The blog.

25
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 25, 2019

Addison ARF

Addison is a young female mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from the Animal Rescue Foundation Inc in Milledgeville, GA.

Sophia ARF

Sophia is a young female Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Animal Rescue Foundation Inc in Milledgeville, GA.

Brickey ARF

Brickey is a young male mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from the Animal Rescue Foundation Inc in Milledgeville, GA.

25
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 25, 2019

The British Parliament closed the Port of Boston on March 25, 1774, passing the Boston Port Act in retaliation for the destruction of $1 million worth of tea in the Boston Tea Party.

Horton Smith won the first Masters tournament on March 25, 1934.

On March 25, 1937, Governor E.D. Rivers signed legislation creating the Georgia Department of Labor; in 1945, the Commissioner of Labor was upgraded from statutory office to Constitutional.

Atlanta Braves Pitcher and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame Tom Glavine celebrates his 53d Birthday today.

Flannery O’Connor was born on March 25, 1925 in Savannah, Georgia. She would come to be recognized as one of the greatest American fiction writers. O’Connor graduated from the Georgia State College for Women, now called Georgia College and State University. She returned to Milledgeville in 1951, living at the family farm, called Andalusia, until her death at age 39 in 1964.

At GCSU, the Flannery O’Connor Room is located in the GC Museum, the Flannery O’Connor Collection includes manuscripts, and the College includes a program in Flannery O’Connor Studies.

O’Connor died of Lupus, which also killed her father.

Savannah’s Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home and Museum held its seventh annual Parade and Street Fair this weekend, honoring O’Connor, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Building a border wall could affect some military construction projects in Georgia, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Seven construction projects across the state were included on a $12.9 billion list by Department of Defense officials that identified potential funding sources for the border projects. The list includes construction projects abroad, at Fort Benning, Robins Air Force Base and in nearly every state of the union that were unawarded at the end of 2018.

That list, however, could change as a set of conditions and stipulations spelled out by the Department of Defense could protect most, if not all, funding for those Georgia projects.

No construction projects that have already been awarded will be affected by the declaration, and no military housing, barracks or dormitory project funds will be reallocated. Funding from construction projects with award dates after Sept. 30, 2019, are the only ones that could be diverted for barriers.

None of the nation’s military construction projects may be affected. The Department of Defense reported in its list that if their 2020 budget is enacted on time, no military construction project would be delayed or canceled even if funds were diverted to fund border work.

Both of Georgia’s Republican U.S. Senators, Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, voted against a measure that would have blocked Trump’s emergency declaration.

Isakson, who has been critical of Trump’s recent attacks on former Sen. John McCain, said in a statement that he’s pleased that no funds meant for military housing will be diverted to the barrier projects.

“The president has done great work to restore power and lethality to our military, and a great deal has been invested in our capabilities from cyber security and beyond,” Isakson said. “I will be monitoring this very closely to ensure that our gains in military readiness and lethality are not eroded by the transfer of funds from certain (construction) projects.

United States Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced an additional $3.7 billion dollars in loan guarantees for the two new nuclear reactors being built at Plant Vogtle, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Perry said the administration is determined to see the project finished despite the setbacks. He spoke Friday from the construction site in Waynesboro as a crane lowered a giant dome atop the containment building for housing one of the new reactors.

“The message that gets sent on this plant: America is back in the nuclear energy industry, folks,” Perry told a crowd of workers in hardhats. “We are back. We’re going to be leading the world.”

President Donald Trump has singled out both the country’s nuclear and coal industries for support from his administration, although the more politically influential coal sector has gotten most of the regulatory breaks so far.

The new financial support brings to $12 billion the government’s total loan guarantees for Plant Vogtle, with the initial assistance approved under President Barack Obama. The guarantees make the federal government responsible for covering unpaid debt if the electrical utilities in charge of the project default.

Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers said the first reactor, which had its 1.5 million pound (0.68 million kilogram) containment cap lowered into place Friday, will be 90 percent complete by the end of the year and ready to load nuclear fuel in 2020.

The Augusta Chronicle has photos from the event.

United States Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) was in Atlanta this weekend, according to the AJC.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris became one of the first Democratic presidential candidates to hold a major public campaign event in metro Atlanta, making stops at two historic African-American institutions this weekend: Ebenezer Baptist Church and Morehouse College.

Harris also received her first endorsement from a Georgia elected official, with freshman state Rep. Erick Allen, D-Vinings, putting his support behind her.

Harris began her day sharing a pew with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, the church’s senior pastor, called Harris’ candidacy “the realization of our ancestors’ wildest dreams.”

At Morehouse’s Forbes Arena-McAfee Court, all three scoreboards had 20-20 scores glowing in neon to note the year of the presidential election ahead. After enthusiastic introductions from local politicians and officials including U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff and Gwinnett County Board of Education member Everton Blair, Harris took the stage with a hearty “What’s up, Atlanta?” She was greeted by the crowd of about 3,000 with applause, cheers and stomps.

From GPB:

Former candidate for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District Jon Ossoff told the enthusiastic crowd of 3,000 that Harris was in Georgia because she knows Georgia can help elect a Democrat in 2020.

“Georgia has the power to throw Donald Trump out of the White House,” Ossoff said. “Because if we win Georgia, we win it all, folks!”

Democrat Stacey Abrams launched another new fundraising scheme nonprofit focused on the 2020 census, according to the AJC.

The organization, Fair Count, will focus on minorities, non-English speakers, renters and others who are more likely to be skipped in the once-a-decade headcount of the U.S. population. In Georgia, the group said, that could include as much as 20 percent of the state’s population spanning parts of 86 counties.

“Georgians risk missing out on critical federal dollars, business opportunities and may suffer unfair or inaccurate redistricting if we don’t get this count done correctly,” said state Rep. Carolyn Hugley, a close Abrams ally who chairs the new group’s board.

The stakes are high: The data collected from the once-a-decade count of every person living in the U.S. will determine each state’s share of representatives in Congress and nearly $900 billion in federal funding for healthcare, education and other public services.

It’s the latest public policy initiative by Abrams, a potential 2020 candidate who founded the group. Since her narrow defeat in November to Gov. Brian Kemp, she has worked to raise the profile of Fair Fight, a voting rights group she started that has challenged Georgia’s electoral policies in court.

Fair Count will be led by Rebecca DeHart, the former executive director of the Democratic Party of Georgia. Jeanine Abrams McLean, an evolutionary biologist and Abrams’ sister, will be the group’s program director.

Along with Hugley, other board members include DuBose Porter, the former lawmaker and chair of the Democratic state party, and Sachin Varghese, a well-known Atlanta attorney and party activist.

Stacey Abrams met with Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in New York, according to the Washington Post.

Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat who narrowly lost her race for governor in 2018, met Friday with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, who is trying to recruit her to run for the Senate next year, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting.

Georgia has been a reliably Republican state, but shifting demographics there have convinced Democrats that they have a chance of winning a Senate seat. Schumer sees the seat, held by first-term Republican Sen. David Perdue, as a prime opportunity if Abrams were the Democratic candidate.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Abrams met in New York City, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss the session.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) filed a complaint alleging Abrams’s Fair Fight Action violates the law, according to the Patch.

FACT said Fair Fight Action has engaged in overtly political activities to promote Abrams, including:

•  Accepting donations from a “Stacey Abrams Fundraiser”;
•  Bankrolling Abrams’ statewide speaking tour where she told audiences: “I am running for office again.”;
•  Hosted two dozen watch parties, some in early presidential primary voting states, for supporters to “cheer Abrams on” as she delivered the Democrats’ response to President Trump’s State of the Union address;
•  Buying social media ads alleging now-Gov. Brian Kemp “robbed” Abrams of election victory and others simply promoting Abrams;
•  Buying commercial airtime during Super Bowl LII in Atlanta to showcase Abrams to Georgia voters.FACT’s complaint maintains that “by providing support for an individual’s personal political activities, Fair Fight Action is in violation of the requirement that a social welfare organization serve general community purposes rather than provide a private benefit to an individual or political group. The IRS has previously determined that an organization that serves to promote a single individual and that individual’s ‘agenda and platforms’ does not qualify for Section 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status.”

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:30 AM SENATE RULES 450 CAP
9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 36) House Chamber
TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP
1:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR 310 CLOB
1:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1
1:00 PM HOUSE Academic Support Subcommittee of Education 406 CLOB
1:30 PM HOUSE HUMAN RELATIONS & AGING 506 CLOB
2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB
2:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY MEZZ 1
2:00 PM HOUSE Academic Achievement Subcommittee of Education 406 CLOB
3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 450 CAP
3:00 PM HOUSE Regulated Industries – Occupational/Professional Licensing Subcommittee 606 CLOB
4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

HB 512 – Agricultural Commodity Commission for Propane; provide (Substitute)(AG&CA-20th) Watson-172nd

HB 31 – General appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2019 -June 30, 2020(Substitute)(APPROP-4th) Ralston-7th

HB 287 – Income tax; certain physicians serving as community basedfaculty physicians; delete deduction (FIN-52nd) Dubnik-29th

HB 483 – Controlled substances; Schedules I, IV, and V; change certain provisions (H&HS-11th) Stephens-164th

SR 24 – United States Congress; amend the allocation of funds collected through federal motor fuel taxes; urge (TRANS-21st)

HB 25 – Contracts; provide military service members civil relief concerning certain contractual obligations due to circumstances of active duty (Substitute)(VM&HS-14th) Belton-112th

HB 63 – Insurance; health benefit plans to establish step therapy protocols; require (Substitute)(I&L-32nd) Cooper-43rd

HB 64 – Parent and child; require child welfare agencies to make efforts to determine whether a parent or guardian of a child who is the subject of abuse allegations is on active duty in the military (JUDY-42nd) Prince-127th

HB 130 – StateBoard of Education; authorize the Georgia Foundation for Public Education to establish a nonprofit corporation to qualify as a public foundation; authorize (ED&Y-8th) Nix-69th

HB 217 – Crimes and offenses; employees and agents of syringe services programs are not subject to certain offenses relating to hypodermic syringes and needles; provide (H&HS-32nd) Gaines-117th

HB 221 – Geo. L. Smith II Georgia World Congress Center; limit on indebtedness; increase (FIN-19th) Rogers-10th

HB 227 – Insurance; discrimination against victims of family violence to include victims of sexual assault; expand prohibitions (I&L-28th) Frye-118th

HB 311 – State government; waiver of sovereign immunity as to actions ex contractu and state tort claims; provisions (Substitute)(JUDY-18th) Welch-110th

The Georgia State Senate passed HB 481, the fetal heartbeat bill, on Friday, according to the LaGrange Daily News.

The bill, backed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, will now go back to the House to approve Senate changes.

Women in Georgia can currently seek an abortion during the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy. A heartbeat can be detected in an embryo as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant.

Georgia lawmakers and GOP-led legislatures in several other states have pushed anti-abortion measures in hopes of getting a case before the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The push comes amid rising optimism among conservatives that the restrictions might prevail in the reconfigured Supreme Court that includes President Donald Trump’s appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

The Georgia bill makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest — but only when the woman files a police report first — and to save the life of the mother. It also allows for abortions when a fetus is determined to be not compatible with life due to serious medical issues.

If signed, the law would take effect January 1, 2020.

From the Newnan Times-Herald:

HB 481 passed the Senate by a vote of 34 to 18 on a party-line vote, and now heads back to the House, because the Senate made several changes to the language of the bill.

The changes to the bill’s language were extensive, including adding a section of definitions and rewording the sections of the bill dealing with the life or health of the mother, but the abortion restrictions and exemptions are essentially the same in both bills.

The Senate version of the bill removed language that required that any abortion performed for a medical emergency or in the case of incest or rape be performed in a manner which provides the best chance for the unborn child to survive.

The House can either agree to the Senate changes, disagree with the Senate changes, or make more changes and send the bill back to the Senate.

From the AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign the legislation if it wins final passage. He vowed during his 2018 campaign to sign the strictest abortion laws in the country.

In a statement shortly after the vote, Kemp said the Senate “affirmed Georgia’s commitment to life.”

“I applaud the members who supported the heartbeat bill’s passage for protecting the vulnerable and giving a voice to those who cannot yet speak for themselves,” Kemp said.

House Bill 324 to permit production of medical cannabis in Georgia has stalled, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Though House Bill 324 passed the Georgia House of Representatives by an overwhelming margin – 123-40 – officials on the Senate side are considering vastly different options.

According to multiple sources, senators and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan are looking at other options for providing access to cannabis oil. One of those options is setting up agreements with Colorado or other states so that the medical oil could be shipped from Colorado to Georgia for distribution to Georgia patients. The other is putting universities in charge of growing and producing the oil.

HB 324, which followed recommendations made by the Joint Study Commission on Low THC Oil Access, would set up a system of 10 production licenses and 10 distribution licenses. Producers would be authorized to run two dispensaries each, and each distribution license holder could have up to 10 for a total of 60 retail dispensaries in the state.

On Thursday, representatives from the Georgia Sheriff’s Association expressed their opposition to the bill, as did the Faith and Freedom Coalition and Let’s Get Clear Georgia.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition has been sending out postcards asking Georgians to urge their senators to vote against bringing cannabis cultivation to Georgia. Georgia’s Hope, an organization working to advocate for cannabis oil, showed some of the postcards on its Facebook page.

The cards state “Stop Georgia from Going to Pot” and say that the House of Representatives was “prodded by the pot lobby” to pass HB 324. It says the bill will allow the state government to “set up special ‘pot stores’ and choose who can grow marijuana” and that the plan is “an open invitation for corruption, crony capitalism and crime.”

House Bill 445 on shore protection exempted the Sea Island Company at the company’s request, according to the Brunswick News.

Indeed, the Sea Island carve-out, presently listed in lines 84-89, wasn’t part of the bill as it was envisioned at the beginning of the 2019 session.

Documents obtained by The News include a legislation worksheet and emails detailing that staff within DNR’s Coastal Resources Division didn’t intend on putting forward an SPA revision bill like H.B. 271, legislation that died in the Senate in 2018.

[CRD Assistant Director Karl] Burgess analogized the specificity to changes made to the Shore Protection Act’s regulatory sibling, the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act. There’s a section of the CMPA now regarding reclamation of manmade boat slips, which Burgess stated was specific to Hutchinson Island. Hutchinson Island, in the Savannah River, is the location of the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center, a Westin resort, a golf course, residential development and other attractions.

Friday, [DNR public affairs director Wes] Robinson said this sort of process is how things go regarding certain bills.

“It’s not our place to necessarily say if it’s good, bad or indifferent,” Robinson said. “It’s a matter of if we can administer it or not, and that’s one of those ones that we would be able to. But, when it’s not an agency bill, they could put whatever (in the legislation).”

The Bulloch County Board of Education will meet Tuesday to discuss the school system’s strategic plan and address capacity issues, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Hall County and plaintiffs suing the county have spent more than $350,000 in a lawsuit over the pension fund, according to the Gainesville Times.

[Plaintiff and Hall County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Brad] Rounds said the plaintiffs have spent more than $33,000 so far in legal fees that have been crowdfunded from employees.

Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said the county has paid $330,400 in legal fees since January 2017, when the case was opened.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners was served with the lawsuit Jan. 12, 2017, in which Rounds and other employees in a proposed class claimed they’d been deprived of millions in retirement benefits.

The plaintiffs filed an open records request for the minutes showing a “properly-called meeting” July 1, 1998, when the board resolution freezing the pension plan was adopted.

“No such minutes were produced by defendant Hall County,” according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs claim the freeze was not properly voted on and that the board resolution “was not a matter of public record disclosed to any plaintiff.”

Those who retired between July 1, 1998, and July 1, 2008 received fully accrued pension benefits without the freeze.

According to the lawsuit’s calculation, Rounds would receive $2,567 monthly without the freeze on his benefits. With the freeze in place, he would receive $389 per month.

A new inland port in Hall County could affect local traffic, according to the Gainesville Times.

Officials estimate 150,000 containers per year could pour into the 104-acre port by way of Norfolk Southern railroad, which cuts through Gateway.

Also adding to the growth is the opening of Lanier Technical College off Howard Road at Ga. 365. The school had been located next to the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus in Oakwood.

The Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Committee, the decision-making arm of the transportation planning agency, voted in February to seek federal money for a traffic study of the area between New Holland and the planned inland port.

“There’s been some great things happening up the Ga. 365 corridor … and we really feel a traffic impact study for this area would be very beneficial and forward-thinking,” said Chris Rotalsky, Gainesville’s public works director.

Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Gwinnett and Forsyth) discussed transportation funding with the Gwinnett Daily Post.

A heavy rail extension was a key part of plans to bring MARTA into Gwinnett, but U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., said that may not have had much success with federal officials who dole out grants for transit projects.

Woodall told the Daily Post on Friday that the anticipated time frame for extending rail from MARTA’s Doraville station to Jimmy Carter Boulevard would have hurt its chances in Washington. Woodall is a member of committees that deal with transit and money: the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Budget Committee.

“That’s not something that’s going to be in Gwinnett County by next year, even if the vote had passed,” Woodall said. “That’s something that wouldn’t be in Gwinnett County for 15 years, or 20 years or 30 years. There is a lower appetite (in Washington) for those heavy rail systems that take so long to implement.”

Woodall brought up light rail as a possible alternative to heavy rail. He called it the “sweet spot for rail” while he said heavy rail would be “absolutely a hard sell.”

“That heavy rail model, which of course dates back 150 years, is so expensive and so time consuming that the federal government ends up having to choose ‘Are we going to do one heavy rail New Starts or are we going to do five light rail New Starts? Or are we going to do 100 bus rapid transit New Starts?’” Woodall said.

The Federal Transit Administration defines New Starts projects as ones that cost more than $300 million and where more than $100 million in federal funding is being sought. Some examples listed by the FTA include commuter rail, light rail and fixed guideway BRT routes.

Gwinnett County Public Schools‘ proposed FY 2020 budget includes raises for some employees, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

There are three ways that pay increases are expected to be doled out during fiscal year 2020. The first is an expected flat increase in the state’s teacher salary schedule, which covers teachers, media specialists, counselors and local school technology coordinators. State lawmakers are expected to put the raise, which will be for all teachers in the state, in Georgia’s upcoming budget.

Another way is a planned locally funded step increase for all Gwinnett school employees who are on the teacher salary schedule.

The third way is a 2 percent cost-of-living salary increase for employees who are not on the teacher salary schedule, including janitors, administrators and bus drivers.

The pay increases are a big part of GCPS’ proposed $2.31 billion fiscal year 2020 budget. The proposed budget was presented to the board for review Saturday, and tentative adoption is set for April 9, when the board holds its second budget work session at Central Gwinnett High School.

The fiscal year 2020 budget, if adopted by the school board, will be 2.7 percent larger than the current year’s budget. Two public hearings are currently scheduled for May 9 and 16, with final adoption of the budget expected to happen at the May 16 hearing.

Rome City Commission will consider issuing bonds to pay for covered tennis courts for the 2020 ACC Championship, according to the Rome News Tribune.

22
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 22, 2019

Chris Pratt Gainesville

Chris Pratt is a young male Australian Cattle Dog / Blue Heeler & Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia in Gainesville, GA.

Andy Dwyer Gainesville

Andy Dwyer is a young male Australian Cattle Dog / Blue Heeler & Labrador Retriever puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia in Gainesville, GA.

Noah Gainesville

Noah is a young male retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia in Gainesville, GA.

22
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 22, 2019

King George III approved of the passage of the Stamp Act legislation on March 22, 1765 designed to pay for some of the costs the UK incurred in protecting the colonies, but it would lead to the movement that culminated in the American Revolution.

Patrick Henry addressed the Virginia Convention in Richmond on March 23, 1775, stating,  “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

On March 23, 1861, the Georgia Secession Convention adopted a new state Constitution to be submitted to a referendum of the voters on the first Tuesday in July and then adjourned

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Beer and Wine Revenue Act on March 22, 1933, allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages, and later that year, the federal Prohibition was ended.

The first Masters golf tournament began on March 22, 1934 in Augusta, Georgia.

The state prohibition on all alcoholic beverages ended on March 22, 1935 with Governor Eugene Talmadge’s signature of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act.

Governor E.D. Rivers signed a resolution on March 24, 1939, calling for the return of “General” locomotive made famous in the Great Train Chase from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Georgia. It currently resides in The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia. The other locomotive involved in the chase, The Texas, was displayed at the Atlanta Cyclorama in Grant Park  until 2015, when it was removed for restoration and is now displayed in the Atlanta History Center.

Elvis Presley was inducted into the United States Army on March 24, 1958.

On March 24, 1970, Gov. Lester Maddox signed legislation naming the Largemouth Bass the Official State Fish.

The United States Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment on March 22, 1972; it would fail to garner enough state ratifications.

On March 23, 1972, in the case of Gooding v. Wilson, the United States Supreme Court held that a Georgia statute, OCGA § 26-6303, which provided: “Any person who shall, without provocation, use to or of another, and in his presence . . . opprobrious words or abusive language, tending to cause a breach of the peace . . . shall be guilty of a misdemeanor,” was unconstitutionally vague and violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

On March 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan called for the development of an anti-missile system that would come to be known as the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Pixies released Surfer Rosa on March 21, 1988.

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Vice President Mike Pence spoke in Atlanta yesterday, according to the AJC.

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday blasted Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over her decision last year to bar the city jail from holding federal immigration detainees.

“It is amazing to think the mayor actually said – in her words — she would not be complicit in an immigration policy that intentionally inflicts misery,” said Pence, who met with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials during a stop in Atlanta.

“I would say to the mayor that criminal illegal immigrants – gang members on our streets – are what inflict misery. The flow of illegal drugs like cocaine and meth and fentanyl inflict misery and wreck our families and communities. Human trafficking inflicts misery.”

Flanked by Gov. Brian Kemp, U.S. Sen. David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, Pence said ICE officials “do not inflict misery. They bring safety and security to the people of Atlanta, and they deserve the respect of every elected official in this country.”

From WSB-TV:

Pence took aim at Bottoms on his way to a campaign fundraiser for Perdue, who is up for re-election next year. Among Perdue’s possible Democratic challengers is Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia House minority leader who narrowly lost the race for governor against Kemp last year. After Bottoms signed her executive order last year, a spokeswoman for Abrams commended the mayor’s “efforts to combat the impact of the administration’s cruel and inhumane family separation policy. Anyone who stands against keeping families together lacks any kind of moral compass.”

Axios reports that advisors to former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden are discussing adding Stacey Abrams to a potential Presidential bid.

The popular Georgia Democrat, who at age 45 is 31 years younger than Biden, would bring diversity and excitement to the ticket — showing voters, in the words of a close source, that Biden “isn’t just another old white guy.”

But the decision poses considerable risk, and some advisers are flatly opposed. Some have pointed out that in a Democratic debate, he could be asked why no one on the stage would be a worthy running mate.

Under the Gold Dome Today

9:00 AM RULES 341 CAP

9:00 AM INDUSTRY AND LABOR 403 CAP

9:30 AM FLOOR SESSION (LD 35) House Chamber

TBD RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM PUBLIC SAFETY & HOMELAND SECURITY 406 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

HB 197 – Office of Planning and Budget; provide for the establishment of the Strategic Integrated Data System (S&T-45th) Dempsey-13th

HB 128– Insurance; insurers do not have to notify the Georgia Composite Medical Board of agreements to settle medical malpractice claims against physicians when the settlement resulted in the low payment under a high/low agreement; provide (I&L-18th) Silcox-52nd

HB 196 – Retirement and pensions; each public retirement system trustee to complete appropriate education applicable to his or her fiduciary duties; require (RET-52nd) Benton-31st

HB 405 – Revenue and taxation; Level 1 Freeport Exemption; modify provisions (FIN-52nd) Knight-130th

HB 507 – Ad valorem tax; criteria used by tax assessors to determine the fair market value of real property; revise (FIN-56th) Wilensky-79th

HB 481 – Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act; enact (Substitute)(S&T-45th) Setzler-35th

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has opened an investigation into lost absentee ballot applications, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Democratic Party of Georgia has claimed that at least 4,700 absentee ballot applications were misplaced, preventing voters from getting their absentee ballots.

The investigation will be done by the Investigations Division of the Secretary of State’s Office.

“We look forward to working closely with the Democratic Party of Georgia to examine every piece of evidence related to these allegations,” said Chief Investigator Russell Lewis.

House Bill 481, the fetal heartbeat bill, is scheduled for a vote today in the Georgia Senate, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Legislation that would ban most abortions in Georgia when a fetal heartbeat is detected — as early as six weeks — is slated to go before the Senate this morning.

The measure has already passed the House, with “yes” votes from Floyd County’s delegates, Reps. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome; Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee; and Mitchell Scoggins, R-Cartersville.

HB 481 also includes exceptions for ectopic or medically futile pregnancies, to remove a dead fetus or in cases of medical emergencies — to prevent the death or “substantial and irreversible” damage to a “major bodily function” of a pregnant woman.

Local lawmaker Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, could not be reached for comment Thursday. On Wednesday he said the measure had been heavily amended in the Senate committee and he hadn’t had a chance to read the new version. If approved, it would have to go back to the House for a vote.

Hufstetler is one of 14 Republican senators targeted by opponents trying to stop the legislation. An online flyer names some as holding seats vulnerable in the next election. Hufstetler and several others are listed in the “seen as reasonable” category.

A number of Floyd County Republicans were discussing the possibility of going to the Capitol today in a show of support for passage, although County GOP Chair Diane Lewis said Thursday it’s unclear if a trip can be organized in time.

House Bill 197 by State Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) will be on the Senate floor for a vote today, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Rep. Katie Dempsey’s bill creating a state database merging reports from an array of agencies is scheduled for a vote in the Senate this morning.

“It’s first on the calendar, so I’m hoping we can get it wrapped up early,” the Rome Republican said Thursday.

HB 197 would create a central warehouse of information — the Georgia Data Analytic Center — under the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. Reports using aggregate data from all constituent services would be available to lawmakers, state agencies, academic institutions and public and private researchers.

House Bill 511 by State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) hit a roadblock, according to the AJC.

House Bill 511 would create new programs to aid low-income rural residents and others who need rides. It would pay for those programs by devoting sales taxes on rides for hire to mass transit.

But its most controversial provisions would consolidate state transit functions under a single new agency. Currently, six state agencies have transit programs — a division the bill’s supporters say creates bureaucratic hassles and stifles innovation.

“If it doesn’t fit in a box, then it’s not happening,” state Rep. Kevin Tanner, the bill’s sponsor, told the Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday.

Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry spoke against the consolidation, saying it could have unintended consequences. Among other things, McMurry said it could complicate the financing of some Georgia Department of Transportation road projects.

HB 511 would divide the state outside metro Atlanta into eight zones for the purposes of transit planning. It would allow individual counties to raise sales taxes for transit construction and operations. And it would create state-funded pilot programs to aid low-income workers and companies that subsidize their employees’ transportation to work.

House Bill 471 by State Rep. Steven Sainz passed the Senate and is headed to Governor Kemp, according to the AJC.

Police officers would no longer tell motorists suspected of drunken driving that their refusal to take a breathalyzer test could be used against them in court, according to a bill approved Thursday by the state Senate.

The bill was introduced in response to a Georgia Supreme Court ruling last month that requiring suspects to blow into breathalyzers is a violation of constitutional protections against self-incrimination.

Officers can still mandate blood or urine tests, and they can also ask drivers to voluntarily take breathalyzer tests.

The legislation corrects the language police officers read to drivers when they’re pulled over. Under current Georgia laws, police tell drivers that breath tests could be evidence in their criminal cases, which is no longer the case since the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision.

Gwinnett County is considering how to move forward after rejection of the MARTA contract by voters, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“We’ll be looking what our options are in terms of how we go forward,” county commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said. “Transit is such an important issue. I still think we’ve got a good plan (and) we had a good contract so it’s a matter of looking at all of the options and making a decision about how we move forward.”

The defeat of a contract with MARTA means what the future of transit in Gwinnett County looks like is now in the hands of the board governing the newly-formed 13-county Atlanta Transit Link Authority, also known as “The ATL.”

“We’ve got the process that’s been laid out for The ATL, which means that we would submit our projects for consideration into the regional plan and then there would be another referendum as a result of that,” said Nash, who is a member of The ATL’s governing board.

The law that created The ATL also allowed individual counties to hold a vote on 30-year transportation-related special purpose local option sales tax to pay for projects approved by the regional authority for that county. Any heavy rail projects, however, would automatically be run by MARTA under the law.

“Regardless of whether it’s MARTA or the new transit tax or some other mechanism, we’re now under the purview of The ATL in terms of projects,” Nash said.

While it may sound confusing that Gwinnett just had a MARTA vote without waiting for The ATL’s regional plan, there is a reason why they could go ahead with this vote.

“Kind of what we had a waiver on, if you want to call it that, is that if we had a contract in place before The ATL was officially organized as of Dec. 1 of last year, we didn’t have to wait for the regional transit plan to be adopted by the ATL board,” Nash said. “That was really the most important thing allowing us to move forward now (with the MARTA vote).”

Augusta Regional Airport is seeking to provide direct service to the Metro DC region, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta Regional Airport Director Herbert Judon Jr. said during a briefing to the Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau that the airport is working on getting non-stop flights to metro D.C. via Baltimore to better serve business travelers heading to major federal installations such as Fort Gordon and Savannah River Site.

“We understand that is a priority for our community, so that is something we are continuing to push very hard on,” Judon said. “I’m very bullish on that and I think we’re trending in the right direction. Hopefully we’ll have a breakthrough in the near future.”

A public hearing on water levels on the Savannah River near Augusta was held yesterday, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

At times indignant and defiant, at times funny or filled with angry shouts from the audience, the cities gathered public comments to send to the Corps as part of its response to its recommended plan that would also lower the pool in the river between the two communities.

The pool of water in the river will drop if the Corps use its plan to remove the lock and dam and replace it with a rock weir that will dam the Savannah at a certain height but also allow fish to migrate over it. The project is mitigation for the impact the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will have on spawning grounds in river near the port, where deepening is projected to allow saltwater to creep father up the river and damage areas now used by endangered shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon and other migratory fish. Removing the lock and dam and putting in the weir would allow those fish to access historic spawning grounds in the Augusta Shoals the Corps believes were blocked when the structure was completed in 1937.

But Corps spokesman Russell Wicke said the drop was 3½ feet at the dam and the river level must be higher than that downtown.

That drastic drop is what spurred homeowners and lawmakers on both sides to come together to fight the plan in what U.S. Rep, Joe Wilson, R-S.C., called a “bi-state and bipartisan” effort. As he spoke, Richmond County Democratic Party Chairman Emeritus Lowell Greenbaum sat directly in front of him nodding in appreciation.

Both Wilson and U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Ga., who was also on hand, contend that the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act in December 2016, requires the Corps to “maintain the pool for water supply and recreational activities that existed on the date of enactment,” which Wilson said is an average of 113.5 to 114.5 above sea level. That is well above what the Corps is proposing and “I believe it is simply not within the law.”

Wilson said U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina want the pool to remain the same. [Augusta Mayor Hardie] Davis said Georgia’s two U.S. senators have been “noticeably absent in this conversation.” But a representative for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he is monitoring the situation with the lock and dam and “working with all stakeholders to find a solution that all stakeholders agree upon. He encourages the community to share its thoughts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the public comment period through April 16.”

The Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District seeks new members to serve, according to the Gainesville Times.

The councils provide input by representing the wide variety of stakeholders that rely on the region’s water resources. The Metro Water District will soon begin work on the 2022 update to the Water Resource Management Plan and is looking for voices from diverse interest groups to participate in this process.

Interested citizens are encouraged to apply as well as persons who represent environmental, business, real estate, recreation, neighborhood, agriculture, utility, academic, water resources and other interests.

Individuals must reside within the river basin of the council for which they apply. Members serve two-year terms and may be reappointed for additional terms. Councils hold regular quarterly meetings but may also hold special meetings as needed to provide input on Metro Water District activities and actions.

Statesboro is considering how to link alcohol licenses with the costs of police enforcement, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Statesboro city officials are trying to develop a new range of fees for alcoholic beverage licenses based on the costs of policing different kinds of establishments: bars versus restaurants, for example.

In part to allow more time for the Statesboro Police Department and the city attorney to figure out how much to charge for each category, City Council approved an interim resolution Tuesday evening. As a result, alcohol license holders will receive only a half-year new license or renewal, from July 1 to Dec. 31, with the charge being half of the current full-year rates.

This will also reset the future due dates for Statesboro’s alcohol licenses to Jan. 1, the date used by the Georgia Department of Revenue for state alcohol licenses.

City Attorney Cain Smith and police Capt. James Winskey have had discussions about basing the fees on the average cost of policing each type of business, Smith reported to the mayor and council.

“And at this point …it is conjecture for us to determine what sort of businesses are going to require more allocation of law enforcement resources and which ones won’t,” Smith said.

Glynn County Commissioners are asking the state to provide additional safety measures to prevent suicides from the Sidney Lanier Bridge, according to The Brunswick News.

Former county commissioner Cap Fendig, Kiera Byrd, organizer of the Shine a Light Bridge Walk, and owner of St. Simons Island Ace Hardware Hal Hart presented a resolution to the commission which noted the number of suicides since the bridge was built in 2003 and called on the state delegation and GDOT to take action.

“We’re requesting your approval on a resolution that had to be added to the agenda tonight for our state delegation to take some action concerning the Lanier bridge,” Fendig said. “As you know recently, a young lady jumped to her death. Her body was recently found. She was well-known in the community and well-loved, and it ripped the heart of the community open on a subject that is usually pretty taboo to talk about, and that’s suicide.”

At least 10 people have jumped to their death from the 185-foot-high bridge since it opened in 2003. The most recent was Nicole Wells, owner of Nicole’s Cut Hut on St. Simons Island, who took her own life by jumping off the bridge on Feb. 20.

“The statistics surrounding suicide, particularly from the Sidney Lanier Bridge, are inaccurate at best because it’s something the media doesn’t talk about and something people don’t usually talk about among each other. For instance, there have been more than 18 suicides off the bridge since it was built. Additionally, since Nicole jumped there have been four people talked off the bridge,” Byrd said.

21
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 21, 2019

Lex Lyons

Lex is a male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the City of Lyons Animal Shelter in Lyons, GA. The shelter says, “Lex is a good boy-he loves people – he is affectionate and playful.” and “loving calm playful.”

Dakota Lyons

Dakota is a young male Hound mix who is available for adoption from the City of Lyons Animal Shelter in Lyons, GA. The shelter says he is less than one year old, and “Gentle and handsome.”

Maggie Lyons

Maggie is a young female Labrador Retriever and American Bulldog mix who is available for adoption from the City of Lyons Animal Shelter in Lyons, GA. Maggie is loving and calm, according to the shelter.

21
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 21, 2019

Lyman Hall was elected to the Continental Congress on March 21, 1775 from St. John’s Parish; the next year he would sign the Declaration of Independence as a representative from Georgia.

On March 21, 1941, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed legislation establishing the Eastern Standard Time Zone as the only Time Zone in Georgia. Prior to that, Georgia observed two different time zones.

On March 21, 1965, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. led more than 3000 protesters in a march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery.

On March 21, 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

Former Georgia Governor and United States Senator Herman Talmadge died on March 21, 2002.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Vice President Mike Pence will visit Atlanta today, according to Fox5Atlanta.

According to the Office of the Vice President, Pence will be visiting the Atlanta ICE Field Office to hear about the work of the local agency and talk about border security issues.

The AJC reports that Pence will also attend a fundraiser for Senator David Perdue.

United States Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will visit Augusta on Friday to speak at Plant Vogtle, according to the Department of Energy.

On Friday March 22, 2019, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will join Southern Company Chairman, President and CEO Tom Fanning; Georgia Power Chairman, President and CEO Paul Bowers; and North America’s Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey to deliver remarks at Vogtle Nuclear Plant. Following the ceremony, Secretary Perry, Tom Fanning, Paul Bowers and Sean McGarvey will participate in a media availability.

Media interested in attending must RSVP no later than Thursday at noon []. Please note that long pants are required, as well as steel-toed boots. If you do not own them, please pass along your shoe size when you RSVP.

So, does that mean that someone will loan steel-toed boots to journalists who don’t have them?

Secretary Perry is expected to announce the finalization of $3.7 billion in loan guarantees by the federal government for construction of the two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. From Bloomberg:

The guarantees, expected to be announced Friday when U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry visits Plant Vogtle alongside Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Southern Chief Executive Officer Tom Fanning, represents a critical lifeline for the project, which is more than five years behind schedule and has doubled in cost to $28 billion.

The additional help also puts taxpayers on the hook for more money if the project were to collapse. Southern and its partners in Plant Vogtle were already recipients of record $8.3 billion in federally-backed loan guarantees from the Obama administration, but asked the Trump administration to come to their aid amid ballooning costs and setbacks caused in part by the bankruptcy of a contractor, Westinghouse Electric Co.

President Donald Trump has made the revival of the coal and nuclear industry a priority. His administration in 2017 announced it would provide a conditional loan guarantee for the Plant Vogtle project.

Under the Gold Dome Today

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP
8:00 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS 341 CAP
8:00 AM HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT 606 CLOB
9:30 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 34) House Chamber
1:00 PM SENATE GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT 125 CAP
1:00 PM SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION 450 CAP
1:00 PM HOUSE EDUCATION 606 CLOB
1:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 406 CLOB
1:00 PM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary (Civil) 132 CAP
2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1
2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY 132 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION 506 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE Regulated Industries Alcohol & Tobacco Subcommittee 415 CLOB
3:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 450 CAP
3:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY MEZZ 1
3:00 PM HOUSE Insurance – Life & Health Subcommittee 415 CLOB
3:00 PM HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS 606 CLOB
4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB
4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR – LEGISLATIVE DAY 34

HB 225 – Motor vehicles; reference date to federal regulations regarding the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles and carriers; update (PUB SAF-7th) Rich-97th

HB 246 – Evidence; revise manner by which depositions taken at the instance of state are paid (JUDY-18th) Silcox-52nd

HB 325 – Law enforcement officers and agencies; records of investigation of an officer by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council shall be retained for 30 years; provide (PUB SAF-7th) Clark-147th

HB 387 – Property; liens in favor of private, nonprofit, volunteer fire departments for instances of fire services that are requested by property owners; provide (JUDY-53rd) Lumsden-12th

HB 226 – Courts; additional penalty for violation of traffic laws or ordinances under Joshua’s Law; extend sunset (PUB SAF-17th) LaRiccia-169th

HB 279 – Revenue and taxation; certain law enforcement officers may use department vehicles relative to certain approved off-duty jobs; provide (Substitute)(PUB SAF-29th) Lumsden-12th

HB 300 – Health; redesignate continuing care retirement communities as life plan communities (H&HS-46th)Smith-133rd

HB 471 – Motor vehicles; implied consent notices; revise (PUB SAF-29th) Sainz-180th

HB 514 – Georgia Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission; create (Substitute)(H&HS-13th) Tanner-9th

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR – LEGISLATIVE DAY 34

Modified Open Rule

HR 368 – Interstate 14; construction; urge (Trans-Smith-134th)

SB 97 – Self-Service Storage Facilities; limit fees charged and collected by self-service storage facilities for the late payment of rent; provide (Judy-Newton-123rd) Stone-23rd

SB 132 – Insurance; modernization and updates; provide; Commission on the Georgia Health Insurance Risk Pool; repeal Article 2 of Chapter 29A (Substitute)(Ins-Smith-134th) Harbin-16th

SB 133 – Insurance; modernization and updates; provide (Substitute)(Ins-Smith-134th) Harbin-16th

Modified Structured Rule

SB 17 – Public Utilities and Public Transportation; authorize telephone cooperatives and their broadband affiliates; provide broadband services (EU&T-Harrell-106th) Gooch-51st

SB 55 – Retirement; method and manner by which a member of the Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia may purchase an annuity; revise (Ret-Lumsden-12th) Hufstetler-52nd

SB 121 – Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Data Base; length of time prescription information is retained from two years to five years; increase (JudyNC-Newton-123rd) Walker III-20th

Senate Bill 106 by State Senator Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) passed out of the House Special Committee on Access to Health Care, according to AccessWDUN.

Legislation authorizing Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to pursue a Medicaid waiver was approved by a state House panel Wednesday, potentially giving Georgia more flexibility to use federal funding but also capping who’s covered by an expansion.

The bill allows Kemp to pursue waiver options and gives his office latitude in what the waiver ultimately asks. It caps eligibility for any Medicaid expansion to those at or below the federal poverty level, limiting the number of Georgians who could be covered.

Any waiver plan would need to be approved by the federal government.

Republican Sen. Blake Tillery, who is carrying the legislation for Kemp, said it was a “very simple bill … that could have far reaching effects for health care in Georgia.”

The bill passed the Senate in February, and could soon move to the House floor for a vote.

The Senate Finance Committee yesterday passed legislation reforming the Certificate of Need program for health care facilities, according to Georgia Health News.

The CON overhaul effort was revived in a hearing Wednesday, when some provisions of the unsuccessful bill were attached to different House legislation, and the new bill was adopted by the Senate Finance Committee.

However, the provisions in the new CON bill are considered weaker than those in the original House measure.

The newly reworked House Bill 186 contains some proposals from the original House Bill 198. It would limit the rival health care entities that can object to a CON application to those within a 35-mile radius of the proposed project. Currently there are no geographic restrictions on who can object.

But the amended bill does not contain any provision allowing a sports medicine and training center in Alpharetta, a project that has many high-profile backers in the sports world. And the bill would not let hospital organizations establish standalone ERs, or allow for cardiology ambulatory surgery centers.

State Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin), the lead sponsor of the stronger House bill that was defeated, said Wednesday that ‘we’re trending in the right direction.’’

House Bill 545 addressing lawsuits alleging nuisances, passed out of the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, according to The Brunswick News.

On the face of it, House Bill 545 would appear to exist for the purpose of limiting grounds for lawsuits against agricultural operations, though the bill’s lead sponsor, state Rep. Tom McCall, R-Elberton, says that’s not exactly correct.

“If any of y’all are worried about this preventing lawsuits, the trial lawyers (association) are fine with this,” McCall said at the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee hearing. “I have worked with more lawyers on this than anything I can think of, but when the trial lawyers association says that they are fine with this bill, then that ought to say to you that they are not worried about being able to sue somebody for a nuisance.”

This issue comes down to which property owners can sue over an agricultural nuisance — noise, odor, light pollution, for example — and when can those people do it? McCall said the legislation is about protecting farms, farmers and their legacy. He said that if someone’s not going about their business in the right way, they can still be sued for actions that are negligent, illegal and improper.

State Sen. Larry Walker III, R-Perry, said that his feelings about the bill make the situation difficult for him, because of his respect for McCall and friendship with proponents of the legislation.

“Our current statute, the way it’s written now, protects the existing land, existing farm, against changes coming in and on the surrounding property,” Walker said. “In other words, the farm’s there first, a subdivision moves in next door, it provides protection for the existing farm against nuisance lawsuits from changes on the surrounding property.”

Walker said the bill changes all that significantly, changes the whole philosophy of what they’re doing, in allowing the existing farm, if it’s been around a year or more, to significantly change their operation in terms of new technology or the like, and remain immune from a nuisance lawsuit. He said the fear is that some operations could put in a large hydroponic greenhouse with growlights that cause problems for neighboring properties.

The Augusta Chronicle looks at voter turnout in two Augusta-area elections this week.

“Overall, the turnout was typical for an ‘off-year’ special election,” said Nancy Gay, executive director for Columbia County Board of Elections. “While our early voting numbers were impressive, overall we finished with 6.27 turnout, which is just a little higher than four years ago for the same election.”

In 2015, 5.6 percent of the county’s then-77,676 voters turned out to vote in a referendum on whether to reimpose the school system’s one percent special purpose local option sales tax for education. In the Tuesday election, 6,213 of what are now 99,084 registered voters cast ballots, with 83.7 percent in approval of the E-SPLOST. Almost 3,000 voted early, either in person or by mail.

In Augusta, Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said low turnout of 5.9 percent was not unusual for a special election.

In the contest, retired educator Varden “Bobby” Williams avoided a runoff with one of three opponents by capturing 50.87 percent of the 976 ballots cast in the election.

Bailey, who predicted a runoff, said for a single candidate to win outright with more than 50 percent of votes was unusual.

Duluth City Council member Kirkland Carden announced he will run for the County Commission District 1 seat held by Republican Jace Brooks, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Carden revealed on Facebook over the weekend he will run as a Democrat for the county commission District 1 seat currently held by Commissioner Jace Brooks in 2020. A new cover photo revealing his bid for a commission seat was posted on his old city council campaign Facebook page Saturday and a formal announcement was posted the following day.

“I have decided to run for the Board of Commissioners because I care about the future of our community,” Carden said in the statement. “We live in a time of great cha”nge both socially and in terms of technology and politics. In order for Gwinnett to continue to flourish in the future we have to change and adapt with the time.”

Although qualifying for the 2020 county elections is a year away, Democrats have been positioning themselves to run for commission seats. Former state Sen. Curt Thompson is running for commission chairman while Jasper Watkins III and Derrick Wilson have announced candidacies for the District 3 seat currently held by Commissioner Tommy Hunter.

Commission District 1 includes parts of Duluth, Suwanee and Sugar Hill.

Stacey Abrams

The Emory Wheel reports that a student organization chose Democrat Stacey Abrams to speak on campus on May 9th.

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has been selected to speak at Emory’s Class Day on May 9, according to a March 18 University press release. The student-organized event for graduating seniors will include a presentation of the Boisfeuillet Jones Medals and other senior awards.

Abrams spoke at an Emory Law School Democrats meeting in April 2018 where she expressed disapproval over the University’s annexation into Atlanta, citing problems with school district zoning, the Wheel previously reported.

Abrams’s group Fair Fight Action has come into question for its spending, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

It’s a dramatic rise often fueled by the promotional spending of Fair Fight Action, a nonprofit she founded to advance voting rights. The organization has paid for advertisements featuring Abrams and some of her travel and organized national watch parties when she delivered the Democratic rebuttal to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union.

But spending by Fair Fight Action, which is staffed by former Abrams campaign aides, could prompt questions about whether the nonprofit is inappropriately supporting her political ambitions. Although there is no proof of any illegal activity, some of the organization’s expenditures could pose a problem if Abrams follows through with her pledge to run for office again.

“There is nothing wrong with a nonprofit promoting its charismatic founder,” said Adav Noti, a former Federal Election Commission attorney who now works for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. But, he added, that “if we later learn that the spending was to lay the groundwork for a campaign, retrospectively that could be a violation.”

On Wednesday, a GOP-affiliated group called the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, or FACT, filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service. The group points to roughly $100,000 worth of Facebook ads featuring Abrams, an advertisement for a “Stacey Abrams Fundraiser” that featured Fair Fight Action’s logo, travel for Abrams’ post-election “thank you” tour of Georgia and a professionally produced “highlight reel” of Abrams footage on the group’s website.

The complaint argues Fair Fight Action is supporting Abrams’ political ambitions, not advocating for voting rights. That’s a violation of tax law that forbids political 501(c)(4) nonprofits from providing a “private benefit” to a particular person or group, according to a copy of the complaint provided to The Associated Press. The group typically files ethics complaints against Democrats but has also targeted some Republicans, including North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

20
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 20, 2019

Juno Clayton

Juno is a young female Shepherd mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Clayton County Humane Society in Jonesboro, GA.

Chance Clayton

Chance is a young male Labrador Retriever and Great Dane mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Clayton County Humane Society in Jonesboro, GA.

Hocus Clayton

Hocus is a young male Terrier and Chihuahua mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Clayton County Humane Society in Jonesboro, GA.

20
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 20, 2019

March 20, 1854 saw a meeting in Ripon, Wisconsin that is generally considered the founding of the Republican Party.

[F]ormer members of the Whig Party meet to establish a new party to oppose the spread of slavery into the western territories. The Whig Party, which was formed in 1834 to oppose the “tyranny” of President Andrew Jackson, had shown itself incapable of coping with the national crisis over slavery.

The Civil War firmly identified the Republican Party as the party of the victorious North, and after the war the Republican-dominated Congress forced a “Radical Reconstruction” policy on the South, which saw the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution and the granting of equal rights to all Southern citizens. By 1876, the Republican Party had lost control of the South, but it continued to dominate the presidency until the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.

The Georgia State Capitol was completed on March 20, 1889. Ron Daniels, the Poet Laureate of GaPundit, has written an ode to the Gold Dome:

Well I guess it was back in eighteen eighty nine,
When a couple of boys in Dahlonega went down in a mine,
And found it was slap full of gold.
Then these folks in Atlanta wanted to keep growing,
So they told the legislature the Capitol had to be going,
And so those politicos said “Good Bye Milledgeville! Our attorneys will be in touch.”
Now the Capitol had been moved before,
Savannah, Louisville, and more,
They’d even moved it down to Macon on an overloaded poultry wagon.
Atlanta sure wanted to lend the State a hand,
Giving the legislature plenty of land,
Hammers started swingin’ and, boy howdy, they sure were buildin’.
The architect of this here building was feeling bold,
Covering the building’s dome all in beautiful gold,
Leaving the gold mine empty, and leaving someone with the shaft.
Well, Governor Gordon was slap full of delight,
When his eyes did recognize that impressive sight,
On March 20, 1889, a completed Capitol building.
He grabbed the keys and a few words he spoke,
The words he uttered were no joke,
“Boys when you’re hot, you’re hot! Now thanks a lot.”

On March 20, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation authorizing a referendum to amend the Georgia Constitution and make the Public Service Commission a Constitutional agency.

On March 20, 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson notified Alabama Governor George Wallace that Alabama National Guard troops would be called up to maintain order during a third march from Selma to Montgomery. Within five months, the Voting Rights Act would be passed by Congress.

On March 20, 1970, Governor Lester Maddox signed legislation designating the Brown Thrasher the official state bird, and the Bobwhite Quail the official state game bird.

On March 20, 1982, this song was #1 on the Billboard charts:

Happy birthday to Georgia-born actress Holly Hunter (1958) and film director/actor Spike Lee (1957).

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp recognized this week as Agriculture Awareness Week.Continue Reading..

19
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 19, 2019

Finn Gwinnett

Finn is a 6-year old male Boxer who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Harry Bailey Gwinnett

Harry Bailey is a 9-year old male Terrier mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Stoney Gwinnett

Stoney is a 2-3 year old female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

She reminds me of my dog Finster, who has a brindle coat, and one floppy ear and one sticky-uppy.

19
Mar

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

On February 19, 1807, Aaron Burr was arrested in the Mississippi Territory, in what is now Alabama. Burr had served as Vice President during the first term of President Thomas Jefferson, leaving the administration after the 1804 election; later Jefferson issued a warrant accusing Burr of treason. Burr spent part of his time on the lam in Georgia.

On March 19, 1916, the first American military air combat mission began in support of an incursion into Mexico under President Woodrow Wilson.

On March 19, 1947, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in Thompson v. Talmadge on the “Three Governors Affair.” The Court held that the Georgia General Assembly lacked authority to elect Herman Talmadge as Governor, and that because of the death of Eugene Talmadge before he took office, no successor to Gov. Ellis Arnall was in place until the newly-elected Lt. Governor Melvin Johnson was sworn in and became Governor, succeeding Arnall.

On March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush announced the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in order to depose Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and eliminate the country’s ability to produce weapons of mass destruction.

March 19, 2014 was “Bo Callaway Day” in Georgia and flags flew at half-staff in honor of the late Georgia Congressman and former Secretary of the Army.

“Few individuals throughout our history can match the legacy that Bo Callaway left on Georgia politics,” Deal said. “Bo blazed a trail that led to the dramatic growth of the Georgia GOP, which went from virtually nonexistent when he ran for governor to holding every statewide elected office today. Bo stood up for what he believed in even when the odds and the political system were stacked against him. Georgians are all the better for it. Sandra and I send our deepest sympathies to the Callaway family.”

March 19, 2014 was also the first time I wrote about the lack of an “Official State Dog of Georgia.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

HOUSE RESOLUTION 135 by State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) passed the House, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) sponsored House Resolution 135, which encourages Congress to eliminate the five-month waiting period for disability insurance benefits after patients are diagnosed with ALS, which is currently federal law.

ALS, which is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive and fatal neuromuscular disease. Each year, Efstration said, approximately 6,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with ALS, and most patients die within two to five years of receiving a diagnosis.

“I am proud of this bipartisan measure to help those suffering from ALS,” Efstration said. “After diagnosis, patients and their families often face immediate financial strain, made worse by an arbitrary five-month waiting period for disability support.”

HR 135 passed the Georgia House by a vote of 166 to 0, something conservative pundit Todd Rehm said was unique.

“I didn’t think there was such a thing as unanimous passage by the House any more, but HR 135 by Chuck Efstration…passed without opposition,” Rehm said.

Whitfield County voters go to the polls today to decide a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

A current four-year SPLOST expires on June 30 and is on track to collect $64 million. The proposed SPLOST if approved would begin collections on July 1.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A SPLOST is a 1 percent sales tax on most goods purchased in the county and can only fund certain defined projects and items, it can’t be used for general governmental operations.

Supporters say a SPLOST helps keep property taxes down while also being partly paid by individuals from out of town who stop and shop in the county or stay in the county for an extended period of time, such as for a softball tournament or other event, or to visit. The pro-SPLOST Citizens for SPLOST, spearheaded by the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, also believes the 1 percent tax is valuable because of the quality of life projects it would fund that could help lure young professionals to live here, and contends it would continue what the chamber sees as an “undeniable” momentum “with new restaurants, shops and things to do,” as chamber president and CEO Rob Bradham has written.

Opponents, which include a group called Engaged Citizens for Georgia, say many of the SPLOST projects are not needed, that the argument for out-of-town participation has been overstated and that a county that has seen its median household income decline dramatically in recent years can’t afford to have $100 million or a large part of it taken out of its citizens’ pockets through another government tax. They say a SPLOST does not necessarily mean property taxes will stay the same or decrease, as larger buildings often require additional upkeep.

Columbia County votes today on a SPLOST referendum, and some Augusta voters will go to the polls to choose a new Augusta Commissioner, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Advance voting was heavy in Columbia County, with 2,522 people casting early ballots in the referendum. Last week, Board of Elections Executive Director Nancy Gay called the advance turnout “outstanding” for a special election.

In Richmond County, 125 people voted early in the District 5 election out of 16,572 registered voters, according to Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey. She said she expects overall turnout in the single-district election to be between 8 and 12 percent.

Gwinnett County votes today on the MARTA referendum, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, voters will go to their local polling locations to cast ballots for or against a contract between MARTA and Gwinnett County. Passage of the MARTA referendum would mean the regional transit system would take over the provision of transit in the county and the levying of a 1 percent sales tax in the county to pay for that service.

Gwinnett’s Democratic legislators, who have endorsed passage of the referendum, held a press conference in Atlanta on Monday to urge voters to show up to the polls en masse on election day.

County records show 32,182 people cast advance in person ballots at the elections office or one of seven satellite early voting sites from Feb. 25 to this past Friday.

After the release of a digital ad featuring former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Saturday, the Go Gwinnett pro-MARTA group began transitioning to a “get out the vote” mode focused on canvasing, text messaging and calling voters to encourage them to head to the polls on Tuesday.

“We left it all on the field,” Go Gwinnett spokesman Brian Robinson said.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of votes, significantly more votes on Tuesday than there has been in early voting,” Robinson said. “As I’ve always said — I don’t get too cute about this, about what the chances are — ‘Small electorate is good for the ‘Nos’, big electorate is good for the ‘Yes’ (camp).’”

According to GeorgiaVotes.com, data from the Secretary of State’s office showed 60 percent of the early voters were white and 75 percent of the voters were 50 or older. Newton said that works to the anti-MARTA coalition’s side.

Cave Springs voters will decide today whether to allow liquor sales, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Plans for a micro-distillery downtown hang in the balance.

Elections Supervisor Judy Dickinson, who’s also the clerk, said she’s expecting a relatively strong turnout at the precinct in City Hall, 10 Georgia Ave.

There are four questions on the ballot.

One asks about sales of distilled spirits by the drink. One asks about package sales. Those each cover Monday through Saturday. The other two questions ask about liquor by the drink and by the package on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. in the afternoon to 11:30 p.m. at night.

Only residents of Cave Spring are eligible to vote in today’s election. Dickinson said there are just over 600 on the active list.

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 515 CLOB

9:00 AM SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT 310 CLOB

9:30 AM SENATE VETERANS, MILITARY & HOMELAND SECURITY 307 CLOB

10:00 AM HOUSE Academic Support Subcommittee of Education 506 CLOB

11:00 AM SENATE FINANCE- INCOME TAX SUBCOMMITTEE 318 CLOB

11:00 AM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary 132 CAP

12:00 PM HOUSE REGULATED INDUSTRIES – Upon Adjournment 506 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE FINANCE- PUBLIC POLICY SUBCOMMITTEE 122 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE ETHICS 307 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS MEZZ 1

2:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 450 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 606 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY (CIVIL) 132 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Finance and Policy 133 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Special Subcommittee of Regulated Industries 506 CLOB

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

2:30 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT 515 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE BANKING & FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS MEZZ 1

3:00 PM HOUSE ENERGY, UTILITIES AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS 403 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

5:00 PM SENATE SPECIAL JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

Governor Brian Kemp appointed Rebecca Jackson as Solicitor General of the State Court of Carroll County.

The Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission voted to hire David Emadi, Douglas County Chief Assistant District Attorney, as its new Executive Director, according to the AJC.

Emadi, who also worked briefly as an aide to Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, was offered a $125,000 salary by the commission, which voted 3-1 to hire him.

Commission Chairman Jake Evans said Emadi’s experience as both a prosecutor and former legislative aide helped persuade the panel to offer him the job.

“We wanted some energy, we wanted some experience both on the legislative side and the prosecutorial side,” Evans said. “David is going to come in with that youth, that energy, that inspiration.”

House Bill 481, the fetal heartbeat bill, passed out of the Senate Science & Technology Committee, chaired by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), according to The Brunswick News.

House Bill 481 would confer legal personhood on a fetus with a detectable heartbeat, essentially outlawing most abortions in Georgia after six weeks. The bill also provides for fetuses to count as people in population surveys and as dependents for tax purposes. Further, health records would be made available to the local district attorney where the abortion occurs or where the woman resides, among other specifications.

H.B. 481 went to the Senate Science and Technology Committee, which is one of the smallest committees in the chamber. With Committee Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, not voting, Republican leadership used the power of the lieutenant governor to put a thumb on the scales. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan subsequently appointed state Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, to the panel as an ex-officio member to game the vote, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in its Morning Jolt post Wednesday.

The vote Monday came after a marathon public comment session Thursday that lasted around four hours. Jordan tweeted, following the meeting, to expect the Senate to take up H.B. 481 before the end of the week.

Should the bill make it all the way, a court challenge is expected. Friday, a federal district judge in Kentucky halted the enforcement of that state’s six-week abortion law the day the governor signed it, writing in the temporary restraining order that the plaintiffs demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their 14th Amendment due process challenge to the law, which passed the legislature as Senate Bill 9.

From the Gainesville Times:

The Senate Science and Technology Committee approved the bill on a party-line vote of 3 to 2. The legislation, backed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, has passed the House and now could go quickly to the floor of the GOP-controlled Senate.

Republicans are moving to enact tough abortion restrictions in the state legislatures they control, even though they’re certain to be challenged in court. Similar “heartbeat” bills just passed the Ohio Senate and the Tennessee House, and are advancing in Mississippi, Florida, and South Carolina.

They’re hoping the U.S. Supreme Court — with new Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — will uphold state laws that undermine the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling establishing the right of women to abort a fetus that can’t survive outside the womb.

The Georgia bill makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest — but only when the woman files a police report first — and to save the life of the mother. It also allows for abortions when a fetus is determined to be not compatible with life due to serious medical issues.

House Bill 501, the oyster industry bill, passed the Georgia Senate yesterday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

With a vote of 35-19 in the senate, H.B. 501, which passed the house last week, now goes to the desk of Gov. Brian Kemp.

The bill sets up a framework for a fledgling oyster farming industry, giving the state Department of Natural Resources final say in when oysters can be harvested and where oyster seed comes from. Neighboring states already farm oysters year-round but in Georgia, oysters are wild harvested only. The bill also provides for a lottery to allot leases to qualified farmers.

From The Brunswick News:

Barring an unlikely veto by the governor, Georgia will have a new coastal industry by this time next year, despite continued opposition by people who would be expected to grow that industry. The state Senate approved House Bill 501 on oyster mariculture Monday by a vote of 35-19. That comes a little more than two weeks since the chamber passed identical legislation, Senate Bill 182, by a 54-0 vote.

The growth in opposition is thanks to an alliance of those in the seafood industry and environmental advocates who argued for more specifics and less regulation, with a major sticking point being year-round harvesting.

Ligon added that it’s prudent to have some extra oversight at the beginning of an industry to make sure everything’s done right, and once oyster mariculture gets underway, legislators and regulators can revisit the issue to see what needs adjusting.

“There will be an advisory committee where members of the industry will be on that committee, they will provide input to the department on rulemaking,” Ligon said. “This has been very productive for our shrimping and crab and finfish industries in Georgia, so let’s follow that same model with this, let’s see how it goes. If we need to make adjustments, we will, but let’s err on the side of public safety.”

House Bill 217 by State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) passed the Senate Health & Human Services Committee yesterday, according to AccessWDUN.

Programs that give drug users clean needles in exchange for used ones would become legal in Georgia, under a proposal that cleared a Senate committee Monday.

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services unanimously approved the bill, sending it to the full Senate. The measure has already cleared the state House.

Republican Rep. Houston Gaines of Athens, the bill’s author, said the proposal will “save lives and money.”

“We don’t want anyone, including those who inject drugs, to contract these infections,” Gaines said, adding that President Donald Trump has said dealing with the HIV epidemic is a priority in his State of the Union speech.

State Rep. John LaHood (R-Valdosta) introduced House Resolution 533, calling for the creation of a House Study Committee on Innovative Financial Options for Senior Living, according to the Albany Herald.

“Rep. John LaHood’s resolution addresses a big worry,” Vicki Vaughn Johnson, chairwoman of the Georgia Council on Aging, said. “Currently, there’s not enough affordable housing for our seniors. But what’s going to happen in the not-too-distant future, when Georgia’s 65-and-older population is expected to double?”

The resolution from LaHood, the secretary of the House Health and Human Services Committee, calls for the creation of the House Study Committee on Innovative Financial Options for Senior Living. The committee would comprise five House members selected by Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and have until December to complete its work.

LaHood’s resolution states that the problem is a lack of affordable independent living options for seniors who require services and can no longer live in their homes.

Georgia’s 65-and-over population was 1.3 million in 2016 and is expected to rise to 2.9 million by 2040, with the greatest rate of growth in the 85-and-older category, LaHood’s resolution said.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton sat for a Q&A with Georgia Trend.

GT: How do those work experiences inform your work at the state Supreme Court?

Melton: I learned to practice law in the attorney general’s office. I learned how to go into the office, close the door, get the books out and study. There’s no substitute for that. That foundation was there.
I went to the governor’s office not really knowing much about the governor personally. So there was some uncertainty, but that was too much of an opportunity to pass up. That was an opportunity to sit at the table when decisions impacting the state were being discussed, to learn and to grow and to have input in that area. Turns out it was a great move. I enjoyed working with the governor and enjoyed working with the staff he put together.

GT: Is the court political?

Melton: There is some aspect of that. Of course what we try to do is to take the politics out of what we do. We run for re-election, and there is some awareness that we have to get votes to keep our job; but we use that awareness as a calling, as a charge to make sure that even though we have to get votes to keep our jobs, we don’t want to make decisions on that basis. We work hard not to be motivated by politics or personal philosophies or anything along those lines. Just as important, we work hard to convince the bar and the public that we are really trying to call balls and strikes fairly and squarely.

The Muscogee County School District has hired its first police chief, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

In a 8-0 vote during Monday night’s monthly meeting, the nine-member board confirmed Superintendent David Lewis’ choice to lead MCSD’s new agency: Grep Arp, the chief investigator for the district attorney’s office in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit for the past six years.

The MCSD police chief’s position has been vacant for the 10 months since the board established the police agency.

In May 2018, the board upgraded Lewis’ recommendation to establish the police agency. He had recommended boosting MCSD’s current security staff from 17 part-time officers to 10 full-time officers, including one for each high school, seven part-time officers and three additional positions. The board’s majority expanded that recommendation, calling for a full-time officer at each middle school. So the board approved adding $1,692,467, including $892,467 in start-up costs, to MCSD’s current $2,133,871 budget for security.

But no officers have been hired because the department’s police chief hadn’t been hired, Tessin said.