Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Politics for April 9, 2019

9
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Politics for April 9, 2019

After two days of exchanging letters with his Union counterpart, Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee agreed to meet and make arrangements for the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. At 2 PM on April 9, 1865, Lee and Grant met in a private home owned by Wilmer McLean at Appomattox Court House, Virginia and Lee agreed to the surrender of his army.

Lee was resplendent in his dress uniform and a fine sword at his side. Grant arrived wearing a simple soldier’s coat that was muddy from his long ride. The great generals spoke of their service in the Mexican War, and then set about the business at hand. Grant offered generous terms. Officers could keep their side arms, and all men would be immediately released to return home. Any officers and enlisted men who owned horses could take them home, Grant said, to help put crops in the field and carry their families through the next winter. These terms, said Lee, would have “the best possible effect upon the men,” and “will do much toward conciliating our people.” The papers were signed and Lee prepared to return to his men.

From the account by Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain:

“At such a time and under such conditions I thought it eminently fitting to show some token of our feeling, and I therefore instructed my subordinate officers to come to the position of ‘salute’ in the manual of arms as each body of the Confederates passed before us.”

“When General Gordon came opposite me I had the bugle blown and the entire line came to ‘attention,’ preparatory to executing this movement of the manual successively and by regiments as Gordon’s columns should pass before our front, each in turn.”

“The General was riding in advance of his troops, his chin drooped to his breast, downhearted and dejected in appearance almost beyond description. At the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his swordpoint to his toe in salutation.”

“By word of mouth General Gordon sent back orders to the rear that his own troops take the same position of the manual in the march past as did our line. That was done, and a truly imposing sight was the mutual salutation and farewell.”

On April 9, 1968, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta held the funeral for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. More than 100,000 mourners reportedly showed up for the funeral, which could accomodate only 800; 200,000 mourners followed the mule-drawn hearse to Morehouse College.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Politics

As voters head to the polls again in yet another redo of the House District 28 Primary from 2018, we pray for a landslide. We don’t care for whom, just that either candidate win by such a commanding margin as to allow no more redos. From NowHabersham.com:

Republicans Dan Gasaway and Chris Erwin have been embroiled in a contentious campaign to reclaim the seat both previously held. Gasaway served as HD 28 state representative for six years. Erwin served as state representative for two weeks before his election was overturned by a judge back in February.

Judge David Sweat threw out the results of both the May 22, 2018 HD 28 GOP primary and the Dec. 4, 2018 redo of that primary because of voting problems in Habersham County.

House District 28 voters aren’t holding their breath for the results of those investigations, but they are holding onto hope for today’s election. Despite battling voter fatigue, people are going to the polls intent on achieving a fair and decisive election result.

Regardless of the outcome, Gasaway says he won’t file any more legal challenges. His motion to recoup attorney fees and litigation costs is still pending in Banks County Superior Court.

The Ledger-Enquirer speculates about what might happen in the 2020 Georgia Democratic Primary for United States Senate.

The two women [Stacey Abrams and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson] and the decisions soon to come will shape the race. Democrats are making a hard charge at regaining a majority in the Senate, and Georgia seems to be a key part of their plans.

Thirty-four Senate seats are up for election in 2020, and Democrats will need at least a net gain of three seats to claim a majority. Of those 34, 22 seats are held by Republicans. A political forecasting website, 270towin.com, lists the Georgia race as “leans Republican.”

The 2020 Senate race in the Peach State is critical, said Democratic strategist Tharon Johnson.

“There is no easy path to winning those seats based on the states in play, which means Democrats are going to need to be competitive everywhere,” he said. “A victory for Democrats in Georgia is instrumental to winning back the majority. Republicans will need to spend a lot of money to have a chance at keeping this seat and spending more resources here means fewer resources spent elsewhere. Investing in Georgia Democrats will be key in the 2020 cycle.”

“It’s more of a battleground than people realize. … Democrats realized that with Stacey Abrams last year,” [Republican pollster John McLaughlin] said. “Four years ago, they tried the same formula, Jason Carter was running against Nathan Deal and we were able to win decisively.”

When asked if she’d drop out of the race if Abrams entered, Tomlinson stopped short of saying outright she’d leave but she did say that she doesn’t want to work against Abrams.

“Stacey Abrams and I have been in the trenches of Democratic politics in the state of Georgia for a very long time, and we’re excited about the fact that finally all this hard work is paying off,” Tomlinson said. “It is a two-party state, and we are well poised to have a Democratic senator in the United States Senate from Georgia. So we want to make sure that we’re not working against each other, or that our efforts are not colliding in that shared objective.”

Governor Brian Kemp announced Georgia’s March tax collections, according to AccessWDUN.

 According to press information, the State of Georgia’s net tax collections for March totaled nearly $1.67 billion for an increase of $109 million, or 7 percent, compared to March 2018, when net tax collections totaled almost $1.56 billion. Year-to-date, net tax collections totaled $17.04 billion for an increase of $380 million, or 2.3 percent, compared to the previous fiscal year, when net tax revenues totaled $16.66 billion through three quarters.

Gov. Kemp spoke about the attempted state takeover of the Atlanta airport, according to the AJC.

“Sometimes you can be thankful, as Georgians, that nothing actually happened,” he told the Rotary Club of Atlanta on Monday. “That is a very important issue not only for this city, but for this state. And we have to be very cautious about it.”

Speaking to a few dozen business leaders, Kemp said he stayed “fairly quiet” because he could see both sides of the issue.

“I understand completely Sen. (Burt) Jones’ reasoning for introducing what he did,” he said of the measure’s Republican sponsor. “I understand some of the reservations that the speaker and members of the House had.”

Kemp was particularly miffed about the jet fuel incentive, which stalled amid Senate objections despite his personal lobbying of GOP lawmakers. He said the issue shouldn’t have been “controversial” but became more toxic when it got bound together with the airport issue.

Senate Bill 65 by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) will affect automobile taxes, according to the AJC.

The measure was passed with no fanfare at the end of the 2019 session, which finished up Tuesday. The bill ended, at least for now, a battle that had been going on annually since the General Assembly changed how auto sales were taxed seven years ago.

“We finally have an agreement between the new-car dealers and the used-car dealers,” state Sen. Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla, announced from the Senate floor just before the final vote. “All industry partners are supporting it.”

Under the measure, pushed for three years by state Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, the tax rate you pay when you buy a car would drop from 7 percent to 6.6 percent starting Jan. 1. That rate would last until 2023.

The sticking point has been whether a used car would be taxed on the book value, or estimated value, of the vehicle or its sales price, which is generally higher. Currently, new cars are taxed on the sales price. Under legislation passed in 2012, used cars are taxed on the book value.

Under SB 65, used cars sold by dealers other than so-called “buy here, pay here” dealers would be based on the higher sales price.

So while the tax rate would go down, it would be calculated using the higher sales price.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) wrote to the House Judiciary Committee Chair asking to invite Robert Mueller to testify, according to AccessWDUN.

 Collins encouraged Nadler to invite Special Counsel Mueller to testify the week after Easter, which is the week of April 22, when the House is expected to be in recess. However, Collins said he believed his compatriots would agree the business was too important to wait, and would return to Washington.

Former Augusta Mayor Bob Young was presented the key to the city, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Young himself was honored Monday night at the same event he started 20 years ago. Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis said he was happy to honor “a very good friend” and joked that he wasn’t sure if there was a precedent for a mayor giving a former mayor the key to the city and a proclamation before handing both to Young.

“It was fitting for us to think about the work that Mayor Bob Young did when he brought a group of business people in the community together for the expressed purpose of trying to connect those individuals in the community who might not necessarily get a chance to get inside the ropes,” Davis said. “The event allows the mayor and the city “to be able to bring people together on a night like tonight that serves as the kickoff for the Masters Tournament here in the city of Augusta.”

“We started off in a very humble beginning at the Julian Smith Casino, not knowing who would come, if anybody would come,” he said. But over the first six years when he was mayor, the event honored the likes of not only Palmer, Nicklaus and Nelson but Sam Snead, Nick Faldo and Augusta natives Larry Mize and Charles Howell, as well as future champions Sergio Garcia and Angel Cabrera. Some of that was due to some help from a couple of members of Augusta National Golf Club, Young said.

“They were kind enough to reach out to some folks and get them to come, to make those connections we otherwise would not have been able to make,” he said.

We think a key to the Augusta National Golf Club would be more valuable.

Macon-Bibb County enters another round of budgeting, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Among the most pressing questions: Will be a property tax increase for the third year in a row? And will there be any changes to how much funding outside agencies receive from the county?

Several commissioners say they think there’s a way to avoid the messy situation from last year, although some disagreements over county spending may crop up again.

Last summer, officials approved an emergency budget that cut funding for external agencies and two county departments before narrowly approving an amended budget and 3 mill property tax increase.

If we want to make a budget that’s no mill rate increase, no salary increase, I think we have that option,” Commissioner Virgil Watkins said about the fiscal 2020 budget. “We’ve managed the budget fairly well. Whether if people want to talk about some new innovations, I don’t know.”

The County Commission is expected to host a series of budget meetings after Mayor Robert Reichert presents his budget in early May.

Bert Poston, District Attorney for the Conasauga Circuit (Murray and Whitfield Counties) said he expects a report from the GBI on allegations against Varnell Police Chief Lyle Grant, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The GBI is investigating Grant for possible theft by conversion and reckless conduct for “providing” an encrypted portable radio owned by Whitfield County to a local wrecker service, “disregarding the potential safety risks to law enforcement officers engaged in undercover/sting/narcotics operations,” according to an incident report.

The case was referred to the GBI in March by the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office. A statement from the sheriff’s office said, “The sheriff’s office initiated an investigation after recovering an encrypted portable radio which contained numerous frequencies that were being used throughout the county. It was determined shortly after starting the investigation that criminal charges could arise from this incident, therefore the case was turned over to the GBI to investigate.”

Grant provided an encrypted police radio to Bob Cummings, owner of Bob’s Wrecker Service in Dalton. Grant told a reporter in March that Bob’s is the only towing service that applied to be on Varnell’s rotation this year to be called when wrecks occur.

“I did not intend to violate any laws or policies. I only intended to benefit the city of Varnell,” Grant said.

The report notes that Whitfield County purchased the radios with proceeds from a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) and allowed the city of Varnell to use some of the radios, only requiring the city to pay annual maintenance fees. Grant said the city has nine other radios.

Municipalities that use the Hall County Detention Center may face higher charges, according to AccessWDUN.

Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch alerted city leaders to the proposed change recently.

“The sheriff called me about a week ago…and he pointed out that we’ve never incarcerated anybody in his jail,” Bergin said.

Lula doesn’t have its own police force and therefore doesn’t send people to jail but should there be changes in the future the increased housing cost could affect the city.

“We talked about it a little bit briefly today at lunch with all the other cities that received the same proposal,” Bergin said. “The county commission has already approved the rate of $60 per day, so I don’t know how much wiggle room there is.”

“In the old agreements, there was a booking fee, which was about $75,” Bergin said. “This agreement, in a nutshell – just giving you the top and bottom of it – there would be no booking fee, so it would be a flat $60 a day. Let’s let our attorney review that.”

The Sons of the American Revolution will join local government agencies in dedicating a statue of Lyman Hall, signer of the Declaration of Independence, in Gainesville, according to AccessWDUN.

Statesboro is seeking a $2 million dollar Community Development Block Grant, according to the Statesboro Herald.

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