The blog.

19
Jan

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

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 hartcoanimalrescue.org

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 hartcountyanimalrescue.org

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.

 

19
Jan

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.

18
Jan

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.

18
Jan

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.

17
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 17, 2018

Hachi

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

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

Zizou

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

17
Jan

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.”

16
Jan

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

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.

16
Jan

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.

democrat-donkey-cartoon

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.

12
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 12, 2018

Rosh

Rosh is a male Labrador Retriever and German Shepherd (or Black and Tan Hound?) puppy who is available for adoption from Circle of Friends Animal Society Inc. in Loganville, GA.

Dawn Circle Friends

Dawn is a young female Hound and American Bulldog mix puppy who is available for adoption from Circle of Friends Animal Society Inc. in Loganville, GA.

Kiah

Kiah is a young female Hound and American Bulldog mix puppy who is available for adoption from Circle of Friends Animal Society Inc. in Loganville, GA.

12
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 12, 2018

On January 14, 1639, representatives of three cities in Connecticut adopted the “Fundamental Orders,” the first written Constitution in an American colony and one of the first founding document to cite the authority of “the free consent of the people.”

On January 13, 1733, the ship Ann (sometimes spelled “Anne”) sailed into Charles Town harbor and was met by South Carolina Governor Robert Johnson and the Speaker of the Commons House of Assembly. Aboard the ship were James Oglethorpe and the first 114 colonists of what would become Georgia. Later that year they would land at a high bluff on the Savannah River and found the city of Savannah. On January 14, 1733, James Oglethorpe and the rest of the first colonists departed Charles Town harbor for what would become Savannah, and the State of Georgia.

On January 12, 1775, St. Andrews Parish on the Georgia coast passed a series of resolutions that included approving the actions of patriots in Massachusetts, three resolutions critical of British government actions, and a renunciation of slavery. The resolutions also appointed delegates to a provincial legislature at Savannah and urging that Georgia send two delegates to the Continental Congress to be held in Philadelphia the next year.

The Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War on January 14, 1784. The Treaty was negotiated by John Adams, who would later serve as President, and the delegates voting to ratify it included future Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.

On January 14, 1835, James M. Wayne took the oath of office as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. A Savannah native, Wayne had previously served in the Georgia House of Representatives, as Mayor of Savannah, on the Supreme Court of Georgia, and in Congress. His sister was the great-grandmother of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, and his home is now known as the Juliette Gordon Low house. When Georgia seceded from the Union, Wayne remained on the Supreme Court.

On January 14, 1860, the Committee of Thirty-Three introduced a proposed Constitutional Amendment to allow slavery in the areas it then existed.

On January 12, 1906, the American Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee legalized the forward pass. Some credit Georgia Tech coach John Heisman as having popularized the idea of making the forward pass legal after seeing it in a game between Georgia and North Carolina.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was elected the first Commissioner of Baseball on January 12, 1921. Judge Landis was named after the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, where his father was wounded fighting for the Union.

Julian Bond was born on January 14, 1940 in Nashville, Tennessee, and was one of eleven African-American Georgians elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965. After his election, on January 10, 1966, the State House voted 184-12 not to seat him because of his publicly-stated opposition to the Vietnam War. After his federal lawsuit was rejected by a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the United States Supreme Court ordered Bond seated.

True story: Julian Bond was the first Georgia State Senator I ever met, when I was in ninth grade and visited the state Capitol.

On January 14, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, requiring Japanese-Americans, including American-born citizens of Japanese ancestry, as well as Italians and Germans to register with the federal Department of Justice. The next month, Roosevelt would have Japanese-Americans interned in concentration camps in the western United States.

On January 13, 1959, Ernest Vandiver was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia.

On January 13, 1966, President Lyndon Baines Johnson appointed Robert C. Weaver head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), making Weaver the first African-American cabinet secretary in U.S. History.

Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia on January 12, 1971.

On January 13, 1982, Hank Aaron was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

January 13, 1987 saw the inauguration of Governor Joe Frank Harris to his second term in office.

On January 13, 1998, Governor Zell Miller presented his $12.5 billion FY1999 budget to the Georgia General Assembly, including $105,000 to provide CDs of classical music for every baby born in the state. According to the New York Times,

“No one questions that listening to music at a very early age affects the spatial, temporal reasoning that underlies math and engineering and even chess,” the Governor said[]. “Having that infant listen to soothing music helps those trillions of brain connections to develop.”

Mr. Miller said he became intrigued by the connection between music and child development at a series of recent seminars sponsored by the Education Commission of the States. As a great-grandfather and the author of “They Hear Georgia Singing” (Mercer University Press, 1983), an encyclopedia of the state’s musical history, Mr. Miller said his fascination came naturally.

He said that he had a stack of research on the subject, but also that his experiences growing up in the mountains of north Georgia had proved convincing.

“Musicians were folks that not only could play a fiddle but they also were good mechanics,” he said. “They could fix your car.”

Legislators, as is their wont, have ideas of their own.

“I asked about the possibility of some Charlie Daniels or something like that,” said Representative Homer M. (Buddy) DeLoach, a Republican from Hinesville, “but they said they thought the classical music has a greater positive impact.”

“Having never studied those impacts too much,” Mr. DeLoach added, “I guess I’ll just have to take their word for that at the moment.”

In 2003, on January 13 at the Georgia Dome, Sonny Perdue took the oath of office as Georgia’s second Republican Governor, the first since Reconstruction.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Click here for the full text of Gov. Deal’s address. A couple of excerpts:

This marks the eighth and final time that I come before you to report on the state of our state. In preparing to do so, I thought back on all the challenges we have faced over the better part of this past decade and all the successes we have achieved together. I considered the plans we have set into motion that will carry us well into the next decade and beyond.

I looked back on where we started in 2011, when only 111 of the 236 legislators here today were serving in this General Assembly, and was very pleased to see just how far we have come. And now, as we embark on a year of transition and set our gaze to what the future will hold, I am reminded of a parable of sorts passed down from the times of ancient Israel – one that each new generation and many different civilizations have adopted over the centuries.

As the story goes, there was once an older man who went out one day and planted a tree in his yard. A neighbor passing by saw what he was doing, stopped, shook his head, began to laugh, and said, “Old man, you are a fool. What good will it do you to plant a tree now that you are so old? You will not live long enough to be able to sit under the shade of that tree or enjoy its fruit.”

The old man rose from his knees, looked at his neighbor and replied, “I am not planting this tree for me. I am planting it for those who come after me. Some day, they will come here during the heat of the day and be cooled by the shade of this tree. When I was a small child, I could eat fruit because those who came before me had planted trees. Am I not required to do the same for the next generation?”

Seven years ago, Georgia’s unemployment rate stood at 10.4 percent. Since then, we have created roughly 675,000 new, private sector jobs and our unemployment rate is at its lowest level in over 10 years at just 4.3 percent. And on top of it all, we have been named the No. 1 state in which to do business for the fifth consecutive year.

Just this past fiscal year alone, the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Global Commerce team helped to generate $6.33 billion in investment.

That outstanding growth is a result of 377 expansions and locations that cover every region of the state. Many people think that economic development projects are only happening in the Metro Atlanta region, but in fact, 80 percent of fiscal year 2017 locations took place outside the Metro Atlanta region. Our dedication is to the whole state, and the results of our top-ranked Department of Economic Development bear that out.

Today, I can say with great authority that the State of our State is not just strong, it is exceptional!

I close with the words from my first Inaugural Address in 2011:

“Let us refocus State Government on its core responsibilities and relieve our taxpayers of the burden of unnecessary programs. Let us be frugal and wise. Let us restore the confidence of our citizens in a government that is limited and efficient.  Together, let us make Georgia the brightest star in the constellation of these United States.”

As we stand beneath the trees and orchards of opportunity we have planted and look up to the heavens, we see that the light of our star now shines brightest of all, and that light will endure and not fade away…

From Maggie Lee of the Macon Telegraph:

The draft $26 billion budget his office published just afterward, too, was more about spending on programs that Georgia has already set up, rather than new items.

His draft budget for next year is about $1 billion more than the budget for the year that ends in June. But that difference is pretty much due to higher growth-mandated spending, the sorts of expenses that rise because a population goes up, like K-12 spending .

“There’s not a lot of discretionary funds in there,” said Chris Riley, Deal’s chief of staff. One of the biggest costs will be a new $361.7 million to shore up the pension fund for teachers. Those jumps in payments won’t go away in future budget years.

“As long as we require this rich of a program with our retirement system, we will always be required to shore it up, to infuse it with money,” said Riley.

The state will also spend a new $255.9 million to fund Medicaid growth and to offset the loss of federal funds and funds from a civil court settlement with a hospital company.

From Jill Nolin for the Dalton Daily Citizen:

Nearly $23 million is proposed for children’s mental health, with a big chunk of it going toward crisis services. About $1.1 million will go toward suicide prevention.

Nearly $800,000 is planned for children’s opioid prevention and intervention. Elsewhere, $5 million was added to continue to grow the state’s accountability courts, which offers those struggling with addiction a chance to avoid prison.

Deal’s chief of staff, Chris Riley, indicated the governor may be open to adding more funding. The governor’s office would continue to work with both chambers to identify “best practices” for combating the crisis, he said.

“We don’t necessarily have the best answer there and so, therefore, we want to work with the General Assembly in terms of that,” Riley said during a budget briefing with reporters. “So at this point you won’t see a large chunk of money there.”

From James Salzer of the AJC:

Because of the December [Federal] tax plan, Deal doesn’t know for sure how much revenue the state will collect to fund his budget because federal changes could mean Georgia will take in less money.

Because Congress has not approved a long-term renewal of the federally funded health insurance program for children, and still might cut Medicaid and other public health programs, the state doesn’t know whether it will be receiving hundreds of millions of dollars less in federal funding.

And then there’s the possibility, at some point, that Amazon will pick Atlanta as a finalist to be home to the company’s second headquarters, and the state will suddenly have to come up with a pricey incentive package.

So Deal and lawmakers start the 2018 session less certain than in most years about where the state will stand financially come spring.

“It will be very fluid,” predicted Chris Riley, the governor’s chief of staff.

Riley said the Deal administration hopes to have some kind of idea fairly soon about how much less money the state of Georgia would take in because of the federal tax law, which will cut taxes for millions of individuals and businesses.

Deal and lawmakers may try to adjust the state tax code so that the federal law doesn’t have a big impact on Georgia finances.

From the Rome News-Tribune:

Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, said he was struck by the emphasis Deal put on “planting seeds” to benefit the next generation.

“He was being reflective, putting into perspective some of the things he put into effect,” Lumsden said. “And he gave homage to his wife (Sandra Deal) and the services she performed for Georgia.”

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on Health and Human Services. She said they expect to expand some early intervention services, which she touted as the most effective way to combat larger problems — such as suicides, crime and homelessness — that can accompany mental illness in adults.

“We’ll know more after the budget hearings next week what we can possibly add … but I’m very grateful there was such a strong emphasis on his part,” Dempsey said.

She and Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, also praised Deal’s spotlight on the Technical College System of Georgia and the economic opportunities it’s creating.

From Andy Miller at Georgia Health News:

[A]bsent from the governor’s framework is money to bolster rural health care, a big legislative focus over the past year.

A group of influential lawmakers,  the House Rural Development Council, introduced in December a series of proposals to boost health care in rural Georgia. They included requiring nursing homes to have telemedicine capability, and allowing expanded responsibility for health care providers who are not physicians. The council also made recommendations to improve broadband Internet access

Another council proposal on health care was to develop a demonstration “waiver’’ program to explore extending medical coverage to more Georgians who currently have none. And the group backed a bold revamp of the state’s certificate of need (CON) laws, which govern where health care facilities can be built and what services they can offer.

State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) said Thursday that she is concerned about the potential for a CON reform to put safety-net hospitals at a disadvantage.

If CON changes allow other facilities to “cherry-pick’’ privately insured patients, “then you’re creating a critical imbalance,’’ Unterman, a nurse with a longtime interest in health care policy, said at an event sponsored by the consumer group Georgians for a Healthy Future.

[U]nlike the previous year, there was no money allocated to reduce the number of people on waiting lists for home- and community-based services. More than 12,000 Georgians are on these lists.

“We are disappointed that the budget proposal does not include additional funding for older adults,” said Vicki Johnson, chair of the Georgia Council on Aging. “We will work with committees in the Georgia House and Senate to try to get additional funding included in the final budget.”

 Gov. Deal has also raised concerns over a federal proposal to allow offshore drilling in the Atlantic.

The governor’s office said in a statement Wednesday that Deal has “some concerns with opening up Georgia’s pristine coastlines which he will convey to the congressional delegation.”

The U.S. Interior Department announced the changes last week, opening up more than 90 percent of the country’s outer continental shelf to oil and gas exploration and development beginning in 2019. That includes Georgia’s roughly 100 miles of coastline.

Dozens of Atlantic coastal communities, including Brunswick, Savannah and St. Marys, have signed resolutions in past years opposing exploration due to environmental, tourism and fishing concerns.

Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman, whose beachside town was ravaged by storms last year, joined the chorus of local officials who urged Deal to appeal to Trump’s White House for an exemption.

Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who lives on Sea Island, said energy independence is of prime concern to him but that officials need to make sure the returns for drilling in the Atlantic are worth the expense.

“The question is, is there anything out there? We don’t really know that yet,” he said Thursday, “and eventually we’re going to have to know that, in my opinion.”

From The Brunswick News:

Leading Georgia Republicans, typically allied with administration policy, opened up the possibility of trying to pull the Peach State from the proposal as well, or at the very least working out an independent deal with the Interior Department.

“We are reviewing the details of the administration’s latest proposal,” Amanda Maddox, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, said Wednesday. “Sen. Isakson supports American energy independence and is open to potential drilling off the Georgia coast as long as it is environmentally sound. He also wants to make sure all stakeholders, including Gov. (Nathan) Deal, industry, tourism and economic development, are properly consulted and any concerns are appropriately addressed.”

Jen Talaber Ryan, Deal’s deputy chief of staff for communications, said the governor had yet to develop a firm position.

“The governor has some concerns regarding opening up Georgia’s pristine coast and will communicate those concerns with our congressional delegation,” Ryan said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, who represents Glynn County, said in a statement that if he feels the plan will not be satisfactory, he is willing to craft a Florida-style deal with the federal government.

“At this time, I believe it makes sense to simply see what resources are available off the coasts of the United States,” Carter said. “If sufficient resources are found that will help lower energy costs and move America closer to energy independence, we then need to ensure any actions do not harm our beautiful coastline.”

Deal addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee’s version of the House adoption bill:

A Georgia Senate committee passed a bill this week to make the adoption process in Georgia faster and easier – and without a controversial “religious liberty” provision that Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston considered toxic.

But as [the AJC] noted yesterday, the version passed out of the committee was infused with the contents of a House measure that which the governor vetoed last year. And Deal said after his State of the State address that the changes may be too bitter of a pill to swallow.

“We’re going to continue to work with them on that,” he said. “With regard to the basic adoption bill itself, it’s far from meeting my definition of clean.”

Deal added: “We have to be certain that the amendments they added do not put us back in the situation where we don’t have unnecessary impediments or delays of preventing children that need homes from being able to have them.”

The United States Senate voted 92-0 to confirm Michael Brown as a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Georgia.

“Michael Brown is a great lawyer, federal prosecutor and outstanding citizen of our state whose experience will serve him well on the federal bench,”  Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, said in a news release Thursday, applauding Brown’s confirmation. “I gave him my highest recommendation at his confirmation hearing, and I applaud him and the Senate on his confirmation.”

Isakson told the Senate before the vote that the courts need Brown’s life experience as a business litigator both with Alston & Bird and King & Spalding.

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called him one of the great lawyers in the United States of America,” Isakson said.

Former United States Congressman Doug Barnard, Jr.(D-Augusta) has died.

A successful banker, Barnard became the first U.S. Congressman from Augusta in 72 years when he beat south Augusta politician Mike Padgett for the post in 1977. Barnard served eight terms before stepping down in 1993.

In a 2007 interview, Barnard said rescuing Georgia water projects from cutbacks being made by President Jimmy Carter was one of his crowning achievements. In 1990 he secured $15 million in federal funds to extend St. Sebastian Way, and a banking bill he introduced changed the industry when it finally passed in 1999, he said.

Barnard was a lifelong friend of former Georgia Gov. Carl Sanders, who died in 2014. Doug Barnard Jr. Parkway was named for him in 1994. Another honor was the Doug Barnard Olympic Coin bill that passed in 1996.

Former Augusta Mayor Bob Young said Barnard offered “great wisdom” when he sought the mayor’s office and remembered him fondly.

“He was a great asset to this community, a true statesman,” Young said. “He cared deeply about our city and the people who lived here.”

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis announced that the city will file suit against opioid manufacturers.

Mayor Hardie Davis announced Thursday that Augusta has filed suit against five of the largest manufacturers of opioids and the country’s three largest wholesale drug distributors, saying the firms “failed in their legal obligation to notify the Drug Enforcement Administration of suspicious orders, even as the number of pills flowing into our county rose and rose.”

The suit is not yet filed, said Burton LeBlanc, attorney with Dallas-based Baron and Budd, the lead of 10 law firms including Augusta-based Enoch Tarver retained by the Augusta Commission on Tuesday in the case. Once it’s drafted, the attorneys plan to file the suit in federal district court in Augusta, LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc, whose firm is representing nearly 185 cities and counties around the U.S., said Augusta’s suit will likely target opioid manufacturer Perdue Pharma along with distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, which account for 85 percent of the drug distribution market.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics showing opioid prescribing rates in Augusta are above the national average of 66.5 per 100 people. In 2016, the rate was 86.8 prescriptions per 100 people in Augusta while in neighboring Columbia County, the 2016 rate was 81 prescriptions per 100 people.

Damages Augusta will seek may cover the added cost of law enforcement, medical care and treatment for addiction, emergency medical care for overdoses and other expenses resulting from opioid abuse, LeBlanc said.

Monique Walker announced she will run for a seat on Richmond County State Court.

Walker, the daughter of former Georgia Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker, is seeking the judgeship held by Robert “Bo” Hunter in the May 22 nonpartisan election.

The campaign is Walker’s second run for state court. In 2016 she lost a three-way contest to complete the term of John Flythe, who resigned to run for judge of superior court.

Rey Martinez was sworn in as the first Hispanic Mayor of Loganville.

Martinez, who was born in Puerto Rico to Cuban parents, became the first Hispanic mayor of a city in either Gwinnett or Walton counties — Loganville straddles the line between both. He is also believed to be the first Hispanic mayor of any city in Georgia.

“I have to pinch myself,” Martinez said. “Who would have thought 10 years ago, five years ago, even a year ago that I would be standing here — a young man who came to the States at the age of 8 with English as my second language?”

Loganville’s history-making night was a big draw. Not only were several residents in attendance, but several mayors, city council members and county officials from Gwinnett and Walton counties, state Rep. Tom Kirby, former state legislator Melvin Everson, and Secretary of State Brian Kemp were in attendance.

Martinez is a retired member of the U.S. Navy who has lived in Loganville for 10 years and served on the City Council from 2011-17. He was the city’s vice mayor in 2015, and served as chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee from 2012-17, and chairman of its Public Works Committee from 2011-12.

Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him to serve on the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity in 2015, and he served as the head of Hispanics for Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter is threatening a $5 million dollar lawsuit against the county.

Nearly a year after Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter sparked controversy by calling U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig” on Facebook, a document has emerged showing that his lawyer threatened to file a $5 million lawsuit against other commissioners for sanctioning him over the remarks.

Attorney Dwight Thomas sent the Ante Litem Notice to county attorneys in November, informing them that Hunter would be filing a federal lawsuit over the written reprimand county commissioners leveled against the District III commissioner last June. Hunter’s lawyer said the reprimand caused ongoing and permanent economic and non-economic damage to Hunter.

“Free speech and political expression under the Georgia and Federal Constitution is a clearly established right,” Thomas wrote in the notice. “My client intends to bring an action for damages against the Gwinnett County commission, individually and officially, for violation and continued violation of his constitution rights pursuant to the first, fifth, sixth, eighth and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution and state law claims per the Georgia Constitution and the laws of Georgia.”

The notice sent to county officials said Hunter would seek a settlement for damages of “not less than” $5 million. Although the notice was dated Nov. 13, no lawsuit could be found in the online federal court case system.

Attorney Ken Jarrard, who sent the county’s response to Thomas notice denied Hunter had any basis for a lawsuit over the reprimand, and asserted the commissioner was not retaliated against for his actions.

Jarrard said the Board of Commissioners also had free speech protections under the First Amendment, which allowed it to issue the reprimand.

Chatham County broke ground on construction of a new Memorial Stadium.

Cobb County Commission Chair Mike Boyce will deliver the State of the County address on January 22.

Joe Hunt announced he will run for Congress in the 10th District as a Republican, against incumbent Rep. Jody Hice.

As the current Vice President of Franchise Relations, Hunt is responsible for improving the quality of relationships between the corporate entity of Zaxby’s Franchising, LLC, and its individual franchise operators.

Earlier this year, Hunt announced that he would run as a Republican Candidate for Georgia’s 10th Congressional District in the upcoming election for the U.S. House of Representatives, against the incumbent, Jody Hice.

“I’m running because I feel there are people on both sides of our political system who hold radical views and have hijacked both parties in Washington,” Hunt said. “However, I believe that most Americans, like our neighbors here in Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, are reasonable people who share a mix of social and political views, and simply want to see both parties act.”

“I’m running because my family and I deserve more sensible, more logical, and more practical representation in Washington, and so do my fellow residents in Georgia,” Hunt said. “The citizens are the ones who lose when policy becomes about winning rather than helping. I plan to use my experience building and nurturing relationships to promote and fight for solutions that benefit the greater good. I want to be the voice that introduces new, sensible ideas that move the country forward and promote fiscal responsibility and social accountability.”

The City of Hampton has suspended official social media posting until a policy is adopted to govern social media use.

Social media pages for the city of Hampton have been suspended pending the approval of a city social media policy.

Interim City Manager Derrick Austin said during Tuesday’s meeting the decision came after a recent lawsuit threat against the Henry County Police Department for its alleged misuse of Facebook.

The letter indicated the HCPD had blocked more than 220 people and demanded that the HCPD restore posting privileges of each of the people that the offices “wrongfully blocked and have restored the commenting privileges to all of those whom government officials unlawfully blocked.”