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state & regional govt & politics

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Georgians have to wait for income tax refunds

Georgia income tax refunds might not be issued until more than 90 days after returns are filed this year as the state guards against the threat of tax fraud.

The Georgia Department of Revenue blocked more than $212 million in fraudulently filed refund requests last year. Meanwhile, the IRS is warning of an ongoing email scam in which people pose as potential clients to trick tax professionals into disclosing sensitive information.

All businesses must file their employee W-2 information by Jan. 31, and the state will begin processing individual income tax returns Feb. 1.

The deadline to file tax returns is April 17 this year — two days later than normal — because April 15 falls on a Sunday and April 16 is an official holiday in the District of Columbia for Emancipation Day.

Georgia governor: State is ‘prepared’ for gameday wintry blitz

Gov. Nathan Deal said Sunday the state is “prepared” for a blast of wintry weather that has forced officials to shutter schools across metro Atlanta and close government offices in much of north Georgia. 

The governor ordered non-essential state offices from Columbus to Augusta and northward to be closed on Monday, and city of Atlanta officials announced a similar order for local offices. 

The shutdown comes as the state ramps up preparations for the College Football National Championship game between Georgia and Alabama on Monday night. Traffic was already expected to be gridlocked across metro Atlanta ahead of the game, which President Donald Trump is set to attend.

Deal said state transportation workers have brined highways and key intersections and bridges for days to prepare for the icy weather, and that he’s confident it won’t hamper preparations for the Monday night game. 

“I don’t think it’s going to affect them,” he said. “We are prepared for that, and our preparations are ongoing. “

Deal’s order does not extend to the state Capitol, which will remain open on Monday so the Legislature can gavel in the 2018 legislation session as required by the state Constitution. 

Deal’s administration has embraced a better-safe-than-sorry approach to wintry weather since snowfall in 2014 paralyzed the region and made Atlanta the butt of national jokes. 

After Virginia, Georgia has the most Confederate symbols in the country

Ever since the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va., calls for removing Confederate memorials in Georgia have grown louder. If someone were to take up that task, they would have their work cut out for them. Georgia has the most Confederate symbols of any state after Virginia. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit advocacy group, compiled a list of Confederate symbols — statues, schools, counties, parks, courthouses and more — in the U.S. in a report titled “Whose Heritage?”. While the analysis found Georgia had 173 symbols, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found the report had missed some names. We added them to the list, which puts the number of Confederate symbols in Georgia at 194 — the second-highest in the country.

Want to know more about these monuments? Read the full story on

KY GOP official accused of exposing himself in department store bathroom

A Kentucky dentist and chairman of his county’s Republican Party has lost his political post and is facing criminal charges following a weekend arrest in Tennessee on charges of indecent exposure and resisting arrest. 

David Narramore, 54, of Whitesburg, was arrested Saturday night at a Belk department store in Kingsport, Tennessee. WJHL in Johnson City, Tennessee, reported that Kingsport police officers were called to the store by a loss prevention officer. 

The man told the officers that he was in a stall in the store’s men’s room, when the person in the next stall, later identified as Narramore, began rubbing his foot with his own. Narramore is also accused of exposing his genitals to the man, WJHL said.

The employee detained Narramore and held him in the loss prevention office until Kingsport police arrived, the news station said. 

When officers attempted to arrest Narramore, he refused to put his hands behind his back, WJHL reported. When he continued to pull away and fight the officers, they used a Taser on him. 

The Taser had no effect, and the officers wrestled him to the ground to handcuff him, police said. 

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Narramore, who complained at the scene of chest pains, was evaluated by paramedics before being booked into the Kingsport City Jail. He was released the next day after posting $2,250 bail. 

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Narramore resigned his post with the Republican Party’s Letcher County branch following the arrest. 

“Dr. Narramore is clearly going through some personal issues,” Tres Watson, communications director for the state GOP, told the Herald-Leader. “We wish him well as he attempts to deal with (his) personal struggles.”


Gov. Chris Christie shuts down N.J. government

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered a government shutdown at midnight Friday after funding for a new state budget failed, reported.

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The shutdown came after last-ditch attempts to reach a compromise between Christie and New Jersey Democrats who control the state legislature failed.

“This order is necessary to maintain the protection, safety and well-being of the people of New Jersey while I attempt to convince the Legislature to send me a fiscally responsible budget that I can sign and reopen New Jersey’s government,” Christie said.

The shutdown is the second in state history and will close government facilities like state parks and motor vehicle service offices, reported. It will not affect organizations like the New Jersey State Police and psychiatric hospitals, and the state lottery will remain in operation.

Atlantans say Trump is wrong about their city and John Lewis

Aaron Gould Sheinin, Jennifer Peebles, Leon Stafford, Chris Quinn and Ben Brasch contributed to this report.

Atlantans responded with an incredulous “how dare you!” Saturday after President-elect Donald Trump kicked off the MLK holiday weekend with a twitter rant saying most of Atlanta is in “horrible shape and falling apart” and describing Georgia’s U.S. Rep. John Lewis — a civil rights icon — as “All talk, talk, talk — no action or results.”

“Sad!” was Mr. Trump’s final word on Atlanta and Lewis, who provoked Trump by saying he would skip the inauguration because he doesn’t see Trump as a “legitimate president.”

A stunned Atlanta, along with admirers of John Lewis from across the country, took to social media to harshly criticize the remarks. They characterized Trump as clueless about everything from Atlanta’s thriving intown neighborhoods to the beating Lewis took years ago as he marched in Alabama for voting rights. Brushing off the accomplishments of Lewis, who is widely revered by many Americans well beyond Georgia, went too far, they said.

“John Lewis is an American hero & a national treasure. Period. Full stop,” tweeted Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed.

Like others, the mayor questioned the timing of Trump’s twitter assault. “That PEOTUS Trump would attack Congressman Lewis on MLK Day weekend for ‘all talk…no action’ when he bled to actually “Make America Great” is why far less than half the country supports him at the dawn of his presidency.”

Lewis had been unabashedly taking on Trump for days. He testified against Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator who is Trump’s attorney general nominee and went on to announce his plans to skip the inauguration. State Sen. Josh McKoon, a Republican, said Lewis’ decision to boycott the inauguration was “petty and dangerous” and that it justified Trump’s ire.

“Regardless of whether you’re on the right or the left, you ought to respect the election. That’s what I did in 2008 when Obama was elected,” said McKoon. “Sure, I was disappointed in the outcome, but I respected it and moved on to the next fight. That’s why it’s really disappointing to me to see Lewis, who has this enormous legacy, say he was not going to attend the inauguration.”

Atlantans understood Saturday that a political fight was playing out. But, the city wondered, did Trump, who once aspired to add his own skyscraper to the city’s skyline, really think Atlanta was a depressing, dangerous place to live? And did he really need to go there on a day that the city was energized with a Falcons playoff game and its annual celebration of Atlanta’s own Martin Luther King Jr.?

Here’s the full text of what Trump had to say early Saturday morning via twitter: “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!”

The congressional district that Lewis represents includes many of Atlanta’s crown jewels as well as pockets of poverty. It runs from Buckhead to Decatur, over to Atlanta’s Westside and reaches south to include Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and parts of Clayton County. Georgia went for Trump, but the 5th Congressional District and the city of Atlanta as a whole remain solidly Democratic and supported Hillary Clinton over Trump in November.

The district that Trump described as in “horrible shape” includes Emory University and Morehouse College, as well as Spelman College and Georgia Tech. The Coca-Cola headquarters is just one of that district’s many, high-profile corporate residents. Lewis represents Midtown’s shiny residential high-rises and the pricey Intown neighborhoods filled with renovated homes, the Beltline and Ponce City Market.

The typical cost of a house in the most sought-after neighborhoods within Georgia’s 5th Congressional District ranges from over $500,000 to $1 million, said Bill Adams, whose real estate company has operated in the district’s neighborhoods for years. “Certainly there are major pockets of poverty, but the central core of Atlanta is flourishing — big time,” Adams said. “He’s thinking about a different Atlanta than the one I live and work in.”

Census figures show the median income in the congressional district was $48,017 in 2015 and the poverty rate was 21 percent. That’s less prosperous than the nation as a whole, where the median income was $55,775 and the poverty rate was 14.7 percent. But about 1 in 5 households in the district had annual incomes over $100,000 and over 40 percent had a college degree, compared with the nation as a whole where 19 percent were college grads.

Roger Tutterow, an economics professor at Kennesaw State University, said Georgia’s 5th District was typical of urban congressional districts across the country which tend to be diverse, with some neighborhoods that are affluent and some economically challenged.

And what about Trump’s declaration that Atlanta is crime infested? Crime stats aren’t tallied at the congressional district level. A look at the city of Atlanta’s rankings, which captures a lot of the district, shows that Atlanta ranks 14th nationally for crime, when compared to the nation’s largest cities.

Jason Carter, the 2014 Democratic candidate for governor who represented part of the 5th District in the state Senate, said Trump “clearly doesn’t know anything about the 5th District or Atlanta.”

“It exemplifies what’s great about this country,” Carter said in an interview on Saturday. “The center of business, the center of innovation and the cradle of the civil rights movement and it’s incredibly successful right now.”

When John Lewis is in Atlanta and needs a haircut (or even when he doesn’t) he stops by Vintage Hair Gallery in downtown Atlanta. On Saturday, Trump’s Twitter tirade was all the talk.

“Mr. Lewis is a very good guy, very humble,” said barber Rob Winkfield, who takes care of the congressman and civilrRights hero when he needs a touchup. “Every time he comes in he speaks to everyone, shakes everyone’s hand. For Trump to stoop that low to comment on something Mr. Lewis is right about, that just goes to show you what type of guy really he is. Someone needs to take Trump’s Twitter handle and just get it out of his hands. He has bigger things to worry about.”

Winkfield loves the bustle of downtown, its eclectic mix of residents, amenities and attractions, and says maybe Trump should visit before he casts aspersions on the home of the world’s busiest airport, pro sports teams and world-class cultural institutions.

“It’s a very good place. He needs to come visit and talk to the people,” he said.

Vintage Hair made international headlines last summer when Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps got a trim right before heading to Rio. Even after the Twitter rant blasting Atlanta, Winkfield would be willing to try to improve Trump’s look.

“I could do something with it. That comb-over is really really bad,” he said. “We could do something else, make it look a little more natural. We’ll take care of him.”

Lewis did draw plenty of criticism on social media and there was no shortage of people weighing in with their own disparaging opinions about Atlanta.

Conservative talk show host Erick Erickson responded this way: “Just a reminder that John Lewis thinks Republicans in power are worse than dogs and water hoses in the street.”

But few elected officials spoke out against Lewis. State Rep. Allen Peake, a Macon Republican, likely spoke for many Republicans when he offered his take:

“I’m not sure I would take on a civil rights icon and hero,” he said, “but Donald Trump hasn’t asked me for my advice — and he doesn’t need my advice.”

The pastor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s church said Saturday that Trump should learn from Lewis rather than disparage the civil rights icon.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church said Trump “continually demonstrates that he is too small a man for the big responsibility he now assumes.”

“John Lewis has spent his life serving others. Trump has spent his life serving himself,” said Warnock, whose historic Atlanta church is the spiritual home of King’s family. “Rather than sending nasty tweets, he ought to sit at John Lewis’ feet and learn what service, sacrifice and integrity look like.”

After people in Atlanta spent the day debating Trump’s remarks about Lewis and the city, the president-elect ended the evening with yet another comment that may keep the feud going.

“Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S.” the president-elect said via Twitter. “I can use all the help I can get!”

College student becomes youngest elected to Florida House of Representatives

Amber Mariano cut her four classes on Tuesday, but the third-year political science major at the University of Central Florida more than likely won’t be penalized by her professors. In fact, she might get extra credit.

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Not only was she studying the political process, she was winning at it.

Mariano, a Republican candidate who turned 21 on Oct. 18, became the youngest person ever elected to the Florida House of Representatives, winning District 36 by 719 votes over incumbent Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy. Before Mariano, the youngest person elected to the Florida House was Adam Putnam, who was 22 when he won in 1996 and is now Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture.

“It was honestly the best night of my life,” Mariano told WFTS.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that the margin was 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent out of 66,939 ballots cast in Pasco County, located north of the Tampa Bay area — according to final but unofficial results.

Mariano the youngest of any gender since 1996, when Adam Putnam, then 22, won his first statehouse race.

According to her website, Mariano gained experience on the issues of education and health care during her time working for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in Washington, D.C. During the 2016 Florida legislative session, she worked for state representatives Rene “Coach P” Plasencia and Scott Plakon. She received endorsements from Rubio and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Mariano, who plans to attend law school after graduation, is no stranger to politics. Her father, Jack Mariano, won re-election to a fourth term as a Pasco County commissioner.

“We didn’t expect this opportunity to present itself so quickly in her life,” Jack Mariano told WFTS. “But I will tell you at 6 years old she said she wanted to be the first woman president.

“So it’s been in her blood from way back when.”

“He says I’m leapfrogging him. He just wanted me to follow my dream,” Amber Mariano told WFTS.  “And this is my dream.” 

Here's how to endorse a political candidate on Facebook

For those who use Facebook as an outlet to voice their political opinions, one feature makes the boldest statement: officially endorsing the candidate of your choice on the social media platform.

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To endorse a candidate, users only have to complete five steps: 

  1. Click the Endorsement tab on the political figure's Facebook page
  2. Click Endorse
  3. Choose the audience you want to see your endorsement post
  4. Write something to go along with your post
  5. Click Post

According to Facebook, users who post their endorsements to a public audience can be featured on candidates' pages if the candidates decide to repost any specific endorsement status.

Only pages that mark a figure as a politician, political candidate or government official can have the endorsement option.

Among those who can be endorsed are presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Duke, a Great Pyrenees that won a third one-year term as honorary mayor of Cormorant, Minnesota, in August, and Mayor Stubbs, a cat that has been the mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, since the 1990s.

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