State senator leaving General Assembly for health-care post in Kemp administration

State Sen. Dean Burke

ATLANTA – State Sen. Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge, resigned his legislative seat Thursday to take a job as chief medical officer at the Georgia Department of Community Health.

Burke’s resignation less than two months after he won reelection was among several leadership changes in the administration of Gov. Brian Kemp the governor announced Thursday.

Longtime transportation administrator Jannine Miller, currently director of planning at the Georgia Department of Transportation, will become executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA). Kemp also tapped her to head the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) and the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority (ATL).

The governor also announced that Georgia Corrections Commissioner Tim Ward will join the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. Tyrone Oliver, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, will move over to head the corrections agency.

Burke, a physician, was elected to the Senate in 2012. As chief medical officer at Memorial Hospital and Manor in Bainbridge, he lent his health-care expertise to the Senate as vice chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee and chairman of the Insurance and Labor Committee.

“Senator Burke will bring a wealth of knowledge to the role of chief medical officer,” Kemp said Thursday. “I’m thankful for his willingness to serve in this new capacity for the benefit of all Georgians, including those in our rural communities.”

Burke was elected to a sixth term in the Senate in November, running unopposed in Southwest Georgia’s 11th Senate District.

Kemp has scheduled a special election on Jan. 31 to complete Burke’s unexpired term.

Miller joined the Georgia Department of Transportation as planning director in 2020 after working for the state Department of Economic Development and serving as executive director of GRTA. She also spent time in Washington, D.C., as a senior policy director for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Jannine will bring an innovative approach and a deep knowledge of the issues facing commuters and those who move Georgia-made products through and beyond Georgia as she steps into these new roles,” Kemp said.

Miller will succeed Chris Tomlinson, who also headed SRTA, GRTA, and the ATL simultaneously before moving to the private sector last May.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Kemp declares statewide weather emergency with frigid temperatures on the way

Photo courtesy of Georgia Department of Transportation

ATLANTA – Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency throughout Georgia Wednesday ahead of an Arctic blast that is expected to send temperatures plummeting into the single digits by Friday.

“Communities across the state are about to see temperatures that they haven’t experienced in a decade or more,” the governor said during a news conference at the state Capitol.

The frigid temperatures likely will be accompanied by high winds that could result in power outages.

James Stallings, director of the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, said outages could last several days. With the cold blast affecting other states as well, Georgia utilities will be on their own when it comes to restoring power, he said.

“We can’t bring in a lot of folks from outside,” Stallings said.

Georgia Commissioner of Transportation Russell McMurry said crews already are treating roads in Northwest Georgia with brine in anticipation of precipitation from Thursday night through Friday morning, followed by freezing temperatures likely to produce black ice. Brine operations in metro Atlanta and Northeast Georgia will begin Thursday morning.

Salting will begin Thursday on highways, bridges, and overpasses north of a line between Columbus and Augusta and along Interstate 75 from Macon north to the Tennessee line, McMurry said.

“This is an all-hands effort with this big a geographic area we’re dealing with,” he said.

McMurry advised motorists to stay off the roads on Thursday and Friday morning to make room for the emergency crews.

Kemp’s order waived federal rules limiting the hours commercial truck drivers may drive their vehicles in order to ensure adequate supplies of heating fuels.

The emergency declaration will run through midnight Monday.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Georgia congressional delegation wants more time to ensure accurate broadband maps  

Georgia’s Broadband Availability Map shows areas lacking broadband service in light yellow. (courtesy Georgia Broadband Office)

ATLANTA – The federal government should give Georgia and other states more time to submit corrections to new maps that show where broadband service does not reach, Georgia’s congressional delegation urged in a letter Wednesday.

At stake is how the federal government allocates $42.5 billion in funding earmarked for bolstering broadband in the infrastructure spending bill Congress passed last year.  

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched an effort to more accurately map where broadband is not available. The agency is allowing state governments – and ordinary Americans – to submit corrections to the map.  

“We believe that federal programs to support broadband expansion must start with accurate broadband mapping,” the Georgia politicians, led by Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and Rep. Rick Allen, R-Augusta, wrote Wednesday in a letter to the FCC.

The letter contends the FCC’s deadline of Jan. 13 for submitting corrections is too soon. It asks the commission to extend the deadline by at least 60 days so Georgia, and others, can ensure the maps are accurate.  

“We are concerned that this timeline … is too short for states to submit a thorough challenge petition in the correct and comprehensive manner as determined by the FCC,” the letter notes. The federal government released the full data set in November.   

More than 1 million Georgians lack access to broadband, according to some estimates.

If the FCC does not extend the deadline, up to 220,000 areas that lack broadband, most of them in rural parts of Georgia, could be missing from the federal map, the letter states. That could reduce the amount of federal funding the state gets to build out its broadband infrastructure.  

Georgia emerged as a national leader in accurately mapping the broadband shortage in 2020 when it published its own broadband-shortage maps, which showed the problem is more extensive than the federal maps indicated.   

“Georgia has been a leader when it comes to these maps,” said Will Rinehart, senior research fellow at the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University. 

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Audit finds state’s video game tax credit a worthwhile investment

ATLANTA – Georgia’s tax credit for video game developers is paying off for the state’s economy, according to an audit released this week.

The General Assembly created the video game tax credit in 2005 as part of a broader tax credit for film and TV productions. Eligible game developers receive a 20% income tax credit plus an additional 10% if they add the Georgia Entertainment Logo to their game, like the extra credit filmmakers get for displaying the Georgia Peach logo at the end of their movies.

An average of 34 video game projects used the tax credit each year from 2017 to 2021, according to a report the Center for Business Analytics and Economic Research at Georgia Southern University prepared for the state Department of Audits and Accounts.

While game developers used $26 million in tax credits during that period, their projects generated $389.5 million in economic output. Companies using the credit also paid $7.4 million in state taxes and $5.6 million in local taxes during those years.

“Based on discussions with industry leaders, this tax credit is used to retain businesses and jobs in Georgia rather than attract new companies,” the audit stated. “The credit has played a role in developing successful companies that are creating new technologies that are strengthening Georgia’s IT and entertainment industries.”

The credit is capped at $12.5 million per year, while no individual company can receive more than $1.5 million in credits during a single year.

To qualify for the credit, companies must maintain a physical location in Georgia, maintain an annual payroll of at least $250,000 for in-state workers, and report a gross income of less than $100 million.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Election-year politics tops Georgia headlines in 2022

ATLANTA – With the coronavirus pandemic at last under control, election-year politics dominated Georgia this year. Voters reelected a Republican governor and a Democratic U.S. senator in a wave of ticket-splitting that drew national attention. Here’s a look at the top Georgia stories of 2022:

January 7 – The father-and-son murderers of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick in 2020 are sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The case led the General Assembly to pass a hate-crimes bill and overhaul Georgia’s 19th-century citizens arrest law.

January 10 – The Georgia Bulldogs win college football’s national championship, defeating the University of Alabama 33-18 in Indianapolis.

March 1 – The University System of Georgia Board of Regents votes to hire former two-term Gov. Sonny Perdue to become the system’s 14th chancellor. Perdue takes up the post in April.

April 4 – The Republican-controlled General Assembly completes the 2022 legislative session, highlighted by the passage of bills overhauling the delivery of mental-health services in Georgia, allowing Georgians to carry concealed firearms without a permit and cutting state income taxes by $1 billion.

May 20 – Hyundai Motor Group announces plans to build an electric vehicle manufacturing plant in Bryan Couty near Savannah. Expected to create 8,100 jobs, it’s the largest economic development project in Georgia history.

May 24 – Gov. Brian Kemp trounces former U.S. Sen. David Perdue by 50 points in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Democrat Stacey Abrams wins her party’s nomination for governor unopposed.

July 20 – The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds Georgia’s “heartbeat” bill banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The General Assembly passed the law in 2019, but it didn’t take effect until the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Sept. 26 – The state signs an agreement with water supply systems in Gwinnett, Hall, and Forsyth counties guaranteeing water from Lake Lanier through 2050. The deal closes the chapter on a major portion of the tri-state “water wars” between, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama dating back to the 1990s.

November 8 – Republican Gov. Brian Kemp wins a second term, defeating Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams. Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock lands in a runoff with GOP challenger Herschel Walker.

November 16 – Georgia House Speaker David Ralston dies at age 68 after an extended illness. Two days earlier, the House Republican Caucus had nominated House Majority Leader Jon Burns, R-Newington, to succeed the ailing Ralston as speaker.

December 6 – Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock wins a full six-year term in the Senate after completing the late Sen. Johnny Isakson’s unexpired term. Warnock defeats Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a runoff.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.