Lobbyists are required to file reports disclosing gifts, including meals, to state lawmakers every two weeks while the Georgia General Assembly is in session.
But it's not always easy to determine the issues they're pushing.
A number of firms billing themselves as governmental affairs consultants represent scores of firms and industries. Increasingly, their employees list the firm, not the client, in the section of the report asking who they're lobbying for.
Contacts with Floyd County's legislative delegates reported between the Jan. 14 start of the session and the April 2 end give a snapshot of the variables involved.
Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, was cited in just two lobbyist expense reports.
The Professional Association of Georgia Educators gave each senator a box of crayons valued at $1.50. Hufstetler also had a meal meeting, at $19.61, with Robert Elliott, vice president of Switch, a Nevada-based data center design firm.
In the House, Reps. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, and Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, were among the lawmakers who got $6 T-shirts from the Alzheimer's Association.
Dempsey and Rep. Mitchell Scoggins both attended the April 10 Georgia Municipal Association District 1 listening session in Rockmart, with GMA spending $8.57 each on their meals.
Spending was higher by the for-profit entities, which often share expenses for a one-on-one meal or a large legislative
dinner and pro rate the cost among attendees.
Lumsden met Jan. 28 with a representative of the Southeastern Carpenters Regional Council for a $52 meal.
Scoggins attended a Jan. 28 Emory University tour and dinner with a total cost of $56, split by an Emory lobbyist and the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals. Two lobbyists with consultants Smith Gambrell & Russell shared the cost of a $125 dinner on Jan. 29.
Dempsey attended a Jan. 22 dinner given by the Georgia Society of Interventional Pain Physicians at $12 per person. She had a Jan. 23 meal with an AT&T lobbyist, valued at $52, and an $11 lunch on Jan. 30 paid by consultants CPS Strategies.
Lumsden went to a Feb. 7 dinner with GMA representatives who reported spending a total of $126. He met twice with a lobbyist working for McGuire Woods Consulting, for a $20 lunch and a $73 dinner. He also had a $73 dinner with a lobbyist for AT&T.
Scoggins attended a Feb. 7 dinner given by children and family healthcare lobbyists. The $109 pro-rated cost was shared by Together Georgia, Lifepoint Health and Multi-Agency Alliance for Children, Inc.
Dempsey had a $37 meal with a lobbyist for Charter Communications on Feb. 4 and consultants Connect South Public Affairs also reported spending $74 on food and beverage for her on that date.
She also had an $18 dinner on Feb. 5 with Georgia-Link Public Affairs Group and a $57 dinner Feb. 7 cost-shared by consulting firms W.L. Clifton Political Consulting, Georgia Work Net and Commonwealth Group Partners. Dempsey also attended a dinner Feb. 26 that cost consultants Mathews & Maxwell Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. a combined $160.
Lumsden met with several consulting firms in March. He had a dinner with Southern Strategy Group valued at $70; a dinner with Joe Tanner and Associates valued at $61; and a $72 meal paid by Cornerstone Governmental Affairs.
He also met twice with Monty Veazy of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, for meals costing $62 and $28.
Scoggins had a $24 dinner on March 11, split by lobbyists for TitleMax of Georgia and consulting firm Holland & Knight LLP. Two lobbyists listed meals for him on March 13: AT&T at $20 and Georgians for Lawsuit Reform at $35.
He also had a $5 meal with a firm representing Cancer Treatment Centers of America and Searles Consulting Inc. spent $37 on a meal and entertainment.
Dempsey had a $22 meal with W.L. Clifton Political Consulting in March and attended an $88 dinner costshared by lobbyists with the Georgia Bankers Association and Melvin Weaver Consulting. Another $21 meal was split by CTCA and Navicent Health.
On March 20, Georgia Power and Troutman Sanders shared the cost of a $57 meal for Dempsey; Georgia Power spent $28 on March 21; and Troutman Sanders spent $32 on March 25.
A March 26 dinner costing $100 was shared by the Georgia Society of the American College of Surgeons, Georgia Association of Community Service Boards and the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
Dempsey also attended a March 28 dinner for Republican women legislators sponsored by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia that cost $10 per person.
Rome City Schools board of education met Monday morning to discuss the hiring and reassignments of several staff including a principal for Main Elementary.
LaRoyce Sublett, who is currently the special education department chairperson and inclusion support specialist for Cobb County Schools, will take the helm of Main Elementary when the school occupies its new building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Sublett has served in several education administrative roles in Texas and Atlanta area throughout his career.
Sublett will be principal for the 2019-2020 school year starting July 1. Also approved by the board Monday was Sara Bradfield who
will become the Career Technical Instruction coordinator for Rome High School and Dale Willerson who be the new director of student services for the system.
The board also discussed their planning retreat which will take place this weekend at the Forrest Hills Resort & Conference Center near Dahlonega. The board will leave Rome at 9:30 a.m. Friday and will return on Saturday around 4:00 p.m.
A agenda for the planning retreat is not yet set however the two major issues the board will be discussing is the budget for the 2019-2020 school year and how the system will handle how it transports students.
"There are so many things that have to be done," Superintendent Lou Byars told the board Monday.
Byars told the board they will need to come up with a plan of action this weekend during the retreat in order to properly handle the situation safely. Byars said he is still in the process of gathering information and will present everything he has to the board this weekend.
Work is being done to get a pair of high visibility strip shopping centers more attractive to new retailers.
A strip mall in the 1400 block of North Broad Street has been mostly empty since Dollar General left for a new building. Another strip mall on the 1600 block of Shorter Avenue in West Rome on the outside looks like it has been ready for tenants for months, still has a number of issues to be resolved before a certificate of occupancy is issued.
The strip mall in West Rome, the former World Hi-Fi site, is being developed by Mike Jaffar who said Monday a series of issues, ranging from a personal heart attack to multiple deaths in his family and finally the loss of his primary investor has held that project up.
In North Rome, Karim Dholakiya turned down an auction bid of $395,000 last year and has started work to refinish the facade to make the building more attractive.
Jaffar said that he is actively seeking to get the building in West Rome approved for his certificate of occupancy. He said work to install sprinklers was completed last week and he has contractors who are addressing other check list types of items before getting final inspections.
"Hopefully next week I'll get the certificate of occupancy," Jaffar said. "I've got about eight of them already rented out and I've got two more left. I've got one more guy looking at it this week."
Up in North Rome, work on facade changes were the focus of a stop work order by the Rome Floyd Building Inspection office because the work has not been permitted.
That issue was resolved late last week, prompting Inspection office Director Howard Gibson to say,"At least they're dressing the place up."
Tax records indicate the current value of the strip on Shorter Avenue is $402,928.
During the auction last year, three bidders were active in the sale but Dholakiya turned down the final offer. Auctioneer Lou Dempsey said a month later, the owners came back to him to see if any of the three were still interested in the property but at that time, Dempsey said no one wanted to re-engage in negotiations.
"All three bidders had done their due diligence," Dempsey said. "I thought the high bid was a solid offer."
Unlike the West Rome strip mall,
the North Rome strip mall does have what appears to be three occupants: a barber shop, a church and an athletic apparel shop.
The North Broad center has a value, according to Floyd County tax records, of $553,951
Meanwhile, the old Army-Navy store building in the 1500 block of North Broad, is also empty.
Sitting between Dholakiya's strip center and the new Dollar General, that property has 13,000 square feet of space and seven store fronts.
Today's artwork is by Michael Laakkonen, a fifthgrader at Alto Park Elementary School.
Sharon Baker calls osteoporosis a silent disease, "because it doesn't have any symptoms until you get a broken bone."
And, even after a fracture, just a small percentage of high-risk patients – women in menopause and older men – get follow-up screening for the underlying cause.
Baker, president and founder of the Women's Information Network, said it's time to put concern about the loss of bone density on the same level as health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes.
"If you really value your independence, this is a big threat," she said.
WIN is hosting a May 9 workshop in Rome aimed at giving residents the tools they need to combat the disease. Experts in medicine, nursing, physical therapy and nutrition are lined up to provide practical information and local resources.
"We'll practice stretches and exercises, talk about T scores, learn how to prevent falls and fractures and have a high-calcium lunch," Baker said. "The workshop looks at the whole gamut, from prevention through treatment, and it will be in understandable terms."
The workshop runs from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Georgia Northwestern Technical College auditorium. The $10 cost covers lunch and workbooks. Register by May 6 through the organization's website, InfoForWomen.org.
"Just exercising and taking calcium isn't enough," Baker said. "The stakes are high and the risk are worth learning about."
Several other events of interest to older residents also are coming up:
• A recap of the 2019 legislative session and its impact on area seniors is slated for 9 a.m. May 3 at the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission office on Jackson Hill.
The free hour-long presentation sponsored by the Area Agency on Aging will include video, personal stories and discussions about priorities for 2020.
• The 33rd annual Senior
Inforum is scheduled for May 8 at the Thornton Recreation Center across from Armuchee High School in North Floyd Park.
The event, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., features exhibits with information on programs and services for senior citizens, a Chick-fil-A lunch, live entertainment and door prizes.
Tickets are $5 and must be purchased in advance because space is limited and they sell out fast. They're available at the Charles C. Parker Senior Center, 1325 Kingston Road.