdale.

Isakson’s lead may have as much to do with his record as it does Barksdale’s relatively low profile statewide. Democrats could already be looking at Georgia as a missed opportunity in an election season in which control of the Senate is likely to come down to a handful of races.

“The biggest problem going into this race for Barksdale was that nobody knew who he was,” Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University, told Bloomberg BNA. “Barksdale is going to have to become a household name—which from my vantage point he hasn’t done yet—and he’s going to have to convince voters who know and are comfortable with a candidate who hasn’t made any serious blunders that what he’s offering is better than what Isakson can deliver.”

With all due respect, the biggest problem for Barksdale is that everyone knows who Johnny Isakson is, and he is so widely liked and respected that top tier Democrats are supporting him.

State Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Buckhead) is in a partial rematch of her 2014 race to keep her job in the State House.

Republican incumbent Beth Beskin and Democrat Bob Gibeling are battling for the District 54 state House seat in the Nov. 8 general election.

Beskin bested Gibeling and independent Bill Bozarth with 59.1 percent of the vote in the 2014 campaign. Gibeling and Bozarth had 29.8 percent and 11.1 percent, respectively. This year neither candidate had opposition in the May 24 primary. Beskin defeated three opponents in the 2014 Republican primary, while Gibeling was unopposed on the Democratic side. District 54 includes historic Brookhaven and most of Buckhead.

Beskin said she is running for re-election “because I want to continue my work representing House District 54 under the Gold Dome.”

“I’ve worked hard to represent everyone in our district and feel my important committee assignments, including the [House] judiciary committee, the education committee and MARTOC (the MARTA overview/budget committee), including chairing the governance subcommittee, can greatly benefit my district and our state,” she said.

Beskin said she has been endorsed by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business.

“I tried to be responsive and accessible to our district, even those who may not have voted for me,” she said. “I think my qualifications, including as a lawyer, and my experience, including the last two years, make me the best representative at the Capitol. The fact that I’m a chair of a subcommittee shows that I have the respect of my colleagues. I’m furthering our interests down at the statehouse.”

Yvonne Williams has resigned as Executive Director of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts, according to the Reporter newspapers.

In a PCIDs press release, Williams cited “life balance and family considerations,” including her daughter’s upcoming entry into college, as reasons for her resignation. Her resignation was effective Sept. 2 and there is no successor in place, according to PCIDs spokesperson Bill Crane.

Crane said the PCIDs board canceled its September meeting for lack of a quorum. “It is expected that selecting an interim director for the PCIDs will top their agenda when that meeting is re-scheduled,” he said.

“Yvonne Williams led and helped build out our Perimeter Community Improvement Districts into one of the ‘best practices’ model CIDs in Georgia,” Crane said. “We wish Yvonne Williams luck in all her future endeavors as well as her intended focus on her family at this time.”

The PCIDs are two jointly operated, self-taxing business districts in Perimeter Center, one on the DeKalb County side and one on the Fulton County side.

A lawsuit has been filed over the wording of the Opportunity School District, Constitutional Amendment #1.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday by opponents of Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to put “chronically failing” schools under state control contends that the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment is misleading.

The suit in Fulton County Superior Court asks a judge to prevent enforcement of the amendment if voters approve it in November.On voters’ ballots, a preamble appearing before the question will say: “Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.” Such descriptions are written by Deal and legislative leaders, who make up Georgia’s Constitutional Amendments Publication Board under the state Constitution.

The Committee to Keep Georgia Schools Local, a campaign group including teacher advocacy groups, called the preamble “intentionally deceptive” in a statement announcing the lawsuit Tuesday. The suit was filed on behalf of three Georgia residents against Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp because of his office’s role in elections.

“This frivolous lawsuit demonstrates the depths to which some outside groups will go to defend the status quo,” [pro-Amendment #1 campaign manager Tom] Willis said. “They are playing political games with the futures of 68,000 students trapped in failing schools. It’s unconscionable to hold these students hostage simply to generate news headlines.”

The Newton and Rockdale County Boards of Educations scheduled a joint meeting to discuss the Opportunity School District Amendment #1 on Thursday from 7 to 8:30 PM at Discover Point Church, 1605 Ga. Highway 138 SE in Conyers from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Governor Deal spoke about the OSD Amendment #1 in Gwinnett County.

“If we are as concerned about the minds of our children as we should be, then you will not let 68,000 students be trapped in chronically failing schools,” Deal said.

“Don’t be fooled by the ads,” the governor said. “This is not just the standardized test scores of these students. That is only one factor that determines whether a school is failing or not.”

“As I point out to folks around the state, if a child goes to a chronically failing school, the statistics are that their graduation rate is only about 55.7 percent,” Deal said. “That is 23 percentage points less than our average graduation rate in Georgia, which is not particularly anything to be bragging about.”

A liberal group called Allied Progress is complaining about Georgia’s voter registration procedures.

In a report out Tuesday, the group took aim at Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Gov. Nathan Deal and other state and local leaders over accusations of voter suppression, saying Georgia does a poor job of protecting citizens’ rights and hurts minority communities by making registration and voting more difficult.

Kemp hit back, however, saying “this is just another liberal group making blind accusations to drive voter turnout in an election year. Our office is committed to making it easy to vote but hard to cheat.”

“Because of my efforts as Secretary of State, voters can now register to vote 24 hours a day, seven days a week using the online voter registration system, the free ‘GA SOS’ smartphone app, or by texting ‘GA’ to ‘2vote,’” Kemp said. “I have implemented many technological improvements since taking office like creating the MVP webpage where a voter can view their sample ballot, find their polling place, link to their elected officials and request an absentee ballot to participate in the electoral process.”

Kemp is scheduled Wednesday to testify before a congressional panel in Washington, D.C, about cyber-security and elections.

The Outdoor Advertising Association of Georgia is making digital billboards great again, running a message of support for law enforcement personnel.

The Outdoor Advertising Association of Georgia, or O.A.A.G, is using available space and lighting up digital billboards with “thank you” messages for police officers, sheriff’s deputies and emergency first responders.

“We wanted to direct this message towards anyone that wears a badge: firefighters, emergency responders, folks with the Department of Natural Resources, search and rescue, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation and of course, local law enforcement officers,” said Connor Poe, president/CEO of the Outdoor Advertising Association of Georgia.

The message reads, “Home of the free because of Georgia’s brave” and is featured several times with a variety of colors and silhouettes of first responders. The bulletin runs between advertisements for local businesses.

Poe added the O.A.A.G. partners with law enforcement agencies such as the GBI and the FBI on a regular basis.

“Usually for the GBI or FBI, if there is a dangerous fugitive on the loose, we’ll post rewards with pictures on our digital billboards. … We also do a lot of missing persons reports too when there are Amber Alerts issued around the state,” he explained.

Despite the Name, It’s Not a Heavy Metal-Palooza

Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols [disclaimer: he’s a client] rolled through Savannah with his Unholy Tour to spotlight the blight of human trafficking.

Over 75 people, including state and local officials, were driven to over 18 different locations around Savannah known for sex trade hot spots.

Last year, Echols hosted a tour in Atlanta that was successful in rescuing two teenage girls from a known trafficker with the help of the charitable organization, 4 Sarah, and the Dekalb County Special Victims Unit. Echols hopes this tour will shine a light on the serious issue of sex trafficking.

“This is really a rolling educational seminar about the harms of trafficking. Particularly on the health and life of women. We want the community, we got city council people here, folks from other surrounding counties. We want them to see this is a big issue,” said Echols.

State Representative Jesse Petrea from District 166 said you can make a difference in those victims still trapped in the sex trade by voting in November.

“We have a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot on November 8 that everyone needs to be aware of. It is Amendment Two and that was put on the ballot by senate resolution seven, something we passed in that same session. It allows us to create a safe harbor fund which we estimate will create about two million dollars a year for us to dedicate to helping young women primarily who have been unfortunately victimized by sex trafficking,” said Petrea.

If you know of anyone you may suspect is caught in the sex trade or if you notice suspicious activity, you are urged to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at: 1-888-373-7888.

A letter to the editor in the Savannah Morning News followed-up.

On Tuesday evening, Memorial Heath pediatrician and long-time child advocate, Donna Evans, M.D., and I joined two packed buses for the UnHoly Tour, scheduled to bring attention to human trafficking in our area. On the bus, courageous women shared their stories of escape and redemption.

Local advocates pleaded for more local resources. Faith-based leaders emphasized the role of patience and love when helping victims. And, a call to action was made: Vote Yes on Amendment 2 this fall.

Your vote will allow the state of Georgia to assess an annual fee on the adult entertainment industry. This fee, which could reach $2 million in the first year, will be set aside in the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to support services that restore young victims — education, psychological intervention, medical care, housing, and workplace training.

All are key to transitioning into a safe, secure environment.

We learned that the average age of a child trafficking victim is 13 and that parents are sometimes complicit; that cities with large convention industries have large human trafficking industries; that more than 200 high-risk Savannahians are daily offered as “escorts” on a well-known internet site; and that victims are sometimes prosecuted as “prostitutes” while their “johns” are issued only a citation.

When you vote in the Presidential election this fall, please vote Yes on Amendment 2. Visit www.safeharboryes.com for more information.

My employer, Memorial Health, serves as the region’s sole safety net hospital. What a wide “net” our community can provide by simply voting Yes on Amendment 2 and working together to “catch and save” some of our most vulnerable children and young adults.

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