DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Gov. Brian Kemp received a warm welcome in Lumpkin County Friday when he arrived for a bill signing ceremony in the Library Technology Center on the campus of the University of North Georgia.
State Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), who sponsored four of the five bills the governor signed, welcomed the governor to his hometown and introduced him to those in attendance.
“Today is a big day for us,” he said. “We’ve been working a lot on some issues dealing with broadband and internet services.”
With a large number of state legislators who helped usher the bills through to passage on hand, along with many county and municipal elected officials, Kemp signed Senate Bills 2, 17, 66, 79 and 454.
Senate Bills 2,17,66 and 79 deal with the expansion of access to broadband internet service and were sponsored by Gooch. SB 454 was carried to the senate by Gooch and deals with electronic assisted bicycles.
Senate Bill 2 allows Georgia’s 41 EMCs which represent about 4.5 million rural customers to get into the broadband business and sell internet services.
An important question that has yet to be answered is how many EMCs will participate.
“I’ll stand here today and be the first one to confess, I don’t know that all 41 will ever get into internet services,” Gooch said, “But I believe this will allow them the opportunity to do so.”
Wednesday, April 24 marked the governor’s 100th day in office and he reflected of some of his administration’s early accomplishments.
“Over and over again, I promised to keep families safe, to put hard working Georgians first and I think that is exactly what we have done with these pieces of legislation today and with these great legislators’ help who are here today.”
Kemp said the 2019 and 2020 budgets are “reflection of the values of our state and our priorities for the future. We have fully funded public 0education for the second year in a row. We have given teachers, counselors and others a historic pay raise this year. We’ve invested $70 million in school security grants, $30,000 for every public school in the K through 12 system. We also doubled funding for mental health services in our high schools.”
The governor also pointed to state investments in public safety. “We created a task force within the GBI to undermine drug cartels, gangs and human and sex trafficking.”
Kemp thanked legislators for “stepping up to the plate” and adding $20 million to the budget for hurricane relief for farmers in south and southwest Georgia “while we wait on those in Washington D.C. to do their part to put people ahead of politics and pass the daggum disaster relief bill.”
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com
Written by D.A. King
**note this article ran in Insider Advantage.
In last year’s legislative session Republican state Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) introduced legislation that gutted the process intended to ensure that the Georgia Department of Transportation hires contractors that are using a legal workforce. In the haste and bedlam of 2018’s Sine Die, Senate Bill 445 sailed through both the House and Senate.
It is notable that SB 445 went through the Senate Transportation Committee, as Senators Brandon Beach, Butch Miller, Frank Ginn and Mike Dugan were bill signers, in that order. All are transportation committee members — with Beach as chairman.
Now that the cat is out of the bag on this caper- and we have a new governor — one “important issue” for the 2019 session should be to see if lawmakers will reinstate the bidding system for GDOT that all other public employers and their contractors are still supposed to follow.
We recognize many readers will view this as a dry topic – the only folks who may have a concern are those who don’t want their taxes used to pay illegal aliens on GDOT projects.
After mandates were put into place in the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act of 2006 (SB 529) to require all public employers and contractors to use E-Verify, adjustments were made in HB2 of 2009 to deal with the obvious problem that some public contractors were bidding on – and winning – contracts with bids that were based on the cost of black market labor before they swore on an affidavit that they were using E-Verify. This allowed contractors to hire a crew for a job that could not be verified as eligible to work using the E-Verify system, which can only be used for newly hired employees after receiving authorization from the feds to use the online system.
The 2009 solution to this chicanery was to change the law so that bids are not considered unless and until the E-Verify affidavit is presented.
In his quick presentation of the measure, Sen. Gooch told the committee the changes to the GDOT bid rules were being proposed to make life easier for contractors.
“Section 3… makes clear that the deadline for a bidder to supply their signed notarized e-verify affidavit is prior to contract award as opposed to the bid submission. This has caused a problem with some of the contractors that submitted their e-verify affidavits but they didn’t reach to the department either by mail or by other means of delivery in time for the bid, um, deadlines and therefore they were disqualified from bidding on the work. Now essentially requires ’em to submit those E-Verifies prior to the contracts being awarded” said Gooch (emphasis mine).
It is hard to accept that this is a constructive or plausible reason to make changes to the GDOT bidding system, as the existing law is clear that bids and E-Verify affidavits may be submitted electronically. If a contract bidder is indeed an E-Verify user, he can easily send that documentation along with his bid from his computer.
This writer asked GDOT for comment on this curious scenario. One of the questions asked for verification that SB 445 was in fact a GDOT bill, as Chairman Beach told the committee. That question went unanswered.
This is not the first adventure in state law on E-Verify, bids, and contractors for GDOT.
CBS Atlanta 46 TV News did a series of stories on GDOT’s violations of the bidding/E-Verify law in 2010 that illustrated the lack of concern for the hard-fought mandate designed to make Georgia unwelcoming to illegal employers and illegal labor – and to safeguard taxpayer dollars. We have archived some of those reports:
* “Activist: GDOT Is Breaking State’s Immigration Law – Violation May Make It Easier For Contractors To Hire Illegal Immigrants. Here.
* “CBS Atlanta Asks If GDOT Contractor Is Hiring Illegal Workers.” CBS Atlanta 46 news video here.
* “GDOT Didn’t Know About The Illegal Immigrant Labor Law.” Here.
* “Federal Document Shows GDOT Contractor Lied On Affidavit
Company Swore To Check Employee’s Legal Status in Federal Database.” Here.
* “GDOT: Worker May Have Been Illegal. The Georgia Department of Transportation said Wednesday that one of its subcontractors may have been in the country illegally. The admission came after a CBS Atlanta investigation…” (No link)
* “GDOT Admits Mistake For Breaking Immigration Law: GDOT Commissioner Dodges Tough Questions About Hiring Illegal Worker.” Here.
IAG will follow up on this later in the legislative session, there is more.
You read it here first.
D.A. King is president of the Dustin Inman Society and proprietor of ImmigrationPoliticsGA.com. He has worked on the law featured above since 2006.
ATLANTA (January 29, 2018) | Senator Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega) is pleased to announce Monday, January 29, 2018, as Dahlonega Day at the state Capitol with Senate Resolution 590.
“Dahlonega is the gateway to North Georgia and I am grateful to be able to share my home with the rest of my colleagues,” said Sen. Gooch. “This year marks the 60th anniversary of Dahlonega and Lumpkin County citizens delivering gold, by wagon, for the installation of the state Capitol building’s gold dome. I could not be more proud to have representatives from our local community here today to celebrate this honor.”
The City of Dahlonega is a small city in northern Georgia founded in 1832. Dahlonega was the site of the first major U.S. gold rush and now is commonly referred to as the ‘Gold City’. The city sits at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is surrounded by many natural elements. Dahlonega is the county seat of Lumpkin County. In addition to its history of gold mining, the city of Dahlonega is also known as the Heart of Georgia Wine Country, with six wineries and nine winery tasting rooms.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The crowd spilled into the hall outside the Jury Assembly Room of the Fannin County Courthouse for a town hall meeting addressing a potential Homestead Property Tax Exemption for seniors Thursday, Nov. 16, as hundreds attended, mostly to oppose the exemption.
The change would exempt Fannin property owners 65 and older from paying the school property tax.
The meeting began with brief addresses from Georgia House Speaker and Fannin County resident David Ralston and Georgia State Senator Steve Gooch who were present to hear arguments for and against the exemption.
Ralston explained the exemption would have to pass with a two-thirds majority vote in both the Georgia House of Representatives and State Senate before being placed on the ballot for the 2018 Fannin County General Election. The speaker added neither he nor Senator Gooch had come to a position yet concerning the potential change for Fannin taxpayers.
“It’s a big issue,” Ralston said at the town hall, “and big issues have big consequences. Consequences for people that are on fixed incomes having to pay property taxes that are seniors and big consequences for our public schools here in the county.”
Senator Gooch told of his experience with the exemption during his tenure as Sole Commissioner of Lumpkin County. “I warned people at the time that there were good and bad consequences to legislation like that, and I hope whatever happens here in Fannin County, people will get the facts before they make their decisions on whether they support something or not support something.”
Gooch stated he was not in favor of property taxes and would like to see a shift to a consumption tax to allow property tax relief for all taxpayers. The senator also stated, “Every time you create an exemption for any kind of a tax, you’re shifting the burden to everyone else that’s not getting these exemptions.”
Following Gooch was Blake Doss, policy analyst for the Georgia House Budget and Research office. Doss gave a short presentation and told that Fannin has a population of 6,523 age 65 and older, which accounts for approximately 26 percent of the county’s total population of 24,985. Doss also said the local school system received $18,501,250 (55 percent) of its 2016-17 revenue from property taxes while the remainder derived from state and federal funding.
Doss estimated a senior tax exemption would shift the burden to 40 to 45 percent of the county population. Later, Doss also said 33 to 35 percent of the county’s population would fall under the exemption eligibility in the next few years. He further stated the county currently has two tax exemptions in place available for seniors. One such exemption, Doss said, gives taxpayers 62 and older an up to $30,000 exemption of their 40 percent assessed property if they meet income qualifications. Another, again based on income qualifications, provides a property valuation freeze for taxpayers 70 and older.
The overwhelming majority of citizens in attendance opposed the issue as evidenced by wearing bright orange stickers reading “Support Education.”
Among those, Rita VanOrsdal stated, “Without adequate funding, schools will send (students) out less prepared … I believe that cutting my age group’s taxes will do nothing but denigrate the quality of education of those coming after.”
Mike Queen, former Fannin School Board chairman, said he understood both arguments concerning the issue but added the exemption would put a burden on younger taxpayers and families. “I pay a hefty tax … Every dollar I spend on education is an investment in the future of this county,” Queen said.
Current Fannin School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney informed the audience Fannin County spends more per capita on students -$10,923.20 per student – than the state average – $9,020.46 – despite having the sixth lowest school millage rate in the state (11.23 mills). According to Gwatney, the state average for school millage rates is 16.36 mills. Gwatney estimates Fannin County Schools would lose $1.4 million dollars annually if the exemption is passed.
“Education is an investment, and it’s a good investment,” Gwatney said.
Gwatney also alluded to the struggles Gilmer County Schools have had since that county instituted a similar exemption in recent years. “History has a tendency to repeat itself. The showing in this room tonight does not want to repeat the history of Gilmer County,” Gwatney said.
Chief Executive Officer of Fannin Regional Hospital David Sanders also opposed the exemption and explained that the exemption would affect more than just the school system. Sanders stated during his seven years as CEO of the hospital he has recruited over 25 new physicians.
“Every time I recruit a new physician here, the first question they ask is ‘What’s the school system like?'” Sanders said. “And every time it is a privilege to be able to say we’ve got one of the best public school systems in the country.”
Another exemption opponent told Ralston and Gooch, “I feel like our opinion has been voiced … and if our opinion has not been voiced and (the exemption) makes it to the ballot, that will be on the same ballot as the election you guys will be campaigning for.”
Among those in favor of the senior exemption was Fannin County citizen Jim Klack who explained he had lived in Fannin for over 20 years and in that time has paid approximately $100,000 in school taxes. Klack added he currently pays $500 a month in school taxes.
“I’m 85 years old. When do I get any (tax) relief?” Klack asked. “I support the schools and I give them money, but I should not be paying school taxes – $500 a month – when I’m 85 years old and never had a kid in school in Fannin County.”
Also, Klack said 28 counties in Georgia offered a senior tax exemption for taxpayers 65 and older.
Another supporter of the exemption pointed out the majority of opponents and claimed older taxpayers were not notified of the town hall meeting to the same level of publicity that opponents of the exemption were.
To this, Speaker Ralston told the lady he had sent out personal letters over the last two weeks to supporters of the exemption for whom he had contact information, inviting their attendance and participation, and also sent out proper notifications to newspapers informing all residents of the meeting.
In a follow-up interview with Ralston, the speaker described the meeting as “very helpful and very spirited” and said he saw “intense feelings on both sides of the issue.”
“There are certain issues that a community needs to have a discussion about,” Ralston said, “and this meeting helped me to gauge the sense of the community on this exemption.”
The speaker added that he and Senator Gooch would take their time to digest what was said at the town hall before moving forward with the senior tax exemption.
Continue to follow FetchYourNews for more on the status of the senior tax exemption.
Sergeant First Class Ray F. Lents was honored on November 17th for 30 years of service, 22 of those years at Post 27 in Blue Ridge, GA. Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston gathered with many others for the ceremony. Ralston and State Senator Steve Gooch were sponsors of the resolution.
Ralston made the following statement,
I was proud to join so many members of our community in honoring Sergeant First Class Ray Lents on Thursday as we dedicated the intersection of Highway 515 and the Orvin Lance Connector in his memory. Sgt. Lents served with the Georgia State Patrol for 30 years and was the post commander of Post 27 in Blue Ridge from 1971 until his retirement in 1993.
It was great to celebrate the legacy of a dedicated public servant who spent a lifetime protecting our roads and communities. We owe a special debt of gratitude to his wife, Jo Ann, and his children, Jeff, Tim and Mandy, for sharing him with us. I also want to thank all the local officials, State Senator Steve Gooch and Georgia Public Safety Commissioner Colonel Mark McDonough for joining us for this special observance.
The law enforcement community was well-represented as well and I appreciate both active and retired officers of several state and local agencies attending to honor their fellow officer. A final, special thanks to Bill Holt Chevrolet for sponsoring this celebration and providing a well-deserved tribute to a pillar of our community.
See the Resolution below:
House Resolution 1523
By: Representative Ralston of the 7th
1 Honoring the life of Sergeant First Class Ray F. Lents and dedicating an intersection in his
2 memory; and for other purposes.
3 WHEREAS, the State of Georgia lost one of its finest citizens and most dedicated law
4 enforcement officers with the passing of Sergeant First Class Ray F. Lents on December 16,
5 1993; and
6 WHEREAS, a native of Murray County, Georgia, Sergeant First Class Lents joined the
7 Georgia State Patrol in 1963 and was assigned to Post 27 in Blue Ridge upon graduating
8 from the 25th trooper school in Atlanta in 1964; and
9 WHEREAS, he was promoted to corporal in 1968 and sergeant in 1971 and served as
10 commander of Post 27 from 1971 until his retirement in 1993, diligently protecting and
11 serving the citizens of Fannin, Gilmer, Union, and Towns counties; and
12 WHEREAS, this dedicated law enforcement officer served as a guardian of this nation’s
13 freedom and liberty with the United States Armed Forces and was a member of Lebanon
14 Baptist Church and Blue Ridge Masonic Lodge Number 67 F&AM; and
15 WHEREAS, he was united in love and marriage to Jo Ann Galloway Lents and blessed with
16 three remarkable children, Jeff, Tim, and Mandy; and
17 WHEREAS, Sergeant First Class Lents exhibited extraordinary devotion to duty, outstanding
18 loyalty, fine leadership, and meticulous attention to detail in all his duties, and it is
19 abundantly fitting and proper that an intersection be dedicated in his memory.
20 NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED AND ENACTED BY THE GENERAL
21 ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA that the intersection of Highway 515/U.S. 75 and the Orvin
22 Lance Connector is dedicated as the Sergeant First Class Ray F. Lents Memorial Intersection. 16 LC 25 6585 H. R. 1523 – 2 –
23 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Department of Transportation is authorized and
24 directed to erect and maintain appropriate signs dedicating the Sergeant First Class Ray F.
25 Lents Memorial Intersection.
26 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Clerk of the House of Representatives is authorized
27 and directed to make appropriate copies of this resolution available for distribution to the
28 family of Sergeant First Class Ray F. Lents and to the Department of Transportation.
Scroll down to watch video of the forum.
Fannin County Chamber of Commerce 2016 Primary Candidate Forum.
Cynthia Panter, Chairman Fannin County Chamber Board.
Rob Kaser, Co-Moderator
Fannin County Magistrate Judge
Sherri Walker (I) NP
Dannette Davis NP
Brian D. Jones NP
Fannin County School Board
Jeremy Davis R
Clarence Junior Farmer R
Chad Galloway R
Fannin County Tax Commissioner
Shirley Sosebee (I) R
Marie Woody R
Georgia House of Representatives District 7
Speaker David Ralston (I) R
Sam Snider R
Georgia Senate District 51
Senator Steve Gooch (I) R
Fannin County Commission Chairman
Bill Simonds (I) R
Stan Helton R
Fannin County Sheriff
Dane Kirby (I) R
Larry Bennett Sr. R
Johnny Scearce R
Jack Taylor R
Rusty Whittenbarger D
Georgia State Senator Steve Gooch stopped by Good Morning from the Office. Senator Gooch and BKP talk about the 2016 Georgia legislative session.