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Local legislators list priorities for 2022
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The 2022 General Assembly got underway Monday at the state capitol and election-year politics are expected to play a significant role in the 2022 session, with Republicans running in primaries this spring and looking to score points with the GOP base.

According to a recent article from Capitol Beat News Service, the rush to court conservative Republican primary voters will include bills easing restrictions on guns, cutting taxes and doubling down on changes to Georgia’s election laws Democrats have labeled as voter suppression.

But Georgia lawmakers didn’t let the start of the 2022 General Assembly session Monday get in the way of college football’s national championship game.

The state House and Senate held truncated sessions Monday morning to give legislators time to head to Indianapolis for Monday night’s showdown between the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide.

In the meantime, members of the Douglas County Delegation were contacted for some perspective on their priorities for this year’s session, both individually and collectively.

For state Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville, the 2022 session will be the last time around. Gravley announced in December that he will not seek reelection this year. Gravley, who has served in the legislature for a decade, spoke this week by phone.

“I’m looking forward to the session; I think it’s going to be a good year. I think we’re going to move quickly on the people’s business. As the governor indicated Constitutional Carry will be an item we’re going to discuss. I think we’re going to see some tax reforms, hopefully giving taxpayers more of their own money, which is the right thing to do.”

Additional tax relief is on the General Assembly’s 2022 agenda. Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, who is running for lieutenant governor, pre-filed a bill last month that would eliminate Georgia’s income tax.

But other Republican leaders will likely get behind a more moderate approach to reduce the income tax rate from 5.75% — the rate lawmakers adopted in 2018 — to 5.5% or lower.

Gravley said other delegation members would share this goal since it drives the economy.

“We may see the second round of teacher pay-raises come to the floor, I’m happy to support that with three daughters in the public school system,” he said.

“I think we could see some re-working and some adjustment to medical cannabis issues, because we’ve got to get these licenses to the people they were awarded to, so we can get this medicine out to the citizens of Georgia — it’s been long enough.”

“And I think we may see some education policy items come to the floor as well,” he said.

And the leaders who run the two legislative chambers — Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who presides over the state Senate — are vowing not to let politics get in the way of addressing mental health and crime.

“Those two topics will be my focus for the session,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.

Ralston cited alarming statistics on crime and youth suicides in his call for action on crime and mental health.

“Addressing the mental health crisis that we have in Georgia; that’s an over-arching issue that we’re hearing from everybody. Also public safety,” Gravley said. “We have vacancies all across our public safety sectors; we’ve got to find a way to retain public safety personnel in our communities, because a safe community is a thriving c ommunity.”

Gravley has no bills filed at the outset of the session, he said, and will wait to see what develops down the road.

“I’m waiting to see what’s out there, I don’t want to file a bill just to file a bill, but if there is an issue that warrants a second look, or something that needs to be addressed, I’ll dive right in on it,” he said.

Also from the Douglas County delegation, state Rep. Kimberly Alexander, D-Douglasville also spoke by phone this week.

With some recent incidents including one in the county involving a 13-year-old, guns in the hands of children is an issue, she said.

“We need to strengthen some laws around that. I don’t have a bill right now, that’s something I’m researching and looking into,” she said.

Also with regard to staffing issues in the area of mental health, Alexander said she has advocated for dedicated practitioners who could accompany police and respond more directly to those kinds of calls, to help free up law enforcement officers to take care of other things.

Last summer, Ralston called for a $50 million budget appropriation to beef up law enforcement and mental health services.

He said the House also will take up a comprehensive mental health bill that includes a provision aimed at addressing a shortage of mental health workers.

“To do what we need to do in mental health, we’re going to have to incentivize people to train in that,” Ralston said.

Alexander said the priority for her, first and foremost, is taking care of some redistricting guidelines.

“I have a couple of bills on redistricting,” Alexander said. “We have a certain deadline when it comes to redistricting for the local — that’s the school board and the county — so that will be local legislation. So, that’s the most important thing right now.”

And revisiting the minimum wage will be something she’ll sponsor or co-sponsor, she said.

“Although the minimum wage has changed, it hasn’t been changed for the state of Georgia. Some have changed across the state on their own. [The change] may be increments of $15 that lead up to that,” she said.

Another local concern Alexander said that’s been shared in local listening sessions involves addressing the issue of homeowners associations that are linked to builders that become detached or are not accessible to the concerns of homeowners.

Overall, Alexander said she is looking forward to taking care of the local people in this year’s session.

“Every year is a surprise and we’ll see what the next 39 days will bring,” she said.

TOP DAWGS!: Georgia dethrones Alabama for first national title in 41 years
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Confetti rained down on Georgia. The Bulldogs fans chanted “Kir-by, Kir-by!”

Four decades of pent-up emotion were unleashed Monday night as the Bulldogs snapped a frustrating national championship drought by vanquishing their nemesis.

Stetson Bennett delivered the biggest throws of his storybook career and Georgia's defense sealed the sweetest victory in program history, beating Alabama 33-18 in the College Football Playoff for its first title in 41 years.

“I’ve never been around a group of players that really wanted it so bad and wouldn’t be denied,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I told the guys in the locker room, just take a picture of this."

Smart, a Bulldogs defensive back in the mid-1990s, returned to his alma mater in 2016 after helping Nick Saban build a dynasty as an assistant at Alabama.

Georgia has become an elite program under Smart, but has not been able to chase down its Southeastern Conference rival.

Until now.

“This was for all the glory, we took it," defensive tackle Jordan Davis said.

And they did it the way Alabama has broken their hearts so many times in recent years: Coming from behind and finishing with a flourish.

Bennett connected with Adonai Mitchell on a 40-yard touchdown to give No. 3 Georgia a 19-18 lead with 8:09 left and then hooked up with Brock Bowers for a 15-yard TD on a screen to put the Bulldogs up eight with 3:33 left.

The final blow came from Georgia's dominant defense. Kelee Ringo intercepted an underthrown deep ball down the sideline by Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.

“I just saw the ball in his hands and that was all she wrote,” said safety Lewis Cine, the game's defensive MVP.

With just over a minute left, Ringo took off behind a convoy of blockers and went 79 yards, Smart chasing and yelling at him to go down so he wouldn't risk a fumble. The touchdown set off a wild celebration by the relieved Georgia fans who packed Lucas Oil Stadium.

“There's going to be some property torn up in Indianapolis tonight,” Smart said, paraphrasing the late Georgia play-by-play man Larry Munson.

The Bulldogs (14-1) hadn't won a national title since freshman Herschel Walker led them there in 1980. If simply snapping the drought wasn't good enough, doing it against No. 1 Alabama (13-2) made it even better.

“I cried, so pretty good," Bennett said when asked how it felt.

Saban's Tide had won seven straight against the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs lost two SEC championship games, including one five weeks ago, and the 2018 CFP title game to Alabama under Smart.

“I told them we burned the boats. The only way home was through them,” Smart said.

Mission accomplished.

Bennett, the former walk-on turned starter, finished 17 for 26 for 224 yards and no interceptions.

For most of the first three quarters, the first CFP title game to be a rematch of a regular-season game was an ol' fashion SEC defensive struggle in the heart of Big Ten country.

The first touchdown came with 1:20 left in the third quarter. After James Cook broke a 67-yard run to get the Bulldogs into the red zone, three more running plays — and a facemask penalty by Alabama — got them into the end zone. Zamir White went in standing up from a yard out with massive defensive tackles Jalen Carter and Davis leading the way as blockers. The Bulldogs led for the first time, 13-9.

After Alabama added another field goal, the Tide caught a break on strange turnover.

As Bennett was being taken down deep in Georgia territory, he tried to throw the ball away. The ball slipped loose, and bounced toward the sideline, seemingly harmless. Alabama’s Brian Branch casually caught it as he was jogging out of bounds.

Surprisingly, the ruling on the field was a fumble, recovered by the Tide and replay upheld it, giving the Tide the ball in the red zone. A few plays later, Young eluded the rush and found Cameron Latu for a 3-yard touchdown that put Alabama up 18-13 with 10:14 left.

Once again, it seemed as if Georgia would not be able to break the 'Bama curse.

Bennett was 13 for 22 for 141 yards as the next drive started, and you could practically hear all skeptical Georgia fans wondering why Smart didn’t turn to his four-star back-up QB, J.T. Daniels, for a spark.

As he has done so many times during a career that started on the scout team and took a detour through junior college in Mississippi, the small-town Georgia kid nicknamed “The Mailman” came through.

Bennett completed all three of his passes for 68 yards, including a long strike to Mitchell for a touchdown with 8:09 left that gave the Bulldogs a one-point lead after a failed 2-point conversion.

The Bulldogs’ defense clamped down on Young, forcing a three-and-out on the Tide’s next drive, and then Georgia went to work on sealing a long-awaited championship.

“It’s a little tough that I let them down today," Young said. "I’ve got to do better with it.”

The sophomore finished 35 for 57 for 359 yards with two interceptions, playing without his top two receivers for most of the game. All-American Jameson Williams went out early in the second quarter with a knee injury, and John Metchie III was injured in the SEC title game.

Young was sacked three times after Georgia didn't bring him down once in the first meeting.

“We played a heck of a game against a heck of a team for the first three quarters of the game,” said Saban, who was denied his eight national title, seventh with Alabama in the last 13 years. "Nobody can take the SEC championship away from this team, the Cotton Bowl championship.

“We just didn’t finish the way we needed to finish.”

After more than 40 years, it was Georgia's time to finish.

“You put as much time as we do in this thing, blood, sweat, tears,” Bennett said, 'it means something."

This is Douglas: Mason Massey 'doesn't feel any pressure' about upcoming NASCAR season
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Mason Massey has finally gotten his big NASCAR breakthrough.

The Douglasville native will race full-time this year on the NASCAR Xfinity Series after joining the DGM Racing team.

He will drive the team’s No. 91 Chevy Camaro.

Massey has raced the last four years part-time on the Xfinity Series with 30 races under his belt.

He will compete in 27 of the Series’ races this season starting next month at the Daytona International Speedway.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time on the simulators,” Massey said. “Daytona is a special place.”

There are now two full-time Xfinity Series drivers with Douglas County ties.

Austin Hill, a Winston native, joined Richard Childress Racing where he will compete in the Xfinity Series after several years competing on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

The two are close friends and golf once a week.

“It is really cool having two guys from Douglas County racing,” Massey said. “We always talked about dreams and goals of racing together on NASCAR. I followed a lot of his footsteps on the track.”

Included in the 27 races will be both stops at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He will race in the March 19 race and return July 9 for a race on his hometown track.

Massey said he is looking forward to competing on the newly revamped and reimagined track in Hampton.

Over a five-month period, the 1.54-mile oval track got a new shape, sporting a steeper 28-degree banked corners, new drainage technology and a coatings of brand-new asphalt.

“The last time they did a repave at the track I was just born,” Massey said. “It is going to be a lot faster now. It will be much like Daytona. I think nobody knows what to expect.”

Massey’s best finish was last year at Richmond when he placed No. 17 at the Virginia track. The week before, he took 18th spot at Darlington.

He said he believes he can consistently compete in the Xfinity Series.

“I don’t feel any pressure,” Massey said. “I’m more anxious than nervous. I believe in myself.”

To get ready for the grind of a full NASCAR season, Massey has been working out everyday and watching his diet intake.

He said he watches a lot of film and goes to the sauna to simulate the 140-degree heat inside a car during the summer months.

He also uses a simulator to prepare for the various tracks he will race on.

“There is a lot of work drivers do away from the track,” Massey said. “It’s all about having your mind right when you get to the track.”

BOC to honor MLK's legacy Friday
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The Douglas County Board of Commissioners will observe the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend by giving out miniature planting trees to the public on Friday.

The BOC will distribute the planting trees from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at the courthouse on a first come basis.

The tree-planting initiative honoring MLK Day mark’s the third time Douglas County has done this and the event is being coordinated by Keep Douglas County Beautiful.

The event is hosted by the county’s external affairs and Keep Douglas County Beautiful departments.

“Planting trees helps our community by reducing energy bills, increasing property values, and assisting with cleaning the air and water,” said Tabrieah Cobb, coordinator of Keep Douglas County Beautiful.

Chan Weeks, executive director of Keep Douglasville Beautiful, said they will not host a formal event this year like in year’s past. However, she said Keep Douglasville Beautiful is encouraging citizens to “give back to their community” by picking up litter around their neighborhoods, including places of businesses, schools and churches.

She said participants can signup at through the organization’s Adopt-A-Road program.

Weeks said residents can share their clean efforts on the organization’s Facebook page.

“You don’t have to sign up to show that you care about your community,” Weeks said. “Just get out and make a difference. This is a great way to be involved and it can be done as much or as little as an individual’s time allow. We would love to hear about individuals and groups cleanup efforts.”