The blog.


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.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 18, 2018

On January 18, 1776, James Wright, Royal Governor of Georgia, was arrested by John Habersham, a member of the Provincial Congress.

L.Q.C. Lamar, born near Eatonton, Georgia, was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court on January 18, 1888.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced that most state government offices will remain closed today.

Acting on a recommendation from the state Emergency Operations Command, Gov. Nathan Deal today announced state government will remain closed for non-essential personnel tomorrow, Jan. 18, across the 83 counties impacted by winter weather.

“Our top priority is to ensure the safety of Georgians and to allow the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to continue doing its job,” said Deal. “Due to yesterday’s winter weather and continued freezing temperatures, ice continues accumulating on our roadways. GDOT is responsible for the maintenance of more than 17,900 miles of state roads and interstates. Currently, there are more than 12,800 miles remaining to be cleared and treated. In light of this, I urge people to stay home, stay safe and remain off our roadways. We will continue monitoring the weather and will provide updates as necessary.”

Joint Legislative Appropriations Committee Block Grant Hearings, originally scheduled for yesterday, begin at 1 PM today.

The State Senate convenes at 1:30 PM today, while the House of Representatives meets at 2 PM.

The Senate Rules Committee meets today in Room 450 upon adjournment of the Senate.

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets today in 307-CLOB at 4 PM.

House Judiciary (Non-Civil) meets upon adjournment in Room 132 of the State Capitol.

House Motor Vehicles meets upon adjournment in Room 403 of the Capitol.

Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) and Majority Leader Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) will release a statement on House Bill 159, the adoption bill, upon adjournment of the Senate.

Coweta County and the City of Newnan enacted a curfew prohibiting residents being outside from 5 PM last night through 10 AM today.

Those who have to travel for work requirements are exempt from the curfew. So are emergency personnel. Construction and repair workers are exempt if they are traveling to do repairs related to the weather events.

“This is for nonessential travel – we understand people that have to go to work,” said Coweta Commission Chairman Al Smith.

People were drag-racing down Bullsboro Drive in Mini-Coopers on Wednesday and doing donuts in parking lots while people were trying to shop, said Jay Jones, Coweta Emergency Management Director. While out working to treat roads, Ray Norton of Newnan Public Works was nearly hit by someone driving erratically, Jones said.

“We’re wanting to protect those people who are on the road legitimately.”

“We are erring on the side of caution and safety,” said Smith. If someone gets into an accident because they are out on the roads “doing stuff just because they don’t want to stay home,” then emergency personnel have to respond, and emergency personnel can end up in a slippery situation as well.

“We really don’t want our people going to get you out of a ditch when you’re not going anywhere and you’re not doing anything, you’re just out there because you’re bored and you don’t want to sit home,” Smith said.

Governor Deal has proposed creating a statewide business court that would be created by Constitutional Amendment.

Georgia Republican Gov. Nathan Deal is calling for state lawmakers to pass a constitutional amendment that, with the approval of voters, would create a new state court system solely to handle business disputes.

Any push from Deal’s administration would set up a rare, but precedented scenario requiring the Republican seek support from Democrats for what appears to be one of the top items on his policy agenda.

Amending the state constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate.

“They’re going to need us at the end of the day,” said Democratic Sen. Jen Jordan, whose victory in a special election last year broke Republican’s two-thirds majority in the state Senate. Republicans already lacked control of a two-thirds majority in the state House.

Gov. Deal and state fiscal economist Ken Heaghney discussed the effect of federal tax reform on the state budget earlier this week.

Ken Heaghney, Georgia’s fiscal economist, told members of the House and Senate budget committees that the state is projecting a 3.7 percent increase in revenue in fiscal 2019, which begins July 1. That’s slower growth than in 2017, but Heaghney said the projections do not take into account the impact of the federal tax changes Congress approved in December.

Heaghney said the changes — which are expected to result in smaller tax withholdings for millions of employees and tax cuts for corporations — could provide a short-term boost to the economy, but the long-term impact isn’t clear.

He said officials must go over more than 200 provisions in the new federal law to figure out how much effect it will have on the state budget, such as whether it will mean more or less revenue — tax money. Once they figure that out, Deal may have to change his revenue estimate — up or down — for the upcoming fiscal year.

“There are things in the federal bill that will impact us if we don’t do anything,” Heaghney said. “We want to give the governor a good understanding of what the implications are.”

A vast majority of this year’s budget increase will go to propping up the finances of the teacher pension system, paying for increased enrollment in k-12 schools and colleges, and higher costs for Medicaid, the public health system for the poor, disabled and nursing home residents.

Deal and Heaghney were the lead-off speakers at two days of joint House and Senate budget hearings, which conclude Wednesday. The hearings are on an accelerated schedule this year because some leading lawmakers want an early end to the 2018 session so they can begin campaigning.

Legislators may consider changes in the state tax code to address federal tax reform.

“We clearly are going to have to make some changes to the Georgia tax code,” said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.

The standard deduction is one area of conflict that immediately stands out, he said. State law required taxpayers who take the standard federal deduction to do the same with their state taxes. However, many counted on being able to itemize on their 2017 filing.

“That’s going to put some people in a penalty situation,” Hufstetler said.

There are a number of provisions expected to have an impact on state revenue, although it will be some time before definitive calculations are available. Hufstetler said Wednesday he had hoped to have a report from the Senate Budget and Evaluation Office by now but they’ve asked for a delay.

“It’s a complicated issue,” he noted. “But we want to get that done early and into the tax tables. People need to plan.”

Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Gregory Dozier asked the General Assembly to support legislation banning drone flights over state prison facilities.

“Now we’re combating the drones,” said the Georgia Department of Corrections commissioner at a state budget hearing on Tuesday in Atlanta.

“In [fiscal year] ’18, we had 74 drone sightings,” he said.

He doesn’t want drone delivery to become one of the multitude of ways prisoners get things they’re not supposed to have. No matter how phones get in, for example, he expects to seize about 6,000 contraband phones this year, in line with last year’s numbers.

“I’ll be asking you this year to support a bill that stipulates it’s illegal for a drone to cross a prison’s airspace,” Dozier told lawmakers.

Dozens of reports of drones sighted by corrections officers, obtained by The Telegraph under an open records request, describe prisons put on lockdown while officers count inmates and scour grounds for any drop-offs.

The leader of Georgia Sheriffs’ Association said he thinks sheriffs would be interested in adding county jails to no-fly zones too.

“I have not heard of a complaint from a sheriff about a drone drop. But if it hasn’t happened it’s a matter of time,” said Terry Norris, the GSA’s executive director.

“We’re anxious to see the bill and look forward to working with the Department of Corrections to help them achieve their goals,” said Lewis Massey, whose lobbying firm represents [drone manufacturer] DJI in Georgia.

State Rep. Bubber Epps, (R-Dry Branch) wants the Macon-Bibb County Commission and the Board of Education to come to an agreement on an additional sales tax.

The County Commission voted 7-1 Tuesday in favor of a resolution asking the local legislative delegation to introduce measures tied to the Other Local Option Sales Tax, or OLOST.

A consensus that the school board is behind Macon-Bibb’s efforts would generate more support for any legislation, said state Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, who represents much of Bibb County.

Legislators want to help if a local government wants it, but they don’t want to get in the middle of a local debate, he said. Epps said he’s heard concerns about “equalization.”

Epps said that before the legislative session, lawmakers encouraged the county and the school system to put their heads together to find common ground.

“I think the delegation wants to be of assistance where it can be, but we don’t want to get in the middle of local issues that need to be handled by local governments. I certainly don’t. If our input is needed, then I’d like to see agreement kind of coalesce on a local level before we have to take any action on the state level,” he said.

If it’s approved, half of the new tax would be used to roll back property taxes for county residents.

There would also be a partial “freeze” on property values on residences where the owner has a homestead exemption. The value the homeowner is taxed on could not change more than 2 percent within a year.

Even if the legislation passes through the Legislature, Macon-Bibb officials would have to sign off on adding it to the November election ballot, meaning residents would have the final say so on the extra penny of tax on the dollar.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) will introduce legislation similar to a bill vetoed by Gov. Deal.

Once again, the lead sponsor of the bill is House Judiciary Committee Chairman Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, who introduced the prior legislation in response to a Georgia Supreme Court ruling barred a declaratory judgement action against the state.

Since that ruling, the court has continued to reinforce its interpretation of sovereign immunity as an unscalable barrier to virtually any claim against the state, including mandamus actions and petitions for injunctive relief.

The legislation introduced Thursday expands the law governing state tort claims by waiving sovereign immunity for any claim “seeking a declaratory judgment or injunctive relief against the state or any political subdivision,” although it continues to bar actions for money damages unless sovereign immunity was specifically waived.

House Bill 674’s language is identical to that of the legislation that passed unanimously in the Senate and with only two “nays” in the House in 2016.

Deal’s veto statement said the bill’s “sweeping waiver of sovereign immunity would allow unprecedented judicial intervention into daily management decisions entrusted to the executive branch of government,” and posed “unforeseen ramifications that would impede government operations.”  The Board of Regents and then-Attorney General Sam Olens also opposed the legislation, according to the statement.

The state employee head count has dropped over the past decade, while employment at the University System of Georgia has risen.

Deal told House and Senate budget writers this week that the number of state employees dropped from 70,716 in fiscal 2008, just as the Great Recession began hammering government finances, to 58,642 in 2017.

But those figures don’t include the state’s biggest employer — the University System of Georgia.

University System figures show the number of full-time employees at Georgia’s colleges and universities rose 17 percent, from 40,209 to 46,953.

System officials point out that student enrollment on campuses grew 19 percent during that period.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College in Dalton will receive a funding boost in Gov. Deal’s proposed budget.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the percentage of Georgians favoring medical marijuana expansion has risen.

Over three-quarters of those surveyed said Georgia’s medical marijuana program should be expanded, an increase from previous years. This year’s AJC poll showed that 77 percent want greater access to medical marijuana, compared with 71 percent last year and 73 percent in 2016.

Meanwhile, approval of marijuana legalization for recreational use also reached new heights, with 50 percent of respondents backing legalization, compared with 46 percent last year.

Georgia lawmakers are considering legislation this year that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries, which for the first time would give patients a way to buy the drug legally.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said the AJC’s poll results confirm his belief that Georgians need a legal way to provide medical marijuana to patients who are already allowed to use it.

“Citizens want us to act, so why not structure something that’s regulated, restricted and provides a safe product for our citizens?” said Peake, the sponsor of HB 645. “Georgians want us to find a solution.”

The Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission is considering a 1-percent local option sales tax (LOST) to pay for some sewer and water projects.

State Rep. Jeff Jones has previously said he was in favor of a tax for the JWSC, but, like Rep. Don Hogan, would prefer for the city of Brunswick and county governments to back a new tax before attempting to create one.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler says Georgia set employment records in 2017.

Over the year, Georgia created more than 83,000 new jobs, employed thousands more residents, grew a much larger work force, and drove unemployment down 1.1 percent.

“As we look back at the year, it was impressive,” Butler said. “Over the year every major measurement improved considerably. In fact, we set records in several areas such as jobs, employment and work force.”

In December, Georgia added 5,600 new jobs to end the year with an all-time record high of 4,518,900. The previous high of 4,513,300 was recorded in November. The 1.9 percent growth rate compares favorably with the national growth rate of 1.4 percent.

Job records were also set in educational and health services at 589,300 and leisure and hospitality at 495,900. The previous record highs had been recorded in November.

The state grew jobs in all major employment sectors, except manufacturing where 3,800 jobs were lost.

Congressman John Lewis will deliver the commencement address at the University of California, San Diego in June.

The Fayette County Commission voted to pass a resolution endorsing religious liberty legislation in the state legislature.

Offered up by Commissioner Randy Ognio, a controversial resolution would see the county ask the Congress of the United States (with House Resolution 514) and the state congress (with Senate Bill 233) to protect religious freedom by any means necessary. Four of the five commissioners voted to throw the county’s support behind the bill and make it part of the county’s legislative packet.

The audience was vocal, both in support and opposition of the resolution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), with the crowd in favor asking for help in protecting their freedoms and the opposing crowd questioning the need or reasoning for throwing support behind the bills and saying it opens the door to discrimination.

The item was moved to near the front of the agenda, in part to allow State Senator Marty Harbin to speak and share a short video attempting to explain the importance of the bill.

Harbin relayed a story he had heard earlier in the day about a man planting an apple tree with his grandson. When his grandson asks him why he is planting it since he will be dead before he can enjoy the fruits of his labor, the man explains that he is planting it for his son and for the next generation.

The story, which was told by Governor Nathan Deal during his State of the State Address about the growing prosperity of the state coming out of the recession, symbolized to Harbin the importance of planting things for his children and his grandchildren and thinking about the next generation. Harbin called his bill, Senate Bill 233, a mirror image of federal law where one must “show a compelling government reason for that law to be enforced and violate someone’s deeply-held religious convictions, and that’s really all it does,” he said.

State Representatives Derrick Jackson and Debra Bazemore spoke in opposition to Harbin.

Lucy McBath will run against State Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), and registered her campaign for the Democratic nomination.

As one of the “Mothers of the Movement” and the spiritual outreach leader for Moms Demand Action, McBath has been on the front lines of lobbying and education for sensible gun laws.

As the Huffington Post notes, “McBath’s activism has spearheaded much-needed gun reform.” In Florida, McBath and her fellow volunteers from Moms Demand Action defeated a number of bills that would have permitted guns on school campuses and airports.

Mayor Jeff Ash of Helen took the oath of office, continuing his service that began on the city commission in 1974.

Atlanta Regional Commission Chair Kerry Armstrong spoke about what he considers an opportunity to build-out transit.

Armstrong, whose at-large citizen district on the ARC board is located in Gwinnett, made the remarks during a State of the Region Address to the Gwinnett Chamber at the Sonesta Gwinnett Place Atlanta. During the speech, he pointed to data from the ARC Metro Speaks Survey, which showed support for transit in the metro area.

Ninety-four percent of survey participants said they believed public transit was important to the region’s future, and 56 percent said they were willing to pay more taxes to fund transit, Armstrong said.

“If there’s been a window when something big could happen, it’s right now more than any time ever before,” he said.

He did tell the business leaders to keep an eye on the state Capitol, particularly the Georgia House of Representatives. Developments that have happened there are why he believes there’s a window for transit right now.

“I can tell you that at the statehouse, for the first time in my lifetime, there’s actually some real discussion about this,” Armstrong said. “Regional governance and funding — the House has had a study commission on this that’s met on this and they’ve had a very robust, huge amount of input from a variety of different angles.”

“I think the House will take that up this year.”

Kennesaw will hold a special election to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Council member Yvette Daniel.

For that to happen, the council will need to determine the date of the election, the dates candidates can qualify and the qualifying fee. They will also need to sign a contract authorizing the county to conduct the election for the city, according to Cobb elections director Janine Eveler.

Mayor Derek Easterling indicated at Tuesday night’s council meeting that the council will take that up during their next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 5.

Eveler said the next two available dates for an election are March 20 and May 22. She said her office has recommended the city go with the May 22 date, as that is the date of the primary for all statewide offices, including members of the Legislature, governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state.

Eveler said holding Kennesaw’s election on the same date would mean the additional costs would be minimal.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 17, 2018


Hachi is a male Husky mix who is available for adoption from Georgia S.P.C.A. in Suwanee, GA.

Hachi is a super handsome and smart Husky. He is looking for a new forever home with an adopter that is very experienced with the Husky breed. If you have experience with Husky’s and would like to meet Hachi, he is waiting at the Adoption Center.


Clarity is a senior female Husky mix who is available for adoption from Angels Among Us Pet Rescue, Inc. in Alpharetta, GA.


Zizou is an adult male Husky who is available for adoption from Husky Pack Rescue in Powder Springs, GA.

Zizou enjoys hiking, walks in the wood and playing in water. He loves playing with his foster family dogs Natasha and Hunter. He is a large strong boy, he does better with females but once probably introduced he gets along with males also. He bonds very quickly to his family and is protective of them. Zizou recently walked in a parade with our group and he LOVED all the attention! Good w/cats? No Good w/dogs?: He does better with females but once probably introduced he gets along with males also, no little dogs Good w/children?: No young children


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 17, 2018

On January 17, 1733, Georgia’s Trustees in London voted to ban Jews from the colony.

Martin Luther King, Jr. began the Chicago civil rights campaign on January 17, 1966.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 83 counties beginning last night.

This line extends from Columbus to Macon to Augusta and northward. State government will be closed tomorrow in the impacted areas for non-essential personnel.

“Following the latest update from the National Weather Service, and acting upon the recommendation from the state’s Emergency Operations Command, I’ve issued an executive order closing state government for non-essential personnel tomorrow,” said Deal. “The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) will continue treating our roads and interstates. To ensure people’s safety and to allow GDOT to do its job, I urge people to remain home and off the roads. We will continue monitoring the weather and will provide updates as necessary.”

Read the emergency declaration here.

The Georgia General Assembly‘s Joint Appropriations Committee Budget Hearing (Day 2) scheduled for 9 AM today is cancelled.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is holding a “Digital Learning Day” in lieu of opening schools today.

Gwinnett County is opting for another Digital Learning Day following an announcement by the school system to cancel classes.

GCPS made the announcement earlier Tuesday that it would be concluding all school related activities by 8 p.m. to avoid any winter weather.

This is the second systemwide Digital Learning Day in as many weeks after school was also canceled on Jan. 8 due to the threat of ice.

The “Digital Learning Day” apparently assumes most students will have working broadband internet and a computer at home.

On the day that school has been canceled, teachers will post assignments on their eCLASS C&I course pages. Middle school assignments will be posted by 10 a.m.

Students will use the My eCLASS student portal to log in to their eCLASS C&I course pages where they will access assignments, resources, and other materials. If the power is out, a student may access the teacher’s course page when power returns. If a student does not have access to a computer or device (tablet, smartphone, etc.), the student can get the assignment once school resumes.

Student work will be expected to be turned in to the teacher (either digitally or in person), using a school’s process for turning in work following an absence. For example, if your school allows students to turn in work two days after a missed day the Digital Learning Day assignments would be due two days after classes resume.

Former Secretary of Health & Human Services and Georgia Congressman Tom Price has a new gig.

Jackson Healthcare, a Georgia-based provider of health-care staffing and technology services, said on Tuesday that the former cabinet secretary and Georgia congressman had joined the company’s advisory board.

Jackson Healthcare counts former Florida Governor Jeb Bush among its advisory board members. Price will bring unparalleled knowledge of the U.S. health-care system to the new post, Jackson Healthcare Chief Executive Officer Richard Jackson said in a press release.

Price will “provide feedback on our business plan and advice on business strategy overall,” according to Jackson Healthcare’s director of corporate communications, Jessica Lacy. She declined to provide information about Price’s compensation.

The Georgia Public Service Commission ordered Georgia Power to refund excess revenue to customers.

State regulators have ordered Georgia Power to refund its customers $43.2 million, which the company earned above the approved limits set by the commission in 2013.

In a statement, the commissioners unanimously ordered the utility company to return to its customers two thirds of its earnings for 2016 that were above the set 10.95% Return on Equity (ROE). The company would retain the other third.

The regulators have also ordered the company to provide to the commission by February 20th, the amount the company will save following the recent tax cuts signed into law by president Trump. According to the new law, corporate taxes were slashed from 35% to 21%.

The order by the commission for dollar amounts of the savings the utility expects to make following the tax cuts that came into effect on January 1, follows recent decisions by utility companies in Maryland and Illinois to cut rates for its customers.

Public Service Commission Chair Stan Wise (R-Marietta) will resign from the Commission effective February 20, 2018.

Stan Wise, chairman of the state Public Service Commission, sent word to Gov. Nathan Deal this morning that he’ll resign effective Feb. 20.

Wise, a strong advocate for nuclear power, announced his decision late last year, but said he would only depart after the utlility board had approved Georgia Power’s decision to continue construction on two new nuclear power reactors at Plant Vogtle.

The timing of Wise’ announcement is far from accidental. Qualifying for the May primaries is in March. Also, like other statewide elected officials and state lawmakers, office-holders are barred from raising campaign cash during the session.

Look for Governor Deal to quickly announce a replacement to fill out Wise’ term and gain some advantage from incumbency. Our money is on Tricia Pridemore of Marietta, whom Deal once backed – unsuccessfully – for state GOP chairman.

From the Marietta Daily Journal:

Wise said he’s glad Deal will be responsible for filling his seat on the commission.

“I think a great deal of the governor, and I am confident that he will place a person in that position that is exceptional,” Wise said. “The reason that I like that the governor will appoint is I believe we’re on the same page on energy policy and that I am comfortable that he’ll name someone that is exceptional.”

Tricia Pridemore, of Marietta, has already announced her intention to run for Wise’s seat and has connections to Deal, having previously served as executive director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development and co-chair of Deal’s inauguration team after his 2014 re-election.

Wise praised Pridemore but stopped short of an official endorsement.

“I think Tricia is a very good candidate and would be a very good public service commissioner,” Wise said, adding, “The thing is that the governor has always let us do our job, and I think this is in his realm. And I believe it’s appropriate that the governor makes the appointment. And I’ll just leave it at that.”

As for Wise’s next act, he says he doesn’t know what he’ll do next.

“I really wanted to stay and not really get out and start to look for other options until we got through these important votes. It was something that I felt was appropriate, and so I really haven’t reached out to see what my next step is,” he said. “I’m hopeful. I believe I have value to add to people on the national stage. I just don’t know who it is or when it will be.”

However, Wise said he will not work for a utility he has worked to regulate during his time on the PSC.

Republican Tricia Pridemore will run for a full-term on the Commission this year, listed on the ballot as an incumbent, assuming Gov. Deal appoints her. The last PSC member to run for election after being appointed by the Governor was David Burgess (D), who lost his seat in a runoff election in 2006.

Democrat Stacey Abrams will open 18 offices across Georgia in her bid for her party’s gubernatorial nomination.

The former House minority leader on Wednesday announced plans to open a Savannah office on Jan. 27. Her campaign will be opening other offices in Albany, Augusta, Columbus, Cobb, Hinesville, Rome, Stockbridge and Sumter County in the next few weeks.

The campaign, which currently has its main operations in DeKalb, said the office space is donated by local supporters. She hopes early outreach to voters, particularly liberal-leaning minorities who rarely cast ballots, will help propel her to victory.

Republican Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle announced his campaign for Governor has raised nearly $7 million dollars.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle reported raising about $6.7 million in donations since he jumped in the race eight months ago, and his campaign will have all but $1 million of that in the bank in the runup to May’s GOP primary.

Cagle reported raising more than $4 million in the disclosure period that will end on Jan. 31 and he has about $5.75 million in cash on hand. He’s likely to set the high bar in the frenzied fundraising race for governor, with help from many well-connected lobbyists and other Capitol veterans.

The reports aren’t due until the end of the month, but Cagle unveiled his figures early for two reasons: He and other sitting state office-holders are restricted from raising cash during the legislative session that started last week. And he wanted to amp up the pressure on his GOP rivals, including several who will spend the next few months raising cash while he’s in the Legislature.

The Hall County Board of Elections voted to rescind a 2017 decision to provide bilingual ballots.

Board members voted Tuesday to rescind an April vote to adopt the new ballots for county and state elections amid heavy opposition from the public.

At the same meeting, the board voted to establish a committee to study the costs, but that committee wouldn’t report its findings until January 2019.

The vote to rescind the ballots was 3-2, with the board’s two Democrats against rescinding, its Republicans in favor and nonpartisan Chairman Tom Smiley also voting in favor of rescinding the 2017 vote.

Craig Lutz, the member of the Elections Board who requested the bilingual ballot issue be reconsidered by the board, said the county didn’t know the cost of bilingual ballots and said having English-only ballots wouldn’t disenfranchise voters.

Lutz also offered the motion to create the committee to study the costs of providing ballots in Spanish. That motion was unanimously approved.

House District 175, vacated by Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta) drew four candidates in a special election to be held February 13, 2018.

The candidates are competing to replace former Rep. Amy Carter, R-Valdosta, who resigned from House District 175 in November to take a position with the Technical College System of Georgia. Candidate qualifying for the race ended Friday.

The candidates are Bruce Phelps, a Republican emergency medical technician; Coy Reaves, a Republican who is self-employed; John LaHood, a Republican and CEO of Fellowship Senior Living; and Teva Gear, a Democrat and educator.

Marietta City Council voted to expand Sunday sales by breweries and distillies.

Augusta Commissioners voted to put non-binding referenda on a new James Brown Arena location on the May 22, 2018 Democratic and Republican Primary ballots.

After heated discussion Tuesday and prior to a third Augusta Commission vote on whether to build at the privately owned Regency Mall, commissioners agreed to instead ask voters where they prefer the arena to be built.

Commissioner Sammie Sias’ motion – to ask both political parties to place a nonbinding yes-or-no question about building at Regency, and building at the current James Brown Arena site – passed 9-0 with Commissioner Andrew Jefferson out.

Sias made the motion after Commissioner Ben Hasan withdrew an earlier substitute motion to reject the Regency site outright and ask Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority to look elsewhere.

The ballot questions – which will not appear on the nonpartisan version of the May 22 ballot – will show voters’ preference of a site but won’t require the arena to be built. The May elections include Mayor Hardie Davis’ seat, four commission races and several judgeships and state party primaries.

Savannah City Council is considering an ordinance to regulate shopping carts.

Alderman Julian Miller said abandoned carts can impact the morale and aesthetics of the communities where they are left behind, and residents have been calling for the city to address the problem.

The issue has been one city officials have been trying to resolve for years without success, but Mayor Eddie DeLoach told industry representatives the council is determined to get something done this time.

“We’re not looking for kicking it down the road,” DeLoach said. “So you all have to get with staff and come up with something that satisfies you or we’ll come up with something that might not satisfy you.”

The proposed ordinance requires businesses to submit a shopping cart theft prevention and retrieval plan and establishes a fine of up to $500 for violating the requirements. A $375 retrieval fee would also be assessed if the city has to collect a discarded cart and return it to the business.

To translate for some of my friends, a “shopping cart” is the same thing as a “buggy.”

The Muscogee County Board of Education elected a new Chair and Vice Chair.

After only one round of voting, and without anyone explaining their votes, board chairwoman Pat Hugley Green of District 1 handed the gavel during Tuesday night’s meeting to Kia Chambers, the nine-member board’s lone countywide representative, and Mark Cantrell of District 6 became vice chairman.

The Berrien High School Future Farmers of America sent representatives to the Georgia National Fair Goat Show. This particular event demonstrates why FFA-alumni run the state government – they have the most experience in goat rodeos.

The Jekyll Island Industrial Authority is moving forward toward building a solar farm.

the island authority’s board voted Tuesday to continue down a path that could lead to a 5-6 acre solar farm on the northern end of the island.

The site would be between Bond and Magee avenues, off Old Plantation Road, just northeast of the airport. The solar farm would sit atop a capped landfill, and provide about 1 megawatt of electricity. That would be enough to supply 20-25 residences for a year, but the project is meant more as a supplemental source that would decrease outage times and perhaps help during widespread outages.

The board has not been provided with financial specifics yet, but the company responsible — Radiance Solar — is to work with JIA staff to develop a Georgia Power interconnectivity study, an environmental review, geotechnical assessment and a lease agreement that would be put before the board sometime in late spring or early summer of this year, according to a JIA memo.

Should the board agree to a contract with Radiance, it is anticipated to result in $500,000 in income to the JIA over 25 years, $730,000 over 30 years and $855,000 over 35 years. Those numbers are based on $20,000 in rent through the first four years, and $25,000 in rent per year through the next 30-35 years.

Right whales have not yet made an appearance off the Georgia coast this calving season.

“I went back and looked at that, and this appears to be the longest time that I’m aware of,” said Clay George, who leads right whale efforts for the state Department of Natural Resources. “I was able to look back at the data to 1989, which is when the surveys started down here, systematically, with New England Aquarium doing their surveys in ’89. And since then, the latest date that a calf was seen, actually, was Jan. 1, which was last year.”

“We don’t know if it’s just there aren’t any here, or if they’re somewhere else, or given how poor the weather’s been, that we just have not had a sufficient survey effort yet,” George said.

Whale-spotting flights were underway as of press time Tuesday, by Sea to Shore Alliance — a nonprofit working with DNR — and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Researchers estimate there are roughly 450 right whales in existence. About 100 of those are breeding females, scientists believe. There were 17 right whale deaths recorded in 2017.

“No one’s flown for about a week, because as you know, the weather’s been pretty poor — it’s either been windy or overcast or icy, or what have you,” George said.

Glenn Patterson announced he will run for Fannin County Commission District 2.

Speaking of the incumbent and possible challenger for the Republican nomination, Larry Joe Sosebee, Patterson stated, “I know the incumbent. We went to school together, and I think he is a good man, but I want to offer my services to the county.”

Margaret Williamson will run against Georgia House Speaker David Ralston in the May 22d Republican Primary.

Already having begun the process of running for the House District 7 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives, Williamson acknowledged in her statement that she has mailed the “Declaration to Accept Campaign Contributions” form to the Georgia State Transparency & Campaign Finance Committee.

After approval of this form, Williamson’s next step will be to complete the qualifying process held in March of this year. The qualifying will officially make Williamson a candidate in the Republican Primary for Georgia State House Representative, District 7.

Two Aldermen in Guyton must apologize to a resident in a spat over campaign signage.

Magistrate Rhonda Sexton on Jan. 10 denied applications for warrants by Aldermen Michael Johnson and Joseph Lee against Pat McCall.

McCall lives on Central Boulevard, across from the elementary school.

Sexton ordered Johnson and Lee to apologize to McCall in writing by Feb. 13 and apologize to her at the Feb. 13 city council meeting. If they do not apologize, the matter will return to the Magistrate Court docket at 8:45 a.m. Feb. 21.

“Those two guys came into that hearing pretty arrogant and they walked out pretty humble,” said Dennis Dozier, McCall’s attorney.

McCall said she doesn’t understand why Johnson and Lee pursued the case, particularly after the election. She was angry that she had to spend time, effort and about $2,000 to defend herself.

“I was charged with trespassing on my own property,” she said. “It’s like the Twilight Zone.”

She said she would have to go to small claims court to try to collect legal fees from the aldermen, and that would cost her more money.

Johnson and Lee asked that McCall be charged with “removing campaign signs,” which the magistrate construed as asking for a criminal trespass charge that can lead to arrest, Dozier said.

McCall said Johnson and Lee maintained that there is a law in all 50 states that prevents anyone other than candidates from removing campaign signs.

Dozier said he knows of no such laws but he does know of a state law that prevents people from putting signs on someone else’s property without their permission.

The Rome-Floyd County Development Authority is asking local legislators for legislation to forgive debt attached to property of the former Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital.

Coweta County legislators met with local leaders to discuss fighting opioid addiction.

Local lawmakers met with representatives of Coweta’s business, government, medical, law enforcement, addiction recovery and education community on Tuesday to discuss the need for an advisory council to address the alarming rise in drug abuse locally.

“We can fight it with legislation at the federal level, we can fight it with legislation from the state level, but we’re truly not going to fix the problem unless we start at the local level and work from the ground up,” State Sen. Matt Brass told the more than 70 people who attended a breakfast meeting for the Coweta County Opioid Substance Abuse Project at Newnan Utilities. “That’s why we’re here.”

Coweta is one of a group of Georgia counties targeted for drug crisis intervention funded by a $13 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, according to Brass. The State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant will support DBHDD and other community providers combatting opioid addiction through prevention, treatment, and recovery services, according to the DBHDD website.

Coweta County averaged 14 overdose deaths per year from 2012-16, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, which was three times the number from 15 years before. Brass, who co-sponsored the meeting with State Rep. Josh Bonner, said that’s unacceptable.

“This is my home, our home,” Brass said. “I grew up here. I’ve seen families torn apart, friends who have lost wives, children – some of the stories you hear will tear your heart apart.”


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 16, 2018

A volunteer at Animal Ark in Columbus, Georgia made headlines when she created a Tinder profile for Henry, an adoptable dog.

Meet Henry – a lean 48-pound Coonhound mix housed at Animal Ark Rescue in Columbus.

He’s an active pup who loves to snuggle, give kisses, and play. Henry has been at Animal Ark for three years after being rescued from the pound.

“I was like, hmmm, how do I meet Henry some people in their 20’s and 30’s… TINDER,” Miranda Morrison said, the Canine Enrichment Coordinator at Animal Ark.

Miranda Morrison set up Henry’s profile using some killer pick-up lines.

“Hello Human, my name is Henry, but you can call me good boy, You look quite fetching, Netflix and nuzzles,” Morrison posted in the Tinder profile.

“I thought it would be funny. I remember from my younger, swiping days, I’m happily married now, from my younger days I was on it, and I think I once matched with something like Pizza, so I was like it pizza can have a profile, a dog can have a profile too,” Morrison said.

Henry’s profile was published on Dec. 29 and it has received more than 20 matches since then.

Animal Ark is a nono-kill shelter that allows potential adopters to take the dogs on dates for a few hours at a time.

Henry Tinder

Henry has been adopted, but some of his friends could be on Tinder soon.


Fenway is a young male Boston Terrier who is available for adoption from Animal Ark in Columbus, GA.

Ace Ark

Ace is a young male Wirehaired Terrier & Jack Russell Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Animal Ark in Columbus, GA.

Chester Ark

Chester is a young male Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from Animal Ark in Columbus, GA.

Miranda Lambert is asking fans to donate to FurKids, a dog and cat shelter, ahead of her show at Gwinnett County’s Infinite Energy Center.

Lambert, who is set to perform at the Infinite Energy Arena on Saturday, is asking Georgians to help Furkids Animal Rescue and Shelters by donating cat and dog supplies as part of her “Fill the Little Red Wagon” initiative, a campaign that asks for donations to local animal shelters.

Furkids, a nonprofit that is headquartered in Atlanta, operates the largest cage-free, no-kill shelter in the Southeast for rescued cats and a no-kill shelter for dogs, making it Lambert’s Georgia pick.

“The Little Red Wagon was overflowing and then some,” said Lambert of her previous tour stops across the country. “I thank my fans, the volunteers, the communities and the shelters for their tireless efforts and for how much they care about what I love, which is the mutts.”

While Lambert said she hopes the prospect of helping a homeless pet is motivation enough, she, along with entertainment company Live Nation, will be hosting a meet-and-greet for a randomly-selected fan who donates to Furkids.

Because the Little Red Wagon will be set up outside the concert arena at Infinite Energy Arena, donors are not required to have a ticket to the Saturday event.

You can also donate to FurKids online.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 16, 2018

An elected Provincial Assembly first convened in Georgia on January 15, 1751. The Assembly did not have the power to tax or spend money, but was to advise the Trustees.

The state of New Connecticut declared its independence of both Britain and New York on January 15, 1777. In June of that year they would decide on the name Vermont. Vermont would be considered part of New York for a number of years, finally being admitted as the 14th state in 1791.

The donkey was first used as a symbol for the Democratic Party on January 15, 1870 by cartoonist Thomas Nash.


On January 16, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, prohibiting alcoholic beverages, when Nebraska became the 36th of the 48 states then in the Union to ratify the Amendment.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.

At 4:30 PM on January 16, 1991, the Persian Gulf War began as air attacks against Iraq launched from US and British aircraft carriers, beginning Operation Desert Storm.

On January 16, 1997, a bomb exploded in a Sandy Springs abortion clinic, later determined to be the work of Eric Rudolph, who also bombed Centennial Olympic Park in 1996, a lesbian bar in Atlanta in February 1997, and a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced his administration Floor Leaders, who will be responsible for helping pass legislation supported by the Governor.

Reps. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro) and Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville) will continue to serve on the House floor leader team, while Senator-elect Brian Strickland will join Senators P. K. Martin IV (R-Lawrenceville) and Larry Walker III (R-Kathleen) to carry the governor’s bills in the Senate.

The State House and Senate Appropriations Committees will meet in Joint Budget Hearing at 9:45 AM today and continuing tomorrow beginning at 9 AM.

Click here to watch the Joint Budget Hearings online. That’s how I’ll be viewing today, as I try to avoid getting any kind of cold or flu.

Five deaths and more than 300 hospitalizations in Georgia have been attributed to the flu this season.

There have been at least five deaths in Georgia attributed to the flu so far this season, with more than 300 people hospitalized because of it.

In confirming the four deaths, the Georgia Department of Public Health says that number is expected to increase as the widespread outbreak continues.  Georgia is one of 49 states where flu cases are described by the Centers for Disease Control as “widespread.”

The predominant strain of flu circulating in Georgia and around the country is influenza A (H3N2). This strain can be particularly hard on the very young, people over age 65, or those with existing medical conditions, according to health experts. H3N2 is one of the strains contained in this year’s flu vaccine along with two or three others, depending on the vaccine.

“It is not too late to get a flu shot,” says J. Patrick O’Neal, M.D., DPH commissioner. “Every individual over the age of six months should get a flu vaccine – not just for their own protection, but to protect others around them who may be more vulnerable to the flu and its complications.”

Please don’t be offended if I don’t shake your hand or accept a hug until we’re clear of the flu season.

A shortage of IV fluid bags is hindering some hospitals’ efforts to fight the flu.

Emergency rooms nationwide are feeling the effects of the shortage. They’re seeing more flu patients than usual, and those patients are often dehydrated when they arrive.

Because of that, they need a nurse to administer fluids. Without a plentiful supply of IV bags, the process is becoming difficult.

CBS46 talked with officials at Emory who say they’re “coping okay” with the IV bag shortage and that they believe the shortage could be alleviated soon.

Tift Regional Hospital has temporarily banned visitors under 18 year of age due to flu concerns. Navicent Health in middle Georgia had previously announced similar restrictions.

Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick hospital reports 414 flu cases this season.

The Brunswick hospital of the Southeast Georgia Health System has seen 414 reported cases of the flu from Oct.1 to Jan. 15, according to the health system. During that same period last year, 36 cases were reported.

On the Camden campus, 144 flu cases have been reported this year, compared to 42 cases last year.

“The flu can be managed by your primary care doctor or the immediate care center,” [Dr. Steven Mosher] said. “It is not necessary to go to the emergency care center for the flu, and you risk exposure to other illnesses, unless your symptoms are very severe.”

Severe symptoms include a persistent fever of more than 102 degrees, dehydration due to vomiting and/or diarrhea, chest pain, shortness of breath, fever with a rash and sudden dizziness or confusion.

Symptoms such as sore throat, severe cough, body aches and headaches should be treated by a primary care doctor or by visiting the immediate care center.

“If someone isn’t able to get an appointment with their physician, we have three immediate care centers in Glynn County that can treat patients for flu,” Mosher said. “Patients will experience a much shorter wait time by visiting the immediate care center instead of the Emergency Care Center. The cost is much lower as well.”

From the Rome News-Tribune:

An outbreak of influenza is apparently peaking in the Rome area which has prompted Redmond Regional Medical Center, Floyd Medical Center and Polk Medical Center to restrict visitors to the hospitals.

All three hospitals are restricting  visitors to immediate family members and no one under the age of 13.

The Rome News-Tribune spoke to their local legislators about budget priorities.

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, chairs the House Appropriations Committee subcommittee on human resources. She said she tries to sit through all the presentations or listen in from her office.

“But we’ll be getting more details in our subcommittees later,” she noted.

This year she said she’ll be looking for funding for more early intervention programs that pinpoint mental health needs such as medication, counseling, education and family support groups.

“If we can take advantage of best practices early, the outcome for a child is so different,” she said. “Especially with autism. Depending on where they are on the spectrum, it’s possible to rewire their brain.”

Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, is starting his first session as chairman of the House Human Resources and Aging Committee. He also sits on the Appropriations subcommittees for public safety and education.

“We’ll be having separate hearings during the appropriations process,” he noted.

Lumsden was briefed last week on a pilot program through Emory University that has four Alzheimer’s diagnosis clinics set up around the state. Initial results sound promising, he said.

“About 75 percent of cases are diagnoses of dementia in general, but a better understanding of the specific disease leads to more effective treatment options,” he said.

Some legislators hope a federal broadband initiative will benefit rural Georgia.

State Sen. William Ligon, R-Waverly, said the state needed to make a good start of providing the same broadband access to thinly populated areas that larger counties and municipalities enjoy.

“It’s like bricks in a wall. It’s just one of the components we need to help rural Georgia,” Ligon said of broadband access.

But Monday, Donald Trump landed in Atlanta to watch Georgia and Alabama play for a national championship in football and he brought a load of bricks.

While he was in Atlanta, Trump signed an executive order to streamline and expedite requests for local broadband facilities to, among other things, “accelerate the deployment and adoption of affordable, reliable, modern high-speed broadband connectivity in rural America.”

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., said he is glad to see Trump make the investment and that he already had been working with members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Rural Broadband Working Group to increase access.

“We have been working to increase access to telemedicine, make sure families have the internet access they need and ensure small businesses are connected so they are able to thrive and grow,” Carter told the Times-Union.

Ligon said he hopes the result of Trump’s executive order will be block grants that typically require some matching money from states. “The idea is to be able to take advantage of whatever is available to help our our state,” he said. “We believe we’ve got money to get off to a modest but good start.”

Echols County Administrator Latrice Bennett said even the phone service is bad in the community of 4,020 residents. “Most of the time, it’s up and down,” she said.

Echols County doesn’t have the wherewithal to begin making improvements on its own.The county seat is in Statenville, an unincorporated town with one red light.

“Less that half of residents pay taxes. It’s all we can do to keep our county office doors open,” she said. “Little counties just have so many issues every day, we can’t tackle the big ones.”

From the Gainesville Times:

In the second round of capital funding for telecommunications growth, the Federal Communication Commission allocated $1.7 billion nationwide to fund internet expansion in targeted areas with the Connect America Fund. The money went to just 10 large telecommunications companies, groups like AT&T, Verizon and Windstream.

In North Georgia, the FCC shows $221,162 in available funding to improve internet service in Dawson County, $282,730 for Lumpkin County, $413,980 in Union County and millions more throughout the rest of the region.

Almost all of that money has gone to Windstream.

State lawmakers, through rural development commissioners studying the issue, have identified rural internet speeds as a bottleneck for growing businesses, health care providers and improvements in education.

This legislative session, the Georgia General Assembly is expected to take up the cause of rural broadband. A study from 2013 shows the state collects $33 million in taxes from sales of telecommunications each year. A proposal to exempt that equipment from sales taxes as an incentive has been considered leading up to the 2018 session.

State House Insurance Committee Chairman Richard Smith, (R-Columbus) continues working on a bill to address surprise medical bills.

“You go to a hospital and have a scheduled procedure and you think your insurance covers everything and then all of the sudden you get a bill in the mail for $500, $5,000, $10,000,” said state House Insurance Committee Chairman Richard Smith, R-Columbus. “There was a guy in Columbus who got a bill for $15,000. This should not be happening. The cost of health care is killing us,” he said.

Smith’s new House Bill 678 would require that patients scheduling a procedure receive a list ahead of time showing exactly which doctors they’ll see, what insurance would cover, and what the balance charge would be.

With that list, a patient could decide to shop around if there are more providers. Or if not, at least the bill would not be a surprise.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 8 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) passed last session and was assigned to Rep. Smith’s Committee, where it lingers.

Legislators are also considering how to raise the pay of local law enforcement officers.

While the state General Assembly may begin looking at ways to increase law enforcement pay and benefits, local leaders are trying to take a quicker route to stem force retention issues.

“We’re requiring these individuals to protect us, to keep us safe, to patrol and to put themselves in harm’s way, and as a result of that, they’re putting their lives on the line each and every day … It’s incumbent upon, I think, everyone to ensure that these individuals can take care of their families,” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said.

“We will be creating a grant program that they could use to fill the gap as it pertains to compensation for local government officers,” he said.

Cagle said legislators would pursue a $7 million fund from existing state resources for the grant process.

State Rep. David Casas (R-Lilburn) joins the exodus of state legislators who are not running for reelection.

One of the longest-serving Hispanic members of the Georgia General Assembly is planning to retire from the legislature after this year’s legislative session.

State Rep. David Casas, R-Lilburn, told the Daily Post about his plans to not seek re-election Monday night. He was one of the few Hispanic elected officials in state government — and the only one elected as a Republican — and his decision to not seek another term means the small Hispanic caucus in the Georgia General Assembly will lose one of its members.

It also means another seat in Gwinnett’s legislative delegation will be open and up for grabs this year.

“I wish to spend more time with my wife and my teenage children,” Casas said in an email. “In addition to my private sector responsibilities as a college professor and administrator, I want to focus more attention to writing and invest more time in my church family.”

Casas remains the only Republican Hispanic to ever be elected to an office in Georgia’s state government.

“It has been a privilege for me to have served the people of Lilburn, Lawrenceville and Snellville for the past sixteen years and to have had the honor to help Georgia’s families,” he said. “I made a promise in my first campaign to ‘put Georgia families first,’ and I am thankful for the opportunities to have done just that.”

Gwinnett’s legislative delegation is also losing state Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, and Rep. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, who are both seeking higher office this year.

State Rep. Ed Setzer (R-Acworth) has an announced opponent for the General Election.

Attorney General Chris Carr announced that his campaign has raised more than $1 million dollars for his retention campaign.

Carr reported $466,000 in donations on the last campaign finance disclosure date, June 30, 2017. His campaign announced Friday he has raised more than $538,000 since the last report. The campaign said it now holds $700,000 cash on hand heading into the November election.

“Since I took office as Georgia’s Attorney General, I have remained committed to upholding the Constitution and protecting Georgians by building relationships based on common ground and building trust with anyone willing to come to the table,” Carr said in the news release. “I am grateful that so many Georgians are supporting our campaign. We have much to accomplish together in the months—and hopefully years—ahead.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R-Athens) blamed poor management at Kennesaw State University for wiping a server used in a recent election.

Kemp, a candidate for governor making a campaign stop in Gainesville to talk to the Hall County Republican Party, said the decision to wipe a server critical to an elections-related lawsuit against the secretary of state and his office was made by the school and was “really incompetence on their part that we had no knowledge of.”

Election reform advocates filed a suit against the secretary of state last July 3. Four days later, server managers at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University wiped the server holding information critical to the lawsuit, which was filed over the state’s aging elections equipment.

In October, the school told The Associated Press that the server wipe was “standard operating procedure,” while Kemp’s office said at the time that the action was caused by “undeniable ineptitude.”

Kemp doubled down on that argument Saturday, saying the school was aware its systems had been proven vulnerable to attack and never shared that information with the state.

“It was their server, and they just wouldn’t talk to us about it,” Kemp said. “I think it was handled very poorly by Kennesaw State. They weren’t very transparent, and I think there’s been a lot of fallout from that.”

The Hall County Board of Elections will vote today on whether to continue using bilingual ballots for local elections.

The Hall County Elections Board is set to vote Tuesday on whether to reverse its decision to adopt bilingual ballots — a move opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.

The vote to provide Spanish ballots for county and state elections passed in April 2017 on party lines, and the board at that time was missing one Republican member. That meant Democrats Kim Copeland and Gala Sheats had a lock on all action taken by the board.

The ACLU announced on Friday it had sent a letter opposing a reversal of the policy.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners didn’t provide any funding for bilingual ballots in its fiscal year 2018 budget.

“I think it needs to be studied,” [Elections Board member Craig] Lutz said. “I think we need to take a look at what is the actual cost? Are we actually disenfranchising anybody? What is actually being done? I don’t think this should be an emotional issue on either side.”

More than a quarter of Hall County’s population is Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and about the same percent speaks a language other than English at home.

A section of the Voting Rights Act mandates providing bilingual ballots if more than 5 percent or 10,000 citizens of voting age in a particular jurisdiction are members of a single-language minority where English fluency is not common. Hall County’s attorney, Bill Blalock, has said the county voter rolls and election history show it doesn’t cross these thresholds.

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathy Schrader will receive the Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service next month.

Hurricane Irma created a new small island off the Georgia coast.

Georgia now has a new coastal island, thanks to the powerful storm.

The new island formed when the storm shifted the channel of Blackbeard Creek and blew out part of a narrow finger of land that extended from Blackbeard Island south toward Sapelo Island, explained Marguerite Madden, head of the University of Georgia’s Center for Geospatial Studies.

The new island is small — about 100 acres, estimated Fred Hay, Sapelo Island manager for the state Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.

They’re calling the little island Little Blackbeard, since it was formed from federally-owned and protected Blackbeard Island. Blackbeard Island is about 5,600 acres, and Sapelo is nearly 16,500 acres.

As the process of erosion and accretion continues on the barrier islands, the little island might eventually attach to Sapelo, Madden told scientists at the recent Southern Forestry and Natural Resource Management GIS Conference in Athens.

Little Blackbeard also might just disappear, Hay said.