The blog.

31
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 31, 2018

Ariel Harris

Ariel is a female English Bulldog mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Harris County in Hamilton, GA.

Coco Harris

Coco is a female English Bulldog mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Harris County in Hamilton, GA.

Destiny Harris

Destiny is a female English Bulldog mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Harris County in Hamilton, GA.

31
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 31, 2018

On January 31, 1733, six boats carried Georgia’s first colonists to Trench’s Island, now called Hilton Head Island, where they spent the night before continuing on to land in Georgia at Yamacraw Bluff on February 1, 1733.

On January 31, 1865, Robert E. Lee began service as Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate armies.

On January 31, 1865, Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing slavery.

General William Tecumseh Sherman visited Kimball Opera House in Atlanta on January 31, 1879, which was then serving as State Capitol, fifteen years after burning the city.

On January 31, 1893, the trademark for “Coca-Cola” was filed.

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker was suspended on January 31, 2000 for remarks made to ESPN.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal has appointed Benjamin A. Land to the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit. The Chattahoochee Circuit comprises Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Talbot, and Taylor Counties.

The Senate and House convene at 10 AM for Legislative Day #13

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

7:00 AM HOUSE APPROP GEN’L GOV’T 341 CAP

7:10 AM HOUSE APPROP HIGHER ED 341 CAP

7:20 AM HOUSE APPROP EDUCATION 341 CAP

7:30 AM HOUSE APPROP HUMAN RES

7:40 AM HOUSE APPROP PUBLIC SAFETY 341 CAP

7:50 AM HOUSE APPROP TRANSPORTATION 341 CAP

8:00 AM House Insurance (Life & Health) Sub 606 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE APPROP HEALTH 341 CAP

8:10 AM HOUSE APPROP ECON. DEV. 341 CAP

8:30 AM HOUSE APPRO FULL 341 CAP

9:30 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

UPON ADJOURNMENT SENATE RULES 450 CAP

1:00 PM House Local Gov’t Sub Gov’tal Affairs 406 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR 310 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY MEZZ 1

1:30 PM House Ways & Means Income Tax Sub 133 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION310 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT 515 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE MILITARY AFFAIRS WORKING GROUP 415 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE GOV’TAL AFFAIRS 406 CLOB

2:00 PM House Kelley Subc Judiciary (Civil) 132 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 450 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

3:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION 403 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, former Georgia Commissioner of Public Health, has resigned as Director of the CDC, based in Atlanta.

The Trump administration’s top public health official bought shares in a tobacco company one month into her leadership of the agency charged with reducing tobacco use — the leading cause of preventable disease and death and an issue she had long championed.

The stock was one of about a dozen new investments that Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, made after she took over the agency’s top job, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.

State Senator Renee Unterman introduced Senate Bill 352, aimed at curbing opioid abuse.

Unterman joined Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Sen. Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge, on Monday to unveil a group of new bills designed to address health issues in the state. One of those pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 352, targets addiction issues in the state through various means.

“Senate Bill 352 is not my legislation, it is not my colleague’s legislation, this is for the thousands of people who have reached out about the opioid addiction crisis in our state to let us know what they need and what the State of Georgia needs,” Unterman said in a statement. “Although we have worked hard in the past to address those issues, this legislation takes our efforts significantly further.”

One of the bill’s intended steps to fight opioid addiction is to create a way for communities and recovery treatment providers to work together to expand access to treatment. It also sets up a K-12 education strategy designed to encourage students to not abuse household medications or use drugs such as heroin.

“This holistic approach will turn the tide in Georgia’s fight against substance abuse and addiction,” Cagle said in a statement. “By improving education, treatment and recovery, we can save countless lives and defeat the opioid epidemic.”

Herman West, Jr. kicked off his campaign for the Second Congressional District seat held by Democrat Sanford Bishop.

Republican Herman West Jr. officially kicked off his campaign Monday to unseat veteran U.S. Rep .Sanford Bishop Jr., D-Albany, in Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District.

“I’m not a politician and that’s what gives me a chance against him,” West, a native of Cuthbert who now lives in Albany, said. “This a not a career change for me, I’m not looking for a new career.

“I’m running to make a difference in the lives of the people in this district. I want to bring jobs and economic opportunities to the district, and to increase the availability of our healthcare system along with educational opportunities.”

West is the elder brother of retired Lt. Col. Allen West, a former Florida congressman, and Arlan West.

Columbus newscaster Mallory Hagan is considering running for an Alabama congressional seat.

Mallory Hagan, Miss America 2013, is considering running for the congressional seat for Alabama’s 3rd District. Hagan would be running as a Democrat, challenging Republican U.S. Rep Mike Rogers.

“My whole life I have been standing up for others. From defending grade school friends on the playground when I was a little girl to lobbying nationally for children in our Child Advocacy Centers as an adult, I have always been a strong and passionate voice for others. It is second nature to me” Hagan said in a statement.

Hagan, who currently is an evening co-anchor at NBC affiliate WLTZ in Columbus, Georgia, stated her campaign platforms include better education, jobs, fair wages, gender equality, access to affordable healthcare and a focus on environmental issues.

The candidate filing deadline in Alabama is Feb. 9. All 435 seats in Congress will be up for election on Nov. 6.

Karín Sandiford will run as a Democrat against Republican State Rep. John Carson (Marietta).

Nelson, Georgia will hold a special election on May 22, 2018 to fill a city council vacancy.

“Notice is hereby given that on May 22, 2018, the municipal special election for a city council seat shall be held at the established voting precinct for the City of Nelson to fill the unexpired term of the Honorable Mike Haviland,” the notice said.

Qualifying for the May election will be held at the Pickens County Board of Elections and Registration office at 83 Pioneer Road in Jasper from March 5-7 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, with an hour break at noon for lunch. The qualifying fee for any prospective candidate is $25.

Haviland vacated his council seat, in accordance with state law, to qualify for a mayoral run after former Mayor Larry Ray decided he would not run for re-election at the end of his four-year term, which expired on Dec. 31, 2017. Haviland’s qualifying for the mayoral candidacy in the middle of his own council term meant he was required to immediately vacate his seat.

Georgia Power announced it will lower the rates charged to ratepayers to finance construction of the two new reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Georgia Power announced Tuesday it will charge customers $139 million less this year to finance two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle just days before the Georgia Public Service Commission is to hold a hearing on its decision in December to allow those projects to proceed.

The company said it had filed an update to the Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery tariff with the PSC that showed it will ask for less this year for Vogtle construction. In a cover letter to the PSC, a Georgia Power official explained that its original $89 million increase will actually be a $50 million decrease due to the impact of the corporate tax cut and a $1.7 billion payment last year from Toshiba, the parent company of the expansion project’s original main contractor Westinghouse, which declared bankruptcy last March. The amount charged to the customer’s base bill will decline from 9.7 percent to 8.4 percent but the impact on the total bill will remain at around 5 percent, according to Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins.

Beginning in April, that would mean about $2.70 less from a typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month, the company said in a news release, or about $24 less for the remainder of the year. The company was also ordered by the PSC to pay each customer $75 in rebates for Vogtle construction, spread over three months this year, but the timing for that rebate has not been announced.

Because it earned too much in return on equity in 2016, the PSC has also ordered the company to rebate $43.6 million to customers this year but the timing and the amount per customer have not been announced.

30
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 30, 2018

Olive Bloodhound

Olive is a female Bloodhound who is available for adoption from Canine Adoption Network in Ball Ground, GA.

Olive is a 5 year old female bloodhound turned into a rural Georgia shelter, emaciated and in need of medical care. She probably lived outside her whole life and has obviously has had several litters of pups. She is now a healthy, petite ( for a bloodhound) 64 pounds, She is very sweet and eager to please and loves being around people, she is quite the social butterfly, and enjoys walks in the park, or tucked under the patio table at a dog friendly restaurant . Though she is happy to lay out on the porch, Olive prefers being inside and close by her people, she likes the couch or her own chair. We are looking for a home for Olive where she will get the human attention she deserves.

Archie Hound

Archie is a young male Hound and Boxer mix who is available for adoption from Companion Animal Connection in Waleska, GA.

I’m ARCHIE, an 8 month old 44lb hunk of LOVE. I’m very well mannered, love to play outside with my puppy friends, sunbath on the deck and snuggle on the couch, I may grow to be a 65-70lb adult. Come see me at the Roswell Petsmart on Saturdays. My Adoption Fee is $399.00. This includes spaying/neutering, heartworm test, and ALL age appropriate vaccinations. I have been de-wormed, treated monthly with flea & heartworm preventatives and been given an AVID Prepaid Microchip.

Charlie Hound

Charlie is a young female Hound mix who is available for adoption from Refuge Rescue, Inc. in Woodstock, GA.

Would you like to meet a really REALLY sweet dog? Well here is Charlie who was dropped at a rural shelter in West Georgia, terrified and so confused because she had no clu what brought her there in the first place! It just so happedned that this wonderful lady with a huge big heart for sweet dogs saw her post and just could not Charlie out of her mind, so she saved her from being euthanized. Charlie was SOOO grateful for being in a home and warmed up quickly to big and small humans and to the other canines in the house.

Charlie loves to go for walks on the leash and here comes the best part: She is potty trained and crate trained already!!! She’s a total love bug and nothing makes her happier than to cuddle up with you and a bone to chew on. Charlie is eager to please and even more eager to love and be loved on. She is a perfect, small to medium built (30lbs) and a year old. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you are interested in giving this little lady a temporary (foster) or forever home!

30
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 30, 2018

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV)

Today’s historical moments below combine to show some of the major influences on Georgia politics and governance since her founding, and how the same conflicts have played out across the world, from Northern Ireland to India, to stages of rock and roll shows.

On January 30, 1788, the Georgia legislature passed a resolution calling for a state Constitutional Convention in Augusta to adopt a state Constitution that conformed to the new Constitution of the United States.

On January 30, 1862, the United States launced its first ironclad warship, USS Monitor.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York. In 1942, Roosevelt ordered Japanese-Americans on the west coast of the United States into concentration camps, leaving German and Italian Americans free.

On January 30, 1935, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. protested segregated elevators at the Fulton County Courthouse.

On January 30, 1948, Mohandas K. Gandhi was assassinated.

1920 Georgia Flag

On January 30, 1956, six members of the Georgia State House of Representatives introduced House Bill 98 to replace the red and white stripes on Georgia’s flag (above) with a Confederate battle flag (below). That same day, a bomb was thrown at the Birmingham, AL home of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

1956 Georgia Flag

January 30, 1972 is remembered as Bloody Sunday in commemoration of the shooting of 26 civilians by British troops in Northern Ireland.

On January 30, 2001, the Georgia State Senate passed a house bill changing the state flag from the 1956 version to one that aggregated the State Seal and five former state flags, pictured below.

2001GeorgiaFlag

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal yesterday announced that she had undergone surgery and will undergo chemotherapy for breast cancer.

“During an annual mammogram, I was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer,” said Mrs. Deal. “Since I caught it in its early stages, I am confident that the chemotherapy will yield successful results. In light of this, I encourage all women to be proactive about their health and see a medical professional for an annual mammogram. Nathan and I appreciate your thoughts and prayers during this time, and I look forward to continuing to read to students across the state.”

Information about mammograms and breast cancer prevention is available on the Georgia Department of Public Health website.

Our prayers are with her and her family.

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

UPON ADJOURNMENT SENATE RULES 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE ECON DEV & TOURISM 125 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SVCS 450 CAP

1:30 PM House Ways & Means Ad Val Sub 133 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE & TECH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE NAT’L RES & ENV’T 310 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE RETIREMENT MEZZ 1

2:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HUMAN SVCS 606 CLOB

2:00 PM House Ways & Means Sales Tax Sub 133 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE GAME, FISH & PARKS 403 CAP

2:45 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

3:00 PM SENATE REGULATED IND & UTILITIES 450 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION 307 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE SCIENCE & TECH 506 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE BANKING & FIN INST MEZZ 1

Grady Memorial Hospital opened a mobile emergency room as Georgia flu victims fill their beds.

The tractor trailer-sized structure sits outside Grady Memorial Hospital’s ER, looking like some huge tent assembled outside a major entertainment or sports event.

But the unit will open Tuesday morning as a mobile emergency department, with 14 beds, leased by Grady to handle its soaring ER numbers. The fully equipped structure is wired and ready to start delivering medical care.

Typically, the Atlanta safety-net hospital sees 400 ER patients a day. Lately, though, the number has moved above 500. And while flu has contributed to the increase, it has also included many patients with other viral illnesses, Dr. Hany Atallah, chief of emergency medicine at Grady, said Monday.

This is the mobile ER’s first use in Georgia, and Grady has arranged for a 30-day setup.

Georgia Senate leaders yesterday introduced legislation to address the opioid abuse crisis. From Jill Nolin for the Valdosta Daily Times.

There’s no new money for treatment services in next year’s proposed budget, but Sen. Renee Unterman, who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said Monday that she plans to push for more funding this legislative session.

“When you’re looking at the epidemic, you see the need,” said Unterman, R-Buford. “We prioritize our needs in the budget process, and obviously, if you’re in the middle of an epidemic, that prioritization is going to float to the top.”

Sen. Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge, has introduced a bill that would create legislative council and a separate think tank that would vet ideas for fixes, particularly for rural Georgia. Burke compared the plan to what was done with criminal justice reform under Gov. Nathan Deal.

Cagle said funding solutions, such as potentially a Medicaid waiver for addiction treatment, may be considered.

“The reality is that we know this is a crisis,” Cagle said. “And to solve this issue, we need to have far more community resource centers than we do right now.

Cagle said, though, that it’s “not just simply that government needs to be the one to shoulder all the burden or the cost associated with it.”

From Andy Miller with Georgia Health News:

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle on Monday told reporters that he is opposed to expanding Medicaid in Georgia.

Big government won’t improve our health care system,’’ Cagle said at a press conference Monday at the Capitol. He added, “I have a philosophical difference’’ with supporters of expansion, which has been done in 32 states under the Affordable Care Act.

“It does no good to continue to grow government and create additional [budgetary] strain,’’ Cagle said.

Cagle acknowledged the problems in access to care in rural Georgia in discussing Senate Bill 357, whose goal, he said, is to improve the quality and affordability of medical care in the state.

“Our health system must become more efficient and effective,’’ he said.

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader told reporters that Georgia doesn’t have sufficient treatment options. “Recovery is real when it’s done right,’’ she said.

Cherokee County has seen a 150% increase in suspected overdoses so far this year, according to 11Alive.

The year has just begun and already, people are dying from overdoses. In Cherokee County, nine people died in 19 days. Three of those deaths happened on the same day, January 14.

Cherokee County is always either the first or second highest county for drug deaths. They go back and forth with Richmond County. According to the GBI, Cherokee averages 35 to 45 drug-related deaths a year, that averages out to about three or four deaths a month. If all nine January deaths are officially ruled to be drug-related, this would be about a 150 percent increase.

The AJC writes that State Senator Brandon Beach (R-North Fulton) will introduce legislation to consolidate transit planning under the Georgia Regional Transportation Agency (GRTA).

State Sen. Brandon Beach, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, has not finalized all aspects of the bill he plans to introduce this week. A big unknown: the details of state funding for mass transitprojects that would be an incentive for counties to surrender some of their control over transit planning and operations.

But Beach, an Alpharetta Republican, said his goal is to create a seamless regional transit system that is not hindered by county lines.

“Gwinnett Transit works pretty good in Gwinnett. CobbLinc works pretty good in Cobb,” Beach said. “But until we get unified infrastructure planning, we’ll never have a truly regional system.”

Beach’s bill would be the year’s first formal proposal to tackle the thorny political issue of mass transit funding in metro Atlanta. But it almost certainly won’t be the last.

Bibb County’s proposed sales tax hike would increase its total take at the cash register to 9%, the highest in Georgia.

After three years of county budget shortfalls, Bibb County leaders are asking state lawmakers to help them pursue a new sales tax. But there’s hesitation in Atlanta, as the county could be headed to the highest sales tax rate in Georgia.

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert pleaded the county’s case in a little hearing room in the state Capitol basement Monday morning. He told eight Macon-Bibb County lawmakers why the county wants them to set up a public vote on an “OLOST,” a one-penny “other” local option sales tax.

“This is the best of bad options,” Reichert said, adding that no one wants to go up on taxes, but that the county needs this increase.

There’s another sales tax ask ahead of it in line. In May, county voters will say if they want to raise the sales tax from 7 to 8 percent, mainly for roads and bridges. The OLOST would take it to 9 percent.

“That is the concern,” said state Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon. “How do you stimulate growth in a county that has the highest tax rate?”

Warner Robins City Clerk Bill Harte has resigned, saying he expected to be fired by Mayor Randy Toms.

29
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 29, 2018

Hunter Tri County

Hunter is a male Hound mix who is available for adoption from Tri-County Animal Rescue Center in Mauk, GA.

Vizsla Tri County

Vizsla Boy is a male Vizsla & Affenpinscher mix who is available for adoption from Tri-County Animal Rescue Center in Mauk, GA.

Annie Tri County

Annie is a female Treeing Walker Coonhound who is available for adoption from Tri-County Animal Rescue Center in Mauk, GA.

29
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 29, 2018

On January 29, 1779, British forces captured Augusta, Georgia.

Walter F George Vienna Georgia

Walter F. George was born on January 29, 1878 in Preston, the county seat for Webster County, Georgia. Ron Daniels has a brief bio of the United States Senator who gave his name to a Law School, a courthouse, and a lake. The photo above is a bust in the town square of Vienna, Georgia, in Dooly County, where George made his home.

On January 29, 1892, the Coca Cola Company was incorporated in Georgia in Fulton County Superior Court.

On January 29, 1955, Georgia Governor Marvin Griffin signed legislation granting the power to take land needed for the Stone Mountain Park through condemnation if negotiations to buy it fell through.

On January 29, 1977, Congressman Andrew Young resigned his seat to accept the nomination by President Carter as United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

On January 29, 1998, a bomb exploded in a Birmingham, Alabama abortion clinic, killing a police officer. Eric Rudolph would later admit to setting that bomb, along with the Centennial Park bombing in 1996, and the bombing of a Sandy Springs abortion clinic and an Atlanta bar in 1997.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Flu deaths in Georgia have doubled, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The number of flu-related deaths in Georgia has more than doubled, climbing to 25 from 12, state health officials reported late Friday. The Department of Public Health also said there were 115 hospitalizations in the metro Atlanta area due to influenza infection during the week of Jan. 14 through Jan. 20. The week before, there were 40 hospitalizations in metro Atlanta due to flu.

There have been 671 hospitalizations in the region so far this flu season. Nationally, flu activity has remained widespread in 49 states from coast to coast for three weeks in a row. The number of people getting the flu is still increasing, as is the hospitalization rate. The latter – a predictor of the death rate – is now on track to equal or surpass that of the 2014-2015 flu season, the New York Times reported. Like that year, the main strain of flu circulating this year is the H3N2 strains, which tends to cause more illnesses and deaths.

Wellstar Health System, which has 11 hospitals, is seeing a 30 percent spike in flu patients this month compared to last January, WABE reported. “I just think that because we’ve had the cold snap, we were all together in our homes and our kids were out of school that we will see another increase in the flu volume,” said Freda Lyon, vice president of emergency services for WellStar.

Officials at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta said its ER is seeing about 40 patients a day with the flu or flu-like symptoms, WABE reported.

The Albany Herald reported that Southwest Public Health District Director Dr. Charles Ruis said, “We are concerned about the amount of illness and the number of hospitalizations throughout our 14-county district, and we are now investigating the possibility of the first flu death in the district.”

**Stay home from work or school if you’re sick, so you don’t spread the flu. Before returning to school or work, flu sufferers should be free of fever (without the use of a fever reducer) for at least 24 hours.

** If your doctor prescribes antivirals, take them.

** If you’re not sick, stay away from people who are.

** Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently to help guard against the flu. If soap and water are not accessible, the next best thing is to use alcohol-based sanitizing gels.

** Cover the nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread of the flu. Use a tissue, or cough or sneeze into the crook of the elbow or arm.

** Avoid touching your face, as flu germs can get into the body through mucus membranes of the nose, mouth and eyes.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Health officials say there are common sense flu prevention techniques — frequently washing your hands with soap and warm water. (If water is not available, alcohol-based gels are the next best thing.) If you are sick, cover your coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow or a tissue that is then discarded. Also, don’t go to work, and don’t have your children go to school, when sick.

Dr. Cherie Drenzek, state epidemiologist with the Georgia Department of Public Health said if you do get sick and think you may have the flu, contact your health care provider right away, particularly if you or family members are at high risk for serious flu complications — young children (under the age of 5), those over 65, pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes or asthma. Even young, healthy adults should call their doctor if symptoms don’t improve or get worse after three to four days of illness.

There are antivirals such as Tamiflu or Relenza that can help reduce the duration of flu symptoms but the medication needs to be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms to be most effective. GoodRx (www.goodrx.com) is a website that can help people find availability at area pharmacies and find the cheapest place to obtain the medication.

House and Senate both convene today at 10 AM.

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

Upon Adjournment SENATE RULES 450 CAP

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

11:00 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEH 403 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE JUDICARY (NON-CIVIL) 406 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

2:00 PM Kelley Sub House Jud’y (Civil) 132 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE ED & YOUTH 450 CAP

3:00 PM Fleming Sub House Jud’y (Civil) 132 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

Criminal justice reforms led by Governor Nathan Deal have resulted in lower numbers of African-Americans being imprisoned.

The number of African-Americans sent to state prisons in Georgia has declined by 30 percent in the past eight years — the result of historic reforms in the state’s criminal justice system.

Black prisoners still make up far more of Georgia’s prison population than white prisoners, after decades of mass incarceration by the state. But the numbers are turning around. Overall, the crime rate is down. But the state has also made large reductions in the number of nonviolent offenders sent to state prisons, in part by creating dozens of “accountability courts” around the state.

Drug offenders now are often diverted from prison and sent to drug courts, where they spend about 18 months receiving counseling, job training and frequent drug tests.

The State Budget process will dominate the legislature this week.

The House Appropriations Committee will meet earlier to go over the proposed supplemental budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which runs through June 30. The Legislature revises the state budget annually, after getting an update on needs and the revenue stream.

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, has a 7:30 a.m. meeting scheduled for the Human Resources appropriations subcommittee she chairs.

Among the spending increases they’ll consider recommending are an additional $2.4 million for crisis services for autistic children and $15 million for child welfare services, to accommodate the increased number of children in state custody.

Dempsey also is expected to hold a subcommittee meeting Wednesday to discuss the proposed “big budget” that sets agency priorities for the 2019 fiscal year, from July 1 through June 30, 2018.

Over in the other chamber, two bills supported by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, are scheduled for first readings and assignment to committees today.

He’s among the co-sponsors of SB 357, which would create a health innovation center and a council to oversee its activities. The measure is a top recommendation of the Health Care Reform Task Force he’s serving on.

Hufstetler is sponsoring SB 359, which is another try at addressing so-called “surprise billings” that occur when patients receive services from out-of-network providers.

Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson) legislation for a state authority to govern Hartsfield airport may be grounded by opposition from Gov. Deal’s administration.

Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration has effectively joined the effort to ground a state takeover bid of Atlanta’s busy airport before it can take flight.

As word of Republican state Sen. Burt Jones’ measure to give the state oversight of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport percolated under the Gold Dome, the director of a key state agency penned a memo harshly critical of his plan.

The memo by Diana Pope of the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission warned that adding a layer of state oversight “will cast a negative perception that could negatively impact credit ratings because of the potential disruption in services and the uncertainty of how it may impact existing and future business relationships.”

She also cautioned that there is nothing simple about creating a state oversight board. The airport authority has accumulated more than $3 billion in outstanding debt, and an overhaul could require the state to refund bonds because of recent tax changes.

With the memo, though, Deal’s administration may have signaled it doesn’t want the takeover bid to jeopardize another prized asset: The state’s AAA bond rating. We’re told the governor’s top aide, Chris Riley, recently reinforced the point in a meeting with state Senate leaders.

The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education says that poverty and community factors are affecting education outcomes.

The partnership was founded in 1992 by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Economic Developers Association. It consists of business, education, community and government leaders.

The state’s Department of Education’s official action plan includes steps to improve educational equity, but success depends on responses at the community level, according to the Partnership report.

“Teachers and school leaders need resources and support to help overcome the harmful impacts of poverty and adverse neighborhood factors. It is rare that a school can outperform its community,” the report states.

Georgia has the third-largest rural school population in the nation, Rickman noted as she explained the issues facing rural schools.

Access to health care is one of the most urgent issues facing rural schools, especially when poverty is also an issue, Rickman said.

Cobb County Commissioners seeking legislative approval for an additional sales tax ran into questions at the Capitol.

[Commission Chair Mike] Boyce described the legislators as noncommittal to the tax proposal.

“We had two major questioners. (State Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-east Cobb, and state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth) both had concerns,” he said.

Cooper’s concern was if public safety is funded by a sales tax and a recession hits, the funding could be in jeopardy. Yet Boyce said he told lawmakers that while there are some issues with the tax proposal, the beauty of it is everyone has nine months to make their arguments before voters decide whether to approve it or not.

State Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, said he did not know of any support for drafting the tax law among Cobb legislators either.

“It was nothing to do with public safety. It’s really a budgetary issue. It’s not a public safety issue. They have a big budget gap, and they’re trying to close that, and it’s being advertised as public safety, but it’s really more a budgetary issue,” Wilkerson said.

State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-east Cobb, was also skeptical.

“Let’s just say I have a lot of concerns, especially since commissioners seem divided on it,” she said.

Setzler said while he appreciated the “warmth and candor” of Wednesday’s discussion, “at the end of the day, this is a new revenue scheme for the county, and although it’s being presented as being about public safety, it’s really about spending and other things.”

Three State Representatives introduced legislation to bring back the tax credit for electric vehicles.

On Wednesday, state representatives Spencer Frye, Todd Jones, and Allen Peake announced the introduction of House Bill 98 for the 2018-2019 legislative session.

While the text of the bill apparently hasn’t been posted to the Georgia Legislature’s website, the bill would create a $2,500 credit for buyers of electric cars within the state, presumably starting sometime in 2019.

While that previous credit was in effect, Nissan frequently cited the greater Atlanta area as one of the top regions for sales of its Leaf electric car.

When the credit was ended as of July 1, 2015, however, sales of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid cars in Georgia plummeted to little more than one-tenth the June 2015 level.

Jim Galloway of the AJC raises the historic question of whether the Talmadge Bridge in Savannah is really named the Talmadge Bridge.

Within the next few weeks, state Rep. Ron Stephens will likely begin a delicate debate over Georgia culture and history with this assertion: The Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge in Savannah isn’t really the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge.

It never has been.

Yes, the name of the segregationist governor has been physically attached to the graceful suspension bridge for 27 years now, but that was accomplished through bureaucratic fiat, Stephens’ research is expected to show.

Not by a proper act of the Legislature.

And because the bridge lacks an official name, his fellow lawmakers should feel free to bestow one chosen by the local community, Stephens will argue. The Republican prefers that the bridge bear the name of Juliette Gordon Low, a Savannah native and founder of the Girl Scouts.

It’s a fascinating story worth reading in its entirety.

Cobb County hosted the Georgia Sheriff’s Association Winter Training Conference.

“The Georgia Sheriff’s Association and visiting sheriffs were very appreciative of the training and thankful for the hospitality provided by Cobb County,” said Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren in a statement. “We have a lot to be proud of in Cobb County and having the chance to involve our great staff during the conference was a privilege. Between the excellent training and impressive list of speakers … it is going to be hard to top this event!”

The visiting sheriffs received training in topics including procedural updates from state agencies, adult mental health issues, legal and legislative issues as well as court security standards. They also had the opportunity to see the latest in law enforcement equipment and technology during a vendor fair.

The Glynn County Republican Party hosted four of the five GOP candidates for Secretary of State.

State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, introduced a constitutional amendment resolution Jan. 11 in the Senate that would, if the amendment was approved, set English as the official state language. The Senate Rules Committee favorably reported the resolution Thursday.

“We’re going to fight the attempts of the left to force counties and municipalities around this state to print ballots in foreign languages,” McKoon said. “That’s just wrong. You have to learn English to become a citizen through the naturalization process. Why would we print ballots in foreign languages?”

Additionally, McKoon touted his experience as a private attorney, handling election law issues and arguing those issues in court.

State Rep. Brad Raffensperger, R-Johns Creek, laid his intentions on the line up front.

“My name is Brad Raffensperger, and I’m running for secretary of State to make sure only American citizens can vote in our elections, to make sure Georgia is a great place to find a job, but also a great place to build a business,” Raffensperger said.

Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner Richard Steele rolled out two self-service car tag renewal kiosks.

Tax Commissioner Richard Steele announced two new self-service tag renewal kiosks have been added at the Lawrenceville and North Gwinnett tag offices. While the kiosk at the Lawrenceville office will have a limited schedule — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays — the North Gwinnett office’s kiosk will be open 24 hours a day, every day.

“I am constantly looking for ways to make tag renewal more convenient for Gwinnett taxpayers. The after-hours kiosks will offer a new option in addition to paying online, mailing in payment or visiting a tag office.” Steele said in a statement. “We are also looking forward to adding additional kiosks in other county locations in the future.”

County officials said residents must have a valid Georgia driver’s license and the address on their renewal notice must be correct to use the kiosks. Officials also said a state-run system must proof of the resident’s insurance and they must have a valid emission inspection on file as well.

Residents who use the kiosk to renew their vehicle registration will receive their current license plate decal immediately at the kiosk. They can use Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express to pay their renewal fees.

County officials also said residents can also renew their vehicle registrations at self-service kiosks that are located in Kroger stores in DeKalb, Walton, Hall, Clayton and Fulton counties.

Democrat Zahra Karinshak announced raising $135k in her campaign for the Senate District 48 seat being vacated by Sen. David Shafer’s campaign for Lieutenant Governor.

The Valdosta Daily Times profiles candidates in the February special election for House District 175.

Four candidates vie for [former State Rep. Amy] Carter’s unfinished term. They are:

• Treva Gear, Democrat, Valdosta, educator.

• John LaHood, Republican, Valdosta, business owner.

• Bruce Phelps, Republican, Lowndes County, who lists his occupation as emergency medical technician.

• Coy Reaves, Republican, Quitman, self-employed.

The Valdosta Daily Times asked the candidates to introduce themselves and answer a series of questions.

A contested judicial election between Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Ralph Van Pelt, Jr. and challenger Melissa Hice could prove a “blood sport.”

Melissa Hise, 49, announced last week she will run against Ralph Van Pelt Jr., a Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit superior court judge since 1996. Hise denied her run has anything to do with the fight between Van Pelt and one of the country’s most famous lawyers; she said she simply wanted to provide voters with a fresh face.

“I want you to finish your two years remaining on your term and to qualify for re-election — if you have the stamina and resolve!” Cook wrote in a letter to Van Pelt in October 2016. “There is nothing so interesting as a Northwest Georgia election where politics for generations has been a ‘blood sport.’”

Hise could have run against Judge Don Thompson, whose term is up this year. But she said Thompson will help move the judicial circuit forward. Appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2016, Thompson started to oversee the circuit’s new drug court last year. That is a rehabilitative program that aims to keep non-violent, addicted offenders out of jail.

“Judge Van Pelt has held his seat for quite a while,” Hise said. “If you’re looking for a change and something different, you’re looking at his seat.”

Van Pelt said he has never resisted change in the circuit. He added that his experience makes him more qualified. Before taking the bench, he worked as a private lawyer and the circuit’s district attorney. Though he hasn’t kept a tally, he says he has worked hundreds of jury trials. Hise said she has never been the lead attorney on any jury trials.

“Making an inexperienced mistake can cost taxpayer money and lots of grief to people involved in a case,” Van Pelt said.

The Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit covers Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade and Walker counties. The election for Van Pelt’s seat is May 22.

Allene Magill, Executive Director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators has died.

“The PAGE family is overwhelmed and saddened today with the passing of Dr. Allene Magill, our leader and executive director,” said Craig Harper, director of communications. “Allene was a tireless advocate for educators and public education in Georgia for many decades with her most important work occurring over the past 14 years with PAGE.”

“Allene was a visionary leader who saw great potential in people and helped all with whom she worked to do even more than they thought they were capable of doing,” Harper said. “She never stopped striving to ensure educators had the support they needed to develop professionally, and to provide the best instruction in the classroom and the highest level of leadership, regardless of position.”

At 93,000 members, PAGE is Georgia’s largest professional association for educators. Magill was the executive director since July 2003, following superintendent positions in Paulding, Forsyth and Dalton.

The Muscogee County Board of Education will vote today on make-up dates for snow days, including whether to hold classes on Presidents’ Day.

According to the school district, four days of classes have been missed, two for Hurricane Irma on Sept. 11-12 and two for snow and ice on Jan 17-18.

And while school districts may miss up to four days without the state requiring them to be made up, Lewis is recommending that classes be held on Monday, Feb. 19, a scheduled holiday.

The board will vote on making the move which effectively changes the school calendar.

In an email to MCSD employees, Lewis wrote, “These four canceled days of school represent a concerning amount of local instructional time for our students. My reasoning is that Presidents Day is typically not considered a major travel day.”

Patrick Anderson will run for Hall County Board of Education Post 2, which is being vacated by incumbent Brian Sloan.

Anderson told The Times in an email that he had corresponded with Sloan in recent weeks and met him personally at a board of education meeting last Monday.

“I’m very excited to run for the South Hall school board position, especially after attending the meeting and seeing what a great leadership team we have in Superintendent (Will) Schofield and the board,” Anderson said.

Anderson said he wants to see schools do a better job teaching students about healthy living habits, life skills, job hunting and relationship challenges and preparing young men and women for life’s little but important responsibilities, like living on a budget, saving money, understanding insurance options and building credit.

“Personally, my passion for education is to prepare students for success after high school with life and job skills,” he said. “One thing that is missing everywhere, I think, is that we just teach to the test or textbook and not to real life.”

Georgia state climatologist Bill Murphey said that 2017 was the warmest year on record for Georgia.

The annual average statewide temperature for 2017 was tied with 2016 for the warmest on record with 65.8 degrees as the average mean temperature, Georgia state climatologist Bill Murphey said.

Atlanta broke records throughout the entire year, as it had the third warmest winter and spring on record, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. For the city, 2016 and 2012 were the No.1 and No. 2 warmest years, respectively.

There were many factors that could have contributed to Georgia’s warm year, including very warm overnight low temperatures, the clouds which affect infrared radiation cooling, and evaporation, Murphey said. A La Niña period occurred from about Apr. 2016 until about June 2017, he also noted.

“Recall how dry it was in Georgia, especially during the fall and winter La Niña event of 2016, with all the north Georgia wildfire activity,” he said. “In fact annual average temperatures for 2016 for Atlanta were the warmest on record … The annual average statewide temperature for 2017 was tied with 2016 for the warmest on record.”

South Dakota is considering repealing Marsy’s Law, whose supporters are making a push for passage in Georgia. From US News & World Report:

Some South Dakota legislators want to repeal a voter-approved constitutional “bill of rights” for crime victims, citing unintended consequences like high costs to counties and protections they say have actually hampered investigations.

South Dakota is the first state to seek to repeal “Marsy’s Law” of the six that enacted it, said Gail Gitcho, a spokeswoman for Marsy’s Law for All. Montana‘s Supreme Court recently tossed the constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2016, citing flaws in how it was written.

South Dakota House Speaker Mark Mickelson said Thursday that lawmakers would be seeking to strengthen victims’ rights provisions already in state law before asking voters to repeal the Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment they passed in 2016.

“We’re going to strengthen South Dakota victims’ rights,” Mickelson said. “Part of that is removing the unintended consequences of Marsy’s Law from the constitution.”

But Mickelson said he and others are trying to fix unintended consequences from Marsy’s Law that have degraded victims’ rights. Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said his office depends on the eyes and ears of the public to help the Sioux Falls-based department solve cases, but the amendment has limited the information they can provide.

“We struggle sometimes being able to share enough information with the public to have them help us in solving crimes,” Milstead said.

The Marsy’s Law repeal proposal would go to voters in the November election, potentially with replacement language saying that victims have the “right to be treated with fairness and respect for their dignity and the right to be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse.”

26
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 26, 2018

RustyCPR

Rusty is an eight-week old male Chihuahua mix puppy who is available for adoption from Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah, GA.

Kenickie

Kenickie is a ten-week old male Labrador Retriever and Shepherd mix puppy who is available for adoption from Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah, GA.

Brandy

Brandy is a seven-year old female Boykin Spaniel who is available for adoption from Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah, GA. She’s new enough to the rescue group that she’s not on their website yet, but you can fill out your application to adopt her. The Boykin Spaniel is the official state dog of South Carolina.

26
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 26, 2018

On January 28, 1733, Georgia’s first colonists celebrated a day of thanksgiving for their safe arrival in Savannah and Chief Tomochichi’s granting them permission to settle on the Yamacraw Bluff.

On January 27, 1785, a charter was approved by the Georgia legislature for the first publicly-supported state university in America.

The Supreme Court of Georgia held its first meeting on January 26, 1846 at Talbotton, Georgia.

John Sammons Bell was born on January 26, 1914 in Macon, Georgia. He would go on to serve as Chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, as a Judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals, and as chief judge of the appellate court. He is today best known as the designer of the state flag featuring the Confederate battle flag, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1956.

On January 27, 1941, Delta Air Lines announced it would move its headquarters from Monroe, Louisiana to Atlanta, Georgia. It was an interesting case of public-money-fueled economic development.

In 1940, the city of Atlanta and Delta had signed an agreement whereby the city agreed to contribute $50,000 for construction of a new hanger and office building for Delta if it would move its headquarters to Atlanta. In turn, Delta agreed to pay the remaining construction costs and then assume a 20-year lease for the new facilities. On Jan. 16, 1941, Delta had secured a $500,000 loan from Atlanta’s Trust Company of Georgia, thus allowing it to make a public announcement of the move.

On January 28, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed a joint resolution of the Georgia House and Senate amending the Georgia Constitution to make the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia a constitutional board and reduce the power of the Governor over the Regents.

The movement to a constitutional board came after the loss of accreditation of all Georgia state higher education institutions for white people. The previous Governor, Eugene Talmadge, had engineered the firing of UGA’s Dean of the College of Education; after the Board of Regents initially refused to fire the Dean, Talmadge dismissed three members, and replaced them with new appointees who voted for the firing. Talmadge lost the 1942 election to Arnall.

On January 27, 1965, the Shelby GT 350 was unveiled.

Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay” was released on January 27, 1965, seven weeks after his death.

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff as many Americans watched on live television. President Ronald Reagan addressed the loss of seven astronauts.

Reagan had originally been scheduled to give his State of the Union that evening, but cancelled the speech. His address on the Challenger disaster was written by Peggy Noonan. The speech written by Noonan and delivered by Reagan is ranked as one of the top ten political speeches of the 20th Century.

On January 26, 2001 a new state flag, first designed by Atlanta architect Cecil Alexander, passed out of committee in the General Assembly by a 4-3 vote and would be voted on later that week. Click here to view the floor debate from 2001.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Yesterday, the General Assembly adopted Senate Resolution 631, which lays out the schedule for the remainder of the legislative session with Sine Die scheduled for no later than midnight on Thursday, March 29, 2018. Crossover Day is February 28, 2018.

Monday, January 29, 2018 Legislative Day 11
Tuesday, January 30, 2018 Legislative Day 12
Wednesday, January 31, 2018 Legislative Day 13
Thursday, February 1, 2018 Legislative Day 14
Monday, February 5, 2018 Legislative Day 15
Tuesday, February 6, 2018 Legislative Day 16
Wednesday, February 7, 2018 Legislative Day 17
Thursday, February 8, 2018 Legislative Day 18
Monday, February 12, 2018 Legislative Day 19
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 Legislative Day 20
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 Legislative Day 21
Thursday, February 15, 2018 Legislative Day 22
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 Legislative Day 23
Wednesday, February 21, 2018 Legislative Day 24
Thursday, February 22, 2018 Legislative Day 25
Friday, February 23, 2018 Legislative Day 26
Monday, February 26, 2018 Legislative Day 27
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 Legislative Day 28
Thursday, March 1, 2018 Legislative Day 29
Monday, March 5, 2018 Legislative Day 30
Tuesday, March 6, 2018 Committee Work Day
Wednesday, March 7, 2018 Legislative Day 31
Thursday, March 8, 2018 Committee Work Day
Friday, March 9, 2018 Legislative Day 32
Monday, March 12, 2018 Legislative Day 33
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 Committee Work Day
Wednesday, March 14, 2018 Legislative Day 34
Thursday, March 15, 2018 Legislative Day 35
Monday, March 19, 2018 Legislative Day 36
Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Committee Work Day
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 Legislative Day 37
Thursday, March 22, 2018 Committee Work Day
Friday, March 23, 2018 Legislative Day 38
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 Legislative Day 39 “Rat Stomp Day”
Thursday, March 29, 2018 Legislative Day 40 “Sine Die”

The AJC has a little squib on why the specification of “no later than midnight” is important.

When the clock strikes midnight on March 29, the Georgia General Assembly will have to be finished with its work for the year.

The state Senate and House approved an resolution Thursday that adjourns the 2018 legislative session no later than midnight on its 40th business day, restoring a tradition that was broken in 2015.

During the past three legislative sessions, there wasn’t as much urgency to pass bills before midnight. Lawmakers continued their work into the morning.

The return of the midnight deadline could restore the drama that has at times gone missing in recent years.

Federal tax reform legislation could lead to a windfall in additional state revenue because of ties between federal deductions and the state income tax.

That’s largely because the federal tax law touted by President Donald Trump and Congress limited or eliminated some of the deductions Georgians have used when figuring their state taxes in the past and made it far more likely that ratepayers will use the standard federal deduction, rather than lowering their state taxable income using itemized deductions.

So while many Georgians may pay less in federal taxes, they will wind up with bigger state tax bills.

State leaders across the country are trying to figure out what to do with the extra money: spend it on state programs or cut taxes. Georgia is likely to do neither, at least initially.

“There is a significant assumption that there is going to be a big windfall for Georgia, particularly in 2o20 and moving forward,” [Gov. Deal's Chief of Staff Chris] Riley said. “It’s hard to get real concrete data on how this is going to play out.”

Deal won’t make plans to spend the windfall by putting it in the state budget, in large part because he doesn’t know how big it will be.

“The last thing we want to do is have a special session in the fall and raise taxes or cut the budget,” Riley said. “Georgia prides itself in the fact that we are not one of the 29 states this year that had to go back in and cut its budget, nor are we one of the 22 states that had to raise taxes to have a balanced budget.”

[Speaker David] Ralston’s spokesman, Kaleb McMichen, said: “Speaker Ralston was briefed on the estimate, and his initial reaction is to agree with the governor that a cautious approach to the projections is best. He will continue to review the information and consult with his leadership team … as the budget process moves forward.”

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) spoke about concentrating on expanding rural broadband at an event hosted by the AJC.

“Broadband is really foundational to so many of the things we’re talking about, whether it’s health care, telemedicine, education or business,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said during the Politically Georgia discussion sponsored by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You’re going to see a number of approaches out there, so what ultimately is approved this year remains to be seen.”

About 16 percent of Georgians lack access to high-speed internet service.

Ralston said internet service could be extended to rural areas by making it easier for internet companies to use power poles.

He downplayed other proposals to build out internet. He said an idea by Sen. Steve Gooch, R- Dahlonega, to run fiber optic cables along Georgia’s interstate system would be expensive.

He didn’t discuss the concept of charging a telecommunications tax to subsidize construction of internet lines in the country. Legislators on the House Rural Development Council had suggested the state could raise money by taxing satellite TV, internet phones and possibly internet streaming services.

Georgia Conservation groups are preparing a push for House Bill 332 by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) which would fund state conservation efforts.

The measure, House Bill 332, struggled to gain traction during last year’s legislative session. But conservationists are marshaling forces this year in hopes the plan can land on the November ballot. They released a poll Friday suggesting a broad majority of voters back the idea.

“This is an investment in an economic engine that’s really important to the state of Georgia,” said Robert Ramsay, the head of the Georgia Conservancy. “And we have that opportunity because Georgia’s been so blessed with natural resources.”

The legislation would dedicate 75 percent of the existing state sales tax on outdoor recreation equipment to a conservation fund to buy new parkland, protect water and wildlife, and improve existing green space.

The fund would be overseen by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and financed from existing taxes for equipment purchased for camping, hunting, fishing and other outdoor sports. The annual amount would be calculated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and it would not include any tax dollars from sales of boats, motor homes and four-wheelers.

The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Coalition say that a private poll shows eight of ten voters would support the measure.

Eight in 10 Georgians agree that a portion of the existing state sales tax on outdoor recreation equipment should be constitutionally dedicated to land conservation according to a recent poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates for the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Coalition. The coalition is comprised of the state’s leading conservation organizations.

“Georgians understand the important role that land and natural resources play in their quality of life, from clean drinking water to places for children and families to be outside,” said Robert Ramsay, president of the Georgia Conservancy. “We are excited about this proposed solution that would have a generational impact on land conservation without raising or creating any new taxes.”

The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act (HB332) would dedicate 75% of the existing state sales and use tax on outdoor recreation equipment to the protection of the state’s land, water and wildlife. Funds generated could be used to protect lands critical to water quality, maintain and improve access to parks, and address the conservation program defined in Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan. The shift from appropriated to annually dedicated funding would also allow the state to attract more private and philanthropic investment.

“Georgia’s outdoor economy, which includes hunters and anglers as well as those who simply enjoy the outdoors, has an annual economic impact of $27 billion and supports nearly 240,000 direct jobs. We believe this proposal will not only protect this significant industry sector, but allow it to grow. With dedicated funding, the state could better protect not only the habitats of game and non-game wildlife, but also the beaches, rivers, and lakes that outdoor enthusiasts enjoy ,” added Mike Worley, president and CEO of the Georgia Wildlife Federation.

The Georgia constitution requires the dedication of any taxes for a particular purpose to be approved by the voters. If passed by the required two-thirds of the General Assembly, the measure would be on the ballot in November 2018.

“Our state has benefitted from a legacy of leaders willing to invest in our land and natural resources. We are hopeful that the General Assembly will agree with their constituents who overwhelmingly support this proposal that this is a viable approach to preserve our state’s natural beauty, ensure access to land and greenspace for both rural and urban communities, and protect critical resources including our water supply,” concluded Thomas Farmer, executive director of the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Coalition.

The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Coalition is comprised of The Conservation Fund, Georgia Conservancy, Georgia Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Park Pride, and the Trust for Public Land. For more information, visit www.georgiaoutdoorstewardship.org.

Cobb County School Board members voted unanimously to issue $40 million in tax anticipation notes against SPLOST proceeds.

Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said because construction costs increase an average of 4 to 5 percent each year, short-term loans allow the district to lock in bids for SPLOST projects at lower prices, saving the district money in the long term.

The practice was something the district did regularly ahead of the recession, he said, and he plans to ask board members to approve a similar agreement at the beginning of 2019 to secure funding for next year’s SPLOST projects.

Forsyth County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley announced he will seek reelection this year.

“My goal is to see that all parties involved in any type of litigation are treated fairly and equally. I strive to ensure that all parties coming before the court are permitted to be fully heard so that one never feels that they have not been afforded a full and fair opportunity to present their case,” Bagley said. “At the conclusion of every case, I want to be comfortable that I have arrived at the right decision which complies with the law and is just and fair.”

The election will be held on May 22, the same day as primary elections in the state.

Bagley has served as a judge in the county for more than 20 years and was appointed as State Court Judge by Gov. Zell Miller in 1997. He became Chief Superior Court Judge in 2003.

In 2004, he founded the county’s drug court and continues to run the court’s accountability program. The program is made up of felony drug offenders and includes “extensive treatment and rehabilitation including a strict drug testing regimen.”

“Since the first graduation in 2005, 328 persons have graduated from the drug court, the majority of which have gone on to live successful and sober lives,” Bagley said.

Two candidates announced they will run for Columbus City Council this year.

Regina “Reggie” Richards Liparoto, a longtime Columbus resident who worked as a local broadcaster for many decades, is running for the Columbus Council District 9 seat.

The Rev. Gregory Blue, founder of Columbus-based Body of Christ Church International, is running for the District 1 position.

The two candidates are among the latest in a growing list of potential candidates for the May 22 election.

The mayor’s seat and all odd number council district seats are up for grabs.

Hall County commissioners Kathy Cooper and Scott Gibbs announced they will run for reelection this year.

Cooper represents South Hall and Gibbs North Hall. The commissioners announced their intentions at the Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting on Thursday.

Their two seats are the only ones up for election this year. Both said they feel like they’ve accomplished much in their time on the commission and have more to do before stepping down.

Cooper was first elected to the commission in 2014, and Gibbs has been a commissioner since 2011.

25
Jan

Adjournment Resolution

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25
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 25, 2018

Pen190 Candy

Candy is a 10 month old female Pit Bull mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Pen194 Camembert

Camembert is a 5-month old male Belgian Malinois mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Pen213

Pen 213 is a 3-month old male Belgian Malinois mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.