Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 25, 2018

25
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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 25, 2018

On October 25, 1774, the First Continental Congress addressed a petition to King George III raising concerns about the Coercive Acts passed by Parliament and asserting its loyalty to the monarch.

The wooden keel of USS Monitor was laid at Continental Iron Works at Greenpoint, New York on October 25, 1861.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Libertarian candidate for Governor Ted Metz hopes to throw the November elections into a runoff, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The lesser-known third-party candidate in the closely watched Georgia gubernatorial race says he wants your “protest” vote.

“This is going to be a runoff anyway,” Ted Metz, who is running as a Libertarian, said during the first televised debate. “If you’re tired of the two-party system and the two-party tyranny of the oligarchs running the planet, then a vote for me is a protest vote to show them that you are sick and tired of the same ol’ stuff.”

But if Metz cobbles together enough votes to deny Abrams and Kemp the votes needed for a majority, the race to name Georgia’s next governor could run into December. Four people have also qualified as write-in candidates in the race.

He said lower voter turnout — which he attributed to disinterested independent voters — is a bigger issue than voter suppression, which has become a major election issue in the homestretch of the race.

A federal court has issued an injunction governing how rejected absentee ballots must be handled, according to the Associated Press, via the Augusta Chronicle.

U.S. District Judge Leigh May ordered the secretary of state’s office to instruct county election officials to stop the practice for the November midterm elections. She outlined a procedure to allow voters to resolve alleged signature discrepancies.

Two lawsuits filed earlier this month allege that election officials are improperly rejecting absentee ballots and applications in violation of their constitutional rights.

If the voter’s signature on the absentee ballot envelope or absentee ballot application doesn’t match the signature on the voter registration card, state law says it should be rejected. An absentee ballot can also be rejected if the voter signs in the wrong place or incorrectly fills out spaces designated for address and year of birth on the envelope.

The law doesn’t allow voters to contest the allegation of a mismatched signature or to confirm their identity before rejection. The law says voters are to be notified “promptly” of any rejection, but no time frame is provided. The lawsuits say that could result in voters being notified too late to fix the problem, jeopardizing their right to vote.

May’s order says that if there’s a perceived signature mismatch on an absentee ballot, election officials must mark it as provisional. They must then send the voter a pre-rejection notice and allow the voter an opportunity to confirm his or her identity and have the vote counted no later than three days after the election, the order says.

For an absentee ballot application with an apparent signature mismatch, election officials must send the voter a provisional ballot along with information explaining how the provisional ballot process works, the order says.

 A Special Session of the Georgia General Assembly next month is likely to include the issue of sales tax on jet fuel, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Deal will outline the limits of the session in the coming weeks, but lawmakers are expected to take up an unrelated proposal to suspend the state jet fuel tax – an issue that garnered controversy earlier this year after Delta Air Lines ended a discount for National Rifle Association members.

Jay Powell, R-Camilla, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, told a group of lawmakers Tuesday the tax exemption will likely come up during the special session because state law dictates it.

Deal issued an executive order in July temporarily suspending the tax, which he’s authorized to do “until the meeting of the next General Assembly but no longer,” according to state code. That leaves it to lawmakers to decide whether to continue giving airlines the tax break.

[Georgia Department of Agriculture inspector general Gary] Kelley briefed the House Rural Development Council on the losses Tuesday: up to $600 million in losses to the cotton crop, $480 million in losses to vegetables and a $560 million hit to the pecan industry. The timber farmers are looking at as much as a $1 billion loss.

Rep. Sam Watson, R-Moultrie, is a vegetable farmer who lost much of his crop. He said the destruction to farmland will have a ripple effect in rural communities because of the businesses – such as hardware stores, fertilizer salesmen, tire dealers and others – who feed off farmers.

“These are the only businesses in rural Georgia,” Watson said. “If farmers don’t get paid, (the other businesses are) not going to get paid. And of course that’s sales tax revenue that the counties don’t get.

From the Newnan Times-Herald:

During the special session, the budget amendment will go through the same process that any bill goes through – it will be “dropped” and “first read” and then after a second reading will be assigned to the House Appropriations Committee.

That committee will hold a hearing, possibly make changes, approve the bill and send it to the Rules Committee, and then to the House floor for a vote. After the House approves it, things move to the Senate for a committee hearing and floor vote. Some rules could be suspended during the special session to make things move a bit faster, Smith said.

House members got an email Tuesday from Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. In it, Ralston said that “while we will work as expeditiously as possible, legislative procedures will require several days,” Smith said, and Ralston tells House members to prepare to be at the capitol through at least Friday, Nov. 16, and to “bear in mind additional days may be required.”

Between now and the opening of the special session, various state agencies and the governor’s office will be compiling data on the damage and the need, and a prepared budget amendment should be ready to introduce on the first day of the special session, Smith said.

That article by Sarah Fay Butler is one of the best I’ve read on how the Special Session will work.

Republican State School Superintendent Richard Woods says Georgia’s education system has improved dramatically, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

As Georgia has become a top state in the nation to do business, Georgia Superintendent of Schools Richard Woods told a Republican women’s group Wednesday the state’s second-most improved sector is education.

Woods, a former high school history teacher who lives in Tifton, is facing Democratic challenger Otha Thorton, a former national PTA leader and retired Army officer, for a second term. Thornton did not return a request for comment.

Woods said due to the hard work of local systems and the state Department of Education, Georgia’s graduation rate is at an all-time high, with a 90 percent graduation rate “doable” in a few years. The state’s SAT and ACT test scores are out-performing the nation, and its high school graduates often also leave with college degrees, he said.

Repeating a theme heard often from Republican candidates in the Nov. 6 election, Woods said it was critical to elect Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp as governor to keep the state’s success rolling, including to replace the Common Core standards the state education board, which is appointed by the governor, adopted in 2010.

Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp said he will not recuse himself if his election against Democrat Stacey Abrams goes to a recount, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Republican Brian Kemp says he will not recuse himself as Georgia’s chief elections officer even if his gubernatorial race with Democrat Stacey Abrams goes to a recount.

“We’ve got a very competent elections team to oversee that (recount) process,” Kemp said, and in a nod to the microscope now on the state, added: “I’m certain that there would be a lot of people watching that.”

He was, however, asked repeatedly by Abrams and the moderators about voting-related issues, and maintained that he could do the job fairly despite his obvious interest in the election’s outcome.

“There are 7 million people that have correctly filled the form out,” Kemp said, referencing the state’s registration total, “and (Abrams is) blaming me for a few that couldn’t do that or they simply don’t exist.”

“She’s lying about my record,” he said, “to hide her extreme agenda.”

Democratic Bulloch County District 1B incumbent Commissioner Anthony Simmons faces a challenge from Republican W. Scott Brannen, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The Statesboro Herald has published a five-part video series of the debate between Republican Congressman Rick Allen and Democratic Challenger Francys Johnson.

Democrat Francys Johnson told the Augusta Chronicle that the economic recovery is skipping rural Georgia.

Raised on a Screven County farm between Sylvania and Hiltonia, Ga., Statesboro attorney Francys Johnson stressed that rural Georgia’s needs aren’t being met by the Republican agenda in a Wednesday interview with The Augusta Chronicle’s editorial board.

Johnson, a Democrat challenging GOP U.S. Rep. Rick Allen of Augusta to represent the 12th Congressional District, softened his tone but continued the barrage of attacks against Allen he launched at a Tuesday forum in Statesboro.

“Many of them feel that they don’t have a voice in Washington right now to represent rural America. They think their voice is not being heard because too much of what goes on is good for some, but not good for very many,” Johnson said.

“They know that even though the president says things are as good as they’ve ever been, walk down the main street of Millen or Swainsboro or even Statesboro, you’ll see otherwise,” he said.

It shows in the closing of rural hospitals, which Johnson said can be addressed by expanding Medicaid as a majority of states have done.

“Fifty years ago you could have a baby in Millen, Sylvania, Waynesboro – none of those places you can have a baby now,” he said.

The result is Georgia’s rank at the bottom nationwide in infant mortality. Twelve of 19 counties in the district are so poor, every child gets free lunch at public school, he said.

Republican Congressman Buddy Carter (Pooler) met his Democratic opponent in a forum, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Savannah Branch of the NAACP hosted the first meeting of the two candidates last week. Wednesday’s forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia.

The forum was split into two hours worth of timed question-and-answer segments, allowing the candidates to expand on topics of concern for the position they hope to win in November.

Carter said he was in favor of changing the status of marijuana from a schedule 1 drug to a schedule 2 drug to allow research on the medicinal benefits of the plant, but was “absolutely opposed to recreational marijuana,” calling it a “gateway drug.”

Ring said she was in favor of medical marijuana, and said medical marijuana would cut down on the abuse of opioids.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission is seeking the suspension of Mack Crawford from his seat on the Superior Court for the Griffin Judicial Circuit, according to the AJC.

Judge Mack Crawford should be relieved of his duties, with pay, while an ethics complaint against him is pending, the Judicial Qualifications Commission said. In July, the JQC accused Crawford of the theft of more than $15,000 from the Pike County court’s registry.

Crawford’s continued service on the bench “would undermine public confidence in the judiciary,” the commission said in a motion filed Tuesday before the state Supreme Court. It noted the code of judicial conduct requires judges to uphold the integrity of the court system and “avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of their activities.”

In a prior interview, Crawford, 64, strongly denied doing anything improper. “I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong,” he said.

Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority is rolling out smart cards and a mobile app to make transit use easier, according to the Macon Telegraph. The downside is that you’re still in Macon.

Savannah Fire Chief Charles Middleton will retire at the end of this year, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Glynn County Commission Finance Committee will consider hiring an engineering firm for beach restoration outside the normal procurement process, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax 2016 Oversight Committee met to hear updates on projects financed under the 2016 tax measure, according to The Brunswick News.

Candidates for Mayor of Grantville met in a public forum, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

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