Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 5, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 5, 2015

John and Charles Wesley arrived at Tybee Roads, at the mouth of the Savannah River on February 5, 1736, along with James Oglethorpe and 254 other colonists.

On February 5, 1777, Georgia’s first Constitution was adopted in Savannah, creating the first eight counties. Happy birthday to Wilkes, Richmond, Burke, Effingham, Chatham, Liberty, Glynn, and Camden counties.

The 1777 Constitution was progressive for the time, outlawing primogeniture and entail, English common law doctrines that controlled inheritance of land.

Primogeniture ensured that the eldest son in a family inherited the largest portion of his father’s property upon the father’s death. The practice of entail, guaranteeing that a landed estate remain in the hands of only one male heir, was frequently practiced in conjunction with primogeniture. (Virginia abolished entail in 1776, but permitted primogeniture to persist until 1785.)

Georgians restructured inheritance laws in Article LI of the state’s constitution by abolishing entail in all forms and proclaiming that any person who died without a will would have his or her estate divided equally among their children; the widow shall have a child’s share, or her dower at her option.

The Southern Pacific Railroad completed its “Sunset Route” from New Orleans to California on February 5, 1883, giving the SP a dominant position in transcontinental railroading.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced his “court packing” plan on February 5, 1937. After the United States Supreme Court found some of his “New Deal” legislation unconstitutional, Roosevelt’s proposal would have encouraged the retirement of justices older than 70 and for those who did not retire, appoint an assistant Justice with full voting rights on decisions by the Court.

On February 5, 1945, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation abolishing the poll tax, making Georgia the first Southern state to do so.

Georgia’s 1877 constitution authorized the tax, which limited voter participation among both poor blacks and whites. But most whites got around the provision through exemptions for those whose ancestors fought in the Civil War or who could vote before the war.

In 1937, the U.S. Supreme court upheld Georgia’s poll tax as constitutional. But in 1942, Georgia voters chose Ellis Arnall for governor and the progressive Arnall ushered in a wave of reforms, including abolishing Georgia’s poll tax.

Nigel Tufnel, of the band Spinal Tap, was born on February 5, 1948.

Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” began a 92-week run on the best-seller charts on February 5, 1983. Rock on.

On February 5, 1974, “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe,” by Barry White reached #1 on the charts.

Under the Gold Dome

Mike Dudgeon’s solar bill will be on the floor on Monday, not yesterday as we believed.

DUI convictions in Georgia were down, but part of the cause may be more drivers refusing to take sobriety tests.

DUI convictions in Georgia have been dropping dramatically over a five-year period, state figures show.

There may be multiple reasons to account for the decline in convictions, experts say. But they note this decrease in convictions has coincided with an increase in the number of people refusing to take a field sobriety test.

State Department of Driver Services figures, presented to state lawmakers last year, show the downward trend: 44,017 DUI convictions in 2008 falling to 32,514 in 2013.

Meanwhile, the Driver Services data show the number of people refusing the sobriety test doubled, from 5,608 in 2008 to 11,480 in 2013.

This trend was part of the impetus for the Constitutional Amendment last year that passed overwhelmingly and allowed the Georgia Brain & Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission to collect a 1% surcharge on reckless driving fines in addition to the previously existing surcharge on DUI fines.

Gov. Nathan Deal has spoken more about his views on medical cannabis and House Bill 1, which is traveling through the State House currently. From Greg Bluestein at the AJC:

Said Deal:

“We want the cannabis oil to be available for the children. But we do not want it misused. And I think law enforcement and district attorneys that have expressed opinions on this believe that if it’s not drafted very, very tightly and can’t be enforced with certainty, it lends itself to a situation where we cannot control it … I share those concerns. That’s why it is difficult to draft this kind of legislation.”

“I think the wider you broaden the net to include more and more illnesses and diseases,” he said, “the more likely you are to incur abuse.”

Speaking of Gov. Deal, why has a vacancy on the DeKalb County Commission become so urgent to fill that the interim CEO felt moved to send a letter to the Gov. asking him to fill the slot? It’s probably just a coincincidence that the request comes right on the heels of that vacancy delaying approval of a massive casino “24-hour gaming resort” set for approval in DeKalb. Luckily, the Governor’s office appears to understand that no vacancy exists that he can fill. From WSB-TV,

Late Tuesday, a governor’s spokesman emailed Channel 2 Action News saying, “there would need to be vacancy for the governor to appoint a replacement, and he can’t do that unless he receives a letter from May resigning the seat.”

A May spokesperson says DeKalb County’s attorney interpreted that differently and is currently reviewing the issue.

May did not officially resign from District 5 when he took the CEO’s job, just in case the ousted CEO, Burrell Ellis, were to get acquitted of corruption charges and want his old job back.

Deal filling the District 5 seat could also mean trouble for Panola Slope; he has strongly opposed anything even resembling a casino in Georgia.

“I am not in the mood for having anything that is a casino or even comes close to resembling a casino,” Deal told Fleischer.

The Marietta Daily Journal opines that the massive casino should be rejected.

The proposed Panola Slope barcade — similar to a kids-game arcade, except equipped with 425 video gambling machines offering payouts that can be redeemed on-site for drinks, dinners, lodging, etc. — would be in a failed condo development along a seedy stretch of Covington Highway just east of Atlanta. It’s being pushed by a developer with insider ties to the county government, Vaughn Irons, who chairs the DeKalb Development Authority and who is co-chairman of interim DeKalb CEO Lee May’s Operations Task Force. So it’s probably no surprise that it won unanimous support from the DeKalb County Commission in December.

“I have real concerns about anything that begins to look like a casino,” Deal told the Atlanta newspaper. “And this certainly sounds like it resembles one.”

On that point, the governor is undoubtedly correct. An entertainment complex featuring alcohol, food, lodging and 425 video gambling machines would qualify in most people’s minds — and probably under the law as well — as a casino, even if it’s called a “barcade.”

It’s also clear that the “barcade” in question would be the proverbial camel’s nose in the tent for true casino gambling. And presented with the choice of whether to proceed further down the “barcade road” toward casino gambling, or do a U-turn away from all video gaming and video slot machines in Georgia, our state would be better served by taking the U-turn.

State Senator Renee Unterman spoke to the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee yesterday about her bills SR7 and SB8, which continue the fight against sex trafficking of minors in Georgia. Here’s a quick synopsis:

• Set up a Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund Commission modeled on the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission with a dedicated revenue stream and a mission of funding services for minors who have been victims of sex trafficking; four members appointed by state government agency heads and four commissioners to be appointed by the Governor

• A Constitutional Amendment to be approved by voters in 2016 that would fund the Commission through allowing additional fines for convictions of enumerated sex offenses

• Adding people convicted of sex trafficking offenses to the sex offender registry

• A fee on new adult entertainment establishments, called by some a “Pole Tax”

• Increased penalties for enumerated sex and trafficking crimes

• Seizure of property and money related to sex trafficking crimes

I know it’s very short notice, but today at 12:30, the Georgia Municipal Association is hosting a screening of 8 Days, a film about sex trafficking, and a panel including Senator Unterman, Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis and other leaders in the fight against human sex trafficking.

PowerPoint Presentation

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