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Morning headlines: State Ethics Commission investigating nonprofit's role in 2018 governor's election

Photo: GPB News
State ethics officials are investigating whether a non-profit group spent some $3 million on behalf of Stacey Abrams in the 2018 gubernatorial election

The State Ethics Commission is investigating whether a nonprofit raised and spent millions of undisclosed dollars in support of Stacey Abrams 2018 campaign for governor.

The AJC reports it is the biggest investigation so far against the New Georgia Project, but Abrams supporters have called the effort a fishing expedition engineered by Governor Brian Kemp. In an updated complaint, the commission claims the group raised $4 million dollars and spent $3 million without registering as a political action committee and disclosing the funds.

Lawyers for the New Georgia Project and Action Fund say their primary purpose is not influencing election outcomes and that they are not required to file with the state.

Oconee Board of Ed. to vote on new millage rate

Another public hearing and then a vote later today on a new millage rate for part of the property taxes Oconee County residents pay.

The Oconee County Board of Education is considering a 16.25 rate, which is a quarter point drop, but because of increases in the value of property assessments in the county, the proposed rate amounts to a nearly 10 percent increase in property taxes. During a recent public hearing, some citizens proposed that the board adopt a rate of 14.8, which they say would keep taxes flat.

Today’s public hearing begins at 5:30.

Kemp gives educators $125 for supplies

Gov. Kemp is using federal COVID-19 relief money to give teachers another $125 to buy school supplies, months after issuing a similar stipend.

While January’s $125 supplement went only to teachers and paraprofessional teacher aides, state education officials said the new supplement will include others who provide instructional support on a daily basis including counselors, librarians, school nurses and speech language pathologists. The money comes from federal COVID-19 aid.

Georgia got two rounds of funding for public schools totaling $173 million that has already been spent, plus $79 million in money for emergency aid to private schools.

Public health group: US public health efforts underfunded by $4.5 billion

A recent report by the Trust for America’s Health is calling on federal, state and local governments to invest more funding into public health.

That report: 'The Impact of Chronic Underfunding on America’s Public Health System' states an additional $4.5 billion per year is needed to maintain a strong public health infrastructure.

"We did find that Georgia increased its own investment in public health by about 12% in 2021, as compared to the previous year," said Dara Lieberman, Director of Government Relations at the nonprofit. "But it's important to remember that that investment needs to maintain, not only are we facing inflation now, as in populations are growing, but the health threats that are facing our communities are only increasing."

The report also found that underfunding of public health slowed response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ossoff pushes bill to increase solar production

U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) is proposing a bill to expand the manufacturing of solar panels in the U.S.

Ossoff’s proposal would create tax credits for all the major steps of production, including purifying and creating wafers from silicone, turning those wafers into energy producing cells and assembling them into a finished solar panel.

Currently, there are no facilities in the U.S. that manufacture wafers or cells. The Peach State had 5,314 solar jobs last year, an increase of 19% over 2020. Even so, growth in other states has been rapid enough that Georgia dropped from ninth in the country to No. 14.

Alexia Ridley joined WUGA as Television and Radio News Anchor and Reporter in 2013. When WUGA TV concluded operations, she became the primary Reporter for WUGA Radio. Alexia came to Athens from Macon where she served as the News Director and show host for WGXA TV. She's a career journalist and Savannah native hailing from the University of Michigan. However, Alexia considers herself an honorary UGA DAWG!