Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 19, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 19, 2015

On January 17, 1733, Georgia’s Trustees in London voted to ban Jews from the colony.

On January 18, 1776, James Wright, Royal Governor of Georgia, was arrested by John Habersham, a member of the Provincial Congress.

Delegates to the Secession Convention in Milledgeville voted 208-89 in favor of seceding from the United States on January 19, 1861.

On January 19, 1871, Savannah, Georgia became the first city to recognize Robert E. Lee’s Birthday as a public holiday.

L.Q.C. Lamar, born near Eatonton, Georgia, was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court on January 18, 1888.

Martin Luther King, Jr. began the Chicago civil rights campaign on January 17, 1966.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

King Statue coming

A statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. is being planned for the State Capitol grounds overlooking Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Liberty Plaza. From the AJC:

The cost: between $100,000 and $300,000. Although state leaders found the will to build the statue, they didn’t find the will to pay for it, insisting instead that the money come from private sources.

Public art experts say that while it’s possible for a team of artisans to produce a major piece in under a year, the fundraising, permitting, committee selection, drafting of a vision statement and identification of a potential artist can often take years.

“First it takes a seed of desire, but there are many steps in between,” said Krause, who specializes in public art. “The memorial in D.C., that took 40 years.”

The Washington project ultimately cost $120 million, garnered 900 proposals from potential artists in 52 countries.

Georgia’s project, of course, is nowhere near that scale, and it has already cleared some hurdles: it has a prospective budget, a location and, most important, the backing of Gov. Nathan Deal.

“We must come together to do much more than to commemorate the life of a great man,” Deal said at a King memorial celebration Friday. “We gather to rededicate ourselves to the spirit of selflessness by which he lived so that we may emulate his tireless example.”

The King family, of course, will have some say, as they control depictions of Rev. King. The Washington King monument cost $800,000 in licensing fees.

Kennesaw State University‘s observance of MLK’s birthday created some drama as former radical and “Most Wanted” Angela Davis was paid $20,000 to speak at the University, with some alumni balking.

State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) expressed dismay at the choice of speaker, but sounded a note of optimism.

“Angela Davis is not who Kennesaw State University is,” Setzler said. “It’s one thing to invite a speaker to campus to talk to a student group, but for a $20,000 speaker’s fee, we ought to expect somebody of excellence. I have great confidence in KSU’s leadership to ensure that this is the last time this happens.”

Kennesaw State alumnus Robert Potts penned an op-ed for the MDJ expressing his dismay.

The First Amendment is great, but should hard-working Georgia taxpayers or KSU students be unwittingly put on the hook to finance this? To know that KSU is paying such a radical to speak to our students on issues, of which her actions have been the direct opposite of what King preached, isn’t just disturbing, it’s misguided and flat out wrong.

Dr. King preached non-violent, civil protest and universal human rights; Mrs. Davis does not. The UK’s Telegraph describes Davis’s activism, “The torture, judicial executions, slave labour camps, political famines and mass murders of the Communist world were not Davis’s concern. Long after every fact was known by everyone who wanted to know, Davis was still the happy Stalinist, willing to stand alongside bemedalled military chiefs in those grimly enthusiastic Communist parades.”

I would instead offer and suggest, for now or the future, that the AASA consider someone like Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and daughter of fellow slain Civil Rights leader Rev. A.D. King. Her history with the Civil Rights movement is well-known, and her continued work in the areas of poverty in the African-American community, and as a civil rights activist today hold her in high esteem across the country as a woman who lived the movement, has seen its success, and knows where progress is still needed.

2016 Republican National Convention Calendar

The 2016 Republican National Convention will be held in Cleveland, Ohio on July 18-21, 2016.

The Republican National Committee also released a partial list of debates for the 2016 GOP Presidential campaign:

1. Fox News, August 2015, Ohio

2. CNN, September 16, 2015, California, at the Ronald Reagan presidential library

3. CNBC, October 2015, Colorado

4. Fox Business, November 2015, Wisconsin

5. CNN, December 2015, Nevada

6. Fox News, January 2016, Iowa

7. ABC News, February 2016, New Hampshire

8. CBS News, February 2016, South Carolina

9. NBC/Telemundo, February 2016, Florida

Three more are pending:

10. Fox News, March 2016, location TBD

11. CNN, March 2016, location TBD

12. Conservative Media Debate, date TBD, locations TBD

Also last week, the RNC re-elected the incumbent co-chairs for another term.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) elected the 2016 leadership team at the RNC Winter Meeting in San Diego, California. Reince Priebus was elected Chairman for his third consecutive term, and Sharon Day was selected to serve as Co-Chairman for her third term. Tony Parker was re-elected Treasurer for his third term and Susie Hudson was elected Secretary.

“It is an honor to serve another term as Chairman of the RNC,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. “Each election cycle brings new challenges, and 2016 will not be any different. It will take hard work, but I can assure you, we are ready for the task at hand. We will build on our successes from the last cycle to ensure we win the White House in 2015. It’s time our nation got back on track. Too many Americans are unemployed or underemployed, health care costs continue to rise, and our national security faces new threats every day. Our team will do everything in our power to elect a Republican president, secure our majority in Congress, elect Republicans up and down the ballot, and leave our country a better place for future generations.”

Medical Cannabis

We’ve noted the changes in House Bill 1, which would decriminalize the possession of oil that is high in CBD and low in THC for parents of children suffering seizures and create a panel to chart the future of medical cannabis extracts in Georgia.

The Marietta Daily Journal spoke to one father whose child is a medical refugee in Colorado about the changes.

An east Cobb man who moved his family to Colorado to have access to cannabis oil for his son, who experiences seizures, said the changes to a bill that would have allowed for the product to be manufactured in Georgia are “extremely disappointing.”

Aaron Klepinger of east Cobb moved just outside Colorado Springs in November 2013 to obtain cannabis oil for his son, Hunter, who is now 9. The cannabis oil he uses is called Charlotte’s Web and is manufactured by the nonprofit Realm of Caring in Colorado specifically for patients like Hunter. The oil is low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive substance that makes the user feel high.

Hunter used to experience hundreds of seizures each day, but Klepinger said since his son began treatments with the cannabis oil, his quality of life has improved dramatically. Hunter’s seizures have decreased by about 75 percent, Klepinger said, and he hasn’t experienced any side effects.

Klepinger said even if the bill is passed and grants immunity for families to possess the oil, he would still be breaking state and federal laws by bringing it to Georgia.

“There’s a Department of Justice memorandum called the Cole Memorandum which outlines what the federal government is allowing states to do, and one of the points on that memorandum is that cannabis cannot leave the legal state in which it’s grown,” Klepinger said. “And my family and others have had to sign documents saying they wouldn’t take cannabis out of the state. The governor is essentially asking us to break the law of Colorado — and also federal law — by taking cannabis over state lines.”

Maggie Lee of the Macon Telegraph covered the business-related aspects of cultivation and production, should that come eventually to the Peach State.

A demand exists in Georgia for at least some types of medical cannabis, said Jake Bergmann, CEO of Surterra, an “innovative agriculture” company in Atlanta that was incorporated last year and is looking into opportunities to supply that demand.

“Surterra is looking at medical legalization across multiple states … with a focus on Georgia,” he said.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, who’s leading the medical cannabis quest, first proposed in-state marijuana growing last year. Gov. Nathan Deal, however, recently announced he is not interested in that until at least next year.

Another Georgia company, Halcyon Organics, bills itself as the “first medical marijuana company in the South.”

So far, the Atlanta company is selling T-shirts in Georgia.

But company officials are watching what happens in the state Legislature.

“Halcyon Organics is already producing medical cannabis in California,” said CEO Daniel Macris, and if the law changes, Halcyon has the ability to provide a form of liquid cannabis medicine to Georgians who need it.

I award one point to Maggie Lee for coining the term “ganjapreneurs” to describe these folks.

The Macon Telegraph’s Editorial Board is more hopeful about House Bill 1 leading to solutions for Georgia patients.

While it essentially would be legal to possess the medicine in the state, how would families and others procure it? On the surface it means families that have had to split up — one parent living in Colorado where their child can legally be treated — would get no relief. Federal law seems to prevent shipping the drug across state lines, but there is more under the surface, a riptide if you will.

While the delay, as Peake said, “is painful,” the earliest manufacturing could have begun, even if legal, would have been the end of this year. But there are three options that can help sufferers as soon as the governor signs the bill including the immunity language into law.

Option 1: Peake is working with a Colorado marijuana manufacturer who has agreed to ship the product to Georgia as soon as the immunity bill is law. An official announcement is forthcoming. The THC in the product is so low it could be considered hemp by federal authorities.

Option 2: South Carolina is four to six weeks from having a legal marijuana manufacturer. Those with a prescription could simply drive across the state line and purchase their medicine. Technically, federal officials could arrest those trafficking the drug, but it’s thought those officials would have bigger fish to fry.

Option 3: Peake would ask Gov. Deal to request from the Drug Enforcement Administration an exemption that would allow a manufacturer in Colorado to ship their product to a state agency for distribution. New York Gov. Mario Cuomo already has asked for such an exemption.

There is a fourth, less desirable option. Peake has said he’s willing to go to jail if that is what it takes to get the attention of Congress to change nonsensical laws that make it illegal for medicinal marijuana to be transported over state lines.

We encourage the General Assembly to quickly approve House Bill 1. Certainly it’s not all that is wanted, but if options 1, 2 and 3 are made available by passage and the governor’s signature, it’s a compromise we can live with.

State Budget

Kathleen Foody and Ray Henry of the Associated Press bring some details of Gov. Deal’s proposed budget.

Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed a nearly $45 billion budget for state government as the economy improves and tax collections climb.

Deal’s plan would spend almost $22 billion generated from state tax collections and other Georgia sources.

The budget includes money intended to reverse teacher furloughs and lengthen school years that were cut during the recession.

The $23 billion dollar difference is federal funds.  Here are some more details:

Total spending for K-12 and higher education: $11.9 billion

Would add more than $500,000 for 10 additional workers to more quickly process applications and complaints made to professional licensing boards.

Would add $25,000 to Georgia’s Supreme Court justices’ salaries, along with a $15,000 increase for the state’s Superior Court judges. The court produces its own request to be submitted to lawmakers along with the governor’s budget. Justices make an annual salary of $167,210.

HOPE scholarship awards for in-state college students increase by 3 percent. Tuition rates for the 2016 school year haven’t been set. Tuition has increased every year since at least 2002.

Requests about $4 million for equipment and $2.6 million to establish the Georgia Film Academy, run by the university and technical college systems. Georgia’s tax credits make it a popular location for film and television shoots, but production companies have said they struggle to find people with the right skills to work behind the scenes.

From the Macon Telegraph:

Eleven new district attorneys would be hired to work in so-called accountability courts, where judges put certain offenders, such as veterans, under intense supervision paired with counseling, rehabilitation and other services.

Walter Jones of Morris News also has some analysis of the budget, via the Augusta Chronicle:

With Georgia’s economy showing signs of sustained growth, Deal’s administration expects tax revenue will grow more than 4 percent during the next financial year starting in July. Consequently, Deal and lawmakers are likely to spend more time debating what to fund, not what to cut. Of the $45 billion total, $21.7 billion would be funds raised by Georgia’s government. Most of the rest is federal money.

Public school districts would receive about a half-billion dollars less than what they are promised under state funding formulas. However, Deal’s budget would earmark roughly $280 million in fresh funding to shrink the gap. The budget also includes additional money to cover enrollment and other growth.

Deal said he wants the fresh education funding used to add more instructional days to school calendars, reduce or
eliminate teacher furloughs, or cover teacher raises. Local school officials would ultimately decide how to spend the cash.

“The governor proposed putting it into the local level and letting the local system make those decisions,” said Chris Riley, Deal’s chief of staff.

The governor’s budget plans would also fund the hiring of 278 caseworkers to investigate complaints of abused and neglected children and 11 caseworkers to investigate elder abuse.

An additional $12 million would be spent to fund two charter high schools within the state prison system and other initiatives meant to educate offenders.

Deal would add four attorneys and four investigators at the state’s ethics commission, a cost of roughly $1 million. Riley said the commission would have the flexibility to decide exactly what mix of staffers it needs.

For a sense of scale, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners has passed a $1.42 billion dollar budget.

“The proposed 2015 budget is based on slight growth in the property tax digest while maintaining the millage rate that is currently in place,” Gwinnett County Financial Services Director Maria Woods said during the Jan. 6 commission meeting.

The 2015 budget includes an operating budget of $1.05 billion and a capital budget of $370.6 million. Included in the proposal are $6.9 million out of $17.8 million in new requests made by county department heads during a series of meetings in September. Among the new requests incorporated into the budget were the relocation of Fire Station 10, the opening of Fire Station 31 near Georgia Gwinnett College, and the opening of the new 67-acre Level Creek Park in Sugar Hill. Several requested positions including a DUI court case manager, an administrative support person for the indigent defense program, two new animal control officers, a judicial calendar coordinator, an administrative assistant to the jury manager and 42 new firefighters to staff the new station are also funded.

Additionally, a $450,000 allocation to the library contingency fund, transit service enhancements, new equipment and the partial restoration of some roadway maintenance services were included in the budget. Perhaps the most notable highlight of the spending resolution is the inclusion of a 4 percent step increase for public safety personnel and a 4 percent pay-for-performance pay increase for other county employees.


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