Political Notes: December 2014
The Big Sweep: After an election that saw Republicans retain the governor’s office and take the open U.S. Senate seat – without the runoff many had predicted – incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal has settled in for a second term, and South Georgia businessman David Perdue is preparing to go to Washington to serve in a Senate now under Republican control.
The GOP sweep also ended the 12-year career of Democratic 12th District Congressman John Barrow, who lost to Augusta businessman Rick Allen. All statewide Constitutional offices remain in Republican control.
Meanwhile, Democrats are waiting for some expected demographic changes to kick in and looking ahead to the next election cycle.
Early Voting: Secretary of State Brian Kemp says 939,136 Georgians took advantage of early voting prior to the Nov. 4 election. Fulton County topped the list with 94,944 early voters.
Port Accord: There were plenty of bipartisan smiles this fall when Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat, joined Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson and Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, all Republicans, to sign an agreement that gets the long-awaited Savannah port deepening project underway.
After years of delays and disagreements, the $706-million project is set to deepen the Savannah harbor from 42 feet to 47 feet to accommodate larger container ships.
“After years of regulatory purgatory,” Deal said, “we finally cleared the last hurdle and hope to begin dredging in the Savannah River before the end of the year.”
Reed, who expressed pride in being part of the bipartisan effort, said, “I’d also like to thank President Obama because we couldn’t have got it done without the vital support he gave to this project.”
Ebola Readiness: By executive order, Gov. Nathan Deal has created the Georgia Ebola Response Team “to examine state preparedness and provide all necessary recommendations.”
The 13-member group includes Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health; Charley English, director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency; Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth, adjutant general of the Georgia National Guard; Miguel Southwell, general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; Jody Barrow, president of the Georgia School Superintendent Association; Dr. Doug Patten, chief medical officer of the Georgia Hospital Association; Dr. William Bornstein, chief quality and medical officer, Emory Healthcare; Susan Grant, chief nurse executive at Emory Healthcare; Frederick Quinn, University of Georgia professor of infectious diseases; Michael Geisler, chief operating officer for the city of Atlanta; Scott Kroell, CEO of Liberty Regional Medical Center; Courtney Terwilliger, chairman of the Georgia Association of Emergency Medical Services; and Brenda Rowe, associate professor of nursing at the Georgia Baptist College of Nursing.
“Those that have been chosen to serve on the panel are leaders in their respective fields,” Deal said in a press release. “As a state, we are taking every precaution to make certain Georgia stands prepared.”
Just days after he appointed the response team, Deal announced an increase in Ebola monitoring for travelers coming into the state from countries with outbreaks. Those who have had direct exposure to an Ebola patient, considered high-risk, will be subject to quarantine at a designated facility.
Low-risk travelers from an affected area with no known exposure to Ebola patients will self-monitor for 21 days and report to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Medical personnel involved in treating Ebola patients will be monitored in their homes for 21 days.
A press release from the governor’s office said the Ebola Response Team held a conference call “to analyze and endorse” the new procedures.
More Water Woes? The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a lawsuit brought by the State of Florida against Georgia that aims to put a cap on Georgia’s withdrawals from the Chattahoochee River. This is likely to mean a long and expensive legal battle.
Suit Dismissed: A Fulton Superior Court judge dismissed a suit against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and five counties brought by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and other groups. The suit alleged that several thousand newly registered voters who met the Oct. 6 registration deadline were missing from the state’s voting rolls. Many of the names in question were registered by the New Georgia Project, a group founded by Democratic State Rep. and House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta).