The blog.

3
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 3, 2019

All adoptions on Fridays in January are free at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

“We have many dogs at Gwinnett Animal Welfare that are perfect workout partners to help you start the year right and achieve your fitness goals,” said Alan Davis, director at Gwinnett Animal Welfare.

“We have dogs of all sizes, ages and energy levels just waiting to find the right running buddy or the perfect human to guide them through a nice walk at a park. We also have some senior dogs and beautiful cats for adoption for those whose goals include a slower pace.”

Shelter officials said the pets have already been vaccinated, neutered and microchipped.

Becky Gwinnett

Becky is an 8-month old female Labrador Retriever puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Manny Gwinnett

Manny is a 4-month old male Labrador Retriever puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Nora Moon Gwinnett

Nora Moon is an 11-month old female Labrador Retriever puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Gwinnett @GaFirstLady

So, follow the First Lady’s advice, and if you’re interested in adopting a pet, consider those available at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

That dog in the lower left hand corner is funny-looking. I wonder what breed it is.

3
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 3, 2019

On January 3, 1766, after passage of the “stamp act,” the Royal Stamp Master arrived at Tybee Island and was taken to the Governor’s Mansion. On that day, Georgia became the first and only colony in which the stamp tax was actually collected.

Delaware, technically at the time a slave state, rejected a proposal to secede from the United States on January 3, 1861.

On January 3, 1973, Andrew Young was sworn in as the first African-American Congressman from Georgia since 1871.

The sarcophagus containing the mummy of King Tatankhamen was discovered on January 3, 1925.

On January 3, 1990, Panamanian General Manuel Antonio Noriega surrendered to American forces in Panama.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Kelly Loeffler will be sworn in on Monday as the junior United States Senator from Georgia. From the AJC:

U.S. Sen. David Perdue will escort Loeffler down the aisle, adhering to the tradition of the senior senator leading his her counterpart down the aisle.

Vice President Mike Pence, in his role as the Senate’s president, will administer the oath of office around 5 p.m. Loeffler will carry a family bible that she will use to swear upon.

Because Senate rules prohibit photography inside the chambers, members always re-enact the ceremony in the Old Senate Chambers. So, any pictures you see of Loeffler taking the oath with her family by her side will be of that re-enactment.

You can watch the swearing in on the C-SPAN website, which has a live feed of all Senate proceedings.

Loeffler visited the Georgia Ports Authority, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia Senator-designate Kelly Loeffler paid a visit to Georgia Ports Authority on Thursday, where she spoke highly of the port expansion project and said she would give a ‘no’ vote during President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing.

Loeffler, who will be sworn in on Jan. 6, got a tour of the facilities, where she said she met with GPA leadership and learned more about the port expansion project.

“I don’t think that there was due process followed in the House proceedings, and so it would be very difficult to understand how that would not be the conclusion,” she said. “So yes, I would support a ‘no’ vote on impeachment.”

She said her experience with running a business helped her understand the workings of the port, and said she was impressed by the local leadership.

“There’s quite a bit of linkage in terms of running a good business and the way this port is being managed financially, operationally. I think it speaks volumes about the ability of this facility to grow and be really a leader in our country,” Loeffler said. “I think that the good management is a huge part of that for sure.”

From WTOC:

The senator-designate came to town to meet Representative Buddy Carter and other area business and city leaders. She has big plans for her new role.

Loeffler will join four committees once she takes office. Her top priorities are to serve veterans, work on healthcare and agriculture.

“The business community coming together to do the right thing for Savannah and for the state and I think that really signals a really strong and healthy dynamic so that we can have good communication,” said Kelly Loeffler, Senator-Designate. “My goal is to be very connected to the state of Georgia to not become a Washington politician. I want to stay very close to the needs here and I can rely on this community to give me that feedback.”

“The governors made an outstanding choice,” said Representative Buddy Carter. “Kelly Loeffler is going to be a great senator her values reflect the values of Georgia citizens and we’re excited about having her. Not only is she a businessperson someone who has signed the front of a paycheck she understands it. She gets it.”

“If she continues down the path that Senator Isakson and Senator Purdue have been on which is supporting business, supporting development and industry that will be great and that’s what we’re looking for,” said Griff Lynch, Executive Director of the Georgia Port Authority.

From 11Alive:

Since the public announcement of her appointment in December nearly a month ago, the businesswoman’s rollout as the state’s newest US Senator has been very closely guarded.

She has quietly traveled the state, documenting on social media her visits with friendly gatherings in Augusta, in the south Georgia town of Homerville, and this week in Carrollton – mostly sidestepping her hometown of Atlanta and much of its media scrutiny.

Governor Brian Kemp appointed James Prine to a seat on the Superior Court for the Southern Judicial Circuit, which serves Brooks, Colquitt, Echols, Lowndes, and Thomas Counties. From the Press Release:

Prine will replace the Honorable Harry Jay Altman II following Altman’s retirement.

“Given Jim’s extensive background with the Southern Judicial Circuit, I am confident that he is the right man for this job,” stated Governor Kemp. “As a judge, he will prioritize the business of the court and uphold justice, fairness, and proper decorum.”

James L. Prine earned his bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University and law degree from the Georgia State University College of Law. Since 2002, Prine has served as the Senior Assistant District Attorney of the Southern Judicial Court. He is active with the Thomasville Kiwanis Club, and he is a member of the South Georgia Intelligence Network Law Enforcement Group and Thomas County Bar Association. Prine earned the Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller Recognition for Outstanding Record in the Prosecution of Offenders in 2006, and he was named the Georgia State Arson Control Board Prosecutor of the Year in 2014. He and his family reside in Thomasville.

Governor Kemp announced the kickoff of the state’s effort to encourage compliance with this year’s census, according to GPB News.

The aim of “Every. One. Counts” is to encourage all Georgia residents to respond to the questionnaire.

The campaign is lead by the state’s complete count committee, a group of politicians, civic leaders and nonprofit partners from across the state. The committee is working with the U.S. Census Bureau and local partners in Georgia to get the word out and secure strong participation in the 2020 census.

“This campaign will work closely with census-focused organizations at the state, local, and federal levels to ensure Georgia is best prepared for the next decade,” Kemp said in his announcement.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger‘s office has more information on the Special Election for Senate District 13, which was vacated by the death of Senator Greg Kirk.

The special election will be Feb. 4 for the district, which includes parts of Crisp, Dodge, Dooly, Lee, Sumter, Tift, Worth, Turner, and Wilcox counties. A run-off, if needed, will be March 3.

Qualifying for the special election will be in the Elections Division of the Office of Secretary of State in Atlanta on Jan. 2 and 3 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Jan. 6 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The qualifying fee is $400.

Jan. 9 is the last day to register to vote in the special election.

From Georgia Recorder:

As of early Thursday afternoon, one person had qualified. Carden Summers, a Cordele Republican who ran for the seat in 2004, is the lone candidate so far. Qualifying ends at 1 p.m. Monday. The victor must immediately campaign for reelection later this year.

Former State Rep. Tom Buck (D-Columbus) has died, according to WRBL.

Buck served 38 years in the Georgia General Assembly, exiting in 2004. He was a hardcore Georgia Democrat when Democrats controlled the state. Buck worked his way into powerful committee chairmanships under longtime Speaker Tom Murphy.

Buck graduated from Columbus High School in 1955. And attended Emory University for his undergraduate degree and Emory Law School, graduating in 1962.

Buck first won election to the House in 1966, Buck was first elected to the statehouse in 1966 when he was persuaded to run for a seat held by Jack Brinkley, who ran successfully for Congress.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp called it a loss for the state. He was coming into the General Assembly as Buck was getting ready to leave at the turn of the century.

“Tom Buck treated me so well my first year up here,” Kemp said Thursday in his Capitol office. “A lot of people don’t realize this but he was good friends with my wife’s dad, Bob Argo. They served together for a long time in the House. We have sort of a family connection there. He was a great friend, a great colleague that I had the opportunity to serve with.”

Kemp said he got to spend some time with him back in the early 2000s.

“He’s just a great Georgian,” the governor said. “And served that area very, very well. Good Man.”

Current Georgia House Speaker David Ralston echoed those sentiments.

“Tom Buck was truly one of the finest leaders to serve in the Georgia House of Representatives,” Ralston said in a statement. “His knowledge of state government, particularly the budget, was unrivaled. He brought a strong appreciation of our state’s history to his work. I will always consider his integrity, honesty, and love of public service to a model of legislative leadership.”

From the Ledger-Enquirer:

“Tom Buck was a wonderful person,” state Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, told the Ledger-Enquirer. “I considered him a friend. His contributions are widely spread all over Columbus. He had a significant amount of influence in the legislature.”

As chairman of the Georgia House Ways and Means Committee, Buck played a part in funding major public facilities that have contributed to the growth of Columbus, such as the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, the Columbus Convention & Trade Center and the Columbus Civic Center, Smyre said.

The civic center’s funding through a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax was possible because Buck helped change the law that allows such revenue to be used for capital projects, state Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City, told the L-E.

Sales tax on cars will be charged at a lower rate this year, according to Georgia Recorder.

The car sales tax rate has been reduced from 7 percent to 6.6 percent because of the passing of Senate Bill 65, which became law on Jan. 1.

The bill sponsored by Sen.Tyler Harper, R–Ocilla, also changes how tax value is determined for used vehicles.

Used cars will be taxed based on their sales price instead of their fair market value, as in previous years.

Cars sold through used-car dealers who finance the sale are exempted from the rule.

State Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) said a tax on vaping supplies might come before the legislature this year, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said during the Rome City Commission’s annual Hometown Connection Delegation Breakfast that they should expect to see legislation this year for a 5-cent-per-fluid-milliliter excise tax on consumable vapor products containing nicotine.

“I talked a lot about this a year ago,” Hufstetler said, adding that he also supports raising the minimum age to buy tobacco and vaping products to 21. “(The vaping industry) is creating instant addicts out of our college and high school kids.”

[Georgia Municipal Association] Charlotte Davis said that in addition to the tax, the GMA would like to see Rome and other cities expand the prohibition of smoking into outdoor facilities such as public parks.

“About 36 cities have set local ordinances trying to regulate vaping products similarly to how they regulate tobacco products,” Davis said. “What we’ve seen so far is treating vaping products like tobacco products through Georgia’s Smokefree Air Act, which does have a local control piece, but vaping is not part of that.”

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and city council members were formally sworn in, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Johnny Mercer Theatre was filled to capacity Thursday night as new Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and an almost all new slate of council members took their oaths of office at inauguration ceremonies.

Taking the oath of office as aldermen were Kesha Gibson-Carter, At-Large; Alicia Miller Blakely, Post 2, At-Large; Bernetta B. Lanier, District 1; Detric Leggett, District 2; Linda Wilder-Bryan, District 3; Nick Palumbo, District 4 and Kurtis Purtee, District 6.

This council is a first for the city, in that five of its members are African-American women.

Current council member for District 5, Estella Edwards Shabazz was sworn in for her third term as an alderman.

Advanced Politics – Running Out the Clock

Earlier this week, in the City of South Fulton, a municipal version of impeachment proceedings played out. From the AJC story published Monday:

A Monday hearing that could lead to the removal of a mayor and council member in the city of South Fulton was often raucous and unwieldy, but it ended with the fate of the two elected officials still unclear.

The hearing, to remove Mayor Bill Edwards and Councilwoman Helen Zenobia Willis, lasted more than nine hours as council members heard testimony from six people, including the city attorney, the city’s economic development director and a representative of Halperns’ Steak and Seafood Co. — the company at the heart of a development deal that led to the hearing.

Council members adjourned at 6:30 p.m. without taking a vote, and they could not say whether they would reconvene the hearing. The adjournment happened with no discussion after one council member left and Edwards cast the deciding vote.

Monday was December 30th, and the council adjourned without another meeting set for the next day. Here’s an excerpt from yesterday’s story from the AJC:

Since the hearing, the council term of one member who was pushing for the investigations has ended. Another council member, Khalid Kamau, said he didn’t think he had the votes to move forward with the removal proceedings and would not push for them to continue.

“I think it’s over,” he said.

The hearing ended Monday after an attorney representing the city, John Mrosek, rested his case without calling either Willis or Edwards to testify about their actions or intent. One councilwoman, Naeema Gilyard, had left the city break room where the proceedings were taking place.At the end of Mrosek’s arguments, with Gilyard absent, Edwards broke a 3-3 tie to adjourn the meeting and the elected officials left without discussing what they heard or voting to take any action.

Carmalitha Gumbs, a member of city council who voted to adjourn the hearing, said the continued investigations have put council members in a “very uncomfortable place.” She said barring criminal activity, it would be up to voters to decide to remove elected officials from office — not their colleagues.

“Maybe we need therapy, or to bring someone in to help,” she said. “I’m just praying we’re able to heal this as a community and move forward. We’re really divided. This has caused a lot of heartache.”

So, once the clock struck midnight, and the year began, a member who might have supported removing the Mayor and council member from office had their own term in office expire. The Mayor ran out the clock.

2
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 2, 2020

Sterling Paulding AC

Sterling is a small, 16-pound male Terrier mix who is available for adoption from Paulding County Animal Control in Dallas, GA.

Milo Paulding AC

Milo is a 23-pound male Beagle mix who is available for adoption from Paulding County Animal Control in Dallas, GA.

Murphy Paulding AC

Murphy is a 30-pound male Beagle mix who is available for adoption from Paulding County Animal Control in Dallas, GA.

2
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 2, 2020

On January 1, 1751, the law prohibiting slavery in Georgia was repealed after an act passed by the Georgia Trustees the previous year.

On January 2, 1766, some Sons of Liberty marched on the Royal Governor’s Mansion in Savannah to “discuss” the Stamp Act, which required the use of stamped paper for all printing as a means of taxing the colonies. They were met by a pistol-toting Governor Wright.

Georgia became the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution on January 2, 1788.

Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts became the first United States Senator to be censured by the body on January 2, 1811.

The Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln went into effect in eleven Southern states on January 1, 1863, though parts of Virginia and Louisiana were exempt.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp issued a Writ of Election for a Special Election to State Senate District 13, comprising Crisp, Dodge, Dooly, Lee, Tift, Turner, Worth and parts of Sumter and Wilcox Counites, to be held on Tuesday, February 4, 2020. A Special Election for House District 171 will be held January 21, 2020, with a runoff, if needed, on February 25, 2020.

Two candidates have announced so far for the 14th Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger), who announced he will not run for reelection this year, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Clayton Fuller has announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, making him the second candidate to declare for the seat currently held by Tom Graves, R-Ranger.

A native of the 14th District, Fuller and his wife Kate live in Lookout Mountain with their two young children.

Appointed by President Donald Trump as a White House Fellow, Fuller recently worked in the office of the Vice President, assisting Second Lady Karen Pence with various projects.

Also on Wednesday, Paulding County School Board member Jason R. Anavitarte announced he would not be seeking the District 14 seat.

Early last month, wealthy Alpharetta businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene switched from challenging U.S. Rep. Karen Handel in the District 6 race, becoming the first to enter the District 14 contest following the announcement by Graves that he wouldn’t seek reelection in 2020.

From the AJC:

Another name to keep an eye on: Dallas Mayor Boyd Austin, the former president of the Georgia Municipal Association.

State Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) will chair the House Rules Committee in the coming session, according to the AJC.

Smith will take over the Rules Committee after its previous chairman, state Rep. Jay Powell, died during a retreat of Republican legislative leaders in November.

“Richard Smith has earned the trust and respect of every member of our House of Representatives,” said Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge. “He is a wise and thoughtful leader who always puts the interests of this state and its citizens first.”

Since 2011, Smith has served as the chairman of the Insurance Committee. Before he was elected to the House in 2004, Smith was a member of the Columbus City Council.

State Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Rome) will serve as Chair of the House Insurance Committee, while State Rep. Bonnie Rich (R-Duluth) takes the reins as Chair of the Legislative & Congressional Reapportionment Committee.

Dougherty County and Albany are looking to work together for continued economic growth, according to the Albany Herald.

Dougherty County Commissioner Anthony Jones said … [t]he county should continue working with the city of Albany to keep the momentum going, Jones said during an interview about what he would like to see local governments focus on in 2020.

“I’d like to see the county and city work together,” he said. “I’d like to see downtown development continue to move forward. I really think it’s important the city and county continue to work together to carry out the goals and ambitions of the citizens of this community.”

The Georgia Capitol main outside staircases will be renovated, according to the Albany Herald.

The historic limestone and granite steps at the north and south entrances of the Georgia Capitol will get a makeover this year.

The Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission has released a request for qualifications seeking a contractor for the $1.5 million project.

Bids on the project are due Jan. 15. The work will begin at the end of the 2020 General Assembly session, likely in early April, with completion expected within 210 days.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division has issued its 2020 revised sport fishing regulations, according to the Albany Herald.

The 2020 Georgia Sport Fishing Regulations Guide provides information such as a color fish identification chart for both freshwater and saltwater fish, license purchasing information, contact information for Wildlife Resources Division and Coastal Resources Division fisheries management offices, DNR Law Enforcement offices, trout stream listings, public fishing area information, state record fish listings, fishing regulations for Georgia and more.

The 2020 Georgia Sport Fishing Regulations may be found online at www.eregulations.com/georgia/fishing/, or through the Outdoors GA app (free app for iPhone or Android users). Anglers also can pick up a printed copy at any Wildlife Resources Division fisheries management or DNR Law Enforcement office, or at fishing license vendors throughout Georgia.

Van Johnson has been sworn in as Mayor of Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah Mayor-elect Van Johnson II on Wednesday became mayor before a church full of celebrants gathered for the 157th Annual Emancipation Proclamation Celebration of President Abraham Lincoln’s edict ending slavery in the Confederate states.

“I’m becoming your mayor in front of you right now,” Johnson told the audience from the pulpit of historic St. Philip AME Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard before taking the oath of office in what he said fulfilled a legal obligation to have a mayor in office on Jan. 1.

And Chatham County Commission Chairman Al Scott challenged the worshipers, telling them that have an opportunity in 2020 to make history and urging them to make a New Year’s resolution “to take your city back.”

He said that with the 2020 census it was “absolutely important that you participate.”

Scott said the actions of the Trump Administration to undo the work of the 44th president, Barack Obama, in what he called, “2016 may have been the start of the new reconstruction.”

Formal inauguration of Mayor Johnson and city council will be held tonight, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Mayor-elect Van Johnson and members of the city council will be sworn in at inauguration ceremonies tonight, Thursday, Jan. 2.

The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. and is being held in the Johnny Mercer Theater at the Savannah Civic Center.

Newly elected Mayor Johnson will take the oath of office along with all members of council.

For Johnson it will be his second time taking the oath of office.

Council-elect members are Kesha Gibson-Carter, Post 1, At-Large; Alicia Miller Blakely, Post 2, At-Large; Bernetta B. Lanier, District 1; Detric Leggett, District 2; Linda Wilder-Bryan, District 3; Nick Palumbo, District 4 and Kurtis Purtee, District 6.

Current council member for District 5, Estella Edwards Shabazz will be sworn in for her third term as an alderman.

Statesboro City Council will have a majority of new members, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Three new members of Statesboro City Council — the first women elected by districts to the council in its history — will be sworn in at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the City Hall council chambers at the start of their first official meeting.

They are Paulette Chavers of District 2, Venus Mack of District 3, and Shari Barr of District 5. Another woman who holds elected local office, Judge Lorna DeLoach of the Bulloch County Probate Court, is slated to administer the oath of office.

Gwinnett County Senior Magistrate Judge Emily Powell died after being hit by a truck while crossing the street, according to AccessWDUN.

The police department said in a news release that Judge Powell was one of the original Gwinnett County magistrates where she served the court for over 20 years She attended the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer. Based on her experience, she was routinely tasked with helping train and mentor new judges in Gwinnett County. Judge Powell was also a graduate of Leadership Gwinnett and active with Gwinnett Senior Leadership. She leaves behind a husband and two children.

From the AJC:

Because of her experience, she was routinely tasked with training and mentoring Gwinnett’s newest judges.

“Thank you Emily for being you,” one of those judges, Angela Duncan, wrote on Facebook this week. “Thank you for your love, support, mentorship. Thank you for being one of the strongest, (most) beautiful women I know so filled with grace.”

Powell leaves behind her husband, Tony — a well-known local attorney and former Lawrenceville city councilman — and their two children.

31
Dec

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for December 31, 2019

Buster Claxton

Buster is a male Boxer and Black Mouth Cur mix who is available for adoption from the City of Claxton Animal Shelter in Claxton, GA.

Eleanor Claxton

Eleanor is a female Doberman Pinscher mix who is available for adoption from the City of Claxton Animal Shelter in Claxton, GA.

Prince Claxton

Prince is a young male Labrador Retriever and Beagle mix puppy who is available for adoption from the City of Claxton Animal Shelter in Claxton, GA.

Prince is, as his name implies, royalty. His is a true rags to riches story. He was found by animal control leading his brother and sisters around on the streets. They were losing fur due to mange and they were just tiny little babies. The Animal Control Officer was their knight in shining armor. He took them to the shelter and to safety. They were happy to get a good meal and finally be looked after. Pretty soon they headed to a foster home where they got treatment for their mange and started learning how fantastic this realm can be.

Prince is usually the first pup to step up to say hello to his foster family when they head out to work with these special pups. He just loves to lead the way. Prince is healthy and is ready to look for his forever castle.

31
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 31, 2019

On December 31, 1695, a British law taxing windows went into effect, causing many property owners to brick-up some windows to avoid paying the tax. This may be the first recorded instance of the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in response to a tax increase. See also: Revolution, American.

The Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park closed on December 31, 1895.

On December 31, 1999, the Panama Canal was turned over to Panama pursuant to the Torrijos-Carter Treaties signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds penned an Op-Ed for ValdostaToday.com.

Once again demonstrating his steadfast leadership in fighting the nation’s greatest public safety threat, Governor Brian Kemp issued forceful warnings to criminal street gangs recently.  During speeches in Savannah and Albany, Governor Kemp served noticed that gang members were not welcome in Georgia.  He put the criminal street gangs on notice that Georgia’s tough anti-gang statutes would be enforced in all corners of our state.

As his appointed Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Governor Kemp’s words are certainly inspiring.   Early in his administration, GBI was tasked with the responsibility of being at the proverbial “tip of the spear” when it came to combating the growing incursion of gangs and gang crime facing our state. A centerpiece of Governor Kemp’s visionary plan was the establishment of the GBI Gang Task Force and an enhanced focus for GBI—both through GBI’s direct efforts and as a “force multiplier” in its conjunction with law enforcement and prosecution partners—on combating gangs.

While Governor Kemp’s blueprint has only been in place for a few months, its dividends are already evident.

The results of GBI adhering to Governor Kemp’s plan have already been significant. A brief list includes the following:

  • In partnership with the Georgia Gang Investigators Association, GBI has trained over 3,000 state, local, and federal law enforcement officers on gang investigation techniques and the application of Georgia’s anti-gang laws.
  • GBI has trained scores of state and federal prosecutors on gang prosecution laws and techniques in numerous venues.
  • GBI has consulted with law enforcement and prosecutor agencies across Georgia at all stages of gang cases, from investigation, to trial, and appeal.
  • GBI has taught judges from across Georgia on the applications of Georgia’s anti-gang laws.
  • GBI is in the process of establishing a gang-database to assist law enforcement which should be operational in early 2020.

This partnering by GBI under Governor Kemp’s leadership has led to significant encroachment on criminal gang activity in Georgia with cases being made and indictments being returned in several counties across our state.

Governor Kemp distinguished himself among his national colleagues by stepping forward with his plan to “stop and dismantle” gangs in Georgia. As long as gang members are active here, they will continue to victimize and recruit, running over lives and communities along the way.

GBI is committed to Governor Kemp’s anti-gang vision. We are prepared to continue this fight— and win it— for the safety of law-abiding Georgians everywhere.

Vic Reynolds serves as the Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, after his appointment to that position by Governor Brian Kemp in February 2019. Director Reynolds wishes to thank GBI Chief Legal Counsel Mike Carlson for his assistance in creating this column.

From the AJC:

The GBI Gang Task Force counted its latest victory this Tuesday, raiding two alleged drug and gun stash houses in Gwinnett County.

Because the task force is just getting started, it’s hard to say what the long-term result of its existence will be, but the GBI sees the Gwinnett County raids as a good example of what the group can do and will continue to do.

“This case doesn’t get made without the directive from the governor’s office and (GBI Director Vic) Reynolds,” said Ken Howard, the task force’s GBI special agent in charge. “This is one of multiple cases that we’ve been successful in. We’ve got more than I can count in the pipeline. We’ve got more than we can work, to be honest with you,” Howard told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Former Congressman Buddy Darden spoke about Senator Johnny Isakson’s role in Georgia and Washington politics, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

They were on different sides of a fraternity divide in student government at the University of Georgia in the 1960s. Later, they were on opposite sides of the aisle as a Republican and Democrat in both the Georgia legislature and the U.S. Congress.

But despite those differences, Darden says they have always been friends — a sentiment repeated by other Democrats and Republicans who have worked with the retiring senior senator from Georgia.

“We’ve been on opposite sides most of the time, but we have always been congenial and very friendly,” Darden said in an interview earlier this month, describing Isakson as someone with “impeccable character” that he could always talk to and trust. “Frankly, though, Johnny has always had a bipartisan bent.”

The bipartisan bent of Isakson is a common theme when his colleagues speak of him, and an increasingly rare quality in a polarized Washington. As Georgia’s senior senator prepared to exit, Democrats called him a bridge-builder that they could respect and work with across the aisle.

“Johnny is the last of the Georgia bipartisan senators. He is the last of a dying breed in Georgia that can be objective about things,” Darden said.

The entire piece is well-written and comprehensive and worth reading in it’s entirety if you’re so inclined.

Many local jurisdictions are lifting drought restrictions, according to WABE.

After a late summer heatwave, more than 100 Georgia counties — including all of metro Atlanta — had been under a state-mandated drought response. In late October, 96% of the state was experiencing some level of dry or drought conditions.

Now, the state is nearly drought-free. According to the most recent update of the U.S. Drought Monitor, 96% of Georgia is not in any category of drought.

“We’ve had some beneficial rainfall over the past two to three weeks that have really helped,” said Bill Murphey, state climatologist with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

The state has ended those requirements.

From the Gainesville Times:

Only a few counties in extreme southwest Georgia, or near the Florida line, are considered abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which releases an updated report every Thursday.

“Rain continues to ease the flash drought conditions in Georgia that had peaked during the first half of October,” said state climatologist Bill Murphey in a news release on Friday, Dec. 27. “The heaviest rain amounts have fallen over extreme North Georgia, central Georgia and southeastern parts of the state. As a result, soil moisture and stream flows are improving in those areas.”

“The lake is still not full,” [Gainesville water resources director Linda] MacGregor said. “So far, so good (in December), and if the (winter months) are wet, then we’ll be in pretty good shape.”

Lake Lanier’s winter full pool is 1,070 feet above sea level. Its summer full pool is 1,071 feet. The lake stood at 1,068.54 feet Friday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The USMCA – a revised version of NAFTA – could benefit some Georgia businesses, according to the AJC.

The USMCA was finalized by President Donald Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi in mid-December. It recently sailed through the U.S. House – with all 14 Georgia lawmakers lending their support – and is poised to be considered by the Senate in early 2020.

The USMCA “removes a great deal of uncertainty in terms of trade with two of our largest trading partners, and that’s a very positive development,” said Roy Bowen, president of the Georgia Association of Manufacturers.

Local proponents also think the revised pact will bring modest gains to some of Georgia’s top industries — including agriculture, textiles and manufacturing — by bolstering access to some of Canada’s tightly controlled markets, cracking down on labor standards in Mexico and limiting how many component parts of a product can be imported from outside North America.

Local farmers are expecting a small increase of dairy, egg and peanut exports with the raising of previous Canadian quotas. Ditto for poultry, by far Georgia’s largest agricultural export, valued at more than $850 million in 2018.

The USMCA hasn’t been as well-received among Georgia produce farmers who were seeking extra protections from cheap Mexican imports. Groups such as the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association had lobbied for easier ways to fight back against the dumping of cheap produce like berries and squash, but their proposal was dropped during negotiations.

After the agreement was announced, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said he remained “concerned about unbridled access to our markets for Mexican fruits and vegetables.”

At the same time, Black and others suggested additional help might be on the way. “I am optimistic that enhanced federal monitoring of trade practices and food safety will mitigate some of these concerns,” said Black.

New voting machines continue shipping to local governments continues ahead of the 2020 Presidential elections, according to GPB News.

While the holiday season has made coordinating deliveries to local officials tricky, Raffensperger said that more than 25,000 of the 33,100 [ballot marking devices] are tested and in the state’s control and 32 of Georgia’s 159 counties have received nearly all of their new voting machines and accessories.

Cobb County (2,039 machines) is waiting on final pieces of equipment, DeKalb County (2,839) is currently being delivered and in the next few weeks Fulton (3,058) and Gwinnett counties (2,257) will receive most of their equipment.

“So, that represents 34% of all the voting equipment for the entire state of Georgia,” Raffensperger said.

He added that because 70% of the machines are in a state warehouse ready to go, the state could be doing more deliveries this week. But many local elections officials are on vacation for the holidays, so shipments will be scheduled later this week when people return.

DeKalb County Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson will host a meeting to include demonstrations of the new voting machines, according to the AJC.

A town hall hosted by DeKalb Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson will include interactive demonstrations of the new machines and information on voter registration, the commissioner’s office said Tuesday.

All of Georgia’s electronic voting machines are being replaced with a new voting system before the March 24 presidential primary. The new voting equipment prints out paper ballots, providing a way to check electronic results after years of complaints of alleged voting irregularities and security issues.

The panel is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Porter Sandford Performing Arts Center, located at 3181 Rainbow Dr. in Decatur. Residents can arrive from 4 to 6 p.m. to try out the new machines.

Former President Jimmy Carter is getting out-and-about after his latest hospital stay, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Former President Jimmy Carter returned to his hometown church and visited a Columbus-area art site Sunday in one of his first documented public appearances since undergoing brain surgery in November.

Carter and about 40 members of his family toured Pasaquan, a 7-acre art site in Buena Vista, Georgia, Sunday afternoon. The compound is about 45 minutes from downtown Columbus and is maintained by Columbus State University. It honors the work of artist Eddie Owens Martin, known as St. EOM.

“He seemed in good spirits. He was generous. He was kind. He made a few jokes,” McFalls said of Carter. “He had memories of the time he was out there before … about 50 years ago when (St. EOM) was alive.”

State Fiscal Economist Jeffery Dorfman will headline most sessions of the 2020 Georgia Ag Forecast, according to the Albany Herald.

Dorfman will speak in Macon, Lyons, Bainbridge and Tifton. Todd Southerland, a senior vice president and food and agribusiness industry manager at SunTrust Bank, will be the keynote speaker and provide a more in-depth poultry outlook in Gainesville.

The meetings allow UGA agricultural economists to speak with Georgia farmers, lenders and agribusiness leaders, and provide an assessment of the economic outlook for Georgia’s No. 1 industry, agriculture.

“Right now, economic data are mixed with good and bad news for the future of Georgia’s economy,” Dorfman said. “There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding regulations and how they will impact farmers, agribusinesses, rural communities and Georgia’s overall economy. It’s important to cut through the noise and focus on the fundamentals.”

Economists from the CAES Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics will forecast the 2020 growing season for Georgia producers with an emphasis on Georgia’s major commodities, such as cotton, peanuts and corn.

State Senator Freddie Powell Sims will work to address the shortage of nurses in Southwest Georgia, according to the Albany Herald.

For small-town Georgia, the shortage is even worse, and although colleges in Albany and Atlanta have been working to address the issue, there remains a severe nursing shortage, said state Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson.

Georgia is ranked sixth among the states with the biggest difference between the number of nurses that will be needed and the expected number of nurses available in 2030, according to Registerednursing.org. At that time, the state is expected to have 2,200 less nurses than the number needed.

“We were talking to a hospital administrator the other day,” Sims said. “He had heard from the state there’s a shortage of nurses of about 600 in the state. He said he had a shortage of 300 to 400 locally, the real number must be huge.”

Even with the shortage, Sims said there are some signs of progress. Educational institutions from Andrew College in Cuthbert to Albany State University, Albany Technical College and Americus’ Georgia Southwestern State University to Macon-based Mercer University and Atlanta’s Morehouse College are working to increase the number of nurses in rural Georgia. Sims said she is sure that other southwest Georgia colleges and universities also are working on the issue, but those are the ones with which she is familiar.

Two local judicial seats in the Augusta area have announced candidates for 2020, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Laverne Lewis Gaskins announced Monday she is running for [Richmond County] chief civil and magistrate court judge. Chief Judge William D. Jennings III has held the position since 1987.

Lewis Gaskins joins Le’Joi Williamson, who announced last month she is running for Augusta’s other civil and magistrate judgeship, the presiding judge position held by Scott Allen.

Confederate monument protections may now affect flags flown at historic sites, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

After the city this past October pulled up two flag poles on which the Sons of Confederate Veterans flew battle flags, the SCV sued in Muscogee Superior Court, citing a state “monuments act” protecting Confederate memorials.

The SCV suit also claimed the city violated the group’s free speech rights under the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The city still maintains the SCV’s flags and poles were privately owned memorials erected on public property that council controls, and not publicly owned monuments protected by state law.

A Gainesville forum discussed school bullying, according to the Gainesville Times.

The panel included Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams, leaders in the faith community, “Parents Rebuilding the Village” members and Georgia Legal Services Program staff attorney Alina Venick.

Williams said there is a three-strikes policy relating to bullying before a student is moved to an alternative school, though an offense considered especially severe may lead to this punishment before a third strike.

“When you start to look at what a classroom looks like now compared to what a classroom looked like when most of us went to school, it’s very different. The demands on the teacher today are much more, I would argue, than it has ever been in public school history,” Williams said.

The City of South Fulton is hosting its own version of the current Washington impeachment circus. From the AJC:

A Monday hearing that could lead to the removal of a mayor and council member in the city of South Fulton was often raucous and unwieldy, but it ended with the fate of the two elected officials still unclear.

The hearing, to remove Mayor Bill Edwards and Councilwoman Helen Zenobia Willis, lasted more than nine hours as council members heard testimony from six people, including the city attorney, the city’s economic development director and a representative of Halperns’ Steak and Seafood Co. — the company at the heart of a development deal that led to the hearing.

Council members adjourned at 6:30 p.m. without taking a vote, and they could not say whether they would reconvene the hearing. The adjournment happened with no discussion after one council member left and Edwards cast the deciding vote.

Edwards called the adjournment a victory and said the hearing was “unnecessary.”

“It’s too costly to this community,” he said.

The investigation and hearing have cost city taxpayers more than $50,000.

Read more here: https://www.ledger-enquirer.com/news/local/article238824888.html#storylink=cpy
30
Dec

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for December 30, 2019

Nashville Tigger

Tigger is a male mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from the City of Nashville GA Animal Shelter in Nashville, GA.

Tigger is a playful boy who just wants a chance to have a family of his own. Please call 229-356-0970 if interested in adopting.

Nashville Roxy

Roxy is a female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from the City of Nashville GA Animal Shelter in Nashville, GA.

Roxy is a pretty girl who is looking for a family that will keep her safe and never let her down. Please call 229-356-0970 if interested in adopting or rescuing this big girl.

Nashville Pepper

Pepper is a young female terrier mix who is available for adoption from the City of Nashville GA Animal Shelter in Nashville, GA.

If you are interested in helping her get out of the shelter, please call 229-356-0970 asap. Her time is very limited and she needs a savior NOW.. :(
30
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 30, 2019

James Edward Oglethorpe was born in London, England, on December 22, 1696. He was elected to Parliament, where he worked on prison reform and had the idea of a new colony where “worthy poor” Brits could be sent. In 1732, Oglethorpe was granted a charter to create a colony of Georgia in the new world.

On December 22, 1775, the Continental Congress created the Continental Navy.

On December 25, 1776, Continental forces under General George Washington began crossing the Delaware River and the next day launched a suprise attack on Hessian soldiers at Trenton, New Jersey.

800px-Emanuel_Leutze-_Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware_-_Google_Art_Project

On December 23, 1783, George Washington resigned as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and retired to his home at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony premiered on December 22, 1808 in Vienna, Austria.

The War of 1812 ended on December 24, 1814 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, Belgium by British and American representatives.

A belated Happy Birthday to Columbus, Georgia, founded on December 24, 1827 when Gov. John Forsyth signed legislation incorporating the new town.

Governor George Gilmer signed legislation that prohibited teaching slaves or free African-Americans to read or write on December 22, 1829.

Georgia Female College was chartered when Gov. William Schley signed legislation incorporating the school on December 23, 1836, later changing its name to Wesleyan College.

Governor George Gilmer signed legislation appropriating $20,000 to build the Georgia State Insane Asylum in Milledgeville on December 23, 1837.

Georgia Governor George Towns signed a constitutional amendment that removed the requirement that governors own at least 500 acres real estate and other property valued at least $4000 on December 30, 1847. At the time, an amendment to the state constitution had to be passed twice by the General Assembly in subsequent sessions, but did not require voter approval.

Martha Bulloch and Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. were married at Bulloch Hall in Roswell, Georgia on December 22, 1853. Their son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. would later be elected President of the United States.

The Gadsden Purchase, establishing the southern border of the United States with Mexico, was signed on December 30, 1853.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia on December 28, 1856 and moved to Augusta, Georgia with his family a few years later. Wilson would later practice law in Atlanta, marry Ellen Axson of Rome, Georgia, and serve as President of the United States from 1913 to 1921. Recently, Princeton University debated removing Wilson’s name from campus.

The USS Monitor, the first federal ironclad steamship, sank on December 30, 1862 off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

On December 20, 1864, Confederate forces in Savannah retreated ahead of Sherman’s army, crossing over into South Carolina, four years to the day after South Carolina’s secession.

On December 22, 1864, General William T. Sherman wired to President Abraham Lincoln from Savannah, Georgia,

His Excellency President LINCOLN:

I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.

W.T. Sherman,
Major General.

On December 25, 1868, President Andrew Johnson issued an unconditional pardon of all Confederates.

The Kimball Opera House in Atlanta, a former location of the State Capitol, caught fire on December 27, 1894 and was destroyed.

On December 29, 1896, Georgia Governor William Y. Atkinson signed legislation creating the state Schoolbook Commission.

The American Political Science Association was formed on December 30, 1903, and has been misunderstood ever since.

President Calvin Coolidge lit the first National Christmas Tree on the White House grounds on December 24, 1923.

On December 26, 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt watched a private viewing of Gone With the Wind at the White House.

U.S.S. Atlanta was commissioned on December 24, 1941 at the New York Navy Yard as the lead ship of a new class of Light Cruisers. USS Atlanta (CL-51) was sponsored by Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind.

Margaret_Mitchell_1941_on_USS_Atlanta_(CL-51)

Eugene Talmadge, who was elected four times as Governor of Georgia, in 1932, 1934, 1940, and 1946, died on December 21, 1946, leading to the Three Governors Controversy.

The first live recording of Led Zeppelin was made at Gonzaga University on December 30, 1968.

Lockheed received the contract to produce 50 C-5B cargo aircraft for the federal government on December 30, 1982.

The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site was created in Plains, Georgia on December 23, 1987.

Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as President of the USSR on December 25, 1991, signalling the end of the Godless Communist regime.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia State Senator Greg Kirk (R-Tifton) died before Christmas, according to the AJC.

Kirk, an Americus Republican, shared in June his diagnosis of bile duct cancer, and colleagues announced last week that he had been moved to hospice care.

“A man of outstanding character, and one who was a champion for doing what is right, made him one of our most fervent leaders and also one of our most gracious,” said the Senate press office.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, a Carrollton Republican, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he and about 10 members of his caucus went to Americus on Friday to visit Kirk in hospice care.

“He was in good spirits,” Dugan said. “You could tell he was tired, but he was engaging.”

Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, a Stone Mountain Democrat, said Kirk was passionate about helping Georgians with disabilities.

“I knew him before he was elected, when we worked together on issues for people with disabilities,” Henson said. “Senator Kirk cared deeply about our state and the citizens of Georgia. His willingness to listen and find common ground will be very much missed in the Senate.”

State Sen. Renee Unterman, a Buford Republican, said she was heartbroken over Kirk’s death.

“There are no words to describe the sadness in my broken heart today; the last words Greg said to me were ‘see you on the other side;’ until then valiant warrior, I will carry the sword for you just as we always did together for those suffering with mental illness & challenged,” she wrote on Twitter.

From WALB:

Gov. Brian Kemp said Kirk was a “man of faith who served his family, community and state with passion and integrity.”

“Our prayers are with Greg’s wife, Rosalyn, his seven children, five grandchildren, and all who mourn the passing of this great public servant. May God’s peace, which passes all understanding, be with his family and loved ones at this time,” Kemp said.

Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock said he was saddened to hear of Kirk’s death, his “friend and supporter of GA law enforcement.”

“He fought the battle hard and with determination so that he could continue to serve others,” Hancock said. “He was greatly loved and respected.”

Kirk was elected to the Senate in 2014. He represented Crisp, Dodge, Dooly, Lee, Tift, Turner, Worth and parts of Sumter and Wilcox counties.

From the Tifton Gazette:

“Our hearts are heavy today. Senator Kirk devoted his life to glorifying God and building up his community,” House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said in a statement. “He had a servant’s heart and a compassionate spirit. We will miss his leadership and his friendship.”

Ralston said his prayers go out to Kirk’s family and Senate must band together during this time.

“Our General Assembly truly is an extended family and this loss is being felt across Georgia today,” Ralston said.

Congressman John Lewis (D-Atlanta) has been diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic cancer, according to the Washington Post.

Lewis (D-Ga.), who has served in Congress since 1987, said doctors detected the disease this month during a routine medical visit and subsequent tests. He said he later received confirmation of the diagnosis.

One percent of patients live five years after a diagnosis of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The average patient with that diagnosis lives for about a year. Pancreatic cancer was the third most common cause of death from cancer in 2019, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“While I am clear-eyed about the prognosis, doctors have told me that recent medical advances have made this type of cancer treatable in many cases, that treatment options are no longer as debilitating as they once were, and that I have a fighting chance,” Lewis, 79, said in a statement.

“I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life,” Lewis said. “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.”

Lewis has been called “the conscience of the U.S. Congress.” His storied national legacy dates back to the fight for African Americans’ civil rights, when he organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters and was beaten by pro-segregationists after he sat in bus seats reserved for white people on the Freedom Rides.

On what became known as Bloody Sunday in 1965, Lewis and Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led about 600 silent people two-by-two from Selma, Ala., to the state capital of Montgomery in a demonstration for voting rights. About 150 state troopers and other law enforcement met the marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma and ordered them to disperse.

Before a two-minute warning ran out, law enforcement injured 58 people with clubs, bullwhips and tear gas. Lewis’s skull was fractured in the attack.

United States Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) is retiring at the end of the year, and sat for an exit interview with Dave Williams of Capitol Beat News Service.

Q: What made you decide to enter politics back in 1972, five years into your real estate career?

A: I was active in the real estate business but also in my civic association in a small neighborhood in East Cobb. There were beginning to be a lot of issues dealing with zoning … and there was an incumbent county commissioner up for re-election who had been the proponent of all the multi-family units being proposed at the time. … I never intended to run for anything, certainly not county commission, but I did and did pretty well for not being experienced and not having any money. … I did well enough to whet my appetite and said, ‘If I get a chance, I’ll try this one more time.’ I did two years later for the Legislature and won that seat. That year, I was the only Republican to defeat a Democrat in the state of Georgia who was an incumbent. … That’s how I started my career.

Q: You essentially built Georgia’s Republican Party in the ‘70s and ‘80s along with some allies.

A: A lot of people deserve credit for that. I was on the building team, but I was not the builder. … [The late U.S. Sen.] Paul Coverdell and I did a lot of work to get people to come to Saturday morning breakfasts and get enthusiastic about being outnumbered 10 to 1.

Q: How difficult was it in a state Democrats had dominated since Reconstruction?

A: It was easy back then to get attention because the press would settle for anything from us because there weren’t many of us. … As we grew our numbers and got influential enough to start driving issues, for awhile, it worked to our advantage … because they let us state our case without having anybody give the alternative. That went away as we won more seats.

United States District Court Judge Steve C. Jones gave Fair Fight Action the Heisman, according to the New York Times.

A federal judge on Friday denied an attempt to restore about 98,000 voters in Georgia to the U.S. state’s electoral rolls after they were removed earlier this month upon being classified as “inactive”.

Lead plaintiff Fair Fight Action, a voting rights nonprofit, did not establish that the Georgia secretary of state’s decision to cancel the voter registrations had violated the constitution, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones said in the ruling.

“Today Judge Jones upheld Georgia’s decision to maintain clean voter rolls,” [Georgia Secretary of State Brad] Raffensperger said after the ruling.

“Despite activists’ efforts and lawsuits that only waste taxpayers’ dollars, Georgia is continuing to ensure every eligible voter can vote and voter lists remain accurate.”

Secretary of State Raffensperger‘s office continues working on the rollout of new voting machines, according to the New York Times.

Georgia is preparing to roll out 30,000 of the machines in every polling place for its presidential primary in March, replacing a paperless electronic voting system that a federal judge declared insecure and unreliable.

The concerns in Georgia come as paperless machines are set to be used in parts of at least half a dozen states in 2020 — a practice that leading experts and government officials warn is risky.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger declined to be interviewed through a spokesman, citing litigation. But in an October court filing, his office dismissed the concern as a “remote, unfounded speculation” and said the new machines were part of “a safe and secure voting system.”

Kay Stimson, a spokeswoman for [Georgia's election system vendor] Dominion, said the company is focused on getting the system successfully installed in time for 2020. “Feedback to us has been overwhelmingly positive,” she said, “and where there are recognized areas for improvement, we are striving to address them in timely fashion.”

Governor Brian Kemp announced on December 23d that Georgia hit record low unemployment numbers.

Today, the Georgia Department of Labor released the record-breaking November jobs report for the state of Georgia. The unemployment rate hit the lowest percentage in state history, at 3.3%. The total number of jobs in Georgia also set a record high of 4.64 million jobs, and the number of employed Georgians achieved a record high of 4.96 million.

“Thanks to strong, conservative leadership at the State Capitol, Georgia continues to grow and prosper,” said Governor Brian P. Kemp. “Unemployment rates are at historic lows, workforce participation is at an all-time high, and job creators have Georgia on their minds.”

“To keep Georgia the best place to live, work, and raise a family, we must support our small businesses, recruit projects of regional significance to our rural communities, and dismantle criminal street gangs so our families are safe from harm. By working together, we can ensure that Georgia’s best and brightest days are still to come.”

From the AJC:

Georgia’s unemployment rate inched down to 3.3% in November, the lowest level since the government started keeping track in the 1970s.

The record was reached after the state economy added 6,500 jobs last month, slightly fewer than average for November, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday.

“It’s nice to see this at the end of the year,” said Mark Butler, state labor commissioner. “I think we are going to continue to see Georgia move in the right direction.”

As the unemployment rate falls, continued hiring does draw some people back into the work force, but many companies do struggle to find specialized skills, said Kim Wallace, executive vice president of Hire Dynamics, an Atlanta-based staffing company.

“The job market is tight,” she said. “The hardest to find are maintenance mechanics. The higher skilled positions are the most difficult.”

Governor Kemp appointed Sharell F. Lewis to a seat on the State Court of Bibb County.

Kelly Loeffler, incoming United States Senator, has begun reaching out to Republican activists, according to the AJC.

She’s waged a behind-the-scenes campaign to curry support by handing out her cellphone number to activists and elected officials, texting links to confidential surveys to grassroots organizers seeking their input and meeting privately with influential GOP leaders.

“People will learn I am a lifelong conservative,” she told the AJC in describing her outreach efforts. “They’re going to see my values that came from being raised on the farm, the importance of faith and family, and carrying out the president’s agenda and supporting Governor Kemp.”

Cindy Morley of Douglas County’s GOP said she’s “excited” about Loeffler’s appointment, drawing a comparison to another business executive who was little known in Republican politics before he ran for office.

“David Perdue was a newcomer to politics and an outsider, but look at the great job he has done as Georgia’s senator,” said Morley, although Perdue also could rely on his first cousin Sonny Perdue’s political legacy and extensive network.

“I supported Brian Kemp for governor early on because I felt he was the best person to lead Georgia. I still do,” Morley said. “We elected him to make the best decisions for this state, and I trust his judgment.”

Senator-designate Loeffler also spoke in Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Loeffler, chosen by Gov. Brian Kemp to take Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat when he retires at year’s end, made her first official foray to Augusta on Monday, though the Republican has taken clients to the Masters Tournament before and calls the city “the best-kept secret in Georgia.”

After delivering blankets to patients at AU Medical Center and touring the Georgia Cancer Center and Children’s Hospital of Georgia, Loeffler was briefed about the lock and dam by U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Ga.; Georgia Ports Authority Chairman William D. McKnight; and others, several of whom oppose the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to remove the structure and replace it with a rock weir that will significantly drop the pool of water in the Savannah River.

Loeffler will be sworn in to the United States Senate on January 6, 2020, according to the AJC.

Jan. 6 is the Senate’s first work day of the new year, and Loeffler must take the oath of office before she can cast votes.

A decision on whether the president should be removed from office is likely to be the first major vote cast by Loeffler. She already indicated she will vote with Republicans against Trump’s removal.

In addition to being sworn in, Loeffler must also set up her new office and hire staff. She is also in the process of severing certain business ties in order to hold office.

Previously, her office announced that she will serve on the Senate’s Veterans Affairs, Agriculture and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees.

Joe Reed announced he will run for State House District 129, currently held by State Rep. Susan Holmes (R-Monticello), according to the Jackson Progress-Argus.

Reed is semi-retired after having been a teacher, coach and school principal for 35 years at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Since retiring from public schools, he taught part-time for four years in the prison system at Burruss Correctional Training Center in Forsyth, and is currently teaching part-time in the adult education program for the Technical College System of Georgia.

Reed said he is running as an independent candidate because neither of the two major political parties are behaving well.

“You may have seen me walking neighborhoods and knocking on doors to deliver my fliers,” said Reed. “I’ve already covered more than 80 miles and I expect to walk and run another 700 by next November. I’m saving money on stamps and I also enjoy meeting voters and hearing what they have to say about state and national politics. I’m pleasantly surprised to hear that many of the people I talk to “light up” when I tell them that I’m an Independent and they appreciate that I will be giving them a choice in the coming election.”

“Another way that Democrats and Republicans keep out the competition is by requiring independents and candidates from other parties to gather signatures from 5% of the voters in order to be included on the ballot. In order to be on the November 2020 ballot I have to get at least 1,710 signatures, verify that the signees are eligible to vote and submit the notarized petition pages to the state for verification. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have to get any signatures.”

Former Atlanta City Council member Alex Wan will run for the State House seat being vacated by State Rep. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta), according to a press release.

“The progressive, inclusive values we share as Atlantans are under attack at the state and federal levels,” Wan says. “Our collective fight for access, opportunity, inclusion, equality AND equity is ongoing.”

Former State Rep. Stacey Evans has already announced she is running for the same seat.

The Kemp Administration has submitted its federal healthcare waiver applications, according to the Albany Herald.

Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp’s office and the Georgia Department of Community Health officially submitted Georgia Pathways and Georgia Access to the Trump administration for approval.

“Since the passage of the Patients First Act, we have worked with subject matter experts, health care professionals, and stakeholders to craft Georgia-centric solutions to our state’s most pressing health care challenges,” Kemp said in a news release. “After announcing Georgia Pathways and Georgia Access, our team traveled the state and solicited public input on our proposals to reduce the uninsured rate, enhance access to care, reduce insurance premiums, and improve health outcomes.”

From the Georgia Recorder:

The state Department of Community Health’s board heard a summary of the concerns logged during the recent public comment period, which were boiled down into five categories, including one broadly flagged as “other.” Supporters called the plan a step in the right direction.

The board listened the litany of concerns during a teleconference meeting held Friday – the state’s targeted date to submit the proposals to the federal government – and then signed off on the proposal. One board member, Mark Trail, asked about the chances of Georgia snagging the requested 90% match when no other state has succeeded in doing so with anything less than full Medicaid expansion.

Blake Fulenwider, the agency’s chief health policy officer, acknowledged that this is expected to be a “significant issue.” State officials expect a smaller federal contribution but hope for better.

“It would actually be kind of a nice surprise, if you will, for the state to receive the 90%,” Fulenwider. “I don’t see that being an issue that would hamper our progress moving forward.”

“This waiver is designed to improve access, affordability and quality of health care through strategies that help individuals rise out of poverty and attain independence while also providing them with a new pathway to enrollment in Medicaid,” he said.

Capitol Beat News Service looks at state legislation going into effect this week.

Technically, House Bill 239 establishing a statewide business court in Georgia took effect last May, the day Kemp signed it into law. But the court doesn’t become operational until Jan 1. In August, members of the state House and Senate Judiciary committees confirmed the governor’s nominee to head the court, Walter F. Davis, a partner in the Atlanta office of Jones Day. The new court, aimed at expediting the handling of cases requiring expertise in business law, was created by a constitutional amendment Georgia voters ratified in November 2018.

House Bill 266 doubles the state income tax deduction awarded through Georgia’s 529 Plan for college savings from $2,000 per year to $4,000 for single taxpayers and from $4,000 per year to $8,000 for married couples filing jointly. The legislation takes effect with the 2020 tax year.

Senate Bill 118 is aimed at leveling the playing field between health care provided through telemedicine and health services delivered by other means. The law prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage of health care solely because it was provided through telemedicine rather than in-person consultation with a health-care provider.

The Valdosta Daily Times looks at issues likely to be heard in the 2020 Session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Funding for all aspects of government remains in the air. Kemp ordered state agencies to cut 4% from their budgets this fiscal year, followed by 6% next year — his economists warn it is a wise while the state’s economy leans closer to a recession.

District 173 state Rep. Darlene Taylor, who serves on the House appropriations committee, said the 2020 session will prove a challenge after a fall meeting where members discussed the importance of prioritizing the budget allocations to where the funds are most needed.

“The budget is one of the most important pieces of legislation,” she said. “The governor has indicated that revenues are down, which means there is going to be less money in the state coffers to spend. Most agencies and departments have made or are making adjustments to their budget requests.”

Rep. Sam Watson, R-Moultrie, said the state budget will most likely be the biggest focus.

“We’re being told by the economists that there’s a 50/50 chance that we may go into a mild recession in late 2020 or early 2021,” Watson said. “Our state budget grows no matter what we do as a state from a budget standpoint.”

State Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway) said that legalizing gambling in Georgia might help reduce property taxes, according to the Coastal Courier.

A plan for legalization of casino gambling could fund a 30 percent cut in property taxes, state Rep. Al Williams told the Liberty County Commission Thursday.

Williams is a member of a committee named by House Speaker David Ralston to study how gambling should be regulated if–that’s if–it gets through the General Assembly and a statewide vote.

Williams said he does not gamble, but constituents are saying, “Let us vote.” At the end of his presentation he asked the commissioners for their support in putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot for a statewide vote. The commissioners agreed and plan to adopt a formal resolution at their Jan. 7 regular meeting.

Williams said polling for regulated gambling in Georgia showed from 75 percent to 90 percent were in favor.

At least 30 lobbyists are reported pushing gambling in advance of the General Assembly session starting next month.

State Senator Chuck Payne (R-Dalton) is working on tweaks to the state code on sex offender registration, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Payne, a Republican from Dalton, said he was surprised when Conasauga District Attorney Bert Poston (Whitfield and Murray counties) brought it to his attention that in some circumstances there are lower legal penalties for an individual on the registry who fails to update his or her information as required.

“I’ve been working with him, and Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), and I have introduced a bill to clarify the language in the sex offender registry law and close that loophole. We hope to get that passed in the next session (which starts in January),” Payne said.

“All persons required to register go through a classification process by the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board. That results in a rating of 1, 2, 3 or ‘sexually dangerous predator,’” Poston said. “Level 1 is the least dangerous, least likely to reoffend, and obviously ‘sexually dangerous predators’ are considered the most dangerous and most likely to reoffend. Persons classified as sexually dangerous predators have additional registration requirements including that they update their registration twice annually. Once on their birthday like all sex offenders and once six months after their birthday (on their half-birthday).”

Poston said his office was handling a case of a sex offender who failed to update his information on his “half-birthday.”

State Rep. Philip Singleton (R-Coweta) will introduce legislation on transgender high school sports, according to the Georgia Recorder.

State Rep. Philip Singleton’s legislation proposes to prohibit people of different biological sexes from interscholastic competition in Georgia athletic events “exclusively for males” or “exclusively for females.”

Singleton, a Sharpsburg Republican, said he filed his bill Thursday to “preempt” similar disputes over sports fairness so that “it just never becomes an issue” in Georgia.

Its intent is to give parents a “reasonable expectation” that athletes competing against each other share similar skill levels, Singleton said. That determination, he said, has much to do with a person’s biological sex.

He also said the bill’s scope is limited to sports teams and athletic associations that have formal policies separating male and female athletes. If a sports organization does not have a gender policy, the bill’s restrictions would not apply.

It’s Singleton’s first piece of legislation since he won a special election to the Georgia House of Representatives this fall. The U.S. Army veteran won the District 71 seat covering parts of Coweta and Fayette counties held by former state Rep. David Stover, who resigned in June.

Georgia will not reimburse Chatham County for some expenses related to cleanup from Hurricane Dorian, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As previously reported, Chatham authorities sent a letter to Kemp on Oct. 3 requesting financial assistance for expenses related to the evacuation ordered by the governor on Sept. 1, as Dorian approached Georgia’s coast. Although the hurricane ended up causing only minor damage to the county, the cost of Chatham’s evacuation operations reached $1,662,226.

After receiving no reply to the Oct. 3 request by their Dec. 6 meeting, the commissioners authorized payment for the evacuation expenses from county coffers, but Chatham officials held out hope that Kemp would eventually respond and provide assistance. During the commissioners’ biweekly meeting on Dec. 20, Chairman Al Scott announced that a Kemp representative had since sent an official response declining funding.

“We got a letter back, not from the governor, but from his emergency manager,” Scott said of the letter received on Dec. 9 from Homer Bryson, director of the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of NOAA, will fund efforts to prevent harm to right whales from lobstering, according to The Brunswick News.

19
Dec

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for December 19, 2019

Stella Five Freedoms Farm

Stella is a senior female Jack Russell Terrier and Chihuahua mix who is available for adoption from Five Freedoms Farm in Loganville, GA.

This 12 lb girl is about 7 yrs old. She came to us from animal control as a stray. Stella has such a love for life! She gets along with dogs of all sizes and with cats. She is a great mix of perky/fun and calm/snuggly. She loves to go for walks and to play with toys! While she is not yet house trained, she is crate trained and will use a pee pad if closed in a room with one. She wears a diaper at our house with no issues. Stella is in good health and ready for a home with someone who can love and spoil her everyday!

Zoe Five Freedoms Farm

Zoe is a senior female Yorkshire Terrier who is available for adoption from Five Freedoms Farm in Loganville, GA.

Zoe is a Toy Yorkie who weighs only 3.3 lbs! She is 20 years old … yes 20! She is as adorable as she looks and is a cuddle bug and an easy little girl. She still gets around just fine – no signs of mobility issues. And she lives well with dogs and cats. She has mammary tumors and cataracts (but she can still see). We are not sure that removing the tumors at her age is what we want to do, so we would leave that decision to whomever adopts her. If she does go under anesthesia, the vet would also need to clean her teeth and verify that she is spayed. So Zoe is in the special needs category because we are unsure of her prognosis long term and because of her age.

Wally Five Freedoms Farm

Wally is a senior male Shih Tzu who is available for adoption from Five Freedoms Farm in Loganville, GA.

Meet adorable senior, Wally! We believe he is about 12 yrs old. He weighs 19 lbs. Wally is super docile and quiet and gets along with dogs of all sizes and with cats. He often wanders around the house like he is still looking for his person, which breaks our hearts. He is hoping for a loving home with someone who is home most of the time. He will love to sit with you on the couch and keep you company!

19
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 19, 2019

washington_and_lafayette_at_valley_forge

George Washington’s Continental Army entered winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania on December 19, 1777.

During 1777, Patriot forces under General Washington suffered major defeats against the British at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown; Philadelphia, the capital of the United States, fell into British hands. The particularly severe winter of 1777-1778 proved to be a great trial for the American army, and of the 11,000 soldiers stationed at Valley Forge, hundreds died from disease. However, the suffering troops were held together by loyalty to the Patriot cause and to General Washington, who stayed with his men.

When Washington’s army marched out of Valley Forge on June 19, 1778, the men were better disciplined and stronger in spirit than when they had entered.

In her youth, Mrs. GaPundit continually reminded her parents that the area in which she grew up, literally down the street from Valley Forge National Historic Park, was well known for causing frostbite.

On December 21, 1829, Georgia Governor George Gilmer signed legislation outlawing the teaching of African-Americans to read or write. One year later to the day, he signed legislation claiming for the state all territory occupied by the Cherokee tribe.

On December 21, 1835, Oglethorpe University was incorporated near Macon, later moving to Atlanta.

On December 19, 1860, the Georgia General Assembly adopted Resolution 14, which read in part,

Resolved 4th. That, should any or all of the Southern States determine in the present emergency to withdraw from the Union and resume their sovereignty, it is the sense of this General Assembly that such seceding States should form a confederacy under a republican form of government; and to that end they should adopt the Constitution of the United States, so altered and amended as to suit the new state of affairs.

On December 20, 1864, Confederate forces in Savannah retreated ahead of Sherman’s army, crossing over into South Carolina, four years to the day after South Carolina’s secession.

On December 19, 1868, Congress opened hearings into barriers African-Americans faced to voting in Georgia, which included threats, violence, and death.

On December 21, 1863, the Confederate government selected a site in Sumter County for construction of Camp Sumter, which would be better known by the name Andersonville Prison.

General William Tecumseh Sherman received the surrender of Savannah, Georgia on December 21, 1864.

On December 22, 1864, General Sherman wrote to President Lincoln,

“I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.”

Eugene Talmadge, who was elected four times as Governor of Georgia, in 1932, 1934, 1940, and 1946, died on December 21, 1946, leading to the Three Governors Controversy.

On December 19, 1998, the United States House of Representatives voted to approve two of four Articles of Impeachment against President Bill Clinton.

Article I was approved 228-206. Voting in favor were 223 Republicans and 5 Democrats. Voting against were 200 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and one Independent.

Article II was defeated 229-205. Voting in favor were 200 Republicans and 5 Democrats. Voting against were 200 Democrats, 28 Republicans, and one Independent.

Article III was approved 221-212. Voting in favor were 216 Republicans and 5 Democrats. Voting against were 199 Democrats, 12 Republicans, and one Independent.

Article IV was defeated 285-148. Voting in favor were 147 Republicans and one Democrat. Voting against were 203 Democrats, 81 Republicans, and one Independent.

On all four impeachment articles, Georgia’s congressional delegation voted exclusively along party lines. Republican congressmen Jack Kingston (1st district), Mac Collins (3rd district), Newt Gingrich (6th district), Bob Barr (7th district), Saxby Chambliss (8th district), Nathan Deal (9th district), Charlie Norwood (10th district), and John Linder (11th district) voted in favor of all four articles. Democratic congressmen Sanford Bishop (2nd district) and John Lewis (5th district) and congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (4th district) voted against all four articles.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp wants violent gangs out of Georgia, according to WJCL.

In front of a crowd of hundreds in Savannah, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp told violent gangs in the area to leave the state and move to South Carolina and Florida.

The speech took place Wednesday at the Savannah Chamber.

During the speech, Kemp talked about the continued success and growth of the Port of Savannah. He also touched on education and healthcare.

“My message to any gang member in this area or anywhere in the state of Georgia, you should move to Florida or South Carolina.”

“I’m tired of our law enforcement officials being shot up for no reason by gangbangers,” the governor said.

Governor Kemp also spoke to the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, according to the Albany Herald.

Tuesday was a busy day for officials involved in economic development, one that was punctuated in the evening by an appearance by Gov. Brian Kemp at a dinner in downtown Albany.

The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the second annual Governor’s Dinner, also held a small business forum Tuesday morning.

“The business community is really involved” in Albany, Kemp said during an interview prior to the dinner. “That’s what I like to see.”

While Atlanta remains the economic hub of the state, 2019 saw significant economic development projects throughout the state, the governor said.

“We had 332 projects, worth $7.4 billion,” Kemp said. “Seventy-four percent of those were outside the perimeter in Atlanta. The whole state is dotted with projects. That’s what we’ve really been focusing on this year.”

It was a monumental accomplishment that those projects came to fruition in a year when much of the state was recovering from the pounding in 2018 from Hurricane Michael, Kemp said.

“That’s why we’re showing up here,” he said.

Fewer than 5000 voters (about 1.5%) slated for purging from the state voter database acted to preserve their registration, according to GPB News.

Just under 4,500 Georgia voters acted to keep their voter registrations from being purged this week, a small percentage of more than 313,000 registrations set to be canceled for inactivity and failure to respond to election officials.

308,753 registrations were moved from “inactive” to “canceled” status Monday night as part of federally-required voter list maintenance, according to an updated list from the Georgia secretary of state’s office.

From the Savannah Morning News:

Voter purges in Georgia became a hot-button issue during last year’s race for governor between Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp, who won the race. Kemp served as secretary of state before being elected governor and oversaw aggressive voter purges during his tenure. Over 1.4 million voter registrations were canceled in Georgia between 2012 and 2018.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in October released a list of over 313,000 voters whose registrations were at risk of being canceled, about 4% of the state’s total registered voters. Notices were mailed in November giving those voters 30 days to respond in order to keep their registration valid.

“The extra steps we took allowed us to reach people and help them preserve their registration. I consider that a success,” Raffensperger said in a statement.

Raffensperger’s office has defended the list maintenance, saying it makes the administration of elections smoother and helps guard against voter fraud.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger visited Rome to discuss rolling out the new voting system, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“This will be the largest roll-out of voting machines in the U.S.,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said.

Raffensperger stopped by the Floyd County elections office on Wednesday to sit down with Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, and Chief Elections Clerk Robert Brady to talk about the new voting machines that will be installed at every Georgia voting precinct before the March 2020 presidential preference primary.

Voting machine demonstrations have already begun throughout Georgia and have been met with immense praise, Raffensperger said.

According to Brady, local elections offices have already begun training in preparation for election season.

The 2020 election season is expected to have the largest voter turnout in Georgia history, with a projected turnout of around 5 million voters, Raffensperger said.

A Special Election for State House District 171 has drawn three candidates, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Following the death of Rep. Jay Powell on Nov. 26, a special election will be held for the district which covers parts of Colquitt, Decatur and Mitchell counties.

The special election will be held Jan. 28, two weeks after the legislative session begins. If a runoff is needed, it will be held Feb. 25.

Two Republicans and one Democrat will be listed on the ballot. To qualify, prospective candidates were required to pay a $400 fee and register during a short three day window through the Election Division of the Office of Secretary of State.

Hit the link to read about the candidates in a pretty well-written and thorough article.

Some State Senate Republicans prefiled a resolution opposing the impeachment of President Trump, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

State Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega pre-filed the resolution Wednesday with Sens. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, and Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta.

“Politics hit a new low in our Nation’s Capitol with the impeachment vote that is expected to be taken tonight,” Gooch said in a statement. “It is sad to see the partisan bickering in our U.S. House of Representatives. Congress should be working together to protect our families and fellow Americans across the United States. Cutting our national debt and deficit spending should be a priority at a time when we are experiencing historic low unemployment numbers and historic highs in the stock market. Protecting our borders and investing in much needed infrastructure should be the issues they are debating, not these baseless allegations against President Trump.”

The resolution opposing impeachment is Senate Res. 538.

President Trump lauded Congressman Buddy Carter via Twitter, according to The Brunswick News.

At 4:20 p.m. Tuesday, President Donald Trump cast his social media gaze at Georgia’s 1st Congressional District.

“@Buddy_Carter is a BUSINESSMAN first,” the president tweeted. “He takes care of our Vets and Troops and is leading the fight to SLASH drug prices! Buddy’s 100% pro-Wall & 100% pro-jobs. He will KEEP AMERICA GREAT and has my total, Strong Endorsement!”

“I was a little surprised, to be quite honest with you,” Carter, R-1, said Wednesday. “We work with the White House all the time — we’re in constant touch with them, and especially here recently, we’ve been in very close contact with them because of the prescription drug pricing that we’ve been discussing. So, the pace has really picked up. We’ve been talking to them once or twice a day. But we’re always in touch with them — we’re usually at least three times a week talking to them, over at the White House.”

“I’m very proud to have the president’s endorsement,” Carter said. “And then, of course, I’m a big supporter of the president and have been ever since I’ve been up here. I love his policies — I think he’s spot-on and I think he’s having a generational impact, particularly with the conservative judges that he’s been appointing. That, to me, has been one of the most significant if not the most significant impact this president has had.”

[Carter] said he does not intend to challenge Kelly Loeffler, the senator-designate, for the job.

“I’m very proud of the appointment that the governor has made,” Carter said. “I promised the governor, when I spoke to him after Johnny announced his retirement, that I would support his decision and I am supporting his decision. Of course, I’m more focused right now in helping Republicans get us back in the majority in the House of Representatives. And no, I have no intentions at this point of running for the Senate.”

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham announced in April that he would retire and not seek another term. Earlier this month, he announced a change in his plan:

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham, the first African American to serve on the state’s highest court, announced Thursday [December 5] he will step down from the bench on March 1.

Benham, 73, had been expected to retire when his current six-year term ends on Dec. 31, 2020. But by leaving more than nine months earlier, Benham gives Gov. Brian Kemp the chance to appoint his successor. It also upends an ongoing race with four contenders hoping to succeed Benham.

The nonpartisan race had been scheduled to be held in May, but that won’t happen now. Under state law, the person Kemp appoints to succeed Benham will not have to run for election until 2022.

Court of Appeals Judge Sara Doyle was the first to announce she was running for what was believed to be Benham’s upcoming open seat. Former U.S. Rep. John Barrow then joined the race, followed by former state lawmaker Beth Beskin and Superior Court Judge Horace Johnson, who presides over Newton and Walton counties.

So, the initial announcement set off a series of dominoes falling, as incumbent judges announced for Benham’s seat, thus opening their own. Judge Sara Doyle’s reelection to the Court of Appeals may be more difficult now, as three candidates who announced for her seat are still running for it, according to the Fulton Daily Report.

Three of the eight candidates vying for what was initially an open Court of Appeals seat are actively staying in the race, in which they now face the incumbent, Presiding Judge Sara Doyle.

Tabitha Ponder Beckford’s campaign told supporters by email Monday that Justice Robert Benham’s announcement that he’ll leave the state Supreme Court earlier than expected “has created a domino effect in our race that makes it unclear what will happen next year with regards to our Court of Appeals race, but I want to continue to build momentum as I strongly believe this race is far from over.”

[S]he’ll face Doyle and at least two other candidates in the May election for Doyle’s seat. They are Bennett Bryan, who heads appellate litigation for the DeKalb County Law Department, and Kimberly Bourroughs Debrow, a DeKalb County senior assistant district attorney, who both said last week they were staying in the race.

Four candidates for Judge Doyle’s seat will withdraw, while a fifth will reassess.

The Georgia Senate Study Committee on Revising Voting Rights for Nonviolent Felony Offenders declined to recommend changes to how felon voting rights are restored, according to the Center Square.

The members voted 3-2 in favor of continuing to restrict nearly 250,000 convicted Georgia felons from voting.

According to Georgia’s law, people who have been convicted of crimes with moral turpitude cannot vote until they complete their full sentence, including probation or parole. The U.S. Department of Justice defines moral turpitude as “conduct that shocks the public conscience.”

The state’s constitution does not clearly define the term, however, leaving all felonies subject to the law.

Committee Chairman Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, said moral turpitude may have to be further examined as a separate issue apart from felon rights. voted with the majority.

The Senate Gaming and Pari-mutuel Wagering Study Committee also declined to adopt recommendations for legislation, according to The Brunswick News.

“The posture of the committee, and the posture of the chair, is that we are not going to vote on any recommendations today — we are going to vote the report,” said committee Chairman Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, at the committee’s final meeting Wednesday. “We have sent the report to everyone. We will go through some of the report and get comments from everybody.

“We will not vote on any recommendations today, but I will say this — we will work with leadership, we’re going to work with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office and the Governor’s Office and hopefully come up with some recommendations before Jan. 13, or we will be working toward those with the caucus leadership, and so on.”

Beach said one of the things senators learned from legislative counsel is that sports betting would likely need a constitutional amendment. He also said that this cycle of debating gambling legalization is the first time the state’s professional sports franchises came out in support of the idea.

According to the committee’s report, casino gambling and pari-mutuel wagering would also need constitutional amendments to pass to achieve legalization.

My hat is off and I award +3 to whomever at The Brunswick News wrote a headline correctly using “eschew.”

The Evaluating and Simplifying Physician Oversight of Physician Assistants and Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Study Committee discussed potential changes to non-physician medical practice, according to Georgia Health News.

Bills seeking to broaden the ‘‘scope of practice’’ of mid-level medical providers (non-physicians with advanced training) are introduced annually at the Legislature, with proponents saying the changes would increase the public’s access to medical care. But these proposals typically meet tough resistance from medical provider groups seeking to defend the status quo.

Nelson, president of the United Advanced Practice Registered Nurses of Georgia, points to medical imaging. APRNs in Georgia can order such tests only in an emergency situation, and ours is the only state with that restriction.

Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), who is herself a nurse, pushed for eliminating the imaging rule at a panel hearing Tuesday. Currently, an advanced nurse “can’t order an MRI when it needs to be done,’’ she said.

And Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), who’s an anesthesiology assistant, said, “The bottom hasn’t fallen out’’ in the 49 states allowing APRNs to order non-emergency imaging tests.

But the vote for recommending the imaging change was 3-2 in favor, with two physicians on the panel, Sens. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) and Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta), voting against. “I think advanced imaging requires advanced training,’’ Kirkpatrick said.

For true healthcare policy nerds, it’s an article worth reading in its entirety.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission met this week to begin its work regulating the in-state production of cannabis-based medications, according to the AJC.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, during its first meeting Wednesday, began exploring how to manufacture or import the oil for use by the state’s nearly 14,000 registered patients.

The commission’s members emphasized that they want to help people get the medicine that works for them.

“We have patients who have been granted cards to be able to obtain a medical product that they have no legal ways of getting in Georgia right now,” said Dr. Judith Rochon, a psychiatrist and member of the commission.

Patients have been allowed to use medical marijuana in Georgia since 2015, but it was only this year that the General Assembly passed a bill permitting its production and sale.

The commission includes three doctors, a police chief, a health policy professor, a member of the Georgia Board of Pharmacy and a massage franchise owner.

Despite the board’s pledge to act quickly, patients advocating for medical marijuana said they believe it could take 18 months or more to create regulations, issue licenses and get medicine to patients.

The board plans to hire a director, create a website and hold public meetings monthly across Georgia.

Failure to lauch: the Camden County Spaceport is on hold for the time being, as the FAA pushes its decision making timeline, according to the Georgia Recorder.

The launch date for Spaceport Camden is on indefinite hold after federal regulators held up an expected approval of Camden County’s license to operate the facility, prompting questions over the project’s future.

County officials recently scrapped plans to launch larger rockets like the 230-foot-tall SpaceX Falcon 9 from a pad near the coast. Instead, the new focus is on smaller satellite-bearing rockets that will burn up in the earth’s atmosphere. The change requires amending the county’s application for a launch operator license, which the Federal Aviation Administration was supposed to rule on Monday.

County officials made the last-minute request for an application change Saturday, just two days before the FAA’s license approval deadline, said agency spokeswoman Eva Ngai.

County officials now view smaller rockets the size of mini-fridges that carry satellites into orbit as a more viable economic market than the larger models, said project spokesman John Simpson. He said the county asked to revise its license application to make sure the FAA would approve small-sized rockets and not just the larger units. He declined to elaborate on the timing of the license change request.

“There’s going to be a lot more opportunity for those small launch vehicles,” Simpson said Tuesday. “We want to be absolutely sure that we get a review of those rockets for the market we’re seeking.”

 The 2020 election for Augusta Commission Super District 9 has drawn 4 candidates so far, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

[Former Augusta commissioner Corey] Johnson is the fourth person to pursue the seat, which represents half the Augusta-Richmond County population and spans commission districts 1, 2, 4, 5 and 9. He joins former mayoral candidate and retired businessman Charles Cummings, former commission candidate and small-businesswoman Jo’Rae Jenkins and retired state employee Francine Scott.

The Lowndes County Board of Elections voted to create a new voting precinct, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Lowndes County Board of Elections met Tuesday for its final session of 2019. Members unanimously voted to approve the creation of a new voting precinct at Jaycee Shack for future elections. It will be the 11th voting location in the county.

“Other counties are reducing (the number of voting precincts) and we’re adding, so that’s great,” said Deb Cox, Lowndes County supervisor of elections.

The new voting precinct will be located at the Jaycee Shack facility on 2306 Jaycee Shack Road.

Chatham Area Transit resumed ferryboat operations on the Savannah River after suspending due to dredging, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The ferries are now docking at the City Hall landing, as well as the Savannah Convention Center on Hutchinson Island and the Waving Girl landing at Morrell Park on the east side of the Riverwalk.

The free ferries operate from 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

The ferry is one of my favorite things about Savannah.

Glynn County commissioners may release additional funding from the current SPLOST to the Joint Water and Sewer Commission, according to The Brunswick News.