The blog.

17
Sep

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for September 17, 2019

Katie Moultrie Colquitt

Katie is a young female Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Moultrie-Colquitt County Humane Society in Moultrie, GA.

Lee Moultrie Colquitt

Lee is a young male Dachshund mix who is available for adoption from the Moultrie-Colquitt County Humane Society in Moultrie, GA.

Riley Moultrie Colquitt

Riley is a young female Parson Russell Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Moultrie-Colquitt County Humane Society in Moultrie, GA.

17
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 17, 2019

Forty-one delegates signed the United States Constitution, including Abraham Baldwin and William Few representing Georgia, at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787 before adjourning sine die.

On September 17, 1796, George Washington began working on the final draft of his farewell address as the first President of the United States of America.

The Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee met the Army of the Potomac under General George McClellan at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862.

The Battle of Antietam actually consisted of three battles. Beginning at dawn on September 17, Union General Joseph Hooker’s men stormed Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s troops around the Dunker Church, the West Woods, and David Miller’s cornfield. The Federals made repeated attacks, but furious Rebel counterattacks kept the Yankees in check. By early afternoon, the fighting moved south to the middle of the battlefield. Union troops under General Edwin Sumner inflicted devastating casualties on the Confederates along a sunken road that became known as “Bloody Lane,” before the Southerners retreated. McClellan refused to apply reserves to exploit the opening in the Confederate center because he believed Lee’s force to be much larger than it actually was. In the late afternoon, Union General Ambrose Burnside attacked General James Longstreet’s troops across a stone bridge that came to bear Burnside’s name. The Yankees crossed the creek, but a Confederate counterattack brought any further advance to a halt.

The fighting ended by early evening, and the two armies remained in place throughout the following day. After dark on September 18, Lee began pulling his troops out of their defenses for a retreat to Virginia. The losses for the one-day battle were staggering. Union casualties included 2,108 dead, 9,540 wounded, and 753 missing, while Confederate casualties numbered 1,546 dead, 7,752 wounded, and 1,108 missing.

On September 17, 1932, the Georgia Division of the Roosevelt Business and Professional League was created to work with the Georgia Democratic Party to support FDR’s Presidential campaign in the Peach State.

Jimmy Carter received the first ever endorsement of a national ticket by the National Education Association in his bid for President on September 17, 1976.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

WSB-TV reports that Governor Brian Kemp will announce a replacement for retiring U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson in the coming weeks.

Gov. Brian Kemp expects to make his pick for U.S. senator to replace the retiring Johnny Isakson within the next few weeks but offered no hints as to who he may select.

“I want someone who’s going to go to Washington, D.C., and be a fighter for Georgia,” Kemp said Monday. “We want someone who’s going to be fighting every day up there for our citizens.”

Kemp’s choice will have to run for re-election in 2020 to fill out the remainder of Isakson’s term, and then will have to run again in 2022. Kemp did say he would not require a commitment to run for re-election from his potential choice.

“I wouldn’t want to lay that line in the sand just yet,” Kemp said. “I’m still very open to a lot of different options.”

Containment of oil from the M/V Golden Ray is a high priority in recovery operations, according to The Brunswick News.

The Unified Command recently said they won’t know the total amount of contaminant spilled until after the vessel’s recovery, which is months away. The priority at the moment is making sure liquids on the vessel are properly secured. It’s believed there’s around 300,000 gallons of fuel on board, which is significantly more than initially reported.

According to the Command’s fifth update, released around 4:30 p.m. Monday, response teams are continuing to canvass “multiple shorelines to identify environmental impacts and ensure boom is optimally deployed,” while the command continues to work on creating a comprehensive plan to remove pollutants from the craft.

Thursday, Mark Dodd, head of the state Department of Natural Resources’ sea turtle program, posted on Facebook that there were no document oiled birds, sea turtles or marine mammals, up to that point. However, some debris associated with oil containment did wash up on St. Simons Island last week.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson joined a bipartisan group sponsoring legislation to protect Right Whales, according to The Brunswick News.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. — with Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Tom Carper, D-Del. — submitted last week the Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered Right Whales Act, which would create a grant program to enhance collaboration with the different entities involved in right whale conservation, ultimately seeking to reduce the harm caused by people to the whales and helping the population recover.

“The North Atlantic right whale was named the official Georgia state marine mammal when I served as minority leader in the Georgia State House, and I am proud that my state’s coast is still home to one of the few known calving grounds for this magnificent animal,” Isakson said in a statement. “I’m glad to introduce the Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered Right Whales Act to help learn about how we can better protect this important animal whose numbers continue to dwindle.”

The Senate bill, S. 2453, awaits action in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The House version, H.R. 1568, has 48 cosponsors, though the 4th District’s Hank Johnson is the only Georgian. The House Natural Resources Committee ordered the bill to be reported as amended May 1.

The Valdosta Daily Times covers the Superliberal Supermajority bus tour.

Stacey Abrams helped new advocacy group Supermajority kick off its nationwide bus tour to engage and mobilize 2 million women voters ahead of the 2020 election.

What is set to be the largest woman-to-woman voter program in history made Atlanta “ground zero” Sunday, facing the state’s controversial women’s rights policies head on.

“That’s important as we head into the 2020 election, it’s not only making sure that every woman is registered to vote, has the right to vote, and that her vote is counted,” Cecile Richards, co-founder, told The Valdosta Daily Times, “but that we also lift up the issues that women care about, because unfortunately, I do think that a lot of the issues in the lives of women have been left out of the debate.”

“As women, we are taught there are certain rules we have to follow,” [Abrams] said. “We are taught that it’s our responsibility to meekly accept the outcome and to trust the rules as they were written down. I don’t.”

Supermajority’s leadership is made up of a diverse group of women activists including Ai-Jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and action fund, and Jess Morales Rocketto, executive director for Care in Action.

“Election Day is coming and we have to meet it where it is,” Abrams said. “The majority rules when we show up, the majority rules when we stop letting silence terrify us. When we realize that this is our nation, we are a nation that is not divided by our politics, we are divided by our fear.”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced the state will participate in a $10 billion dollar settlement with Purdue Pharma, according to the AJC.

Georgia will agree to join a nationwide settlement deal with the maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, state Attorney General Chris Carr said Monday evening in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Twenty-four states are reported to support the settlement deal, as well as the leaders of a group of some 2,000 local governments that have sued in federal court. If approved, the deal could be worth up to $10 billion or $12 billion nationwide over time, though opponents of the deal question those figures.

Most states have sued Purdue, as well as other companies involved in the opioid epidemic, saying they knew or should have known precisely what they were fueling and should help pay the costs to the governments in cleaning up the mess. Separately, well over 80 Georgia cities, counties and hospitals have joined about 2,000 tribes and local governments from across the nation in suits that have been consolidated under one judge in Ohio. All metro Atlanta counties have filed suit.

Carr noted in his statement that Purdue was expected to file for bankruptcy either way. He said agreeing to the settlement gains a measure of certainty for the state.

“Along with a majority of state attorneys general and localities pursuing litigation against Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, we have agreed to a proposed framework that we believe holds them accountable while securing for Georgians the best possible chance to get the help they deserve,” Carr wrote.

Chatham County may end up paying some costs associated with the evacuation for Hurricane Dorian, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham County Commissioners decried the possibility of getting stuck with the bill for expenses incurred because of the area’s state-ordered mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Dorian — estimated at approximately $1 million — while deliberating on several storm-related matters at Friday’s board meeting.

During an omnibus spending discussion in their regular meeting on Friday, members of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners expressed dismay over a verbal conversation with Georgia officials about Hurricane Dorian evacuation costs. Although Chatham County received a Federal Emergency Declaration from FEMA on Aug. 29 that pledged “to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures,” Georgia authorities have subsequently asserted that the state threshold required for federal reimbursement was not met.

If the federal government refuses to pay Georgia for Dorian-related expenses, and the state then declines to reimburse the state’s coastal counties for the mandatory evacuation, Chatham taxpayers could end up holding the bag for significant costs brought about by hurricane preparations.

Two young citizens addressed Pooler City Council to discuss saving trees, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Alexis Jordan, 7, and her sister, Alyssa Jordan, 5, delivered a hand-written letter to Pooler Mayor Mike Lamb following the meeting.

“Dear City Council,” their letter read, “Please stop cutting down trees!!! We need to breathe. Trees are beautiful and animals need them too.”

“Trees are important and we need them,” Alexis said after the meeting. “We need to have fresh air.”

After their presentation to council, they handed their letter to Lamb, which included a drawing of trees, blue skies and a couple of woodland critters.

Candidates for Mayor of Valdosta met in a public forum, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Three candidates for the mayor’s office were grilled on topics ranging from crime to city transit Sunday in a public debate.

Kevin J. Bussey, J.D. Rice and David Sumner faced questions from moderator Daren Neal, pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church, in front of a large audience at Serenity Christian Church on Lee Street. Candidates Scott James Matheson and Brooks D. Bivins did not attend.

The candidates seek the office that’s been held by John Gayle for two terms. Gayle is not seeking reelection to a third term in the November elections.

Oakwood, in Hall County, is considering adopting the same property tax millage rate as the previous year, which will raise the amount of taxes assessed on some properties, according to the Gainesville Times.

Gwinnett County Planning Commission Chairman Chuck Warbington will leave the commission after serving 15 years as a member and 6 years as Chair, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

State justice administration agencies could face significant budget cuts, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Five of the agencies within the justice system in Georgia may lose staff and programs, according to budget amendment documents.

The Department of Corrections would cut $112 million from its operations in total for 2020 and 2021. The agency plans to spend less on state prisons, transitions services and training programs. Several positions would be frozen.

The Department of Juvenile Justice would operate on $35 million less over the next two years.

The Department of Supervision, which oversees 180,000 parolees in the state, including those on house arrest and probation, would save a total of $19 million in 2020 and 2021.

The Public Defender’s Council would trim its budget to $6 million, reducing cellphone and hot spot use and training programs as well as 10-day furloughs.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation would mostly see a reduction in staff. It plans to eliminate positions in background check services, dismiss three forensic scientists, two lab technicians, 12 officers and four other investigators.

16
Sep

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for September 16, 2019

Molly Dahlonega

Molly is a young female Pit Bull Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Humane Society, dba TLC Humane Society in Dahlonega, GA.

Andy Dahlonega

Andy is a young male Pit Bull Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Humane Society, dba TLC Humane Society in Dahlonega, GA.

Ruby Dahlonega

Ruby is a young female Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Humane Society, dba TLC Humane Society in Dahlonega, GA.

16
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 16, 2019

The Mayflower left Plymouth, England, for the New World on September 16, 1620. Thirty-five of 102 passengers were members of the English Separatist Church seeking religious freedom from the Church of England. Originally aiming to reach Virginia, Mayflower eventually landed at Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

A single pistol shot on September 16, 1920 opened former Cherokee land in Oklahoma to white settlers in a “land run” to claim property.

The original stimulus act was announced to bring $70 million in federal money to Georgia to build roads and public buildings on September 16, 1933.

On September 16, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Selective Service and Training Act requiring males 26-35 years of age to register for the draft. On the same day, Sam Rayburn of Texas was elected Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and would go on to hold the post for 17 years total, the longest tenure of any Speaker.

R.E.M. and Gregg Allman were among the inductees into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame on September 16, 2006.

GPB has an article on the 1957 Les Paul Goldtop guitar used by Duane Allman on the first two Allman Brothers records and on “Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes. That guitar recently sold for $1.25 million dollars.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp appointed Gwinnett County Commissioner Jace Brooks (R) and Tucker Mayor Frank Auman to the Georgia Regional Transit Board, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Governor Kemp spoke in Swainsboro last week about the Rural Strike Force, according to WTOC.

In his announcement, the governor says his creation of a team to work on rural economic development is not creating another government agency, but getting existing ones that are already working to work together to bring more business, jobs, and growth to rural areas outside Atlanta. He says he’ll use the Department of Agriculture, Department of Labor, and economic development to work together on what they can do to help rural communities bring about new projects and jobs.

“We’re moving the needle all around Georgia, but we want to bring more to rural Georgia because they’re the ones that need it the most right now,” Governor Kemp said.

He says by bringing agencies, utility companies, university research, and more together, they can make it more effective and bring growth to rural Georgia.

Atlanta may host a debate for the Democratic candidates for President, according to the AJC.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she and other state Democrats are in “very active discussions” with the party to schedule a debate in Georgia.

“I’m absolutely lobbying for it,” she said after the debate in Houston. “When you look at what’s at stake in Georgia – two Senate races – there aren’t many opportunities like that. To have that opportunity in Georgia, it only makes sense that we bring this field of candidates to our state.”

“Georgia represents the future of the Democratic Party,” said Nikema Williams, chairwoman of the state party. “We would love to see national candidates debate the issues in front of the Georgia voters who will take us to victory next year.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams launched another fundraising scheme vanity project political organization, according to the AJC.

The Georgia Democrat, the runner-up in last year’s gubernatorial election, kicked off the new initiative by Supermajority with a speech to hundreds in Atlanta who broke into applause when she recounted how she refused to concede to Gov. Brian Kemp.

“As women, we are taught there are certain rules we have to follow,” she said, adding: “We are taught that it’s our responsibility to meekly accept the outcome and to trust the rules as they were written down. I don’t.”

Supermajority was founded earlier this year by several well-known liberal leaders: Alicia Garza, who helped start Black Lives Matter; Katherine Grainger, a partner with Civitas Public Affairs Group; Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance; Cecile Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood; Jess Morales Rocketto, the alliance’s political director; and Deirdre Schifeling, a Planned Parenthood adviser.

“Our world is at stake, because the values that made us the strongest nation in the world — those values are being shaken,” said Abrams, who slammed Republicans who “celebrate racism and misogyny, who revel in their xenophobia, who put children in cages and call it good, or worse, look away and say, ‘It doesn’t really matter because they’re not us.’”

“We’re not going to shut up. This is our nation,” said Abrams. “These are our people. And it’s our responsibility: When the rules are broken, you fix them. When the system is broken, you take it over.”

Dueling rallies were held in Dahlonega this weekend, according to the Gainesville Times.

Ralliers separated by barricades Saturday afternoon in the downtown Dahlonega square shouted chants across the space usually filled with tourists to the mountain town.

“God, Family, Country, Trump” was met with “Racists, Sexists, Anti-Gay, All the Nazis Go Away” as about 250 gathered, monitored by a law enforcement presence about 600 strong and representing 36 agencies.

Chester Doles organized the rally in support of President Donald Trump but withdrew his application for a permit to rally amid growing concern of white supremacist undertones.

Doles is a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and was an organizer for the National Alliance, a mostly defunct white supremacist group with deeply anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant beliefs.

Counterprotesters, supported by the Socialist Coalition of North Georgia, who spoke at the event claimed the family-friendly advertisement for the rally was a “facade” in order to build a fascist movement.

Two were arrested at 1:22 p.m. on North Park Street for inciting a riot, according to a news release from the city of Dahlonega. Earlier, University of North Georgia Police had arrested someone at 10:30 a.m., before the demonstrations began, for obstruction and possession of a weapon in a school safety zone.

From the AJC:

The rally numbered somewhere between 35 and 50 self-described patriots on one side of the square, countered by three times that number of counterprotesters shouting from behind barricades on the other side. Both groups were outnumbered by 600 state and local law enforcement officers, many sweating out the afternoon heat in full riot gear.

“We know we are on the right side of history,” said rally organizer Chester Doles. “With the rise of socialism, American patriots are standing up.”

Yellow ribbons hung outside businesses and on street lamps and traffic signs in silent protest of the rally, said Charlotte Arsenault, minister of Georgia Mountains Unitarian Universalist Church in Dahlonega. Arsenault was one of 10 pastors who helped organize about 30 parishioners who attended the counterprotest.

On the counterprotesters’ side, people were filtered through a security checkpoint about a block away from the Gold Museum. Law enforcement used hand-held metal detectors to scan each protester. No backpacks were allowed in the area cordoned off for counterprotesters on the south side of the square, but firearms were allowed as long as they weren’t loaded with any ammunition. No visible guns were seen on any counterprotesters or rally supporters.

“It’s presented as a pro-Trump rally, but they’re trying to get conservatives to go along with white supremacy and that’s not OK,” [Atlanta resident Aileen] Loy said.

Is anyone else reminded of what happened in Forsyth County in 1987?

Oglethorpe County was named the first “broadband ready community by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, according to the AJC.

Oglethorpe, located east of Athens, earned the designation by passing an ordinance requiring the county government to decide whether to approve or deny broadband network projects within 10 days after their applications are deemed complete by the county. The ordinance also limits internet application fees to no more than $100.

The broadband certification means internet projects in Oglethorpe will receive priority for potential future state funding for internet expansion in rural areas, according to a bill passed by the Georgia General Assembly last year.

Local governments can apply for the broadband ready certification through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

Five Georgia schools are adding girls flag football to their athletic programs, according to the AJC.

With funding from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, support from the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons and several corporate sponsors, the gridiron is becoming an equal-opportunity athletic field for youngsters of both genders. After a well-received inaugural season last year in Gwinnett County, five other school systems came on board this fall — Cherokee, Forsyth, Henry, Muscogee and Rockdale. That comes to 52 high schools in the program.

The grant covers fees for referees, field costs, jerseys, equipment, athletic trainers, administrator fees and coaching stipends. The purpose of this initiative is to provide an opportunity for high school girls to participate in football activities and be part of an organized high school sports team.

Proposed cuts to the state budget will largely relty on eliminating authorized positions, according to the Tifton Gazette.

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget publicly posted a document online late Wednesday that summarizes where state agencies plan to find the savings. The document was released the same day the state announced last month’s revenue were down 2.8%, or $50.3 million, compared to last August. Revenues for the new fiscal year are up just 0.2%.

Most of the proposed reductions will be found through personnel cuts or eliminated vacant positions.

Positions going unfilled or eliminated in the current budget include 12 full-time consumer protection workers in the Department of Agriculture, 16 regional investigators with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and 21 child welfare workers in the Department of Human Services. The state expects to save $4.3 million by not paying 49 people to do those jobs as provided for in the state budget the governor signed in May.

“Some proposals lack specifics. That’s normal. They’re not final. We’re early in the process,” Candice Broce, the governor’s communications director, said on Twitter, noting that the budget cuts are still subject to the governor’s review and change.

From the AJC:

While several agencies proposed cutting jobs and programs, K-12 schools and colleges requested about $400 million in additional funding this year and next to meet enrollment growth, and the agency that runs Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, disabled and elderly, asked for nearly $300 million, according to a review of budget plans by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Some of the most costly things the state does — educating students, providing health care to the poor, and building roads — were exempt from Kemp’s edict to cut spending. In fact, about three-fourths of what the state spends — much of it for programs that are funded based on the number of Georgians enrolled in them — didn’t have to be cut back. Many of those areas asked for more money because their costs are rising.

“Most of government is people driven, driven by the number of people who come through the door,” said Ben Harbin, a former Republican lawmaker who headed the state House Appropriations Committee during the Great Recession. “Education is seats in the desk. Medicaid is people walking into the doctor’s office. You can’t cut that.

Kemp ordered the cuts in August to both prepare the state in case of an economic downturn and provide the money needed to meet his priorities, such as higher teacher pay.

Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols will bring the Clean Energy Roadshow to Albany, according to the Albany Herald.

Taking place at Albany State University’s West Campus from 9 a.m.-noon on Sept. 24, the event is designed to open attendees to a world of new possibilities for saving money.

“The Alternative Fuel Vehicle Roadshow and clean tech seminar help you prepare for resiliency and sustainability in your business or community,” coordinators of the event said in news release. “Energy costs can capture a major portion of any fleet operating budget, so it pays to be efficient with those dollars. Whether you refit or replace vehicles, install solar, upgrade lighting or make energy-efficiency improvements, our experts guide you through the planning and decision-making stages to make you RFP-ready.

A two-hour seminar and commercial vehicle display allows attendees to map their sustainability and economic development plan using natural gas, electric and propane gas vehicles. Echols will host a guided, walking showcase of alternative-fuel cars, trucks and buses followed by a seminar on current trends in alternative fuel vehicle technology, transportation, energy security, and resilience for rural and urban communities.

Technology Association of Georgia and Clean Cities Georgia are also expected to highlight their work building a clean tech future.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr joined elected officials in 20 states in supporting the Trump Administration’s new proposed energy rules, according to the Albany Herald.

Attorney General Chris Carr has announced that the state of Georgia has joined a coalition of officials from 20 states in supporting the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy rule as it faces a challenge in court. The coalition, in a motion filed Thursday, seeks to intervene in defense of the rule’s repeal of the so-called Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulation.

“The Clean Power Plan was a far-reaching attempt by the prior administration to regulate what it could not legislate,” Carr said. “We oppose regulatory overreaches like the Clean Power Plan, which would have killed jobs and raised electricity prices, and we appreciate President Trump’s commitment to repeal it and replace it with the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which will restore the state’s proper authority to regulate energy.”

Georgia joined the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming, along with the governors of Kentucky and Mississippi, and the Mississippi Public Service Commission, in supporting the rule.

The Rome News Tribune covers the off-season work of local legislators.

Three of Floyd County’s four state lawmakers spent several days this summer as guests at an education seminar hosted by the Medical Association of Georgia.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome; Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome and Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, also attended the National Conference of State Legislatures’ legislative summit in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dempsey was a presenter at the NCSL summit, which ran Aug. 4 through 8. She joined panelists from Virginia, Utah and Kansas to discuss “The Lawmaker’s Role in Tackling the Data Conundrum” on Aug. 6.

Glynn County Commissioners will discuss a proposed 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation (T-SPLOST) proposal, according to The Brunswick News.

All seven commissioners have expressed their desire to impose another 1 percent sales tax once SPLOST 2016 collection ends on or before September 2020. At a meeting earlier this month, the commission indicated that it wants to put the questions on the May 2020 primary election ballot.

Collection of SPLOST 2016 began on April 1, 2017, to pay for infrastructure projects, equipment purchases and two brick-and-mortar projects — a new animal control shelter at the county’s public safety complex and a veterans memorial park between I and J streets.

At a past meeting, most county commissioners said they would like to see the list remain mostly dedicated to road, bridge, sidewalk and drainage projects. A special committee is in the process of determining the best way to address a space shortage in the Glynn County Courthouse, an issue that may result in a “vertical” SPLOST project on the 2020 ballot.

Murray County voters will vote on a T-SPLOST this November, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Sole Commissioner Greg Hogan says the county needs to repave about 50 miles of roads each year just to keep them maintained and probably more like 60 to catch up on a backlog of work.

“We currently only pave about 10 miles of roads a year,” Hogan said.

That’s why he has placed a five-year Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) on the Nov. 5 ballot. The TSPLOST is a 1% tax on most goods sold in the county.

If approved by voters, the tax would begin April 1, 2020. Hogan says that over its five-year life, he expected the tax will bring in about $23.5 million.

“It can only be used for acquiring rights of way, moving utilities, bridges, culverts, patching, milling and widening roads, shoulder preparation,” he said. “You can’t use this for anything other than roads or sidewalks, things like that. You can use it for bike paths. But I’m not interested in that. Right now, I just want to get our roads into good shape.”

Would-be candidate for Mayor of Dallas Narda Konchel plans to appeal her removal from the ballot, according to the Rome News Tribune.

A former Dallas mayoral candidate says she plans to appeal the county election board’s action earlier this week to throw her off the Nov. 5 ballot after upholding a challenge to her city residency.

Narda Konchel posted on her campaign’s Facebook page today that she planned to petition through Superior Court to appeal the board’s unanimous decision Wednesday to disqualify her as a candidate for Dallas mayor against incumbent Mayor Boyd Austin.

Austin, who is seeking re-election to a seventh term, challenged Konchel’s candidacy by saying she had not satisfied the city charter’s requirements for living in the city and being a registered voter for one year before her qualifying date of Aug. 19, 2019.

The Paulding County Board of Elections and Registration voted to uphold Austin’s challenge and disqualified Konchel.

13
Sep

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for September 13, 2019

Macy Swainsboro

Macy is a young female Labrador Retriever and Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Emanuel County Humane Society Swainsboro, GA.

Sammy Swainsboro

Sammy is a young male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Emanuel County Humane Society Swainsboro, GA.

Robin Swainsboro

Robin is a young female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Emanuel County Humane Society Swainsboro, GA.

13
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 13, 2019

The Second Continental Congress opened in Philadelphia on September 13, 1775; Georgia was represented by Archibald Bulloch, Lyman Hall,  John Houstoun, and John Zubly.

On September 13, 1788, the Confederation Congress voted to implement the Constitution and authorized states to elect Senators and Representatives and called the first Presidential election, with selection of presidential electors in the states to be held on January 7, 1789, and February 4, 1789 as the day electors would cast their ballots.

Francis Scott Key composed the lyrics to “The Star Spangled Banner” on September 14, 1814.

On September 15, 1831, Dr. Samuel Worcester and Dr. Elizur Butler – missionaries – were tried in a Lawrenceville courtroom for living as white people among the Cherokee and refusing to take an oath of loyalty to Georgia, convicted and sentenced to hard labor. Some historians refer to this case, which went to the United States Supreme Court on appeal, as the beginning of the events that led to the forced removal of the Cherokee people from Georgia on the “Trail of Tears.”

HMS Beagle, carrying Charles Darwin, arrived at the Gallapagos Islands on September 15, 1835.

On September 14, 1885, Georgia Governor Henry McDaniel signed legislation granting up to 200 acres in Fulton and DeKalb Counties to the federal government to be used in the constuction of Fort McPherson, which was named after Union Maj. Gen. James McPherson, who was killed in the Battle of Atlanta in 1864.

On September 14, 1885, Georgia Governor Henry McDaniel signed legislation granting up to 200 acres in Fulton and DeKalb Counties to the federal government to be used in the constuction of Fort McPherson, which was named after Union Maj. Gen. James McPherson, who was killed in the Battle of Atlanta in 1864.

On September 14, 1901, President William McKinley died of an infection from gunshot wounds suffered eight days earlier.

On September 15, 1904, Wilbur Wright made the first in-flight turn in an airplane.

The first two women to enter the Georgia General Assembly, Viola Ross Napier of Bibb County and Atlanta Constitution reporter Bessie Kempton of Fulton County, were elected on September 13, 1922.

Early on the morning of September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls.

On September 15, 1996, the Texas Rangers retired #34 in honor of the most dominant pitcher in professional baseball history, Nolan Ryan.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp has created a rural strike team to showcase Georgia businesses, according ot GPB News.

Gov. Brian Kemp is launching a new statewide initiative to promote Georgia-made products and bring new business to rural parts of the state.

At Faircloth Forest Products in Swainsboro, midway between Macon and Savannah, Kemp said he was fulfilling another campaign promise: to showcase economic opportunities available to companies that choose to invest in Georgia outside of the metro Atlanta area.

“While Atlanta is our capital, and serves as our logistics hub and jobs magnet, 74% of our total economic development announcements in 2019 were made outside the perimeter in Atlanta,” he said. “I want you to know that I’m laser focused on bringing projects of regional significance to communities that want to grow.”

Thus begins the “rural strike team,” a group that will create an economic development plan to market sites for large-scale development, attract businesses to rural Georgia and work with existing partners and organizations to better grow the state’s economy.

The governor will be crisscrossing the state in coming weeks to places like Faircloth Forest products, a new family-owned business midway between Macon and Savannah, to raise awareness for Georgia-made products.

“Rural Georgia is right for economic investment, and economic growth companies large and small agree,” he said. “We are proud of our worldwide appeal, and our partnership with countries across the globe.”

The Port of Brunswick has resumed shipping on a limited basis, according to The Brunswick News.

U.S. Coast Guard officials determined Thursday morning that the Port of Brunswick could resume shipping on a “case by case” basis, five days after the freighter Golden Ray rolled over in the St. Simons Sound in the early morning hours on Sunday, said Kathy Knowlton, spokeswoman with Unified Command Center that is responding to the shipwreck.

Shipping to the port has been closed since the since the incident, which left the 656-foot, 25,000-ton freighter and its cargo of 4,200 cars floundering on its left side in the sound between St. Simons and Jekyll islands. All 24 members of the ship’s crew were safely rescued. Norm Witt, a Coast Guard Commander and the Captain of Ports for Brunswick and Savannah, indicated as early as Tuesday night that the port could reopen on a limited basis by Thursday.

“We tested two outbound vessels yesterday afternoon with positive results,” Witt said Thursday afternoon.

Around 1:30 p.m. Thursday, the first incoming freighter was seen passing by the Golden Ray and into the port. Meanwhile, six more ships waited offshore from Glynn County with hopes of also being granted passage to the port.

The Port of Brunswick typically accepts 50 vessels per month. The vessels awaiting entry Thursday included five Ro Ro passenger vehicle ships and a freighter from Trinidad that is here to pick up its regular supply of chicken feed, according to Vicki West of the International Seafarers Center in Brunswick, a nonprofit organization that serves incoming merchant mariners.

From the Associated Press:

At the Georgia Ports Authority’s annual “State of the Ports” event Thursday in Savannah, officials including Gov. Brian Kemp praised the Coast Guard for the successful rescues and the swift reopening of the Brunswick port.

“We are back open for business in Brunswick, another remarkable achievement,” Kemp told about 1,400 business leaders, elected officials and others attending the event in Savannah, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of the port.

Coast Guard Capt. John Reed told The Associated Press the port was allowed to resume operations once crews determined ships could safely pass the Golden Ray, which measures more than 650 feet (nearly 200 meters) long. Two vessels stuck at the port since Sunday had been allowed to depart Wednesday as a test to make sure their passing didn’t jostle the overturned ship.

Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, told reporters after his Savannah speech that port officials are working closely with the Coast Guard. He said initial traffic would likely be limited to daylight hours.

“We want to make sure we go at slow speeds, that there’s no wake from the vessel that would shift the capsized vessel in any way,” Lynch said.

Brunswick is one of the busiest U.S. ports for shipping automobiles. More than 613,000 vehicles and heavy machinery units moved across its docks in the 2019 fiscal year that ended June 30.

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency will build a new facility near Columbus, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Fort Benning is the planned home to a new “hyper-realistic” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) training complex meant to mimic the layout and design of U.S. cities and buildings.

ICE is set to spend more than $961,000 to purchase five different training structures — the first steps toward a complex that will emulate buildings and structures the agency’s expanding Special Response Teams would encounter across the United States and Puerto Rico, according to a federal contract.

The agency has plans to expand the training site at Fort Benning beyond these five facilities. It could include up to 50 additional buildings and additional U.S. city layouts and designs, according to the federal contract.

The army post is currently home to ICE’s Office of Training and Tactical Programs. Many of the agency’s new hires were receiving training at Benning in “defensive tactics, firearms, lethal weapons, restraints technique, intermediate batons and empty-handed techniques,” according to a 2017 news release. The agency’s Special Response Teams, which conduct a variety of high-risk operations, are also trained at Fort Benning, according to an ICE news release published in 2015.

Georgia Chamber of Commerce President Chris Clark discussed demographics changes, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

By 2020, Georgia is projected to have 11 million residents, and that figure is predicted to rise to 12.2 million by 2030, but 1.1 million of those folks are expected to move into the Atlanta area, Clark said. It behooves the rest of the state outside Atlanta to devise ways to lure at least some of this incoming population so that counties like Murray can remain viable, and that includes nurturing small businesses and entrepreneurs, he added.

Furthermore, Georgia is on track to be a “minority-majority” state by 2030, and by 2040, the state’s population will be 52% non-white, he said. The Atlanta area alone is projected to add a million Hispanic residents by 2040.

Murray County, with a population of nearly 40,000, is 96% white, and the median age is 37.6, which is “pretty good,” Clark said. The state average age is 36, and “you don’t want to be over 40.”

The median household income of $41,617 is “still good for a community this size,” but roughly $15,000 lower than the state average, he said. The home ownership rate of 68% is “very strong,” he added.

What really concerns Clark is the county’s 18.8% poverty rate.

“I think that’s high for a community like this,” he said.

Congressman Buddy Carter voted against legislation to ban offshore drilling, according to the Savannah Morning News.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, a Republican whose district spans the coast of Georgia, voted against legislation that passed the House of Representatives Wednesday to ban offshore drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

“I value the beautiful coastline that we have in my district,” he said on the house floor Wednesday. “But blanket bans instituted by these bills across the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf, and Arctic are misguided and are, quite plainly, the wrong approach.”

“It really is unfortunate that we’re voting on bills which would sacrifice tens of thousands of jobs and millions in economic benefits for political grandstanding,” Carter said on the house floor Wednesday. “To step back on domestic energy development is to promote foreign energy consumption. I still remember when the United States was held hostage to Middle Eastern resources and we can’t allow that to happen again. While I believe Georgia should be removed from consideration, these bills are not the solution.”

Savannah City Council approved a resolution urging other elected officials to adopt gun control measures, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The vote by the aldermen and the mayor was met with applause by members of the public, mainly a group from Moms Demand Action that attended the meeting. Moms Demand Action is a national group with a website description that states they are a grassroots group with the mission of fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence.

The approved resolution asks legislators to take action on a list of “common-sense” items to curb gun violence, including universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.

“It’s time for leaders to stand up and say something,” Alderman Julian Miller said. Miller had asked for the resolution at the city’s Aug. 15 council meeting.

The Rome News Tribune covered a State House Study Committee chaired by State Rep. Katie Dempsey.

Infant mental health is a real thing, a range of experts told a House study committee Thursday — and it may be one of the most important things in life.

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, chairs the House Study Committee on Infant and Toddler Social and Emotional Health. Other members are Reps. Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock; Pam Dickerson, D-Conyers; Robert Dickey, R-Musella; and Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur.

In a nearly five-hour inaugural session, they heard repeatedly — from the perspective of doctors, a judge, caregivers and advocates — that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Dempsey said she intends to listen to the day’s testimony again, via the archived video, because there is so much information to absorb. She urged everyone with a professional or personal interest to follow the committee deliberations, which are livestreamed on the Georgia General Assembly website.

“There is so much to dive into … We need a lot of people paying attention to this subject,” she said.

The committee will meet four more times through Nov. 30. It’s tasked with reporting their findings, including any recommendations for action, to the 2020 legislative session.

The Athens-Clarke County Commission‘s audit committee wants an audit of animal control, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The commission’s audit committee voted unanimously in a Wednesday meeting to ask the full commission to assign the audit to Athens-Clarke Internal Auditor Stephanie Maddox’s office for investigation.

The committee’s vote comes after blistering criticism from local animal welfare groups and commissioners following a series of mishaps at the shelter that led to the unnecessary deaths of more than 100 cats, according to an open letter signed by members of the Athens Area Humane Society, Three Paws Animal Rescue, Athens Canine Rescue and other organizations.

Those deaths “were directly due to a disturbing pattern of poor and uninformed decision-making by shelter management with respect to the health and lives of the shelter animals,” according to the Sept. 3 letter. Many of the signers of the letter raised their concerns publicly during a portion of a commission meeting last week during which members of the public can directly address the commission.

Forest Park City Council Ward 3 candidate Patricia Manley faces a residency challenge, according to the Clayton News Daily.

[Incumbent Sandra] Bagley claims that Manley registered using an Evelyn Drive address from which Manley allegedly had been evicted July 17. Clayton County Magistrate Court records confirm the eviction, as well as several others since 2013.

Attempts to reach Manley for comment were unsuccessful by press time. A campaign flyer on her Facebook page notes, “I will address vacant homes, compliance, trash and crime.” A video on Manley’s Facebook page shows Manley campaigning while offering residents free grass-cutting services.

A hearing was scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12. After some question as to whether or not the hearing would be open, members of the public were allowed to attend. They, the News, and city officials, including Mayor Angelyne Butler, waited in council chambers for half an hour.

About 1:30 p.m., City Attorney Mike Williams announced the meeting had been postponed until 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13.

In 2015, Manley ran against Morrow Councilman Larry Ferguson. Similar questions came up then about Manley’s eligibility to run based on residency and evictions. Ferguson beat Manley 358 to 230.

Newton County Probate Judge and Chief Magistrate Melanie Bell announced she is running for reelection in 2020, according to the Covington News.

“Since taking office in January 2017, I have worked to increase the use of technology in both courts, making court processes more user-friendly for citizens, law enforcement and attorneys,” she said in her campaign announcement. “Each day, our team works together to provide excellent customer service, while we implement changes to comply with Georgia law and to make the system more accessible to the public.”

“I have had the pleasure of calling Newton County home for 19 years,” she said. “I live here with my husband of 11 years, Travis, and we enjoy spending time with our families who also live in the community. We are active in our church, the Covington Campus of Eastridge Community Church, and I am looking forward to being sworn in as president of the Kiwanis Club of Covington at the end of this month.”

“I was humbled and honored to have been elected to serve the citizens of Newton County in 2016, and hope they will continue to place their trust in me as their Probate Judge and Chief Magistrate in the future.”

Right whales, the official state marine mammal of Georgia, are facing extinction, according to the Savannah Morning News.

At least 38 years old and named for the comma- and dash-shaped scars on her head, Punctuation gave birth off the Southeast coast eight times since 1986. Two of her offspring had calves of their own. She was spotted in the calving grounds off Georgia numerous times, most recently in February 2018 when she was photographed swimming with seven other whales 30 miles east of Jekyll Island.

“The sighting was interesting because we don’t typically see reproductive females in social groups in the Southeast,” wrote Clay George of the Georgia DNR. “She was quite large in the photo, so it’s possible she was pregnant at the time. She was not seen subsequently with or without a calf, so there’s no way to know for sure.”

Like most of the approximately 400 remaining right whales, Punctuation bore scars from entanglements in fishing gear and from ship strikes. In her case she had been entangled in fishing gear five separate times. She was struck by vessels at least three times, the last one leading to her death in June.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., earlier this week introduced The Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered (SAVE) Right Whales Act, S.2453, to establish a grant program to promote collaboration between states, nongovernmental organizations, and members of the fishing and shipping industries to reduce human impacts on right whales and promote the recovery of the population.

“The North Atlantic right whale was named the official Georgia state marine mammal when I served as minority leader in the Georgia State House, and I am proud that my state’s coast is still home to one of the few known calving grounds for this magnificent animal,” Isakson said in a press release. “I’m glad to introduce the Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered Right Whales Act to help learn about how we can better protect this important animal whose numbers continue to dwindle.”

“Earlier this year, researchers looked at the causes of 70 North Atlantic right whale deaths recorded between 2003 and 2018 in the U.S. and Canada. Where the cause of death could be determined, nearly 90% died as a direct result of fishing gear entanglements or ship strikes,” reported the nonprofit conservation group Oceana, whose right whale campaign kicked off Thursday.

12
Sep

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for September 12, 2019

Benny Camden

Benny is a young male Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Camden County in Kingsland, GA.

Prairie Dawn Camden

Prairie Dawn is a young female Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Camden County in Kingsland, GA.

Carmen Camden

Carmen is a young female Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Camden County in Kingsland, GA.

12
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 12, 2019

James Oglethorpe arrived at Augusta on September 12, 1739, 279 years ago today.

French troops arrived near Savannah to prepare for a siege against British forces there on September 12, 1779.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp‘s office released Augusta 2019 revenue numbers yesterday.

Georgia’s net tax collections for August totaled roughly $1.75 billion for a decrease of $50.3 million, or -2.8 percent, compared to August 2018 when net tax collections totaled just over $1.80 billion. Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled nearly $3.59 billion for an increase of $5.4 million, or 0.2 percent, compared to FY 2019 after two months.

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections during the month totaled $880.1 million, down from $939.4 million in August 2018 for a decrease of $59.3 million, or -6.3 percent.

▪ Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were down $26.4 million, or -27.4 percent.
▪ Individual Withholding payments fell by $90.9 million, or -9.4 percent, compared to last fiscal year.
▪ Individual Income Tax Return payments increased by $4 million, or 31.6 percent, over last year.
▪ All other Individual Tax categories, including Income Tax Return payments, increased a combined $1.2 million.

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections increased by $62 million, or 6.1 percent, in August, up from roughly $1.02 billion in FY 2019. Net Sales and Use Tax, which totaled $535.6 million for the month, increased $17.4 million, or 3.4 percent, compared to last year. The adjusted Sales Tax distribution to local governments totaled $537.3 million for an increase of $43.5 million, or 8.8 percent, compared to August 2018. Sales Tax refunds increased by nearly $1.2 million, or 28.2 percent, over last year.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections totaled roughly $5.3 million, which was a decrease of $12.7 million, or -70.8 percent, compared to last year when net Corporate Tax revenue totaled nearly $18 million.

▪ Corporate Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) increased by $3.5 million, or 21 percent.
▪ Corporate Income Tax Return payments decreased by roughly $10 million, or -68.8 percent, from FY 2019.
▪ All other Corporate Tax categories, including Estimated Tax payments, were up a combined $0.8 million.

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections during the month increased by $2.4 million, or 1.6 percent, compared to August 2018 when Motor Fuel Tax collections totaled roughly $153.7 million.

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fee collections decreased by almost $0.2 million, or -0.5 percent, compared to August 2018. Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections totaled $71.5 million for a decrease of roughly $1 million, or -1.3 percent, compared to the previous fiscal year.

Governor Kemp addressed a 9/11 ceremony in Brunswick yesterday, according to The Brunswick News.

“Those first responders, they were just doing their job, just as you are today,” said Gov. Brian Kemp, addressing a crowd at a 9/11 Remembrance ceremony hosted Wednesday morning at the Glynn County Fire Department Ballard Station in Brunswick. “And they went to bed that night not knowing what the next day would bring. But like you all, they put on that uniform, they went to work and they answered that call.”

“That day changed our country, but it also changed the world forever,” he said. “And for some, unfortunately, this tragedy has faded into the rearview mirror of everyday life. You may not see it in the paper quite as much or on television or even on social media, and sometimes it’s easier to forget something so painful and something so traumatic.”

“Those families will never be able to forget, and those New York fire stations will never forget,” Kemp said. “Those police forces won’t forget. And neither should we.”

The event included a ceremonial striking of the four fives, in which a fire station bell is rung five times, repeated in four series, to honor a first responder who dies in the line of duty.

Gov. Kemp also announced that Georgia has been chosen the “Top State for Business” by Area Development magazine for the sixth consecutive year, according to the Albany Herald.

“I am exceptionally proud that Georgia has once again been named the Top State for Business by Area Development,” Kemp said. “This announcement serves as a powerful testament to what we all know to be true: Georgia is the best place to live, work and raise a family. Our efforts to cut red tape and ensure our business environment leads the nation continue to lure world-class companies to the Peach State from every corner of the map.

“Our world-class work force is a direct result of our top-ranking colleges and universities, and Georgia Quick Start, the best work force development program in the nation. The state’s innovative and comprehensive logistics network makes Georgia a gateway to the global economy by land, air and sea. In the coming years, my administration is committed to building our state’s economic development toolbox so that we continue to attract leading companies in manufacturing, FinTech, information technology, and other industries ready to invest in a state that values their business and positive impact on local communities.”

Area Development’s 2019 Top States for Doing Business results reflect the rankings that states receive based on weighted scores in the following 12 categories: overall cost of doing business, corporate tax environment, business incentives programs, access to capital and project funding, competitive labor environment, shovel-ready sites program, cooperative and responsive state government, favorable general regulatory environment, speed of permitting, favorable utility rates, leading work force development programs, and most improved economic development policies.

Along with the Top State ranking, Georgia was ranked No. 1 in cooperative and responsive state government, leading work force development programs, competitive labor environment and speed of permitting.

“We are honored to receive the title of Top State for Business for the sixth year in a row,” Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said in a news release. “Each day, our team is out on the front lines, working with companies to spread the good news of Georgia’s top-ranked business climate, and because of Gov. Kemp’s strong leadership, they certainly have a lot to talk about.

Kemp also announced with the Georgia Department of Economic Development the impact of the Global Commerce and Film Divisions for the last fiscal year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Global Commerce Division supported the creation of 28,960 new jobs, generating more than $7.4 billion in investment through the location of 332 projects, while 399 productions filmed in Georgia resulted in a record $2.9 billion invested in the state.

“With record-breaking years in global commerce and film, Georgia leads the nation as the best state for business for the sixth straight year,” Kemp said. “The Peach State remains the Hollywood of the South, and companies across the globe have Georgia on their minds as a great place to invest, expand and relocate.”

Georgia has become one of the top filming locations in the world. The productions filmed in Georgia in FY ’19 included 26 feature films, 31 independent films, 214 television series, 91 commercials and 29 music videos. The FY ’19 spending figure is preliminary and expected to increase as productions finalize their numbers.

In FY ’18, film and television productions spent $2.7 billion in Georgia.

“The entertainment industry has found a home in Georgia,” GDEcD Deputy Commissioner for Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Lee Thomas said. “While the spotlight certainly shines on our competitive incentive, it is the Georgia-based skilled crew, diverse topography, available infrastructure, and the hundreds of small businesses that support our productions that keep us ranked as one of the top filming locations in the world.”

A car carrier ship passed by the capsized M/V Golden Ray in the St Simons Sound yesterday, according to The Brunswick News.

The Golden Ray, an auto cargo ship that capsized shortly after 1:30 a.m. Sunday, will likely not be removed for severals weeks or months, according to U.S. Coast Guard officials. The port, though, was expected to be opened again, at least in a limited fashion, as early as Thursday. The Coast Guard, along with the National Transportation Safety board, is investigating what caused the Golden Ray to tip over.

The Emerald Ace was allowed to leave port as a test run of sorts to see how shipping traffic would be affected when passing the shipwrecked Golden Ray, said Coast Guard Lt. Kit Pace.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan plans to work on making Georgia the tech capitol of the East Coast, according to the Gainesville Times.

During the University of North Georgia’s Regional Education and Economic Development Summit on Tuesday, Duncan spoke before community members about his focuses in Georgia.

The second annual event brought together economic development professionals, business and community leaders, state legislators and representatives, educators and students to showcase educational pathways and career opportunities in North Georgia.

Going forward with economic growth in the state, Duncan said people need to understand that every single business is a technology company.

“To become the technology capital of the East Coast, we’ve got to continue to make great strides, especially around K-12,” Duncan said. “We need to make sure that kids and communities understand the importance of educating and creating that next generation of talents because we need to create an ecosystem much like the film industry.”

“There’s no way to economically develop, if you don’t have quality health care that’s within arm’s reach of your community,” Duncan said.

Former State Rep. Beth Beskin announced she will run for Georgia Supreme Court, according to the AJC.

Beskin announced on Thursday that she has entered the race for an upcoming vacancy on the Georgia Supreme Court. She joins former U.S. Rep. John Barrow and state Court of Appeals Judge Sara Doyle in a bid to sit on the court.

The nonpartisan race, to be held in May, will decide who replaces Justice Robert Benham, the high court’s first African-American jurist. He is retiring.

“I am running to bring my experience in business and law to the Supreme Court and to defend our shared values of what makes Georgia such a great place to live, work, own or run a business and raise a family,” Beskin said.

Early this year, Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Beskin to the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission, which screens and recommends judges for the governor to appoint when vacancies arise. She previously served on the Georgia Commission on Child Support.

Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown spoke about mental health of accused criminals, according to the Statesboro Herald.

He spoke Monday to a group at the Statesboro Regional Library, where several attended a meeting of the Statesboro chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness. He outlined the challenges law enforcement and jailers face when dealing with people who suffer from a variety of mental illnesses.

Law enforcement officers “come into contact with these people every day,” he said. Deputies are trained to recognize and respond properly to persons experiencing mental breakdowns, but even so, arresting such a person and placing them in a jail cell never helps the situation, he said.

Writing lawmakers, making phone calls and taking an interest in the issue is what is needed to get the state to increase funding for more hospitals and programs for the mentally ill, he said.

There is a need for more programs and resources to help monitor such people to help keep them on track, he said.

Brown spoke of pending expansions at the Bulloch County Jail that will provide padded cells, a separate unit for inmates at risk, and a medical unit to house staff to provide better treatment and care for inmates with special needs. However, until the state steps up and improves the way mentally ill residents are treated, the problem will remain, he said.

When a crime is committed that involves a suspect with mental illness, and there are no beds available at area hospitals and treatments centers, the only choice “is to lock them up,” he said.

Steven Grimberg was confirmed by the United States Senate for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, according to GPB News.

Former federal prosecutor Steven Grimberg was confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia 75 to 18 in the U.S. Senate Wednesday. Georgia Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga., both voted yes.

“I’m glad the Senate has confirmed Steven to serve Georgia and the United States on the bench in the same district where he compiled an impressive record for the U.S. attorney’s office. I thank him for his past service and his continued willingness to serve,” Isakson said in a statement.

Perdue also appluaded the confirmation. “As a first-generation American and proud graduate of Emory University, Steven Grimberg has distinguished himself by spearheading the development of a cybercrime unit in Georgia to prosecute criminal organizations around the world,” Perdue said in a statement. “I’m confident Steven Grimberg will continue to serve Georgia with integrity in this new role, just as he has throughout his impressive legal career.”

Grimberg formerly led a team of prosecutors in Atlanta’s U.S. Attorney’s office for cybercrime. He will be leaving his current role as the managing director and General Counsel of global investigations firm, Nardello & Co. He’s a graduate of Emory Law School, and current adjunct professor.

Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks spoke to the Gwinnett Chamber, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

One note that Wilbanks touched on at the end of his address pertained to the idea of a teacher pipeline. A school system as large and heavily staffed as GCPS would ideally like to mold its own future employees. Only that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Gwinnett County Public Schools started the school year with no teacher vacancies. It’s not rare to start the school year in that manner, but the size of the school district makes the task of keeping all positions filled both daunting and likely temporary.

“We do like to start the school year on a full staff,” Wilbanks said. “Now, I think we just got that the last week, we just got the last teacher. It’s getting tougher. The pipeline is not as plentiful as it used to be.”

Wilbanks believes the difficulty to fill all teaching vacancies year-after-year is linked to frustration and that fewer people are going into the teaching profession. Of those who do become teachers, some studies show more than half leave the profession in the first five years.

Wilbanks said during his address that the $3,000 teacher bonus approved this summer is a positive step in retaining staff and facilitating a teacher pipeline. The raises were a one-time salary adjustment that affected all teachers evenly, rather than starting at the top with veteran teachers and trickling down to the rest.

Savannah City Council will address a resolution on gun control, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The resolution asking for “common-sense” gun legislation is on Thursday’s regular meeting agenda.

Alderman Julian Miller asked for the resolution on the issue at the Aug. 15 council meeting following a recent mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, with nine dead and a Philadelphia, Pa., incident where six police officers were shot.

Miller, who is not running for re-election, said there were a number of areas where he’d like to see legislative action, including limiting magazine rounds, banning assault weapons and background checks.

The resolution states that the city of Savannah urges the Georgia General Assembly and the United States Congress to take action to address gun violence, and “echoes the calls for ‘votes and laws,’ not just thoughts and prayers to address the emergency of gun violence in our nation.”

Specifically, the resolution asks that members of Savannah’s legislative delegation support gun-safety legislation, including:

- universal background checks for all gun buyers;

- red flag or extreme risk protective order legislation, creating a legal process for temporary removal of firearms from those deemed to pose an imminent risk of violence;

- bans on assault weapons, high capacity magazines, armor-piercing ammunition and bump stocks;

- legislation granting localities the authority to restrict or prohibit the possession, transportation or carrying of firearms into public buildings, publicly approved events, or on other property owned by a locality;

- legislation granting local municipalities the authority to determine how to dispose of weapons that are unclaimed or have no evidentiary value.

Floyd County election officials will train on new voting systems next month, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Floyd County elections officials are scheduled to get their first round of training on the new Dominion Voting System machines on Oct. 1 and 2.

It’s a tighter schedule than Chief Elections Clerk Robert Brady had been hoping for, since they’ll be used in the March 2020 presidential preference primary.

The secretary of state training module will be in Atlanta and involve eight separate equipment stations.

The old electronic voting machines will be used for the Rome City elections in November but six counties will be piloting the DVS: Bartow, Paulding, Catoosa, Carroll, Lowndes and Decatur.

Brady said the county would be responsible next year for supplying toner and paper for the DVS machines, estimated at about 13 cents per ballot. The state is paying for the system.

“But there’s a fly in the ointment,” he noted. “They don’t come with stands, so we’ll also have to come up with a way to display these things in a usable fashion. Private and secure.”

Georgia had higher voter churn than most states, according to the AJC.

Georgia both canceled more voter registrations and registered more new voters than most states before last year’s election, according to a recent federal report on elections.

The data were less clear-cut when it came to absentee ballot rejections, where Georgia ranked in the middle of the pack when compared to other states.

Election officials removed more than 797,000 voters from the rolls between 2016 and 2018, according to the Election Administration and Voting Survey 2018 Comprehensive Report. That amounts to 11% of the state’s registered voters, the eighth-highest rate in the nation.

At the same time, Georgia signed up more than 902,000 new voters, including 697,000 who were automatically registered when they got their driver’s licenses. The federal data support the findings of a study by the Brennan Center for Justice earlier this year, which estimated that 94% more voters registered in Georgia than if the state hadn’t implemented automatic voter registration in September 2016.

Those new registrations boosted the state’s total number of voters to a record high of more than 7 million. Georgia’s voting rolls grew 14% since 2016, the nation’s ninth-largest increase.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a former state lawmaker, said the report invalidates accusations that he and other Republican officials have been disenfranchising voters.

A community center in Columbus that is being closed could be turned into a new YMCA facility, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

A new branch of the YMCA in Columbus could be coming to the site of a closing community center and a former school, according to Muscogee County School District officials.

The Muscogee County School Board was scheduled to vote Sept. 16 on the proposed sale of the 5.31 acres at 1282 Rigdon Road for $460,000, but superintendent David Lewis pulled the agenda item because the paperwork isn’t ready, he said during Monday night’s work session.

11
Sep

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for September 11, 2019

Cash BARC

Cash is a young male Staffordshire Bull Terrier & Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from BARC Brantley Animal Rescue Coalition in Nahunta, GA.

Dapples BARC

Dapples is a young male American Bulldog and Boxer mix puppy who is available for adoption from BARC Brantley Animal Rescue Coalition in Nahunta, GA.

Mary Belle BARC

Mary Belle is a young female American Bulldog and Boxer mix puppy who is available for adoption from BARC Brantley Animal Rescue Coalition in Nahunta, GA.

11
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 11, 2019

911 memorial 2

I was in my car that morning, on the way to my job when I heard on the radio of the first plane hitting. The announcers thought at first that it must be a small plane and likely an accident. Seventeen minutes later all doubt vanished as the second hit. Over the next hour, a third plane hit the Pentagon and a fourth went down in a field in Pennsylvania. We watched on television as the towers burned, then collapsed.

Shortly afterwards, the Family Room opened in a nearby tower to provide a place for loved ones to grieve out of the public eye.

The Family Room opened in April 2002 in space donated by Brookfield Office Properties, the owners of 1 Liberty Plaza, across Church Street from the trade center site. By presenting what was known as a medical examiner’s family identification card, victims’ relatives were admitted during regular workdays and at night, on weekends and on holidays.

On the 20th floor, behind a door marked “The Family Room,” relatives could settle into ample leather couches or stand at windows 15 and 20 feet wide. The room was intended for “quiet contemplation,” said a 2002 notice from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which created and maintained the space, just a few doors down from its own headquarters and those of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation.

When the Family Room at 1 Liberty Plaza was replaced this summer by a new private gathering space in the National September 11 Memorial Museum pavilion, the [New York] State Museum and the memorial museum painstakingly documented the older room, and the State Museum acquired what contents family members themselves did not choose to reclaim.

There are materials in the Family Room collection related to about 1,000 victims, Mr. Schaming said, or roughly one-third of all casualties that day. “It is the most singular collection of the faces of people who were killed on 9/11,” he said.

A monument on Long Island to victims of 9-11 will include the names of 582 people who later died of conditions related to the aftermath of the attacks.

A separate plaque will have the names of 582 police officers, firefighters, construction workers, cleanup volunteers and others who spent time in the rubble of the World Trade Center in the days or months after the attacks and, years later, died of a variety of causes that they, their families or their doctors suspected were linked to toxic ash and smoke at the site. There will be room to add more names.

“I think what the town of Hempstead is doing is nothing short of honorable,” said John Feal, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders with health problems. “People who lost a loved one to illness suffer just like someone lost on that day. Hopefully this will offer some ease and comfort to them.”

In May, officials at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum announced plans to set aside a commemorative space at the World Trade Center to honor rescue and recovery workers.

New York’s police and fire departments also have memorials for personnel who have died of illnesses since Sept. 11. A 9/11 memorial in Staten Island recently added a plaque with the names of residents there who have died of illnesses.

Feal’s charitable organization also maintains a memorial wall to 9/11 responders in Nesconset, New York.

One day after Perry’s victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, American Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough led American forces in the Battle of Plattsburg at Lake Champlain, New York on September 11, 1813.

The Union Army began evacuating civilians from Atlanta via Lovejoy’s Station on September 11, 1864.

Georgia-born Ty Cobb took his last at-bat on September 11, 1928.

After a week-long Presidential campaign swing through ten states, former Governor Jimmy Carter returned to Plains on September 11, 1976.

On September 11, 1985, Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s career hit record, notching number 4,192 against the San Diego Padres.

Two years ago today, all 159 counties in Georgia were under an emergency declaration from Hurricane Irma.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp ordered flags on state buildings and grounds flown at half-staff today and a moment of silence at 8:46 AM.

It may take months to move the M/V Golden Ray from where it capsized in the St Simons Sound, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A Coast Guard officer says it could take “weeks, if not months” to remove a cargo ship that overturned while heading to sea from a port on the Georgia coast.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Norm Witt told news reporters Tuesday that marine salvage experts are working on a plan to remove the 656-foot (200 meter) long Golden Ray from St. Simons Sound near the Port of Brunswick. Asked how that would be done, he said: “We don’t have all the answers right now.”

Meanwhile, Witt says the Coast Guard is trying to reopen the port to limited commercial traffic by Thursday — though he called that timeline “aggressive.”

From The Brunswick News:

The priorities of Coast Guard, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and other agencies handing the shipwreck’s aftermath now include combatting water pollutants in nearby waters, removing the behemoth 25,000-ton, 656-foot-long ship from the sound and reopening the shipping lane to the Port of Brunswick — a vital cog in the community’s economy.

The investigation is being headed by the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board. It could take a long time before that investigation is completed and shared with the public, officials agree.

The Coast Guard updated Glynn County Commissioners:

Cmdr. Norman Witt took the podium to give the commissioners the latest on the situation.

Once the crew was safely away, the salvage operation began. He told the commissioners he didn’t want to sugarcoat the situation, and that it looked like salvage operations would take a month or more.

“It could go a month or potentially longer. Months, plural,” Witt said.

The Coast Guard established a unified command composed of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, contractor Gallagher Marine Systems and the ship’s owner, Hyundai Glovis, among several others, he said.Along with the members of the command, Witt said “world leaders” in salvage operations have been brought in to assist. Salvage rests in the hands of the unified command, while the investigation into exactly what caused the ship to tip is handled separately.

The command is very cognizant of the risks posed by pollution and loss of business at the Port of Brunswick, he said.

While he said the estimate seems aggressive to him, he told commissioners the channel may be open to commercial traffic by Thursday.

It won’t be open to full operations, however. Precautions will have to be taken to ensure ships coming in don’t destabilize the Golden Ray.

“I don’t want to say there will be no pollution. That’s not realistic,” Witt said.

Containment booms — inflatable barriers used to contain oil spills — have been deployed, he said, but they are less effective in strong currents than they are in calm waters.Commissioner Bill Brunson asked if the salvagers will attempt to pump the fuel tanks out.

Any oil in the water and on the beaches will impact wildlife in some way, Witt said.

The Coast Guard has called in conservation groups and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, to help track the current and mitigate the harm to local wildlife.Witt wrapped up by saying he appreciated how helpful the Golden Isles community has been and offered to meet with the commissioners in the future or hold town halls for the public.

A case of West Nile virus in a human has been reported in Chatham County, according to the Savannah Morning News.

An adult living in Chatham County has been diagnosed with West Nile virus, a potentially serious illness transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.

This is the first human case in the eight-county Coastal Health District in 2019, and the fourth human case of West Nile virus in Georgia this year.

Chatham County Mosquito Control first detected and reported West Nile in a sample of local mosquitoes in early July, and the virus quickly spread throughout the mosquito population across the county. Already, 2019 is the second most active year for West Nile virus in Chatham County mosquitoes after 2011. That year 10 people contracted the disease.

“We’ve been telling people all along it’s in mosquitoes,” said Coastal Health Spokeswoman Ginger Heidel. “We let them know it was widespread. It’s not surprising we’re seeing it in a person.”

The State of Georgia has banked a record $3 billion dollars in the rainy day fund, according to the AJC.

Despite some iffy revenue numbers at times during the year, the state ended the recently completed fiscal 2019 with a record nearly $3 billion in its rainy day reserves.

Preliminary figures set the reserves at $2.971 billion for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The reserves are important because they potentially cushion the impact of any economic downturn by helping the state fund everything from schools to health care programs for a quarter of Georgians.

The current reserves equate to funding state government for about a month, which is more than many if not most states have set aside.

Kemp has ordered state agencies to cut 4 percent from their budgets this year and 6 percent next year. He was recently praised by one of the agencies that rates bonds – money the state borrows for construction projects – for being fiscally proactive.

State agency responses to Gov. Kemp’s requested budget cuts include hundreds fewer jobs, according to the AJC.

Hundreds of state jobs would be eliminated and positions frozen — from consumer protection staffers and drivers license workers to school safety coordinators — under plans drawn up to meet Gov. Brian Kemp’s demand to cut spending.

Many state programs would be scaled back or eliminated too, according to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the state Open Records Act. Some of the proposed cuts have trickled out in recent weeks as state agencies worked to meet the governor’s demand to reduce spending.

Their submissions are the first step in Kemp’s plan to cut 4 percent from most program budgets this fiscal year and 6 percent next year — which begins July 1 — to both prepare the state in case of an economic downturn and provide the money needed to meet his priorities, such as higher teacher pay.The state is expected to announce Wednesday that tax collections for August fell 2.8 percent, or about $50 million, from August 2018. The state saw up and down revenue collections earlier this year, but the administration was able to increase the state’s rainy day reserves to a record nearly $3 billion when fiscal 2019 ended on June 30.

The Georgia House and Senate are planning budget hearings later this month and officials said the meetings will go forward, despite earlier objections from the Kemp administration, which initially didn’t want to participate. In typical years agencies submit spending proposals to the governor, who reviews them over the fall and makes recommendations to the General Assembly in January.

All at a time when a lot of current economic signs point to Georgia’s economy being in pretty good shape overall.

Some of the agency budget plans submitted to the Office of Planning and Budget are vague and will leave the governor with a lot of questions when he meets with department leaders in coming weeks.

Their submissions are the first step in Kemp’s plan to cut 4 percent from most program budgets this fiscal year and 6 percent next year — which begins July 1 — to both prepare the state in case of an economic downturn and provide the money needed to meet his priorities, such as higher teacher pay.

The state is expected to announce Wednesday that tax collections for August fell 2.8 percent, or about $50 million, from August 2018. The state saw up and down revenue collections earlier this year, but the administration was able to increase the state’s rainy day reserves to a record nearly $3 billion when fiscal 2019 ended on June 30.

The Georgia House and Senate are planning budget hearings later this month and officials said the meetings will go forward, despite earlier objections from the Kemp administration, which initially didn’t want to participate. In typical years agencies submit spending proposals to the governor, who reviews them over the fall and makes recommendations to the General Assembly in January.

Kemp surprised lawmakers, and many agency leaders, by calling for budget cuts in August. Allotments to agencies for most programs will be reduced starting Oct. 1.

Not everything will be cut equally across state government. Some massive enrollment-driven programs — such as K-12 schools, universities and Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled — are exempt.

In all, only about 23% of the state-funded portion of the budget was not exempted. Agencies on the hook for cuts include the departments of Agriculture, Corrections, Driver Services, Public Health, public defenders, the Georgia State Patrol, the GBI, most of the Department of Natural Resources, and the administration of K-12 schools and colleges.

Federal relief money for last year’s Hurricane Michael will start flowing soon, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Monday that his federal department would begin accepting applications for more than $3 billion in aid that Congress set aside for farmers in a disaster relief package signed into law earlier this summer.

Farmers in roughly 80 Georgia counties that were designated presidential emergency disaster zones in 2018 are eligible for the money, as well as the victims of floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters over the last two years, Perdue said.

That includes Hurricane Dorian, which plowed through the Bahamas and the Southeast coast last week.

The agriculture money is the first major chunk of disaster relief funding to be released since President Donald Trump cleared a $19 billion emergency relief package in June, ending eight months of partisan gamesmanship over Puerto Rico aid.

Yet another federal lawsuit has been filed over Georgia voting procedures, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Coalition for Good Governance, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law and a group of attorneys — including Atlanta attorneys Bruce Brown and Cary Ichter — filed a supplemental complaint challenging the reliability of the state’s new touch-screen voting system, saying it violates constitutional amendments.

The voter advocates filed the complaint after a federal judge ruled last month that Georgia needed to do away with its old voting system. Widely opposing electronic voting, the nonprofit group, the Coalition for Good Governance, was planning to sue over the new system as well.

The suit says the new Dominion Voting System has security flaws similar to the previous DRE system, was not tested and certified properly and, if implemented, violates the First and 14th Amendments protecting voters rights to a transparent and anonymous process.

Tess Hammock, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office, said the new system is separate from the old DRE system being challenged in court.

“The new Ballot Marking Device system is completely different from the DREs which are the subject of the suit,” Hammock wrote in a statement. “It is a different technology, on a different platform, from a different vendor. To try to say they are related somehow is an illogical leap. These machines haven’t even been used yet in Georgia so they aren’t even ripe to be litigated at all.”

New voting machines were on display in Duluth yesterday, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

On Tuesday in Duluth, the Georgia Secretary of State’s office offered a first look at new voting machines that will be used in the 2020 presidential primaries in March, and eventually the 2020 general election in November.

These machines won’t be utilized in Gwinnett County election precincts until March 2020, but a storefront at Duluth’s Paragon Shopping Center was the site of a preview of the new technology on Tuesday. Johns Creek City Councilman Jay Lin introduced officials with the Secretary of State’s office before representatives with the company that will provide new machines conducted a demonstration.

The poll machines are a hybrid touch-screen and paper ballot voting device. The voter inserts a card into a machine with a touch screen to cast their ballot. A paper ballot is printed and delivered to a device that scans and records both the original paper ballot and a digital image of the ballot.

“We really improved the confidence in the elections,” [Georgia Secretary of State Brad] Raffensperger said. “When we do that, I think it really helps take out some of the polarization that we have and some of the concerns that people have. We can drill down and get those answers, then the race is over and we can move on to the next race.”

Starting with fall municipal elections, there will be six pilot counties using the ballot marking device with touch screen technology— Lowndes, Decatur, Carroll, Paulding, Bartow and Catoosa. Raffensperger said there are approximately 2,000 machines that will operate in those counties.

“They’ve not been hacked, but we understand that hackers never sleep, and nor can we,” Raffensperger said. “That’s the advantage of this. When you have a paper ballot, first of all, you can do a physical recount. So when you have a close election that’s within a half percent, we can open up the box and have a paper ballot to count.”

There will also be a hand-marked paper ballot pilot in Cobb County, a test of a system that would be used in the event of a power outage or weather event, as Raffensperger put it, but theoretically also in the event of human or mechanical error.

The Glynn County Board of Elections complained about a lack of information from the state on new voting machines, according to The Brunswick News.

A lack of information from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office may disrupt the Glynn County Board of Elections’ plans to educate the public on the state’s new voting machines.

At the board’s Tuesday meeting, Elections and Registration Supervisor Chris Channell said the secretary of state’s office told local officials they would get a few voting machines early for training and public information purposes. Glynn County will not use the new machines in an election until the March 2020 presidential primary.

Two weeks into September, and he’s received no word on when those machines might arrive.

“This is government inaction,” said board member Tommy Clark. “They told us one thing, and now we’re learning the real story.”

In other business, the board continued discussing plans to move three polling places.

State House District 152 voters will elect a new State Representative (or send two candidates into a runoff) on November 5, 2019, according to the Albany Herald.

[State Rep. Ed] Rynders announced last week that he is stepping down after 17 years in the House because of health issues and a recent move to St. Simons Island, where his wife, Jane, is working as a teacher. Rynders revealed in an interview with The Albany Herald that he suffered a heart attack last June and continues to have health concerns.

“Several have encouraged me to finish my term (the special election will fill the HD 152 unexpired term, which runs through the 2020 session),” Rynders told The Herald last Thursday. “I don’t ever want to be seen as a quitter, but my health and my family’s future have to be my No. 1 priorities.”

In a move that will save the state money, the special HD 152 election will be held in conjunction with the Nov. 5 municipal elections being conducted in the communities that encompass the district, including Leesburg and Sylvester.

As word of Rynders’ decision spread throughout the region, a number of candidates started to express interest — some openly, others behind closed doors — in a run for the seat. Among those who have been mentioned as possible candidates are Lee County Commission Chairman Billy Mathis, Lee Commissioner Rick Muggridge, Leesburg Mayor Jim Quinn, Dennis Roland, Gail Drake, Tyler Johnson, Jim Thurmond and Mary Egler.

Georgia has the nation’s 3d-highest rate of people without health insurance, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Georgia’s uninsured rate rose slightly in 2018, to 13.7%, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

That gives Georgia the nation’s third-highest rate of people without health insurance. The state trails only Texas and Oklahoma.

Georgia had the fourth-highest percentage in 2017.

The Georgia increase is small enough not to be statistically significant, said Bill Custer, a health insurance expert at Georgia State University. But he added, “We’ve lost ground to other states’’ whose uninsured rates have dropped in recent years.

Custer pointed to several possible factors in the rise in the uninsured rate. They include cuts in federal funding to publicize the ACA’s health insurance exchanges, which offer a way for low-income people to buy coverage. The feds have also cut funding for special counselors, or “navigators,” who assist people in using the exchanges.

State Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) Chairs the House Study Committee on Infant and Toddler Social and Emotional Health, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Rep. Katie Dempsey will convene on Thursday the first of several meetings examining how – and why – the state can encourage better models for early childhood development.

The Rome Republican chairs the House Study Committee on Infant and Toddler Social and Emotional Health. She said the inaugural session will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Room 606 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building in Atlanta.

Among the scheduled speakers is Douglas County Juvenile Court Judge Peggy Walker. She’ll talk about how early intervention in cases of “social-emotional health challenges” can affect the criminal justice system.

Erica Ferner-Sitkoff, executive director of Voices for Georgia’s Children, will talk about the current state of behavior health services for children and several pediatricians will explain how toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences affect brain development.

The committee is tasked with evaluating a range of mental health services and making legislative recommendations on how to best support young children and families. It runs through Nov. 30.

Candidates for Mayor of Valdosta met in a public forum Monday night, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Hosted by the Lowndes County Democratic Party, Kevin J. Bussey, Scott James Matheson, J.D. Rice and David Sumner answered questions and each explained why he should be the next mayor of Valdosta. Five people qualified for mayor but candidate Brooks D. Bivins failed to attend the event.

Each of the mayoral candidates took answers from a moderator for about an hour. The event began at 7 p.m. and ended at about 9 p.m.

Before the mayoral candidates forum, three of the four candidates for the at-large Valdosta City Council seat answered questions. Adrian J. Rivers, Jeremy L. Stone and Edgar “Nicky” Tooley attended the event. Incumbent Councilman Ben H. Norton, who qualified for reelection as a candidate, did not attend.

Dr. Debra Tann, who moderated the event, said there will be another debate held for candidates at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, Serenity Church, 1619 N. Lee St.

Rome has hired a herd of goats to control vegetation, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Goats are being used to clear overgrowth in order to provide a view of the river to the picnic areas behind State Mutual Stadium.

A crew of 10 Kiko goats was cut loose near one of the picnic areas spaced out on the trail behind the ballpark Tuesday. Rome Public Works Director Chris Jenkins hopes they will have a large area cleared to provide views of the river, perhaps even access to the riverbank for fishermen.

Ashley Lindsay of Glitzy Goats said the goats will clear any of the aggressive vines, briars and privet.

“They don’t eat grass and things like that. They’ll clear it out real well. All of this camouflage and treescape you see will be gone.”

Augusta Technical College will receive a federal grant from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The school received $150,000 to continue its Nuclear Engineering Technology Workforce Scholars Program. The program aims to further the accomplishments of previously funded projects, to recruit and train students to work in a nuclear environment and provide scholarships to at least 16 students.

NRC awarded 45 grants to 33 academic institutions in 19 states and Puerto Rico for a total of $15 million in the 2019 fiscal year, according to the commission. Congress authorized the funds for scholarships, fellowships and faculty development.

Bulloch County public school students will make up days missed due to Hurricane Dorian in November, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The Bulloch County Schools will add two class days, Nov. 25 and 26, to make up for the two days cancelled during the area’s near miss by Hurricane Dorian, Superintendent Charles Wilson has decided.

Since Sept. 2 was Labor Day and Sept. 3 was a scheduled student-free workday for teachers, the cancellation of classes on Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 4-5, left students with only Friday as a school day last week.

Nov. 25 and 26 are the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, which is Nov. 28 this year. Previously, students and school employees would have had the entire week, Nov. 25-29, as holidays. But Nov. 25 and 26 had been designated as potential make-up days since the current school year, 2019-20, calendar was approved by the Board of Education back in January 2018.