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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 4, 2017

Georgia and American History

Utah was admitted as the 45th state on January 4, 1896. Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959.

On January 4, 1965, shortly after the assassination of President Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson delivered the State of the Union and outlined his plan for a “Great Society.”

“He requested ‘doubling the war against poverty this year’ and called for new emphasis on area redevelopment, further efforts at retraining unskilled workers, an improvement in the unemployment compensation system and an extension of the minimum wage floor to two million workers now unprotected by it. … He called for new, improved or bigger programs in attacking physical and mental disease, urban blight, water and air pollution, and crime and delinquency.”

The Great Society legislation included “War on Poverty” programs, many created under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which established jobs and youth volunteer programs as well as Head Start, which provided pre-school education for poor children. Johnson’s social welfare legislation also consisted of the formation of Medicare and Medicaid, which offered health care services for citizens over 65 and low-income citizens, respectively. In addition, the Great Society included the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Voting Rights Act of 1968.

On Jnuary 4, 1974, President Richard M. Nixon refused to turn over tapes recorded in the Oval Office to the Senate Watergate Committee.

Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich was elected Speaker of the House on January 4, 1995, the third Georgian to wield the gavel. This marked the first time in more than forty years that Republicans controlled the House of Representatives.

On January 4, 1999, in DeKalb County, State Court Judge Al Wong became the first Asian-American judge in Georgia and the Southeast.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early voting continues in Senate District 54 in the upper left-hand corner of Georgia in a Special Runoff Election.

Early votes cast in December 2016

mail in person
52 1070

Early votes cast as of yesterday:

mail in person
159 941

Today, legislative committees will meet at the state capitol.

9:30 AM Senate Emergency Cardiac Care Centers 450 CAP
9:45 AM Opiod Abuse Senate Study Committee 450 CAP

Governor Nathan Deal appointed three replacement members to the Dooly County Board of Education. Deal previously suspended all five members of the Dooly BOE.

Rev. F. Thomas (Tommy) Mason Jr.
Mason is a retired United Methodist minister. He is serving the Methodist church in Leslie at the request of his district superintendent. While an active minister, Mason served a number of large congregations, was Macon District Superintendent and held positions in the South Georgia Conference that required financial management and oversight of conference assets and benefit programs. Prior to entering the ministry, he operated an insurance agency in Vienna and Cordele. Mason is a graduate of the Dooly County school system, Georgia Tech and Emory University. He resides in Vienna.

Dr. Wanda Parker-Jackson
Parker-Jackson is a retired educator with 34 years of experience. She previously served as director of elementary education and professional learning in Sumter County and managed the district preschool program. Parker-Jackson has also worked as a school principal, assistant principal and speech-language pathologist. She also has experience as a faculty member as several institutes of higher education. Parker-Jackson is a graduate of Florida A&M Developmental Research High School, Florida A&M University, Valdosta State University, Troy State University and Walden University. She lives in Vienna.

Michael Bowens
Bowens is the city manager for the City of Vienna. He previously worked with Georgia Pacific. Bowens previously served on the Dooly County Board of Education (1991-2002) and the board of the directors for the Dooly County Chamber of Commerce. He sits on the boards of directors for the Southwest Georgia United Empowerment Zone and the Certified Literate Community. Bowens is a member of the Dooly County Industrial Development Authority and the Upper Flint Regional Water Planning Council. He is a graduate of Georgia Southwestern State University and resides in Vienna.

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle appointed former Forsyth County Commissioner Brian Tam to the reconstituted Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Under legislation passed last year that took effect Jan. 1, the lieutenant governor—for the first time in the JQC’s history—was given two appointees to the seven-member commission, which investigates the state’s judges for ethics infractions and recommends disciplinary action when warranted. His second appointment must be a member of the State Bar of Georgia and can be drawn from a list of recommendations proposed by the bar. Cagle spokesman Adam Sweat said the lieutenant governor, who is also president of the state Senate, has not yet made that appointment.

The new law also for the first time gives the House speaker two appointments and allows the governor to appoint the JQC chairman, who must be a lawyer and a member of the Georgia bar.

Cagle in a news release called Tam “one of Forsyth County’s most successful small business owners” and “a dedicated public servant committed to advancing the interests of his state” who will be “a great asset for Georgia as we work to ensure our judicial system upholds the highest ethical and moral standards.”

Tam’s appointment must be approved by the state Senate under the new constitutional amendment.

The Georgia Ports Authority is investing in a $128 million project to enhance rail connectivity with the Norfolk Southern and CSX railroad.

The arc project will double rail capacity in Savannah and improve its link to Atlanta and cities in the Midwest.

The Mid-American Arc project will improve connections at the Port of Savannah and allow for the construction of 10,000-foot long trains, about 50 percent longer than your average freight train.

The project is funded in part by a $44 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Georgia Ports Authority executive director Griff Lynch says this will mean it can move goods from ships that arrive in Savannah to places like Atlanta even faster.

Fulton Superior Court Chief Judge Gail Tusan ruled that the Georgia Board of Regents must use federal standards in determining a student’s eligibility for in-state tuition.

Georgia residents who have received a special reprieve from deportation from the Obama administration may begin paying in-state tuition here under a state court ruling released Tuesday. At issue is the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which grants work permits and temporary deportation deferrals to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children without authorization.

University System of Georgia officials, [Judge Tusan] wrote, are “hereby compelled to perform their duty in applying the federal definition of lawful presence as it relates to students who are DACA recipients and to grant them in-state tuition status.”

“Defendants have refused to accept the federally established lawful presence of plaintiffs and many other similarly situated students — students who are Georgia taxpayers, workers, and graduates of

Georgia public high schools pursuing an affordable option for higher education,” Tusan wrote in her decision, which was issued Friday. “Such refusal of a faithful performance of their duties is unreasonable and creates a defect of legal justice that has already negatively impacted thousands of Georgia students.”

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) intends to move forward and introduce a Constitutional Amendment to allow some form of cannabis production in Georgia, subject to a statewide vote.

State Rep. Allen Peake said he is going to ask fellow lawmakers for a 2018 referendum that would allow growing cannabis for medicinal purposes. He said he plans to file legislation at the state Capitol on the proposed referendum as early as next week.

“We would let the citizens of the state decide whether to go down this path or not,” Peake said.

Peake has championed the in-state growth of cannabis plants and the manufacture of some products for sale to Georgia patients. He said the liquid has worked for people who need it.

But opposition to in-state growth has been strong, notably from Gov. Nathan Deal, a fellow Republican, and from law enforcement agencies.

Peake said he’s optimistic that he can get the votes of the two-thirds of legislators that the idea needs before the question can appear on Georgia’s ballots.

Peake said he is working on another piece of legislation, one that would expand the list of diagnoses for which a patient could possess medical cannabis. He’s looking at opening the medical cannabis registry to people who have autism, AIDS, intractable pain, post-traumatic stress disorder or Tourette’s syndrome.

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved a $1.56 billion dollar FY 2017 budget for county government.

Houston County voters will go to the polls on March 21, 2017 to vote on a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

The tax referendum, which is up for a vote March 21, includes $10 million for a new State Court building. That would also give some much-needed new space to the sheriff’s department, the tax commissioner’s office and other departments, officials say.

The new State Court would be built on the north end of the main Houston County courthouse in Perry. It would give the court about twice the size of its current 10,216 square feet, including room for the clerk of court, solicitors office and probation office. It would also mean that prisoners would no longer have to be transported from the county jail, which is in the rear of the Perry courthouse.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis voted to break a 5-5 tie between City Commissioners.

Augusta ambulance provider Gold Cross lost another round Tuesday when Mayor Hardie Davis broke a tie against restoring $520,000 cut from the firm’s city subsidy in the 2017 budget.

His motion to restore the funds tied 5-5 with Mayor Pro Tem Mary Davis and commissioners Sean Frantom, Grady Smith and Marion Williams joining him in voting yes.

The mayor didn’t comment before or after his vote but earlier distributed notebooks to each commissioner detailing the city’s history with Gold Cross, dating to its bid award and $1.3 million subsidy in 2005 and steps Gold Cross took to win the zone. It also noted the overlap of certain personnel between the city, Gold Cross and the Region 6 EMS Council, which made the zone decision.

Warner Robins City Council voted to extend the wait period before new employees can be promoted.

Chatham County Commissioners were sworn in for new terms this week. Two new judges were also sworn in.

Chatham County Probate Judge Harris Lewis and Superior Court Clerk Dan Masseystepped aside as attorney Tom Bordeaux Jr. and Tammie Mosley took their oaths of office before being quickly followed by Sheriff John Wilcher, District Attorney Meg Heap and Tax Commissioner Danny Powers.

Incumbent Superior Court judges James F. Bass Jr., Penny Haas Freesemann and John E. Morse Jr. also took new oaths of office.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 3, 2016


Lula is a female 4-6 year old mix breed lovely house trained 50+/- LB dog who is available for adoption from Monroe County Animal Control in Forsyth, GA. If I had to guess, I’d say maybe she has some hound and pointer in her background.

Lula has an online fundrazr setup to help pay for her expenses.

Lula has cataracts that make it a little hard for her to see at night. She prefers to be out of the kennel and is wonderfully happy to sit on the floor of my office and go out on the cable to exercise. Lula likes some other dogs, but seems to prefer to be the only dog (maybe because she can’t see that well).


Jay-Jay is a male 1 year old Pyr/Beagle/Lab mix who is available for adoption from Monroe County Animal Control in Forsyth, GA.

He has a fundrazr set up online to help pay for his veterinary costs.

He is sweet cuddly loving happy friendly and well behaved. Jay-Jay does not need constant attention but likes to play for a while and get snuggled often. Jay-Jay is friendly to other dogs and loves all sizes of people.


Coca-Cola is a wonderfully handsome 1-2 year old male lab/shepherd/basset hound/? mix who is available for adoption from Monroe County Animal Control in Forsyth, GA.

Coca-Cola has an online fundrazr to help pay for his vetting.

He is sweet as can be, loves to be around humans, plays well with other dogs, has short little basset hound legs, a fat lab head and shepherd snout and coat. Coca-Cola is in the pound at Monroe County Georgia Animal Control in Forsyth, GA (1 hour South of Atlanta exit 188 off I-75 and 30 minutes north of Macon). For a short drive you can find happiness by helping me walk, play with, love on and possibly find a new home for these loving dogs in our facility! Please come volunteer, play, and enjoy our dogs!


Rusty is a sweet male pointer mix who is available for adoption from Monroe County Animal Control in Forsyth, GA.

He has a fundrazr set up to help pay for his vetting and to make him more attractive to animal rescue groups.

When Rusty arrived the shelter did not think he would make it through the night. He was starved and dehydrated and very weak. After a month of feeding and watering and a good bath and lots of play time and exercise, he is going to make it. What he looks like changes from day to day. Rusty was only skin and bones when he arrived and now that he is putting on muscle mass again he looks a little different than he did when he first arrived.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 3, 2016

Georgia & American History

On January 1, 1751, the law prohibiting slavery in Georgia was repealed after an act passed by the Georgia Trustees the previous year.

On January 2, 1766, some Sons of Liberty marched on the Royal Governor’s Mansion in Savannah to “discuss” the Stamp Act, which required the use of stamped paper for all printing as a means of taxing the colonies. They were met by a pistol-toting Governor Wright. The next day, January 3, 1766, the Royal Stamp Master arrived at Tybee Island and was taken to the Governor’s Mansion. On that day, Georgia became the first and only colony in which the stamp tax was actually collected.

Georgia became the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution on January 2, 1788.

Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts became the first United States Senator to be censured by the body on January 2, 1811.

Delaware, technically at the time a slave state, rejected a proposal to secede from the United States on January 3, 1861.

The Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln went into effect in eleven Southern states on January 1, 1863, though parts of Virginia and Louisiana were exempt.

On January 3, 1973, Andrew Young was sworn in as the first African-American Congressman from Georgia since 1871.

Remains of a ship believed to date to the 1800s were found on a beach at Cumberland Island.

A wooden ship from the mid-1800s, possibly a Civil War blockade runner, recently has been discovered along the beach at Cumberland Island — a previously unreported find that locals, archaeologists and parks officials believe could be a major historical discovery.

The unknown vessel lay in the shallow waters of Cumberland, a barrier island off Georgia’s southeastern coast. Officials surmise a December storm shifted enough sand to make visible the ship’s bones — its wooden gunnel, or midsection, lying exposed like the ribs of a dead cow.

[National Park Service archaeologist Michael] Seibert estimated the ship had lain untouched and covered by sand for at least 50 years. Sheltered from the sun and the wind, the vessel’s remains — one timber measures 80 feet in length, suggesting the ship was at least 100 feet long — are in relatively fine condition.

“There was an awful lot of Civil War military traffic along the coast (with) many smaller vessels that were all about stealth and speed,” said Chris McCabe, the deputy archaeologist for the state of Georgia. “We can’t say definitively that it’s a blockade runner, and we may never be able to say definitively, but it’s an absolute possibility.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former Governor Sonny Perdue appears to be the leading candidate for Secretary of Agriculture in the Trump Administration.

Drew Ferguson (R-LaGrange) will be sworn in as the Congressman from the Third District today in Washington, DC.

“I’m excited for the work ahead and honored to be going to Washington, D.C. to serve the people,” Ferguson said Saturday. “I’m optimistic for the district, for Georgia and for the nation. America has a lot of work to do. People expect Congress to start getting it right. I believe we will.”

It’s been a time of big changes for Ferguson prior to today’s event. He sold his dental practice, per House ethics rules. He and his wife Buffy sold their house and moved closer to West Point’s reenergized downtown, where just about any restaurant of your choosing is within walking distance.

He knows who he’ll represent when he begins his term today. He knows transportation issues around here mean finding ways for people to get to work and improving routes from West Georgia to the coast. Uber is not a pressing issue. Neither are driverless cars, unless someone invents an automatic pulpwood truck.

“I’d like to work myself into a position where I can do something about poverty and the entitlement programs and bring in some real-world ideas,” he said. “We can’t get rid of entitlement programs, but we do have to make them more effective. This government has kept people in poverty.”

In the meantime, he’s hoping to land a spot on the House transportation committee or the energy and commerce committee in his first term. Transportation issues are vital to Georgia and the district, he said.

“We’ve got the interstate. We’ve got the automotive manufacturing industry. We’ve got something as forward-thinking as the Ray,” he said. The Ray is the stretch of interstate near West Point called the Ray C. Anderson Memorial Highway with a series of initiatives planned to improve safety and environmental standards in transportation.

State Senator Elect Matt Brass (R-Coweta) spoke to the Newnan Times-Herald about his priorities for the legislative session.

“There are so many different areas where we have been able to help people. That is probably the most rewarding part of public service for me,” Brass said.

Work to get a law passed may not show results for years. But the evidence of constituent service is immediate.

“When you help a veteran get the benefits that he deserves, that’s instant gratification for him and for yourself,” he said.

Legislators typically get assigned to four committees. Freshman apply for eight that they would like to serve on.

Two large electrical plants, Yates and Wansley, are in the district, so Brass has asked for Regulated Industries and Utilities. He’d like to serve on Health and Human Services because Coweta is becoming a health care destination.

He’s asked for Natural Resources and Environment, and Education and Youth, as well as Veteran’s Affairs. Working with Westmoreland’s office, Brass had a lot of interaction with the U.S. Veteran’s Administration and local veterans.

“For me, as a conservative, pro-life Republican, if I’m going to fight to keep children alive, I want to make sure they’re living well while they are here,” he said.

State Representative Elect Josh Bonner (R) joins Brass as a freshman in the state legislature.

Though he won’t know which committees he’s will be assigned to until probably the end of the first week of the session, he is hoping for the Veteran’s Affairs, Economic Development and Tourism and Utilities and Telecommunications committees. He’s also put education and small business committees on his wish list.

Bonner said he thinks the area of government where he can make the biggest impact is workforce development. He and his brother run Southeast Properties, a commercial real estate and property management company started by their father and a partner.

“In every industry I have spoken with there has been this shortfall in a viable workforce,” Bonner said. “There are a lot of good things going on in Georgia with technical schools and internships and job training programs, including Coweta’s German-style apprenticeship and the Central Educational Center. There’s the Georgia Film Academy program at Pinewood Studios in Fayette and Piedmont-Fayette has a program for high school students,” he said.

“We need to try to get a little more attention to those and really look at what jobs can be filled by people in Georgia,” Bonner continued.

The AJC characterizes the 2017 Session of the Georgia General Assembly as one of uncertainty.

[L]awmakers face more uncertainty than at any time in recent years when they head into the 2017 session on Jan. 9. The election of the entirely unconventional Donald Trump as president, and a GOP Congress itching to make major changes in how government programs operate and are funded, have seen to that.

Nowhere might the impact show up more quickly than in the state’s budget, which is heavily padded with federal funding and is the financial lifeblood for millions of Georgians who rely on public money for education, health care, transportation and policing.

Will the new Congress quickly pass a stimulus plan that sends a torrent of money to the state for road and bridge projects? Will it change the formula for funding programs by sending “block grants,” chunks of money with fewer strings attached? Will tax laws be changed, making an impact on the state’s bottom line, and will complicated, big-money health care programs such as Medicaid for the poor and elderly be rewritten?

None of that may occur anytime soon. Or all of it could affect the General Assembly enough over the next few months that lawmakers call a temporary halt to the session or hold a special session later in the year to deal with any changes Congress makes.

I think that last paragraph hits something I’ve been talking about a lot lately – will the Session be extended to end later in the year or is a special session a real possibility?

I believe that the 2017 legislative session is likely to adjourn sine die before the end of March, but I can’t for the life of me think of how the state writes a budget consisting of roughly half federal dollars without knowing how the Trump administration will change Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and infrastructure funding.

Back to that AJC story:

“Budget writers are always nervous about uncertainty,” said Carolyn Bourdeaux, the director of Georgia State University’s Center for State and Local Finance and a former Georgia Senate budget director.

As House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, said, “We really have no clue.

“I personally think we go in and we see whether or not Trump’s 100-day agenda looks like it’s on the rails and is actually going to happen,” he said. “Then we have to consider what to do if it is.”

I think the only way for the legislature to “consider what to do” after the first 100 days of the Trump administration is in a special session devoted to budgetary changes and any substantive changes that accompany a budget update.

Georgia’s Republican National Committeeman Randy Evans, apparently channeling President-elect Trump’s social media voice, thinks it’s the AJC that’s gone off the rails, posting on Facebook:

The clueless AJC – actually the single most dominant dynamic for the next Ga. session is the beginning of the 2018 election cycle as legislators in both parties start positioning for their spot as the musical chairs begin with term limited Gov. Deal’s departure.

The only thing missing is a closing exclamation. Sad!

State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) told the AJC that religious liberty is likely to be an issue in the session.

“I’m coordinating with the House members and Senate members to see who’s going to introduce legislation and see where everyone is on it,” said state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, who has become the most public face of the effort over the past three years. “You’ll see religious freedom bills introduced in both chambers.”

McKoon might find some of his colleagues are less interested in reliving the battles of the past few years. McKoon himself is expected to lose his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee (a direct result of his outspoken support for religious liberty bills), and Republican leaders in the Senate, who have publicly supported past years’ efforts, have indicated that “religious liberty” is not among their top priorities for 2017.

“The Metro Atlanta Chamber wants to work with the General Assembly and Governor Deal to advocate for policies that will strengthen Georgia’s reputation as the No. 1 state in the nation for business,” said Katie Kirkpatrick, the chamber’s chief policy officer. “That means a great education for the workforce of tomorrow, continuing to support additional transportation options and working to ensure that Georgia remains a welcoming place for all people.”

Late in November, the outgoing chairman of the chamber’s board, SunTrust Banks Executive Vice President Jenner Wood, said the group would fight “religious liberty” bills again. The conversation alone over the legislation, which critics deride as discriminatory toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, is damaging to the state’s reputation of tolerance and inclusion, Wood said.

“We are not supportive of any bill that in any way would discriminate against any person,” Wood said in a media briefing ahead of the chamber’s annual meeting in November.

Former Republican State Rep. Roger Hines writes in the Marietta Daily Journal about religious liberty legislation.

The deplorable-elite divide has another context besides the Trump-Clinton presidential race. That context is the religious freedom and transgender issue that still simmers across the heartland. The 80 percent of evangelicals who voted for Trump are sure to be emailing and ringing up their state legislators in a matter of days. They still believe it’s indecorous and dangerous for a man to enter a women’s restroom simply because he “identifies” as a woman.

The elites in the religious freedom and transgender debate are, among others, the Chamber of Commerce, corporate heads, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and The National Collegiate Athletic Association. The deplorables are ordinary citizens who believe pastors should not be punished for preaching what they believe Scripture teaches — that pastors, bakers and florists shouldn’t be required to violate their religious convictions by participating in homosexual weddings, and that parents and husbands shouldn’t have to be fearful when their daughters or wives are in a public restroom.

Time is not on the side of those who oppose the legislature’s religious freedom bills. Ordinary people are emboldened. As in America, the populist movement is upending Britain, France, Germany and, most recently, Italy. Moral, fiscal and immigration issues are all involved in the emerging populism. Joe Lunch Box, Eli the electrician, and Paul the plumber are registering to vote across America and Europe. They want common sense and freedom from the intelligentsia so long in power.

Georgia legislators know this. I predict they will stand with McKoon and Teasley and withstand the bullying corporations and sports titans. If so, then bully for them.

Gas prices will rise as part of a restructured sales tax comes online.

In 2015, with bipartisan support, state lawmakers passed HB 170 to change the way Georgia taxes gasoline.

Georgia’s increase, a fraction of a penny, will not have a huge impact on what consumers pay. The revenue, however, will greatly increase the number of roadway improvement projects.

“We’ve already begun to see orange barrels and cones all around the state,” said Seth Millican. “The state DOT has begun to do more work and you’ll continue to see more of that.”

Millican is the head of the Georgia Transportation Alliance, he says that unlike other statewide problems, transportation is an easy fix – it just needs more money.

“You are paying a little bit more at the pump when you buy gas,” Millican said, “but you’re also going to see a lot more work and a lot more progress on roads and bridges that may have gone unrepaired for quite some time.”


Arguably, the biggest issues in the 2017 General Assembly will involve healthcare. Medicaid and Medicare funding and any changes in eligibility are almost certainly shelved until we have a better idea what the federal programs look like under the Trump administration and incoming Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America will seek changes to the state program that requires some new healthcare facilities receive a Certificate of Need before opening.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) Southeastern is airing radio and television commercials in an effort to spur grassroots support for change or repeal of Georgia’s law that allows state officials to decide if there is a need for a proposed medical facility. Without a certificate of need from the Georgia Department of Community Health, no hospital or clinic can open or add on.

“The campaign, known as SpeakNowGeorgia is ongoing,” explained spokesperson Roland Alonzi. “The coalition is dedicated to continuing in 2017 in an effort to educate and raise awareness of the certificate-of-need laws that we are looking to revise.”

CTCA is known, however, for big-budget advertisements, according to BenefitsPro, a website and magazine geared toward benefits and retirement professionals. A recent article indicated that the chain of health care facilities, which includes a network of five hospitals in the U.S., budgets more than $100 million annually for advertising.

Contention stems from Kent’s claim that the board’s request for reclassification is simply to “have the same rules apply,” to CTCA. According to Georgia Hospital Association Senior Vice President of Government Relations, Ethan James, the facility has another objective in mind.

“If given the opportunity, CTCA will cherry-pick patients based on those who have the ‘best’ insurance,” James said, noting that the association has long suspected the for-profit cancer facility of turning away patients with no insurance and low incomes.

“CTCA does not comply with the law to disclose data regarding indigent care,” James said. “There is no data indicating the hospital meets requirements.”

James noted that if CTCA expands and continues to discriminate against uninsured sufferers, all cancer patients will subsequently be affected. Nonprofit cancer treatment centers like those found in nearby hospitals and those located across the state, will ultimately lose money if left with only the uninsured to treat.

“Those hospitals may then be forced to cut back on various lines of services offered,” he said. “It could hinder cancer and other specialty care in local hospitals.”

Jerry Fulks, CEO of WellStar West Georgia Medical Center, writes about the need for the Certificate of Need program to stabilize existing hospitals.

In emergency medicine, the “golden hour” immediately after a traumatic event like a car accident or a heart attack is the time in which the patient’s chance of surviving can be most improved by access to skilled medical care. Today, Georgia’s healthcare system faces a “golden hour” in which legislative action is required to ensure the long-term survival of the local hospitals that protect our families, our communities, and provide high-quality healthcare and well-paying jobs.

Simply put, our statewide hospital network requires immediate stabilization to ensure that no more communities lose access to healthcare.

The first measure to stabilize our hospitals is renewal of the Medicaid provider fee, which helps fill in a financial hole left by the federal system. Some call it a “bed tax,” though no tax is levied on patients or on hospital beds. Without legislative renewal, the provider fee will expire on June 30, 2017, and Georgia will lose hundreds of millions of dollars of our own federal tax dollars.

Georgia’s certificate of need law was put into place nearly 40 years ago to ensure that all citizens would have access to care – no matter where they live, what their income level or how serious their condition. These laws require that any new medical facility or hospital expansion meet a true unfilled need.

Why is this important? Because hospitals, especially not-for-profit facilities, rely upon a delicate balance of services, patient mix and reimbursement levels to maintain their financial viability. Requiring proposed expansions or new facilities to go through the certificate of need process helps to safeguard that critical balance while expanding medical care where it is needed the most.

Proposed changes to the certificate of need law will be among many health care issues our legislators debate this coming year, but few will be more important given the potential impact on local communities throughout our state. In some cases, those decisions could mean the difference between a hospital staying open or closing; in others, difficult choices about what services to provide or eliminate. No one should ever lose a loved one or suffer more than necessary because they did not have timely access to quality care.

[Disclaimer: I am currently working with the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals as a communications consultant. The author of the above piece in the LaGrange News is Chairman of the Board for the Alliance.]


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for December 22, 2016


River is a small female terrier mix who is available for adoption from Etowah Valley Humane Society in Cartersville, GA.


Emmett is a young male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Etowah Valley Humane Society in Cartersville, GA.


Kendall is an adult female Hound mix who is available for adoption from Etowah Valley Humane Society in Cartersville, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 22, 2016

James Edward Oglethorpe was born in London, England, on December 22, 1696. He was elected to Parliament, where he worked on prison reform and had the idea of a new colony where “worthy poor” Brits could be sent. In 1732, Oglethorpe was granted a charter to create a colony of Georgia in the new world.

On December 22, 1775, the Continental Congress created the Continental Navy.

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony premiered on December 22, 1808 in Vienna, Austria.

Governor George Gilmer signed legislation that prohibited teaching slaves or free African-Americans to read or write on December 22, 1829.

Martha Bulloch and Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. were married at Bulloch Hall in Roswell, Georgia on December 22, 1853. Their son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. would later be elected President of the United States.

On December 22, 1864, General William T. Sherman wired to President Abraham Lincoln from Savannah, Georgia,

His Excellency President LINCOLN:

I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.

W.T. Sherman,
Major General.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Gov. Nathan Deal has named David Werner as his new Executive Counsel to the Governor.

Deal tapped David Werner, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), as Teague’s replacement. Werner will assume this position in January 2017.

“David Werner has served the Deal administration in a variety of capacities over the past six years, including on the 2010 and 2014 campaigns as well as in the governor’s official office. Rising from policy adviser to deputy executive counsel to Chief Operating Officer of the state, David has tackled each role with dedication, hard work and expertise,” said Chief of Staff Chris Riley. “David has the necessary skillset, institutional knowledge and executive experience to serve as counsel. He has the complete confidence of the governor and is a natural fit for the job.”

Georgia Republicans are stepping up to keep the 54th Senate District seat vacated by Sen. Charlie Bethel in GOP hands.

Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and other Republican Senate leaders will host a fund raiser on Wednesday in Atlanta for Chuck Payne, the GOP candidate in Jan. 10’s special election runoff for Senate District 54.

In an email to supporters, Payne’s team notes that turnout is likely to be low.

“With Christmas coming in less than a week and the New Year’s Holiday to follow, voters will have plenty of distractions from this important election,” the email says. “The campaign needs your help now more than ever!  If you live in or have friends and family members in the district, please encourage them to get out and vote.”

Democrats, meanwhile, hope to pick off the seat as Peppers is seen as a Democrat despite the lack of party affiliation next to her name on the ballot.

Justin Tomczak, a Republican operative helping Payne, said the GOP blitz should come as no surprise.

“When you go on TV and say you are going to caucus with the Democrats if elected, don’t be surprised when the Republican party gets behind your opponent.”

Republican Chuck Payne and Democrat Nonpartisan Debby Peppers met in a forum earlier this week.

Chuck Payne wondered Tuesday evening whether his opponent tried to hide her political affiliation.

Payne, a Republican, asked Debby Peppers why she is running for the Georgia Senate as a nonpartisan candidate. Peppers said she has been a Democrat for 40 years, but she worried people wouldn’t pay attention to her opinions on issues in the region if she put a label next to her name.

“It bothers me a little bit,” she said during a candidate forum hosted by the Dalton Daily Citizen and the area League of Women Voters. “If we’re a two-party system, why is being a Democrat such a bad thing? It helps to bring balance.”

Peppers, in turn, questioned whether Payne can challenge leaders in Atlanta, pointing out that he will have to be loyal to the GOP. Payne told the crowd at Dalton’s city hall that he has no problem standing up to authority.

Payne painted Peppers as a liberal in a bright red region.

“The Democrats are trying to take this state Senate seat,” he wrote on his public Facebook page Dec. 11. “Let’s make sure this does not happen.”

Established Republicans have backed Payne. Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel endorsed him Monday. And [] U.S. Congressman Tom Graves [attended] a fundraiser for Payne.

Peppers, meanwhile, has pushed back against the liberal label. Technically, she is running as a non-partisan candidate, though she has said she would caucus with the Democrats in Atlanta if elected.

The two candidates differ on the issue of whether to allow casino gambling in Georgia.

Chuck Payne, former chairman of the Whitfield County Republican Party, says he opposes legalizing gambling for the same reason he opposed the state lottery more than 20 years ago: it hurts the poor.

“Bob Shaw doesn’t go buy $100 worth of tickets on payday,” he said. Shaw is the founder and chairman of Engineered Floors and was the co-founder and long-time CEO of Shaw Industries.

Payne said poor people, desperate to escape their condition, will gamble money to the detriment of their families and children.

Debby Peppers, a former member of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, said she doesn’t “have strong feelings” either way on gambling.

“If they put it on the ballot and people vote for it, I can live with that,” she said.

In the nonpartisan race, candidates were allowed to list a party affiliation when qualifying. Payne listed Republican, while Peppers did not list a party affiliation.

She said Tuesday she did so because she wanted voters to judge her without a label by her name. But she said she has been a Democrat all of her life and would caucus with the Democrats if elected. Peppers noted a number of tax increases and fee increases passed by the Legislature since Republicans gained control more than a decade ago and said if voters elect someone just because of an “R” beside their name they can expect more of the same. She said she would consider each issue on its merits.

Early voting begins Tuesday. Voters do not have to have voted in the special election to vote in the runoff.

Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing ranks number one in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The School of Nursing secured $7.8 million in research grants, fellowships, training grants, and other awards from NIH in FY 2016, representing the highest NIH funding total in the school’s history.

“This new No. 1 ranking is a strong reflection of the breadth and depth of the School of Nursing’s research program and of our faculty’s dedication to the advancement of nursing knowledge and science,” says Linda McCauley, PhD, RN, dean of the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. “Our faculty’s innovative research is translating into better health and quality of life for individuals, families, and communities around the world.”

Columbus City Council is considering allowing some employees to defer their retirement.

[T]he city would have to change its Deferred Option Retirement Plan to allow participants to voluntarily suspend their participation in that program and extend their full-time employment with the Columbus Consolidated Government for up to five additional years.

Councilor Glen Davis, a strong proponent of the amendment, said DROP, as it currently stands, doesn’t provide options for participants who need to continue working more than three years for various reasons.

“It was evident that several council members wanted to try to do something for the employees, because, quite frankly, today it’s just unforeseen times,” he said. “There are unforeseen circumstances that happen. I like to use the word ‘Awakening’ circumstances, whether it’s health matters, whether it’s financial matters, whether it’s college for kids, or just the need to continue working. Or, if you’ve got voids that lead to potential crisis in organizations, where you can’t fill two spots and keep the leadership, the experience and the right people in the right place.”

Davis said city officials have had difficulty recruiting and retaining employees for public safety and other jobs, and that concerns him. He said the proposal is for a DROP extension that would allow an employee to voluntarily freeze the DROP for up to five years.

Wayne Frazier was sworn in as a new member of the Richmond County Board of Education.

Judge Stephen Kelley of the Superior Court for the Brunswick Circuit has put an end to weddings at a beachfront home on St. Simons Island.

Superior Court Judge Stephen D. Kelley’s enjoining of Jeff and Lee Burton’s business use of their house on East Beach is the latest ruling in a battle that first hit the courts in 2013.

Bothered by trolleys hauling guests, on-street parking and noise, neighbors of the house on 16th Street complained to the county which in turn notified the Burtons that using the property as an event venue violated a county zoning ordinance.

The governing ordinance said the house is a single-family dwelling where weddings and parties are permissible as an “accessory use,’’ Kelley ruled in December 2013. He found that weddings and social events had become the primary use of the property and ruled the county was right.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for December 21, 2016


Charlie is a year-old male dark brown lab mix with light brown markings who is available for adoption from Save-A-Life in Savannah, GA. He is very sweet and playful, still puppy-like.

He is an indoor dog but enjoys outdoor activities with his humans. He loves attention and will need a little schooling to learn not to jump on people. He likes to snuggle with you on the furniture but he does not shed much. He will bark when he needs to go out. He has a loud bark and should make a good watch dog. He is also good with dogs and older children (we don’t know about very young ones but suspect he can be readily trained. He has proven to be trainable and this is a great age for adoption.


Baby Girl is a 1.5 year-old female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Save-A-Life in Savannah, GA.

Baby Girl has turned into a funny loving pup that doesn’t meet a stranger, people or dogs. She is also housebroken and good with cats.


Jack is a 2-year old Corgi mix male who is available for adoption from GRRR! (Ga. Rescue Rehabilitation & Relocation) in Savannah, GA.

Jack is learning to trust again and he will take patience. He’s a very handsome dog, small in size, and a sweet boy. If you have the time, energy and passion to take on the challenge of getting Jack to trust humans again, the rewards will be great. He gets along well with other dogs and will now accept the people in the rescue whom he has learned to trust.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 21, 2016

On December 21, 1829, Georgia Governor George Gilmer signed legislation outlawing the teaching of African-Americans to read or write. One year later to the day, he signed legislation claiming for the state all territory occupied by the Cherokee tribe.

On December 21, 1835, Oglethorpe University was incorporated near Macon, later moving to Atlanta.

On December 21, 1863, the Confederate government selected a site in Sumter County for construction of Camp Sumter, which would be better known by the name Andersonville Prison.

General William Tecumseh Sherman received the surrender of Savannah, Georgia on December 21, 1864.

Sixteen years ago, DeKalb County was reeling from the assassination of Sheriff-elect Derwin Brown. His predecessor, Sheriff Sidney Dorsey was convicted and is still serving time.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

One of the Republican electors who voted for someone other than Donald Trump for President is from Georgia… by way of Texas. From,

[W]hile the majority of the electoral votes in Texas went to President-elect Donald Trump, some went astray. One elector gave his vote to Ohio Governor John Kasich, and another elector who had remained anonymous gave his over to 1988 Libertarian candidate for President, and retired Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

But the identity of the elector who cast his vote for Ron Paul has been revealed, and it’s a political science professor at South Texas College by the name of Bill Greene.

Greene was first identified by The Statesmanand has since had his social media accounts suspended, and his inbox overwhelmed with emails about his decisions, and requests for explanations.

Greene is a former Georgia political activist, and the article also brings in a one-term Georgia State House member who won a special election and was retired in the very next primary.

The Georgia Public Service Commission approved a deal struck between PSC staff and Georgia Power about financing for the two new reactors at Plant Vogtle.

The commission said the agreement benefits customers because it avoids potential litigation with Georgia Power over who will cover cost overruns. It also sets stiff penalties if the Atlanta utility doesn’t complete the project by the end of 2020.

The PSC staff and Georgia Power say the Oct. 20 pact will save ratepayers about $185 million over the next four years.

“I think what we’ve done is remove the threat of litigation and front-load a lot of savings,” said Chuck Eaton, PSC chairman.

The settlement gives Georgia Power an additional 18 months to complete the first new unit and six months to complete the second one.

The deal also delays Georgia Power’s collection of another $139 million until the project is completed, over the expected 60-year life of the reactors.

Customers’ rates won’t go down as a result of the deal. They just won’t go up next year, because a surcharge on customers’ bills that finances the Vogtle project is expected to stay at this year’s level. As part of the settlement, Georgia Power withdrew a request to increase the surcharge next year.


Renee Unterman, Chair of the Senate HHS Committee, held a press conference yesterday with her House counterpart, Rep. Sharon Cooper, and Sen. Valencia Seay about legislation regarding dental hygienists.

[A] bill pre-filed Tuesday in the Georgia General Assembly…. would let hygienists practice in safety-net clinics, nursing homes, school-based clinics and other locations without a dentist present.

On Tuesday, the two powerful chairs of the Health and Human Services committees — one in the House and one in the Senate — spoke of the need for passage of the dental hygienist bill in the 2017 General Assembly, to help people who don’t have regular access to dental care.

The proposal would help the most vulnerable – seniors, the disabled and children, said Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), head of the Senate health panel. In Georgia, she said, “118 of 159 counties are considered dental health professional shortage areas.’’

Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), who chairs the House panel, said there was “misinformation’’ that the previous proposal would allow dental hygienists to practice independently. That was never the case, she said, as a dentist would have to agree to authorize a hygienist to work in designated settings.

The legislation differs from the earlier version in that it would allow general supervision in private practice, Unterman said.

That means that dentists can be on sick leave or vacation and not have to close their practices, because hygienists could still see patients. “It’s common-sense legislation,” Unterman said.

“People can stay in place [in a nursing home] and at least get their teeth cleaned,’’ she added. “It’s a basic necessity in life.”

Elly Yu of WABE looks at the effects on a rural community of their local hospital closing.

Cindy Jones still can’t help but think about the timing of things. Stewart-Webster Hospital, the place she and her family had gone to for years, closed in March of 2013. A month later, her husband Bill suffered a heart attack.

She called an ambulance, which arrived about 15 minutes later, she said. They took him to a hospital in Cuthbert, Georgia, about 25 miles from her Lumpkin home. Her husband was pronounced dead there. He was 52 years old.

“I just feel like that not getting him there within that golden hour had a lot of bearing on his death,” Jones said.

She said she feels like they lost time traveling to the hospital, and would have taken him to their local hospital, which was 9 miles away, had it still been open.

It’s a very good piece, worth reading (or listening to) in its entirety.

Georgia had the seventh-largest population increase in the nation.

The state’s population grew by 110,973 between 2015 and 2016 – the seventh-largest surge in the nation, according to data collected and analyzed by the U.S. Census Bureau and released Tuesday.

By mid-2016, there were 10,310,371 people in Georgia, the bureau said.

[Since 2010,] Georgia has added 621,691 people – a 6.4 percent expansion of the population. That compares to a national increase in that time of 14.4 million people, a 4.7 percent.

In late 2010, the Georgia unemployment rate was 10.5 percent — which did not include thousands of people who had left the workforce and stopped looking for a job. The current rate is 5.3 percent — and that includes a surge of people who have recently entered the workforce.

A new elephant sanctuary is being planned for Southwest Georgia, near Bainbridge.

An 846-acre cattle ranch located 30 miles northwest of Tallahassee will soon be converted into an elephant sanctuary.

The South Georgia ranch just sold to the Founder of Elephant Aid International, Carol Buckley.

The site plans to be a refuge for elephants recovering from life in captivity and past traumas. Buckley founded America’s first elephant sanctuary in Tennessee 20 years ago.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for December 20, 2016


Bersa is a female Treeing Walker Coonhound puppy who is available for adoption from One Love Animal Rescue, Inc in Savannah, GA.


Smith is a male Treeing Walker Coonhound puppy who is available for adoption from One Love Animal Rescue, Inc in Savannah, GA.


Browning is a male Treeing Walker Coonhound puppy who is available for adoption from One Love Animal Rescue, Inc in Savannah, GA.


Benelli is a female Treeing Walker Coonhound puppy who is available for adoption from One Love Animal Rescue, Inc in Savannah, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 20, 2016

On December 20, 1860, a secession convention in Charleston, South Carolina passed a Secession Ordinance, removing the Palmetto State from the United States.


On December 20, 1864, Confederate forces in Savannah retreated ahead of Sherman’s army, crossing over into South Carolina, four years to the day after South Carolina’s secession.

Happy Birthday to former Governor Sonny Perdue, who was born on December 20, 1946.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal yesterday swore in three new judges to the Georgia Court of Appeals.Continue Reading..


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for December 19, 2016


Brandi is a female Dachshund and Chihuahua mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Houston County, Inc in Warner Robins, GA.


Bailey is a 2-year old female Dachshund and Chihuahua mix who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Houston County, Inc in Warner Robins, GA.

Bailey is a sweet little girl. She’s lived life on her own for a while and is still learning what it means to be a pet. She loves to play with other dogs. She is 2 years old, heartworm positive, spayed and up to date on shots. She has started slow kill treatment for the heartworms.


Simon is a male Dachshund and Chihuahua mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Houston County, Inc in Warner Robins, GA.