The blog.

2
Aug

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for August 2, 2019

Whiskey Washington Wilkes

Whiskey is a two-year old male Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Washington Wilkes Humane Animal Shelter in Washington, GA.

Tahoe Washington Wilkes

Tahoe is a three-month old female Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Washington Wilkes Humane Animal Shelter in Washington, GA.

Reba Washington Wilkes

Reba
is a 9-week old female Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Washington Wilkes Humane Animal Shelter in Washington, GA.

2
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 2, 2019

On August 4, 1753, George Washington became a Master Mason at the Masonic Lodge No. 4 in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Georgia delegates Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton signed the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776.

16th Amendment

On August 3, 1910, Georgia became the ninth state to ratify the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which allows Congress to levy a tax without apportioning it among the states.

Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as President on August 3, 1923 after Warren Harding died in office.

On August 4, 1944, Anne Frank, her family, and two others were found by Nazis in a sealed area in an Amsterdam warehouse. They were sent first to a concentration camp in Holland, then most were sent to Auschwitz. Anne and her sister Margot died from Typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March of 1945.

On August 4, 1958, a wagon train left Dahlonega, headed to Atlanta to pay tribute to the mighty General Assembly deliver 43 ounces of gold to be used to coat the dome of the State Capitol.

Gold from Dahlonega on its way to Atlanta. Photo by Ed Jackson via http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu

On August 3, 1982, Michael Hardwick was arrested, setting in motion the prosecution that would eventually lead to the United States Supreme Court in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick.

On August 2, 1983, the United States House of Representatives voted to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a federal holiday on the third monday in January.

The World of Coca-Cola opened on August 3, 1990 between Underground Atlanta and the Georgia State Capitol.

President Barack Obama visited Georgia on August 2, 2010 – his first trip to Atlanta and second to Georgia after his election in November 2008. The occasion of his 2010 trip, like his trip to Atlanta yesterday, was to deliver a speech to the Disabled American Veterans Conference at the Hyatt Regency. From his 2010 speech:

As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.  Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31st, 2010, America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing — as promised and on schedule….

As agreed to with the Iraqi government, we will maintain a transitional force until we remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of next year.

At the same time, every American who has ever worn the uniform must also know this: Your country is going to take care of you when you come home. Our nation’s commitment to our veterans, to you and your families, is a sacred trust. And to me and my administration, upholding that trust is a moral obligation. It’s not just politics.

That’s why I’ve charged Secretary Shinseki with building a 21st century VA.  And that includes one of the largest percentage increases to the VA budget in the past 30 years. We are going to cut this deficit that we’ve got, and I’ve proposed a freeze on discretionary domestic spending. But what I have not frozen is the spending we need to keep our military strong, our country safe and our veterans secure. So we’re going to keep on making historic commitments to our veterans.

The City of Atlanta will install new markers next to some historic monuments, according to the Statesboro Herald.

In Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, the 1911 Peace Monument commemorating post-Civil War reconciliation will get context noting that its inscription promotes a narrative centered on white veterans, while ignoring African Americans.

“That mythology claimed that despite defeat, the Confederate cause was morally just,” states the marker to be placed near the Peace Monument.

“This monument should no longer stand as a memorial to white brotherhood; rather, it should be seen as an artifact representing a shared history in which millions of Americans were denied civil and human rights,” it states.

Another of the new Atlanta markers will be placed near a monument erected in 1935 to commemorate the Battle of Peachtree Creek. It notes that the statue’s inscription describes the U.S. after the Civil War as “a perfected nation.”

“This ignores the segregation and disenfranchisement of African Americans and others that still existed in 1935,” the marker states.

Other Atlanta markers will be placed near two monuments in the city’s historic Oakland Cemetery: The “Lion of Atlanta” monument and the Confederate Obelisk.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Macon’s Grand Opera House will screen “The Breakfast Club” Saturday at 7 PM, according to the Macon Telegraph.

“It’s almost a year since we re-opened after remodeling the theater and creating a new lobby and lounges,” he said. “As far as films, we want wide appeal but in our first year also had an eye toward what film buffs would appreciate. Now, we’ve expanded things like showing ‘Kung Fu Panda’ for families on Wednesday before school got going. Ahead are general appeal movies, music and concert films, some cult classics and just a whole lot of great, entertaining movies.”

Coming are more ‘80s-‘90s hits like “Back to the Future” and “Dirty Dancing” as well as a September repeat showing of “Saturday Night in Macon, Ga.,” from the ‘70s. It’s an Allman Brothers Band concert shot by Don Kirshner at the Grand Opera House also featuring the Marshall Tucker Band and Wet Willie. “The Need for Speed,” which was shot in Macon, is scheduled and where last October for Halloween two silent horror classics were shown, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and “Nosferatu,” this year the campy-cult-horror favorite “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” will be featured.

Also this weekend, the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth will host “Trains, Trucks and Tractors,” according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The museum will host Trains, Trucks and Tractors this weekend, starting Friday and continuing until Sunday.

“During the event, participants will display a range of antique tractors and vehicles not generally on display at the museum,” officials at the museum said in an announcement.

The event will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

“The special visiting exhibits and other activities are included in regular museum admission, and guests can also purchase rides on the museum’s restored antique handcar,” museum officials said in their announcement.

“Visiting exhibits will arrive and depart at different times throughout the event, and event offerings are contingent upon the weather.”

Vice President Mike Pence arrives in Atlanta today, according to the AJC.

Vice President Mike Pence will be the headline speaker at a conference at a Buckhead hotel organized by conservative pundit Erick Erickson that will also draw Gov. Brian Kemp and U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

A few miles down the road, about 1,000 delegates will gather for the Democratic Socialists of America convention in downtown Atlanta to discuss the group’s future and chart out plans to support U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 bid.

Pence is set to chat with Erickson shortly before noon at his Resurgent Gathering about President Donald Trump’s re-election plan.

Expect Pence and other speakers to lace their remarks at the Grand Hyatt event with attacks on socialism; Perdue’s campaign wrote an op-ed for attendees this week warning of an “ideological war for the future of our Republic.”

Later Friday, Pence is also expected to headline a fireside chat with his former top aide, Georgia operative Nick Ayers, at the annual Teneo retreat.

Teneo’s mission is to recruit and promote young conservatives, and Ayers’ conversation with Pence will focus on how the vice president became a conservative, the ideas that shaped his worldview and foreign policy issues.

Governor Brian Kemp‘s administration will investigate toxin releases in Cobb County, according to WSB-TV.

Gov. Brian Kemp plans on spearheading a series of public meetings this month to connect government agencies and residents in two metro Atlanta counties as they grapple with revelations tied to the unknown release of carcinogenic toxins from local medical plants.

On Thursday, Kemp’s office confirmed it is working with the EPA, CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health to host question and answer sessions about the medical sterilization facilities with neighbors in Cobb and Newton counties.

Sen. David Perdue’s and Rep. Lucy McBath’s offices are also in contact with the EPA and EPD.

“We will work around the clock to address this situation and keep Georgia families safe,” said the governor’s spokeswoman, Candice Broce, in part of a statement.

Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters ruled in a lawsuit by the Ledger-Enquirer that video of a classroom fight must be made public, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters ruled in favor of the Ledger-Enquirer in the lawsuit filed in January 2018 against MCSD. Peters’ order requires the video to be made available to the L-E within 10 days.On Sept. 12, 2016, a behavior specialist who was contracted to work in the school district allegedly body-slammed Montravious Thomas five times at an alternative school for students with severe discipline violations.

A month later, after unsuccessful surgeries, the 13-year-old had his right leg amputated below his knee, allegedly due to injuries from the confrontation with Bryant Mosley, according to the $25 million lawsuit Montravious’ mother filed in March 2017.

David Hudson represented the L-E in the case. He is the Georgia Press Association’s general counsel and an attorney with the Hull Barrett law firm in Augusta..

“This is a fine open-government victory,” Hudson said via email, “and hats off to the CLE for undertaking the fight in this era of diminished resources to bring cases for access.”

Under the Georgia Open Records Act, the L-E asked the school district for the video in October 2016. MCSD refused to release it, saying that would be an invasion of the student’s personal privacy according to state law, and that the video is an educational record protected from disclosure under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, commonly called FERPA.

Intended to guard student privacy, FERPA says schools may lose federal funding if they have “a policy or practice of releasing education records to unauthorized persons.”

A Columbus Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) would raise the local sales tax to its higher rate ever, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Columbus voters could be asked to approve the highest sales tax in the city’s history on the November 2020 ballot.

Why? In order to replace the decaying Government Center and fund other projects, the Columbus Council wants to raise $350 million over 10 years from the same kind of special sales tax that local schools have relied on for the past two decades.

But that would mean either a new tax on top of the existing one, or Muscogee County School District giving up its tax money, at least temporarily.

The school district’s current 1% special sales tax expires June 30, 2020, and the council is banking on the school board not putting another request on the November ballot to keep the tax rate at the current 8%.

The school board hasn’t decided whether or when it would ask voters for another renewal. But if the city council and school board both seek the 1% special sales taxes next year, or any time before the regional sales tax for transportation expires at the end of 2022, they would be asking voters to accept a total of 9% in sales taxes — the highest in Columbus history.

Anonymous cowards posted white supremacist signs at a Jewish temple in Columbus, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Congregants of Columbus’ 1617 Wildwood Ave. synagogue instead were angry that two men wearing masks brazenly walked past notices warning they were on surveillance video and posted flyers for a national white supremacist group on handicapped parking signs, part of the temple building and nearby utility poles, said Rabbi Beth Schwartz.

It happened about 9 p.m. Monday, according to the camera footage.

The temple’s facilities manager found the flyers about 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, and immediately called the police, who retrieved the security video. Officers also took the flyers, which peeled right off, Schwartz said: “There was no damage to our property.”

Police confirmed they are investigating, saying any suspects they find may, at least, be charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass.

Some of the red, white and blue flyers posted at Temple Israel bore images of an eagle grasping arrows in its talons, a shield on its breast and stars arching overhead. “Reclaim America,” those read.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of victory,” read another. “Better dead than red,” said one with a blue arrow through a red hammer and sickle.

Chartered in 1859, Temple Israel built its current facility in 1956, and now serves about 120 families, Schwartz said.

A Cobb County group called “Stronger Together” syas Cobb County schools has racial problems, according to the AJC.

For months, [Mableton Elementary counselor Jennifer Susko] and other members of Stronger Together, a small grassroots organization, have been trying to call attention to what they say are problematic disparities in disciplinary rates for white students and their peers of color. At the same time, they point to lopsided white participation in gifted and talented programs, a disproportion that they believe indicates institutional bias against black and Latino students.

But those statistics don’t tell the whole story, the Stronger Together group says. In some cases, they charge, teachers and students have shown racial insensitivity and hostility toward minorities – concerns that school system administrators have refused to even acknowledge.

Stronger Together wants the district to implement training for teachers and staff on how to identify and correct “implicit bias,” which refers to stereotypes or attitudes that can affect actions unconsciously. Implicit bias can have an effect on how teachers interact with and discipline students, says the group’s co-founder Jillian Ford, a professor of educational equity at Kennesaw State University.

The Cobb County School District is the second largest public school system in the state, behind Gwinnett County. As of March, the district had 111,722 students enrolled. It has 37% of its students identifying as white, 30% as black, 22% as Hispanic, 6% as Asian, 4% as two or more races, and 1% identifying as Pacific Islander or Native American. About 74% of its teachers are white, as are 68% of its principals and 70% of administrators.

Asked by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to respond to Stronger Together’s concerns, the school system issued a statement, saying, “In the Cobb County School District, we strive to provide every student the opportunity to succeed. We only hire the most qualified candidates at each and every position, and our staff is one of the most diverse in the nation. The diversity of thought, experience and race in our community is one of the reasons Cobb was recently named one of the very best places to work in the United States by Forbes magazine.”

AJC writer Mark Niesse says the new Georgia voting system may be problematic.

Any computerized system is vulnerable to malware and hacking, a fact made clear by high-profile hacking of Capital One and Equifax, which compromised personal information of millions of people. Online attacks have also hit governments such as the city of Atlanta and a Georgia courts agency, whose computers were brought offline when they became infected with programs that demanded a ransom payment.

Election officials will have to be on guard against malware, viruses, stolen passwords and Russian interference across tens of thousands of new voting computers. A Russian agent visited websites of two Georgia counties in 2016 but didn’t gain access to election systems, officials said. Elsewhere in the country, Russian hackers targeted voting systems in Florida and Illinois, according to reports from the U.S. House Intelligence Committee.

Georgia election officials will rush to install 30,000 voting machines, 30,000 printers, 3,500 scanners and 8,000 electronic voter registration terminals in time for the March 24 presidential preference primary. The national spotlight will be on Georgia, the only state in the nation with a presidential primary scheduled for that day.

The new voting system will soon be challenged in federal court by voters seeking paper ballots filled out with a pen in elections, arguing that touchscreens and printers could still produce inaccurate results.

Georgia may need to rethink its approach to Medicaid waivers, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Georgia officials working to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income adults got a jolt this week when a key element of Utah’s plan was rejected by the White House.

But Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said he’s hopeful that there’s enough difference in the two plans to make a difference.

“It’s possible that we could be back at the table, but it isn’t the exact plan as Utah’s,” Hufstetler said Thursday. “And I do think there’s a difference in opinion with the federal government and (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services).”

Hufstetler said Georgia’s plan would also subsidize private insurance for people earning between 100% and 138% of the poverty level. That could be enough of a difference to net the 90% federal match the state is counting on.

He said he pressed for waivers that would go up to 138% but he’s also happy with the Patients First Act plan.

“Data shows when we get people under preventative care, system costs drop,” Hufstetler said.

Hall County will build more roundabouts, according to the Gainesville Times.

“Roundabouts generally provide a more free-flowing solution to traffic issues, and they also do not require a tie-in to power for traffic signals,” said Katie Crumley, Hall County spokeswoman.

Roundabouts “are fantastic solutions to the problem of (traffic) delay,” DOT district spokeswoman Katie Strickland said. “We have these (projects) going on everywhere in Georgia.”

One of the reasons roundabouts are favored as a project generally is safety.

“In a typical four-way intersection, you’ve got 32 points of (potential collision). Many of them are head-on collisions or angle crashes,” Strickland said. “A roundabout reduces that number to eight … and many of those points are glancing blows. You take away the head-on collision, which contributes to many fatalities.”

Augusta Commissioner Sammy Sias is accused of falsifying invoices, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The invoices Commissioner Sammie Sias is accused of falsifying detail thousands spent on the Jamestown Community Center kitchen, computers, appliances, repairs and extensive heating and air conditioning work.

The Augusta Commission on Tuesday referred complaints made by former Jamestown center manager Willa Hilton to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Division of Children and Family Services and removed Sias from involvement with the center.

Hilton sent an extensive list of allegations against Sias to the commission last week after he fired her from a role at Jamestown summer camp, including that he falsified invoices and pocketed center funds and fees and used porn and alcohol and abused children at the center. Sias is CEO of Sandridge Community Association, which has contracted with the city to operate Jamestown since the late 1990s.

Sias has maintained his innocence and responded last Friday that Hilton was trying to destroy the center to destroy him because he ended their 20-year extramarital affair.

Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler reports lower suicide numbers over the last three years, according to the Albany Herald.

[T]he county’s suicide rate has bucked the national trend. Fowler’s office worked 11 suicide cases in 2016, with the number dropping to nine in 2017 and seven in 2018.

Nationally, suicide numbers have been on the rise.

From 1999 to 2016 the national suicide rate increased by 25.4%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate increased in every state, with the exception of Nevada, which saw a decrease of 1%, from a low of 5.9% in Delaware to 48.6% in Vermont.

The increase in Georgia as a whole was 16.2% during that time, according to the agency.

Through Wednesday, there have been four confirmed suicide cases in Dougherty County. Fowler is awaiting the processing of evidence to make a determination on a possible fifth suicide case.

The Georgia Council on Aging and Coalition of Advocates for Georgia’s Elderly unveiled its legislative priorities for next year, according to the Albany Herald.

Officials with the Georgia Council on Aging and Coalition of Advocates for Georgia’s Elderly, or CO-AGE, said they will press lawmakers to increase funding for home- and community-based services, such as home-delivered meals and transportation to the doctor.

Officials said about 7,000 Georgia seniors are currently on waiting lists for these services. CO-AGE members also are pushing for funds to launch a two-year pilot program addressing behavioral health needs of older residents in subsidized living communities.

“We are experiencing explosive growth in our older population,” Vicki Johnson, chair of the Georgia Council on Aging, said. “Without more funding and programs, Georgia’s seniors will end up in the less-appealing and more costly option of nursing homes.”

CO-AGE established its 2020 legislative priorities based on voting by its members, including representatives of organizations working with older adults and seniors. GCOA and CO-AGE members will back a Georgia House of Representatives transportation bill addressing the needs of more than 260,000 Georgians age 70 and older who no longer drive.

“Accessible and affordable transportation is one of the most unmet needs seniors have, and the most requested,” Johnson said. “Not having access to transportation can lead to critical social determinants of health, leading to medical problems, social isolation and depression.”

Oconee County will build a new combined public library and county administration building, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

District Attorney Ken Mauldin will not run for reelection in the Western Judicial Circuit, which serves Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Athens attorney Deborah Gonzalez, who served a brief time as a state House representative, announced in July that she intends to run for district attorney.

“I had committed to step down as District attorney if my wife, Allison Mauldin, had been successful last year in her bid to be elected as a Superior Court judge for this circuit. While I had not made the decision about reelection then, it may have been an indicator of what was to come,” he said in a news release.

Mauldin said he will serve through the remainder of his term, which goes through December 2020.

The City of Grantville will hold a public meeting about the proposed property tax millage rate increase, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Earlier this month, City Manager Al Grieshaber recommended raising the property tax millage rate by two mills at the council’s meeting earlier this month.

Three public hearings will be held. The first two will be Monday, Aug. 5, at 9 a.m. and Monday, Aug. 12, at 6:30 p.m. during the council’s work session.

The final public hearing will be held Friday, Aug. 19, at 6:30 p.m.

In a press release from Grieshaber, the tentatively adopted millage rate increase will be 41.51 percent.

This tentative increase will result in a millage rate of 6.945 mills, an increase of 2 mills.

A millage rate of 6.945 mills restores the city to its financial position in 2012, and partially compensates for the increased cost of materials, supplies and labor while providing employee benefits that have been advocated by councilmembers without impacting the general fund, according to the city’s press release.

The City of Flowery Branch has begun demolition of the old police building and city hall, according to AccessWDUN.

The Glynn County public school system will roll out electronic report cards, according to The Brunswick News.

Qualifying will run August 19-21 for seven municipal elections in Coweta County, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

The Coweta County Board of Elections and Registration will handle qualifying for Grantville, Haralson, Moreland, Turin and Sharpsburg, while Newnan and Senoia will handle their own qualifying.

The November ballot will be a busy one for an odd-year election. In addition to the city races, there will be two county-wide ballot questions. Voters will be asked whether to implement a new five-year, 1 percent sales tax for transportation projects, known as the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax – TSPLOST. Coweta voters will also be asked if the school system tax breaks for senior citizens should be increased.

Newnan voters will have a “brunch bill” question. Approval of the question means that Newnan restaurants would be able to begin serving alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays, instead of the current start time of 12:30 p.m.

And Moreland voters will decide whether or not restaurants in the town can serve liquor by the drink.

1
Aug

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for August 1, 2019

Sierra Gwinnett

Sierra is a 10-month old female Anatolian Shepherd mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Simba Gwinnett

Simba is a 9-month old male German Shepherd Dog mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Jamie Gwinnett

Jamie is a 7-month old female Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

1
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 1, 2019

August 1 was a big day for Benjamin Mays – he was born on August 1, 1895 and became President of Morehouse College on August 1, 1936.

PT-109, commanded by LTJG John F. Kennedy was sunk on August 1, 1943.

On August 1, 1982, Hank Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Power has placed the first order in three decades for nuclear fuel for a new nuclear reactor, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Georgia Power said Tuesday it has ordered the first nuclear fuel load for its Plant Vogtle unit 3 reactor under construction south of Augusta.

The order is the first for a new U.S. reactor “in more than 30 years,” the company said in a statement.

The 157 uranium fuel assemblies will be loaded into the unit 3 reactor vessel once it begins operating in late 2021. The 14-foot tall assemblies also will eventually be ordered for unit 4, which is expected to come online in 2022.

Total employment at the units 3 and 4 construction site have reached 8,000 workers, making it the largest construction project in the state, the company said. When complete, the new reactors will create 800 permanent jobs.

The unit 3 containment vessel top was placed earlier this year during a visit from U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Gov. Brian Kemp, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and all five members of the Georgia PSC.

Roughly one-third of the reactor fuel in units 3 and 4 will be replaced every 18 months during scheduled refueling and maintenance periods, similar to units 1 and 2.

Georgia Power is the lead owner of the project, which is co-owned by Oglethorpe Power, a supplier of power to electric membership cooperatives; MEAG Power, an electric supplier for city-owned utility companies; and Dalton Utilities, the electric utility for the city of Dalton, Ga.

The AJC writes that Georgia’s hope of a Medicaid waiver has dimmed.

Gov. Brian Kemp is putting together the plan, a “waiver” request to the federal government that might include a limited expansion of Georgia’s Medicaid coverage. A component of that plan had been to request that the federal government fund almost all the cost, 90% of it, as if it were a full Medicaid expansion to all of Georgia’s poor. That’s a big bump from the standard federal funding match of 67% that Georgia normally receives for providing Medicaid coverage.

Georgia had support for the idea at high levels. As late as May, Seema Verma, the administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the 90% match for Georgia could be on the table.

The Trump administration this past weekend rejected a conservative proposal for Utah with limits similar to Georgia’s.

“Late Friday the State of Utah received a call from the White House informing state leaders that its most recent Medicaid waiver request, which had yet to be formally submitted, would not be approved,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and legislative leaders said in a joint statement. The Utah leaders said they were “deeply disappointed.”

National reports cited anonymous White House sources saying no state, including Georgia, would receive the 90% match for limited Medicaid expansion.

Democratic Socialists of America are convening in Atlanta this week, according to the AJC.

The DSA and its supporters have long been a favorite punching bag for Republicans, though the attacks have taken a sharper edge as Trump and his allies try to turn anti-socialism into an even more potent political weapon in 2020.

But this year democratic socialists are also enjoying a growing movement buoyed by last year’s midterm elections and a leftward tilt among some top 2020 presidential hopefuls who are embracing liberal issues such as Medicare for All and wiping out student debt.

The DSA, founded in 1982, is trying to capitalize on the newfound interest. Membership soared after Trump’s victory, and organizers say they now count 56,000 members nationally and expect as many as 1,000 delegates for the convention in Atlanta, which runs Thursday to Sunday.

There’s a sense of momentum. The organization scored major victories in the 2018 midterms by sending its first two members to Congress — U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib — and notching wins in lower-level races.

Its highest-profile members in Georgia include Khalid Kamau, a Black Lives Matters organizer who was elected to the South Fulton City Council shortly after Trump’s inauguration. He plans to welcome the delegates Friday with a message focusing on smashing the “electability complex.”

Employees of the Georgia State House of Representatives may soon be eligible for paid family leave, according to the Gainesville Times.

The policy will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, and will apply to employees on the occasion of birth, adoption or foster care placement.

“We are committed to a culture of life in Georgia and that includes giving children the best possible start as they are welcomed into their new families,” said Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said in a statement. “This new policy will also be a valuable employee benefit to help us attract and retain the highest caliber staff to serve Georgia’s citizens. Many of Georgia’s top employers offer similar benefits, and we want to remain competitive in today’s job market.”

Employees need to have worked for the House for at least a year to be eligible and can only take the family leave once a year.

According to a statement from the Georgia Senate, the Senate is also considering changing its policy.

“The Georgia Senate has been vetting its own paid family leave policy, one similar to that which was announced by the House, with a scheduled roll-out planned for January 2020,” the statement reads.

Former Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (R) has waited nearly 2 years for Senate confirmation of his appointment to the AMTRAK Board, according to the AJC.

former Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland has waited more than 660 days to join Amtrak’s board of directors due in part to a showdown over passenger rail service in Kansas.

The parochial fight isn’t the only factor that’s slowed the Coweta County Republican’s path to the advisory board: a lack of Senate floor time, scrutiny of Westmoreland’s congressional record and broader mistrust over the Trump administration’s commitment to passenger rail service have also played a role.

It’s unclear when Westmoreland will receive a confirmation vote, but there’s some muted hope senators could approve him as part of a batch of nominees before the chamber adjourns for its August recess.

Kansas’ Jerry Moran has placed a hold on Westmoreland and two of President Donald Trump’s other Amtrak board picks for months, which he’s been using to convince Amtrak to continue operation of the Southwest Chief, a Chicago to Los Angeles route that passes through portions of Kansas.

A Gwinnett County meeting to discuss the 287(g) program went off the rails, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“You’re a white supremacist!” one woman shouted from the back left side of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center auditorium.

“You’re a coward and a sorry little…” a man yelled several minutes later from the opposite back corner, leaving his sentence unfinished.

The comments, which were directed at two separate panelists, gave voice to tensions that, at times, ran high through GJAC’s auditorium Wednesday night during a “community engagement discussion” about the Gwinnett County Jail’s 287(g) program.

Wednesday’s discussion about 287(g), which was organized by Gwinnett County District 4 Commissioner Marlene Fosque and featured six panelists — three from what Fosque called the “benefits,” or pro-287(g) side, and three from the “impact,” or anti-287(g) side, — was intended to foster a dialogue between the program’s supporters and opponents, the commissioner said.

“Our sheriff’s department has participated in the 287(g) program for about 10 years, yet no one has brought the two sides together to decide what are the benefits of 287(g) and decide what is the impact,” Fosque said. “I’m a newly-elected commissioner, so I’m trying to do new things. I pray at the end of this discussion, (attendees) walk away with a different perspective, or at least a new perspective.”

Suicides in Bibb County have reached a higher number this year than for all of 2018, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Coroner Leon Jones said there have been 16 suicides this year, compared to 14 in all of last year. He previously had last year’s number at 15, but one of those was later determined not to be a suicide.

At the current pace, this year’s suicides would exceed the 24 the county had in 2017, which Jones said is the most the county had in his 29 years with the coroner’s office.

Houston County Coroner Danny Galpin said there have been 13 suicides in the county this year, but that’s compared to 27 last year.

Jones said he has no explanation as to why suicides are up this year in Bibb. Ages range from 27 to 70, and causes vary. But he said the most common factor is domestic issues, usually involving relationships falling apart.

Among the common signs of people who may be at risk of suicide are social withdrawal and loss of interest in things that the person once cared about. But often, mental health experts say, there are no signs.

Anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Bibb County school bus cameras led to more than 8000 traffic tickets, according to the Macon Telegraph.

A majority of crashes involving buses are the fault of the other driver, according to data from the Georgia Department of Education.

In 2017, Bibb County contracted with a company that agreed to outfit each of the district’s buses with $10,000 camera systems at no cost to the district. In return, the company, called Force Multiplier Solutions, would keep 70% of revenue from citations. The remaining 30% would be split evenly among the State Court of Bibb County, Bibb schools and the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.

So far, the camera systems have been installed on only 75 of the district’s 200 buses.

BusPatrol so far has collected $1,269,441 from citations, Jackson said. Citations were $300 until July 1, 2018, when the law changed and reduced them to $250 a piece.

Bibb State Court Solicitor-General Rebecca Grist said about 500 tickets have been contested. If a ticket is unpaid, BusPatrol “has civil remedies it can pursue,” she said.

More than 75 seniors gathered in Statesboro to begin pushing for property tax relief, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Enacting a school property tax exemption for Bulloch County senior citizens will take a while — if the Board of Education first supports it — Rep. Jan Tankersley told interested seniors Monday.

Between 75 and 80 people, most qualifying as seniors, filled the community building at Luetta Moore Park in Statesboro to talk about the topic. It was an organizational meeting as the group prepares to address the Bulloch County Board of Education during its 6:30 p.m. Aug. 8 regular session.

Besides being the state representative whose district includes the largest portion of Bulloch County and the only one who resides in the county, Tankersley, R-Brooklet, chairs the House Intergovernmental Coordination Committee. It handles legislation specific to a county or city.

“My part actually would start if the Board of Education listens to you at your meeting and they make a motion and it passes that they are willing to give senior citizens — whatever age that is determined to be — a tax exemption,” Tankersley said. “From that point, that’s where it comes up to us, and it comes up to the House of Representatives, and it is considered a piece of local legislation.”

Some of the leaders had suggested age 70 as the minimum qualifying age for the proposed exemption. By the end of Monday’s gathering, the thinking had shifted to 65 as the general qualifying age, but with no firm conclusion, Bowen and Branch said Tuesday.

Regulations on oyster farming are still being developed, according to The Brunswick News.

NOAA Sea Grant and the National Sea Grant Law Center — with Georgia Sea Grant and the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government — conducted a seminar Wednesday going over new shellfish law. As observers may be aware and no doubt expected, there is a fair amount of permitting involved.

“Until the 1930s, we actually led the country with 13 canneries,” said Shana Jones, director of the Georgia Sea Grant Law program. “That has changed, obviously. Overharvesting and market changes led to a decline. And while the clumped oysters are wonderful to steam and they’re great to eat, and great for canning, tastes have changed. People don’t eat as much canned oysters as they used to, they eat them on the half-shell.”

“This is probably straight-ahead in most places, but first you have to be in approved shellfish water under the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, you have to have a right to harvest those oysters, you have to qualify for a master harvester permit, and then you have a series of licenses to get,” Jones said.

These approved waters are the responsibility of the state Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division.

CRD is in the process of detailing the areas of the state where oyster farming will be allowed, and give notice when that occurs. There are legal considerations state regulators must take into account including navigation, fishing, swimming and other recreation.

The City of Hahira is considering a property tax increase, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

It’s millage season, the City of Hahira is recommending $27,207 in increased property tax collections for the next fiscal year.

Though the digest appreciated and the state calls this a tax increase, Jonathan Sumner, city manager, said the millage rate for Hahira will remain the same at 4.75.

“The digest has increased, according to assessors,” Sumner said.

Two public hearings will be held, one at noon and the next at 6 p.m., Aug. 22. The final and third hearing will be held during a special called meeting at 6 p.m., Aug. 29.

Rome City Schools will pay $1.2 million dollars for a 32-acre parcel of land to use for school bus parking, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

The school system was forced to begin separating from the Rome Transit Department in February of this year after an audit determined the shared use violated Federal Transit Administration grant regulations. City students had been using RTD buses for over 30 years at that time and Rome City Schools did not have a transportation program in place.

After much planning and discussion, the board of education for RCS approved the purchase of 35 new school buses for $3.2 million. The school system has since received word that they will receive a rebate of around $77,000 for one of the school buses through a state program.

After the bus purchase was made, city school officials began to discuss where the buses will be parked.

Since the RTD facility receives federal dollars the system could not use city facilities for their bus storage and had to make other arrangements.

31
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 31, 2019

Azizi Cherokee

Azizi is a year-old, 42-pound male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Cherokee County Animal Shelter in Canton, GA.

Piper Cherokee

Piper is an 8-year old 52-pound female Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Cherokee County Animal Shelter in Canton, GA.

Zazu Cherokee

Zazu is a young male Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Cherokee County Animal Shelter in Canton, GA.

31
Jul

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

On July 31, 1777, the Marquis de LaFayette was commissioned a Major General in the Continental Army, serving without pay.

The cornerstone for the first United States Mint was laid in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 31, 1792, becoming the first building constructed by the federal government under the Constitution.

Former President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded President Lincoln upon his assassination and oversaw much of the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, died of a stroke in Tennessee on July 31, 1875.

On July 31, 1906, a bill to place a Constitutional Amendment on the November election for voters to decide whether to create an intermediate-level Georgia Court of Appeals was approved by the Georgia General Assembly.

On July 31, 1962, the one-millionth immigrant was welcomed into Israel.

On July 31, 1987, “The Lost Boys” was released. From the New York Times:

“The Lost Boys” is to horror movies what “Late Night With David Letterman” is to television; it laughs at the form it embraces, adds a rock-and-roll soundtrack and, if you share its serious-satiric attitude, manages to be very funny.

Nolan Ryan, the greatest pitcher in major league baseball history, won his 300th career game on July 31, 1990. During eight innings, Ryan threw 146 pitches, while today, many pitchers are pulled at around the 100-pitch count.

“In the old days throwing that many pitches was a normal game,” said Nolan Ryan, who tossed a record seven no-hitters and is the all-time leader in strikeouts, fifth in innings pitched.

Ryan, currently the Rangers’ team president, is an outspoken detractor of the recent trend toward monitoring pitch counts. In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Ryan expressed his belief that today’s pitchers are “pampered” and that there is no reason why today’s pitchers cannot pitch as much as he and his colleagues did back in the day. As a result, Ryan is pushing his team’s pitchers to throw deeper into games and extend their arms further, emphasizing conditioning over what some would call coddling.

As Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux told SI: “This generation of players has become a creature of the pitch count. Their ceiling has been lowered. It’s up to us to jack it back up.”

Although I think that time he whipped Robin Ventura should count as a win.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

An Atlanta outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease may be the largest in U.S. history, according to Georgia Health News.

Newly released state figures on Legionnaires’ cases linked to an Atlanta hotel suggest that the outbreak could become among the biggest in U.S. history.

The Georgia Department of Public Health said that in addition to the 11 confirmed Legionnaires’ disease cases, there are 55 “probable’’ cases.

The latter represent people who had illness consistent with Legionnaires’ disease, including pneumonia diagnosed by a clinician or chest X-ray, but have not received laboratory confirmation, Public Health said Monday. The number of probable cases can change based on additional testing and lab results.

Earlier this year, GHN reported that cases of Legionnaires’ disease have quadrupled in Georgia over the past 10 years.

That increase mirrors a national trend, with U.S. cases up fivefold since 2000. About 80 percent of Georgia outbreaks have occurred in health care facilities, Cherie Drenzek, state epidemiologist, said in February.

GPB News spoke to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) about the new voting system to be implemented.

First of all, there’ll be a new electronic poll book. And that electronic poll book has been shown to actually move voters, to get them ready to vote in 30 to 35 seconds. So, we’re expecting to see shorter lines just on the front end. Flow management is going to be really improved, and that’s a great thing to see.

Then, once you are ready to vote and get your ballot, you’re going to go over to the new voting machine. When you look at all your selections, you’re going to look at all that touchscreen technology and going to press them similar to what you do right now.

But when you press that button it won’t be to cast your ballot, it’ll be to print the ballot. And then you’ll need to review all your selections. You then take that ballot once you confirm that’s what you wanted to vote for over to an optical scanner. When it goes to the scanner it makes an optical scan, like an electronic image of your ballot.

So that’s been recorded, then it records the vote that you have and that drops into a box.

We will now be able to do physical recounts and will also be to do audits.

When you have these elections, even if it’s an 80-20 election, but particularly when you have that 51-49 election, you’ll be able to do to an audit, to say “This really was a 51-49 race, we’ve done an audit of that.”

Governor Brian Kemp (R) joined the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance to issue a Buy From Georgia Month proclamation, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Training children and adults about the importance of buying locally manufactured goods can change the future,” Kemp said in the proclamation. “When consumers buy Georgia’s manufactured goods, they further our local economy, protect manufacturing jobs and ultimately contribute to a greater sense of community in this state that we call home.”

This year marked the sixth time a sitting governor has issued a Buy From Georgia Month proclamation, although this was the first time Kemp, who took office in January, was the person issuing it.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn LaGrua ruled that Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office has no conflict of interest on some Open Records matters, according to the AJC.

“Under the Georgia Constitution and governing Georgia law, the AG’s Office has a constitutional and statutory obligation to represent and defend the agencies of the State of Georgia,” Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua wrote.

Atlanta attorney Gordon Joyner raised the issue as part of a lawsuit he filed against the State Accounting Office last November alleging violations of the Open Records Act. In his suit, he said that agency didn’t provide any records he had requested until he filed his lawsuit, and that the Attorney General’s office provided only limited help when he reached out.

Joyner wanted the Attorney General’s office disqualified from representing the State Accounting Office in the lawsuit.

Georgia farmers received $62 million from the federal government in light of the trade war, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The federal government has paid Georgia farms $62 million under a special program meant to help them survive the Trump administration’s trade war, according to data compiled by The Idaho Statesman.

Countries like China and Mexico retaliated against the administration’s tariffs by placing their own tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports.

As a result, Georgia farmers faced financial uncertainly, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting.

The Augusta Commission asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into allegations against Commissioner Sammie Sias, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Augusta Commission referred one of its own to law enforcement Tuesday, requesting that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation look into allegations that Commissioner Sammie Sias misspent funds intended for Jamestown Community Center. The commission also referred allegations of child abuse at Jamestown to the Division of Family and Children Services.

After more than three hours behind closed doors, the commission voted 7-2-1 on a four-part motion to request the investigations, with commissioners Bill Fennoy and Dennis Williams opposed. Sias, who did not attend the closed-door meeting, abstained from voting.

The motion included changing the locks at Jamestown and banning Sias from its management, operations and maintenance until the investigations are complete.

In addition, the commission vote removed Sias as an ex-officio member of the Augusta Aviation Commission, the board that manages Augusta Regional Airport, as well as his designee Willa Hilton, who brought the allegations against Sias to the commission and was currently the aviation commission’s chairwoman.

Former Cherokee County Commissioner J.J. Biello died on Sunday, according to the Tribune Ledger News.

Former colleagues remembered him Monday not only as a dedicated public servant, but as a friend.

Prior to coming to Cherokee County, Biello served as an officer with the Atlanta Police Department. On April 15, 1987, Biello was wounded and paralyzed in the line of duty when responding to a robbery call.

Along with his time on the board of commissioners, Biello served the people of Cherokee County by taking a position on the Cherokee Recreation and Parks Authority Board until 2010. Biello also served in a statewide capacity, being appointed by Gov. Roy Barnes to the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission in 2002 and was reappointed to the commission by Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2006 and 2010, serving as its chairman for much of his tenure.

The Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission will hold  a candidate workshop on Friday, according to the AJC.

Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission are hosting a candidate workshop from 1 to 3 p.m. that day in room 220 of city hall, 38 Hill St.

The workshop shows current public officials, candidates and residents interested in the Campaign Finance Act how the law works.

The Roswell City Council on Monday unanimously approved a $375,000 contract with Fulton County to have the county run the city’s election on Nov. 5 and, if needed, a runoff on Dec. 3.

Bulloch County Board of Education members discussed policies on Sheriff’s deputies in schools, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The proposed intergovernmental agreement presented last Thursday between the school system on one side and the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners and Sheriff Noel Brown on the other would be unlike previous agreements that, when they were in writing at all, dealt mostly with funding.

“The intent of school resource officers, by definition, is not to be a police officer in the school that is, you know, being aggressive with students,” Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson said to school board members.

“An SRO by nature and role is to establish relationships. …,” Wilson continued. “But they are a law enforcement officer, and as you know our SROs report to, in this case, the sheriff’s department.”

A paragraph in the proposed agreement states: “All school related activity must be coordinated by each SRO with the principal’s office. When an SRO perceives that law enforcement action is required at a school, he/she shall take such action and then notify the principal of the actions taken as soon as reasonably possible thereafter.”

However, Wilson said he does not think the school system can go further and require an officer to notify the principal or other administrators first, before taking a law enforcement action in regard to a student. He said he had consulted the school system’s legal counsel, the district attorney’s office and others.

“Basically what that would mean is us trying to prevent a law enforcement officer from exercising their responsibilities and requirements under state law, and the sheriff’s expectations as well,” Wilson told the board.

The Dougherty County Board of Education will pilot a program to use an alternative to the Georgia Milestones testing regime, according to WALB.

The Dougherty County School System is currently using the Georgia Milestones Test. It’s a one time, end of the year, standardized test. But school leaders are hoping by this time next year, they’ll be using a different method of testing.

[Dougherty County School System Superintendent Kenneth] Dyer said the school district is apart of an innovative assessment pilot the State Board of Education is putting on.

Dyer wants to start using a test called NAVVY. Rather than testing students one time at the end of the year, NAVVY is a series of tests throughout the school year.

The district is one out of nine school systems chosen to be apart of this pilot assessment.

Columbus City Council passed an ordinance allowing retail beer and wine outlets to also serve by the drink, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Thanks to a local ordinance change approved by Columbus Council on Tuesday, Maltitude and other beer and wine retail stores in the city can apply for a license to sell those beverages by the drink, in addition to their normal take-home sales.

The change does not apply to stores that sell liquor.

Maltitude, a small boutique-style bottle shop, is celebrating its sixth anniversary next month. The shop sells craft beer by the can, bottle and growler along with a curated selection of wine.

Co-owner Miles Greathouse told council July 23 that many craft beer retailers have recently had to “pivot” to keep up with a booming market that’s become saturated with craft beverages.

“We know of at least 10 retail stores similar to ours here in the state of Georgia that have added on-premises consumption in communities like Macon, Warner Robins, Smyrna, Snellville and Decatur that stayed in business, and we know of at least 15 others that have failed to do so and closed their doors,” Greathouse said.

Greathouse said Tuesday following the vote that the additional revenue stream created by by-the-drink sales will help the store stay relevant, and he commended Columbus Council’s recognition and assistance in helping Maltitude do what it needs to thrive.

Savannah added a southbound bike lane, doubling the mileage of its improved bike lanes, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Dalton City Council named its representatives to a Whitfield County SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) committee, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Brunswick area businesses may be eligible for loans and grants under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America program, according to The Brunswick News.

Lance Young, a renewable energy coordinator for the USDA in this part of Georgia, described the program Tuesday at one of the Georgia Coastal Management Program’s Brownbag Presentations.

Young pointed out that between 2009 and 2017, 58 percent of program funds went to energy efficiency projects, but 41 percent went to renewable energy systems.

“And by the way, that section is where solar falls into…,” Young said. “What I’m seeing now is because of the pickup in solar business here in South Georgia, I’m seeing more parity between these two. What I mean by that, in the last couple years, we’re picking up more solar applications than we are the energy efficiency category.”

“The purpose of our REAP program is to provide grants and guaranteed loan funding for renewable energy system installations and energy- efficient improvements for agricultural producers and rural small businesses,” Young said.

To qualify, you either have to be an agricultural producer or a rural small business. To be an ag producer, the business must have more than 51 percent of its annual income over three years from crops, livestock, aquaculture, forestry, nurseries or dairies. There’s no location requirement.

Small businesses have to be in a rural, non-metro area with a population less than 50,000.

The Port of Savannah set another monthly record for container throughput, according to a press release from the Georgia Ports Authority.

The Port of Savannah moved a record 4.5 million twenty-foot equivalent container units in the fiscal year that ended June 30, an increase of more than 305,000 TEUs, or 7.3 percent.

“Our ports are firing on all cylinders,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “This success is a testament to the men and women who work throughout our entire supply chain and make a difference for Georgia and the nation every day. Because of their commitment, our factories, farms and logistics providers are creating opportunity and prosperity in every corner of our state.”

For the first time ever, GPA handled more than half a million container lifts to rail, growing that number by more than 72,000, or 16.6 percent. The 506,707 intermodal boxes constituted more than 20 percent of total containers, another record.

“The Authority’s investment in the Mason Mega Rail project is coming just in time for our capacity to stay ahead of demand, ensuring the free flow of intermodal cargo,” said Will McKnight, GPA’s Board Chairman. “The first phase of the project will be complete this year, cutting rail transit time to Midwestern markets by 24 hours.”

The Mason Mega Rail project, which will double Savannah’s rail capacity and create the largest on-terminal intermodal facility in North America, is 40 percent complete. By 2021, the new facility will be able to handle 1 million containers per year.

“Our team on the terminal – GPA employees, the International Longshoremen’s Association, and our two Class 1 rail providers, CSX and Norfolk Southern – are moving more freight faster and more efficiently than ever before in our history,” said Griff Lynch, GPA’s Executive Director. “Rail cargo is expanding at twice the rate of our overall container trade, reducing congestion on our highways and increasing Georgia’s reach to a mid-American arc of cities, including Chicago, St. Louis and Columbus, Ohio.”

At the Port of Brunswick, 613,680 autos and machinery units crossed the docks at Colonel’s Island Terminal, GPA’s main port for the import-export of cars, trucks and tractors. Roll-on/Roll-off cargo grew by 4 percent at Colonel’s Island in FY2019.

“Brunswick’s proximity to dealerships across the region, the ease of doing business in Georgia and the room to grow at Colonel’s Island are a winning combination,” Lynch said. “No other Ro/Ro port in the nation can match Brunswick’s 400 acres of expansion space.”

Ocean Terminal in Savannah added another 35,884 vehicles for a total of nearly 650,000 units moved through Georgia’s ports.

At East River Terminal in Brunswick, terminal operator Logistec moved 1.2 million tons of bulk cargo in FY2019, an increase of 203,000 tons, or 20 percent. The improvement was largely associated with an increase in wood pellets, peanut pellets and perlite.

30
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 30, 2019

Fenrir Fulton

Fenrir is a young male Catahoula Leopard Dog & Boxer mix who is available for adoption from the Atlanta Humane Society in Atlanta, GA.

Isis Fulton

Isis is a female Pit Bull Terrier (looks more like a Lab to me) puppy who is available for adoption from Fulton County Animal Services in Atlanta, GA.

Bella Fulton

Bella is a young female Coonhound mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Atlanta Humane Society in Atlanta, GA.

30
Jul

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

July 30th could be celebrated as the birthday of democracy in America, as the Virginia House of Burgesses became the first legislative body in the New World on July 30, 1619.

 Its first law, which, like all of its laws, would have to be approved by the London Company, required tobacco to be sold for at least three shillings per pound. Other laws passed during its first six-day session included prohibitions against gambling, drunkenness, and idleness, and a measure that made Sabbath observance mandatory.

On July 30, 1931, Georgia Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr. signed legislation merging Milton and Fulton Counties if voters in each county approved a referendum. Fulton had earlier merged with Campbell County, to the south.

Actor Laurence Fishburn was born in Augusta, Georgia on July 30, 1961.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed legislation creating Medicare, for seniors, and Medicaid for some low-income people on July 30, 1965.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced the selection of a vendor for new voting equipment.

After a competitive selection process, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger selects Dominion Voting Systems to implement its new verified paper ballot system. Implementation of the new secure voting system will start immediately and be in place and fully operational for the March 24, 2020 Presidential Preference Primary.

“Elections security is my top priority,” said Raffensperger. “We look forward to working with national and local elections security experts to institute best practices and continue to safeguard all aspects of physical and cyber-security in an ever-changing threat environment.”

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office has already partnered with the Department of Homeland Security and private cyber-security companies to provide network monitoring, cyber-hygiene scanning, and cyber-security assessments. Many Georgia counties have also partnered with DHS to provide physical security assessments of their election offices.

“We are honored to partner with the State of Georgia to deliver a best-in-class system that is fully adaptable to state needs,” said Dominion CEO John Poulos. “Election officials and voters alike can be assured they are using the most modern, accessible and security-focused system on the market today, with paper ballots for every vote cast to ease auditing and ensure confidence in results.”

“As Election Director my job is to make sure every voter has a positive experience,” said Rockdale County Elections Supervisor, Cynthia Willingham. “We are grateful to the Secretary of State for the new system and will ensure every voter is able to efficiently and accurately cast their ballot.”

From GPB News:

The new $90 million system will include an electronic poll book where voters check in, an ImageCast X Ballot-Marking Device, where voters will touch their selections which are then printed on a paper ballot and an ImageCast Precinct Polling Place Scanner which will scan and store the voter’s paper ballot for counting.

Dominion says its BMD paper ballots include a barcode that is scanned as well as an image of the complete ballot, but it also produces a human-readable summary of contests and your choices that voters can verify.

Any recounts or audits that are done would be conducted with the actual text of a voter’s selection, not the barcode.

A federal judge is currently weighing a motion to block the state from using the outdated DRE system and switch to hand-marked paper ballots for hundred municipal elections happening across the state this fall.

In a two-day hearing last week, Judge Amy Totenberg heard concerns from Georgia voters, elections officials and cybersecurity experts about the state’s current system and the feasability of switching to an interim system. It is unclear whether the state’s decision today will have an impact on her ruling.

Up to six Georgia counties will pilot the new Dominion system in this November’s local elections before being rolled out in time for the Presidential primary March 24, 2020.

From the Newnan Times-Herald:

Coweta Elections Supervisor Jane Scoggins said she saw a demonstration of the Dominion system, as well as several other types of ballot marking devices, at the annual conference of the Georgia Election Officials Association and Institute of Voter Registrars of Georgia, held in March.

“There are several things I like about it,” Scoggins said. The system includes an electronic poll book that will create the voter certificate electronically when a voter’s driver’s license is scanned, she said. Currently, voters fill out the paper certificate as the first step when voting.

The marked ballots that are printed out look similar to a paper absentee ballot, Scoggins said. They don’t look like the receipt tapes that the current machines print out at the end of the night.

Coweta is set to receive some of the new equipment in August for training. “We will start in-house training with a few people,” Scoggins said. The rest of the equipment will arrive later.

The new equipment will arrive while the Coweta Election and Voter Registration is in the midst of working on a special election Sept. 3 for Georgia House District 71, and the November election with county-wide ballot questions and municipal council races.

Some Georgia counties will be using the new machines in November as a pilot project. Scoggins said Coweta probably would have been part of the pilot project if it weren’t for the county-wide sales tax and property tax questions on the ballot.

Carroll County will be using the new machines for city elections, and some Coweta elections officials will travel to Carroll County to observe poll worker training and testing, as well as observe early voting.

From the Brunswick News:

At the Glynn County Board of Elections, officials are still waiting on more information on how the switch to the new machines will impact local elections boards.

“We’ll have them probably before the November election, but we’re not scheduled to use them until the presidential preference primary,” said Chris Channell, elections and registration supervisor.

It was something of a surprise when he heard the state selected Dominion to provide the new voting machines, Channell said. The state has used ES&S machines since 2001, and Dominion’s machines are the only ones among those that bid for the state contract that didn’t integrate the touchscreen voting machine and the paper ballot printer into a single device.

“This is going to be a different one than we’re used to,” Channell said.

From the Gainesville Times:

Lori Wurtz, Hall County’s elections director, said she supports the new system.

“We believe the new voting machines will be a welcomed enhancement to the voters of Hall County. The new system produces a paper ballot for auditing purposes, which will create an added level of security for our voters,” she said. “We will continue to provide voters with top-notch service when they cast their ballots in Hall County.”

All of Hall County’s delegation supported the law.

“There’s no stray pencil marks, there’s no erasures, there’s no X’s or O’s or anything that would confuse and invalidate a ballot,” State Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, said in February. “And once it comes out of the machine with a marked ballot, you get to review that ballot.”

And State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said he would like to see verifiable paper ballots, rather than just printed ones with a barcode, although he liked the idea of marking ballots with a machine.

“I want it to print out my ballot and be able to see what I voted for, just like it shows up on the screen at the end of the process today,” Miller said in February.

From the AJC:

Like Georgia’s existing machines, voters will make their choices on touchscreen machines. But after picking their candidates, instead of tapping a button that says “cast ballot,” they’ll click on a button that says “print your ballot.” The printer attached to the machine will then print a ballot on a full sheet of paper, which voters can then review for accuracy before inserting into a scanner for tabulation. The paper ballots will be locked in a ballot box for retrieval as needed for audits or recounts.

Critics of these new voting machines, called ballot-marking devices, said they fail to guarantee that votes are counted correctly. They prefer paper ballots filled out with a pen, not by a computer printer.

“We have seen how fragile our digital voting system is. The replacement of ES&S is a critical step toward creating greater transparency and security in our elections,” said state Sen. Gloria Butler, a Democrat from Stone Mountain. “I cannot overemphasize the importance of providing complete public education about the new machines. There needs to be sufficient time for voters to see, touch and operate the machines.”

The AJC notes that the Democratic Primary for United States Senate in 2020 has no African-American candidates yet.

Months after Stacey Abrams narrowly lost her bid to become the state’s first black governor, some Democrats are eyeing the growing U.S. Senate field in Georgia with a concern: There are no African American contenders in the running yet for the state’s biggest prize in 2020.

The five Democratic candidates in the race or known to be seriously considering a challenge to Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue are all white. The two that have launched campaigns, Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, are tailoring their appeals to energize black voters.

Still, it can seem incongruous that Georgia lacks a top-tier African American candidate at a time when the black electorate in the state is as powerful as ever. Turnout among black voters surged last year, helping Abrams clobber a primary opponent and nearly defeat Brian Kemp.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we don’t have any black candidates, especially since we have so many qualified black leaders in the state. But the field cleared for Stacey and she took longer than people expected, and it may be that people are now playing catch-up,” said state Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, a black legislator not interested in a statewide run next year.

Kendrick added that she’s “not shouting for joy, as I think a black leader would motivate the Democratic base. I would have loved to see a black leader, but it’s a good, solid field.”

Abortion numbers in Georgia have fallen over the last 25 years, according to the AJC.

While Georgia’s population has ballooned in recent decades, the number of abortions dropped 19 percent in 23 years, according to state records, much of it due to increased access to birth control, experts say.

In 1994, the earliest year data was available on the Georgia Department of Public Health’s vital statistics database, there were 33,516 abortions reported — a rate of about 13.7 abortions per 1,000 Georgia females between the ages of 10 and 55. There were 27,453 abortions reported in 2017, the most recent data available, at a rate of 8.3 per 1,000 females.

According to U.S. Census figures, Georgia had a population of about 7 million in 1994. In 2017, there were about 10.4 million people living in Georgia.

In Georgia, there was a decline in the number of abortions after the [Affordable Care Act] contraceptive mandate went into effect in August 2012, dropping by about 3,000 reported abortions between 2011 and 2014.

A study of polls by Gallup found that 33% of Americans considered themselves to be “pro life” while 56% identified as “pro choice,” or as an abortion rights advocate. In 2019, 49% of Americans identified as “pro life” and 46% considered themselves to be “pro choice.”

Vice President Mike Pence will speak in Atlanta on Friday, according to the AJC.

Vice President Mike Pence is set to speak Friday at a conference in Atlanta organized by conservative pundit Erick Erickson.

Pence is one of several high-profile Republicans who will speak at the event, which will also feature Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, U.S. Sen. David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.

Pence’s arrival will make Georgia a curious political crossroads. Even as Republicans gather at the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead, the Democratic Socialists of America will hold a weekend convention at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in downtown Atlanta.

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) raised more money in the last reporting period than any previous quarter, according to The Brunswick News.

Even following the 2018 contest, in which Democratic nominee Lisa Ring posted the best performance by a Democrat since 1992, Carter not only won by 15.48 percent — 38,799 votes out of 250,683 cast — he ended the campaign with more than $1.17 million in the bank.

During the last reporting period, which covered April-June 2019, Carter raised the most money in the short history of his congressional account, a hefty $560,117.75. And while spending more than $105,000, Carter closed the period with more than $1.54 million in hand.

The Macon Telegraph examines how many hands-free driving citations were issued in the first year of the new law.

Statewide, Georgia State Patrol troopers wrote 24,862 citations related to the hands-free law in the first year. Most of those — 20,060 — were related to holding a cellphone will driving. Other citations may include watching video while driving or texting.

Bibb County Sheriff’s Capt. Brad Wolfe, who supervises traffic enforcement, said deputies wrote 117 citations related to the hand-free law in the first year, along with issuing many more warnings. He said more motorists are aware of the law now but compliance is still an issue.

Houston County Sheriff’s Cpl. Will Mitchelson said deputies there wrote approximately 350 tickets in the first year of the law, and that’s after writing only warnings in the first month.

A ticket is $50 on the first offense and 1 point on a driver’s record.

New dental standards for pain relief aim to cut down on the opioid epidemic, according to the Savannah Morning News.

For dental surgery patients, [Savannah dentist Rod] Strickland still prescribes opioids, but new prescribing standards from the American Dental Association have reduced the recommended dosage and the number of days of opioids.

“Quite honestly, ibuprofen is more effective than opioids because it’s got a great anti-inflammatory property,” said Strickland, who uses procaine and local anesthetics during many common dental procedures.

While experts say dentists were among the top medical specialists prescribing opioid-prescription writing, the painkillers also were given generously by physicians and other specialists. Surgeries, back aches, broken bones and dental pain are just a few of the painful injuries and ailments the drugs were prescribed for to keep patients comfortable.

But the dental profession has responded more quickly to the opioid crisis than many other fields of medicine, said Dr. Martha Somerman, director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, who spoke May 30-31 at the NIDCR conference.

[AMA President Dr. Patrice] Harris said personal accounts of people addicted to opioids have spurred physicians to take seriously the epidemic, and American Dental Association President Jeffrey Cole spoke of dentists and people related to them affected by opioid addiction as one reason the association revised its opioid policy for dentists in 2018, according to a news article on ADA.org.

The revised policy limits opioid dosages and says they shouldn’t exceed seven days of use, which supports Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. It also supports mandatory continuing education for dentists on opioids and other controlled substances, and it asks dentists to use prescription drug monitoring programs to deter opioid misuse and abuse.

Bryan County is also fighting the opioid epidemic, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A higher opioid prescribing rate in Bryan County has spurred grassroots efforts to educate, prevent and support families about opioid addiction. Besides the Nar-Anon group that meets weekly in Richmond Hill, the Bryan County Opioid Prevention Project is in its third year of offering education.

“Our overall is prevention,” said Wendy Dauphinee, program coordinator of the Bryan County Opioid Prevention Project at Bryan Prevention and Recovery. It promotes Take Back days with the Drug Enforcement Administration where people can drop off unused medication at the Richmond Hill and Pembroke police departments. The project’s website, bryanprevention.com, provides information about proper disposal and Bryan County locations that take back unused medications. A DEA website, takebackday.dea.gov, lists locations in the Savannah area where people can take unused medication.

Dauphinee said she isn’t sure why Bryan County has a higher opioid prescribing rate. Opioid prescribing rates for Bryan County of 82.3 prescriptions per 100 people in 2017 exceeded the 77.6 rate per 100 people in Chatham County, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate in Effingham County was 72.3 prescriptions for 100 people, while Liberty County had 52.9 prescriptions per 100 people.

The Bryan County project also provides questions for people to ask their doctors about opioids and other information on its website, bryanprevention.com. A grant from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities supports the opioid prevention project at Bryan Prevention and Recovery.

The Muscogee County Jail needs more resources for inmates with mental health and addiction issues, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Muscogee County Jail is now the largest mental hospital in Columbus, housing around 450 inmates diagnosed with some mental illness.

That puts it beyond West Central Georgia Regional Hospital on Schatulga Road, which has around 200 beds, said Judge Gil McBride, chief judge of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit.

“It’s surprising to me that running a jail is very much like running a hospital,” Sheriff Donna Tompkins said in an interview Wednesday. The sheriff’s office runs the county jail.

With a capacity of 1,069, the jail on Wednesday had 1,170, Tompkins said. “That’s actually down,” she added. The most overcrowded she recalls it during her term is 1,214.

The day she took office in 2017, it was 995, she said.

The population fluctuates, but lately it has increased even with jail and court programs aimed at getting misdemeanor offenders out of the system, and at resolving the simplest cases first.

Those programs are working, court officials say, closing around 25-27% of all the Superior Court criminal cases here. But lately the jail has been deluged with new inmates: 10,402 went through the complex in 2017, and 12,954 in 2018, the sheriff said.

Columbia County will delay the opening of a new Performing Arts Center, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Rain has been one of several factors delaying the project. The initial completion date was February 2020, but that has now been moved back to November, according to SPLOST Project Manager Steven Prather, who joined the project in December. When completion on the Plaza at Evans Towne Center was delayed, the start date on the Performing Arts Center was also delayed.

Since its groundbreaking in February 2018, the project has seen multiple unforeseen issues. According to the National Weather Service, the Augusta area saw 17.5 inches of rain from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, the third-highest amount on record. Gary Judy, Columbia County’s senior field project manager, said crews ran into rock and water where the orchestra pit will be located.

Three Richmond County schools will no longer provide free meals, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Until Monday, all schools were covered by the Community Eligibility Provision, which allows students to eat meals at no cost. The Richmond County School Nutrition Department covers the cost of meals and is reimbursed at $3.39 for lunch and $2.41 for breakfast, and $0.39 for lunch and $0.31 for breakfast for students who pay for their meals.

The decision to remove Freedom Park School, John S. Davidson Magnet School and C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet School came after the state determined Thursday that a lower percentage of students are directly certified to receive free meals in the county. Students are directly certified if their family is part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

While recertification of schools typically occurs every four years, the process must occur every year that a new school is opened. With the opening of Richmond Hill K-8 on Aug. 6, the state looked at the number of students who receive SNAP or TANF to create a claiming percentage. That percentage is the amount that schools receive full reimbursment for free meals served.

“Our school nutrition workers go through and look at our enrolled students and they compare that to students that are in the school district and we can look at their addresses and we can look in the system and see does that household qualify for SNAP or TANF,” said Bobby Smith, the school system’s chief financial officer.

Gwinnett County hopes a private developer will redevelop the former Olympic tennis facility near Stone Mountain, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett leaders acquired the site in late 2016 in a land swap with the Stone Mountain Memorial Association and have since then demolished the stadium, which was built for the 1996 Summer Olympics but rarely used afterwards.

“This RFI [request for information] will be used to explore potential strategies and approaches for leveraging existing assets for the redevelopment of the Stone Mountain Tennis Center site, approximately twenty-six cleared acres that once held the 1996 Olympic Tennis Venue,” county officials wrote in the RFI.

Varnell City Council member Ashlee Godfrey is currently living outside the city limits while building a new house, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

City Attorney Terry Miller said Godfrey came to him two weeks ago to discuss her situation, noting she had sold a house.

“She had been living for, I think, two or three weeks in a condominium nearby but outside the city limits,” he said. “She felt very much this was transitional and had acquired a lot inside the city limits to build a house.”

Miller said a similar situation had come up several years ago so he had already researched it.

“Based on Georgia case law, and, I believe, a (state) attorney general’s opinion, in these transitional living situations, a temporary sojourn — the wording in the case law — does not disqualify an officeholder from continuing to serve where the charter they serve under requires that they maintain residency within the jurisdiction,” he said.

Miller said the law does say the elected official has to show he or she is making an active effort to move back into their district such as with construction contracts.

Thomasville Mayor Greg Hobbs has been reinstated from a suspension, according to WCTV.

Thomasville officials said Monday that it is their “understanding that Mayor Hobbs was reinstated by virtue of the plea agreement reached Friday.”

Hobbs reached a plea deal Friday a few days before he was set to go to trial. Hobbs pled no contest to false report of a crime and making a false statement.

He was set to go to trial for false report of a crime, three counts of violation of oath of public office, and two counts of making a false statement.

Because of the plea agreement, Hobbs will only be sentenced for two counts. The other four counts will be dismissed.

The Federal Aviation Administration will decide in December whether to grant a license to the proposed Camden County spaceport, according to The Brunswick News.

Stacey Zee, an official with the Federal Aviation Administration, said in an email that a decision will be made on a launch site operator’s license by Dec. 16.

The ongoing environmental impact statement, or EIS, is scheduled for completion in November, followed by Record of Decision by the end of the year. An exact date for the final EIS release will be set at a later time.

Supporters, including the business community and prominent local, state and federal elected officials, say a spaceport will generate high-tech jobs, improve STEM education programs locally and help local economies throughout the region.

Opponents say the FAA will never approve launches because of the risk to residents living on Cumberland and Little Cumberland islands, where rockets would have to fly over to reach orbit.

29
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for Juuly 29, 2019

Harper Peach County

Harper is a female German Shepherd Dog who is available for adoption from Peach County Animal Rescue in Fort Valley, GA.

Harper is a beautiful German Shepherd that is a credit to her lineage in terms of looks and personality. She has a drive to do a good job. Harper listens attentively, and works to follow commands the best she knows how. We really think that she would do well under any sort of training her new family would care to put her through. Harper is the kind of girl that would excel as a working dog with a job.

Harper’s ideal family would involve no kids, but instead a couple or a single person looking for companionship and looking to have a lifelong friend that they could devote their attention and patience towards.Harper is does well in her crate and great on a leash. She likes to have a job to do, and takes her job of patrolling the grounds seriously. She has taken it upon herself to be the guardian of our staff, and she loves her people very much. Harper isn’t much for toys, but instead prefers to be on guard and working. She loves chicken! She is great at catching treats and rarely misses. She is very careful with her food not to alarm the person offering it to her. She is quite gentle with people that she knows are the alpha. Harper is currently 75 pounds. Harper is very intelligent and quite serious. Harper may require multiple meet and greets to get an accurate gauge of her personality.

Jimmy Peach County

Jimmy is a male Labrador Retriever and German Shepherd Dog mix who is available for adoption from Peach County Animal Rescue in Fort Valley, GA.

Jimmy is a very smart dog and would do well with a family that loves to adventure and spend time with him. He knows basic commands like sit, stay, back up, etc. He has thrived on being taught manners, and we think he would do well in any training that an owner would wish to put him through. He listens very well and is a very intelligent, thoughtful boy. Jimmy is dominant and to date has not liked other dogs at our rescue. At this time, we recommend him being the only dog. His ideal owner would be one that shows Jimmy how to act through example and is a leader in his or her own home.

Jimmy enjoys having his back scratched, going for walks, and cuddling up on the comfiest blankets we have. He is a sweetheart that needs someone that can appreciate his brainpower as well as his handsome good looks. He is so squishy and sweet, and gives the best hugs. He is a big fan of chicken and does great on a leash. He is crate trained and rides well in a car. He is a great boy that enjoys being taught new things. Jimmy has lots of love to give!

Shane Peach County

Shane is a male Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from Peach County Animal Rescue in Fort Valley, GA.

Shane is a strong, handsome, genial, excited-about-life, sunny, joyful kind of boy. Shane is also a fighter. Shane came to the rescue group when the county sheriff’s department found him on the side of the road after having been hit by a car and apparently laying in a ditch for at least a few days. Shane’s back legs were shattered, and he has been through extensive surgery and is beginning his physical therapy that includes strengthening, short walks. He is named after his rescuer and friend in the police department, whom we are so grateful to for saving this lover. Shane never stopped smiling through the entire ordeal of surgery, healing, and growing. The surgeon that performed surgery on him got a real kick out of his excited, happy personality while he was recovering. If you couldn’t see his funny haircut, you’d never know anything horrible had ever happened to him. Watching him heal has been a true miracle and example of cheerful determination to us all at the rescue.

Shane is an active, perky, silly clown of a little boy that loves life and lives it to its fullest. He is a youngester that loves to play until he drops, and can get impatient with the movement restrictions he has had placed upon him until recently so that he can heal properly. Shane is a lover. He would do well in any family structure. Shane is approximately 30 pounds and we do not believe he will grow to be a very large dog and will stay in the medium sized dog range. Shane walks well on a leash and has done well riding in the car. He is crate trained and housebroken.

29
Jul

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

President Franklin D. Roosevelt made his eighth visit to Warm Springs, Georgia on July 29, 1927.

Congress passed legislation establishing the National Aeronautic and Space Admininistration (NASA) on July 29, 1958.

The Doors’ “Light My Fire” became their first #1 hit on July 29, 1967.

Carl Lewis won his fourth consecutive gold medal in the long jump at the Atlanta Olympics on July 29, 1996.

https://youtu.be/JuD1OdoXe9Q

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States Senator Johnny Isakson was released from inpatient rehab after a fall, according to the AJC.

The three-term Republican “is making good progress in his recovery” and will continue endurance work with his doctors on an outpatient basis, his office said in a statement.

“I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and will remain focused on making a full recovery so I can get back to work,” Isakson said.

The 74-year-old spent six days in an inpatient rehabilitation program at Marietta’s WellStar Kennestone Hospital after being hospitalized in Washington on July 16.

Isakson’s office said the Republican plans to return to Washington when the chamber reconvenes after Labor Day. In the meantime, his team will assess his condition week by week to determine when he can get back to work in Georgia.

Georgia election officials were accused of destroying evidence in a lawsuit aiming to force the retirment of the state’s current voting machines, according to the Associated Press via the Statesboro Herald.

Election integrity advocates and individual Georgia voters sued election officials in 2017 alleging that the touchscreen voting machines Georgia has used since 2002 are unsecure and vulnerable to hacking. In a court filing Thursday, they said state officials began destroying evidence within days of the suit’s filing and continued to do so as the case moved forward.

“The evidence strongly suggests that the State’s amateurish protection of critical election infrastructure placed Georgia’s election system at risk, and the State Defendants now appear to be desperate to cover-up the effects of their misfeasance — to the point of destroying evidence,” the filing says.

A spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections, denied the allegations.

The brief was filed Thursday as U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg was holding a hearing on requests by the plaintiffs that she order the state to immediately stop using its current voting machines and switch to hand-marked paper ballots. That hearing is set to continue Friday.

From GPB News:

After hearing two long days of testimony, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg expressed concern about balancing security issues with the outdated direct-recording electronic voting machines with the state’s existing planned transition to touchscreen ballot-marking devices with a paper ballot component by next year.

Lawyers for the state and Fulton County say that switching to hand-marked paper ballots would strain city and county budgets, create voter confusion and disrupt the state’s procurement process for implementing a new ballot-marking system in time for the March 24 presidential primaries.

“In 2019, it’s too late to enter an injunction,” Fulton County lawyer Kaye Burwell told the court during closing arguments.

Jennifer Doran runs elections for Morgan County just south of Athens. She told the court her election budget was about $30,000 in total, and it would cost several thousand more dollars if she had to purchase enough ballot scanners to run three municipal elections this fall.

Judge Totenberg called the task ahead of her “very daunting,” and said that while the integrity of elections systems must be front and center, she was wary of chaos and running amok in the state’s election process.

“These are very difficult issues,” she said. “I’m going to wrestle with them the best that I can, but these are not simple issues.”

From the AJC:

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg said Georgians could be “sitting ducks” because of hacking vulnerabilities in the state’s electronic voting system.

But Totenberg appeared reluctant to throw out the state’s 17-year-old voting machines this close to November’s elections.

She said “it might be extra challenging” to change to hand-marked paper ballots, then go through another transition to the state’s new voting system before the presidential primary election March 24, 2020. Georgia’s upcoming voting system combines touchscreen voting machines that print out paper ballots.

Totenberg’s forthcoming ruling will only apply to Georgia’s current electronic voting machines — not the state’s future hybrid computer-and-paper voting system.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger will announce in “a matter of days” which company’s voting system the state will buy, said Bryan Tyson, an attorney for the state. The General Assembly budgeted $150 million for the system.

The Chatham County Board of Elections said that new precincts in Pooler may not be ready in time for 2019 municipal elections, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham County Board of Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges came before Pooler’s City Council in June to showcase the proposed boundaries for the new precincts, which divided two of Pooler’s existing precincts.

Tom Mahoney, chairman of the Chatham County Board of Elections, said there are still a few concerns to be addressed before the new precincts can become a reality — and that may not happen until 2020.

Mahoney said council’s concerns include Chatham County Commission’s approval of the changes, having ample time to inform residents of polling location changes, assuring the proposed precincts have polling locations, and that the changes take into account future population growth.

Mahoney said one of the biggest obstacles has been the search for a polling place in one of the new precincts.

All those who live within Pooler city limits south of Interstate 16 would be in the proposed 7-16 precinct. Bridges told council Shepherd Living was “committed” as the polling location for the new precinct at the June 17 meeting.

There is not yet a firm polling location for district 8-16, as a prospective location denied their request in early June, Bridges said at the June 17 meeting

The Macon Telegraph looks at how peach growers are tapping into agritourism.

Dickey Farms in Musella also has a similar operation for its peach packing house, on a road less traveled and with a more old timey feel. It drew more than 50,000 visitors last year, said Lee Dickey, vice president of Dickey Farms.

Jessie Boyd was at Dickey Farms recently with a group of 23 from Atlanta Bible Baptist Church, who made the trip down specifically to visit the packing house. He enjoyed watching the peaches getting cleaned, sorted and packed.

“That’s quite an impressive operation,” he said. “We may make this an annual event.”

Dickey credits his mom, Cynde Dickey, with turning the packing house into a tourist operation. Until about 10 years ago they only had a small stand to sell peaches. But they updated the packing machinery and moved it to the rear of the building, constructed in 1936 and the oldest continuously operating peach packing house in Georgia. They weren’t sure what to do with all the space they now had up front, but Cynde Dickey had an idea.

She had learned about how agritourism was growing in the North, and she wanted to use the newly cleared space for that. They put out a row of rocking chairs, started making peach ice cream, and added a wide range of products, including locally grown produce.

“I think people have wanted more of a connection with the farm itself and where their food comes from,” Lee Dickey said. “A lot of the growers have catered to that.”

Will McGehee does marketing for all of the Middle Georgia peach growers. He said the state has put a lot of money into promoting agritourism and peaches are particularly good for it.

“Most of agriculture tourism is the peach business,” he said. “People are willing to drive a couple hours south of Atlanta to tour the packing house.”

The Savannah Morning News looks at how their local medical community is dealing with the opioid crisis.

Physicians on the front line are responding. “It’s an opportunity to really curb our narcotic-prescribing habits and curb this issue,” said Dr. Jay Goldstein, medical director of the Department of Emergency and Trauma Center at Memorial Health University Medical Center, a Trauma 1 center serving the greater Savannah area.

“I do think the United States is one of the largest prescribers of narcotics,” Goldstein said.

As a pharmacist, U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter said he is aware of the issue and would like to see pharmaceutical manufacturers step up and develop new pain medications that aren’t as strong as opioid narcotics but provide more pain relief than Tylenol. “I’ve been on the pharmaceutical manufacturers saying you guys through research and development, you all need to get us another option,” Carter said.

In Georgia, opioid deaths climbed steadily to 1,043 in 2017, the latest year for which data is available from the Georgia Department of Public Health. The number represented a 145% increase from 426 deaths in 2010. Opioid deaths accounted for about 64% of all drug deaths in 2017.

In Chatham County, 29 people died from opioid-related overdoses in 2017, while 45 were hospitalized and 61 visited the emergency department. That’s more than the numbers in Bryan, Effingham and Liberty counties combined.

But to Goldstein, the county numbers seem low. “We see it a good bit. I see a lot of addiction,” he said.

While Goldstein said most overdose deaths are from illegal opioids, such as heroin or synthetic fentanyl, research suggests many people start taking pain management when it’s prescribed by a physician. But opioid’s addictive pull has led many to seek more or stronger drugs on the street, such as heroin or synthetic fentanyl, research suggests.

The epidemic affects people of all ages. Data from the Georgia Department of Public Health indicates over 2.2 million Georgians used prescription opioids in 2017, from infants to the elderly, and more women than men were opioid patients.

The Savannah Morning News also talked to legislators about the opioid crisis.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter said he supports new pharmaceutical innovation, but not recreational marijuana. “I am adamantly opposed to the recreational use of marijuana. I think it is nothing more than a gateway drug,” he said.

ut State Rep. Ron Stephens said legalized marijuana used for medical purposes could provide an alternative to opioids. He also supports alternatives like nerve blocks used for surgery, mindfulness or massage therapy. “We need to be moving in that direction. It is about moving away from long-term extremely addictive drugs and looking for other alternatives,” he said.

Stephens said it’s too soon to predict how Georgia’s new law legalizing marijuana, which takes effect Jan. 1, will play out. “It’s not chemically addictive, but it can be psychologically addictive,” Stephens said.

Complying with federal law also presents a problem. “Until the feds move it out of that class with narcotics, it’s going to be a problem no matter what law we pass, because we’re breaking federal law,” Stephens said.

DeKalb County Assistant District Attorney Kim Bourroughs Debrow is running for a seat on the Court of Appeals that will be vacated by Judge Sara Doyle, according to The Brunswick News.

“While I thought that opportunity would come around much later, looking at the bench now, I decided my years as a prosecutor and an appellate attorney could serve the court well,” said Debrow during a trip to Brunswick last week. “Rarely will you have an open seat where candidates can run for it on the court of appeals. I wanted to seize that opportunity.”

“Out of 15 judges, there is room and opportunity to add diversity as well,” Debrow said. “More importantly as a prosecutor and having practiced as an appellate attorney, that’s the skill set the court could use right now.”

“Our court of appeals has a two-term rule, and that means all direct appeals must be decided in two terms of the court,” Debrow said. “That is a very fast turnaround time. That’s why the court had more seats added to it because it is one of our country’s busiest appellate courts. Since that is where the majority of our state’s cases end, I think Georgians need to know more about this race. One of my goals has been to promote the public’s awareness of how important this court is.

“No judge is going to come to the bench with a full, comprehensive understanding of every area of the law, but most of their case docket contains criminal cases. That’s where most criminal cases are being appealed to unless you are talking about capital cases. I think we need more judges on the bench that can be efficient and get the job done within that two terms.”

“Those decisions will affect all of Georgia,” Debrow said. “The Court of Appeals race is a very important one that the community and the voters should be engaged in because that panel of three judges at a time are going to be making decisions in cases that affect not just every person here in Georgia, it is going to create law that will affect cases that come afterward.”

Augusta received results of an audit of city government, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Miller Edwards of Mauldin & Jenkins said the firm does a lot of local government work, including other consolidated communities such as Athens-Clarke County and Macon-Bibb County, and that relatively speaking Augusta has done well, particularly in some areas. The city has $2 billion in total assets, including $1.4 billion in buildings, infrastructure and its vehicle fleet, and $900 million in liabilities.

Last year, the city took in $470 million in revenue, including $54.6 million in property taxes and nearly $61 million in other taxes such as sales tax, and had $433 million in expenses, Edwards said. With depreciation and other debts added in, the city ended up with a $15 million bottom line last year, about 3% of total revenue, which is “a good place to be,” Edwards said.

“Augusta had a good year, nothing to brag about, but you’re going in the right direction,” he said.

Revenues have exceeded expenses the past four years, and the city had a fund balance of $35.7 million at the end of last year, or the equivalent of 90 days’ worth of operating funds, he said.

“Three months is a healthy place to be,” Edwards said.

Seniors in Bulloch County are organizing to seek a property tax break, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Bulloch County taxpayers seeking a local exemption for senior citizens from the portion of property tax that funds the public schools will meet from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday in the community building at Luetta Moore Park.

Leaders in the effort say Monday’s gathering will be an organizational meeting for their group. They also plan to decide details of the exemption request as they prepare to address the Bulloch County Board of Education, probably at its Thursday, Aug. 8, regular session.

“There are counties in Georgia that do have a sunset on public education’s part of the ad valorem tax, so we’re saying we’ve got a rather prosperous county, and forward-looking, so why can’t we join them?” said Roger Branch, Ph.D.

“I’ve paid tax all 49 years, but there are some in the group who have paid a lot longer,” he said. “One woman said she’s paid for 70 years.”

The idea has been brought up in previous years, but increases in property assessments, which without a millage rollback would result in higher taxes, spurred new interest in 2019.

“My main concern is there are just a lot of senior citizens … and I know for some people it creates a burden,” [Carolyn] Akins said. “When we had the meeting with the Bulloch County commissioners, somebody spoke that their mother had to choose between paying taxes and buying food. I mean, some people are living on a very limited senior’s income, and it creates a hardship.”

The Hall County Tax Assessor’s Office is working on property tax valuations, according to the Gainesville Times.

It’s a yearlong process to assess the 78,500 properties in Hall. Tax assessments are sent out in the spring, the deadline to appeal was May 28, and tax bills are issued in the fall.

It’s also an ever-changing market, but the office is required to set values as close as possible to what properties are selling for, which requires both watching sales and keeping up with improvements or changes made to properties.

The county has six residential appraisers and two appraisers for commercial and industrial properties. Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services, an appraisal contractor, also does some work for the county, so people may see a GMASS vehicle in their neighborhood.

Values are based on numerous criteria, including square footage, improvements and sales of similar properties in the area. If there have not been recent sales nearby, the county can use sales of comparable homes that are in the same general area of the county, Watson said.

Buford City Schools opened a new Buford High School, according to the Gainesville Times.

A Lithonia man was convicted of piloting a drone to deliver contraband into a prison, according to the Albany Herald.

A Georgia man who was illegally operating an unmanned aircraft system to drop contraband into Autry State Prison has pleaded guilty to the crime, Middle District of Georgia U.S. Attorney Charles Peeler said.

Eric Lee Brown, 35, of Lithonia, pleaded guilty to one count of operating an aircraft eligible for registration knowing that the aircraft is not registered to facilitate a controlled substance offense before U.S. Senior District Court Judge Louis Sands last week.

“We are pleased to see justice being served on this individual, and we hope that his actions, and subsequent prosecution in the first-known criminal prosecution under this drone registration law, will serve as a warning to others considering introducing contraband into our facilities,” Timothy C. Ward, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections, said.

“Mr. Brown’s guilty plea should be a very clear warning to anyone who chooses to illegally operate unmanned aircraft systems for unintended purposes,” Todd Damiani, Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General regional special agent in charge, said. “DOT OIG special agents, along with our federal, state, and prosecutorial law enforcement partners, will actively pursue those who unlawfully use federally-regulated modes of transportation for the distribution of controlled substances or contraband.”

“Working with state, local and federal authorities, our office will aggressively prosecute those who choose to smuggle cellphones, drugs or any other contraband into our state prisons,” Peeler said. “The use of drones is regulated by federal criminal statutes, and our office will not hesitate to use those statutes in the fight against prison contraband.”

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division released a new Georgia Hunting Seasons and Regulations Guide, according to The Brunswick News.

The University of North Georgia will open a Blue Ridge campus for fall semester 2020, according to AccessWDUN.

Georgia Speaker of the House of Representatives David Ralston helped secure $5.5 million in state funds for the new Blue Ridge Campus in the 2019 fiscal year budget. Ralston, a UNG alumnus, represents Georgia District 7, including Fannin County, in the General Assembly.

“I’m excited to see this important project move forward. UNG’s new Blue Ridge Campus will make permanent the availability of a world-class college education in our community,” Ralston said. “As one of the region’s top public universities — and consistently ranked as one of the best values in higher education — UNG will afford students better job prospects and attract new businesses to our north Georgia mountains for generations to come.”