On February 20, 1792, President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act, creating the United States Postal Service.
The act allowed for newspapers to be included in mail deliveries and made it illegal for postal officials to open anyone’s mail.
On February 20, 1970, Georgia ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote. The Amendment states:
Section 1. The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Seriously. 1970. Luckily ratification occurred when Tennessee approved adoption of the Amendment on April 18, 1920.
Interestingly, the only case in which the United States Supreme Court has addressed the Nineteenth Amendment arose in Georgia. Breedlove v. Suttles was a suit brought in Fulton County Superior Court concerning the poll tax. Here’s an excerpt:
The tax being upon persons, women may be exempted on the basis of special considerations to which they are naturally entitled. In view of burdens necessarily borne by them for the preservation of the race, the state reasonably may exempt them from poll taxes.
The laws of Georgia declare the husband to be the head of the family and the wife to be subject to him. To subject her to the levy would be to add to his burden. Moreover, Georgia poll taxes are laid to raise money for educational purposes, and it is the father’s duty to provide for education of the children. Discrimination in favor of all women being permissible, appellant may not complain because the tax is laid only upon some or object to registration of women without payment of taxes for previous years.
Privilege of voting is not derived from the United States, but is conferred by the state and, save as restrained by the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments and other provisions of the Federal Constitution, the state may condition suffrage as it deems appropriate.
It is fanciful to suggest that the Georgia law is a mere disguise under which to deny or abridge the right of men to vote on account of their sex. The challenged enactment is not repugnant to the Nineteenth Amendment.
Bless their hearts.
On February 20, 1974, Reg Murphy, an editor for The Atlanta Constitution was kidnapped and held until managing editor G. James Minter delivered $700,000 in ransom. I’m not sure if they’d pay 700 cents to get any employee back nowadays.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections
Under the Gold Dome Today – Legislative Day 15
7:30 AM SENATE Appropriations- Insurance Subcommittee 341 CAP
8:00 AM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 506 CLOB
8:00 AM HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT 606 CLOB
9:00 AM SENATE Appropriations- Judicial Subcommittee 450 CAP
9:00 AM SENATE Appropriations- Community Health 307 CLOB
9:00 AM SENATE Appropriations- Fiscal Management 310 CLOB
9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 15) House Chamber
TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP
12:00 PM HOUSE Alcohol Tobacco Subcommittee of Regulated Industries 502 CLOB
1:00 PM SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION 450 CAP
1:00 PM SENATE GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT 125 CAP
1:00 PM HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE 341 CAP
1:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 406 CLOB
1:00 PM HOUSE Academic Support Subcommittee of Education 606 CLOB
1:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES 506 CLOB
1:30 PM HOUSE Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 515 CLOB
1:30 PM HOUSE EDUCATION 606 CLOB
2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1
2:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR 310 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE Energy Subcommittee of Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications 403 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION 506 CLOB
2:35 PM HOUSE Ports and Local Government Subcommittee of Transportation 506 CLOB
3:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 450 CAP
3:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY MEZZ 1
3:00 PM HOUSE Income Tax Subcommittee of Ways and Means 606 CLOB
3:15 PM HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS 606 CLOB
4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB
4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB
SENATE RULES CALENDAR
SB 134 – Georgia Commission on the Holocaust; commission for administrative purposes; reassign(Substitute)(UAff-32nd)
SB 268 – Notaries Public; persons for whom notaries perform notarial acts; valid Veterans Health Identification Card; provide (VM&HS-2nd)
SB 335 – Children and Youth; foster children and foster families; laws and supports; strengthen (Substitute)(Amendment)(JUDY-28th)
SB 345 – Standards, Labeling, and Adulteration of Food; nonprofit organizations to prepare in accordance with Department of Public Health requirements; provide (Substitute)(H&HS-32nd)
SB 356 – Solid Waste Management; expansion of certain municipal solid waste landfills to areas within two miles of military air space used as bombing ranges; allow (NR&E-3rd)
HOUSE RULES CALENDAR
Modified Open Rule
HB 777 – Community Affairs, Department of; consider amending the state minimum standard codes to allow tall mass timber construction types; direct (A&CA-Corbett-174th)
HR 1023 – Judiciary; people may petition for declaratory relief from certain acts of this state or certain local governments or officers or employees; provide -CA (Substitute)(Judy-Welch-110th)
Modified Structured Rule
HB 716 – Insurance; carriers issuing a health benefit plan in this state through an agent shall file proposed commission rates with the department; provide (Ins-Blackmon-146th)
HB 786 – Superior courts; additional judge of the Flint Judicial Circuit; provide (Substitute)(Judy-Welch-110th)
Governor Brian Kemp announced that former Tift County Sheriff Gary Vowell will serve as the next Public Safety Commissioner, according to 11Alive.
It comes in the wake of last week’s resignation by Col. Mark W. McDonough, the previous public safety commissioner, over the Georgia State Patrol trooper cheating scandal.
Vowell will assume his new role on March 1, Kemp’s office said.
“Gary Vowell is a respected and trusted leader within Georgia’s law enforcement community, and he is a strong public servant who is ready to take the helm at the Department of Public Safety,” the governor said in a release. “Given his background, I know that Gary will be able to easily transition in this important role.”
From the Augusta Chronicle:
Vowell, a career law enforcement official, was approved unanimously Wednesday by the state Board of Public Safety to assume the interim commissioner role. He starts on the job March 1.
“My entire career has been devoted to keeping Georgia families safe and upholding the highest ideals of integrity in our law enforcement community, and I look forward to working in the Kemp administration,” Vowell said in a statement.
The public safety department houses the Georgia State Patrol, the Motor Carrier Compliance Division and the Capitol Police Division.
Vowell was a field training officer and peace officer instructor with the state patrol for two decades before being elected sheriff of Tift County in 1996. He kept that office until 2012 when he decided not to seek re-election.
Kemp touted Vowell’s qualifications Wednesday, calling the former sheriff “a respected and trusted leader within Georgia’s law enforcement community.”
“Given his background, I know that Gary will be able to easily transition in this important role,” Kemp said in a statement.
Governor Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp helped open the first facility to provide services for young sex-trafficking victims, according to the AJC.
Nearly 300 people, including state leaders, attended Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting for the Receiving Hope Center, located in Paulding County. Gov. Brian Kemp, accompanied by his wife, spoke to the crowd inside the center’s gym.
“This is a historic day in our state,” Kemp said. “There is no one else nationwide that is doing as much as our first lady of Georgia Marty Kemp, the GRACE Commission, local and state partners to address the issue of human trafficking. Survivors will have a foundation of healing that will kick-start their journey to recovery.”
The facility is Georgia’s latest step in the fight against sex trafficking. The Kemps founded the GRACE Commission — or Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion, and Education — shortly after the governor took office. In January, Kemp introduced legislation to target “modern slavery” by toughening the penalties for sex traffickers. Fighting trafficking requires a collaboration among various groups, including both government leaders and community groups, Kemp said Tuesday.
The center will be run by the nonprofit Wellspring Living and will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Victims who are referred to the center will be given medical care and psychiatric evaluation, along with any needed treatment. The center has 20 private rooms with bathrooms, each individually designed to create a comforting environment. Trafficking victims ages 12 to 17 can be housed at the center, according to Wellspring Living.
The Georgia State House passed HB 792, the Supplemental budget, which trues up the current budget to adjust for actual income and expenditures. From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle.
The Georgia House of Representatives passed a mid-year budget Wednesday that would restore many of the spending cuts Gov. Brian Kemp proposed last month to help offset lower-than-expected tax collections.
The $27.3 billion fiscal 2020 mid-year budget, which passed 126-46 and now moves to the state Senate, covers state spending through the end of June. It reflects a lower revenue estimate the governor issued in January amid sluggish tax receipts going back to the middle of last year.
“We tried our best with this budget to address the needs of Georgians,” House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, told reporters after the vote.
For many budget line items, the House wasn’t able to fully restore planned cuts but acted to reduce the severity of the reductions. Lawmakers put back significant portions of cuts slated for mental health and child welfare services and restored all of a $164,800 reduction to the Georgia Memory Net program.
“If you haven’t dealt with dementia or Alzheimer’s yet, you will,” Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, told his House colleagues. “Get ready.”
But Ralston said the economic damage Hurricane Michael wreaked on Georgia farms and forests in October 2018 is to blame for the downturn in tax collections.
“It was a crippling blow to our economy,” he said. “We’re still paying for that.”
Lawmakers will face steeper spending cuts when they tackle Kemp’s fiscal 2021 budget later in this year’s session.
From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:
The House voted 126-46 to pass House Bill 792, which cuts $159 million from spending plans for the current budget year, running through June 30. The measure now moves to the state Senate for more debate.
Lawmakers were forced to cut the budget, with state revenues running behind projections. The shortfall happened, in part, because of a cut in state’s top income tax rate approved by lawmakers that has decreased revenue by more than $500 million. Gov. Brian Kemp ordered agencies to reduce spending by about $200 million during the summer, although he shielded most K-12, college and Medicaid spending from cuts. That means cuts fell more heavily on other agencies.
House members couldn’t alter the $27.4 billion ceiling in state revenue that the Republican Kemp set, but shifted tens of millions of dollars from the reductions he had proposed seeking to shore up their own priorities.
“We’ve tried our best on this budget to address needs of Georgians and I think the budget that left the House today is a much better budget in terms of taking care of things that Georgians need than the budget that was proposed to us,” House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, told reporters after the vote.
From the Valdosta Daily Times:
Appropriations Chairman Terry England presented changes to the governor’s proposed budget to lawmakers Wednesday, calling the budget “unusual.”
“Although we found maybe the method and the main messaging for executing it might have needed just a little bit of clarification,” England said. “As I said, we have gotten that through this last couple of weeks of work.”
Conversations on the fiscal year 2021 budget — up next for consideration that includes Kemp’s teacher and state employee pay raises — will start as early as Wednesday afternoon, he said.
House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said he is proud of the amended budget finalized by House appropriations leaders.
“I told the members before we started this session that it’s a lot easier when times are good or when you have a lot of revenue there to meet needs,” he told reporters. “When we were asked to make cuts the 4% percent in the amended budget and 6% in the big budget, you know that’s that’s more challenging than others than some of the years that we’ve had the past few years.”
“One of the great untold stories of that is this state is still recovering from a major hurricane a couple years ago,” [Speaker Ralston] said. “That was a crippling blow … to a good bit of our economy.”
England said the state had never witnessed any event that had such a big impact on the state’s economy as Hurricane Michael.
“Truly those dollars disappeared out of the state overnight,” he said.
From the AJC:
Next up for both chambers will be Kemp’s $28.1 billion proposed budget for fiscal 2021, which begins July 1. That proposal includes $300 million in spending cuts — but also pay raises for teachers and state employees earning less than $40,000 a year — and could produce a more contentious fight over state spending.
House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said after the vote that he remains committed to cutting the top income tax rate again this session from 5.75% to 5.5%.
“I view that as a commitment we made to the taxpayers of Georgia two years ago,” Ralston told reporters. “I think they expect that Republicans cut taxes.”
House budget writers rejected Kemp’s proposal to cut funding to accountability courts. The courts, which were greatly expanded by his predecessor, allow defendants to avoid prison time if they stay sober, get treatment, receive an education and find a job. The courts are set up for drug addicts, drunken drivers, the mentally ill and veterans who’ve been charged largely with nonviolent crimes and low-level offenses and have been highly popular with lawmakers.
The House reduced cuts the governor proposed for the Agriculture Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, two areas of vital interest to rural lawmakers.
House leaders also reduced cuts that Kemp proposed for mental health, substance abuse treatment, autism treatment and grants to county public health departments, and they eliminated reductions for local library materials.
From another story by the AJC:
Minutes after the Georgia House approved a midyear budget Wednesday that mitigated some of Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed spending cuts, Republican leaders reiterated that they are ready to reduce state income tax rates for a second time in two years.
The initial tax cut, from a top rate of 6% to 5.75%, is estimated to save taxpayers, and cost state coffers, about $500 million a year. The legislation that cut the rate set 2020 as the date to consider another reduction.
England said, “I would rather have a dollar be in my pocket, your pocket, to spend than us as a state taking it and trying to spend it differently.”
When asked about Kemp’s big priority in the upcoming fiscal 2021 budget — a $2,000 pay raise for teachers — Ralston responded, “We have a lot of competing priorities.”
The Georgia General Assembly is considering several bills that would regulate sales of vaping supplies, according to the AJC.
HB 864 … sponsored by Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, would add a 7% tax to the sale of e-cigarettes, nicotine vaporizers and associated products, as well as require retailers to buy an annual license in order to sell them. The licenses would have a one-time cost of $250 and a $10 annual fee.
Rich’s bill is one of several in the state legislature that aim to regulate vaping, a growing practice that has been touted as an alternative to smoking. Vaping has also been linked to multiple deaths in recent months. Unlike tobacco, there are no taxes on vaping besides state and local sales tax, and there is no state law restricting purchasing by age. Bills in the House and Senate have been filed to increase the purchase age for both vape products and tobacco to 21.
Vaping has far outpaced cigarettes in popularity among teenagers. According to the CDC, 28% of high school students reported using an e-cigarette or vape within 30 days of a 2019 survey. 6% of high schoolers reported smoking cigarettes in the same time frame.
Proponents of HB 864 largely focused on the dangers of vaping for teens, despite the bill not addressing purchasing age. HB 909, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, would set that age at 21. A similar age restriction bill, SB 298, has already passed a Senate committee.
Legislation designed to prevent “surprise” medical bills passed out of the House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care, according to the Georgia Recorder.
The proposal seeks to target the so-called “surprise billing” issue that has dogged Georgia lawmakers for at least five years under the Gold Dome. Deep disagreement over how to fairly treat both insurers and physicians has kept out of reach a legislative solution that shields patients from unexpected costly bills.
“The out-of-network billing that they might get for an emergency room visit to any hospital – not picking on any one hospital – could quadruple anything you would ever get from a doctor and would be much more likely to put somebody into bankruptcy than an out-of-network billing bill from a doctor,” said Rep. Sharon Cooper, a Marietta Republican who chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee and who didn’t vote Tuesday.
Supporters of a new attempt to address the problem said they were encouraged by Tuesday’s vote, even if House Bill 888 squeaked out of committee only because the chairman broke a tie. They argue it’s a significant step toward addressing part of a problem that can lead to financial ruin.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lee Hawkins, said later that he was not troubled by the lack of enthusiasm coming from the influential House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care – a committee formed by House Speaker David Ralston early last year. The House Rules Committee is set to consider the legislation next.
United States Representative Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) opened a new office in Brunswick, according to The Brunswick News.
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter’s home in Brunswick, so to speak, is now in Suite 410 at 777 Gloucester St. He held an open house Wednesday morning to celebrate moving in to the new digs.
“We’re having a staff retreat this week, and it was an opportunity for all of our Washington staff as well as our district staff to be down here, so we just coincided with the opening of the new office, which we’re very excited about,” Carter said. “We’ve got a lot more space there, a lot nicer space, and I think it will be more accessible to the citizens. That’s the important thing, is that it’s much easier to find and much more accessible.”
The move is from the district office’s previous home in the same downtown building that houses the Brunswick-Glynn County Chamber of Commerce. He said around 200 people arrived at the open house to say hello and visit for a few minutes.
United States Representative Austin Scott (R-Tifton) announced mobile district office hours, according to the Albany Herald.
Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap announced she will run for reelection, according to the Savannah Morning News.
“First and foremost, my duty is to those who have been victims of crime and my responsibility is to the most vulnerable in our society. I continue to strive to give those victims a voice.” [said Heap]
“I realize that it is a small percentage in our community who are committing the most violent crimes. I promise to put a laser focus on those individuals and to hold them accountable for what they have done.” [said Heap]
’“Finally I will continue to search and implement innovative ways to address crime and find resources for our victims. I have worked hard over the past eight years along with an incredible staff of attorneys, investigators, secretaries and advocates who are passionate and dedicated. We have accomplished much but still have work to do.” [said Heap]
Savannah attorney Shalena Jones, a former Chatham County assistant district attorney, and attorney Zena McClain have announced their respective candidacies.
Floyd County Chief Magistrate Gene Richardson announced he will run for reelection, according to the Rome News Tribune.
Gwinnett County Board of Elections member Beauty Baldwin will retire from service on the board, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.
She announced at the elections board meeting Tuesday that she will retire after more than 23 years on the board as soon as the local Democratic Party names someone to replace her, possibly by the end of this month.
Baldwin’s decision to retire from the elections board is a shock for a few reasons. One of which is her legacy in Gwinnett, both as a former Buford City Schools superintendent and in her involvement in several other areas of the community.
The longtime elections board member said she will stay on the board until the Democratic Party names someone to fill her seat. The elections board is made up of two Democratic Party appointments, two Republican Party appointments and a fifth member who is chosen by the other four members.
The Dalton Tea Party heard from a number of candidates for the Fourteenth Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger), according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.
Members of the Dalton Tea Party heard from three people who say they want to represent Georgia’s 14th Congressional District Tuesday night at Dalton’s historic Huff House. The 14th District includes Whitfield and Murray counties. It has been represented for the past 10 years by Tom Graves, R-Ranger, who said he will not seek reelection.
State Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton, who is the associate athletic director at Shorter University and who has been a member of the legislature since 2011; John Cowan, a neurosurgeon at Rome’s Harbin Clinic; and Marjorie Greene, who co-owns a construction company that was founded by her father, spoke to about 30 people.
All three are Republicans. All three said they are pro-life, supporters of the Second Amendment and backers of President Donald Trump.
Macon-Bibb County Commissioners tabled a measure to outsource some functions, according to the Macon Telegraph.
Macon-Bibb County commissioners want more time to consider privatizing business plan reviews and inspections after additional questions were raised Tuesday night.
Mayor Robert Reichert and County Manager Keith Moffett have advocated for SAFEbuilt Georgia LLC to take the reins of the Business Development Services department.
Commissioners Virgil Watkins and Valerie Wynn favor trying to find a competent person to manage the department and cross-train employees. Neither is a fan of privatizing the services.
Jones proposed tabling the matter, which was approved by a vote of 5-3. If the measure does not come off the table for a vote, the mayor will likely seek an extension of the SAFEbuilt contract to keep running the department.
An employee of the Chatham County Recorder’s Court was indicted for allegedly stealing court funds, according to the Savannah Morning News.
Georgia ports are concerned about coronavirus, according to The Brunswick News.
Leigh Ryan, a representative from the World Trade Center Savannah, explained the concerns of port officials at Wednesday’s Southeast Georgia Joint Development Authority. Ryan said the virus has led to delays in ships being allowed into ports on both coasts.
“There’s a lot of concern about that,” she said of the virus. “They’re holding up ships.”