The blog.

14
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 15, 2020

Fulton JJ

JJ is a senior male mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from the LifeLine at Fulton County Animal Services Shelter in Atlanta, GA.

Fulton Grayson

Grayson is a senior male mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from the LifeLine at Fulton County Animal Services Shelter in Atlanta, GA.

Grayson is a sweet, polite gentleman. He loves going for walks and does very well on a leash. Grayson also loves treats and is very gentle when taking them. He enjoys exploring the play yards and periodically walks up to people, tail wagging, to get petted. This quiet, sweet boy is waiting so patiently for his forever home and will make someone so happy! Come meet Grayson at Fulton County Animal Services!

Fulton Grape

Grape is a senior female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from the LifeLine at Fulton County Animal Services Shelter in Atlanta, GA.

Grape is currently living in a foster home. If you’re interested in meeting Grape, email [email protected]

14
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 14, 2020

On February 14, 1779, Lt. Col. Elijah Clarke led a charge against British forces at the Battle of Kettle Creek.

On February 15, 1796, Georgia Governor Jared Irwin and legislators gathered with a crowd for the burning of the “Yazoo Act.”

On February 15, 1898, the battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana harbor, Cuba.

On February 16, 1923, Howard Carter and his archaeology party entered the burial chamber of King Tutankhamen.

The steps led to an ancient sealed doorway bearing the name Tutankhamen. When Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered the tomb’s interior chambers on November 26, they were thrilled to find it virtually intact, with its treasures untouched after more than 3,000 years. The men began exploring the four rooms of the tomb, and on February 16, 1923, under the watchful eyes of a number of important officials, Carter opened the door to the last chamber.

Inside lay a sarcophagus with three coffins nested inside one another. The last coffin, made of solid gold, contained the mummified body of King Tut. Among the riches found in the tomb–golden shrines, jewelry, statues, a chariot, weapons, clothing–the perfectly preserved mummy was the most valuable, as it was the first one ever to be discovered. Despite rumors that a curse would befall anyone who disturbed the tomb, its treasures were carefully catalogued, removed and included in a famous traveling exhibition called the “Treasures of Tutankhamen.”

On February 16, 1948, the United States Air Force renamed Robins Air Field to Robins Air Force Base. Robins AFB and the City of Warner Robins are named for Air Force General Augustine Warner Robins.

On February 15, 1952 Gov. Herman Talmadge signed a joint resolution directing the purchase of Stone Mountain for development as a Confederate Memorial.

On February 14, 1956, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation calling for the protection, cleaning and maintenance, and display of historic Confederate flags at the State Capitol.

On February 14, 1958, the Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution purporting to censure President Dwight D. Eisenhower for using National Guard troops in the integration of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Fidel Castro was sworn-in as Prime Minister of Cuba on February 16, 1959.

On February 16, 1968, Speaker of the Alabama House of Representative Rankin Fite placed the first 911 call from Haleyville City Hall to Congressman Tom Bevill at the Haleyville police station.

On February 14, 1977, the B-52s played their first gig at a Valentine’s Day party in Athens.

Later that year, the group began making regular runs in the Wilson family station wagon up to New York City for gigs at seminal New Wave clubs like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s. With Kate and Cindy in their mile-high beehive wigs and 60s thrift-shop best, and Fred looking like a gay, demented golf pro, the B-52s made an immediate impression on the New York scene, and their independently produced single, “Rock Lobster,” became an underground smash.

The B-52s are still in business three decades later, minus Ricky Wilson, who died of AIDS in 1985. Significantly, their success is widely credited for establishing the viability of the Athens, Georgia, music scene, which would produce many minor successes and one massive one—R.E.M.—in the years immediately following the breakthrough of the B-52′s.

On February 15, 2011, Georgia Congressman John Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in the civil rights movement.

On February 14, 2012, we published the first edition of the GaPundit daily political news, featuring dogs. We originally thought that the dogs would be temporary until enough people complained about them that we felt the need to go to once a week. We were surprised that the adoptable dogs have become the signature of GaPundit’s otherwise-political offerings and our greatest success.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

9:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HUMAN RESOURCES 341 CAP

Governor Brian Kemp spoke about raises for teachers in Cobb County, according to the AJC.

After getting the General Assembly to back a raise last year, Kemp is pushing for another $2,000 to complete a 2018 campaign pledge.

But fellow Republican and state House Speaker David Ralston has his own goals for the 2021 budget and has said a raise for teachers may have to wait. The state likely cannot afford both that and an income tax cut that many lawmakers want.

On Thursday, Kemp toured McEachern High School in Cobb County, which has a new nurse prep program. It was a friendly venue to tout his legislative agenda, including the raise.

Under his budget proposal, the state would, for the third year in a row, pay the maximum in the school funding formula. And Kemp is budgeting more than $350 million more “to deliver the promise of the $5,000 pay raise that I campaigned on,” he said during the school visit.

“Those in this room know we have a serious teacher retention problem that requires our immediate attention,” he said. “I believe this well-deserved pay raise will go a long way to incentivizing our best and brightest to stay in the classroom.”

It may not sound like much in a $28 billion budget, but a lot of that money is already spoken for. The overall education allocation alone consumes more than a third of the total, at nearly $11 billion. Health care and other costs consume much of the rest.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Col. Mark McDonough tendered his resignation after a cheating scandal eliminated an entire class of Georgia State Troopers, according to 11Alive.

Georgia Department of Public Safety commissioner Col. Mark W. McDonough has resigned in the wake of effectively losing an entire Trooper School graduating class to a cheating scandal.

Hours later, the department’s deputy commissioner turned in his resignation, too.

Georgia State Patrol confirmed both resignations to 11Alive, saying Gov. Brian Kemp asked for each to step down from their positions. The state Board of Public Safety accepted both, Thursday.

“My family and I thank Colonel McDonough for his dedicated service, leadership, and sacrifice,” Gov. Kemp said in a statement. “We wish him the very best in the years ahead.”

From WSB-TV:

Just moments after resigning McDonough told Gray that Kemp asked for his resignation after eight and a half years at the top of GSP.

“The governor made a clear indication he is moving in the direction of new leadership. That’s what we elected him for,” McDonough said. “He’s my commander in chief, hence you take the action I took. You get out of the way.”

McDonough told the board that a complete internal audit of GSP training is now underway after the cheating scandal.

Gov. Kemp spoke about the budget process, according to GPB News.

Gov. Brian Kemp says he foresees a “great budget” when the second round of budget discussions end this week.

“Things the last couple of days have gone great. I’ve gotten really good feedback from legislators about the presentations they’ve gotten,” he told said after speaking at the Capitol earlier in the week, adding he and his team have remained “open and transparent” to working with legislators.

“Everybody has their priorities. Mine [is] paying teachers more,” Kemp said.

Georgia State House Appropriators have begun voting on specific parts of the proposed budget, according to the AJC.

The House is expected to approve a midyear spending plan next week. The proposal will then move on to the Georgia Senate.

But Thursday was the House’s opening shot at Kemp’s recommendations to cut $200 million this year and $300 million next year. Several more budget subcommittees will vote Tuesday, as will the House Appropriations Committee.

Lawmakers have expressed concerns about spending reductions in a lot of areas, including mental health and substance abuse programs, rural economic development, agricultural research and food inspections, and criminal justice and public defender programs.

After approving the midyear budget, lawmakers will take up the spending plan for 2021, which includes the pay raises for teachers.

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department and the NAACP held a voter registration drive in the jail, according to the AJC.

According to a statement from the sheriff’s office, 38 inmates filed applications to become registered voters. The NAACP’s voter outreach program with incarcerated individuals has become an annual initiative.

“It is important that every citizen who has the right to vote also has a chance to exercise that right,” DeKalb Sheriff Melody Maddox said in a statement. “Many incarcerated individuals don’t realize that they can still cast absentee ballots in elections while they are in custody, but they must first be registered voters.”

Georgia law states that only convicted felons who are still serving a prison sentence are not eligible to vote. That means that men and women who have been arrested and are in the county jail can cast ballots.

Eight candidates for DeKalb County Sheriff spoke to voters, according to the AJC.

More than 150 residents attended a forum at Redan High School a little over a month before voters will head to the polls for the March 24 special election for sheriff. The election is nonpartisan and will coincide with presidential preference primary.

The candidates in the crowded race, all of whom have law enforcement or military experience, made the case for why they would be best suited to serve as DeKalb’s sheriff. The sheriff’s office is responsible for the county jail, security at the courts and processing warrants.

Fulton County voters can test drive the new voting system before it goes prime time for the Presidential Prefence Primary, according to the AJC.

Fulton County residents can try out new voting machines during a mock election at several locations on Feb. 18, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Registration and elections staff will be on hand to assist voters with the new equipment.

Early voting begins March 2 in advance of the presidential primary election March 24.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan tweeted his support for Republican Jason Anavitarte in the upcoming election for State Senate District 31, which is being vacated by Sen. Bill HEath (R-Bremen).

Senate Bill 313 by Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) seeks to rein in prescription drug costs, according to the AJC.

In an effort to attack high drug prices, Georgia lawmakers are focusing on powerful middlemen who negotiate on behalf of insurance companies.

State Sen. Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge, has introduced a bill that aims to shed light on prices that pharmacy benefits managers negotiate with pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies, and to ensure that patients are able to get the drugs when they need them. The legislation is Senate Bill 313.

“I really truly believe the state needs more transparency in drug pricing,” Burke said, noting that drugs are the country’s single biggest health expense. “That’s what I’m looking for.”

“SB 313 does absolutely nothing to reduce prescription drug costs and will only increase profits for Georgia’s independent pharmacies,” Greg Lopes, a spokesman for the managers’ industry group, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s a piece of special-interest legislation that is not patient-centric.”

But in Georgia and across the U.S., some patients, doctors and pharmacists say benefits managers are now part of the problem.

From the Albany Herald:

Senate Bill 313 would require pharmacy benefits manager companies to adhere closely to national average drug prices set by the federal government when reimbursing local pharmacies. The state Department of Insurance would monitor those reimbursement amounts.

The bill would also prohibit PBMs from charging extra fees or causing delays when requests are made for lower-priced drugs. Benefits managers also would have to distribute all rebates from drug makers to patients, rather than keeping a portion for themselves.

The bill follows legislation the General Assembly passed last year that prevents benefits-manager companies from steering patients to associated pharmacies with potentially higher costs.

“When it gets to [patients], there’s been so many convolutions it’s really hard to understand the process,” said Burke, R-Bainbridge. “What we’re trying to do is shine a little light on that.”

Hospital and pharmacy groups have praised the bill, describing it as a means to peel back a layer of the already complicated prescription drug marketplace. They say scaling down the role of third-party companies also could keep smaller pharmacies in Georgia from going out of business amid increasing drug costs.

Subpoenas from the State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission to Stacey Abrams-linked organizations came before a judge, according to the AJC.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick said she will rule soon on whether Abrams’ campaign and several nonprofit organizations must produce additional documents sought by the state ethics commission, which is investigating whether they illegally coordinated efforts.

The agency asked Barwick to order Abrams’ campaign to comply with a subpoena for more documents that could show whether Abrams and the groups worked together to promote her candidacy. Georgia law prohibits independent groups from coordinating with candidates.

An attorney for the ethics commission said it needs an explanation for spending by the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group founded by Abrams, and an affiliated organization, the New Georgia Project Action Fund.

Festivus comes early to Savannah as some elected officials began the airing of the grievances, according to the Savannah Morning News.

An acrimonious dispute broke out between members of Savannah’s city council at their Thursday workshop meeting, following a Wednesday night town hall that was ostensibly organized to discuss city-owned fairgrounds property, but which turned into a forum for four alderwomen to air perceived grievances.

Hosted by Alderwoman/Mayor Pro Tem Estella Shabazz on Feb. 12 at the Liberty City Community Center, the town hall was promoted as an update on the former Coastal Empire Fair site in District 5, with Alderwomen Alicia Blakely, Kesha Gibson-Carter, and Bernetta Lanier in attendance. Shabazz said that she encouraged all other aldermanic representatives to join the town hall but intentionally declined to invite Mayor Van Johnson.

“It is February 12, 2020, and it doesn’t feel good in city council,” Shabazz said, raising concern over what she termed as “an extremely disturbing item” on the agenda for city council’s Feb. 13 meeting, regarding the adoption of rules of council.

The other three alderwomen also spoke out on what they saw as efforts to diminish their influence in municipal governance.

“Since we have been in office, we have been treated as if we have a strong-mayor system,” Gibson-Carter said. “They have deceived us. They have overwhelmed us.”

“There are still four of us who are in our right minds,” Shabazz said, referring to herself and the three other alderwomen at the town hall.

Augusta government has a large appetite for SPLOST funds, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta department heads, agencies and a few non-government agencies say they need $886.6 million for capital improvements from the next special purpose, local option sales tax.

With a referendum on SPLOST 8 set to appear on the Nov. 3 ballot, some Augusta commissioners were taken aback Thursday by the size of the list, while others had projects they want to add.

Augusta’s current one-percent sales tax, an optional funding stream that must be approved by voters, is expected to reach its target of around $360 million toward the end of next year.

The commission must OK the list by early July – 90 days prior to the election — to get it on the ballot.

It is expected to take up the list again March 3.

Twin Pines Minerals released studies of their proposal to mine near the Okefenokee Swamp, according to the Albany Herald.

Twin Pines Minerals, an industry-leading minerals and mining company, has announced the results of geologic and hydrogeologic studies to determine the viability of its plan to mine titanium and zirconium from the layers of sand and soil on its Charlton County property.

In advance of the initiative, the company is spending millions of dollars to ensure its investment in the project is sound, which it can only be if the Okefenokee Swamp, adjoining streams and environs are protected and mining work complies with all federal and state regulations.

“I am elated that the study has confirmed the viability of our project,” said Steve Ingle, president of Twin Pines Minerals. “Protecting the swamp and the region’s environment is of paramount importance to us, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because failing to meet the strictest state and federal standards could result in regulatory action that would jeopardize a $300 million investment.”

13
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 13, 2020

Harrison Athens Canine Rescue

Harrison is a young male Labrador Retriever and Boxer mix puppy who is available for adoption from Athens Canine Rescue in Athens, GA.

Harrison lives with other dogs in his current foster home and does well with them! He loves all dogs and ends up very playful! He also is good with cats – with his most evident emotion being confusion, given that they’re just like teeny, more flexible dogs!

Emma Athens Canine Rescue

Emma is a young female American Staffordshire Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Athens Canine Rescue in Athens, GA.

This brindle beauty is about five months old and weighs 25 pounds! Emma is still growing and our vets estimate she’ll top out around 35 pounds, but that’s just an estimate

Emma is currently working on housetraining. She keeps her crate clean and sleeps through the night. She doesn’t have a “signal” to let foster parents know she needs to go outside, but when she starts to sniff, they know she’s gotta go! We’re currently working on making leashes less scary, but Emma is a brave girl and making amazing progress! She is crate-trained, but still likes to be lured in with a treat.

Emma currently lives with two foster dog siblings who are teaching her all about how fun life can be.

Regina Athens Canine Rescue

Regina is a young female Labrador Retriever and Terrier mix who is available for adoption from Athens Canine Rescue in Athens, GA.

“Regina” means “queen” and this ‘chocolate + a touch of cream’ beauty is certainly a queen! Lovingly referred to as “Regina Bean”, this gal is 1.5 years old and 55 pounds of fun. All she wants is a family to cuddle up with …and maybe a few belly rubs.

Regina is housebroken and is SO much better at calming down about her crate! She is on a schedule, which is helping her learn these skills faster and she is making GREAT strides!

An Oconee County veteran is searching for his lost service dog, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

A U.S. Army veteran has been diligently searching for his missing dog for a month, visiting animal shelters, combing the woods, posting on social media and publicly asking for help.

Ranger disappeared on Jan. 12 after Berrien let the dog out of his house in Oconee County.

Berrien, who has owned Ranger for slightly over two years, acquired his dog when it was eight weeks old. He then sent Ranger off for a month of companion training to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“I’ve been to shelters all over the state – hours away looking for him,” he said. “I’m on every German Shepherd page you can think of and all the missing pet alert pages. I’ve had hundreds of people reach out to me and say they are sharing the posts, but there’s been no sign whatsoever.”

Ranger was microchipped, but so far no one has brought in a dog that a scan showed was Ranger, he said.

“People specializing in German Shepherds have reached out to me and explained his markings and how unique they are,” he said.

The former soldier said the past month “has been pretty hard.”

13
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 13, 2020

On February 13, 1941, Gov. Eugene Talmadge signed legislation that proposed a Constitutional Amendment changing the 2-year terms for Governor and other statewide Constitutional Officers to 4-year.

On February 13, 1956, Gov. Marvin Griffin signed legislation adopting a new state flag incorporating the Confederate battle flag.

On February 13, 2007, United States Congressman Charlie Norwood (R-Augusta) died at home.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

9:00 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS- EDUCATION SUBCOMMITTEE 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS- HUMAN DEVELOPMENT SUBCOMMITTEE 307 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HUMAN RESOURCES 341 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS- ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SUBCOMMITTEE 450 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS 341 CAP

Governor Brian Kemp spoke about the budget process that currently has the state Capitol rapt, according to Fox5Atlanta.

“I think we’re going to have a great budget when we get finished now what it’s gonna look like we’re still working through that but I think they got a lot of answers yesterday but we stand ready to continue to defend the focus that we made on different parts of the budget,” said Gov. Kemp.

Some of Gov. Kemp’s priorities for the budget include pay raises for teachers and growing “Georgia Made” businesses.

Governor Kemp launched a “Georgia Made” initiative to highlight in-state manufacturing, according to AccessWDUN.

The program parallels the existing Georgia Grown certification that promotes agricultural products. The Georgia Department of Economic Development will begin certifying products as Georgia-made later this year, giving the stylized peach logo to any product at least 50% made in the state.

“I hope each of the companies here will place it on your products as a badge of honor,” Kemp said. “The world-class goods that each of you produce are a large part of what sets our state apart, and what keeps Georgia on the mind of the domestic and international companies looking to invest here.”

Proposed state income tax cuts could be more costly than previously estimated, according to the AJC.

Last summer, an analysis put the cost of Part 2 of the General Assembly plan to cut the state income tax rate at $550 million.

That cost to the state – and savings for some Georgians – might have been low-balling it.

A new report from the same analyst – Dan Kanso, a tax expert for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute think tank who worked for then-Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle when the two-step plan was approved two years ago – now says Phase 2 will cost closer to $615 million.

Jeffrey Dorfman, the state’s fiscal economist and a University of Georgia professor, told lawmakers last month that most Georgians probably didn’t notice the first tax cut because at the same time they were seeing a slight dip, they were also probably seeing a rise in what they paid for health insurance.

At $615 million a year, the second rate reduction would likely force lawmakers to cut spending much deeper than they are planning to this session. Kemp’s proposed cuts would amount to $200 million this year and $300 million in fiscal 2021, which begins July 1.

State budget cuts could cause cutbacks for accountability courts, according to the AJC.

Council of Accountability Court Judges executive director Taylor Jones told lawmakers Wednesday that 336 fewer people would be able to participate in the diversion program if the agency’s budget is cut by 4%.

Gov. Brian Kemp last summer asked state agencies to trim 4% from the 2020 fiscal year budget and another 6% in fiscal 2021, which begins in July.

Jones told a panel of Senate budget writers that Kemp’s proposal actually cuts 5.3% — or almost $1.4 million — from the agency’s budget, meaning even fewer people could be diverted to the program.

“There would be less treatment offered … less surveillance visits performed by local law enforcement, less drug testing that would occur,” [Jones] said. “But overall we would anticipate an increase downstream in the correctional and juvenile systems.”

Over the past eight years, with increased funding and incentives, the number of accountability courts statewide has increased from 72 to 163.

Georgia Democrats plan to campaign against some state budget cuts, according to the Georgia Recorder.

Georgia Democrats gave a preview of the political sparring to come at a Tuesday press conference held to decry Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed budget cuts, particularly to health care.

“The reality is that the budget is a value proposition for those who are in power,” state Rep. James Beverly, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, said at the event. “And at this particular point, that’s why we’re doing everything we can to flip the House, and hopefully, we’ll do that this year.”

Some of the reductions flagged by Democrats – such as cuts to public health departments, mental health services and a rural physician recruitment program – have also troubled many of their colleagues across the aisle.

“We may not have a hospital everywhere, but we do have health departments, and they do not need to be cut as severely as they’ve been cut this budget,” said Rep. Debbie Buckner, a Junction City Democrat who is the vice chair of the legislative rural caucus.

“When we look at the cost of these cuts, it isn’t so much about dollars and cents,” Buckner said. “Put quite simply, we need to put our constituents first or they will pay for these cuts dearly, many times with their lives.”

Senate Bill 280 by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta) would ban some uses of plastic bags, according to the Albany Herald.

Plastic grocery bags would be banned in Georgia under a Senate bill filed in the 2020 legislative session.

Senate Bill 280 would prohibit retailers from handing out plastic carryout bags starting next year.

The legislation would exempt several bag styles including plastic wrappers, newspaper sleeves, take-out bags and trash bags.

James, D-Atlanta, said she aims to curb plastic pollution after trying unsuccessfully two decades ago to push legislation calling for Georgia to be a “zero waste” state by this year.

Food retailers in the state support curbing plastic use but are wary of an outright ban that could spur more reliance on other non-recyclable products like garbage bags, said Kathy Kuzava, president of the Georgia Food Industry Association.

She said a better approach might be to encourage more voluntary plastic-reduction policies to help stores transform their customers’ habits on bag use.

“It’s really trying to get the customers used to a change in mentality,” Kuzava said Wednesday. “And I think that’s happening.”

State Rep. Matt Gurtler (R-Tiger) announced he will run for the 9th Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Doug Collins, according to the Gainesville Times.

Gurtler was first elected to the state House in 2016 and represents House District 8, which includes Union, Towns, Rabun and White counties.

“I support President Trump’s agenda to bring our troops home, cut job-killing regulations, and defend the right of the unborn. Unlike out-of-touch politicians, I stand by my conservative voting record in Atlanta,” Gurtler said in a statement. “I want to ensure that Georgia’s most conservative congressional district sends a proven conservative to Washington, not another go along to get along politician, or a Democrat in sheep’s clothing.”

State Senate District 50 has two new candidate. Franklin Spring Mayor Lee Moore and Andy Garrison, retired director of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Athens.

Charles Baker will run for reelection as Hall County Clerk of Courts, according to the Gainesville Times.

The AJC Political Insider has an interesting analysis of Democrat Lucy McBath’s endorsement of Mike Bloomberg for President.

McBath’s endorsement of Bloomberg comes only hours after former Vice President Joe Biden, heretofore the favorite of African-American voters, finished a disappointing fifth in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

Biden didn’t wait for New Hampshire returns to roll in. He left Tuesday afternoon for South Carolina, a state rich in African-American voters. It’s his firewall.

Bloomberg has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on TV ads, across the country and in Georgia, boosting his own candidacy and dumping on President Donald Trump. His focus is on March 3 SuperTuesday primaries and beyond. Georgia votes March 24.

Bloomberg has hired about 50 staffers and opened a half-dozen offices around the state. He’s courted Stacey Abrams and state party chair Nikema Williams.

If Biden can’t right himself, Bloomberg is positioning himself as the best choice for a calculating African-American base that wants to see Trump gone above all else.

McIntosh County Commissioners approved a measure declaring the coastal community a Second Amendment Sanctuary, according to The Brunswick News.

Chairman David Stevens said the measure is meant to protect residents “from any federal or state override of our Second Amendment rights.”

The resolution states, “Opposition will include any means available under the U.S. Constitution and the laws of Georgia, including the withholding of funds, direction of county employees, legal action and other means as deemed necessary and legal.”

It further states that the McIntosh County government “shall not authorize or appropriate government funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings or offices for the purpose of enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of any element of such actions, laws, orders, mandates, rules or regulations that infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms as described in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

McIntosh County Commissioner Bill Watson proposed the resolution.

The resolution passed with a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Roger Lotson was not present at the meeting.

Gwinnett County Commission Chair Charlotte Nash gave her last annual State of the County address, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Nash is preparing to head off into retirement at the end of this year and a crop of candidates are vying to replace her as the head of Gwinnett government. Given that political backdrop, one could be forgiven if Nash’s final annual summation on the state of Gwinnett at times felt like advice for whoever succeeds her in 2021.

“”Will we continue to be extraordinary going forward?” Nash asked audience members during her speech. “My answer is a resounding ‘Yes … If.’ Yes, because the conditions are in place for us to prosper even as we evolve. We have the essential ingredients: talent, experience, knowledge, resources, and energy.”

“But there’s also an ‘If’ – If we can summon the type of vision and courage that made Gwinnett extraordinary in the first place.”

Not only has Nash opted against running for another term this year, but Commissioner Jace Brooks has also opted to not run again, leaving at least two open commission seats up for grabs in this year’s elections.

Nash preached a need for continued sustainability as well as discipline in government spending, and knowing the limits of what the county can do in any given year with its financial resources.

The City of South Fulton is considering an ethics complaint against a council member, according to the AJC.

The city of South Fulton’s ethics board plans to conduct a mini-trial to determine if a City Council member must repay public money used to cover expenses for a training seminar that he did not complete.

Members of the ethics board on Monday night voted to move forward with the complaint against councilman Khalid Kamau, who in late August attended the Robert E. Knox Jr. Municipal Leadership Institute on Jekyll Island.

Kamau said he left early from the four-day training seminar after Gov. Brian Kemp issued a state of emergency — not an evacuation — in Glynn and several other counties as Hurricane Dorian approached.

The ethics complaint is yet another example of the squabbling that the South Fulton City Council has exhibited since the city incorporated in May 2017. Initiated by Khalid, he and three other council members during the holidays unsuccessfully tried to remove Willis and Mayor Bill Edwards from office for their roles in a development deal.

Residents and leaders of the young city keep saying they want to move forward from the drama, but Willis spoke against Kamau at the ethics board hearing. The ethics board also considered — but ultimately dismissed — a complaint by Wise against council member Naeema Gilyard for allegedly misusing taxpayer dollars on a purchase at Victoria Secret that ended up being for a school drive.

12
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 12, 2020

Liberty Belle Dirt Road Doggies

Liberty Belle is a female Border Collie and English Setter mix  puppy who is available for adoption from Dirt Road Doggies Rescue, INC in Gillsville, GA.

Liberty Belle has a big personality; sweet, but strong-willed and independent. She is super-smart! She can be feisty and can hold her own with the big dogs. She is loving and affectionate. She loves to play with toys and lay in the sunshine. She is a beautiful girl with a wonderful temperament, and is athletic, agile, and fast as lightening. She is up to date on age appropriate vaccinations and will be scheduled for spaying and microchip at Rescue’s Vet, which will be covered in the adoption fees.

Liberty Belle would make a wonderful, new addition your family!

Queso Dirt Road Doggies

Queso is a female Lhasa Apso and Terrier mix who is available for adoption from Dirt Road Doggies Rescue, INC in Gillsville, GA.

Chips Dirt Road Doggies

Chips is a male Lhasa Apso and Terrier mix who is available for adoption from Dirt Road Doggies Rescue, INC in Gillsville, GA.

12
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 12, 2020

Today is Georgia Day, celebrating the founding of the Thirteenth Colony on February 12, 1733.

After years of planning and two months crossing the Atlantic, James Oglethorpe and 114 colonists climbed 40 feet up the bluff from the Savannah River on this day in 1733 and founded the colony of Georgia.

George II granted the Georgia trustees a charter for the colony a year earlier. The trustees’ motto was Non Sibi Sed Allis—not for self but for others. Georgia would be a philanthropic and military enterprise that would provide the “worthy” poor a new start and serve as a buffer between Spanish Florida and the English colonies.

The trustees prohibited slavery and large landholdings….

Congress enacted the first fugitive slave law, on February 12, 1793 requiring states to return runaway slaves to their owners, even if the state in which the slave was captured did not permit slavery.

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky.

On February 12, 1867, the editor of the Milledgeville Federal Union expressed dismay at the rapidity with which Atlanta was growing and basically everything about Atlanta.

“Atlanta is certainly a fast place in every sense of the word, and our friends in Atlanta are a fast people. They live fast and they die fast. They make money fast and they spend it fast. They build houses fast, and they burn them down fast… . They have the largest public buildings, and the most of them, and they pass the most resolutions of any people, ancient or modern. To a stranger the whole city seems to be running on wheels, and all of the inhabitants continually blowing off steam.”

On February 12, 1999, the United States Senate voted 55-45 against convicting impeached President Bill Clinton on a charge of perjury. Senator Paul Coverdell voted guilty and Senator Max Cleland voted not guilty. On the second charge of obstructing justice, Coverdell and 49 other Republicans voted guilty and Cleland joined 49 other senators in voting not guilty. A two-thirds vote of the Senate is required to convict a President, so Clinton was acquitted on both counts.

Five years ago, on February 12, 2014, most of Georgia state government was closed by Executive Order because of an ice storm.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia is monitoring about 200 residents for possible coronavirus infection, according to Georgia Health News.

Dozens of people in Georgia who have recently traveled to China are ‘‘self-monitoring’’ for possible symptoms of the novel coronavirus, Public Health officials said Tuesday.

None so far has emerged with symptoms or has warranted being quarantined, said Cherie Drenzek, the state epidemiologist.

“A handful’’ of people in Georgia have been suspected of having the coronavirus, but tested negative for it, Drenzek told reporters after a meeting of the board of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

She said about 200 people are checking whether they have fever or respiratory problems associated with the virus, which has led to more than 1,000 deaths, all but two of which were in mainland China. This self-monitoring period lasts 14 days.

The ‘‘self-monitoring’’ patients are airline passengers who arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and were determined to have recently traveled to China. Such people were given instructions at the airport on how to check for fever and other symptoms once they returned to their homes, Drenzek said.

From the AJC:

Thirteen cases have been confirmed in the United States, none in Georgia.

However, Reuters reported Tuesday that an Atlanta couple, identified as Renee and Clyde Smith, tested positive for the coronavirus and are hospitalized in Japan. The Smith were passengers — along with at least two family members — aboard a cruise ship that has been tied up at the quay in Yokohama south of Tokyo for nearly a week, the news service reported.

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Governor Brian Kemp is addressing foster care in a legislative package, according to the AJC.

A trio of bills were filed in the House last week that begin to shape Kemp’s plans for the changes he believes need to be made to improve the state’s foster care program.

“As a pro-life governor, I am proud of our efforts to protect the unborn,” Kemp said in a statement. “Now, we must champion the most vulnerable among us when they leave the delivery room.”

Three bills in a package of legislation have been filed so far.

House Bill 912 would allow foster parents to leave children in their care with a babysitter for up to three days without having to get approval through the state Division of Family and Children Services. Current law limits that time to two days.

House Bill 913 would drop the age requirement for potential adoptive parents from 25 to 21. A third bill, House Bill 911, would make it illegal for a foster parent to engage in a sexual activity with those in their care, closing a loophole the legislation’s sponsor said exists once a child in foster care turns 16 — Georgia’s legal age of consent.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke at the dedication of the Nathan Deal Judicial Center yesterday, according to WABE.

He spoke Tuesday at the dedication of Georgia’s new Nathan Deal Judicial Center. It’s the first building in Georgia designed entirely for the judiciary. He called the six-story concrete and granite building “magnificent” but said it will ultimately be defined by what’s done within it.

“Let that work in this judicial center be worthy of the hope and trust that has been placed in us as judges, as jurists and as members of the judiciary,” Thomas said.

The $131 million building near the state Capital, is named in honor of former Gov. Nathan Deal, who oversaw criminal justice reform in his eight years leading the state.

“Buildings signify things,” Deal said. “They are representations of the values that we, as a people, place on certain elements of our lives. This building, hopefully, will be regarded as a symbol that Georgia is a state that believes in part of its motto being ‘justice’.”

The building is the new home to Georgia’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. More than $7 million was approved by the General Assembly in 2014 to design the building. Ground was broken in August 2017.

From the AJC:

Judges must adhere to the rule of law and not substitute their own racial, religious or partisan preferences to achieve a desired result, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Tuesday.

“Our decisions should not be driven by a desire to be revered or lionized for reaching certain outcomes,” he said. “We are not mass media icons. We are judges, nothing more and nothing less.”

Gov. Brian Kemp said the building was appropriately named for his predecessor, noting that Deal’s criminal justice reform initiatives made Georgia a national leader. “It set a standard across our country,” Kemp said.

Inmates from Ware State Prison built desks, tables and filing cabinets for the new center. Hancock State Prison inmates reupholstered and embroidered the chairs used by the nine justices in the Supreme Court of Georgia courtroom.

On Monday evening, state Justices Charles Bethel and Michael Boggs presented Thomas with another item built by Ware State inmates: a gavel made with wood from Thomas’s hometown of Pinpoint, Ga.

“I can’t tell you how touched I was,” Thomas said.

From the Gainesville Times:

“It is the rule of law that holds our nation together. It is, indeed, what holds our state together through difficult times,” Deal said. “And even though we have had tough times in our state, and I’m sure we will have others in the future, it is that rule of law and appreciation and reverence for it that keeps us as a free people in a republic.”

The United States Senate confirmed U.S. District Judge Andrew Brasher to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals serving Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, according to the AJC.

Tuesday afternoon’s 52-43 vote fell strictly along party lines.

President Donald Trump has now appointed a majority of judges serving on the 11th Circuit panel.

The Democratic Party of Georgia also criticized Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler for voting with Republicans to confirm Brasher.

Dave Williams of Capitol Beat News Service reports on state revenue improving in January.

Georgia tax collections were up 4.5% last month compared to January of last year, welcome news for state lawmakers trying to come to grips with budget cuts ordered by Gov. Brian Kemp.

The state Department of Revenue brought in nearly $2.36 billion in taxes in January, an increase of $100.8 million over the same month in 2019.

Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) announced that the Port of Savannah will receive a $34.6 million dollar grant, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The grant will be used to straighten and realign Berth 1, one of the oldest areas of the port, to increase efficiency.

“That is really good news because this will modernize all the berths, including Berth 1, so they can handle larger ships and it will include not only realigning and straightening it, but also deepening it to 47 feet where it can accommodate the bigger ships now,” said Carter, who worked with the Department of Transportation to secure the federal funding, including sending an official request letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

“On behalf of the Georgia Ports Authority, I would like to extend our appreciation to our delegation in Washington, especially U.S. Sen. David Perdue and Congressman Buddy Carter who worked diligently to help bring this about,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch.

“This is another example of the federal government recognizing the Port of Savannah as a gateway port and the critical nature of what we do to support growth throughout the Southeast and the nation.”

Georgia will no longer require special testing of new residents from Puerto Rico who apply for Georgia drivers licenses, according to the New York Times.

The state of Georgia on Monday agreed to remove an extra layer of requirements for Puerto Ricans to transfer their driver’s licenses to the state as part of a settlement in a federal class-action discrimination lawsuit.

The Georgia Department of Driver Services said it had eliminated the knowledge and road test component of the application process for those who moved to the state from five United States territories.

People from Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands will now be treated the same as license holders from other states who become Georgia residents, the state said.

Kelly Farr, director of the Governor’s Office of Budget and Planning apologized to legislators for opacity on proposed budget cuts, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“First off, I’d like to start off with an apology,” Farr said. “The last time I was up here, I didn’t meet the expectations of what y’all thought I was going to talk about it.”

House Speaker David Ralston called a timeout in the session, with the Blue Ridge Republican setting aside this week for House budget writers to come to conclusions on amending the current year’s spending plan. The Republican Kemp ordered more than $200 million in reductions in the $27 billion-plus budget that runs through June 30. Most education and Medicaid spending is shielded from cuts. The House is likely to vote on the amended spending plan next week, before moving on to writing budget for the year beginning July 1.

“I cannot tell you how much I am encouraged by this dialogue,” House Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Clay Pirkle, an Ashburn Republican, told Farr. “It’s much better than a monologue.”

State budget cuts could affect analysis of a backlog of rape kits, according to the Center Square.

Georgia lawmakers are concerned that proposed cuts to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s budget could increase a sexual assault kit backlog.

The agency receives more than 200 sexual assault kits a month, but, with the lab’s staff, is only able to work on about 100, GBI Director Vic Reynolds said. If the pattern continues, the state could have a backlog of close to 2,000 cases by the end of the year.

Reynolds said he plans to address the issue by outsourcing drug cases and DNA tests for less serious crimes to private labs. GBI currently pays a private lab $160 per case, but the bureau currently leans on limited federal money to outsource the work.

“The lab that we are contracted with right now told me last week, ‘We can do a 1,000 a month,’ ” he said.

Reynolds told lawmakers he would have to find additional funds for more outsourcing.

Some boaters are complaining that new regulations on anchoring are too restrictive, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The new rules restrict overnight anchoring along the coast within 1,000 feet of a structure, including public and private docks, piers, and more. Some boaters say they have a right to access public waters and the new regulation is curtailing that right.

“It takes away a freedom,” said James Newsome, an Augusta resident who helped found the Facebook group “Save Georgia’s Anchorages.”

That line drawn 1,000 feet from a structure encompasses about 36 acres in a semicircle around a dock, an area bigger than 25 football fields.

To counter the backlash, State Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, is sponsoring House Bill 833. It cranks down on the size of the restricted area.

“The department is authorized to establish anchorage restriction areas within the estuarine areas of this state as well as areas where anchoring is not allowed in any location that lies within 150 feet of marine structures and 150 feet of approved commercial shellfish growing areas and designated public harvest areas as determined by the department,” HB 833 currently reads.

“They’re taking public water and turning it private,” Stephens said.

Twin bills to address “surprise billing” are moving through the legislature, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Republican lawmakers in the Georgia House and Senate have filed identical legislation that would remove Georgia hospital patients from the billing equation, leaving it to medical providers and insurance companies to work out their cost differences.

The legislation still faces pushback on how costs would be worked out between insurers and medical providers, but representatives from both sides agreed at a Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing this week that the finish line is close after years of debate over the issue.

Dubbed “surprise” or “balance” billing, the extra hospital charges result from specialty procedures like anesthesiology or emergency-room surgery completed by out-of-network specialists. They can add hundreds or thousands of dollars to a patient’s final bill without their knowing in advance.

State lawmakers have tried for the past five years to tamp down surprise billing, said Rep. Lee Hawkins, sponsor of the House legislation.

Gov. Brian Kemp has thrown his support behind the bills, calling them “compromise legislation” worthy of passage.

“While there is more work to do,” Kemp said in a statement, “I am committed to working with the General Assembly, patients, providers and insurance carriers to pass this legislation and put patients first.”

The Glynn County Board of Elections is working to prepare for use of new voting systems, according to The Brunswick News.

The board has received all but 20 of its 255 touchscreen machines and printers from the state. The new machines include a printed paper ballot component, a scanner and a ballot box.

Once ballots are cast on the touchscreen device, voters can review their choices before running them through a scanner, which will deposit them into an attached ballot box.

[Chris Channell, supervisor of Glynn County Elections and Registration], advised the board that the elections office will likely exceed its budget for poll workers. The state has not issued a set number of workers per polling place, but Channell noted that a number of counties that piloted the machines during the 2019 municipal elections recommend doubling precinct staff.

The county’s budgeting process will make it a little easier, Channell explained. The March presidential preference primary and May general primary will take place during the 2019-2020 fiscal year while the November general election will occur during the county’s 2020-2021 fiscal year.

The two primaries will give the elections office a good idea of how much it will need to spend on future elections, he said.

Gwinnett County Board of Education member Carole Boyce will run as a Republican for reelection, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath (D-TN GA6) is supporting Mike Bloomberg for President, according to the AJC.

Former Arkansas Govenor Mike Huckabee has endorsed Rep. Doug Collins for United States Senate, according to the AJC.

Huckabee, who as a presidential candidate won Georgia’s 2008 primary, said he’s impressed by the four-term congressman’s “against all odds” fight against President Donald Trump’s impeachment in the Democratic-led U.S. House.

“He unflinchingly has stood up to the Trump-hating Democrats in the House and the Trump-hating media,” he said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Doug didn’t become pro-life to be elected. His commitment to the worth and dignity of every human life is not a political calculation, but a deep spiritual conviction. His ability to articulate a heartfelt conservative position with uncanny clarity impressed me from the first time I heard him speak.”

“It’s not just that he says the right things. Doug Collins does the right things because he truly believes in the right things,” said Huckabee, who added he has “nothing against” Loeffler but that he saw the congressman as someone who has “led the charge” in Washington for conservative values.

Banks County is now a Second Amendment sanctuary, according to AccessWDUN.

Commission Chairman Jimmy Hooper said social media had taken a lot of issue with the word “sanctuary” over the past week.

“We’re not going to be a sanctuary county for aliens,” Hooper told the audience. “We’re not going to be a sanctuary county for immigrants. We’re not going to be a sanctuary county for drug dealers.”

Instead, Hooper said the resolution adopted shows the county government is united in its stance that it will uphold the U.S. Constitution.

“Part of the Constitution of the United States of America is the Second Amendment, which assures us and guarantees us the ability to bear arms,” Hooper said. “We’re going to say as a group that we would never do anything that would take away anyone’s rights to the Second Amendment.

On Jan. 13, Habersham County became the first in Georgia to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary County.

Since that time, Stephens County, Rabun County, Franklin County and several others have adopted a resolution declaring themselves as a Second Amendment Sanctuary County.

Barrow County also voted Tuesday to join the ranks as a Second Amendment County.

The Stonecrest City Council seeks to boot a member for unexcused absences, according to the AJC.

During an hour-long special called meeting Monday afternoon, elected officials and city staff in Stonecrest debated whether Councilwoman Jazzmin Cobble’s two absences last year mean she should be removed from the council. But due to several ambiguities in the city’s laws, the city plans to ask a judge to make a ruling on the status of Cobble’s position.

Cobble did not attend council meetings on Sept. 23 and Oct. 14, the city said in a statement after Monday’s meeting. Officials said that may have violated the city charter, which states that a seat becomes vacant if a council member fails “to attend one-third of the regular meetings of the council in a three-month period without being excused by the council.” Stonecrest holds council meetings about once every two weeks, meaning about six every three months.

The city plans to ask a Superior Court judge to decide whether Cobble must vacate her seat.

11
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 11, 2020

Logan Cedartown

Logan is a young male Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from Cedartown Animal Rescue, Education & Sterilization in Cedartown, GA.

At 5 months old (DOB: 9/18/19). Logan is now 39 pounds. He has a gorgeous white coat, walks well on a leash and is crate trained. He is playful, adores toys and enjoys playing in a fenced yard. Logan is a sweet boy and gets along well with other dogs and would be fine with cats when introduced as a puppy.

Dakota Cedartown

Dakota is a young female Australian Shepherd and Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from Cedartown Animal Rescue, Education & Sterilization in Cedartown, GA.

Dakota is now 3 months old (DOB 11/13/19) and weighs 20 pounds. Out of a litter of 4, Dakota is not only the runt but she is the only female in the litter. She is friendly, enjoys toys and does well in a fenced yard for play time. Dakota seems to love everyone she meets, gets along well with all the other dogs and should be fine with cats when introduced as a puppy. This little girl is fat, healthy and super people friendly!

Bailee Cedartown

Bailee is a young female Plott Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from Cedartown Animal Rescue, Education & Sterilization in Cedartown, GA.

At 4 months old (DOB: 10/11/19), Bailee is now 34 pounds. She has a gorgeous brindle coat, walks well on a leash and is crate trained. She is playful, adores toys and enjoys playing in a fenced yard.

11
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 11, 2020

On February 11, 1733, the first military formation in Georgia was held, as male colonists assembled with their muskets.

On February 11, 1776, Georgia Royal Governor Sir James Wright escaped from house arrest in Savannah to a waiting British warship HMS Scarborough.

Burt Reynolds was born on February 11, 1936 in Lansing, Michigan, though some accounts say Waycross, Georgia. Beginning with Deliverance, filmed along the Chattooga River in North Georgia in 1972, Georgia rose to number three in the nation for film production while Reynolds’s star rose to prominence. Other Reynolds movies filmed in Georgia include The Longest Yard, Gator, Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run, and Sharky’s Machine.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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Governor Brian Kemp announced that Georgia set a new record for annual exports, according to CBS46.

According to a press release from Governor Kemp, the state of Georgia tallied $41.2 billion in exports and $143.3 billion in overall international trade.

The previous record was set in 2018.

“This exciting news for Georgia exports affirms what we know to be true: you can truly make anything and send it anywhere in the world from right here in Georgia,” said Governor Kemp.

The top five customers for Georgia products were Canada, Mexico, China, and Singapore, the governor’s office wrote.

Ten percent of Georgia’s exports – more than $4.2 billion – came from Georgia’s agriculture industry. Poultry, cotton, and peanuts remain top sellers.

U.S. District Judge Eleanor L. Ross rebuffed Georgia’s motion for summary judgment on a voting lawsuit, according to 11Alive.

According to the suit, Kemp, in his role as secretary of state, was accused of using a racially-biased methodology for removing as many as 700,000 legitimate voters from the state’s voter rolls during a period between 2016 and 2018.

The suit claimed that the secretary of state’s office had not sent notice of the removal to the individual voters involved.

In this week’s ruling, federal District Judge Eleanor L. Ross said that the defendant, Kemp, “appears to contend that despite the language and express agreement outlined in the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), Georgia’s SOS did not utilize the information generated by such lists to prompt any review of its voter registrants.”

Judge Ross went on to say that Kemp argues “that the Crosscheck lists requested by the Plaintiffs have no bearing on the ‘implementation of programs and activities’ affecting Georgia’s voter rolls, and Georgia is under no obligation to maintain them. As such, Defendant maintains that he is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law because the plain meaning of the language in the NVRA (National Voter Registration Act of 1993) does not encompass the Crosscheck lists (because the Georgia SOS never fully utilized them).”

“The Court disagrees,” Ross said in her summary, “finding sufficient evidence in the record that would cast a genuine dispute as to the material facts on this issue.”

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will speak in Atlanta today, according to the AJC.

“We are extremely honored and excited that Justice Thomas will make the trip to his native Georgia to celebrate with us the opening of our new judicial center,” Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton said in a statement.

Gov. Brian Kemp, former Gov. Nathan Deal, State Attorney General Christopher Carr and other federal, state and local officials are expected to attend the dedication. The new building houses the Supreme Court of Georgia and the Court of Appeals of Georgia. The state’s new Business Court also will be located there.

President Trump allocated $93.6 million for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is set to remain on track after the Trump Administration requested $93.6 million to fully fund the project in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which was released Monday, Feb. 10.

This is the fourth year in a row SHEP will receive full federal funding from the Trump administration, pending Congressional passage of the annual appropriations bill.

Rep. Buddy Carter said when he took office five years ago, SHEP was the top priority and he was proud that the project would receive full funding again this year.

“That just goes to show you that this president understands the importance of infrastructure and the importance of a project like this that has a benefit to cost ratio of 7.3 to 1, one of the highest benefit to cost ratios in the country of any project in the county,” Carter said.

“Arguably, this is the most significant economic development project in the southeast since the interstate system.”

From the AJC:

Georgia U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, whose district includes Savannah, praised Trump for setting aside enough money to keep the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project on schedule.

“President Trump continues to make Georgia’s infrastructure projects a top priority by requesting full funding for SHEP for the fourth consecutive year,” Perdue said in a statement. “Finally, after 20 years of attempts to deepen the port five feet to accommodate the larger Post Panamax ships, the Trump Administration has SHEP on track for completion.”

State tax revenues were up in January, according to News4Jax.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday that tax collections rose 4.5% in January compared to the same month in 2019. Overall tax collections for the budget year, which began July 1, are now up $133 million, or nearly 1%.

That still leaves the state on pace to be far short of the $800 million in new revenue that Kemp and lawmakers projected for this year when they passed the budget last spring. But it’s a little good news as House members this week grind through the painful process of ratifying cuts that Kemp imposed earlier on state agencies. It could also brighten the picture for next year’s budget, which lawmakers will write in the next few months.

Kemp was already projecting a revenue upswing, foreseeing growth of $410 million this year, but it would take a sharper recovery to substantially ease cuts. House members are poring through changes to this year’s budget this week and are expected to pass an amended spending plan as early as next week. But they have little room to maneuver with Kemp having already ordered agencies to hold down spending.

Democratic candidates for President are beginning to announce Georgia endorsements. Elizabeth Warren announced a trio of suburban Atlanta school board members and Mike Bloomberg announced an Atlanta City Council member’s endorsement.

Democrat Teresa Tomlinson says United States Senator David Perdue (R-Sea Island) is vulnerable in November, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Increasing federal budget deficits — despite Perdue’s campaigning on the need to balance the budget — and the effect President Donald Trump’s trade policies have on Georgia farmers are reasons she suggested for that vulnerability.

When she spoke to local Democrats at Luetta Moore Park in Statesboro Feb. 4, Tomlinson asserted that Georgia isn’t “a really red state,” meaning as solidly Republican as some other states. She observed that Democrats have been rebuilding here, beginning with the 2014 elections.

“In 2016, Donald Trump won the state of Georgia with 50.4% of the vote,” Tomlinson said. “That man almost lost the majority vote in Georgia.”

Then, in 2018, Republican Brian Kemp was elected governor by a slightly narrower margin over Stacey Abrams. Tomlinson called Abrams “a loud and proud Democrat like me.”

Former Atlanta City Council member Alex Wan has $48,000 on hand in his campaign for State House District 57, according to Patch.com.

State Rep. Matt Gurtler has not yet announced whether he’ll run for reelection or for another seat, according to Fetch Your News.

Hall County State Court Judge John Breakfield announced he will run for reelection, according to the Gainesville Times.

State Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) announced on Facebook that he will not run for reelection.

Jason Anavitarte announced he will run for the State Senate District 31 seat being vacated by Sen. Bill Heath.

Tricia Hise annnounced she is running for the State Senate District 50 seat being vacated by Sen. John Wilkinson, according to NowHabersham.

Whitfield County Commissioners affirmed their “deep commitment” to protecting the Second Amendment, but declined to declare the county a Second Amendment sanctuary, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Members of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution Monday night declaring their “deep commitment to protecting Whitfield County citizens’ Second Amendment rights.”

But the resolution didn’t name Whitfield County a Second Amendment sanctuary.

Rather, commissioners voted 4-0 to approve a resolution saying that Whitfield County will “stand as a constitutional rights protection county for Second Amendment rights by opposing any efforts, by any entity, to restrict those rights. Opposition may include any lawful means available under the U.S. Constitution and the laws of Georgia, including taking or joining legal action.” Board Chairman Lynn Laughter typically votes only in the event of a tie.

Twin Pines Minerals withdrew an application to mine near the Okefenokee Swamp, according to The Brunswick News.

The company filed notice with the Army Corps of Engineers, saying it will reduce the size of the permit area before resubmitting its application.

It is not unusual for a company to withdraw an application to modify plans, Corps officials said.

10
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 10, 2020

PAWS Humane in Columbus, GA is offering discounted dog and cat adoptions for Valentine’s Day, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Paws Humane Society, the shelter that takes dogs and cats from Columbus Animal Care & Control and markets them for adoption, is offering a $14 adoption special this Friday and Saturday, for Valentine’s Day.

But you don’t have to wait that long if you’re a big spender, because both Paws and Animal Control were full last week, and had to hand animals off to foster care to deal with the overflow.

It was a challenge, but so far the city animal control service has not euthanized a dog or cat for more than a year, despite reaching capacity.

“Right now we want to help out animal control as much as we can,” she said, adding Paws pulled seven dogs from animal control Friday and sent them straight to foster care.

The two-day Paws Valentine’s Day adoption special runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the 4900 Milgen Road shelter, next to the animal control center. It’s online at www.pawshumane.org.

The special applies to all dogs and cats at least six months old. Right now the shelter has around 120 animals in its care, including those in foster homes. Last week it had more dogs than cats, with 10 to 15 felines available.

The special price is a bargain, as adoption fees usually run around $75. But that’s not bad, either, for a pet that has been spayed or neutered and fully vaccinated. Rendering a pet unable to reproduce can run around $150 at a veterinarian’s office, if not more, Yenter said.

Panda PAWS Humane

Panda is a young female mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from PAWS Humane in Columbus, GA.

Carolina PAWS Humane

Carolina is a young 34-pound female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from PAWS Humane in Columbus, GA.

Holly PAWS Humane

Holly is a 22-pound female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from PAWS Humane in Columbus, GA.

10
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 10, 2020

On February 10, 1787, the Georgia House of Assembly named William Few, Abraham Baldwin, William Pierce, George Walton, William Houstoun, and Nathaniel Pendleton to the Constitutional Convention called to revise the Articles of Confederation at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

On February 10, 1861, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi received word that he was chosen as President of the Confederate States of America.

On February 10, 1972, David Bowie made his first appearance as Ziggy Stardust.

On February 10, 2015, on the anniversary of the United States House of Representatives passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation proclaiming February as Black History Month.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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Governor and First Lady Kemp attended a function at the White House last night, according to his tweets.

Brian Kemp Tweet 02092020

Governor Kemp may have a choice before him after Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney (Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County) announced his resignation effective February 29, according to Patch.com.

District Attorney Ken Mauldin’s announcement last week that he would resign on Feb. 29 rather than retire at the end of his current term in December has scrambled plans for the election of a successor and given Gov. Brian Kemp control over the outcome.

Before that announcement, Deborah Gonzalez and Brian Patterson were contending for the Democratic nomination for district attorney in the May 19 Democratic primary. No one has declared for the Republican Party nomination.

If Kemp makes that appointment by May 3, the state would hold a special election on Nov. 3 to replace Mauldin.

The special election would be without a primary, and Gonzalez, Patterson and any other candidate could run against each other, using the party label she or he chooses.

If Kemp makes the appointment after May 3, the November election would be bypassed, and the district attorney appointed by Kemp would remain in office until an election in November of 2022, when Kemp also is likely to be on the ballot.

If Kemp does not make the appointment by Feb. 29, when Mauldin steps down, Patterson, who currently serves as chief assistant district attorney, would take over the duties of district attorney, according to state law, “u`ntil such official’s successor is appointed or elected and qualified.”

From the Red & Black:

“It was my intent to serve out the remainder of my term, which runs through the end of this year. However, at that time I did not realize the strong pull I would feel to look ahead past my time as District Attorney,” Mauldin said in a Feb. 5 press release. “In the last few months, particularly, I have come to understand that it’s time for this part of my life and career to come to an end and a new chapter to begin.”

In his resignation letter to Gov. Brian Kemp, Mauldin urged the governor to “promptly” appoint a successor in light of the upcoming election for the District Attorney’s office this May.

House Bill 911, part of Gov. Kemp’s legislative package, according to Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

House Bill 911, sponsored by Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, would add “improper sexual contact” by a foster parent with a foster child to a section of the state code that deals with sexual misconduct by an employer with an employee.

Foster parents convicted of the most serious form of the offense could face prison sentences of up to 25 years and fines of up to $100,000.

The bill is part of a legislative package Gov. Brian Kemp is pushing this year aimed at making it easier for Georgians to become foster parents. The package also would triple the state tax credit for foster parents from $2,000 to $6,000 and lower the age requirement for unmarried Georgians to become foster parents from 25 to 21.

“This legislation closes a dangerous loophole and prohibits foster parents from engaging in improper sexual behavior with children in their care,” [First Lady Marty Kemp] said in a prepared statement. “Moving forward, we will continue to devote our efforts to protecting the most vulnerable in our state from sexual misconduct.”

Senate Bill 319, hereby dubbed “the dam bill,” would change standards for dams in Georgia, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Senate Bill 319 would allow for homes and other inhabitable structures to be built in a dam’s inundation zone — the area that would be flooded if the dam fails — without causing the dam to be recategorized and required to meet higher safety standards. The structures would have to be built to withstand a breach of the dam and receive certification from an engineer approved by the state Environmental Protection Division’s Safe Dams Program.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican State Sen. Frank Ginn of Danielsville, said it would protect dam owners from having to choose between taking on costly upgrades or removing a dam. The proposal, passed Tuesday by the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, could soon go to the full state Senate for a vote.

Under current Georgia regulations, any dam with a home or other inhabitable structure in its inundation zone is considered a Category I dam, meaning its failure would result in probable loss of human life.

Category I dams must undergo regular inspections and meet certain requirements. A Category II dam is any dam that does not have inhabitable structures in its inundation zone, meaning that failure would likely not result in loss of human life. Category II dams don’t have to meet any regulatory requirements, though they are re-inventoried once every 5 years to ensure that the dam still exists and is still properly classified, according to the state Environmental Protection Division.

The proposal would essentially allow homes and other inhabitable structures meeting certain standards to be built in the inundation zone of a Category II dam without it needing to be reclassified as a Category I dam.

Gov. Kemp’s proposal to reduce standardized testing is being supported by some local officials, according to the Forsyth County News.

When Gov. Brian Kemp and state Superintendent Richard Woods announced a plan Tuesday to cut five mandatory standardized tests for Georgia public school students, it was a welcome message to Lee Ann Rice [Forsyth County Schools’ director of assessment and accountability].

“I think anything that reduces the stress and anxiety that our students, teachers and families are feeling is a very positive thing,” Rice said.

Kemp and Woods said their plan was aimed at addressing just that, and it would do so by cutting the length of state tests and evaluating local tests that Georgia’s 181 school districts give to measure student progress.

“When you look at the big picture, it’s clear Georgia simply tests too much,” Kemp said at a Tuesday news conference. “On test days it’s making students physically sick because they’re worried they will not do well. That is simply unacceptable in our state.”

Rep. Doug Collins is attacking Sen. Kelly Loeffler in online ads, according to The Hill.

In a 30-second ad posted on Twitter, Collins’s campaign hits Loeffler for donating “nearly $1 million” to Romney when he was a presidential candidate while contributing “NOTHING” to President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

“Loeffler’s big money talks: but it was silent for Donald Trump,” Collins wrote in a tweet accompanying the video.

A spokesman for Loeffler’s campaign pushed back on Collins’s ad, saying, “Desperate, baseless attacks will not distract Senator Loeffler from supporting President Trump’s agenda and fighting for Georgians.”

State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) released a list of endorsements in her campaign for the 7th Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Rob Woodall, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, recently announced she has received endorsements in the 7th Congressional District race from several high-ranking Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and local Republican heavyweights, such as Sheriff Butch Conway and County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash.

One key takeaway from the list of endorsements, however, is that she has also been endorsed in the race by 13 of Gwinnett’s 16 mayors.

The mayoral endorsements include: Auburn Mayor Linda Blechinger; Braselton Mayor Bill Orr; Buford City Commission Chairman Phillip Beard (City Commission chairman is Buford’s equivalent of a mayor); Dacula Mayor Trey King; Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris; Grayson Mayor Allison Wilkerson; soon-to-be-former Lilburn Mayor Johnny Crist (who is stepping down March 1 to run for a state House seat); Loganville Mayor Rey Martinez; Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason; Rest Haven Mayor Kenneth Waycaster; Snellville Mayor Barbara Bender; Sugar Hill Mayor Steve Edwards; and Suwanee Mayor Jimmy Burnette.

Other endorsements came from Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter; state Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville; and Forsyth County Commissioners Molly Cooper and Cindy Jones-Mills.

Gov. Kemp’s reelection campaign has more than $5 million in the bank, according to the AJC.

Kemp’s campaign reported raising $4.4 million since June 30, spending relatively little and ending the period in strong financial shape.

If Kemp winds up facing Democrat Stacey Abrams again in 2022, he will need the money. The 2018 matchup between the two was the most expensive gubernatorial race in Georgia history.

Abrams’ campaign alone reported spending about $27 million, the most by any gubernatorial candidate in state history.

While Kemp raised most of his money from Georgia, Abrams’ campaign developed a nationwide fundraising machine. That trend has continued, with Abrams’ voting rights group Fair Fight having pulled in almost $20 million since her defeat, largely from out-of-state donors.

From the Atlanta Voice:

However, Kemp’s war chest pails in comparison to his rival, Democrat Stacey Abrams. Abrams has raised $1.2 million in January, and the political action committee for Fair Fight Action, the organization Abrams started after losing the 2018 governor’s race, now has almost $12 million in the bank, according to disclosures filed Friday.

Fair Fight Action has raised $20 million since its formation in the wake of Abrams’ close loss to Governor Kemp.

Presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $5 million to Fair Fight Action. The biggest donor in January was Tulsa businesswoman and philanthropist Stacy Schusterman, who gave $500,000.

Elsewhere in the AJC:

The political action committee for Fair Fight, the voting rights group that Democrat Stacey Abrams started after losing the governor’s race in 2018, raised $1.2 million in January, continuing to outpace state political candidates and organizations.

The haul left the group, which advocates for fair elections, with almost $12 million in the bank, according to disclosures filed Friday.

Abrams shifted $1 million from her campaign to the group after ending her bid to contest Kemp’s election.

Almost all of the money from those who contributed $100 or more came from outside of Georgia. Fair Fight has received strong support from out-of-state donors, as did Abrams’ campaign.

The Fair Fight PAC also continued donating to Democratic candidates in Georgia in January, continuing a trend from 2019. The group gave nearly $100,000 to Georgia candidates last month.

Rep. Lucy McBath (D-TN GA-6) raised more than $2 million dollars for her reelection, according to the Rome News Tribune.

McBath has reported just over $2.3 million in contributions for her campaign so far, out-fundraising nearest rival Republican and former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, by over a million dollars.

Handel, whom McBath ousted in 2018 by just under 3,000 votes to take the traditionally Republican seat, has reported just over $1 million in campaign contributions to date.

Fort Benning is a finalist for an Army leadership headquarters, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The post was recently selected as a finalist for the Army’s fourth corps headquarters, which is needed to fulfill requirements of the National Defense Strategy, according to a statement from U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s office.

In a letter to Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, both Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler lobbied for the military branch to select Benning, touting its “unmatched training, support, and command facilities and its ability to quickly activate the new headquarters.”

“Fort Benning is a crown jewel of the Army uniquely qualified to host the new corps headquarters,” the senators wrote. “As the home to the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning provides unmatched training, support and command facilities. It includes 26 million square feet of facilities and 102,000 acres of maneuver training areas capable of supporting all manner of maneuver operations, tactics, and training.”

U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Atlanta) is seeking federal funding for the Savannah Harbor dredging project, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As work continues on the final phase of the the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, Sen. Kelly Loeffler has requested $93.6 million in funding to be included in the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2021 budget.

In a letter to Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney and Acting OMB Director Russell Vought, Loeffler said the requested funding for SHEP, combined with a total investment of $301 million from the state of Georgia and $130.28 million in federal funding from the FY2020 budget, would keep the project on track.

“As one of the largest in the nation, the Port of Savannah plays a crucial role in Georgia’s economy as well as the United States’ overall economy,” said Loeffler. “Maintaining robust funding for this project is imperative to continuing the economic development we have seen as a country throughout the Trump administration. I am grateful to the administration for their contribution to SHEP in 2020, and I look forward to working with the president in making sure this critical project remains a priority not only for Georgia, but for the country.”

Former Sen. Johnny Isakson, whom Loeffler recently replaced following his resignation due to health problems, along with Sen. David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter have all pushed to secure full capability funding to keep SHEP on track in past years.

Three Coastal Georgia counties purged inactive voter registrations, according to the Statesboro Herald.

A 2019 purge of the state’s voter registrations removed thousands of voters from the official rolls in Glynn and Camden counties and several hundred from the rolls in McIntosh County.

In Glynn County, 3,231 registrations, or roughly 5 percent of the county’s total, were deleted, leaving the number of registered voters at 62,346.

Of those subtracted from the list in Glynn County, 1,055 had mail returned as undeliverable, 1,500 made no contact with elections officials and 676 moved out of the state.

In McIntosh County, 312 of the county’s 9,680 registrations were removed from the official rolls, or about 3 percent.

According to the state documents, 122 were canceled due to returned mail, 87 for no contact and 103 because of an address change.

According to documents from the office of Georgia Secretary of State, 34,499 Camden residents were registered to vote as of Feb. 1.

With 2,635 Camden voters removed from the rolls last year, the county saw a 7 percent reduction in total registrations.

Of those, 1,473 were the result of returned mail, 635 for no contact and 527 for change of address.