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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 25, 2018

On January 25, 1776, the Continental Congress authorized the first national momument commemorating the Revolutionary War.

Emory Window 628

On January 25, 1915, a charter was issued in DeKalb County Superior Court to Emory University.

On January 25, 1943, Georgia Gov. Ellis Arnall signed legislation eliminating the governor as an ex officio member of the State Board of Education, State Board of Regents, Department of Public Safety, and State Housing Authority, as part of a proposal to reduce the Governor’s power over education.

On January 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy held the first live televised press conference.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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“Let Trump Be Trump” authors Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie will appear at the Marietta Fish Market on February 15, 2018 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM in support of their New York Times best-selling book. General Admission tickets are free. For $25 you can get a signed book and $45 gets you a book and photo op.

Governor Nathan Deal appointed John Herbert Cranford Jr. as the new District Attorney for the Coweta Judicial Circuit. The Coweta Circuit comprises Carroll, Troup, Meriwether. & Coweta Counties. Pete Skandalakis retired as Coweta Circuit District Attorney effective January 4, and Monique Kirby served as interim D.A. until Cranford was appointed.

The Senate and House convene today at 10 AM for Legislative Day 10.




11:00 AM House Tags and Titles Sub of Motor Veh. 510 CLOB – Upon Adjournment











Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle is supporting a move from electronic ballots to some form of paper ballots.

“I think it is important that we have a paper ballot trail that ensures that accuracy is there, and that there are no games that potentially could be played,” Cagle, a Republican candidate for governor, said in an interview with WABE.

Georgia is one of just a few states that exclusively use voting machines without a paper trail. Cybersecurity experts agree it exposes the system to potential doubt, hacks and glitches.

“I’m super excited to have Lt. Gov. Cagle on board,” said Republican Rep. Scot Turner, the lead sponsor of a bi-partisan bill in the House that would require the state move to a paper ballot system, which could be audited.

State Sen. Bruce Thompson, chair of that chamber’s Science and Technology Committee, will sponsor a bill similar to Turner’s.

“It will not be identical to the one that’s in the House, but very, very similar,” Thompson said.

Cagle’s support of Thompson’s legislation means it’s likely to pass the Senate.

“The fact of the matter is our elections are very, very vulnerable,” Thompson said.  “This is our state, we should be able to protect our voting and our process.”

Rome City Commission is urging legislators to ensure that funding source created for a specific purpose are actually dedicated to funding that purpose.

The Rome City Commission is getting behind a push to force state lawmakers to spend specialized fees on the programs they were intended to fund.

Levies such as the $1 tire replacement fee — meant to clean up illegal tire dumps — and super-speeder fines for trauma centers, are often diverted to pay for other services.

Mayor Jamie Doss said the board intends to formally urge passage of House Resolution 158, which would ban the practice except in the case of a financial emergency. The Georgia Municipal Association is asking all its members to do the same.

“It sets up a vote on a constitutional amendment, so fees earmarked for a specific purpose are used for that purpose and don’t go into the general fund,” Doss said.

Rome-based Coosa River Basin Initiative and other members of the Georgia Water Coalition also have renewed their support of the legislation. HR 158 was introduced last year by Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, and co-sponsored by Republican Rep. John Meadows of Calhoun.

It was poised to pass the House in 2017 but supporters couldn’t round up the 120 votes needed by Crossover Day, the deadline for bills to get through at least one chamber or be tabled. This is the final year of the two-year session, however, and if it doesn’t pass this time it will die.

The Senate Rules Committee passed Senate Resolution 587 by Sen. Josh McKoon, which would create a referendum to Amend the Georgia Constitution and designate English as the official language of state government.

By a non-unanimous voice vote, the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday approved Sen. Joshua McKoon’s proposed constitutional amendment to name English as the state’s “official language.” State law already contains that designation, but McKoon, a Columbus Republican, said the law is not being properly enforced and the issue needs to be cleared up by revising the state constitution.

More than 30 states have designated English as their first language, McKoon has said. But only about a third of those states have amended their constitutions to make English their official language.

Constitutional amendments require two-thirds approval in both chambers and voters’ approval in a statewide election.

An identical measure passed the Senate in 2016 but died in the House.

The Georgia State House Medical Cannabis Working Group voted to recommend passage of House Bill 645 by Working Group Chair Allen Peake (R-Macon). From the Macon Telegraph:

Macon Republican state Rep. Allen Peake wants the state to issue up to two licenses to grow cannabis and manufacture a liquid from it. State law allows Georgians who have a doctor’s recommendation and a state medical marijuana card to possess that oil for the treatment of symptoms of any of several diagnoses, including late-stage cancer.

“What we’ve attempted to do in House Bill 645 is do what 30 other states have done, which is enact infrastructure for growing of marijuana for medicinal purposes only,” said Peake, so that the roughly 3,400 Georgians who are registered can get it.

In a unanimous voice vote on Wednesday, the House Medical Cannabis Working Group sent HB 645 to the state House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. Hearings and approval from that committee would be the next step toward a full floor vote.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, has endorsed medical marijuana cultivation. But this January, ahead of the session, he recommended a federal strategy.

“I’ve been supportive of the initiatives that have gotten us to this point,” Ralston said, “but at some point we have to sort of confront the realty that as long as federal law is what federal law is, that there’s only so far that we can go. So I’ve encouraged the proponents of medical cannabis oil that maybe it’s time that the emphasis be put on Washington as opposed to the state level and hopefully they will do that.”

House Bill 731 by State Rep. Debbie Buckner (D-Junction City) would exempt feminine hygiene products from sales taxes.

The advocacy group, Georgia Women (And Those Who Stand With Us), estimates that the tax paid on those products adds up to $10 million a year.

The bill spells out some of the products to be exempted as “tampons, menstrual pads” and others.

The legislation, House Bill 731, was proposed by Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City. Four of her first five co-sponsors are Republicans, members of the majority party in the General Assembly.

Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said he signed on because the products should have been exempted years ago along with groceries and medical devices.

“I think there’s a valid argument that it’s a medical necessity,” Peake said. “There were some constituents of mine who approached me about it, some ladies in my area. The more they explained to me, the more it made sense.”

State legislators are working on a transit bill for Metro Atlanta.

The next “big lift” for the state in terms of transportation is mobility and transit, said state Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, speaking to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s State of Transportation breakfast Wednesday.

Tanner is chairing the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding, a closely watched panel put together by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, last year. Ralston has cited a strong economic development argument for efficient transit and possibly state funding toward it.

Tanner said in the next few weeks, he anticipates rollout of major legislation for a regional governance structure for transit, along with “innovative ideas” for local governments to raise money in new ways, and new funding options from the state. Now, the state spends vanishingly little on transit, save a $75 million in bonded projects awarded in 2016.

“I’m also hopeful that we can for the first time in a long time have a significant expansion of our rail service into some other counties in the state,” Tanner said.

The transit commission will work for at least two years, but this session they’ll focus on metro Atlanta, rather than other areas.

From the Dalton Daily Citizen:

“The state traditionally has been probably about fifth lowest in the country for funding transit services in metro areas. We want to change that,” Tanner said to elected officials and business leaders who gathered Wednesday for a panel discussion sponsored by the Georgia Transportation Alliance, which is affiliated with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

The north Georgia lawmaker said a proposal will likely include bonds to pay for transit projects, as well as a push for better coordination among existing transit operators so riders can have a smoother experience.

“One of the things that is important for us is to get away from is silo mentality,” he said, referring to the 11 separate transit systems that exist now in 13 metro Atlanta counties.

But Tanner was mum on other details Wednesday, such as what the cost would be to expand transit and make other improvements.

State Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) is introducing legislation to limit costs borne for construction at Plant Vogtle.

State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, a Republican, introduced what he calls a “reasonable” solution to ease some of the burden customers have felt from the troubled project, which has been delayed by at least five years and could potentially double its initially estimated cost of $14.3 billion.

“This is a very fair bill,” Hufstetler said. “It doesn’t stop Plant Vogtle. It doesn’t stop the overruns from being paid. But it does set some limits on it. I’m hoping that it will be looked at reasonably.”

The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 355, would cause Georgia Power to change the formula it uses to bill customers, which builds in an automatic profit, Hufstetler said. Ratepayers would continue to pay for cost overages, but none of that money could be used to create a profit for the energy company.

“The way things are set up now, the more (Georgia Power is) over budget, the more profit they make,” he said.

Seventeen Georgia Mayors visited the White House to discuss infrastructure, urban development and the opioid crisis.

The mayors of 17 Georgia cities, including Atlanta, Sandy Springs and Loganville were on hand for various outreach events with Trump administration officials throughout the day.

It all culminated in a 15-minute speech from President Donald Trump in the East Wing. Trump previewed his administration’s upcoming infrastructure plan and said his wanted to empower local governments.

“You bring safety, prosperity and hope to our citizens,” Trump said. “My administration will always support local government and listen to leaders who know their communities best, and you know your community best.”

Metro Atlanta mayors who were slated to attend the day’s events included: Boyd Austin of Dallas; Michael Bodker of Johns Creek; Steven Edwards of Sugar Hill; Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta; Rey Martinez of Loganville; Rusty Paul of Sandy Springs; Vanessa Rogers-Fleisch of Peachtree City; and Vince Williams of Union City.

Cherokee County Superior Court Chief Judge Jackson Harris announced he will not run for reelection this year.

Harris, who sat down with Patch Wednesday afternoon in his office at the Cherokee County Justice Center, said he felt it was time to focus on traveling, visiting the country’s National Parks and spending time with his children.

““I knew I would be coming up for re-election this year, so I’ve been pondering the decision,” Judge Harris said when asked why he chose to step aside. “I guess it just came together recently…that this is probably a better path for me. I’ve enjoyed my time here.”

“Everybody who comes to court is here because they really don’t want to be and I think if we treat them all as individuals and not just case numbers, then we are doing our job,” he said. “I’ve also enjoyed working with the people here in the county and in the courthouse.”

One of the most striking changes Harris reflected on is how Cherokee has transitioned from a “rural/suburban court to a suburban/urban court,” a movement that has no signs of slowing down due to the growth. That change, he added, doesn’t particularly show up in the number of cases coming through the system, but in the type of crimes judges and prosecutors are tasked with adjudicating.

Rhonda Barnes, who serves as Executive Legal Assistant to Gov. Deal, will run for Spalding County Clerk of Superior Court.

She’s seeking a post vacated by Marcia Norris, who was suspended by Deal after a state probe found she was “willfully not fulfilling her duties.”

Barnes is a familiar figure under the Gold Dome. She’s been an executive legal assistant for the governor’s office since 2005, and has been the go-to for organizing and processing executive orders and coordinating key records in the office for all of Deal’s tenure.

She kept a tally of the paperwork she’s handled in 13 years in the office: More than 200 judicial appointments, nearly 6,000 executive orders and nearly 1,000 Open Records Act requests handled expeditiously.

Barnes said she’ll bring those skills to the clerk’s office, with plans to clear lengthy backlogs and modernize the county’s outdated computer systems.

“I truly believe that the experience I have gained while working in the Office of the Governor has prepared me to operate the clerk’s office in a manner that will make my friends, family and the citizens of Spalding County proud,” she said in a statement.

Coastal Georgia waters are now closed to shrimping because of low temperatures.

The shrimp harvest means a lot for the economy of the Golden Isles and Coastal Georgia, but the recent record cold had its impact on area shrimp, so officials ordered federal waters off the Georgia coast closed for shrimp trawling.

The state Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division sent out a notice late Tuesday afternoon announcing trawling for brown, pink or white shrimp was no longer allowed in federal waters as of 8:45 a.m. Wednesday.

State waters, which were set to close at the end of 2017, were allowed to remain open through Jan. 15. State waters typically reopen between May 15 and early June, while federal waters tend to remain open all year unless something happens.

The closure, according to officials, was necessary to protect shrimp spawning, and in this case, specifically the white variety.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 24, 2018


Ryder is a young male Labrador Retriever & Doberman Pinscher mix who is available for adoption from Special Needs Rescue, Inc. in Grantville, GA.

This handsome 3-year-old fellow is Ryder who spent another birthday in boarding (this makes three whole birthdays) without a home. But, the good news is that Ryder has been working with a trainer and getting more social, play, and work time.

Ryder loves playing with other dogs, but gets rather rowdy. He’s a pleaser, however, so a dog-experienced, authoritative type could easily guide his interactions. Ryder comes with FREE LIFETIME Training. Adopters can drop in anytime to group classes in Decatur/Kirkwood.

He weighs 50 lbs. and is great with people and good with some same-sized dogs (must correct rowdy play); just no cats! Ryder is crate-, potty-, and obedience trained. He’s neutered, up-to-date on vaccines, and heartworm negative.

WinnieSpecial Needs

Winnie is a young female Terrier & Rat Terrier mix who is available for adoption from Special Needs Rescue, Inc. in Grantville, GA.

Winnie is a lively little Terrier mix who was heartworm-positive in Texas and scheduled to be destroyed. We felt she deserved another chance and brought her here. Now, she is spayed, up-to-date on all vaccinations, and heartworm-free. She is ready to find her forever home. Winnie is about 1 years old.

Winnie gets along well with other dogs and is always up for play or mischief. She is quite intelligent and learns easily. She is housebroken and rather fastidious about her cleanliness. She usually doesn’t like to get dirty. She would make a good companion for older children or adults.


Sally is a female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Special Needs Rescue, Inc. in Grantville, GA.

Sally is an outgoing dog who gets along well with other dogs and mostly ignores cats. She loves to play and romp, and because she sometimes forgets herself and jumps up, she probably would work best in a home with older children.

Sally loves to go for rides in the car and walks. She needs a fenced in yard because she likes to explore. She does not dig nor is she destructive.

Sally would love a family of her own and she promises to be a very nice girl! She could easily go into a home with another dog as a companion.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 24, 2018

Jekyll Island

On January 24, 1915, the first transcontinental telephone call was placed from Jekyll Island, Georgia.

January 24, 1933 saw the first sales tax in Georgia proposed to fund schools and aid for farmers.

On January 24, 1960, Martin Luther King, Jr. became co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, sharing the pulpit with his father.

On January 24, 1987, some 12,000 to 20,000 civil rights protesters marched in Forsyth County, a week after a smaller protest. From the New York Times reporting:

CUMMING, Ga., Jan. 24— This small town in Forsyth County was overwhelmed today by civil rights marchers, members of the Ku Klux Klan and their sympathizers and an army of National Guardsmen and law-enforcement officers who kept the opposing groups separated.

Guarded by what a spokesman for the Governor’s office called ”the greatest show of force the state has ever marshalled,” a crowd of marchers estimated at 12,000 to 20,000 funneled slowly into Cumming, where a week earlier counterdemonstrators, throwing stones and bottles, disrupted an interracial ”walk for brotherhood” prompted by the all-white county’s racist legacy.

As the marchers headed into Cumming, which has a little more than 2,000 people, they found waiting for them, behind a stern-faced force of 2,300 guardsmen and police officers, a group of hundreds if not thousands of white, mainly young, rural men and women, repeatedly shouting, “N***er, go home!”

Whatever the final figure, the march was one of the largest civil rights demonstrations since a 1965 rally that followed a march from Selma, Ala. to Montgomery. The rally, led by Dr. King, drew 25,000 people.

Seriously, read the Times report.

On January 24, 2001, the Georgia House of Representatives approved legislation changing the state flag to the Barnes design with the state seal on a blue background and a banner depicting five previous flags that flew over Georgia.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal spoke to the annual Tourism, Hospitality & Arts Day yesterday.

Industry representatives presented Deal with a check representing the $3.1 billion in state and local tax revenue generated by tourism-related expenditures.

“With a record economic impact of $60.8 billion, Georgia’s tourism industry is a powerful economic development tool for local communities and our state as a whole,” said Deal. “This impact goes well beyond direct spending by visitors, as the industry provides job opportunities for more than 450,200 Georgians, accounting for approximately 10.6 percent of the state’s non-farm workforce. As this industry continues to grow, this success reflects our state’s status as a world-class tourism destination and once again affirms that Georgia is on the minds of travelers around the globe.”

Deal also unveiled the cover of the official 2018 state travel guide, which features Georgia-native Jason Aldean, the reigning Academy of Country Music “Entertainer of the Year.” The cover photo was taken in Macon, Aldean’s hometown, at The Big House Museum where original members of The Allman Brothers Band lived and wrote some of their first songs.

“Being from Georgia is something I’m really proud of,” said Aldean. “A lot of my influences as an artist come from its musical history and it will always be a big part of who I am.”






1:30 PM House Ways & Means Sub Pub. Fin. and Policy 133 CAP







The AJC Political Insider reports that Gov. Deal will likely name Tricia Pridemore to a vacancy on the Georgia Public Service Commission.

“It is my inclination at this point to appoint Tricia Pridemore, but we’re not at that stage of the game yet,” he said. “We’ll wait and see when the actual opening occurs, but that is my inclination.”

The seat will be vacated by Stan Wise, the PSC chair, who said last week in a letter to Deal that he will step down on Feb. 20. The Cobb County resident had previously announced he won’t be seeking re-election in 2018 after serving 23 years on the commission.

Democrat Doug Stoner, a former state senator, is among the likely candidates for the office.

Democrats hope to gain a foothold in the PSC, which regulates Georgia’s utilities, by highlighting the panel’s unanimous vote to allow construction to continue on two nuclear reactors at Georgia Power’s embattled Plant Vogtle despite billions of dollars in cost overruns.

Former Democratic State Senator Vincent Fort is considering a run for Lieutenant Governor.

The Atlanta Democrat said he’s discussing with advisers whether to jump into the contest to succeed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is running for governor.

The statewide race for lieutenant governor would be a much bigger and costlier race for Fort, who struggled to raise cash and gain traction in the mayor’s election.

He also won’t have a clear path. Several Democrats are already in the race, including political newcomer Sarah Riggs Amico, a logistics executive. And three leading Republicans are in the race: Former state Rep. Geoff Duncan, ex-state Sen. Rick Jeffares and state Sen. David Shafer.

And while endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Gov. Roy Barnes helped him raise cash, it couldn’t keep pace with the millions of dollars his rivals collected for their runs. Ditto for his union support, whose force of door-knockers couldn’t overcome other get-out-the-vote machines.

A Fort bid could set up an awkward situation for the party. He’s a critic of another Democrat who is running for a spot on the top of the ticket: Stacey Abrams.

Former Forsyth County Commissioner Brian Tam will run for the State Senate District 27 seat being vacated by the incumbent.

Tam was commissioner of Forsyth County District 2 from 2005-16 and selected as board chairman in 2011.

In February 2016, Tam announced he would not seek re-election for the seat and said the time was a “good stopping point.” On Monday, he said there were still some things he wanted to see happen in the county.

“I think there is work to be done,” Tam said on Monday. “I want to continue the relationship that I built with the Georgia Department of Transportation, as far as getting the necessary funding for our roads in here in Forsyth County, and I want to continue to work toward getting funding for new schools in the county.”

Tam is the second candidate to publicly announce he would run for the seat. Candidate Greg Dolezal — a local businessman who has part of several Forsyth County boards and committees, including planning commission and comprehensive plan steering committee — announced his candidacy for the seat in June 2017.

Democrat Donna McLeod will kickoff her campaign for House District 105, currently represented by Republican Rep. Joyce Chandler.

The Democrat will formally announce she is running again for the seat during the kickoff event, which will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday at Jay’s Caribbean Cuisine, 150 Hurricane Shoals Road in Lawrenceville. McLeod narrowly lost the seat to incumbent Rep. Joyce Chandler, R-Grayson, in 2016 in a race that was close enough that a recount was needed.

State Sen. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, will host the event. State Reps. Brenda Lopez, D-Norcross; Pedro Marin, D-Duluth; Dewey McClain, D-Lawrenceville, and Sam Park, D-Lawrenceville, are expected to address attendees as well, according to the McLeod campaign.

Savannah-area legislators will introduce legislation to rename the Talmadge Bridge.

Rep. Ron Stephens, the dean of Chatham County’s legislative delegation, informed the Savannah City Council on Monday that he intends to introduce legislation to rename the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge after Savannah native and Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low, as requested by the organization.

Stephens’ support for the change comes after Girl Scout representatives informed the mayor and aldermen earlier this month of their intention to ask state legislators to rename the bridge after Low, who started the Girl Scouts with an inaugural gathering of just 18 girls in Savannah. The Girl Scouts adopted the name change as a national policy at their convention in October and officials said the city would benefit financially by attracting Girl Scouts and their families from around world to the national convention and other events in Savannah.

Named for a former state governor and staunch segregationist, the Talmadge Bridge’s renaming was one of the Savannah City Council priorities Stephens and other state lawmakers discussed with the mayor and aldermen at the state capital during the meeting this week.

The city council had submitted its own resolution to rename the bridge The Savannah Bridge as a way to avoid any more controversies surrounding public figures, but Mayor Eddie DeLoach said he is not opposed to Stephens’ proposal.

“The biggest thing we’re doing is trying to get a name change, so if that’s a fallback that will bring someone along I don’t have a problem with it,” DeLoach said. “Anything but Talmadge.”

Cobb County Commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of a resolution to move forward with a sales tax for public safety.

Commissioner Bob Weatherford’s proposal to ask Cobb voters to increase the county’s sales tax from 6 to 7 percent would generate an estimated $130 million a year. After Cobb’s six cities were given a cut of the revenue, the county would be left with $96.2 million to use toward public safety.

That amount would cover the $71 million in public safety expenses paid using the county’s general fund with the exception of the Cobb Sheriff’s Office.

Instituting the new tax requires three steps. First, the county commission will send its resolution to state lawmakers asking for a bill to create a referendum on the issue. Then, the Legislature would need to approve the bill. Lastly, the measure would come before voters for a final say.

Commissioners on Tuesday night approved step one of the process, with Weatherford, County Chairman Mike Boyce and Commissioner JoAnn Birrell in favor of the resolution and commissioners Bob Ott and Lisa Cupid opposed.

Hall County will study the costs of implementing bilingual ballots for local elections.

“We’ve looked at it every which way, and you’re talking signs, duplicate ballots, Spanish-speaking staff,” Bill Moats told The Times in late 2017. “For a large election like we had in 2016, it was north of $150,000.”

On Monday, the county called that figure a “very rough estimate.”

“The Elections Board’s decision to form a committee to further research those costs in greater detail should help give the county a better and more thorough understanding of the costs associated with bilingual ballots,” said Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley.

Craig Lutz, a Republican member of the board, sponsored the vote to scrap bilingual ballots in Hall County. He also moved to create the committee charged with studying the cost of Spanish-language ballots, saying earlier this month that the county needed to research the issue to see what the costs would be and also research whether voters were being disenfranchised with English-only ballots.

Voting rights advocates supporting bilingual ballots have said that county demographics — especially given that more than a quarter of its population is Latino — means it will be forced by the federal government to adopt Spanish-language ballots in the next few years under federal elections law.

Floyd County Commissioners are considering joining a lawsuit by Rome and other local governments against opioid manufacturers.

The board officially labeled the growing effects of overuse as a public nuisance Tuesday in a resolution that points the finger at pharmaceutical companies.

However, commissioners softened the language adopted by the city of Rome Monday to say they may sue, instead of they shall sue. Commissioner Scotty Hancock asked for the change until the medical community can weigh in.

“I feel we need to bring these groups to the table and get feedback before we commit to a lawsuit,” he said.

“We 100-percent agree it is a nuisance, and we need to do something about it,” Commission Chair Rhonda Wallace said.

The discussion followed a presentation from attorneys Bob Finnell and Andy Davis, who are putting together a case for a group of cities and counties in Georgia.

DeKalb County Commissioners are working on a proposal to lower penalties for marijuana possession.

Georgia law gives municipalities the freedom to create local rules for drug-related violations. Now DeKalb wants the General Assembly to give counties the opportunity to create ordinances related to pot possession.

Commissioners said Tuesday that taxpayer dollars are wasted and lives negatively affected when people are prosecuted for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

[Commissioner Mereda] Johnson, a Democrat, received a commitment from fellow Commissioner Nancy Jester, a Republican, to work together on the measure.

Although the full DeKalb commission won’t sign off on the proposal for another two weeks, five of seven members were present at Tuesday’s committee meeting where the proposal received an initial vetting. They directed their lobbyist to float the issue among legislators and law enforcement officials to gauge initial reaction.

As the proposal is written now, any county in Georgia would be allowed to create local rules for possession of less than an ounce of pot. But language could be added to make it applicable only to DeKalb if members of the General Assembly indicate that would be more palatable.

Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak will speak at the 13th annual Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum August 27-28 at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.

Muscogee County School Board members Frank Myers and John Thomas announced jointly that they will not run for reelection.

“To accomplish anything with the school board, there must be five votes,” Thomas wrote. “Frank and I have evaluated our tenure on the board to this point, and looking ahead to the future, we have done the math. We will not have five votes on any of the issues that are most important to us.”

Thomas, an IRS agent, represents District 2. Myers, a self-employed lawyer, represents District 8.

Hall County Board of Education member Brian Sloan announced he will not run for reelection.

“With the wonderful blessing of the rapid growth of the church in which I serve … and the additional responsibilities that come along with hundreds of additional people coming has made me seriously evaluate my time and priorities,” Sloan said.

Sloan is currently serving his third term on the board representing South Hall and was last re-elected in 2014, narrowly defeating Mark Pettitt.

“I think I still have a strong support base and would like to think I would be re-elected if I entered the race,” Sloan said. “However, that is just not the wise thing for my family, Chestnut Mountain Church, the Hall County School District or me. It is my strong belief that there is someone out there who can take this position and give it the time and attention in the next four years that I would not be able to give.”

Three candidates announced plans to run for seats on the Savannah-Chatham County School Board.

Alfreda Goldwire has announced she will run for the District 6 Savannah-Chatham County school board seat.

The seat is currently held by Larry Lower. Lower has announced he will run for board president.

Jolene Byrne currently holds the president’s post. She has not yet indicated if she intends to seek another term.

District 5 board member Irene Hines also announced she will run again.

David Lerch filed a declaration of intention to accept campaign contributions for the school board president post in August of 2017.

The non-partisan general election will be held on May 22. Qualifying begins on March 5.

The Georgia Ports Authority will break ground on its Mason Mega Rail project.

Georgia Ports Authority Board members approved a budget increase this week of $5.8 million for the port’s Mason Mega Rail project. The money will cover work to integrate American parts into large cranes for the project being manufactured in Finland.

GPA was approved in 2016 for a $44 million grant for the overall project cost from the federal government’s FASTLANE program, designed for infrastructure projects supporting growth of the economy and encourages use of American-made products through its Buy America clause.

The federal funds are to be used for design, delivery and commissioning of eight rail-mounted gantry cranes as part of the project that will connect the Mason and Chatham rail yards at the Garden City Terminal. The overall mega rail project cost is $126.7 million.

The mega rail project will double on-dock rail capacity and open service to inland markets, including Chicago. The new rail terminal will allow 10,000-foot trains to be loaded at the terminal with containers double-stacked. Those trains will increase the capacity from 500,000 container lifts per year to 1 million. Eighteen new railroad tracks will also be built, adding 97,000 feet of new rail.

Groundbreaking for the project is expected in February, with an official GPA board event being held in March.

A federal tariff on imported solar panels may slow the industry’s growth in Georgia.

The Trump Administration announced Monday that imported solar panels will be subject to a 30 percent tariff, a result of the recommendation of the International Trade Commission in its decision on a case filed by Georgia-based, foreign-owned Suniva. The trade tariff is expected to go into effect Feb. 6.

The Georgia Solar Energy Association predicts the tariffs will slow the growth of what has been a booming business in Georgia, with utility-scale solar being the hardest hit.

“While these erroneous tariffs may cause short-term headwinds to Georgia’s thriving solar industry, it will only strengthen our resolve to continue moving forward into a clean energy future,” said Don Moreland, chair of the Georgia Solar Energy Association.

Georgia ranks ninth among states with about 1,500 megawatts installed, enough to power about 170,000 homes. The state’s 238 solar companies employ about 4,000 people, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., who supported solar energy when he served in the state legislature, said solar will play an important role in energy independence in the U.S. But he wasn’t ready to praise or condemn the tariff.

“I am still reviewing the administration’s proposal, but President Trump is focusing on America first. He is serious about addressing trade imbalances and market dumping in the international market,” Carter said. “President Trump is working to rebuild and invigorate our manufacturing industry and manufacturing jobs. His goal is to put American workers and companies first, and I absolutely support that.”

The University of Georgia is working with Pulaski County to address healthcare needs in the rural county.

Before the [Taylor Express Care] clinic opened in June 2016, Pulaski County residents had nowhere to go for immediate care except the emergency room at Taylor Regional Healthcare, the local hospital. A Community Health Needs Assessment, or CHNA, facilitated by faculty and students at the University of Georgia showed that the county needed an alternative.

Today, the clinic averages about 15 patients a day and emergency room visits are down almost 23 percent, from nearly 6,000 annually before Taylor Express Care opened to just over 4,600 in the past year.

“It was greatly needed,” said Bailey Lanier, a nurse practitioner on duty during a chilly November morning. “Before you just had the ER, and that was it. We’ve opened doors to people who didn’t have health care, who just didn’t know who to go to.”

Helping with the CHNA, required of all hospitals to receive federal funding, is just one of the many ways that the University of Georgia has helped Pulaski County address critical health care issues, a common problem for rural Georgia communities.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 23, 2018

Roxy Clayton

Roxy is a small adult female Cockapoo who is available for adoption from the Clayton County Humane Society in Jonesboro, GA.

Maximus Clayton

Maxiumus is a male Beagle & Shepherd mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Clayton County Humane Society in Jonesboro, GA.


Linus is a male Beagle mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Henry County Humane Society in McDonough, GA.

Linus is a precious Beagle mixed pup. He gets along well with all his doggie friends and is very fond of toys. He is gentle and polite, Linus would love a home of his own, he has a lot of love to share. He will need a securely fenced yard or strict leash walking for potty time.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 23, 2018

On January 23, 1775, the Georgia Commons House elected three delegates to the Second Continental Congress.

On January 23, 1861, Georgia’s members of the United States House of Representatives resigned following passage of the Secession Ordinance; her Senators had resigned earlier. The next day, the secession convention in Milledgeville elected ten delegates to a conference of Southern states in Montgomery, Alabama

On January 23, 1923, Georgia ratified the Twentieth Amendment to the US Constitution, which ended Presidential terms on January 20th following an election and those of Congress on January 3d.

On January 23, 1973, President Richard M. Nixon announced that terms had been reached to settle the Vietnam War, a document known as the “Paris Peace Accords.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Senate and House both convene at 10 AM today.

1:30 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Ad Valorem Sub 133 CAP

Most of Georgia’s Congressional Delegation voted to reopen the federal government.

The compromise to reopen the government was spearheaded by a bipartisan group of nearly two-dozen senators, including Republican U.S. Sen Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

“It’s an agreement to do our jobs,” Isakson said in an interview. “So we’ve got the shutdown out of our system and hopefully we won’t have any others.”

Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue also backed the bill, as did the state’s 10 House Republicans, who framed Monday’s vote as a clear-cut win for the party.

“The House (GOP) did exactly what we said we were going to do. We stayed unified,” said U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, the House’s No. 5-ranking Republican.

The state’s two more centrist Democrats, U.S. Reps. David Scott of Atlanta and Sanford Bishop of Albany, supported the proposal, citing the shutdown’s impact on the military and Georgia’s economy more broadly….

“This is something that we have an obligation to take up,” U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, said of language protecting so-called Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. He voted against the proposal, as did Atlanta Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a frequent sparring partner of President Donald Trump’s.

Furloughed federal employees reported to work yesterday in order to be formally furloughed.

Thousands of federal employees across the Peach State were sent home Monday morning without pay before the Senate and and then the House both approved the budget deal, which would fund the government through Feb. 8.

Richard Norris got his furlough notice when he reported for work in the morning at Fort Gordon. A tactical satellite instructor living in Augusta, Norris wondered whether he would be able to pay his bills on time and take a long-planned beach vacation in the spring. Then the Senate took its vote early in the afternoon. The U.S. Army veteran saw it as a glimmer of hope. But Norris is still worried he and other federal employees will be right back in the same place next month.

Dwight Rice got the same furlough notice Monday at Fort Gordon, where he works as a telecommunications specialist. Like Norris, the Grovetown resident wants Congress to eliminate the uncertainty he and other federal workers are grappling with and pass a budget, not another short-term spending plan.

At Robins Air Force Base, about 4,000 of the military installation’s roughly 12,600 employees were furloughed Monday.

“Employees reported to work Monday morning to carry out orderly shutdown activities,” Robins spokesman Vance “Geoff” Janes said in an email. “These shutdown activities may include receiving and acknowledging furlough notices, completing any required time and attendance, setting email/voicemail out-of-office notifications, securing files, and other activities necessary to preserve the employee’s work.”

Eighteen Georgia Department of Labor staffers were also furloughed Monday. Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said most of his agency’s funding comes from the federal government, and that he warned staffers about the impact Friday. Butler said the 18 staffers do statistical reporting for the agency. Among other things, they compile and report unemployment data.

Meanwhile, the shutdown forced the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cancel training for about 60 officials from Henry County and its various cities. Henry was one of two counties that received a grant to send people to a weeklong integrated emergency management course this week in Emmitsburg, Md. The program helps prepare communities for coordinated attacks.

“We are hoping to get it rescheduled this fiscal year,” Henry County spokeswoman Melissa Robinson said. “That will be up to FEMA and Homeland Security when they want to do that.”

FEMA will reimburse the county for the unused airfare and the prepaid cost for meals, Robinson said, though she did not provide details on those expenses.

Politico asks whether Georgia will turn blue in 2018, proving that they learned nothing from asking the same stupid question in 2014, 2016, and 2017.Continue Reading..


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 22, 2018


Banner is a 9-week old female Jack Russell Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.


Spangle is a 9-week old female Jack Russell Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.


Stripes is a 9-week old male Jack Russell Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 22, 2018

On January 22, 1733, James Oglethorpe arrived at Yamacraw Bluff, where the colony of Georgia would be founded.

On January 22, 1861, following the passage of Georgia’s Secession Resolution, six delegates, including both from Gwinnett County, signed a statement protesting the decision to secede.

On January 22, 1866, Georgia Governor Charles Jenkins signed a resolution by the legislature asking for federal troops to be removed from Georgia.

On January 22, 1959, Atlanta buses were integrated after a federal court decision.

On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court issued its 7-2 decision in the case known as Roe v. Wade.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal appointed Jennifer E. Carver as Solicitor General for the Bacon County State Court.


10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 7) House Chamber
11:00 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 403 CAP – Upon Adjournment
2:00 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Sub. Tax Reform 133 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE Judiciary (Civil) Fleming Sub 132 CAP
3:00 PM HOUSE Judiciary (Civil) Kelley Sub 132 CAP


Georgia’s U.S. Senators issued statements on the federal government shutdown:

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., expressed frustration with the process, pointing to the lack of an agreement on the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, as an example of the breakdown.

“It’s time to stop the theatrics and get to the business of governing,” Isakson said in a statement. “For too long we have been kicking the can down the road on an operating budget for our government. A continuing resolution is not the path I would choose for good governing.

“Now we can’t even put aside partisan differences and agree to move forward on a continuing resolution under which we all agree on the big, underlying priorities.”

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., also said he was frustrated with the lack of a long-term spending measure. Perdue said Democrats are to blame for the shutdown, though, and called it a “Schumer Shutdown,” a reference to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“It is totally irresponsible for the Democrats to use government funding as a bargaining chip,” Perdue said in a statement. “Democrats have created a false deadline by trying to tie illegal immigration to government funding. As I’ve consistently said, these are two totally different issues and should be dealt with separately.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued guidance on how his department will operate under the federal government shutdown.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service would continue working to ensure meat, poultry and egg products are safe as well as inspect food being slaughtered and processed for humans.

They’ll also still ensure imported products do not bring pests or diseases into the U.S. and furloughed personnel would come back to work immediately in the event of an outbreak.

Also, federal functions to maintain the core programs of the nutrition safety net — including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Child Nutrition Programs and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) — would continue.

Perdue said those all have funding available to operate through February, and many have funds to continue operations through March, without additional appropriation.

In Middle Georgia, Robins Air Force Base is preparing to comply with the government shutdown.

Robins Air Force Base is “beginning the process for an orderly government shutdown,” according to a Facebook post on Saturday afternoon. More than 21,400 people are employed at Robins Air Force, with 13,300 appropriated-fund civilians, about 5,550 military members and more than 2,500 other employees, said Geoff Janes, with Robins Air Force Base Public Affairs.

It’s not clear how many of these employees will be impacted by the government shutdown, he said. Military and civilian personnel have been instructed to report to work Monday to receive more information and contact their supervisors with questions.

The Museum of Aviation, Airman and Family Readiness Center and the base’s main fitness center will be closed. The Travel Management Office will offer limited services; the Commissary will be open until Wednesday; and the Medical Group will be open but delays are expected.

The visitor center and Earth Lodge at Macon’s Ocmulgee National Monument will be closed, and scheduled programs will be canceled during the shutdown, according to a Facebook post Saturday. Employees will not be able to answer emails or phone calls or monitor social media accounts. Park roads and trails will still be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but visitors use them at their own risk.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia will be open today.

The court will remain open because it has the funds to operate for about three weeks, Chief Judge Clay Land said in an email.

Congressman Rick Allen (R-Augusta) has asked ot have his federal paycheck withheld during the federal shutdown.

Rick Allen Salary

Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-Middle Georgia) told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer he hopes for a quick resolution to the shutdown.

“There are a lot of concerns, and I’ve heard from the brass at Fort Benning and I’ve heard from the brass at the Pentagon,” U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., said Saturday. “They do not need this continuous, short-term funding. It’s uncertainty and can’t protect our country. We need to deal with it.”

Bishop, whose district includes Fort Benning and south Columbus, hopes the shutdown is short. “We hope this will be temporary,” he said. “Hopefully, the government will be open by Monday.”

Some state agency employees may be affected by the federal shutdown.

If the shutdown persists, state agencies will have to start making decisions this week about whether they have the money to continue paying state workers whose positions are at least partially funded through federal contracts or grants.

Deal’s budget director, Teresa MacCartney, sent state agencies a memo Friday detailing how state government would deal with the shutdown, letting officials know they would not get additional federal funds to operate their programs. It could mean furloughs of state employees who are paid at least in part with federal funding.

“For federal funds approved under a previous continuing resolution or fiscal year, reimbursements may be slowed as the federal government may be unable to process requests,” she wrote, “As a result, your agency must be prepared to curtail federal activities to meet available funds.

“The state will not be able to advance allotments to offset reduced federal cash flow. Additionally, your agency should not assume that funds expended for federal activities conducted during the shutdown will be reimbursed by the state or the federal government once the budget is enacted.”

The federal government foots the bill for roughly two-thirds of the cost of Medicaid, the health care program for more than 1.5 million of Georgia’s poor, disabled and nursing home residents. Many other state agencies rely on at least some federal funding as well.

Savannah Republicans turned out to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Trump Administration.

“We are all so excited to be here because (President Trump) has set our country on a great track,” said Marolyn Overton, president of SARW. “ He is helping everyone. We are all going to see it and feel it in February in our paychecks because there will be less taxes taken out of our paychecks.”

The rally was organized to celebrate the accomplishment achieved under the Trump administration and galvanize voters to hit the polls during 2018 midterm elections, she said.

“We are trying to present what Donald has done for our country,” she said. “But then we had a little kink put in our plan.”

U.S. representatives Rick Allen, Buddy Carter and Jody Hice were scheduled to speak at the rally but could not attend due to the government shutdown.

“I had every intention of being there with you today but as you know the Senate Democrats have thrown a wrench into things here and have really made a big mistake,” Carter said, eliciting applause from the audience. “What they have done is shut this government down and put illegal immigrants ahead of children’s health and ahead of paying our military. I just think that is despicable. I can’t believe that they have done this.”

Carter commended the president for a job well done on all of his accomplishments, including the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

“I think he has done a wonderful job in his first. Let’s think about what (Trump) accomplished. .. It is just wonderful that we have another conservative in that court to serve us for years to come. Had we not gotten there who knows who we would have on that court. And second, lets look at our economy— it is going through the roof.”

Other Georgians are celebrating the Trumpiversary by running for office against the current administration.

The women’s movement ignited by Donald Trump’s election triggered a wave of political involvement from newly energized activists. But it faces its first true test later this year when Johnson and dozens of other women, many of them first-time candidates, seek elected office.

Trump’s presidential inauguration a year ago sent tens of thousands of women to the streets of Atlanta, filled town hall meetings with upset voters and helped elect a surge of women in last year’s votes. Many of them are Democrats with moderate or liberal views, though last year’s class of newly elected officials also featured several prominent Republican women.

The primary votes in May and general election contests in November offer the chance for bigger gains, with every state legislative seat and state constitutional office up for grabs. And Democrats are furiously recruiting candidates, eager to challenge GOP incumbents who haven’t faced opponents in years.

Georgia Chief Turnaround Officer Eric Thomas spoke to Bibb County Board of Education members.

During Thursday’s Bibb school board meeting, Thomas said the state will not be taking schools over but rather partnering with them to create and implement personalized improvement plans.

“We’re not talking about removing principals, we’re not talking about removing staff. It’s really more of a transformation model, more of a support model,” Thomas said. ”Our role really is to help schools and the district to stay focused on the things they identified they need to stay focused on. …. We’re not here to tell people, ‘This is what you should do in your school.’”

“It’s really about what are the two or three things at the school level or district level that’s going to make the difference and working to make a home run on those two or three things and trying to institutionalize and create a culture around those things,” Thomas said. “And then you bring in the next thing.”

Judge E. Trenton Brown, III of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court will sit by designation on the Georgia Supreme Court today.

Brown has been appointed the designee to replace Justice Michael P. Boggs in hearing the arguments in the state’s High Court.

Designated judges are appointed when a justice must recuse himself or herself from a particular case. The Supreme Court of Georgia maintains a list of judges from around the state that they can select from when the such a need arises, and the High Court subsequently appoints the next judge on the list.

Specifically in the case that Brown and other justices will hear Monday, officials with Georgia Power Company are appealing a recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals that allows a lawsuit brought by some of the utility’s customers to go forward against the utility giant.

Brown also will participate in the court’s decision regarding that particular case, according to a press release from Supreme Court of Georgia Jane Hansen, public information officer.

Tide Gates on the Savannah River were demolished as part of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

The Savannah River behind Hutchinson Island — known as the Back River — is looking like its old self again after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers removed a more than 40-year-old concrete water-control structure called a tide gate.

“The Back River hasn’t looked this fly since bell bottoms were cool (the first time),” the corps tweeted Tuesday.

The $21.3 million demolition, completed by Miami-based DeMoya/Continental Joint Venture, is the latest mitigation feature completed in the nearly $1 billion Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

“By removing the tide gates we restored the Back River to its natural state,” Spencer Davis, Project Manager for the SHEP, said. “This is the first part of the flow re-routing measures in the SHEP, designed to protect freshwater marshes in the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge from saltwater intrusion.”

Hall County Commissioners are considering raises for some law enforcement employees.

A proposed 2.5 percent pay increase and pay range adjustments for officers up to the rank of captain is on the table. Commissioners also will consider a $1 per hour increase for staff that work overnight shifts.

“In recent months, vacancies have ranged between 55 and 65 positions on average,” Sheriff Gerald Couch said in a press release Friday. “The vacancy rate and turnover, if unaddressed, will jeopardize our ability to fulfill our constitutional duties and our ability to provide the level of service that Hall County citizens deserve.”

If approved, the cost of the pay increases would be about $377,000 for the current fiscal year.

Albany City Commissioners are considering privatizing operations of the Albany Civic Center.

Cobb County Commissioners may consider a sales tax hike to fund public safety.

Cobb commissioners are expected to consider a resolution that would push forward Commissioner Bob Weatherford’s proposal for a county sales tax increase from 6 to 7 cents on the dollar to fund public safety. The resolution would task Cobb’s legislative delegation to introduce and get passed a bill to create a referendum to be taken to county voters, who would ultimately decide whether they would see creation of the new sales tax, which is being referred to as an Other Local Option Sales Tax or OLOST.

“Everybody gets to vote on it. We’re not trying to impose it — everybody has the opportunity to say ‘yea’ or ‘nay,” Weatherford said. “I feel comfortable that once they see the merits of it and the benefits, they’ll say a ‘penny for public safety’ would be a good thing for Cobb County.”

A penny tax in Cobb collects about $130 million a year. After the county’s six cities were given their cut, the county would be left with $96.2 million — enough, Weatherford previously said, to cover the county’s general fund expense for public safety, minus the Sheriff’s Department, of $71 million.

When asked whether they would support the resolution, most commissioners Friday would not commit to a definitive answer. Chairman Mike Boyce, however, said in principle he was generally supportive of putting such a county matter before voters.

“Without hearing all the commissioners, my general thought is this is something that we would take to the voters as a referendum, and as a matter of policy, I think that’s always the way to go, because then they give us clear guidance as to how they want us to use their money,” Boyce said. “I think the concept has a lot of merit, but I also want to wait to hear the other thoughts from commissioners.”


Twelve Georgians have died during the current flu season, according to Georgia Health News.

Seven more Georgians have died from the flu, bringing the total to 12 deaths across the state this influenza season, Public Health officials said Friday.

There were 40 hospitalizations in metro Atlanta due to influenza infection during the week of Jan. 7 through Jan. 13, the state Department of Public Health said. So far this season, area facilities have seen 404 hospitalizations due to flu.

“We’re seeing about a 50 percent increase every week that goes on,” said Dr. James Yost with Peachtree Immediate Care in Cumming. He explained that when winter storms confine most of the public to their homes or shelters, “people crowd together and more spreading [of flu] goes on.”

The flu impact remains severe across the country. The geographic spread of influenza in Puerto Rico and 49 states (all but Hawaii) was reported as widespread, the CDC said.

Dr. Dan Jernigan, the director of the Influenza Division of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned last week that this flu season was very active and was “probably peaking.” Whether or not it has passed its peak, it remains intense.

Jernigan and CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald attribute the high flu activity to the prevalence of the H3N2 flu.

H3N2 is associated with more severe illness, especially among children and the elderly. Flu seasons during which H3 viruses are prevalent are usually worse and come with more hospitalizations and deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has furloughed about 2/3 of its workers nationwide.

Before the shutdown took place, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the CDC, put out a contingency plan. That plan called for the CDC to keep more than 8,500 of its 13,000-plus staff members at home. That works out 63% of the agency’s employees.  Since the CDC is headquartered here in the metro area, our area is feeling the brunt of those furloughs.

The plan said the CDC would “continue minimal support to protect the health and well-being of U.S. citizens here and abroad.”  But added the shutdown would lead to “significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations, processing laboratory samples and maintaining the agency’s 24/7 emergency operations center.”

Of course, all of this is happening as the CDC helps fight the current flu outbreak, which is being called one of the worst in years. The shutdown won’t stop those efforts. The CDC plans to continue to monitor the disease by collecting data from states, hospitals, and other agencies. It will also keep reporting any critical information needed to track, prevent and treat the flu.

Piedmont Healthcare is moving forward with the acquisition of Columbus Regional Hospital.

Piedmont has agreed to put a significant financial commitment into Columbus Regional, as well as assume all of the local organization’s debt, according to the terms on file with the Georgia Attorney General’s Office.

The organization’s name will change to Piedmont Columbus Regional when the deal is finalized, which is targeted for March 1.

The deal must be approved by Attorney General Chris Carr’s office before it can be completed. Terms of the merger were submitted to the attorney general in late October. They have up to 120 days to review it. Officials from Columbus Regional and Piedmont have met with the attorney general’s office during this process, Columbus Regional Health President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Hill said last week.



Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 19, 2018

Diamond Hart

Diamond is a young female “Pocket Pittie” who is available for adoption from Hart Co. Animal Rescue Inc. in Hartwell, GA.

Diamond is a “Pocket Pitt” who started out with a rough life. When we rescued her, she was in pretty rough shape, but she is a healthy happy girl now! She has done well with some dogs and not others. She LOVES her current kennel partner, Tebow, if you would like to think of a pair of silly beasts! She is vaccinated, parasite free, spayed, and ready to live in the lap of love!


Rocky is a senior male Boxer who is available for adoption from Hart Co. Animal Rescue Inc. in Hartwell, GA.

Rocky is a 9-10 year old Boxer. He loves everyone he meets & is really just a big lap dog. He does okay with other dogs, but prefers all of the attention. He likes to chase cats. Rocky would make a great addition to most any home. He has been neutered, treated for heartworms, fully vaccinated, microchipped & is on Advantage Multi. To adopt Rocky for a reduced adoption fee please apply online at

Emmett Hart

Emmett is a young male Treeing Walker Coonhound who is available for adoption from Hart Co. Animal Rescue Inc. in Hartwell, GA.

Emmett was rescued from a trash dump on the side of the road. He does well with other dogs & loves to explore. He does prefer to have a fence that he is able to see through vs a privacy fence. (Hounds are nosy) If you would like to meet Emmett please apply online at

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved a contract with Planned Pethood to provide veterinary services at the county animal shelter.

The annual contract is for $360,000.

Officials said having the veterinarian services at the shelter can expedite the adoption process because it means animals who are strays or have gone unclaimed can get vet care and sterilization faster.

“This contract increases the shelter’s efficiency by promptly evaluating, testing and treating contagious or infectious diseases such as parvovirus, feline distemper, mange, ringworm and flu,” commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said in a statement.

Under the terms of the agreement, Planned PEThood will provide a full-time veterinarian and veterinarian technicians on-site at the shelter. Depending on the season, those employees would be at the shelter five or six times a week.



Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 19, 2018

On January 20, 1788, the First African Baptist Church was established in Savannah, Georgia, one of the first black churches in the United States.

John Marshall was nominated as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States by President John Adams on January 20, 1801.

Robert E. Lee was born on January 19, 1807 at his family home, Stratford Hall, Virginia.

Lieutenant William T. Sherman was ordered to Georgia for the first time in his military career on January 21, 1844.

Delegates to the Secession Convention in Milledgeville voted 208-89 in favor of seceding from the United States on January 19, 1861.

On January 19, 1871, Savannah, Georgia became the first city to recognize Robert E. Lee’s Birthday as a public holiday.

On January 20, 1920, DeForest Kelley was born in Atlanta and he grew up in Conyers. Kelley sang in the choir of his father’s church and appeared on WSB radio; he graduated from Decatur Boys High School and served in the United States Navy. Kelley became famous as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in the original Star Trek series.

On January 20, 1928, Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Warm Springs, Georgia for the tenth time, staying through February 11th. During the visit, he spoke to the Chamber of Commerce of Americus and Sumter County, telling them

“In Georgia the movement towards the cities is growing by leaps and bounds and this means the abandonment of the farms or those farms that are not suited to the uses of agriculture. It means that we will have vacant lands but these can and should be used in growing timber.”

January 20th became Inaugural Day in 1937; when the date falls on a Sunday, a private inauguration of the President is held, with a public ceremony the following day. The Twentieth Amendment moved inauguration day from March 4 to January 20. Imagine six additional weeks of a lame duck President.

Roosevelt was sworn-in to a fourth term as President on Jauary 20, 1945 and died in Warm Springs on April 12, 1945.

On January 20, 1939, Paul D. Coverdell was born in Des Moines, Iowa. Coverdell was one of the key figures in the development of the Georgia Republican Party.

United States Senator and former Georgia House Speaker and Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr. died on January 21, 1971.

On January 20, 1977, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as the 39th President of the United States.

On January 21, 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardoned draft resistors from the Vietnam War era and urged Americans to conserve energy.

On January 20, 1981, Ronald Wilson Reagan was inaugurated 40th President of the United States.

On January 21, 1978, the Bee Gees Saturday Night Live album hit #1 on the sales charts, where it would stay for 24 weeks.

Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States on January 20, 2017.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal released a staetment on the passing of former Georgia First Lady Betty Russell Vandiver.

“Sandra and I send our heartfelt prayers to the Vandiver family and mourn with them during this time of loss and remembrance,” said Deal. “As a loving mother of three, a devoted First Lady, and a member of the Senator Richard Russell family, she dedicated much of her efforts to serving the people of Georgia, both during her husband’s term as governor of the state and after their departure from public life. She was instrumental in supporting Milledgeville’s Central State Hospital, Georgia’s first institution for those struggling with mental disabilities. She was also especially helpful to Sandra in the creation of Memories of the Mansion: The Story of Georgia’s Governor’s Mansion, recounting her family’s personal experiences for posterity.”

“Historians and pundits often talk about the sacrifices of a governor, but the truly unsung heroes are the members of the first family, who give of themselves for the betterment of others, often quietly, with dignity, and without the applause they deserve.  Betty was a prime example of such a woman of grace and Southern charm.  We join her family in honoring her contributions to Georgia and in celebrating the fact that she is finally reunited with her beloved husband.”

From a 2013 story in the Franklin County Citizen:

When her husband was lieutenant governor from 1955-59, she said, “Ernest commuted to Atlanta from home, staying in Atlanta only a few days a week.”

Moving into the mansion, Betty said, was a change of address, but not really a change in the family lifestyle.

“We lived at the mansion like we lived at home,” Betty said simply.

While it takes a staff of 26 or more to run the Governor’s Mansion these days, back in 1959, it was Betty and a staff of two.

“We didn’t entertain then like they do now,” Betty said. “Our social life was what we made it. There were not as many meetings. Ernie was home most nights for dinner.”

“I didn’t want the children to think they were different,” Betty said. “I was in a carpool. The state patrol did not take my children to school or pick them up.”

In fact, most of the time, Betty said, her children walked home from the public school they attended – Springstreet School – many times stopping by the local drug store before they got home.

“Atlanta was a lot different then.The traffic was not bad, especially at 3 p.m. when the children came home from school.”

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

[Betty] Vandiver was born in 1927, grew up in Winder and attended the University of Georgia, graduating in 1947 and marrying Ernest Vandiver.

Ernest Vandiver was a Lavonia attorney who got involved in local politics before rising to lieutenant governor, then serving as governor from 1959 to 1963. The couple had three children, who spent some of their early years growing up in the Georgia Governor’s Mansion.

It was a tumultuous time in the nation, and Vandiver, a Democrat who began his political career as a segregationist, oversaw the integration of the University of Georgia. When hard-line segregationist Lester Maddox ran after his term, Vandiver backed the Republican candidate.

Betty Russell Vandiver was from an important political family. She was related to powerful politician Richard B. Russell Jr., a former state  legislator, governor and later a powerful U.S. senator. She was active in her husband’s political campaigns, and also helped raise toys yearly for the mentally ill.

Funeral services will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at Lavonia First Baptist Church, with a private burial in Lavonia City – Burgess Cemetery.

Under the Gold Dome

Today, the Senate convenes at 10 AM, while the House convenes at 10:30 AM.

The House Appropriations Public Safety Committee meets at 9 AM in Room 341 of the State Capitol. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Juvenile Justice are scheduled to present.

The Georgia Senate yesterday passed House Bill 159, the adoption bill. From Maggie Lee at the Macon Telegraph:

Georgia lawmakers broadly agree that it’s time to update adoption laws so that Georgia children can get into permanent loving homes faster.

But in a 40-13 vote on Thursday, Georgia state Senators approved a version of the so-called “adoption bill” that’s different from what the House sent them last year. And Republican Gov. Nathan Deal has serious concerns about the Senate bill.

“This bill is a clean bill focused solely on child welfare while respecting our state agencies like DFCS,” the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, said its state Senate sponsor, Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro.

[T]he Senate version contains an amendment that would set up a way for people to transfer their child to someone else’s care for up to a year using power of attorney.

It’s meant for parents who temporarily can’t take care of their kids for reasons that might include deployment or going to a drug rehabilitation program.

Deal vetoed a separate bill proposing that last year.

Just after senators voted to resurrect the idea, Deal tweeted that he commends the Senate for taking action on the bill.

“However, I have serious concerns regarding their version of the bill and am hopeful they will be addressed through the legislative process,” he wrote.

From the Gainesville Times:

“The governor doesn’t support the bill in its current form,” [Senate President Pro Tem Butch] Miller said.

But Miller added that he’s confident lawmakers can work with members in the House and the governor to get the adoption bill right this time around.

“We’re going to get it done,” he said.

Proponents have said the bill would make adoptions more efficient by, for example, nixing a six-month residency requirement for adoptive parents; allowing birth mothers working with an adoption agency to receive living expenses; and giving birth mothers the opportunity to waive a 10-day period to regain their child once adopted

From the AJC:

House Speaker David Ralston said he’ll review the Senate’s version of the bill before deciding how to proceed. If the House, which passed its version of HB 159 on a 165-0 vote last year, disagrees with the Senate’s changes, the legislation would head to a conference committee for negotiations.

“We’re making progress,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “I commend them for taking out the language that created problems last year, but I am concerned over putting back in a bill that was vetoed by the governor.”

Even if the adoption bill passes, the battle over religious liberty protections seemed more certain than ever to resume.

State Sen. William Ligon, who added the religious protections to the adoption bill last year, said adoption agencies shouldn’t have to choose between closing down or violating their faith.

“We have removed these distractions from the adoption bill,” said Ligon, R-Brunswick. But when he revives religious liberty legislation, “the people of this state will see exactly where their government stands on this issue.”

State and Local

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) will hold a veterans benefits fair on January 24, 2018 form 3-5 PM at the Brooks Pennington Military Leadership Center, 83 College Circle on the University of North Georgia Dahlonega campus.

Representatives from the Atlanta Regional Veterans Affairs Office, Atlanta Veterans Affairs Health Care System, Georgia National Cemetery, Georgia Department of Veterans Service, Emory Healthcare Veterans Program and Hire Heroes USA will also take part in the event.

U.S. District Court Judge William S. Duffey Jr. announced he will retire from the bench effective July 1, 2018.

Four candidates qualified for a vacant Richmond County District 7 seat.

Elliott Melvin Brown, Annette Turabi, Sarah Bobrow Williams and Charlie Walker Jr. will be seeking the position to represent Garrett, A. Brian Merry and Warren Road elementary schools, John M. Tutt Middle School and Westside High School. The Richmond County Board of Education seat came open when Frank Dolan resigned in October.

The candidate selected in the March 20 special election will serve the rest of Dolan’s term, which ends Dec. 31. Qualifying for the District 7 seat ended noon Thursday.

The last day for voting by mail and advance voting is March 16. All polling locations in District 7 will be open on Election Day from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Qualifying opens on March 5 for three seats on the Decatur County Commission and three seats on the Decatur County Board of Education.

Qualifying will begin that Monday at 9 a.m. and wrap up at noon on Friday, March 9.

The seats open for election on the Board of Education are District 2, currently held by Keith Lyle, District 3, currently held by Winston Rollins, and District 5, currently held by Bobby Barber. These are non-partisan races. Qualifying fees for each of these races is $54.

The seats open for election on the Decatur County Board of Commissioners are District 1, currently held by George Anderson, District 4, currently held by Rusty Davis, and District 6, currently held by Pete Stephens. The qualifying fee for the Board of Commissioners is $216.

The State Court Solicitor General is also open for election. The qualifying fee is $1,498.84.

The Decatur County Board of Commissioner and Solicitor General races are partisan. Candidates will need to decide which party they want to run under.

Hurricane Irma damaged about 30 percent of Georgia’s pecan crop.

Hurricane Irma, downgraded to a tropical storm when it entered the state, damaged about 30 percent of Georgia’s pecan crop, and the storm’s effects could linger into next growing season, according to University of Georgia Cooperative Extension pecan specialist Lenny Wells.

Most of Georgia’s 2017 pecan crop has been harvested, and Wells estimates the state’s yields to be between 90 million and 100 million pounds. The crop looked even better prior to Irma’s arrival in early September 2017, he said, but heavy winds and torrential rain damaged the crop.

“Any time you have quality issues, that tells you those trees were under stress late in the season. We had a good idea, this year, of what that stress was, and it was due to the storm,” Wells said. “That could linger on and affect the crop in the upcoming year. With that being said, I don’t think we’re looking at a really low-yield year.”

Powder Springs City Councilapproved a blight tax.”

The council gave its OK to the creation of a “community redevelopment tax incentive program,” which targets owners of property deemed blighted by raising their city property tax bill seven-fold.

Properties would be deemed blighted and could be hit by the “blight tax” if they met two or more of six criteria, such as having an unsafe structure on the property, occurrences of repeated illegal activity on the premises or maintenance that has not met state, county or city codes for at least one year. It would also have to be considered a health or crime hazard, according to the text of the new city ordinance.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 18, 2018

Nugget BF

Nugget is a male Dachshund mix who is available for adoption from Best Friends–Atlanta in Atlanta, GA.

Nugget is proof that good things can come in little packages. He may be a smaller guy but he has a huge, silly personality. He loves going on walks, napping in laps and playing with toys. If Nugget sounds the perfect little bundle of fun for you then come by and meet him today!

Nugget is 3 years old and weighs 17 pounds.

Pirette BF

Pirette is a female Hound mix who is available for adoption from Best Friends–Atlanta in Atlanta, GA.

Pirette is 3 years old and 28 pounds.

Pixie BF

Pixie is a female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Best Friends–Atlanta in Atlanta, GA.

Pixie is 1 year old and 32 pounds.