Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 8, 2018

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 8, 2018

The first printed copy of the Declaration of Independence arrived in Savannah on August 8, 1776 and was read publicly for the first time on August 10, 1776.

On August 8, 1863, General Robert E. Lee offered his resignation in a letter to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, following the Battle of Gettysburg.

On August 8, 1925, Georgia Governor Clifford Walker signed legislation outlawing the brazen act of dancing publicly on Sunday.

On August 8, 1929, Georgia Governor Lamartine Hardman signed legislation placing on the ballot for Fulton and Campbell County voters a merger of the two.

The old Campbell County Courthouse still stands in Fairburn, Georgia.

Campbell County Courthouse Fairburn GA 3

Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew were nominated for President and Vice President by the Republican National Convention on August 8, 1968.

On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned, effective at noon the next day.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States District Court Judge Amy Totenberg is considering whether paper ballots might be feasible for November’s elections in Georgia, according to the AJC.

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg wrote in an order Tuesday that she’ll evaluate the “practical realities” of changing the state to paper ballots less than three months before the election.

Totenberg’s order came in response to a lawsuit from voting integrity groups who say Georgia’s touchscreen voting machines could be hacked. The Coalition for Good Governance and other plaintiffs asked for a preliminary injunction Friday to stop the state from using direct-recording electronic voting units.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a defendant in the case, has said Georgia’s voting machines are safe but should be phased out after this year’s election.

“The court appreciates the gravity and importance of the constitutional issues,” Totenberg wrote. “At the same time, the court needs as a priority to assess the concrete reality of the challenges involved in implementing the Coalition’s requested injunctive relief in the compressed time frame available.”

Georgia Democrats are demanding Secretary of State Brian Kemp resign because his office will oversee November’s elections in which Kemp is the GOP nominee for Governor, according to the AJC.

Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman DuBose Porter criticized Kemp for drawing a full-time state salary of about $130,000 during his campaign against Stacey Abrams.

Kemp dismissed any notion that he’d step down, saying the state’s elections protocol puts the burden on county officials to count and process voting totals.

“I made a commitment to run and serve, and that’s what I’m doing,” Kemp said in an interview. “For anyone to think there’s a way to manipulate the process because you’re secretary of state is outrageous. It’s just them trying to distract from Stacey Abrams’ problems.”

Lewis Massey stayed in office during his 1998 run for governor. He lost in a Democratic primary to Roy Barnes. And Cathy Cox remained in her post in 2006 as she ran in a heated Democratic primary against then-Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, who ultimately prevailed.

Cox said she considered returning her taxpayer-funded salary until she was advised it was statutorily set and thus she “did not have discretion to reduce it.”`

The Georgia State Patrol announced that more than 900 citiations were issued for “Hands-free” driving violations, according to the Albany Herald.

Capt. Mark Perry, GSP’s director of public information, said state law enforcement officers issued 961 citations under the new law between July 1-31. The figure doesn’t include citations by local police and sheriff’s offices.

“When we have troopers or officers that are in unmarked cars, it’s still very prevalent,” he said. “What we’re seeing is the population’s adapting to seeing our blue and gray cars, and they’re getting a little bit quicker on trying to hide what they’re doing.”

More than 60 percent of the citations went to drivers accused of illegally holding phones, Perry said. The Georgia Department of Public Safety says another 244 drivers got tickets for failing to exercise due care. There were 65 citations given for texting while driving.

Senator Johnny Isakson opposes tariffs on cars and car parts, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Isakson is cosponsoring two pieces of legislation aimed at proposed tariffs on imported automobiles and parts, and steel and aluminum tariffs on those imports from U.S. allies.

“The proposed tariffs on autos would be a setback to an industry in our state that has provided more than 7,000 new jobs in the last five years alone,” Isakson said in a press release. The proposed auto tariff is 25 percent.

Isakson also noted the Georgia automotive industry represents $2.8 billion in gross state product in Georgia with more than 300 auto-related facilities.

Georgia’s Brunswick port imported passenger vehicles valued at $5.5 billion so far this year. Automobile parts valued at $12 million were imported during the same period.

Newsprint tariffs are affecting local newspapers, according to the AJC.

The Commerce Department first imposed tariffs in January after a paper company in Washington state claimed that Canadian manufacturers were benefiting from government subsidies and selling paper at an unfairly low rate. The department decided Thursday to lower the maximum tariff rate from 22 percent to 16.88 percent. In addition, it will counter Canadian subsidies by imposing levies of up to 9.81 percent on certain newsprint sellers.

Even with the slight reduction, newspaper editors across Georgia said the tariffs place an additional strain on an industry already struggling to cover costs. In Georgia, more than 12 percent of jobs in the news industry have disappeared in the past five years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as print news outlets have struggled to remain profitable in an increasingly digital era.

And the company that runs Georgia’s only newsprint paper mill — one of the few remaining in the U.S. — also expects the tariffs to damage its market in the long term.

Tariffs have driven up production costs across the state, said Robert M. Williams Jr., who owns or co-owns papers in Alma, Blackshear, Forsyth and McRae.

“In the markets served by community newspapers, there is usually no other source to provide comprehensive, reliable local news coverage,” Williams said. “These tariffs are accomplishing nothing but driving up costs for newspapers. Some of us can’t help but wonder if that is the only real purpose.”

Congressman Tom Graves (R-Ranger) spoke to the Floyd County Republican Women, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Graves spoke for about 20 minutes on GOP accomplishments under President Donald Trump, citing tax reform, a booming economy, low unemployment and new jobs.

“You don’t need higher taxes, more taxes,” he told the receptive crowd. “We wanted more tax payers.”

Graves cited “a diversity of opinions and ideas” among the 237 Republican House members in answering queries on illegal immigration and children separated from parents at the Mexico border. It takes 218 votes to pass a bill, he added, but no Democrats would support any Republican proposals.

Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Gwinnett) toured House of Hope, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., got an up-close look at what some young, single mothers and their children go through each day as they struggle to get by in life as he paid a visit to Home of Hope at Gwinnett Children Shelter on Tuesday.

Woodall visited the shelter in Buford to hear about work it is doing to help residents in the area. The hour-long meeting and tour showed the representative what goes on at the residential care facility, which provides services for homeless children ranging in age from newborns to age 17 along with their mothers.

“We do not receive any federal funding because HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) defines us as transitional housing,” Hand of Hope Executive Director Maureen Kornawa said.

Kornawa said that if the organization took federal funding, the restrictions that come along with the money would force Home of Hope to change how it operates. It would have to shift from a selective process that vets families to one that opens it to any needy individual to reside in the facility if a bed is available.

Floyd County veterans dedicated a new monument to 22 locals who died in Vietnam, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

“All gave some,” it reads. “These gave all.” Lesley S. Ayers, Larry K. Wheeler, Alexander B. Blanton, Leroy B. Webb, James A. Brock, Eddie L. Spivey, William L. Covington, Johnny W. Sitten, Donald W. Dixon, Tommy Q. Segars Jr., William W. English Jr., Joseph S. Prince, William E. Finley, William G. McWilliams III, William R. Fowler, Richard L. Justice, Johnny E. Gantt, Thomas S. Jones, John D. Gollahon, Joseph Hillman, Judson Hall and Albert J. Hayes.

Atlanta’s Surterra Wellness, a medical cannabis company, announced that William Wrigley, Jr. is joining the company’s board, according to the AJC.

William Wrigley Jr., former CEO of chewing gum giant Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, joined Surterra as chairman of its board of directors after leading the fundraising of $65 million for the company, which is licensed to operate dispensaries in Florida and Texas.

Wrigley’s jump into the medical marijuana industry reflects changing attitudes towards the substance in some areas of the country, as legal cannabis becomes an increasingly widespread and lucrative business.

“We believe in the ability of cannabis to improve quality of life for patients across the country, and we are excited to build a global industry leader for the long term,” Wrigley said in a statement released by Surterra.

A Habersham County precinct with 276 voters managed 243% turnout in the May Primary Election, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The discrepancy, included in a number of sworn statements and exhibits filed as part of a federal lawsuit against the state by election security activists, comes amid swelling public concern for the security of Georgia’s voting systems. Georgia is one of four states that uses voting machines statewide that produce no paper record for voters to verify, making them difficult to audit, experts say.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission ended its meeting last night without adopting a property tax millage rate, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Commissioners rejected a proposed 4.36-mill increase, which would have meant property owners with a home valued at $125,000 would pay $187 or $218 more in taxes depending on if the property has a homestead exemption.

That measure narrowly failed to get the five votes necessary to pass. Voting in favor of the 21.85-mill tax rate were Commissioners Al Tillman, Bert Bivins, Elaine Lucas and Virgil Watkins. Commissioners Valerie Wynn, Mallory Jones, Joe Allen, Scotty Shepherd and Larry Schlesinger voted against it.

The commission now has several weeks to set a new millage rate in time for property tax bills to be sent out by the current deadline.

The Henry County Commission also suffered from “Taxus Interruptus,” as it failed to pass a property tax rate, according to the Henry Herald.

The Aug. 13 meeting marks the BOC’s second attempt to set a millage after they voted down a 12.733 millage rate at a July 31 meeting. That millage rate would generate around $6.2 million in additional tax revenue over last year.

At that meeting, commissioners expressed concerns over the projected use of $4 million for salary increases for county employees following a study being commissioned by Henry County. The $4 million had been mentioned in a presentation as a way part of the $6.2 million could be spent.

The Tybee Island Marine Science Center retained one loggerhead turtle found in a tourist’s hotel room, according to the Savannah Morning News.

After the quick-thinking hotel employees notified Tybee Police and the nearby Tybee Island Marine Science Center of their find, five of the hatchlings were released unharmed into the surf. But with permission from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the center kept one hatchling. It’s expected to have a two-year stay at the beachfront science center where it will serve as an educational ambassador, teaching visitors about the hazards of marine debris.

Police questioned the Kentucky couple who rented the room. They admitted to plucking the hatchlings from the beach the night before. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Agency is continuing the investigation, which could lead to fines ranging from $100 to $10,500.

At the science center, the remaining hatchling is settling in. The turtle is in a quarantine tank for now, where visitors can see it during daily behind-the scenes tours. In about two weeks the hatchling, whose gender is impossible to know from outward appearances, will be on display full time. Chantal Audran, the curator at the science center, wants contestants to keep in mind the hatchling’s backstory as well as his future mission in choosing a name.

The Glynn County Board of Education has scheduled three public meetings to discussed the propose millage rate, according to The Brunswick News.

The Associated Press reports that refugee resettlement numbers have dropped in Georgia.

Resettlement agencies said the state is resettling about a third of what it has in previous years. This means these agencies in Atlanta are laying off staff or eliminating positions.

At World Relief Atlanta, a resettlement agency in Stone Mountain, 21 of 30 employees were laid off in the past year. It now has a staff of nine people.

Joshua Sieweke, director of World Relief Atlanta, said part of the problem is the number of refugees the Trump administration declares it will accept — the annual presidential determinations — has not been accurate.

“We were told to expect 450 (refugees), but now our best estimates are around 100, and that means we will only receive money for 100,” Sieweke said.

In 2016, his group helped resettle about 600 refugees in the Atlanta area. He said World Relief will need to shift from depending on federal funding to donations from local churches.

Oakwood will join other local governments in placing a “Brunch Bill” referendum on the November ballot, according to the Gainesville Times.

The City of Stockbridge has appealed a Henry County Superior Court decision allowing a referendum on the City of Eagles Landing, according to the Henry Herald.

The city’s attorneys have appealed the ruling directly to the Georgia Supreme Court as “this matter involves the construction of the Constitution of the State of Georgia and the constitutionality of laws,” according to the filing.

On July 18, the Henry County Superior Court and Judge Arch McGarity ruled that two Senate bills pertaining to the referendum were constitutional, despite Stockbridge’s arguments to the contrary.

When making the ruling, McGarity said he would prefer to see the voters get their say in November on whether Eagles Landing should be its own city or not.

The city argued that the bills dealt with two separate subject matters by adjusting the corporate boundaries of both the city of Stockbridge and the proposed city of Eagles Landing.

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