The blog.

7
Apr

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for April 7, 2020

Buster Humane Society Northwest Georgia

Buster is a young male Dachshund who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Northwest Georgia in Dalton, GA.

Buster is a four year old male standard Dachshunds who was surrendered to the Humane Society of NW Georgia when his owner could no longer care for him. Buster has a shiny cinnamon-red coat and soulful eyes that will melt your heart. He is adorable watching him strut across the yard during play time with his doggie friends. His legs may be short, but he is fast! A fenced in yard will be needed to keep him safe from wandering when outside. You know, Dachshunds just love to chase squirrels! When not on patrol, Buster is also good at snuggling! He loves sitting by your side and showering you with affection. Buster feels his sole purpose in life is to adore you and be your faithful companion.

Rona Humane Society Northwest Georgia

Rona (and her brother, Benny) is a young female Redbone Coonhound and Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Northwest Georgia in Dalton, GA.

Chantilly Humane Society Northwest Georgia

Chantilly is a young female tri-pawed Boxer and Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Northwest Georgia in Dalton, GA.

Hi! I’m Chantilly, a female Boxer/Lab mix and the folks at the Humane Society of NW GA say I was born “special”. Well, of course, I knew that! I’m especially cute, sweet, and cuddly. I’m also unique because I was born with only three paws instead of four. It sure doesn’t slow me down! My perfect home would be one with a fenced in yard to keep me safe when I am not inside. I would love to have a family of my own with an older child to be my best buddy. I am a little shy, so a doggie companion would also help me to shine. I sure hope you are my “special” family! If so, please go to hsnwga.org to complete an online application.

7
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 7, 2020

On April 7, 1776, the United States warship Lexington captured a British warship, HMS Edward, for the first time.

The_Lexington_-_NARA_-_513013_628

On April 7, 1798, President John Adams signed legislation authorizing negotiations between three representatives of Georgia and three Presidential appointees over Georgia’s claim to land west of what is now the Georgia-Alabama state lines. Georgia would continue to claim most of what is currently Alabama and Mississippi until 1802.

Map by Carl Vinson Institute of Government at UGA

Map by Carl Vinson Institute of Government at UGA.

Georgia Map 1795

Above: a 1795 map showing Georgia extending west to Louisiana. “These Parts are little known.”

On April 7, 1995, Governor Zell Miller signed legislation recognizing the peach as the official state fruit of Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Senator Jack Hill (R-Reidsville), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, died yesterday. From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill died Monday at age 75, according to a statement from Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan.

The Republican was first elected to the Georgia Senate from the 4th District in 1990 and was reelected in 2018 to his 15th term. Hill was a 37-year veteran, serving 33 years in the Georgia Air National Guard.

Duncan called Hill a “true statesman, a man of overwhelming integrity, and a servant leader.”

“For three decades Georgians have benefited from his leadership and his calm and steady hand at the helm,” Duncan said in a statement. “He exhibited all the characteristics we hope for in a leader and was a true friend to all. Jack always ensured we were good stewards of taxpayer dollars, but it was more than that, he led with kindness and clarity.”

“There is not a member of the legislature whose life was not touched in some way by Jack,” Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller said in a statement. “Whether it was providing insight into a budgetary need for their district, or by just being a friend to lean on, you could always count on Jack to be there. I can personally attest to the many times I sought his wisdom and how much I benefitted from his counsel.”

Gov. Brian Kemp called Hill a “gentle giant.”

“Jack Hill was one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I ever served with,” he said on Twitter. “His loss is devastating to our state, but he leaves behind an unmatched legacy of hard work and public service.”

Hill was sworn into the Senate as a Democrat, but in 2002 switched parties and after winning the election was named chairman of the Senate budget committee.

From GPB News:

Born July 15, 1944, Hill was first elected to the Senate in 1990 and switched parties in 2002 after Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue was elected. He served 33 years in the Georgia Air National Guard as a unit commander and as State Inspector General.

His death was not believed to be related to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, and Hill was an institution at the state Capitol, widely respected by both parties for his deep fiscal knowledge and his friendly demeanor.

From the Statesboro Herald:

Hill served as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, one of the most powerful positions in the Senate. Hill also served as the vice chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, as a member on the Natural Resources and the Environment and Regulated Industries and Utilities, as well as an ex-officio member of the Finance Committee.

In addition to Bulloch County, Hill’s Senate District 4 included Evans, Candler Effingham and parts of Tattnall and Emanuel counties.

Born in Reidsville, where he lived all his life, Hill operated a grocery store in the Tattnall County town for decades. He was a graduate of Reidsville High School and what was then Georgia Southern College, now Georgia Southern University. Hill is survived by his wife Ruth, three children and seven grandchildren.

From the AJC:

“I’m heartbroken,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan said. “Whatever he was for the state, and what he did for the budget — he was a mentor to me. At the end of the day these are people that we know, people what we like (and) people that we work with. And it hurts.”

Former Gov. Nathan Deal said Hill was an example of public leadership.

“His dedication for many decades made him one of the most notable people who ever served in the Georgia State Senate,” Deal said. “He was a personal friend whose knowledge and leadership were valuable to me as Governor.”

As Senator Hill was unopposed in the election, there is currently no candidate for his seat. I believe the relevant code section is §21-2-155, which reads:

In the event of the death of a candidate or the withdrawal of an incumbent who qualified as a candidate to succeed himself or herself in office, either of which occurs after the close of qualifying for candidates for such office but prior to the date of a political party primary, the state executive committee or other committee of the party authorized by party rule or, in the case of a municipal election, the municipal executive committee may reopen qualification for the office sought by the deceased or withdrawn candidate for a period of not less than one nor more than three days.

The Masters Tournament has been rescheduled for November 9-15, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Speculation over a new tournament date has swirled since the club made its March 13 announcement amid the growing cornoavirus pandemic. Many speculated on a tournament date in October that would coincide with local schools’ fall breaks, as a large number of the tournament’s temporary workforce – more than 6,000 people – are area high school students doing everything from picking up trash to working registers at gift shops.

Area schools also annually plan their spring breaks to coincide with the tournament so families can take vacations and rent their homes to golf fans and tournament-support staff.

The 2020-2021 school calendars for Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties have already been set, and none have built in November vacation time outside the Thanksgiving holiday. Those calendars are likely to change based on Monday’s announcement.

Abbigail Remkus, director of communications for the Columbia County School District, said the school system “will be reviewing our school calendar and talking with our stakeholders to determine what the best approach will be.”

Twelve County Commission Chairs are asking Governor Brian Kemp to close state parks, according to AccessWDUN.

“As county commissioners in North Georgia, we are writing to request that you issue an executive order closing down all of the state parks located in our area for the duration of the statewide shelter in place order,’ the letter reads. “While we are blessed to live in such a beautiful and abundant area of Georgia that hosts so many wonderful state parks, our constituents are highly concerned about the increased traffic to our area during the statewide shelter in place order. A significant portion of this increased traffic is coming from COVID-19 hot spots such as Atlanta or from other areas outside our state.”

The letter, sent to Kemp Monday afternoon, is signed by Chairman Stacy Hall of Habersham County, as well as Banks County Commission Chairman Jimmy Hooper, Dade County Commission Chairman Ted Rumley, Fannin County Commission Chairman Stan Helton, Franklin County Commission Chairman Thomas Bridges, Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, Lumpkin County Commission Chairman Chris Dockery, Rabun County Commission Chairman Greg James, Stephens County Commission Chairman Dennis Bell, Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Union County Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris and White County Commission Chairman Travis Turner.

“Our communities simply do not have enough hospital beds or medical personnel to care for the inflated population,” Hall said. “Similarly, there is not enough food, dry goods, fuel and other supplies to adequately provide for the numbers we are experiencing.”

Glynn County Commission Chairman Mike Browning has written to Gov. Kemp to oppose the re-opening of beaches under the statewide shelter-in-place order, according to The Brunswick News.

“We have been hung out to dry,” Browning said.

County commissioners voted last month to close the beaches on St. Simons and Sea islands and to ban new lodging rentals on the islands. The Jekyll Island Authority took similar measures, closing its beaches and banning lodging rentals longer than two nights.

“While we applaud your ‘shelter in place’ directive as the correct move, additional immediate actions are necessary,” Browning’s letter reads. “Many of the suspended local ordinances and orders are more restrictive than your executive order and go further in their efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

The letter also stated that the action of repealing local measures intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 would impede local governments’ ability to respond to the outbreak moving forward, and called on the governor to allow counties and cities to once again enforce emergency ordinances.

In an interview, Browning said he sees the executive order as just another attempt by the state government to undermine local authorities, also mentioning an attempt by state legislators Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, and Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island, to put the future of the Glynn County Police Department on the ballot for popular vote.

He considers Kemp’s executive order evidence that the governor is bowing to pressure from short term rental advocates, who are pushing for a bill in the state legislature to put regulator control of rentals in the hands of the state and out of local governments.

From a separate article in The Brunswick News:

[Glynn County Commissioner David O’Quinn] said he was very disappointed in the state’s decision to reopen the beach.

“We’re a unique community in the sense that we have a lot of people coming from different areas, and so closing the beaches was a way to limit the attraction of those coming down here. Closing the short term rentals and the hotels that were still open was another step in trying to insulate our community,” O’Quinn said.

“I’m just concerned the combination of national exposure, that our beaches are open and short-term rentals are now available that we might see more folks from other areas, hotspots, coming down here to get away from where they were for a couple of weeks to try to ride it out,” O’Quinn said. “We all live in such a small area with only two grocery stores, a few drug stores. You have a greater chance of seeing the virus spread.”

While lodging rentals aren’t banned, Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau President Scott McQuade said nearly all resorts and large hotels have ceased operations for the entire month of April, if not longer.

“This is the case for both island properties and (I-95) properties as many cannot function properly with such a drastic reduction in occupancy (due to mandatory social distancing),” McQuade said. “Additionally, the vast majority of vacation rental management companies are continuing to restrict short-term reservations.”

A federal lawsuit challenging the Athens-Clarke County emergency order was dismissed, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Clyde Armory owner Andrew Clyde, a Republican 9th District U.S. congressional candidate, sued Athens-Clarke County last month, calling its emergency shelter-in-place ordinance “an abuse of police power” and asking that it be declared unconstitutional.

But U.S. District Court Judge Ashley Royal of Georgia’s Middle District dismissed the lawsuit after a hearing conducted by telephone Monday.

All three businesses associated with the lawsuit are classified as “essential” under the local ordinance and allowed to remain open.

The Athens-Clarke ordinance is now superseded by a state shelter-in-place order, which also allows the businesses to stay open.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton extended the judicial emergency order, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Melton first declared the emergency on March 14 and set it to expire on April 13.

While the emergency declaration orders courts to remain open to deal with cases considered critical to protecting the “health, safety and liberty of individuals,” criminal trials and jury duty have been suspended.

Courts are urged to use teleconferencing and videoconferencing when feasible to avoid spreading COVID-19.

The order states that Melton will give notice when he is ready to lift the emergency “at least one week in advance to allow courts to plan the transition to fuller operations.”

As Clarke County appeared to stabilize in its Covid infection rates, surrounding counties have surged, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

“The shelter in place (ordinance) seems to be having some sort of effect,” said Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center CEO Michael Burnett. “We are seeing a little bit of surge now in communities around us.”

As of Monday noon, Clarke County had 69 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, and eight deaths from COVID-19, the disease the virus causes.

In the five counties contiguous to Clarke – Barrow, Jackson, Madison, Oconee and Oglethorpe – there were 76 confirmed cases and four deaths as of noon Monday, according to the state Department of Public Health website. The numbers on the website lag well behind actual figures because of delays in getting test results, however.

“We say this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint,” St. Mary’s Health Care CEO Montez Carter said, comparing COVID-19 surge modeling to hurricane forecasting — the further away the storm is, the less accurate the forecast.

“There’s not a consensus of where it lies right now,” Carter said.

The CEOs believe they have access to enough ventilators for the expected increase in cases predicted for this week and beyond. The addition of in-house testing at the hospitals is decreasing the need for masks and personal protective equipment — but keep those homemade masks coming, they urged with thanks to those providing them.

Piedmont’s ability to test in house is “a game-changer for us” because it’s greatly reduced the burn rate for personal protective equipment, Burnett said.

Congregants of a Bulloch County church was cited under the statewide emergency order, according to the Statesboro Herald.

With eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Bulloch County, local law enforcement agencies have begun enforcing Gov. Brian Kemp’s order to observe social distancing. On Sunday, Georgia State Patrol Post 45 troopers issued five citations to people gathered at a local church.

According to GSP Post 45 secretary Ginger Robbins, the five people were charged with reckless conduct, a misdemeanor that could lead to a fine of $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail. The people cited were ignoring the social distancing mandates to only gather in groups of 10 or fewer and to stay 6 feet apart.

Robbins said troopers were called to an unnamed church twice Sunday before issuing citations. The first time they responded, they issued warnings.

Churches can legally hold services if they “find a way to do so observing (the) 6 six feet apart and less than 10 [people]” mandate, [Bulloch County sSheriff's Capt. Todd Hutchens] said.

Rebekah Ditto, an Alapaha Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney, was sworn in as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, according to the Albany Herald.

The swearing-in was conducted remotely by phone due to social distancing restrictions in place since the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). Ditto is a graduate of the University of Georgia and Vermont Law School. Since 2013, she has served as an assistant district attorney in the Alapaha Judicial Circuit, which encompasses Atkinson, Berrien, Clinch, Cook and Lanier counties. Ditto currently serves as the chief assistant district attorney for the Alapaha Judicial Circuit.

That’s the first remote swearing-in I’ve read of, but I suspect it won’t be the last.

In Whitfield and Murray Counties, fewer arrests are being made, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Some jurisdictions have explicitly told officers not to make arrests for some crimes in order to keep people out of jails and reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Local law enforcement agencies say they haven’t done that but they have asked officers to use discretion.

“I have spoken with our officers and asked them to use discretion on nonviolent offenses and non-felonies,” said Murray County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jimmy Davenport.

Whitfield County Sheriff Scott Chitwood said his department has also advised deputies to use discretion and issue citations rather than make arrests for minor crimes.

“They are still making arrests for felonies and violent crimes,” Chitwood said.

Still, those policies don’t explain why arrests for felonies seem to be down, too.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler will participate in an online Town Hall hosted by the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Gwinnett Chamber will host an online town hall with Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler from 11 a.m. until noon Thursday. The activity, described on the chamber’s website as a “conference call,” is designed to let participants hear Butler talk about resources that are part of the Department of Labor’s COVID-19 response, as well as expanded rules that are currently in place because of the pandemic.

Anyone who has questions for Butler will have to submit them before 5 p.m. Wednesday by emailing them to aperry@gwinnettchamber.org. Chamber officials said questions will not be accepted during the town hall.

Anyone who would like to participate in the town hall can register at bit.ly/3bYF1a2. The town hall is free for chamber members and $10 for non-members.

The City of Dalton will receive more than $255,000 dollars under the federal CARES Act, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The City of Dalton will receive $255,543 in Community Development Block Grant money under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law by President Donald Trump last month.

City officials say it isn’t yet clear precisely how they can use the money.

Community Development Block Grant grants go to cities and can be used to provide affordable housing, build infrastructure and fund anti-poverty efforts.

A candidate for Habersham County Commission was charged with sexual assault, according to AccessWDUN.

6
Apr

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for April 6, 2020

Jax Humane Society of Terrell County

Jax is a young male American Bulldog mix who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Terrell County in Dawson, GA.

Meet Jax. This handsome fella is very sweet and has super high energy! He is going to need a fenced yard with plenty of room to run and play.  He is good with most other dogs but will most likely chase cats. Small children will get knocked down in a hurry because of Jax energy level. Jax is a great dog but is still young and working with him to learn commands and proper behaviors will be necessary. Patience required!! :) You can apply to adopt Jax by filling out an adoption application at www.myhstc.org/dogs and scrolling to Jax’s profile.

Monty Humane Society of Terrell County

Monty is a young male Basset Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Terrell County in Dawson, GA.

This sweet boy is Monty – he is quite an usual looking mixed breed. From the neck up, he looks like a rottweiler. From the neck down, he looks like a basset hound. Does that make him a Bassetweiler? A Rotthound? Who knows? But what we can tell you is this guy has personality plus. He is fun and goofy and affectionate, everyone who meets him loves him. Monty likes to go for walks and generally be where ever the people are. He loves kids and he is good with most other dogs but he has never been around cats. Monty is up to date with shots, neutered, negative for heartworms/on prevention and crate trained. To make Monty your forever dog, please submit an adoption application at www.myhstc.org

WC Humane Society of Terrell County

WC is a young male pointer mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Terrell County in Dawson, GA.

This sweet adorable puppy is WC, an english pointer puppy DOB March/April 2019. He was picked up a stray by animal control and was not reclaimed. He is very smart and outgoing and will make a wonderful addition to any home. He is at the perfect age to be adopted to a home with other pets and children. He learns commands easily and simply wants to please you. He is current on shots and working on housebreaking. For adoption, please submit an adoption application at www.myhstc.org.

6
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 6, 2020

Georgia began its love affair with the regulation of what can and cannot be sold on April 3, 1735, when James Oglethorpe, founder of the colony, helped gain passage of “An Act to prevent the Importation and Use of Rum and Brandies in the Province of Georgia.” The act provided that after June 24, 1735, “no Rum, Brandies, Spirits or Strong Waters” shall be imported into Georgia.” Permission was also required to sell beer, wine, and ale.

On April 3, 1776, the Continental Congress authorized “privateers” holding a letter of marque and reprisal to attack British ships. This essentially legalizes what would otherwise be considered piracy. Issuing letters of marque and reprisal is among the enumerated powers of Congress under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, though they have seldom been used.

On April 4, 1776, General George Washington began marching his troops from Cambridge, Massachusetts to New York, in anticipation of an invasion by the British.

On April 6, 1776, the Continental Congress announced that all ports in America would be open to trade with other countries not ruled by the British. The action was taken several months after Britain passed the American Prohibitory Act which forbade trade with the colonies and was intended to punish colonists for the growing rebellion.

President George Washington exercised the veto power for the first time on April 5, 1792.

The bill introduced a new plan for dividing seats in the House of Representatives that would have increased the amount of seats for northern states. After consulting with his politically divided and contentious cabinet, Washington, who came from the southern state of Virginia, ultimately decided that the plan was unconstitutional because, in providing for additional representatives for some states, it would have introduced a number of representatives higher than that proscribed by the Constitution.

President William Henry Harrison died in office on April 4, 1841, a month after his inauguration.

At the inauguration of America’s first Whig president, on March 4, 1841, a bitterly cold day, Harrison declined to wear a jacket or hat, made a two-hour speech, and attended three inauguration balls. Soon afterward, he developed pneumonia. On April 4, President Harrison died in Washington, and Vice President John Tyler ascended to the presidency, becoming the first individual in U.S. history to reach the office through the death of a president.

John Tyler was sworn in as the tenth President of the United States on April 6, 1841.

Tyler was elected as William Harrison’s vice president earlier in 1841 and was suddenly thrust into the role of president when Harrison died one month into office. He was the first vice president to immediately assume the role of president after a sitting president’s untimely exit and set the precedent for succession thereafter.

On April 3, 1865, Richmond fell. On April 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln toured Richmond, Virginia the day after the Confederate Capitol fell to Union forces.

The first modern Olympic Games opened in Athens, Greece on April 6, 1896.

On April 3, 1898, President William McKinley called on Georgians to contribute 3000 volunteers for the Spanish-American War.

The United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, when the US House of Representatives voted 373-50 on a declaration of war that passed the Senate two days earlier.

The Brown Thrasher was first recognized as the official state bird of Georgia on April 5, 1935 through an Executive Order signed by Governor Eugene Talmadge. Later the designation of official state symbols through executive fiat was challenged and the General Assembly would recognize the Brown Thrasher again as official state bird in 1970.

On April 5, 1962, Governor Ernest Vandiver called a Special Session of the Georgia General Assembly to revise the state’s election code following a decision by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Baker v. Carr.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., accompanied by Georgians Hosea Williams and Ralph D. Abernathy, was in Memphis, Tennessee, supporting a strike by sanitation workers on April 3, 1968. He delivered what is known as the “Mountaintop Speech.”

“[L]ike anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot in Memphis. James Earl Ray would later be arrested and plead guilty to the assassination.

On April 5, 1968, amid racial tension following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., musician James Brown helped keep the peace in Boston.

2001: A Space Odyssey was released on April 6, 1968.

On April 4, 1974, Hank Aaron hit home run 714, tying Babe Ruth’s record.

On April 5, 1977, Wyche Fowler won a runoff election over John Lewis for the Fifth Congressional District, following the appointment of Andrew Young as Ambassador to the United Nations. Fowler would win election to the United States Senate in 1986, and ironically, lose his seat in a 1992 runoff election to the Paul Coverdell.

On April 5, 1980, the band that would come to be known as R.E.M. played their first show as Twisted Kites in Athens, Georgia.

On April 4, 1988, the Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly was recognized as the official state butterfly of Georgia.

The Atlanta Braves played their first game in Turner Field on April 4, 1997, defeating the Chicago Cubs 5-4. Denny Neagle started on the mound for the Braves and Mark Wohlers earned a save. Atlanta’s Michael Tucker hit the first homerun in the new stadium.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp named members to a Coronavirus Task Force Community Outreach Committee, according to a press release.

“To continue to serve the needs of all Georgians during this challenging time, we have formed the Community Outreach Committee,” said Governor Kemp. “Comprised of talented individuals from the public and private sectors, I am confident this committee will ensure that our state remains prepared in the fight against COVID-19.”

The full list of this committee can be found below:

Community Outreach Committee

Dr. Bernice A. King, CEO, The King Center – Co-Chair
Leo Smith, President, Engaged Futures Group, LLC – Co-Chair
Santiago Marquez, President and CEO, Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Representative Calvin Smyre, Dean of the Georgia House of Representatives
Leona Barr-Davenport, President and CEO, Atlanta Business League
Nancy Flake Johnson, President and CEO, Urban League of Greater Atlanta
Reverend Tim McDonald III, Pastor, First Iconium Baptist Church – Moreland Avenue
Pastor Reggie Joiner, CEO and Founder, Orange
Tres Hamilton, CEO, Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority
Natalie Keng, Founder and CEO, Chinese Southern Belle, LLC
Jasmine Crowe, Founder and CEO, Goodr, Inc.
Dr. Wayne S. Morris, MD – Internal Medicine/Geriatrics
Laura Mathis, Executive Director, Middle GeorgiaRegional Commission
Rodney D. Bullard, Executive Director, Chick-fil-A Foundation
Jacob Vallo, Senior Director of Transit Oriented Development and Real Estate, MARTA
Sunny Patel, Operations Manager, Office of the Governor

Governor Kemp also announced that CVS Health will open a drive-through testing facility, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp announced that the State of Georgia has joined forces with CVS Health to increase access to rapid COVID-19 testing. Starting today, CVS will be operating drive-thru rapid COVID-19 testing, offered by Abbott Laboratories, at a site on Georgia Tech’s campus. At full capacity, the site will be able to conduct up to 1,000 tests per day.

“Increased access to rapid testing remains one of our top priorities in order to identify more cases, get Georgians the care they need, and prevent further infection in our communities,” said Governor Kemp. “This unique, public-private partnership will strengthen our testing capability as we continue to take the fight to COVID-19 in Georgia, and we are grateful for CVS Health’s support to stop the spread of the virus.”

“CVS Health is uniquely positioned to play a vital role in helping support both local communities and the overall health care system in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., M.P.H, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health. “Our ability to help coordinate the availability of rapid COVID-19 testing for Georgia citizens will bolster the state’s efforts to manage the spread of the virus and provide people with on-the-spot test results.”

Testing will take place at a parking deck on Georgia Tech’s campus, where officials will be able to accommodate multiple lanes of cars at one time. Health care providers, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants from MinuteClinic, the company’s retail medical clinic, will be onsite to oversee testing. The process will take approximately 30 minutes from specimen collection to delivery of results, and patients will need to pre-register in advance for a same-day appointment online at www.CVS.com/minuteclinic/covid-19-testing.

For more information on the CVS Health Rapid COVID-19 Testing Site, see below:

Registration:

People will need to be pre-screened online and register for a test in advance at www.CVS.com/minuteclinic/covid-19-testing.

Address & Hours of Operation:

Address: 352 Peachtree Place, Atlanta, GA, 30332

Hours of Operation: Drive-through testing, by appointment, will be open seven days a week.

Monday-Friday: 9 AM – 6 PM

Saturday: 10 AM – 5 PM

Sunday: 10 AM – 4 PM

Commonly Asked Questions:

What is the registration process?

Rapid COVID-19 testing will be available to eligible individuals who meet criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in addition to state residency and age guidelines. Patients will need to pre-register in advance on-line at CVS.com in order to schedule a same-day time slot to be tested.

When patients arrive at the test site, they are required stay in their vehicle. Team members on site will check their registration and direct them through the testing process.

For more information about test site locations, hours of operations, and how to register for a test, please visit https://www.cvs.com/minuteclinic/covid-19-testing.

How much will the tests cost for individuals?

Testing is currently available at no charge to the public.

How long will the process take per patient? How long will it take to get the results?

The process will take approximately 30 minutes from the swab to the results.

Will walk-up testing be allowed for those who don’t have cars?

No, for the safety of patients and health care providers on site, testing is limited to drive-through testing only.

Can anyone drive up and get a test?

No, patients will need to register and verify their eligibility for testing. Once they have done so, the patient will be provided with an appointment window online.

To learn more about test site locations, hours and registration requirements, please visit https://www.cvs.com/minuteclinic/covid-19-testing.

Gov. Kemp also extended authority to Georgia’s sheriffs to enforce emergency orders, according to Valdosta Today.

Governor Kemp is being criticized for the portion of the statewide shelter in place order that reopened beaches previously closed by local authorities. From the Savannah Morning News:

Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions released a statement on the morning of Saturday, April 4, regarding the local impacts of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s statewide shelter-in-place directive issued April 2, which nullified more restrictive measures that Tybee officials put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“As the Pentagon ordered 100,000 body bags to store the corpses of Americans killed by the Coronavirus, Governor Brian Kemp dictated that Georgia beaches must reopen, and declared any decision makers who refused to follow these orders would face prison and/or fines.”

“While the beaches have to reopen under the Governor’s order, Tybee will not have beach access and parking lots will remain closed until further notice. It should also be noted that Tybee currently is not properly staffed with Emergency Medical Services and there are no life guards in place. At no time has the state designated a single point of contact to orchestrate the implementation of the Governor’s plan.”

“Additionally in spite of the serious health situation facing our community and the world, Governor Kemp has rescinded all restrictions put in place by local municipalities since March 1st.”

“Tybee City Council and I are devastated by the sudden directives and do not support his decisions. The health of our residents, staff and visitors are being put at risk and we will pursue legal avenues to overturn his reckless mandate.”

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson purports to extend the city’s emergency orders through April 30, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Following the release of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s statewide shelter-in-place order on Thursday, April 2, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson expressed deep frustration that Kemp’s announcement nullifies many measures taken locally over the past two weeks to counter the coronavirus threat. He is seeking legal remedies to maintain Savannah’s more comprehensive emergency ordinances.

On Friday, April 3, Johnson extended Savannah’s state-of-emergency measures through April 30, regardless of what impacts Kemp’s less-restrictive Thursday order may have on the city’s COVID-19 response. The statewide shelter-in-place declaration is set to expire on April 13.

“I’m beyond disappointed and confused,” Johnson said of Kemp’s actions when reached by phone on Friday afternoon. “I’m really more disappointed for our residents, who are absolutely confused.”

Allies of the Governor responded to the criticism, according to the AJC.

Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols sent his supporters a lengthy newsletter assailing the “fake news media” and those he accused of trying to “score cheap political points” during the crisis.

“Now is not the time for pandemic politics,” he wrote. “It’s time for Georgians to unite together and support Governor Kemp and his team who are using data, science, and experts to chart a measured path forward.”

Several of Kemp’s defenders pointed to the pressure-cooker of a crisis that forces public officials to balance public safety, economic vitality and personal health. State Rep. Terry Rogers said it’s easy to “sit at home and try to make decisions without all the facts.”

“But anyone who knows the governor and his team knows how hard they’re working,” said Rogers, a Clarkesville Republican who is one of Kemp’s top deputies in the Georgia House.

“Are there things they wish they could do differently? I’m sure. But he’s always had the best interest of the people of this state at heart. And with the situation constantly changing, he’s making the best decisions he can based on the most current information provided to him.”

Georgia is spending $72 million to expand healthcare facilities to respond to Covid-19, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp and the state’s coronavirus task force said Saturday four new mobile medical units and expansions at two hospitals will add nearly 300 hospital beds to Georgia’s inventory as the state prepares for the coming peak in patient demand from COVID-19.

Kemp said in a news release that 20-bed mobile medical units will be deployed to Albany and Rome, and a 24-bed unit will be located in Atlanta. A second unit with 24 beds is on standby.

The state also announced the planned addition of 208 hospital beds in Albany and Snellville. The state has worked with Phoebe Putney Health System to reopen Phoebe North Campus in Albany, where the release said the system will open 12 new intensive care beds with in a week and 15 general hospital beds by mid-April. Another 15 ICU beds will follow in mid-April and 59 general beds will come online in May.

In Snellville, the reopened HCA Eastside Medical Center will have 24 ICU beds and 36 general beds will be opened up starting within a week, with 30 ICU beds and an additional 17 general beds to be added by late April.

Kemp said the state has committed $72 million to the additional beds, including $12 million for additional staff at the main Phoebe Putney hospital in Albany.

RIP Babe Atkins-Byrne, late wife of former Cobb County Commission Chair Bill Byrne. From the AJC:

Ralene “Babe” Atkins-Byrne died Friday morning, friends and family have confirmed. Atkins-Byrne is the wife of Bill Byrne, who served as Cobb County Commission chairman from 1992 to 2002.

Atkins-Byrne was an administrative assistant for Cobb County Superior Court Judge George Kreeger, membership committee chairwoman for the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club and a member of the Cobb County Legal Professionals Association (a branch of the former National Association of Legal Secretaries).

Dougherty County Probate Judge Nancy Smith Stephenson died from Covid-19, according to WGXA.

The judge died late Wednesday night according to a Facebook post from the Council of Probate Court Judges of Georgia.

The post reveals that she had tested positive for COVID-19 and succumbed to complications from the virus.

Judge Stephenson served as the probate judge in Dougherty County for 27 years and she was an active member of the Probate Court Judges of Georgia.

“Judge Stevenson’s death brings many of the people in our community to the next phase of this battle because now we know someone who has been a victim to COVID-19,” said Mayor of Albany Bo Dorough.

From the Fulton County Daily Report:

“In the majority of those counties, it’s not uncommon for you to just walk into a probate court, and the judge is right there and the staff is right there,” [Council of Probate Court Judges of Georgia executive director Kevin D. Holder] said Thursday as he processed the shock of learning that the council’s friend and member, Dougherty County Probate Judge Nancy Stephenson, 63, had died the night before of COVID-19.

As of Thursday, Holder said he knew of three other probate judges from different parts of the state who were sick with the virus, as well as some of their clerks, staff and family members.

“We’ve sent our judges an advisory that you need a permanent succession plan, because you’re fine today, but it could be you tomorrow,” Holder said. “I think that’s where this story is about to head.”

House Bill 879, which passed the State House before the session was suspended, and would allow home delivery of alcohol, may have new life when the legislature eventually returns, according to the AJC.

“It’s obviously a tragic situation we’re in with COVID-19, but it’s obviously demonstrating the desire for the bill,” said Harrell, a Snellville Republican. “It’s a terrible way to demonstrate that, but perhaps when we come back, the Senate will have heard from their constituents and realized there’s a demand not just in a situation like we’re in now, but year-round.”

The bill would allow beer and wine to be delivered from grocery stores and convenience stores directly to customers. Third-party apps that let customers pick what they want purchased and delivered would also be allowed. Liquor is not included in the bill, so Georgians would still be unable to get a bottle of vodka or bourbon sent to their home.

Wifi availability across Georgia is another issue highlighted by the Covid-19 response, according to the AJC.

Morgan County is about an hour’s drive from downtown Atlanta, but many of its residents have spotty at best Wi-Fi access. Now with students having to get their class work from home, the divide between the haves and the have-nots has become wider.

State leaders are working to address the lack of Wi-Fi service by utilizing libraries and other public buildings as hot spots.

Gov. Brian P. Kemp and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs recently launched a website to inform Georgians about ways to connect to high-speed internet throughout the state.

“The fight against COVID-19 is impacting Georgians’ ability to access health care, receive educational instruction, and serve customers in traditional ways,” said Kemp. “High-speed internet is important for Georgians to continue receiving care, learning, and teleworking while they follow guidelines for social distancing. We’re grateful so many internet and mobile phone providers have stepped up to meet Georgians’ connectivity needs in this critical time.”

$448 million dollars in federal transit aid is headed to Georgia, according to the Saporta Report.

Metro Atlanta transit agencies are to receive $371 million from the federal coronavirus aid package. It’s part of a total package of $448 million in federal transit assistance headed to Georgia to help offset the economic losses related to response to the cornoavirus, according to the legislation.

The money is included in the $25 billion aid package signed into law by President Trump on March 27. Details of funding for local transit entities were made available through documents released April 2 by the Federal Transit Administration.

The money is eligible to cover expenses incurred, or to be incurred, to respond to COVID-19 beginning Jan. 20. According to APTA’s report, the money is intended to reimburse transit agencies for operating costs to continue operations, and to compensate for revenue lost for causes related to the coronavirus.

Republican candidates for the open Congressional seat for the 14th District replied to a question about the Covid-19 response, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Nine Republican candidates are vying for their party’s nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, in the Northwest Georgia 14th Congressional District seat.

The winner will face Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal in the Nov. 3 general election.

The district covers the counties of Floyd, Chattooga, Polk, Gordon, Catoosa, Dade, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Walker and Whitfield, and part of Pickens County.

The Rome News Tribune looks at how candidates for sheriff are campaigning under the emergency orders.

The three Republican Floyd County Sheriff candidates would normally be getting ready to do some canvassing and preparation for the May primary, but they’ve had to change up some of their campaign tactics.

All of the candidates — Tom Caldwell, Ronnie Kilgo and Dave Roberson — have canceled or postponed upcoming events, but have found creative ways to adapt their respective primary campaign strategies.

At this point the primary is still scheduled for May 19, however, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he won’t stand in the way if the state legislature decides to move the primary. He already has pushed back Georgia’s originally scheduled March 24 presidential primary to May 19, coinciding with the state and local primaries.

But Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and all 11 Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation are pushing to delay all of the primaries until mid-June.

State lawmakers would also need to reconvene and pass legislation to push back the state and local primaries from their May 19 date, as well as the presidential primary by another 45 days.

Gwinnett County Democratic candidates for District Attorney and Sheriff will hold a Facebook forum, according to the AJC.

1
Apr

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for April 1, 2020

Chief Best Friends Dog Rescue Cairo GA v2

Chief is a 10-month old male Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Best Friends Dog Rescue in Cairo, GAThis guy is a real loving boy and great with other dogs, in foster home at this time.

Millie Best Friends Dog Rescue Cairo GA

Millie is a year-old female Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Best Friends Dog Rescue in Cairo, GAMillie is 1 yr old, very friendly and loves everyone. Great with other dogs. House trained.

Honeybun Best Friends Dog Rescue Cairo GA

Honeybun is a three-year old female Hound and Spaniel mix who is available for adoption from Best Friends Dog Rescue in Cairo, GAThis is one awesome dog! Honeybun we can’t say enough about. She is in foster home at this time. She is calm, obeys, loves everyone she meets. Just a happy girl.

1
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 1, 2020

On April 2, 1513, Spanish Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida, claiming it for the Spanish crown. Today he is best-known in Georgia for giving his name to be mispronounced daily on a sketchy street in Atlanta. It is not known if he was wearing jean shorts, or if those were developed later. Georgians began mispronouncing his name immediately.

In perhaps the most fitting historical tidbit ever, the United States House of Representatives first met on April 1, 1789 in New York City. Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania was elected the first Speaker of the House. Georgia’s first Members of Congress were James Jackson, Abraham Baldwin, and George Mathews.

On March 31, 1870, Thomas Mundy Peterson became the first African-American to vote after the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The iconic vote was cast in a local election in Perth Amboy, New Jersey for the town’s charter.  Gary Sullivan of the News Tribune stated, “Exercising his right to vote in a local election on March 31, 1870.  Peterson became the first black man in the United States to cast a ballot.  The amendment had been ratified on February 3, 1870, and within just two months the Fifteenth Amendment was put to use.

An interview with Peterson showed who encouraged him to vote, “I was working for Mr. T. L. Kearny on the morning of the day of election, and did not think of voting until he came out to the stable where I was attending to the horses and advised me to go to the polls and exercise a citizen’s privilege.”  Peterson also revealed his vote in this election, “As I advanced to the polls one man offered me a ticket bearing the words “revised charter” and another one marked, “no charter.” I thought I would not vote to give up our charter after holding it so long: so I chose a revised charter ballot.”

On April 1, 1870, Robert E. Lee, President of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, arrived in Savannah, Georgia. Lee’s career in the United States Army began with his first assignment at Cockspur Island near Savannah. While in Savannah for the 1870 trip, Lee was photographed with former General Joseph E. Johnston, who was in the insurance business there.

On April 2, 1917, Jeanette Rankin took office as the first woman elected to Congress, representing Montana.

Born on a ranch near Missoula, Montana Territory, in 1880, Rankin was a social worker in the states of Montana and Washington before joining the women’s suffrage movement in 1910. Working with various suffrage groups, she campaigned for the women’s vote on a national level and in 1914 was instrumental in the passage of suffrage legislation in Montana. Two years later, she successfully ran for Congress in Montana on a progressive Republican platform calling for total women’s suffrage, legislation protecting children, and U.S. neutrality in the European war. Following her election as a representative, Rankin’s entrance into Congress was delayed for a month as congressmen discussed whether a woman should be admitted into the House of Representatives.

Finally, on April 2, 1917, she was introduced in Congress as its first female member. The same day, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress and urged a declaration of war against Germany.

On April 2, 1985, Governor Joe Frank Harris signed legislation recognizing the Right Whale as the official state marine mammal.

Happy Birthday to Phil Niekro, who turns 81 today. Niekro pitched for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves for twenty years, earning five trips to the All-Star Game, five gold gloves, led the league in wins twice, and came in second in balloting for the Cy Young award in 1969. In 1997, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp has just ordered public schools closed for the rest of the school year, according to the Rome News Tribune.

From the AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday said he is preparing a statewide shelter-in-place order across Georgia to try to curb the spread of a coronavirus pandemic that’s sickened thousands and is linked to the deaths of at least 139 residents.

He’s expected to issue further details about the order on Thursday, and the new rules will take effect Friday. He also said he would sign an order Wednesday that would cancel K-12 schools through the rest of the academic year.

He said his decision was triggered by “game-changing” new projections on the disease’s spread in Georgia and from President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force.

The New York Times looks at the Covid 19 outbreak in Albany, Georgia, and it’s heart-breaking.

During the weeks that followed [an area funeral], illnesses linked to the coronavirus have torn through her hometown, Albany, Ga., with about two dozen relatives falling ill, including six of her siblings. Ms. Johnson herself was released from an isolation ward to the news that her daughter, Tonya, was in grave condition, her heart rate dropping.

Like the Biogen conference in Boston and a 40th birthday party in Westport, Conn., the funeral of Andrew Jerome Mitchell on Feb. 29 will be recorded as what epidemiologists call a “super-spreading event,” in which a small number of people propagate a huge number of infections.

This rural county in southwest Georgia, 40 miles from the nearest interstate, now has one of the most intense clusters of the coronavirus in the country.

With a population of only 90,000, Dougherty County has registered 24 deaths, far more than any other county in the state, with six more possible coronavirus deaths under investigation, according to Michael L. Fowler, the local coroner. Ninety percent of the people who died were African-American, he said.

The 14 medical intensive care unit beds were filled within two days of the first wave of coronavirus patients; they converted 12 cardiac I.C.U. beds, but those, too, were filled two days later; 12 beds in the surgical I.C.U. were filled three days after that, Mr. Steiner said.

Governor Brian Kemp has deployed some members of the Georgia National Guard, according to a press release.

Over the next few weeks, Governor Brian P. Kemp and Georgia National Guard Adjutant General Tom Carden will activate and deploy over 100 Guardsmen to any long-term care facility – assisted living facility or nursing home – with COVID-19 cases. The Governor and Adjutant General will send troops to specific locations to implement infection control protocols and enhanced sanitation methods to mitigate COVID-19 exposure among vulnerable residents.

“Georgia’s top priority is increasing healthcare capacity to protect vulnerable Georgians, especially those residing in long-term care facilities,” said Governor Kemp. “If we can keep these populations as healthy as possible, we will be able to conserve precious medical supplies and hospital bed space in the coming days and weeks.”

“The Georgia National Guard stands ready to assist any long-term care facility in this time of need through staff training and implementation of infectious disease control measures,” said Adjutant General Tom Carden. “Our training has prepared us to fight this virus, and we are eager to lend a hand in this battle.”

Twenty soldiers are headed to Pelham, Georgia today to Pelham Parkway Nursing Home to audit existing sanitation methods, train staff on utilizing more aggressive infectious disease control measures, and thoroughly clean the facility. This facility has reported five confirmed cases of COVID-19. For future missions, only four or five soldiers will deploy to a specific facility. However, for Pelham Parkway Nursing Home, twenty soldiers are going for training purposes.

This assignment is the first of several missions based on close cooperation with the Georgia National Guard, Department of Public Health, Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, Georgia Health Care Association, and Georgia Center for Assisted Living.

From Georgia Health News:

Cases at long-term care facilities have surfaced in media reports as the disease has spread in Georgia.

“It’s the biggest nightmare for us out there in the aging network,’’ said Kathy Floyd, executive director of the Georgia Council on Aging. She cited the Kirkland, Wash., nursing home outbreak that led to the deaths of roughly three dozen people.

The 20 soldiers going to Pelham have been deployed for training, and “for future missions, only four or five soldiers will deploy to a specific facility,’’ the Governor’s Office said.

“Georgia’s top priority is increasing health care capacity to protect vulnerable Georgians, especially those residing in long-term care facilities,” said Kemp in a statement. “If we can keep these populations as healthy as possible, we will be able to conserve precious medical supplies and hospital bed space in the coming days and weeks.”

The Georgia Health Care Association, which represents long-term care facilities, said Tuesday that it has been working with the Kemp administration, the Georgia National Guard, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and Public Health on plans to deploy Guardsmen where there are cases of COVID-19.

“This support is critical, as it will help to supplement staffing and infection prevention efforts,’’ said Devon Barill, a spokeswoman for GHCA. “Such assistance is especially needed as a large number of center staff across the state are being required to self-quarantine until testing for the virus can be completed.’’

Some National Guard members will assist Northeast Georgia Health System, according to the Gainesville Times.

Several members of the unit based out of Cumming went through an orientation session Wednesday, April 1. The session included information about NGHS locations, communication methods and key personnel, said Matthew Crumpton, the system’s emergency preparedness manager.

“We’re also working to identify the best ways they can assist at this point, while anticipating those assignments may change as the pandemic evolves,” he said.

Crumpton also said he’s “thankful to have (National Guard members) designated to assist it with our COVID-19 response.”

Desiree Bamba, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Defense, said 10 service members began their mission Friday, March 27, at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton.

The team is being split “covering both the Gainesville and Braselton campuses,” Bamba said.

The team is made up of a medical practitioner, nurse, three emergency medical technicians and five combat lifesaver certified personnel, she said.

All eleven Republican members of the Georgia Congressional Delegation wrote a letter asking for a further delay in this year’s elections, according to the Center Square.

“We encourage you to use all available flexibility and legal authority to delay the primary to the latest possible date in order to ensure the health and safety of Georgians,” the Republican delegation said in a letter sent Tuesday to Raffensperger.

Early voting for the May 19 primary begins April 27 – 44 days after Raffensperger postponed the presidential preference primary March 14.

“We have no legal authority to move this election,” Raffensperger said in a statement responding to the delegation’s letter. “If you would like to move this election, it will take legislative action or an executive order from the governor.”

“As we have said in detailed discussions with the House Delegation last week, there is a limit to the options available within current law.”

Among the Republican delegation’s concerns is the health of poll workers who would be expected to work during early voting, which falls inside President Donald Trump’s extension to April 30 for following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing and public gathering guidelines.

“Keeping the status quo unnecessarily exposes Georgia’s poll workers to dangerous health risks and creates the possibility of severely understaffed voting locations if those poll workers follow the guidance of federal, state and local authorities,” the letter said.

“Elections are part of America’s critical infrastructure. They must go on, as they have in our history during civil war, crushing recessions and deadly epidemics,” Raffensperger said. “That is why current law requires they be held on specific dates and with ample time for overseas voters to receive and return their ballots. The integrity of election timing is as important to public confidence as are the other safeguards of voter rights.”

The Republican Congressional delegation letter was signed by U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and U.S. Reps. Rick Allen, Buddy Carter, Doug Collins, Drew Ferguson, Tom Graves, Jody Hice, Barry Loudermilk, Austin Scott and Rob Woodall.

From the AJC:

Raffensperger believes the law only allowed him to delay the election until early voting resumes April 27, a period of 44 days.

House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge who wants to postpone the election, has said he believes Raffensperger can delay the election again when “an emergency is ongoing.”

Ralston said Raffensperger already exercised power to exceed the 45-day limit because the gap between the original March 24 election and the new May 19 date is 56 days.

A change in state law is unlikely because the Georgia General Assembly is suspended during the coronavirus pandemic.

Elsewhere, a lawsuit has been filed over the Secretary of State’s alleged cancellation of an election for Georgia Supreme Court, according to the AJC.

Three voters, including the widow of a Georgia Supreme Court justice, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday seeking to force an election for Justice Keith Blackwell’s seat when he retires in November.

The suit was filed against Secretary of State Ben Raffensperger, who blocked an election for Blackwell’s seat after the justice announced in February he was going to retire in November, just six weeks before his term expires.

Former U.S. Congressman John Barrow and former state Rep. Beth Beskin, who both unsuccessfully tried to qualify for the election to succeed Blackwell, are also suing Raffensperger in state court. They are appealing a Fulton County judge’s ruling that Blackwell’s seat officially became vacant — and eligible to be filled by appointment — when Gov. Brian Kemp accepted the justice’s resignation on Feb. 26.

Raffensperger’s cancellation of the election for Justice Blackwell’s position “is an absolute restriction on the plaintiffs’ right to vote,” the lawsuit said. “The only purpose served by cancelling an election when there is no actual vacancy is to avoid an election — that is, to disenfranchise voters.”

Although Kemp has not appointed a successor to fill Blackwell’s seat, his Judicial Nominating Commission recently forwarded a list of four names for the appointment. They are: Court of Appeals Judge Sara Doyle, Cobb County Superior Court Judge Tain Kell, Fulton Superior Court Judge Shawn LaGrua, and Wade Padgett of the August Judicial Circuit.

From US News:

Blackwell continues to occupy his seat on the high court and his resignation isn’t effective until Nov. 18, meaning it hasn’t created a vacancy that the governor has the power to fill, the new federal lawsuit says.

“Georgia law does not give the Secretary the authority to deem an occupied seat on the Georgia Supreme Court vacant,” the lawsuit says. “To call an occupied seat vacant is to confound the meaning of both ‘occupied’ and ‘vacant.’”

That means the cancellation of the election violates state law, and a violation of state law that disenfranchises voters is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process guarantee, the suit says.

But even if state law allows Raffensperger not to hold an election for Blackwell’s seat, that state law and Raffensperger’s actions under that law violate the U.S. Constitution, the lawsuit says.

“The United States Constitution does not require that state justices be elected,” the suit says. “Once the State decides that justices are to be elected, however, the State may not invidiously, arbitrarily, or unreasonably disenfranchise voters.”

The Legislative Session Interruptus will affect Uber and Lyft riders, according to the AJC.

Earlier this year the General Assembly passed legislation raising sales tax collections from customers of internet- and app-based businesses, including Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. A separate bill that would impose a 50-cent fee on ride-hailing, taxi and limousine rides is still pending in the General Assembly.

The fee would be lower than the sales tax for many trips — especially in Atlanta, where the sales tax is 8.9%. But with the legislative session on hold indefinitely amid the pandemic, Uber and Lyft customers will begin paying the sales tax Wednesday.

For years the ride-hailing companies have denied they are required to pay sales taxes under Georgia law. The state Department of Revenue disagrees, and Uber has disputed a $22.1 million tax bill in court.

From WABE:

It’s a result of the “marketplace facilitator” law, which passed in January and compels all online businesses and platforms to collect the sales tax beginning April 1.

Including state, county and city taxes, the rate in Georgia varies but rises to nearly 9% in Atlanta.

Ride-hailing companies had lobbied the state Legislature to pass a compromise: a 50-cent flat fee on most ride-shares and taxi rides instead of the full sales tax rate. It fell one step short of final approval in the late hours of the legislative session before the General Assembly was suspended indefinitely.

“It was a bipartisan effort to correct a situation that was basically an unintended consequence of the marketplace facilitator bill,” said state Sen. Steve Gooch, who helped shepherd the compromise bill.

He said he has asked the governor to consider temporarily suspending the collection of the rides’ sales taxes by executive order in the meantime.

30
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 30, 2020

Fergus Humane Society of Harris County

Fergus is a male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Harris County in Hamilton, GA.

Ozzy Humane Society of Harris County

Ozzy is a senior male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Harris County in Hamilton, GA.

Squeak Humane Society of Harris County

Squeak is a female Plott Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Harris County in Hamilton, GA.

30
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 30, 2020

On March 30, 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was formally adopted after sufficient number of the states ratified it.

With the adoption of the 15th Amendment in 1870, a politically mobilized African-American community joined with white allies in the Southern states to elect the Republican Party to power, which brought about radical changes across the South. By late 1870, all the former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union, and most were controlled by the Republican Party, thanks to the support of African-American voters.

In the same year, Hiram Rhoades Revels, a Republican from Natchez, Mississippi, became the first African American ever to sit in Congress. Although African-American Republicans never obtained political office in proportion to their overwhelming electoral majority, Revels and a dozen other African-American men served in Congress during Reconstruction, more than 600 served in state legislatures, and many more held local offices. However, in the late 1870s, the Southern Republican Party vanished with the end of Reconstruction, and Southern state governments effectively nullified the 14th and 15th Amendments, stripping Southern African Americans of the right to vote. It would be nearly a century before the nation would again attempt to establish equal rights for African Americans in the South.

Robert E. Lee arrived in Augusta on March 30, 1870.

On March 30, 1937, Georgia Governor E.D. Rivers signed legislation authorizing non-profit Electric Membership Corporations to electrify rural Georgia.

On March 30, 1945, President F.D. Roosevelt arrived for his final visit to Warm Spring, Georgia.

The Savannah Morning News looks back to the 1918 Pandemic.

October was the cruelest month. During those 31 days, the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic stormed through Savannah, killing 114 people and leaving a swath of despair and a sense of desperation in its wake.

“Sick patients were being taken to the various hospitals by the wagon load,” the Savannah Morning News reported on Oct. 27. That came after 102 new cases were registered just the day before.

The vulnerability to infectious diseases. Not knowing what to do. The fear. Being a little bit out of control. It was “very similar to today,” said Sara Plaspohl, one of the authors of “The Effect of the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic on Mortality Rates in Savannah, Georgia,” a 2016 article in the Georgia Historical Quarterly.

The GHQ article concentrated on the 6,520 recorded deaths in Savannah-Chatham County during a three-year period, Jan. 1, 1917, to Dec. 31, 1919. The numbers are scary. Of the 2,433 deaths in 1918, 223 – 9% of the aggregate total – perished during the pandemic.

And the total, said Plaspohl, was likely higher. The handwriting on the certificates was often not legible, and, when it was, they still only counted certificates that specifically stated Spanish flu or influenza as the cause of death.

Warnings were also plentiful. The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Thacker pointed out, published out a circular during the 1918 pandemic that presaged the cautionary admonitions of 2020:

‒ If you are really sick, stay at home and remain there until the fever is over. A day in bed may save you from serious consequences …

‒ Don’t spray others with the secretions from your nose and throat in coughing, sneezing, laughing or talking.

‒ Boil your handkerchiefs and other contaminated articles.

‒ Wash your hands frequently.

‒ Keep away from others as much as possible while you have a cough.

“After the pandemic subsided, it left a significant scar on the surviving population,” the GHQ article stated. “Many children lost one or both of their parents, and widowed spouses suddenly became the only source of income and support for their families.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Donald Trump has extended social distancing recommendations through April 30, according to NBC News.

Trump’s announcement came on the heels of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, saying the coronavirus could kill 100,000 to 200,000 Americans while infecting “millions” of others.
Trump said his administration was extending the guidelines with the hope of avoiding a catastrophic death toll.

“So if we can hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000, it’s a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100 and 200,000, we all together have done a very good job,” Trump said during a coronavirus task force briefing Sunday.

President Trump also approved a disaster declaration for Georgia, according to the AJC.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp previously asked Trump for emergency federal aid, and rounded up signatures from GOP governors for a recent letter to Congress requesting federal block grants.

In a statement Sunday, the White House said federal funds are available to the state as well as “eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective measures.”

“Georgia is grateful for this designation, as it will enable the state to continue partnering with federal agencies in a coordinated fight against this pandemic,” Kemp said in a statement. “The presidential declaration is a critical step in providing additional assistance to our state and local governments as they continue to respond to COVID-19.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service:

Kemp declared a statewide public health emergency on March 14, and the General Assembly ratified the action two days later during a one-day special session. The governor’s declaration made available state resources to help deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The federal disaster declaration will allow federal agencies to provide direct assistance to Georgia. The record $2 trillion economic stimulus package Congress passed on Friday includes $150 billion in direct aid to state and local governments, money that can be used to help offset the impact the loss of businesses and jobs will have on state budgets.

COVID-19 now has spread to 113 counties. Fulton County has the most with 407 confirmed cases, followed by DeKalb County with 272 cases, Dougherty County with 239, Cobb County with 222, Gwinnett County with 143 cases and Bartow County with 119 cases.

From the Gainesville Times:

State House Speaker David Ralston and the top budget writers in the House and Senate say efforts to cut income taxes or increase pay for teachers or other state employees are probably dead for this year. They all assume state revenues for the upcoming budget year beginning July 1 are likely to dive from previous projections, and say even the patched-up budget for the rest of this year may overflow again in red ink.

“I think the initiatives we talked about in the version we passed are not going to go forward,” Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, told The Associated Press on Friday. “That includes the teacher pay raise and the 2% merit raise (for other state employees) and the tax cut.”

From the Statesboro Herald:

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s order keeps K-12 public schools across the state closed through April 24 and closes public colleges and universities for the rest of the semester. Many school districts had already decided to extended closures on their own, after an earlier order signed by Kemp that banned gatherings of 10 or more people.

Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday signed an executive order allowing the Georgia Department of Labor to pay 26 weeks of benefits while Georgia’s state of emergency continues. That reverses a cut to as low as 14 weeks that lawmakers made in 2012.

Another emergency rule issued by Labor Commissioner Mark Butler allows someone to make up to $300 a week in wages and still receive a full unemployment payment, worth up to $330 a week.

The state earlier waived requirements that people look for work to receive benefits and said it would provide benefits for some people who had to stay home because of the virus threat.

The virus also continued to spread inside Georgia’s jails and prisons. Fulton County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Tracy Flanagan said Thursday that four more inmates had tested positive. The four men, ranging in age from 33 to 65, are being treated in quarantine together at the jail. The sheriff’s office announced Monday that an inmate in his 30s had tested positive and was hospitalized.

Georgia Speaker David Ralston reiterated his call to further delay primary elections, according to the AJC.

House Speaker David Ralston wrote in a letter Sunday that a further delay of Georgia’s upcoming primary election is justified because there will still be a state of emergency from the coronavirus on election day May 19.

The letter emailed to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger reiterates Ralston’s argument that the election should be moved to June.

Raffensperger said Friday that he and county officials plan to stick with the May 19 election date.

Under state law, the secretary of estate can postpone an election for 45 days during an emergency, as he did March 14. In-person early voting will resume 44 days later, on April 27.

But Ralston’s letter said the 45 days postponement can be extended “if an emergency is ongoing.” He suggested holding the election June 16.

I still think that the election was wrongly moved more than 45 days from its scheduled date.

Columbus is working to get some alleged offenders out of the jails, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

As Georgia’s disease outbreak worsens, authorities here are scrambling to release those who can afford lowered bonds, and those accused of more minor offenses.

But the options are limited.

Two emergency measures aimed at preventing the virus’ spread have left kinks in the criminal justice system that impede the flow of inmates through the jail.

One is that the Georgia Department of Corrections quit accepting new prisoners, so those convicted can’t be transferred to state prisons. The other is that the courts stopped holding trials and grand jury sessions, so no one in jail can be tried or indicted.

The only court hearings held now are those that may secure an inmate’s release, including bond hearings like Johnson’s.

“We can’t do anything but bond orders,” Senior District Attorney Don Kelly said afterward.

So prosecutors are working with defense attorneys to agree on what bonds they can, or to resolve pending cases to clear jail space.

Because the jail’s capacity is 1,069, clearing cells and dormitories not only reduces the number who could be infected, were the virus to gain entry, but allows space to spread the rest of the inmates out, to quarantine newcomers, and to isolate anyone showing symptoms.

“We’re social distancing in the dorms as much as we can,” said Sheriff Donna Tompkins, whose office is responsible for running the jail. Corrections officers are restricting the number of inmates allowed into “common areas” where they can mingle, she said.

The GBI crime lab in Macon is diverting autopsies due to the coronavirus, according to the Macon Telegraph.

“Autopsy cases are being diverted from the Central Medical Examiner’s Office to the Coastal Medical Examiner’s Office because we are awaiting test results from an employee who was exposed to someone with a fever,” Nelly Miles, the GBI’s public affairs director, stated in an email. “Until we receive those results, the Central Medical Examiner’s Office staff is working from home.”

Bibb County Corner Leon Jones said he received word Thursday that all bodies needing autopsies should be shipped to the GBI’s Coastal Regional Crime Lab in Pooler near Savannah.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources officers will break up large gatherings in state parks, according to the AJC.

Rangers with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will patrol lakes and campgrounds, monitoring coves and other areas where people tend to gather, according to a statement from Gov. Brian Kemp and DNR Commissioner Mark Williams.

Due to growing concerns over the coronavirus, the governor issued an executive order last week banning gatherings of more than 10 people unless there is at least six feet between each person.

“If necessary,” officials said Sunday, rangers will use bullhorns to tell people to comply with the order.

“Officials will approach people in violation of the order and demand compliance for the well-being of our citizens and state,” the statement said.

From the Forsyth County News:

The governor’s statement said that while many Georgians are heeding the directive, some are not. The governor said DNR would enforce social distancing at parks and lakes.

“The Department of Natural Resources will enforce the executive order limiting large gatherings with officials patrolling bodies of water and campgrounds. They are monitoring coves where people tend to congregate and, if necessary, using bullhorns to tell people to comply with the order. Officials will approach people in violation of the order and demand compliance for the well-being of our citizens and state. Local officials are also working hard to ensure compliance with local directives, which vary by city and county across our state,” the statement reads.

Hemp farming in Georgia can begin this summer, according to the AJC.

Farmers will soon be able to grow hemp, which will then be processed into CBD oil, a popular product used for anxiety and sleeplessness. CBD oil is already sold in stores across Georgia, but it’s imported from other states.

The prospects for the Georgia hemp industry to start this year were in doubt until the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the state’s hemp plan this month.

“With everything online and all systems go, our phones are ringing daily with farmers,” said Thomas Farmer, a co-founder of Second Century Ag, which plans to distribute hemp starter plants to farmers and then process grown hemp at a facility in Ocilla. “It’s a relief that it happened, without a doubt. We were looking forward to moving forward.”

Hemp farmers and processors rushed to obtain licenses when state government began accepting applications last Monday. The Georgia Department of Agriculture received 57 applications for hemp farming licenses and five applications for hemp processing licenses in the first four days of the program.

Hemp and marijuana both come from the cannabis plant, but hemp varieties contain little or no THC, the compound that gives marijuana users a high. State inspectors will test hemp to ensure it contains less than 0.3% THC.

It will take at least 20 days for hemp licenses to be approved, and then farming can start.

The Cobb Board of Elections and Registration removed two Democratic candidates for Sheriff from the ballot, according to the AJC.

The five-member board on Thursday voted unanimously to disqualify Craig Owens and Gregory Gilstrap from the race. Both men have 10 days to appeal the decision in Cobb County Superior Court.

Their candidacies were challenged by fellow Democratic contender Jimmy Herndon, who also challenged [Sheriff Neil] Warren’s qualification on the basis that the longtime sheriff didn’t notarize his original qualifying documents.

Eveler said Gilstrap’s candidacy was disqualified because the person he named as his chief deputy did not meet the qualifications for sheriff. Candidates for sheriff are required to name a chief deputy who also meets the requirements to become sheriff, as well as proving that person is a registered voter.

Owens’ candidacy was disqualified because he did not provide an affidavit with the elections superintendent by the end of the third day after the qualifying period to prove that he graduated from high school.

Dalton State College continues caring for rare turtles, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The Chinese golden-headed box turtles, Cuora flavomarginata, are starting to emerge after burying themselves in mud for the winter. They are one of the endangered turtle species housed at Dalton State College in the Turtle Assurance Colony.

Between the colony and the Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) programs there are more than 150 turtles and 15 species. Both programs are designed to ensure the species survive by encouraging breeding.

Even with the regulations to move to remote learning this semester due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the endangered turtles still need care. In order to help prevent the spread of the virus, faculty members and student volunteers go to campus one at a time to care for the animals, and sterilize work spaces each time.

“The turtles must be taken care of daily,” [Professor Chris Manis] said. “My focus right now is on keeping them fed, making sure they’re healthy and that their habitats are clean. I’m also watching the Cuora flavomarginata to make sure they all come up out of hibernation. Because they’re all in one enclosure, breeding may still happen, but it’s not where my focus is right now.”

27
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 27, 2020

Oliver Blue Ridge Humane

Oliver is a “tri-pawed” (three-legged) male Affenpinscher mix who is available for adoption from the Blue Ridge Humane Society in Blue Ridge, GA.

Oliver has had a rough start but he is now looking for his forever home where he can kick back and be with his person. He is a tripod but that does not slow him down. He loves being with people. He gets along well with other dogs, cats and just about anyone. If your looking for a love bug who has a huge heart please come meet this precious boy!

Anna Blue Ridge Humane

Anna is a young female Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Blue Ridge Humane Society in Blue Ridge, GA.

Anna was found in the woods with her three sisters and is thought to be a terrier/black mouth cur mix. She is approximately six months old and still a puppy. She has a lot of energy and is curious about everything. She enjoys going on field trips and rides very well in the vehicle. She enjoys meeting people and sitting in their laps.

Nikko Blue Ridge Humane

Nikko is a male Basset Hound and Terrier mix who is available for adoption from the Blue Ridge Humane Society in Blue Ridge, GA.

Nikko needs a hero. He is once again a resident at HSBR because his adoption didn’t work out. Because of the unsuccessful adoption, we have learned more about what Nikko needs to thrive and live a happy life.

Is Nikko a great dog? Yes he is! Will he make an awesome companion? Absolutely! He deserves the chance to shine and to be the wonderful dog he is.

Nikko needs to be in a home with no children and no other pets. He is best suited to live with one adult because he is extremely loyal to and protective of his person. But with proper training and patience, he could very well adapt to living in a home with more than one adult. Although he functions well at HSBR when multiple staff members and/or volunteers tend to him, it appears he functions best with one person in a home environment.

Nikko prefers staying indoors, but when he goes outside, he needs to be in a fenced yard. He enjoys playing fetch, loves toys and is a big fan of car rides!

27
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 27, 2020

The British Parliament enacted The Coercive Acts on March 28, 1774.

The Coercive Acts were a series of four acts established by the British government. The aim of the legislation was to restore order in Massachusetts and punish Bostonians for their Tea Party, in which members of the revolutionary-minded Sons of Liberty boarded three British tea ships in Boston Harbor and dumped 342 crates of tea—nearly $1 million worth in today’s money—into the water to protest the Tea Act.

Passed in response to the Americans’ disobedience, the Coercive Acts included:

The Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until damages from the Boston Tea Party were paid.

The Massachusetts Government Act, which restricted Massachusetts; democratic town meetings and turned the governor’s council into an appointed body.

The Administration of Justice Act, which made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in Massachusetts.

The Quartering Act, which required colonists to house and quarter British troops on demand, including in their private homes as a last resort.

Thomas Jefferson was elected as a Virginia delegate to the Second Continental Congress on March 27, 1775.

Charles Wesley, hymnist, and brother of Methodist founder John Wesley, died on March 29, 1788 in London, England. Charles Wesley served as Secretary to James Oglethorpe and as a Chaplain at Fort Frederica on St Simons Island. This past Sunday, his hymns were played in churches across the globe, including Christ the Lord Is Risen Today and Rejoice, the Lord Is King.

Colonel James Fannin, a Georgia native and Colonel in the Texas Regular Army and more than 300 other members of the Georgia battalion were executed on March 27, 1836 after surrendering to Santa Anna’s Mexican Army. Fannin County, Georgia is named after Col Fannin.

On March 29, 1865, Federal troops under General Ulysses S. Grant began the Appomattox campaign.

On March 27, 1912, the first Japanese cherry trees were planted on the northern bank of the Potomac River near the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.

On March 29, 1937, Georgia Governor E.D. Rivers signed legislation imposing the first state tax on distilled spirits in Georgia.

If made in another state and imported into Georgia, distilled spirits were taxed at 80 cents per gallon and alcohol at $1.60 per gallon – or at fractional amounts for smaller containers. If made in Georgia, distilled spirits were taxed at 40 cents per gallon and alcohol at 80 cents per gallon.

Note: GeorgiaInfo says Governor Talmadge signed the legislation, but Talmadge left office in January 1937. It was Gov. Rivers who signed the bill.

On March 27, 1941, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed legislation outlawing the handling of venomous snakes in such a way as to endanger another person or to encourage another person to handle a snake in such a way as to endanger them. The legislation resulted from a six-year old handling a venomous snake during a church service in Adel, Georgia, during which she was bitten and died. Under that act you could still handle snakes yourself as long as you didn’t endanger someone else.

On March 27, 1947, Governor Melvin Thompson signed legislation that made Georgia a “Right to Work State,” meaning that employees cannot generally be forced to join a union or pay dues in order to take a job. On the same day, gambling on sporting events was outlawed by another bill signed by Gov. Thompson.

Governor Ernest Vandiver signed legislation on March 28, 1961 authorizing the construction of monuments to Georgians killed in battle at the Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields.

Identical 15 1/2-foot-tall monuments of Georgia blue granite were sculpted by Harry Sellers of Marietta Memorials. At the top of the shaft is the word “GEORGIA” over the state seal. Lower on the shaft is the inscription, “Georgia Confederate Soldiers, We sleep here in obedience; When duty called, we came; When Countdry called, we died.”

Georgia’s first “Sunshine Law” requiring open meetings of most state boards and commissions, was signed by Governor Jimmy Carter on March 28, 1972.

On March 29, 1973, the last American troops left Vietnam, ending United States engagement in the war.

A nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania overheated on March 28, 1979 and within days radiation levels had risen in a four county area. It was the most serious accident in commercial nuclear history in the United States.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Pray for Albany and Southwest Georgia, where the Covid 19 outbreak is hitting the community and its healthcare infrastructure. From the AJC:

A rapidly growing rate of coronavirus infections has Albany under siege. Its main hospital is so overrun with sick and dying patients, nurses had been told to keep working even if they tested positive themselves, and the administration turned to the underground market to try to find essential supplies.

Dougherty County still finds itself, for now, with the state’s highest concentration per capita of patients known to be infected with COVID-19.

The state is going to send a National Guard medical support team to help.

“The problem is we just got it earlier than everybody else,” said Scott Steiner, chief executive officer of Phoebe Putney Health System. “I hope I’m wrong, but I think this is coming to the rest of Georgia.”

So far, health authorities have counted 21 deaths from the virus in the area: 12 in Dougherty County and nine in surrounding communities, including Lee, Terrell, Baker, Mitchell and Early counties.

The Dougherty County coroner says he’s waiting for test results on 14 more people suspected to have died from COVID-19.

As of Thursday, the Phoebe Putney health system had 217 patients across its four hospitals who’ve tested positive, but more than 1,400 test results were still pending.

When reports of the virus first came out of China late last year, Phoebe CEO Steiner said the hospital tried to prepare by building up a six-month store of supplies. The hospital burned through that stockpile in seven days when the virus hit, he said.

“What we were not prepared for — the sheer numbers,” Steiner said.

“The message to the rest of the state is, learn all you can from places like Bartow County and Dougherty County and Fulton and others, and understand that making a sacrifice in lifestyle now can pay huge dividends when it comes to life loss in the future,” Ruis said. “When the community gets so sick with COVID-19 that the hospital can barely keep up, then everybody is at risk.”

Governor Brian Kemp appointed three judges to new seats on Georgia’s appellate courts. From the press release:

Today Governor Brian P. Kemp announced his selection of Judge Carla Wong McMillian to serve on the Supreme Court of Georgia and Judges Verda M. Colvin and John A. “Trea” Pipkin III to serve on the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Carla Wong McMillian currently serves as a judge for the Court of Appeals of Georgia. Prior to that role, she served as a judge for the State Court of Fayette County, associate and then partner with Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, and as law clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Judge McMillian earned her bachelor’s degree from Duke University and law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law. She and her family live in Tyrone. Judge McMillian will become the first Asian-American female in the Southeast to be appointed to the state’s highest court.

Verda M. Colvin has served as Superior Court Judge of the Macon Judicial Circuit since April 2014. Previously, she served as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, Assistant District Attorney for the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office, Assistant General Counsel for Clark Atlanta University, Assistant Solicitor for the Solicitor’s Office in Athens-Clarke County, and as an associate for Ferguson, Stein, Watt, Wallas, and Gresham, P.A. Judge Colvin received her bachelor’s degree from Sweet Briar College and law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law. She and her family reside in Macon. Judge Colvin will become the state’s first African-American female appointed to the Georgia Court of Appeals by a Republican governor.

John A. “Trea” Pipkin III currently serves as Superior Court Judge and served as Solicitor-General in McDonough, Georgia. He is also an adjunct professor of law at Gordon State College. He previously served as Assistant District Attorney for the Flint Circuit District Attorney’s Office and as an adjunct professor of law at the Emory University School of Law. Judge Pipkin earned his associate’s degree from Reinhardt College, bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, and law degree from Georgia State University College of Law. He and his wife reside in McDonough.

Governor Kemp issued an Executive Order yesterday continuing the closure of Georgia’s public schools through at least April 24, 2020, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp issued Executive Order 03.26.20.02 closing public elementary and secondary schools for in-person instruction through April 24, 2020. Students may return to school on Monday, April 27, 2020.

“I am deeply grateful to State School Superintendent Richard Woods, the Georgia Department of Education, superintendents, and parents for keeping us informed and helping us make the right decision for our students,” said Governor Kemp. “Throughout this process, we will continue to seek the advice of public health officials, school leaders, and families to ensure the health and safety of the educational community. As we approach April 24, 2020, we ask for continued patience and flexibility since circumstances may change, but we encourage families to stay strong and follow the guidance of federal, state, and local leaders in the weeks ahead.”

The University System of Georgia and Technical College System of Georgia will remain closed for in-person instruction through the rest of the semester since students have already transitioned to all online learning.

Unemployment claims have more than doubled, according to GPB News.

More than 12,000 people filed for unemployment benefits between March 15 and March 21, up from 5,445 the week before.

The GDOL will allow people to collect unemployment longer and earn up to $300 a week working part-time while still receiving the full unemployment amount. A new federal stimulus package also includes an extra $600 a month for those on unemployment.

The department implemented other emergency measures last week, including waiving work search requirements and expanding unemployment benefits to include people who are temporarily out of work because of the pandemic.

According to a statement, the GDOL expects “substantially higher claims” in the weeks ahead because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune:

To deal with the exploding demand for economic relief, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order Thursday authorizing Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler to issue two emergency rules. One extends the length of time an individual can collect benefits from 14 weeks to 26 weeks. The other provides that the first $300 of wages earned in a week will not count against eligible unemployment benefits paid.

“As we work together as a state to combat COVID-19, Commissioner Butler and I are taking steps to ensure Georgia’s workforce is supported during this challenging time,” Kemp said.

“I ask Georgians to continue to support their local businesses by getting take-out, tipping well, and ordering your favorite products online, while also observing social distancing and following the directives of state and federal public health officials.”

Other emergency rules were issued last week expanding unemployment eligibility for applicants, suspending work search requirements and relieving employers of benefit charges for claims related to COVID-19.

Another rule assures that employers and nonprofits will not be charged for coronavirus-related benefit claims. This means their current tax rate will not be affected, relieving them of the additional burden of higher unemployment taxes during the economic recovery expected to follow the pandemic.

“We understand Georgia businesses and workers are anxious during the COVID-19 public health crisis about how to take care of themselves, their families and their businesses,” Butler said. “We are making unprecedented modifications to policies to help all Georgians survive this economic hardship and get us all back to work.”

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston has called for a further postponement of upcoming elections, according to WABE.

In a letter Thursday to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge, writes that “pushing back the primary a month or more gives us more time to allow the situation to improve so that voters can vote in the manner in which they are most familiar.”

The secretary of state is encouraging Georgians to vote by mail in May and is sending absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in the state.

Ralston says the state’s primaries should be held no earlier than June 23.

From the AJC:

On Thursday, hours before Gov. Brian Kemp was to address the state in a televised session with public health officials, the leader of the Georgia House asked the secretary of state to retrench yet again — by moving the May vote to a date no earlier than June 23.

Other states have already pushed their balloting into June or July. “A May 19th primary in Georgia would put our state the earliest, by more than a month, than any other in the South,” Ralston wrote.

The House speaker offered up two reasons for the proposed shift.

“Pushing the primary back a month or more gives us more time to allow the situation to improve so that voters can vote in the manner in which they are most familiar,” Ralston wrote.

“More importantly, it would make our highest priority the health and safety not only of voters, but our hard-working poll workers and elections officials.”

Raffensperger’s office will pick up the cost that counties incur for the ballots and postage. Voters will have to reach into their own pockets for stamps.

Speaker Ralston also suggested other legislative casualties of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the AJC.

With Georgia’s economy shrinking because of the coronavirus pandemic, House Speaker David Ralston said Friday that the state may not be able to afford the teacher pay raise the governor wants and the income tax cut House Republicans have advocated.

Ralston said on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “Political Rewind” Friday that with likely months of declining revenue ahead, the state may simply not have the money for either.

“I used the slogan during the session, ‘Republicans cut taxes,’” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “I am not sure a tax cut in this type of emergency is the wisest course to go.

“I don’t think giving a huge pay increase to one group of state employees is the wisest course to go,” he added. “These two items took up a lot of room in the budget that we may not now have.”

The 2020 General Assembly session is currently suspended because of the pandemic. When lawmakers return, they will have to pass a budget for fiscal 2021, which begins July 1.

The speaker predicted that when lawmakers come back into session – likely sometime in the next two months – “you are going to see a down-to-earth, bare-bones kind of budget.”

Just as families in Georgia are trying to figure out how to survive during the pandemic, Ralston said, the state must determine “what do we absolutely need as a state government to run the state until we get back in session in January 2021.”

A candidate for Muscogee County Board of Education faces a qualification challenge alleging he’s not a resident of the district for which he is running, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Questions about the residency of the Rev. Walter Taylor have circulated since he filed three weeks ago the paperwork to be a candidate for the District 7 seat on the Muscogee County School Board.

Taylor, senior pastor of The Life Church of Columbus and director of The Life Center, wrote 604 Front Avenue as his address on the document he filed with the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registration to qualify for the May 19 nonpartisan election against incumbent Cathy Williams.

The L-E reported March 6, the day the qualifying period ended, that Lexis.com lists Taylor’s current residence as being in Phenix City since November 2016.

Taylor told the L-E then, “My wife owns a home in Phenix City. … I don’t have any residence in Phenix City.”

Columbus Historic District neighbors told the L-E that 604 Front Avenue routinely is used as an Airbnb and that they rarely have seen Taylor there.

Taylor told the L-E, “Because of my travels, I have rented out my home for Airbnb while I’m away, but my residence is 604 Front Avenue.”

A Democratic candidate for Douglas County Coroner beat back a qualifications challenge, according to the Douglas County Sentinel.

The Board of Elections and Registration (BOER) cast two separate votes at a meeting Thursday. The first vote, to disqualify Alcarez from being a candidate, failed on a 2-2 vote with board chair Lisa Martin abstaining. The second vote to keep Alcarez on the voting registration rolls passed by a 3-1 vote with Martin again abstaining.

Attorney Bryan P. Tyson represented Alcarez at Thursday’s BOER meeting.

“We are glad the Board denied the attempt at suppressing Mr. Alcarez’s candidacy,” Tyson told the Sentinel in a written statement. “As the Board correctly found, Mr. Alcarez has been a resident of Douglas County for decades and is qualified to be on the ballot as a candidate for Coroner.”

Alcarez will face incumbent Renee Godwin in the Democratic primary in what is expected to be one of the most hotly contested countywide races on the ballot in Douglas County this year. The winner of the Democratic primary will be the presumptive winner of the position of coroner since no Republicans qualified.

Seriously, a “hotly contested” race for coroner? At least they didn’t call it “lively.”

State Rep. Matthew Gambill (R-Cartersville) has become the first publicly-confirmed coronavirus victim in the State House, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Rep. Matthew Gambill, R-Cartersville, has tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston reported Thursday night.

Gambill began self-quarantining the weekend following Friday, March 13, after learning he had been exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus.

On Monday, March 16, Gambill was tested for the virus and the results came back on Thursday. He did not attend the one-day special session of the General Assembly on Monday, March 16, during which lawmakers ratified the statewide public health emergency Gov. Brian Kemp had declared late the previous week.

Gambill has experienced only mild symptoms and remains in isolation at home.