On January 31, 1733, six boats carried Georgia’s first colonists to Trench’s Island, now called Hilton Head Island, where they spent the night before continuing on to land in Georgia at Yamacraw Bluff on February 1, 1733.
On January 31, 1865, Robert E. Lee began service as Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate armies.
On January 31, 1865, Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing slavery.
General William Tecumseh Sherman visited Kimball Opera House in Atlanta on January 31, 1879, which was then serving as State Capitol, fifteen years after burning the city.
On January 31, 1893, the trademark for “Coca-Cola” was filed.
Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker was suspended on January 31, 2000 for remarks made to ESPN.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections
Homeland Security officials said 33 people have been arrested in association with human trafficking ahead of Atlanta’s Super Bowl, according to 11Alive.
On Wednesday, authorities with Homeland Security said that 33 people have been arrested for sex trafficking during the last four days of active investigation in the Atlanta area. Four people have been recovered to date.
“Our operations are continuing so I won’t go specifically into what we’re doing because we plan to run those operations throughout the rest of the Super Bowl,” said Nick Annan, Atlanta Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations. “We’ve been up and running for the last four days of our operations, but we plan to continue what we’re doing.”
Atlanta is considered one of the biggest hubs of sex trafficking nationwide. And the illegal business is prominent during major sporting events, according to research.
Cobb County‘s legislative delegation held a
kerfuffle meeting that ended early due to loss of a quorum, according to the AJC.
The delegation recently flipped from majority Republican to majority Democrat after November’s suburban ‘blue wave,’ and Democrats had agreed on a slate of nominees going into the meeting, said State Sen. Jen Jordan.
At the top of their list for chair was State Rep. David Wilkerson. But just after his nomination, Republicans put forward their own candidate: Democratic State Sen. Michael Rhett.
Jordan accused Rhett of cutting a “side deal” with Republicans to “circumvent the slate that had been decided by the Democrats.”
She said the walkout was intended to buy time while the Democrats regroup to decide their next step.
State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, who will remain in his position as chair for the time being, said he hasn’t decided on a course of action yet. He dismissed Democrats’ accusations that Republicans were doing something nefarious by supporting Rhett, who he called a “consensus-builder.”
Former State Rep. Dan Gasaway‘s lawyer finished making his case for a new election in House District 28, according to AccessWDUN.
On Monday, Gasaway’s case against the boards of elections and registration in Banks, Habersham and Stephens counties and against current House District 28 Rep. Chris Erwin began before Senior Judge David Sweat.
The case resumed Wednesday morning with Gasaway’s attorney Jake Evans questioning his expert witness, Mark Alan Davis, president of Data Productions in Suwanee, about the location of a number of voters named in the election challenge lawsuit.
Davis has been dealing with election data since 1986 and dealing with digital mapping for 18 to 20 years, he testified.
Davis remained on the stand until after 4:30 p.m. answering questions from Evans, Erwin’s attorney Brian Tyson, and Speed’s attorney Ken Stroud.
Davis testified he believed the residents at 725 Dan Waters Road were disenfranchised because they reside in House District 28 but weren’t offered the opportunity to vote in that district’s Dec. 4 Special Election because they are mis-assigned to House District 31.
“It’s a bit of a mess,” Davis said of the conflicting data he found for residents on the road.
Evans rested Gasaway’s case, and Tyson will begin to present evidence when court resumes at 9 a.m. Thursday, then on Friday the portion of the case related to Speed will be heard.
Augusta Democrats are excited to see Stacey Abrams deliver the Democratic response to the State of the Union, according to the Augusta Chronicle.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for her, and it shows leadership of the national Democratic party saw why she is a leader and should have won the governorship,” said Lowell Greenbaum, chairman emeritus of the Richmond County Democratic Party.
“The fact that she’s going before the whole United States next week is a tremendous plus for her,” he said. “If she does well, her star will rise so fast.”
The speech might counter Trump’s slight edge in Georgia, where he campaigned for Kemp, has the allegiance of state Republicans in Washington and appointed Perdue’s cousin, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
“Georgia is close to blue,” Greenbaum said. “Bringing a person from Georgia to do this is a big step in trying to overcome Trump in this state.”
“We are also proud that the Democratic party has chosen to demonstrate our commitment to strength in diversity. We need more voices like Stacey Abrams,” [Columbia County Democratic Party Chair Elizabeth Brooks] Hahn said.
In picking Abrams, the Georgian who narrowly lost her bid to be the nation’s first African-American woman governor, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is reflecting the party’s hope to win future elections with appeals to women and people of color. He’s also signaling the party’s desire to make inroads in the diversifying South and Sun Belt after disappointing losses there during last year’s midterms.
Abrams, 45, represents the growing political clout of black women. That’s something Schumer wants to tap into by recruiting her to compete in next year’s Georgia Senate race, a decision that could have national implications for Democrats if she successfully flips the seat and, in the process, turns out enough voters to make the Deep South state competitive at the presidential level.
Schumer and others “understand the power and prowess and contributions of black women … and choosing Stacey Abrams is the physical embodiment of that recognition,” said Democratic strategist Symone Sanders.
With its growing diversity and urbanization, Georgia is being eyed as one of the next battleground states. Abrams’ performance in 2018 surprised observers who assumed a toss-up environment was several elections away. Her 1.92 million votes were about 85,000 more than what Democrat Hillary Clinton received in a higher-turnout presidential election two years earlier.
Despite Abrams’ loss, her presence at the top of the ticket helped others. Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath flipped a suburban Atlanta congressional seat Republicans had occupied for decades. A neighboring suburban district went narrowly to the GOP incumbent and is again a top Democratic target in 2020. Democrats also flipped at least a dozen state legislative seats across the northern Atlanta suburbs, mirroring trends in metro areas across the country.
The Gainesville Times looks at Governor Brian Kemp’s proposed education funding.
During the gubernatorial race last fall, Kemp promised certified teachers a $5,000 pay raise.
In his budget proposal released this month, however, Kemp proposed a $3,000 increase as a “down payment” on his campaign promise.
Kemp is also pushing for more than $8 million in additional funding for mental health counseling in high schools.
He wants to provide $30,000 for school security improvements to each school in Georgia.
Kemp’s proposed budget totals $27.5 billion.
Georgia legislators unveiled legislation to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment, according to GPB News.
Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) were flanked by men and women representing both the state house and the senate as they made the announcement Wednesday afternoon.
Each woman has sponsored an identical version of the measure, which only needs a simple majority of each chamber to pass.
Unterman’s resolution had 22 cosponsors, including the only other female Republican senator and several male colleagues.
She said having a version authored by a Republican and one by a Democrat would give senate leadership the option of choice if they didn’t want to vote on a “Democrat” bill.
“Typically the minority party does not have the same opportunities the majority party does,” she said, indicating there’s no reason not to move forward with it.
So far, 37 states have ratified the amendment, which would add “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex” to the Constitution.
Congress passed it in 1972, but it has not yet met the threshold of 38 states required to make it official. Only 35 states ratified the measure by the original deadline of 1982.
Georgia State Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) has signed onto legislation to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment, according to the Rome News-Tribune.
A push for Georgia to become the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment — which supporters say would usher it across the constitutional threshold for ratification — has gained steam with the backing of some prominent Republicans.
Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, is among those who signed on this week.
Democratic state Sen. Nan Orrock of Atlanta and Republican state Sen. Renee Unterman of Buford are leading backers of a push to ratify the ERA. Supporters say that after years of disappointment, current efforts are showing promise because of newfound support among some Republicans and male lawmakers, spurred by the #MeToo movement and the 2018 midterm elections which saw so many women participate and run.
In addition to Unterman, state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick of Marietta, the only other Republican woman in the Georgia Senate, is a co-signer. So are five of their male Republican colleagues: Hufstetler, Sen. John Albers of Roswell, Sen. Matt Brass of Newnan, Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta and Sen. P.K. Martin of Lawrenceville.
Georgia State Senator Matt Brass (R-Newnan) told the Newnan Times-Herald legislation on medical cannabis will be forthcoming.
Brass, R-Newnan, was co-chairman of the Joint Study Commission on Low THC Medical Oil Access, which met several times last year and came out with a set of recommendations for a regulated system of in-state production of the medical oil, made from marijuana.
The bill is being crafted on the House side, and will go through the House of Representatives before heading over to the Senate, according to Brass.
“They’re still taking some input from parents, input from the industry and input from various other groups, and they’ll try to marry all the requests into one bill that will be within the confines of the report that we released and the recommendations we put out there,” Brass said Wednesday.
“We all decided it would be best to get it started in the House and let it go from there,” Brass said. “There’s no rocket science to that. We’d just like to have a little momentum,” he said.
DeKalb County‘s state senate delegation approved proposed legislation to re-form the county ethics board, according to the AJC.
The DeKalb County Senate Delegation has now signed off on Senate Bill 7, which outlines new procedures for selecting who will serve on the seven-person board.
Under the proposal, the DeKalb House and Senate delegations will appoint two members each. One Ethics Board member will be selected by a majority vote of the county commission. The county’s Probate Court judge and chief Superior Court judge will continue to appoint one member each.
DeKalb voters would decide whether to approve these changes in a referendum on the ballot in November. If the measure passes, a new Ethics Board would be selected by Dec. 31.
Sen. Emanuel Jones, chairman of the county’s Senate Delegation, said he has already begun the process of getting the bill approved in that chamber as part of a slate of local bills.
Sonny Deriso will serve this year as Chair of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, according to the Albany Herald.
“It is an honor and privilege to serve as the 2019 chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce,” Deriso said. “Being a member of the board of directors for over 20 years, this opportunity hits right at home. I plan to continue supporting the chamber as we focus on the businesses from corner to corner around the state, working closer with (Chamber President and CEO) Chris (Clark) as he focuses on bettering Georgians is most fulfilling.”
Deriso is chairman and director of Atlantic Capital Bancshares Inc. and Atlantic Capital Bank in Atlanta.
“We are thrilled to have Sonny lead our organization in 2019,” Clark said. “Sonny is a true servant leader and a dedicated addition to our chamber board and executive committee. Sonny understands the issues facing rural Georgia, as well as the issues important to urban and suburban areas across the state.”
Chattahoochee Valley Libraries has opened two new “24-Hour Libraries,” according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
[N]ew 24-hour Libraries are considered a cost-effective way to make it easier for residents in the growing areas of north Columbus to borrow books and DVDs from the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries. And these two are considered the first of their kind in the Southeast.
The 24-Hour Libraries are like self-service vending machines, enclosed in heated and air-conditioned structures. Each unit, manufactured by EnvisionWare of Duluth, Ga., weighs approximately 6,000 pounds when empty, measuring 7.87 feet deep and high and 11.48 feet wide. Patrons can browse the 347 items in each machine as they rotate along three rows. Using their library card, they use a display screen to select their items.
Brunswick City Commission is considering a contract to build a proposed Oglethorpe Conference Center, according to The Brunswick News.
LaRon Bennett, chairman of the Brunswick Urban Redevelopment Agency, sent the letter asking city officials to consider the request at the Feb. 6 City Commission meeting.
Bennett’s letter, sent to Mayor Cornell Harvey and the City Commission, asks them to approve a contract with Elkins Construction LLC to determine the cost of the conference center as currently planned. The study is estimated to cost between $30,000 and $35,000.
City officials voted on Dec. 19 to reject a $5 million bond agreement to fund the $7.1 million construction project. The money was needed to up the difference between the $2.5 million in remaing SPLOST money and what was needed to build the conference center.
The project has been in the planning phase since 2001 when voters approved the first of two one-cent local option sales taxes to build the proposed center on Newcastle Street.
The Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission recommended approval of a plan to demolish an old freight depot outside the Historic District, according to the Savannah Morning News.
The property owner, WEDP, will next have to present the general development plan to develop 255 market-rate apartments at the site at 703 Louisville Road, along with an accompanying rezoning, to the Savannah City Council for consideration.
The vote on Tuesday came after a consultant’s report commissioned by WEDP found that the terminal was not eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places due to significant architectural alterations during the past 50 years.
The owner’s representatives also said that — regardless of whether tax credits would be available — preserving the structure would not be economically feasible due to the building’s dilapidated condition and significant design and engineering challenges that would be associated with erecting the project around the depot building located on a brownfield site.
Scott James Matheson will run for Mayor of Valdosta, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.
Scott James Matheson is best known as radio host Scott James. He hosts a talk radio show, owns and operates a radio station, co-chairs the One-Lowndes Valdosta initiative, is on the SPLOST steering committee and is the president-elect of the Leadership Lowndes board.
“This town has given me a lot, folks,” Matheson said. “I’ve given a lot back to Valdosta as well. I’ve given my heart and soul. I’ve racked up 29 years worth of volunteer hours from charity roof sits to river cleanups.”
Matheson has government experience. He served six years as a city councilman and was mayor pro-tem for two years in Remerton.
He will face former Valdosta Fire Department chief J. D. Rice and former city councilman David Sumner, who have both announced their intention to run for mayor.
Official qualifying is later this year.
Valdosta City Schools and Lowndes County Schools have put a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education (E-SPLOST) on the March 19, 2019 ballot, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.
E-SPLOST VI would run from October 2022 to September 2027. A special election for the next proposed E-SPLOST is scheduled for March 19.
The best part about E-SPLOST is more than half of the people that pay into it aren’t local to Valdosta and Lowndes County,” [Lowndes Superintendent Wes] Taylor said.
“The sales tax is paid by everyone who shops or spends the night or buys gas or eats out in Valdosta and Lowndes County, which includes numerous visitors from surrounding communities and those traveling up and down I-75,” Taylor said.
The special election allows voters living in District 2 of Valdosta City Schools — from Pineview Drive, south to Old Statenville Road, and from Oak Street, east to Forrest Street with the exception of the neighborhood that includes Stillwater and Brookwood, south to Alley Street — to select a new City Schools board member once held by Vanassa Flucas.
Though Election Day is at the precincts from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., March 19, early voting starts three weeks before at the Elections Office, 2808 N. Oak St.
The City of Demorest is repairing a water main break that lost more than a half-million gallons per day, according to AccessWDUN.
Buford City Schools announced that Robert Downs will serve as the new Superintendent, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.