The blog.

3
Jun

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for June 3, 2019

Maude Harris

Maude is a young male Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Harris County in Hamilton, GA.

Jasper Harris

Jasper is a male Shepherd mix who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Harris County in Hamilton, GA.

Cable Harris

Cable is a 3-year old male English Pointer mix who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Harris County in Hamilton, GA.

This 3 year old pointer mix came to the shelter heartworm positive and with a bad lower back issue. With a combination of vets, chiropractors and tender, loving care Cable’s condition is stabilized. He might not be a dog you can jog with but boy does he like to swim. It’s time for Cable to find a forever home. He’s partial to the backwater for the water access but a swimming pool will do.

3
Jun

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

On June 3, 1941, Georgia voters ratified a Constitutional Amendment extending the term of office for Governor and the other Constitutional Officers from two years to four. Governor Eugene Talmadge campaigned for the Amendment, hoping to serve a four-year term after the two-year term he currently held, but was defeated in the 1942 Democratic Primary by Ellis Arnall. Remember this phrase: legislation almost always has unintended consequences.

On June 3, 1942, Curtis Mayfield was born in Chicago, Illinois and would later live in Atlanta, dying in Roswell in 1999.

On the morning of June 3, 1962, a plane carrying 106 Georgians crashed on take-off from Orly near Paris, the deadliest crash in aviation to that date.

On June 3, 1980, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter had amassed enough delegates to assure his nomination in the Democratic Primary for President.

Today is the anniversary of the beginning of the Tiananman Square Massacre in Beijing, China. Pro-democracy protests had begun on April 15, 1989 and on May 20, martial law was declared. The People’s Liberation Army began taking the square back on the evening of June 3d.

The Brunswick Times dusts off an 1888 Harper’s Weekly article discussing the coastal city.

“Its industry is a feature the article makes a point of noting. “Brunswick has profited greatly by her harbor; in fact, the present prosperity of the city is due to its unsurpassed shipping facilities. Great quantities of cotton, pine lumber, resin, turpentine and other products are shipped from Brunswick to all parts of the world … The people of Brunswick have awakened to the fact that their city has within its reach the making of a great shipping-point, as well as a popular resort.”

Promoting Brunswick as a resort destination for winter weary northerners was the point of this well-placed, paid article in Harper’s Weekly. Coastal Georgia was just then establishing itself as a balmy retreat from the bitter cold of northern environs. The Jekyll Island Club already had become an exclusive playground of the Vanderbilts, Morgans and other movers and shakers of the Gilded Age.

As the lumber mills churned away at Gascoigne Bluff on the river side of St. Simons Island, the St. Simons Hotel catered to vacation-minded visitors on “9,588 feet of magnificent sea-beach front,” the article noted.

The article cautioned discerning readers not to overlook Brunswick. “The visitor has no need to confine his attention to Jekyll Island alone, for the mainland and the Brunswick peninsula have attractions enough to keep one busy the whole season.”

“Brunswick is not unlike New York in its water and harbor facilities. St. Simons Sound and the Brunswick and Back rivers will float vessels of the largest class, and that, too, up to the streets of the city, as in the case of New York. Navigable water flows on three sides of the city, while in the bay toward the sea is water enough, as well as room enough, to float the navies of the world.”

Savannah will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Savannah area’s role in the historic invasion will be commemorated at ceremonies in Pooler and Savannah.

The National Museum of the Mighty Eighth in Pooler will be honoring the bravery of those who fought during the invasion with programs throughout the day.

Admission to the museum will be $8 on Thursday. That fee is waived for World War II veterans and children under the age of 6.

In Savannah, a maritime commemoration at the Savannah Convention Center will recognize the role of Savannah’s Liberty ships — constructed wartime freighters designed to bring supplies and equipment overseas as replacements for merchant ships sunk by German U-boats.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp appointed four new Superior Court Judges, according to the Daily Report.

The new judges will fill openings in the Cherokee, Coweta, Macon and Stone Mountain judicial circuits. Their appointments will take effect as soon as they can be sworn in.

Troup County Solicitor General Markette Baker is the new judge for the Coweta Judicial Circuit.

Bibb County State Court Judge Jeffery Monroe will move up to the Macon Judicial Circuit Superior Court.

DeKalb County State Court Judge Shondeana Morris will step up to the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court.

Jeffrey Watkins, founder of a general practice firm in Cartersville, is the new judge for the Cherokee Circuit.

Georgia Public Broadcasting‘s “Political Rewind” will tape tonight in Cartersville, according to the Rome News Tribune.

State Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, is among the local officials expected to participate in the taping of a “Political Rewind” road show in Cartersville tonight.

The Atlanta-based GPB radio staple hosted by Bill Nigut features prominent politicos talking about the issues of the day.

Panelists today include Buddy Darden, a former congressman from the area, and conservative activist Julianne Thompson. Other state lawmakers and political writers also are scheduled and Nigut said he plans to take questions from the audience.

The taping, which is open to the public, is set for 7 p.m. in the Grand Theatre, in downtown Cartersville. It will air at 2 p.m. Tuesday and stream on Facebook across the GPB statewide network.

Democrat Stacey Abrams is fighting subpoenas by the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, according to GPB News.

The Abrams campaign sent more than 3,600 pages of financial records to state ethics officials. But it withheld nineteen emails, according to a letter attached to the campaign’s response to David Emadi, the executive secretary of the ethics commission hired in April.

The subpoena asked for banking records beginning in May of 2018, as well as communications between the Abrams campaign and organizations that advocate for people of color and often encourage them to vote.

It also requested communications between the campaign, and state Sen. Nikema Williams, the current head of the Democratic Party of Georgia. In 2018, during the campaign for governor, Williams was first vice-chair of the state party.

Specifically, the Abrams campaign withheld nine campaign emails “involving” the civil rights organization called the New Georgia Project, and 10 emails “involving” Williams.

“The Subpeona is conspicuously over broad without a factual context for the requests,” wrote Abrams campaign lawyer Joyce Gist Lewis.

“Demanding that the Abrams campaign identify and produce ‘all communications’ months following the certification of the election results is unreasonable and extraordinary,” Gist Lewis wrote. “Especially where, as here, the Commission has declined to explain how these requests are related to its investigation.”

From the AJC:

Emadi would not discuss specifics of the case, but he revealed in a letter that he intends to present evidence that the Abrams campaign accepted donations from four of the groups that exceeded maximum contribution limits for a statewide campaign.

The four groups Emadi singled out are Care in Action, a nonprofit Williams co-founded that advocates for domestic workers; Higher Heights for Georgia, a New York-funded organization geared toward electing black women; PowerPAC Georgia, an “independent group” that spent more than $5.6 million promoting Abrams and attacking Kemp, mostly funded by liberal San Francisco-based philanthropist Susan Sandler; and Gente4Abrams, a Latino advocacy group.

Lewis said the Democrat has “nothing to hide” and questioned in a response to Emadi why investigators only demanded records from groups “led by black or Latinx Georgians working to increase election participation among voters of color.”

Emadi has dismissed accusations that he was pursuing a political vendetta, insisting his probe is being conducted in a “fair and impartial manner.”

And he said in a statement this week that all candidates from the 2018 campaign for governor will be investigated for potential violations “without any concern or benefit regarding partisan affiliation.”

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sent a letter to Randolph County condemning alleged plans to close voting precincts, according to the AJC.

But the county’s attorney said there are no plans to close precincts, and the local government needs to assess the costs of repairing dilapidated polling places so that they’re accessible to people with disabilities. He said it’s premature for the Lawyers’ Committee to say the cost assessment will lead to precinct closures.

Randolph County, with a population of about 7,000, found itself in the national spotlight last year when election officials considered a proposal to close seven of the county’s nine voting locations. The county elections board voted 2-0 in August to keep all its polling places open before November’s election for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp.

The renewed scrutiny comes after Elections Supervisor Todd Black gave a presentation to county commissioners April 17 about his plan to assess the costs of repairing dilapidated precincts.

Many of the precincts lack ramps or parking spaces for voters with disabilities, and they should be upgraded to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Tommy Coleman, the county’s attorney.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama made a suprise appearance at Spelman College, according to GPB News.

Obama met with a group of students from Spelman and Morehouse Colleges who studied the book this semester. Professor Marilyn Davis used it as the foundational text for the honors political science course, Black Women: Developing Public Leadership Skills.

During the round table discussion on Mother’s Day weekend, Obama and the students talked about topics including overcoming imposter syndrome and breaking barriers in education and professional life. She shared how she managed her educational and professional struggles with the students.

The Saturday visit on campus was not Obama’s first visit to Spelman. The first-generation college graduate spoke at Spelman’s commencement in 2011 and recently co-chaired a voting event ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

The Rome News Tribune looks at how Georgia’s rape laws work (or don’t).

In the past, law enforcement decided whether a victim’s rape or assault would receive a forensic exam in the first place. Money was a big factor because the agencies paid for the kit assets, said Kim Davis, executive director of the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia.

“There wasn’t anything we could do about it,” says Davis. “We couldn’t afford to do the exams because we didn’t have enough money to pay for the equipment.”

Rape kits are expensive. It costs crisis centers or law enforcement agencies upwards of $1,000 for rape kit materials, not including medication to help prevent STDs or pregnancies from rape. Now, crisis centers such as the SAC can bill Georgia’s Crime Victims Compensation Program for much of the cost.

In 2011, Georgia’s law changed so that anyone who claimed to have been assaulted had the right to a rape kit exam. But though an exam was done, if the victim didn’t officially report the crime to law enforcement, there was no guarantee the kit would be sent to the GBI. The SAC would keep the kit for a year and then destroy it.

Thanks to a 2016 law, now all kits are required to go to the crime lab. But for those who survived an assault prior to that year, this can be devastating news.

Richmond County saw an increase in violent crime last year, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

According to data from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, there were 603 violent crimes in 2018 compared with 565 in 2017, a 6.7 percent increase. There were 3,993 property crimes in 2018 after 4,151 in 2017, a 3.8 percent decrease. As of May 17, there have been 1,180 property crimes in 2019.

Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton said property crimes tend to have more patterns than violent crimes, so they can be a bit easier to track.

“There is usually more of them, so usually there is more patterns,” he said. “The violent crimes tend to be more random. Usually what you see on property crimes, for example, if you have car break-ins, it’s usually more than one car break-in.”

Clayton said offenders tend to go to different areas and do multiple break-ins or burglaries. According to sheriff’s office data, the most common property crime in Richmond County is larceny auto with 1,932 cases in 2017 and 1,938 in 2018.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is accepting public comments as part of its reaccreditation process, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Muscogee County School District is running an online survey on school starting times, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The survey was intended for only parents of elementary school children, who would see an extra 30 minutes added to the school day, Muscogee County School District Superintendent David Lewis told the Ledger-Enquirer.

When informed that the survey was posted Wednesday on the district’s website and is available for anyone to take multiple times on the same electronic device, he referred the L-E’s questions to district communications director Mercedes Parham.

“The parents’ survey was sent to elementary parents,” Parham told the L-E in an email Friday. “However, to prevent limitations, the parents’ survey link was also provided on the families section of our website. All surveys responses, regardless of the access point, are automatically generated in Microsoft Office’s survey system. With any survey, there are variables, but our focus is to have more points of inclusion than exclusion, where possible.”

The explanation didn’t satisfy Muscogee County Council of PTAs second vice president Gloria Brown, who is taking care of four grandchildren living with her, two in elementary school and two in middle school.

“That’s not going to give an accurate opinion of the parents it will affect if it’s open up to anybody in the world,” Brown said in a telephone interview Friday.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office has begun a “Citizens’ Watch Surveillance Camera Program,” according to AccessWDUN.

Many home and business owners have surveillance camera systems these days. Law enforcement often use these images to help solve crimes at those homes and businesses. But, they can also be used to help investigators get to the bottom of crimes in adjacent homes and businesses.

According to the sheriff’s department, Citizens’ Watch is a secure program that allows surveillance camera system owners to report their system to the Sheriff’s Office through a secure website. The information is mapped for law enforcement, allowing for quick and easy reference when deputies are seeking surveillance images in an area where a crime was committed.

Part of the posting emphasizes that officers would not have access to security cameras and any images they capture without the permission of the owners.

An inmate video conferencing system is saving the state money by reducing prisoner transport costs, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Superior Court rules allow video conferencing for a number of court proceedings – as long as they are recorded, [Judge J. Wade] Padgett said. He volunteered to try it in the Augusta Judicial Circuit. The Corrections Department paid for the necessary computer system and worked with Augusta’s IT department to set it up. The offices of the public defender and district attorney jumped on board, Padgett said.

The 35 hearings Padgett held from January through March saved the prison system nearly $6,000. Video-conferencing equipment was set up at two of the state’s 34 prisons.

Last year, Corrections Department employees did more than 35,000 prisoner transports for court hearings, said Stan Cooper, the special assistant to department Commissioner Timothy C. Ward. The department estimates 40 to 45 percent of the hearings involving prison inmates could be done by video conference.

The success of Padgett’s pilot project has Ward wanting to set up equipment at every prison, Cooper said. It has increased the safety of employees and prisoners and increased efficiency, not to mention the financial savings, he said. It could also help sheriff’s departments that are responsible for prisoner transports, Cooper said.

Padgett said there are talks with the sheriff about holding arraignments for those in local jails by video conference.

Recently in one of the smaller Richmond County Superior Court courtrooms, Padgett conducted 22 arraignments of inmates at Augusta State Medical Prison and Phillips State Prison.

Former Fort Valley City Administrator Karin Vinson is suing the city and several individuals alleging sex harassment over her pregnancy, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The harassment allegedly involved several officials — including Mayor Barbara Williams and Councilwoman Juanita Bryant — falsely accusing then-City Administrator Karin Vinson of having a sexual relationship with the police chief and claiming she was unable to perform her job duties, the lawsuit said.

Vinson is suing the city, Williams and Bryant for creating a hostile work environment during her two years as city manager. She is seeking a minimum of $350,000 in damages in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on May 23.

Vinson accuses the mayor of retaliating against her because she raised concerns about Williams helping a business get contracts with the city, and for refusing to budget $40,000 to buy a digital sign from a company that made signs for the mayor’s campaign, the lawsuit said.

Warner Robins began construction on a new North Houston Sports Complex as part of a $20 million dollar expansion, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Attorney Marvin Lim announced that he will announce on Tuesday his campaign for House District 99, which is being vacated by State Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, who is running for Congress. From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Lim has lived in state House District 99 since 2001. He graduated magna cum laude from Emory University and then graduated from Yale University as well. He is also one of the founding board members of the grassroots progressive group 159 Georgia Together.

“As an immigrant, I learned there’s no replacing hard work,” Lim said on his campaign website, www.marvinlimforga.com. “But no one should have to pay too high a price — like too many Georgians do — to yield fruit from their labor. Our government must make sure this will no longer be the case.”

The state House District 99 seat has not drawn Republican candidates in recent election cycles, which means that, unless that trend changes, the winner of the Democratic primary election essentially wins the seat.

Georgia’s Shoal Bass is popular with anglers and legislators, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

[T]here is a movement to crown the species — a fish that, with the exception of a Florida river, is now only found in Georgia streams — as the state’s official native riverine sport fish.

“It’s the quintessential Georgia fish. Georgia’s the only place that you would go in the whole world to catch a six-pound shoal bass,” said Steven Sammons, a researcher with Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences. “Truly, to me, it is the Georgia fish.”

After years of trying, the shoal bass nearly clinched the coveted title this legislative session, but the proposal’s backers had to cut bait after some last-minute opposition surfaced.

The shoal bass, which became its own species just two decades ago, has been gaining in popularity for years.

Rep. Debbie Buckner, a Democrat from Junction City, said she sees the proposal as a way to help small, rural businesses in an area with few other economic opportunities cultivate a tourism economy centered on the quaint fish.

A handful of fishing guides devoted to escorting visitors to shoalie hotspots already exist. Buckner said she also sees an opportunity for restaurants and lodging to benefit from an influx of visitors.

Buckner’s proposal nearly passed this year, but opposition from one north Georgia state senator, Bill Heath, caused the provision to be very publicly cut from a larger bill as the clock expired on this year’s legislative session.

When asked why he objected to the designation, the Bremen Republican said he saw the proposal as “not germane to the issues” in the broader bill. Buckner’s proposal had been tacked on to a bill that included various changes to the state’s hunting and fishing law.

31
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 31, 2019

When Southern Comfort Animal Rescue staff members arrived at work on the morning of April 15, they discovered that someone had left a plastic tote with nine young puppies in our parking lot. The pups were soaked from the rain from the previous night which had to add discomfort to their already flea infested bodies and some of the pups appeared to be sickly. Within a few days, five of the nine were lost to possibly parvo and the four surviving brothers had to fight hard to survive their ordeal.

Rooster is the calmest of this litter but that doesn’t mean he is any less playful. He really enjoys snuggling and showing his affection, making him an ideal candidate as a family companion. If you’re looking for a large (once fully grown), family-friendly dog, then Rooster should be on your short list!

Rooster is up to date with his vaccinations, de-wormings and monthly preventatives. His adopter must agree to having him neutered once he reaches 6 months of age and provide proof of such to our rescue.

Reuben Glenwood

Reuben is a young male Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from Southern Comfort Animal Rescue Services Inc in Glenwood, GA.

Rooster Glenwood

Rooster is a young male Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from Southern Comfort Animal Rescue Services Inc in Glenwood, GA.

Rollins Glenwood

Rollins is a young male Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from Southern Comfort Animal Rescue Services Inc in Glenwood, GA.

31
May

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

Benjamin Franklin became Georgia’s agent in England on June 1, 1768, making him also Georgia’s first lobbyist.

On June 2, 1774, Britain’s Parliament passed the Quartering Act, the last of the Coercive Acts, meant to punish the American colonies and reassert British control. Eventually, the Third Amendment to the United States Constitution would prohibit the forcible quartering of soldiers in private homes.

On June 1, 1775, Georgia patriots sent a care package to their brethren in Massachusetts comprising 63 barrels of rice and £122 after the battles at Lexington and Concord.

The court martial of Benedict Arnold convened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 1, 1779.

Arnold negotiated his defection to the British and the subversion of West Point over several months. The British already held control of New York City and believed that by taking West Point they could effectively cut off the American’s New England forces from the rest of the fledgling nation.

In August 1780, Sir Henry Clinton offered Arnold £20,000 for delivering West Point and 3,000 troops. Arnold told General Washington that West Point was adequately prepared for an attack even though he was busy making sure that that it really wasn’t. He even tried to set up General Washington’s capture as a bonus. His plan might have been successful but his message was delivered too late and Washington escaped. The West Point surrender was also foiled when an American colonel ignored Arnold’s order not to fire on an approaching British ship.

Arnold’s defection was revealed to the Americans when British officer John André, acting as a messenger, was robbed by AWOL Americans working as pirates in the woods north of New York City. The notes revealing Arnold’s traitorous agreement were stashed in his boots.

The Treaty of Augusta was signed on May 31, 1783, between the Creek Indians and Georgia Commissioners. A second, identical document would be signed on November 1 of that year.

The first graduation ceremony for the University of Georgia was held on May 31, 1804.

Savannah-born John C. Fremont was nominated for President of the United States by the Radical Republicans on May 31, 1864. Fremont had previously been nominated for President by the Republican Party as their first presidential candidate in 1856.

Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, commanding forces west of the Mississippi, surrendered on June 2, 1865, and this date is generally considered the end of the Civil War.

The Capital City Club in Atlanta was chartered on May 31, 1889.

United States Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan certified the 17th Amendment as part of the Constitution on May 31, 1913, authorizing the direct election of United States Senators. Georgia never ratified the Amendment.

On June 1, 1942, a Polish newspaper first published information about the gassing of Jews at Nazi concentration camps in Poland.

Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on June 2, 1953.

On June 2, 1962, Georgia-born Ray Charles hit #1 on the charts with “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

The Beatles released Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on June 1, 1967. The album is listed as #1 on the Rolling Stone top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time. From the title song’s regal blasts of brass and fuzz guitar to the orchestral seizure and long, dying piano chord at the end of “A Day in the Life,” the 13 tracks on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are the pinnacle of the Beatles’ eight years as recording artists. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were never more fearless and unified in their pursuit of magic and transcendence.

Issued in Britain on June 1st, 1967, and a day later in America, Sgt. Pepper is also rock’s ultimate declaration of change. For the Beatles, it was a decisive goodbye to matching suits, world tours and assembly-line record-making. “We were fed up with being Beatles,” McCartney said decades later, in Many Years From Now, Barry Miles’ McCartney biography. “We were not boys, we were men… artists rather than performers.

“It was a peak,” Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970, describing both the album and his collaborative relationship with McCartney. “Paul and I were definitely working together,” Lennon said….

Rolling Stone should stick to writing about music.

Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter appeared on the cover of Time magazine on May 31, 1971.

Carter Time Cover 1971

A summit between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev ended on May 31, 1988. Four years later, in 1992, Gorbachev was dancing for dollars in the United States, including the keynote address at Emory University’s graduation.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp addressed the Georgia Press Association on Jekyll Island, according to The Brunswick News.

The governor recounted the efforts of the state first lady, Marty Kemp, on combating human trafficking, and discussed some of the policy goals he and legislative leaders worked to address in the last session and will look at again next year.

The first applause break was for education spending, especially teacher pay raises.

“We’ve again, for the second year in a row, fully funded the public school education formula, which is just huge — it’s over $10 billion for our local school systems,” Kemp said. “We’ve given Georgia educators the largest teacher pay raise in the history of the state government. I know that is a huge issue in the areas that you are covering in your local media, because it doesn’t matter where you are — people are having teacher retention problems.”

The governor’s focus on addressing gang crime also brought acclimation from the media audience, as did when Kemp discussed the state’s hometown publications themselves.

“Hardworking Georgians make a huge difference in their local communities,” Kemp said. “Our teachers, our coaches, business owners, volunteers, public servants, those who give charitably in their local community — they’re all working for one thing, and that’s for a better tomorrow, for a better state tomorrow than it is today.

 The Lowndes County Commission first heard the proposed FY 2020 budget this week, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter said he felt good about the proposed budget of $108 million that the county will vote on at its next meeting.

“We do have a balanced budget proposed in front of us, which we are very, very fortunate to have,” Slaughter said.

The Lowndes County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing at 5 p.m., June 11, in the commission chambers. The public is encouraged to attend if residents have any thoughts or concerns about the budget.

The $108 million represents the total cost of expenditures for Fiscal Year 2020. The county’s general fund balance, which pays for most of the county’s services provided to the public, is set at $58 million and is completely balanced, county staff said.

The Glynn County Board of Elections hired Assistant Elections and Registrations Supervisor Chris Channell as the new Elections Supervisor, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County Fire Department is working with a deficit, according to The Brunswick News.

The department is expected to go into the next fiscal year with a $616,000 deficit, according to interim Chief Financial Officer Tamara Munson.

Overall, the department’s expenses dropped, she explained to the Glynn County Commission during a special called meeting on Thursday. The commission gathered specifically to discuss a proposed budget for the fiscal year 2019-2020.

The problem arose because the department’s revenue dropped as well, in large part due to the county diverting the insurance premium tax that once went to the fire fund. It’s now going to the Glynn County Police Department’s new fund to cover for a drop in overall tax revenue.

“There are four reasons why we had to fund with (reserves) this year, and we did not in the past. The first reason is the insurance premium tax,” Munson said. “… The second reason was there was $175,000 worth of (promotions) for the fire department this year, so that caused an increase in personnel costs … in addition to the (cost of living adjustment). The SAFER grant, also, will cause a $70,000 increase this year.”

The department could close most of the $616,000 gap by paying off two fire trucks. Annual debt payments come out to around $600,000, but paying them off would cost around $4 million in total. The money could either come from the $4 million in the fire department’s reserves or out of the county’s $19 million in undesignated funds, Munson explained.

Muscogee County School District has a new police department, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

It’s the first time the Muscogee County School District’s new police department will be put into action — after being created in response to the school shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas.

The first hiring phase is this year for the command staff (one captain and two sergeants, in addition to the already hired police chief) and 15 officers, one at each of the nine high schools and six rotating among the 12 middle schools. The second phase will be next year, hiring six officers to rotate among 32 elementary schools.

Ground was broken for a new Chatham County Behavioral Health Crisis Center, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The psychiatric crisis facility has been a joint effort of the Georgia General Assembly, the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, and the Chatham County Commission.

The facility is 22,000 square feet with an 24-hour, year-round walk-in crisis service alternative to hospital emergency rooms.

Services are for people needing emergency help with psychiatric diagnoses, including hallucinations, psychosis and severe depression.

Alpharetta City Council member John Hipes announced he will run for reelection this year, according to the Patch.

Tybee Island City Council member Shirley Sessions announced she will run for Mayor, according to the Savannah Morning News.

About a week after Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman announced that he will not seek reelection in 2020, the city has it’s first candidate for the upcoming mayoral race.

Tybee Island City Councilwoman Shirley Sessions announced on Thursday her intention to run for mayor.

Some of her top priorities include beach renourishment, public safety and infrastructure.

She said she believes networking “across the bridge” is critical to the long-term success of Tybee.

“For me the mayor’s role is one of uniting people,” she said. “I’m a big believer in finding common ground. As mayor, it’s always important to work for beach renourishment, public safety, infrastructure and also I think respect for individuals. I’m a big believer in accountability and transparency in government. My plan is to help Tybee really be more united.”

Gainesville City Council is considering a property tax rollback, according to the Gainesville Times.

Gainesville officials are recommending the city roll back its millage rate to 3.322 mills from 3.364 mills, the amount needed for the average city property owner to maintain their rate in light of increased property valuations.

City Manager Bryan Lackey presented the recommended budget to the City Council on Thursday and also outlined some proposed capital projects and improvements for the police and fire departments.

The Floyd County Board of Education held its first hearing on the 2020 budget, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The second and final hearing will take place next Thursday at 8 a.m. at the same location. After the second hearing the board will take a vote to accept the budget as tentative with a final vote taking place at the next board meeting.

“We’re passionate about getting a balanced budget,” Superintendent Jeff Wilson said. “We feel really good about this budget and hope the community will, too.”

The proposed budget is $121.9 million which increased $5.7 million from last year. This number is reached by combining the school system’s beginning balance — $19.2 million — with its revenues and equals the system’s ending balance — $18.3 million — plus expenses.

The system is receiving an estimated $66 million from the state for its 9,324 students, Chief Financial Officer Greg Studdard said. These numbers come from the quality basic education earnings sheet, which is what the state of Georgia uses to determine how much funds systems receive.

The biggest expense for the system will be raises for certified and classified personnel, which comes in around $3 million. Certified personnel will be getting the $3,000 raises from the state, Studdard said, but with declining enrollment the system lost about a million in funding and will be receiving $1.4 million for the raises.

The Floyd County Commission is considering zoning changes that would allow some farm animals for personal use, according to the Rome News Tribune.

30
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 30, 2019

Brianna Atlanta Lab Rescue

Brianna is a young female Labrador Retriever who is available for adoption from Atlanta Lab Rescue in Atlanta, GA.

Brianna is a 1 year old 40 pound lab mix that you just want to cuddle with as soon as you see her. She is always smiling and even though she islikely had a hard life she doesn’t show it and makes you smile too. She is good with other dogs and tidy in her kennel, which usually means housetrained.

Sadie Atlanta Lab Rescue

Sadie is a female Labrador Retriever who is available for adoption from Atlanta Lab Rescue in Atlanta, GA.

Sadie is a 2 year old, 40 pound lab mix that was picked up as a stray in south Georgia. She is as friendly and sweet as she is small and cute. She is good with other dogs and seems to be housetrained in her kennel.

Kiwi Atlanta Lab Rescue

Kiwi is a female Labrador Retriever puppy who is available for adoption from Atlanta Lab Rescue in Atlanta, GA.

30
May

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

On May 30, 1922, Chief Justice of the United States William H. Taft dedicated the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Inside the memorial is a seated statue of Lincoln by Daniel Chester French carved from 175 tons of Georgia white marble.

French also created the statue of Jame Oglethorpe that stands in Chippewa Square in Savannah and a seated statue of Samuel Spencer considered to be a prototype of the Lincoln carving. Samuel Spencer was the first President of Southern Railway and was originally located at the rail station in downtown Atlanta before moving to the Southern Railway passenger station in Buckhead in the 1970s and is currently at 1200 Peachtree Street in front of Norfolk Southern.

On this day in 1992, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion by Georgia-based The Black Crowes reached number one on the Billboard US Album chart.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Disney may cease filming in Georgia if the heartbeat bill goes into effect, according to the New York Times.

Disney’s chief executive, Bob Iger, said on Wednesday it would be “very difficult” for the company to continue filming in Georgia if the state’s highly restrictive abortion law is carried out.

Iger’s comments, made during in an interview with Reuters, were the strongest sign yet that Hollywood could pull back from Georgia, which has lured television and film producers with generous tax breaks, but has also at times repelled the industry with its politics.

“I rather doubt we will” continue filming in the state, Iger said. “I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now we are watching it very carefully.

“I don’t see how it’s practical for us to continue to shoot there” if the law is enforced, he said.

Columbus City Council will consider raising the property tax millage rate by a percentage point, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Columbus Consolidated Government has issued a notice saying next year’s tentative budget requires a higher millage rate and three public hearings are required by Georgia law before it’s raised.

The council is proposing to leave the millage rate at 17.18 mils for urban service districts 1, 5, 6 and 7, according to the notice.

That means a property in one of those districts with an assessed value of $100,000 would receive a tax bill from the city of $1,718.

Because there was no increase in the total digest for districts 2 and 4, and the millage rates of 11.20 mils for district 2 and 10.30 mils for district 4 will remain the same and there will be no tax increase advertised.

City Manager Isaiah Hugley said Wednesday that despite the language in the advertisement, people whose property taxes are frozen on their homes and who have not made any additions will not see an increase.

The one percent increase has more to do with the growth in the total digest, or list, of taxable properties in Columbus, she said.

“If we did everything exactly the same during the course of the year, but we added 600 new homes and two new 50,000-square-foot buildings, all else was the same, those 600 new homes and those new buildings would increase the digest because you’ve added to the inventory,” he said. “Adding to the inventory gives the appearance that we had an increase in property taxes.”

Savannah City Council is considering a rezoning for the Savannah Harbor project on Hutchinson Island, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The change will create a new Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning district, the Savannah Harbor Parcel 5 PUD.

The property where the zoning change would apply is parcel 5, a 27.41-acre section of the Savannah Harbor master planned area on Hutchinson Island.

The area is already zoned for residential housing, lodging and retail uses. The zoning change would allow outdoor events, food trucks and watercraft activities on parcel 5.

Phase one of the project includes a marina, with an adjacent public plaza and greenspace. The marina would be located to the east of The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa.

Also included in phase one are plans for residential housing in three blocks of the parcel.

The Augusta Commission Personnel Committee approved a new severance policy, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Lee County Commission approved an agreement to implement text-to-911 service, according to the Albany Herald.

Gainesville City Board of Education is considering offering an early contract extension to superintendent Jeremy Williams, according to the Gainesville Times.

A Chatham County grand jury indicted former Chatham County Probate Court Clerk Kim Birge on 39 counts related to alleged theft in office, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The indictment returned by the Chatham County grand jury identified 18 individual who were alleged victims between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2011, and it is the first time Birge has been charged in a state court proceeding.

Birge, 64, is currently serving a six-year federal sentence imposed in 2015 for her guilty plea to stealing $223,000 from the Probate Court.

The new charges, obtained on evidence presented by Chatham County Assistant District Attorney Scott Robichaux, charged Birge with racketeering activity by obtaining interest in and control of real estate and personal property by improperly managing Probate Court funds and accounts by forging or altering documents related to disbursements and expenditures for her personal use.w

Glynn County Commissioners meet today to discuss budgeting, according to The Brunswick News.

“What we plan on doing is ask whatever questions you have, and then in a little over a week, we’re going to have another budget session,” commission chairman Mike Browning said at the work session last week. “Be prepared to come in here and everything you want to deal with, be ready to deal with it.”

Due to a number of changes between this year’s budget and the recommended budget for the next fiscal year, it’s difficult to compare them directly, County Manager Alan Ours told the Glynn County Commission at the work session. However, the total budget for the last fiscal year added up to around $142 million while the 2019-2020 budget comes out to around $132 million.

The $10 million difference can largely be attributed to fewer purchases and an expected drop in revenue from Brunswick and Jekyll Island property taxes, according to Tamara Munson, the county’s interim chief financial officer.

The structure of the proposed 2019-2020 budget is far enough removed from previous budgets to make direct comparisons difficult, Ours said. For one, the Glynn County Police Department’s budget is moving out of the general fund, where it has historically been categorized, and into its own police fund within the new special revenue fund.

Valdosta Board of Education members are considering changing their compensation from $50 per meeting to $300 per month, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The proposal was brought up by member Warren Lee, leader of the benefits committee, at the regular meeting Tuesday.

“Board members now have more responsibility put on them than ever before,” Lee said. “I would like to see us discuss it. I’ve been kicking this can down the road for a long time.”

Currently, the nine board members are paid a per diem allowance of $50 each every time they attend a meeting or school board function, which is funded through local school tax funds.

Now, they’re asking for $300 a month, which would come from the same source.

The University of Georgia will open beer sales in the football stadium to some donors, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

In Rome, the Coosa River Basin Initiative will monitor bacteria levels in local streams for public safety, according to the Rome News Tribune.

29
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 29, 2019

Slappy Leesburg

Slappy is a young female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Lee County Animal Shelter in Leesburg, GA.

This is Slappy a female Lab Mix about 1 1/2yrs old. She is very lovable and full of energy. She loves to run and play. Slappy is negative for heartworms and has had her yearly distemper and kennel cough for the year.

Ripley Leesburg

Ripley is a young female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Lee County Animal Shelter in Leesburg, GA.

This is Ripley a 6 month old Lab Mix. Ripley’s owner had to turn her in because their landlord said she was too big now. Ripley is negative for heartworms. Ripley weighs 55 lbs and is full of energy. She will be a good addition to someone’s family.

Abby Leesburg

Abby is a female American Bulldog mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Lee County Animal Shelter in Leesburg, GA.

This is Abby an approximately 5 month old female Bulldog Mix. She is very sweet. She was traveling with her partner Illana. Abby weighs 23 lbs. She has had her distemper and kennel cough. She just needs to be spayed, get rabies shot and have a microchip put in.

29
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 29, 2019

On May 29, 1836, the United States Senate ratified the Treaty of New Echota, which required the movement of all Cherokee out of Georgia and led to the “Trail of Tears.”

On May 29, 1942, Adolf Hitler ordered all Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris to wear a yellow Star of David on their coats.

On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese Sherpa, became the first to summit Mount Everest.

On May 28, Tenzing and Hillary set out, setting up high camp at 27,900 feet. After a freezing, sleepless night, the pair plodded on, reaching the South Summit by 9 a.m. and a steep rocky step, some 40 feet high, about an hour later. Wedging himself in a crack in the face, Hillary inched himself up what was thereafter known as the Hillary Step. Hillary threw down a rope, and Norgay followed. At about 11:30 a.m., the climbers arrived at the top of the world.

News of the success was rushed by runner from the expedition’s base camp to the radio post at Namche Bazar, and then sent by coded message to London, where Queen Elizabeth II learned of the achievement on June 1, the eve of her coronation. The next day, the news broke around the world. Later that year, Hillary and Hunt were knighted by the queen. Norgay, because he was not a citizen of a Commonwealth nation, received the lesser British Empire Medal.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States Senator David Perdue is not amused with a Congressional Republican’s tactic to delay farm aid in the wake of Hurricane Michael, according to the AJC.

As a second Republican House member delayed final approval of a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill on Tuesday, a top Congressional ally of President Donald Trump publicly denounced those GOP objections, accusing fellow Republicans of grandstanding against a relief plan which is backed by the White House.

“It’s time to stop the political games,” said Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, who helped seal the disaster aid deal with the President last Thursday. “It’s time to get disaster relief across the finish line.”

“Unfortunately, more clowns showed up today to once again delay disaster relief for the states and farmers devastated by the storms of 2018,” said Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), who has also criticized the White House for a lack of urgency in getting storm relief through the Congress.

Legislation to improve school safety gives local districts much control over how it is implemented, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Kemp has pointed to the state funding in the budget this year – which was on top of the $16 million approved last year – as a better approach, at least for now.

“That’s the quickest way instead of us implementing some new state program or mandate or requiring the schools to do something,” Kemp told reporters gathered at the Douglasville school. “You can see they’re already doing it here. We just got out of session a couple of weeks ago and this is being implemented already right here in Douglas County.”

“I don’t want this state to try to micromanage schools,” House Speaker David Ralston said. “That’s why we have school boards and local superintendents.

“But I think there are minimum expectations that we could have, certainly as it relates to keeping kids safe once they walk in that building in the morning, keeping the teachers safe and the staff safe. I don’t think that’s asking too much, frankly.”

Netflix may rethink filming in Georgia if the heartbeat bill goes into effect, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said in a written statement to Variety. “It’s why we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court. Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there, while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to. Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”

Among the Netflix properties that have filmed in Georgia over the past few years include “Stranger Things,” “Queer Eye,” “The Haunting of Hill House,” “Insatiable” and “Ozark” whose star, Jason Bateman, already said he would leave the state should the law go into effect. “Insatiable” star Alyssa Milano has also been vocal about not continuing in the state should the law go into effect, including delivering a letter to Kemp signed by celebrities such as Alec Baldwin and Mia Farrow joining her in opposition to the legislation.

Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams’ HBO series “Lovecraft Country” is currently filming in the state, but both Peele and Abrams have said they would donate 100 percent of their “episodic fees” to organizations such as the ACLU of Georgia and Fair Fight Georgia to challenge the bill.

Michael Williams, former State Senator and losing candidate for Governor, pled guilty to allegations of insurance fraud, according to the Gainesville Times.

Williams took a plea deal under the First Offender Act last week for five years of probation in the insurance fraud case, Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said.

Williams was given five years of probation each on insurance fraud and false statements charges and 12 months of probation on a false report of a crime charge. Those sentences will run concurrently, meaning Williams serves five years probation.

Williams was sentenced under the First Offender Act by Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden, who also imposed a $5,000 fine and 120 hours of community service, Darragh said.

Yet another candidate announced for the Sixth Congressional District, according to the AJC.

Nicole Rodden launched her campaign for Congress with a three-minute video that emphasized her faith, multicultural background and experience in the Merchant Marines and Navy Reserves.

She called the GOP’s recent suburban wipeout a “wake-up call” and said the party needs “a new face and a fresh perspective in Washington.”

“For too long, liberals have tried to sell the lie that if you are a minority, a female, or a young person, then you must be a Democrat. I am here to show voters that is simply not true,” she said.

“Georgia’s 6th district must have someone who can break the mold in order to defeat Congressman Lucy McBath, and I’m ready to serve,” she added.

The Associated Press writes that Georgia’s strict interpretation of legislation regarding felon voting rights has disenfranchised thousands.

Georgia strips voting rights from people convicted of all felonies, from murder to drug possession, even though a straightforward reading of the law suggests not all felons deserve such punishment.

Felons seeking to restore their voting rights must not only finish their prison sentences, but also any parole or probation, as well as pay any outstanding court fines. That has a big effect in Georgia, which has more people on probation than any other state.

Georgia law prohibits voting by anyone convicted of a “felony involving moral turpitude,” a legal phrase rooted in the state’s Reconstruction-era constitution of 1877. The phrase has endured several revisions, including the latest version from 1983.

State lawmakers have never defined which felonies involve “moral turpitude.” Georgia election officials have long interpreted the state constitution to mean all felonies trigger the loss of voting rights.

Hall County is considering “micro-transit,” according to the Gainesville Times.

A request for proposals concerning microtransit services in Gainesville and Hall County is being prepared, said Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of Gainesville-Hall County Community Services.

Officials hope to put out the request before July, “allow it to circulate for a couple of months and select a vendor by fall,” Moss said last week.

“Depending on the vendor and terms of the contract, we may introduce microtransit services by spring 2020.”

Parents pushed back against a Muscogee County School District proposal to add 30 minutes to the school day, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Muscogee County superintendent’s proposal to add 30 minutes to the daily schedule for elementary schools brought a chorus of opposition at the last school board meeting.

Six parents voiced objections during the Muscogee County School Board’s May 20 meeting — and no parent spoke in favor of it.

That came a week after Superintendent David Lewis agreed to postpone a vote on his proposal, after several board members expressed concerns.

Lewis said the administration will take a survey of parents and teachers on the proposal. He told the Ledger-Enquirer there’s not yet a time or method for when the survey would be taken.

Whitfield County will move many county offices into leased space in a Wells Fargo building in Dalton, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

A wildfire in the Okefenokee Swamp has been contained, according to The Brunswick News.

A burn ban on campfires and charcoal grills remains in effect in the refuge and Stephen C. Foster State Park, but all entrances and concessions are open for business.

The Glynn County Commission Finance Committee took no action on a proposal to create a new joint Brunswick/Glynn County narcotics unit, according to The Brunswick News.

The Rome Alcohol Commission voted to adopt new policies, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“Policy is that we only consider offenses that go back three years,” City Clerk Joe Smith said. “More than once I have had an ACC member suggest that might be a little bit short and maybe something along the lines of five years might be more appropriate.”

Smith explained during the meeting if a business violates any laws regarding the sale of alcohol — like selling it to a minor — anything additional that may have happened more than three years prior can not be looked at. Another concern Smith brought up is that infractions histories are also re-set if the name of the violating owner changes, so if for instance a business is caught selling to minors the owner can put the business license in a family member’s name and their violation history reset.

Gator (and other game) hunters can apply online for quote hunts starting Saturday, according to the Albany Herald.

“Because quota hunts allow a predetermined number of hunters in a particular area, they most certainly provide exceptional hunting opportunities,” John Bowers, chief of the Game Management Section with the Wildlife Resources Division, said in a news release. “So, if you are hoping to get to hunt the area of your choice, don’t let the deadlines get past you without applying.”

A quota hunt is a scheduled event at a Wildlife Management Area or other state-managed property where a limited number of hunters are allowed. Quota levels are based upon the sound principles of wildlife management and public desires for a quality hunt. These hunts provide a challenging and rewarding experience to hunters of all levels. Selected hunters must be properly licensed to participate in a quota hunt.

Visit www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com and select “Quota Hunts” and follow the steps to complete your application. Make sure that your email is current and correct in order to receive quota updates, confirmations or any notices about quota hunts.

Former Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver has published a new book, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is increasing patrols after nine shootings since May 15, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

A shooting Monday involving an altercation with a deputy is the ninth since May 15, with three of them fatal. The most recent deadly shooting involved Kwadere Barno, 31, who was arrested and charged in the death of Tony Sanford on Meadowbrook Drive.

Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton said they have no indications the shootings are gang related, but the high number over a short period of time is of concern.

“Gun violence that has been our number one thing that we are focusing on and that has been the number one thing we continue to struggle with,” Clayton said. “This is a gun violence culture.”

28
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 28, 2019

Fez HSNEGA

Fez is a male Cardigan Welsh Corgi who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia in Gainesville, GA.

Cooper HSNEGA

Cooper is a young male Labrador Retriever mix `who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia in Gainesville, GA.

Almond Joy HSNEGA

Almond Joy (female) is part of a litter of American Staffordshire Terrier puppies who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia in Gainesville, GA.

28
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 28, 2019

Lt. Colonel George Washington fought French and Indian scouts on May 28, 1754, beginning the Seven Years War.

On May 28, 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, requiring all Native Americans to relocate west of the Mississippi River.

The Battle of Dallas, Georgia began on May 28, 1864. Click here to watch Week 7 of the Georgia Public Broadcasting/Atlanta History Center series on the Civil War in Georgia.

Happy Birthday to Gladys Knight, born in Atlanta on May 28, 1944.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early Voting begins today in a June 18 Special Election for Flowery Branch City Council, according to the Gainesville Times.

Ed Asbridge, Missy Brooks and Chip McCallum are seeking the Post 2 seat vacated in December by Mary Jones, who died May 2.

The winner will serve out Jones’ term, which ends Dec. 31.

It may be a short stint, unless the new council member seeks the four-year term beginning Jan. 1 in the Nov. 5 election. But it shouldn’t be a slow one.

The DeKalb County Courthouse has been evacuated and closed due to a suspicious package, according to the AJC.

Governor Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr announced the formation of a new unit to prosecute human trafficking, according to a press release.

“One victim of human trafficking in the state of Georgia is one too many,” said Governor Kemp. “Marty and I are dedicated to ending this horrific crime which is why we worked with members of the General Assembly to prioritize funding for the creation of this unit. Starting January 1, Attorney General Carr will have the resources he needs to crack down on this industry and make sure that buyers and traffickers know Georgia is a hostile environment for those who seek to abuse our children.”

“Today, we take a large step forward in the fight to end human trafficking in the State of Georgia,” said First Lady Marty Kemp. “The GRACE Commission members and I are excited to partner with the new Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit to stop the bad actors fueling this terrible industry and protect our state’s most vulnerable.”

The Human Trafficking Unit will be comprised of the following positions:
• Senior Prosecutor
• Junior Prosecutor
• Criminal Investigator
• Crime Analyst
• Victim Advocate
• Administrative Assistant

“We are excited to build this Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit with dedicated staff who will work every day to protect our state’s most vulnerable and put buyers and traffickers behind bars,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “These resources are critically important, and we are grateful to Governor and First Lady Kemp and the Georgia General Assembly for making our unit a priority in the FY 2020 budget.”

“Human trafficking is a vile trade which we will not tolerate in Georgia,” said Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). “The General Assembly is committed to supporting the work to eradicate this criminal enterprise, and I thank Governor Kemp and the First Lady as well as Attorney General Carr for their unwavering resolve to end human trafficking in our state.”

The unit will be housed within the Attorney General’s Prosecution Division, working closely with local, state and federal law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases.

United States Secretary of Agriculture (and former Georgia Governor) Sonny Perdue writes about the proposed US-Mexico-Canada trade deal and the effects it will have on agriculture, in an op-ed published in the Ledger-Enquirer.

The University of Georgia recently published a study claiming the new United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement would cost some Georgia vegetable and fruit growers revenue and jobs. The sensational assertions are flat wrong. As a proud UGA alumnus, I’m here to tell you USMCA is good for Georgia’s farmers and all American agriculture.

Chapter by chapter, verse by verse, USMCA improves virtually every component of NAFTA and Georgia’s agriculture industry stands to gain significantly. It’s important to note we didn’t get all the improvements we wanted for seasonal fruits and vegetables. While we were hopeful we could make progress in the renewed NAFTA, USMCA isn’t a step backward. The UGA study assumed we lost ground, but the facts are it wasn’t ground we had to begin with. Since the inception of NAFTA more than 20 years ago, agricultural trade between our three countries has boomed. U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico increased by about 300% and our imports increased by almost 500%, benefiting producers and consumers on both sides of our borders.

The premise for UGA’s study is USMCA will not protect Georgia farmers from cheap Mexican fruits and vegetables. Because of that, the researchers came up with imagined scenarios in which they say a set of fruit and vegetable farmers would be vulnerable to competition. They neglect to mention farmers already face such competition under NAFTA. And they overlook the ways the Administration is fighting for a level playing field in the seasonal fruit and vegetable market.

USMCA benefits Georgia’s entire agricultural industry. By ensuring better market access and solidifying commitments to fair and science-based trade rules with our top trading partners, USMCA is a big win. For the first time, trading rules specifically address agricultural biotechnology to support innovation and reduce trade-distorting policies. Poultry producers have new access to Canada for chicken and eggs, and expanded access for turkey. Corn growers maintain duty-free access to Mexico, which is the top market for U.S. corn. USMCA updates rules of origin for processed fruits to ensure preferences benefit U.S. producers.

Savannah Pro-Abortion Protestors gathered last week, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“I have one message for Governor Kemp: We’ll see you in court,” said Staci Fox, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Southeast. “The people of this state stood up and spoke out against this draconian legislation and our lawmakers chose not to listen. Now we are mobilizing and we are coming for their seats. They will be held accountable for playing politics with women’s health.”

In Savannah, it raised questions and sparked confusion of what’s legal and what’s not.

“Our call centers have been inundated with calls,” said Barbara Ann Luttrell, PPSE spokeswoman. “People are worried that abortion is illegal. The most important thing we want people to know that abortions are legal. They can receive care.”

On Tuesday, dozens of protesters marched from Johnson Square to Chippewa Square in opposition of the band as one of hundreds across the country protesting of recent restrictive abortion bills signed into law by multiple states in the past weeks.

Atlanta Pro-Abortion Protestors gathered at the Capitol on Saturday, according to the AJC.

The crowd assembled on Washington Street SW shortly after noon to start the mile march to CNN Center, chanting, “My body, my choice.”

Organized under the name #DoBetterGA, the gathering wanted to bring attention to House Bill 481, which was signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Brian Kemp. The changes take effect in January but face a certain court challenge before then; Liliana Bakhtiari, speaking on behalf of Planned Parenthood Southeast, promised it.

“Kemp, we have a message for you,” Bakhtiari said. “You will be seeing us in court soon.”

The crowd, carrying signs and chanting pro-abortion rights slogans, filled Washington Street in front of the Capitol . But it all started with a group of college-aged activists and “20 or 30” messages to friends, said Molly Weston, a 19-year-old from Atlanta and one of the event’s co-organizers.

Speakers at the event came from other pro-abortion rights activist groups including Georgia’s chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Southeast and Black Votes Matter. Many of those who spoke emphasized that the abortion law and similar legislation does not only impact women, but the population at large.

Old White Guy Former Vice President Joe Biden will campaign for President in Georgia next month, according to the AJC.

Atlanta is going to feel a bit like Iowa on June 6.

Three presidential candidates were already set to visit the city that day for a fundraiser with Stacey Abrams.

Now former Vice President Joe Biden just revealed plans to trek to Atlanta on June 5 for an event – details have not yet been released – and stick around for a midday fundraiser the next day.

His visit coincides with the June 6 fundraiser that will bring U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke to the city for a joint event with Abrams, who is still considering whether to run for president.

In Houston County, a 17-year old is charged with murder in alleged gang violence, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Jaqwelvyn Smith, 17, was taken into police custody shortly after the 9:41 p.m. shooting April 21 at the intersection of Poole and Hamlin streets in Byron after the victim identified him as the shooter, said Sgt. Melanie Bickford, who is over investigations for Byron police.

Smith was originally charged with aggravated assault. New warrants will likely be handed down by end of day Wednesday.

Smith was a known as member of Piru, a sect of the Bloods gang, while there was no evidence to suggest Merion was in any gang, Bickford said.

Byron has been experiencing a rise in gang activity in that area over the last two years, Bickford said.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter announced his office will expand their anti-gang task force, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

On Friday, Porter announced the expansion, saying the drug task force has “successfully prosecuted large drug-cartel cases in Gwinnett County for years” but “will now bring the expertise of its members to bear on criminal street gangs as well.”

The unit will now be called the Drug and Gang Task Force.

“Although law enforcement in Gwinnett County has always worked together to fight the gang problem, by formally organizing my office’s Task Force to handle complex gang cases and by my office obtaining the latest technology to provide to law enforcement, I believe that we can improve the effectiveness of our effort overall,” Porter said. “This will also make it easier for us to work with other Formulytics users and with state and federal agencies.”

Formulytics is a specific gang case management system Porter received through a grant, he said. The district attorney has also made its use available to local law enforcement.

“Gangs have had a presence in Gwinnett County for several years, and Porter is answering the complaints of the Gwinnett citizens that actually live with the threat of gangs in their neighborhoods and schools,” said Lisa Jones, one of Porter’s chief assistant district attorneys. “Early responses to things that are seemingly innocuous like graffiti and petty theft hopefully prevent the egregious escalation to violence. Such escalation has been evidenced by a recent rash of shootings allegedly connected to gang-retaliation matters.”

“Disturbingly, gang culture seems to have permeated our society, and we have seen a rise in ‘hybrid gangs,’ gangs that are localized in our neighborhoods and schools,” Jones said. “They might even have no formal allegiance to traditional, national gangs, but adopt their colors and signs. Some members of hybrid gangs will change their gang allegiance simply because of where they live or work.”

“An increased focus on gangs will also necessarily involve the education and participation of the public,” the DA’s office said. “Materials and training are planned so that gang activity can be recognized by parents, school officials, churches and mentors.”

Savannah City Manager Rob Hernandez is out on medical leave, and Patrick Monahan is acting city manager, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools have released the first draft of their 2020 budget, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The fiscal year 2020 Budget Process document used for the May 15 public hearing assumed a 4% growth in the tax digest, Savannah-Chatham County Budget Director Paige Cooley said. “We’re projecting a $7 million increase in fiscal year ’20 as opposed to this year,” she said.

The $7 million increase also is stated in the Preliminary Budget, but the percentage increase it uses from the current fiscal year is 2.7%, not 4% as described in the Budget Process document, which is available from the agenda posted on BoardDocs.com. Local tax revenue is expected to generate $276.5 million of the general fund, which Cooley described as the day-to-day fund for the district. It does not include much local tax revenue from the 1% Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) collected at the register.

The administration’s Budget Process document provides a breakout of an overall Savannah-Chatham County public schools budget of $607.7 million, with the general fund accounting for $447.1 million. Capital projects account for $77.0 million, special revenue like Title I and School Food Service revenue represents $68.1 million, a debt service fund is estimated at $11.7 million and an internal service fund at $3.8 million.

“Two areas I just want to point out are components of Gov. Kemp’s budget recommendation, and this proposed budget includes a $3,000 certificated staff salary increase for all certificated staff and a 2% pay raise for all classified employees,” Cooley said.

Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods and Governor’s Office of Student Achievement Executive Director Joy Hawkins are held a listening session, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Their two-hour listening session Tuesday morning at the First District Regional Educational Service Agency headquarters in Brooklet was the 13th of 16 such sessions, one in each RESA region. About 50 people, including superintendents of most of the 19 public school systems that First District RESA serves, filled the room. Woods reported seeing similar levels of interest and participation from local superintendents and support staff in other regions.

“Of course, school safety is one of the topics that keep coming up,” Woods said after the meeting. “They’re looking at teacher raises, teacher recruitment and retention. Dual enrollment, the QBE formula and assessment and accountability are probably some of the major topics that we consistently hear across the state.”

“Some of the other barriers that they’re commenting on are redundancies that have occurred between our agency and the DOE, and that’s an easy fix,” Hawkins said. “To have two masters doesn’t make any sense, so we’re working with the DOE to figure out what should be with GOSA and what DOE should take on so that school systems are not confused about who they report to and whose goals they aspire to.”

“The message from our superintendents was we want to be held accountable for what we’re doing, but they’ve got two different mechanisms right now and they measure different things,” Smith said. “We’d like to see them get one single accountability measure and leave it the same for some time.”

Muscogee County School Superintendent Virginia Korcha spoke about proposed changes to school times, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Tabitha Ponder Beckford of Moultrie announced she will run for an open seat on the Georgia Court of Appeals being vacated by Judge Sara Doyles, according to the Albany Herald.

Glynn County Tax Commissioner Jeff Chapman will soon complete an expansion of their physical offices, according to The Brunswick News.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced that commercial and recreational shrimp season will open at 8 AM on Wednesday, and oyster season closes Saturday, according to The Brunswick News.

“The data collected through DNR’s Ecological Monitoring Trawl Survey show that Georgia shrimp numbers are in great shape this year and are higher than average at the moment,” B.J. Hilton, a DNR marine biologist, said in a statement. “We feel the numbers and count size are where they need to be to open the fishery in Georgia’s state waters.

“The water temperature is well above what last year’s averages, which allowed inland waters to warm faster and speed up the growth and development of the shrimp in estuaries. In turn, the shrimp migrated to sounds and beaches earlier than normal to spawn.”

The closing of wild oyster harvesting is to reduce the chances of people contracting illnesses from Vibrio parahaemolyticus, instances of which increase in filter-feeding shellfish as waters warm.

“This closure ensures that Georgia meets the requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program to protect public health by implementing a Vp control plan,” Dominic Guadagnoli, shellfish fishery manager for the DNR Coastal Resources Division, said in a statement. “We expect this closure to have little adverse impact on recreational and commercial oyster harvesters, since most individuals refrain from eating freshly harvested wild oysters during the summer months when the combination of spawning and warm water makes oysters less desirable as seafood.”

I’d like a fried platter, please.