Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 28, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 28, 2019

Lt. Colonel George Washington fought French and Indian scouts on May 28, 1754, beginning the Seven Years War.

On May 28, 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, requiring all Native Americans to relocate west of the Mississippi River.

The Battle of Dallas, Georgia began on May 28, 1864. Click here to watch Week 7 of the Georgia Public Broadcasting/Atlanta History Center series on the Civil War in Georgia.

Happy Birthday to Gladys Knight, born in Atlanta on May 28, 1944.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early Voting begins today in a June 18 Special Election for Flowery Branch City Council, according to the Gainesville Times.

Ed Asbridge, Missy Brooks and Chip McCallum are seeking the Post 2 seat vacated in December by Mary Jones, who died May 2.

The winner will serve out Jones’ term, which ends Dec. 31.

It may be a short stint, unless the new council member seeks the four-year term beginning Jan. 1 in the Nov. 5 election. But it shouldn’t be a slow one.

The DeKalb County Courthouse has been evacuated and closed due to a suspicious package, according to the AJC.

Governor Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr announced the formation of a new unit to prosecute human trafficking, according to a press release.

“One victim of human trafficking in the state of Georgia is one too many,” said Governor Kemp. “Marty and I are dedicated to ending this horrific crime which is why we worked with members of the General Assembly to prioritize funding for the creation of this unit. Starting January 1, Attorney General Carr will have the resources he needs to crack down on this industry and make sure that buyers and traffickers know Georgia is a hostile environment for those who seek to abuse our children.”

“Today, we take a large step forward in the fight to end human trafficking in the State of Georgia,” said First Lady Marty Kemp. “The GRACE Commission members and I are excited to partner with the new Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit to stop the bad actors fueling this terrible industry and protect our state’s most vulnerable.”

The Human Trafficking Unit will be comprised of the following positions:
• Senior Prosecutor
• Junior Prosecutor
• Criminal Investigator
• Crime Analyst
• Victim Advocate
• Administrative Assistant

“We are excited to build this Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit with dedicated staff who will work every day to protect our state’s most vulnerable and put buyers and traffickers behind bars,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “These resources are critically important, and we are grateful to Governor and First Lady Kemp and the Georgia General Assembly for making our unit a priority in the FY 2020 budget.”

“Human trafficking is a vile trade which we will not tolerate in Georgia,” said Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). “The General Assembly is committed to supporting the work to eradicate this criminal enterprise, and I thank Governor Kemp and the First Lady as well as Attorney General Carr for their unwavering resolve to end human trafficking in our state.”

The unit will be housed within the Attorney General’s Prosecution Division, working closely with local, state and federal law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases.

United States Secretary of Agriculture (and former Georgia Governor) Sonny Perdue writes about the proposed US-Mexico-Canada trade deal and the effects it will have on agriculture, in an op-ed published in the Ledger-Enquirer.

The University of Georgia recently published a study claiming the new United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement would cost some Georgia vegetable and fruit growers revenue and jobs. The sensational assertions are flat wrong. As a proud UGA alumnus, I’m here to tell you USMCA is good for Georgia’s farmers and all American agriculture.

Chapter by chapter, verse by verse, USMCA improves virtually every component of NAFTA and Georgia’s agriculture industry stands to gain significantly. It’s important to note we didn’t get all the improvements we wanted for seasonal fruits and vegetables. While we were hopeful we could make progress in the renewed NAFTA, USMCA isn’t a step backward. The UGA study assumed we lost ground, but the facts are it wasn’t ground we had to begin with. Since the inception of NAFTA more than 20 years ago, agricultural trade between our three countries has boomed. U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico increased by about 300% and our imports increased by almost 500%, benefiting producers and consumers on both sides of our borders.

The premise for UGA’s study is USMCA will not protect Georgia farmers from cheap Mexican fruits and vegetables. Because of that, the researchers came up with imagined scenarios in which they say a set of fruit and vegetable farmers would be vulnerable to competition. They neglect to mention farmers already face such competition under NAFTA. And they overlook the ways the Administration is fighting for a level playing field in the seasonal fruit and vegetable market.

USMCA benefits Georgia’s entire agricultural industry. By ensuring better market access and solidifying commitments to fair and science-based trade rules with our top trading partners, USMCA is a big win. For the first time, trading rules specifically address agricultural biotechnology to support innovation and reduce trade-distorting policies. Poultry producers have new access to Canada for chicken and eggs, and expanded access for turkey. Corn growers maintain duty-free access to Mexico, which is the top market for U.S. corn. USMCA updates rules of origin for processed fruits to ensure preferences benefit U.S. producers.

Savannah Pro-Abortion Protestors gathered last week, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“I have one message for Governor Kemp: We’ll see you in court,” said Staci Fox, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Southeast. “The people of this state stood up and spoke out against this draconian legislation and our lawmakers chose not to listen. Now we are mobilizing and we are coming for their seats. They will be held accountable for playing politics with women’s health.”

In Savannah, it raised questions and sparked confusion of what’s legal and what’s not.

“Our call centers have been inundated with calls,” said Barbara Ann Luttrell, PPSE spokeswoman. “People are worried that abortion is illegal. The most important thing we want people to know that abortions are legal. They can receive care.”

On Tuesday, dozens of protesters marched from Johnson Square to Chippewa Square in opposition of the band as one of hundreds across the country protesting of recent restrictive abortion bills signed into law by multiple states in the past weeks.

Atlanta Pro-Abortion Protestors gathered at the Capitol on Saturday, according to the AJC.

The crowd assembled on Washington Street SW shortly after noon to start the mile march to CNN Center, chanting, “My body, my choice.”

Organized under the name #DoBetterGA, the gathering wanted to bring attention to House Bill 481, which was signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Brian Kemp. The changes take effect in January but face a certain court challenge before then; Liliana Bakhtiari, speaking on behalf of Planned Parenthood Southeast, promised it.

“Kemp, we have a message for you,” Bakhtiari said. “You will be seeing us in court soon.”

The crowd, carrying signs and chanting pro-abortion rights slogans, filled Washington Street in front of the Capitol . But it all started with a group of college-aged activists and “20 or 30” messages to friends, said Molly Weston, a 19-year-old from Atlanta and one of the event’s co-organizers.

Speakers at the event came from other pro-abortion rights activist groups including Georgia’s chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Southeast and Black Votes Matter. Many of those who spoke emphasized that the abortion law and similar legislation does not only impact women, but the population at large.

Old White Guy Former Vice President Joe Biden will campaign for President in Georgia next month, according to the AJC.

Atlanta is going to feel a bit like Iowa on June 6.

Three presidential candidates were already set to visit the city that day for a fundraiser with Stacey Abrams.

Now former Vice President Joe Biden just revealed plans to trek to Atlanta on June 5 for an event – details have not yet been released – and stick around for a midday fundraiser the next day.

His visit coincides with the June 6 fundraiser that will bring U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke to the city for a joint event with Abrams, who is still considering whether to run for president.

In Houston County, a 17-year old is charged with murder in alleged gang violence, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Jaqwelvyn Smith, 17, was taken into police custody shortly after the 9:41 p.m. shooting April 21 at the intersection of Poole and Hamlin streets in Byron after the victim identified him as the shooter, said Sgt. Melanie Bickford, who is over investigations for Byron police.

Smith was originally charged with aggravated assault. New warrants will likely be handed down by end of day Wednesday.

Smith was a known as member of Piru, a sect of the Bloods gang, while there was no evidence to suggest Merion was in any gang, Bickford said.

Byron has been experiencing a rise in gang activity in that area over the last two years, Bickford said.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter announced his office will expand their anti-gang task force, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

On Friday, Porter announced the expansion, saying the drug task force has “successfully prosecuted large drug-cartel cases in Gwinnett County for years” but “will now bring the expertise of its members to bear on criminal street gangs as well.”

The unit will now be called the Drug and Gang Task Force.

“Although law enforcement in Gwinnett County has always worked together to fight the gang problem, by formally organizing my office’s Task Force to handle complex gang cases and by my office obtaining the latest technology to provide to law enforcement, I believe that we can improve the effectiveness of our effort overall,” Porter said. “This will also make it easier for us to work with other Formulytics users and with state and federal agencies.”

Formulytics is a specific gang case management system Porter received through a grant, he said. The district attorney has also made its use available to local law enforcement.

“Gangs have had a presence in Gwinnett County for several years, and Porter is answering the complaints of the Gwinnett citizens that actually live with the threat of gangs in their neighborhoods and schools,” said Lisa Jones, one of Porter’s chief assistant district attorneys. “Early responses to things that are seemingly innocuous like graffiti and petty theft hopefully prevent the egregious escalation to violence. Such escalation has been evidenced by a recent rash of shootings allegedly connected to gang-retaliation matters.”

“Disturbingly, gang culture seems to have permeated our society, and we have seen a rise in ‘hybrid gangs,’ gangs that are localized in our neighborhoods and schools,” Jones said. “They might even have no formal allegiance to traditional, national gangs, but adopt their colors and signs. Some members of hybrid gangs will change their gang allegiance simply because of where they live or work.”

“An increased focus on gangs will also necessarily involve the education and participation of the public,” the DA’s office said. “Materials and training are planned so that gang activity can be recognized by parents, school officials, churches and mentors.”

Savannah City Manager Rob Hernandez is out on medical leave, and Patrick Monahan is acting city manager, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools have released the first draft of their 2020 budget, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The fiscal year 2020 Budget Process document used for the May 15 public hearing assumed a 4% growth in the tax digest, Savannah-Chatham County Budget Director Paige Cooley said. “We’re projecting a $7 million increase in fiscal year ’20 as opposed to this year,” she said.

The $7 million increase also is stated in the Preliminary Budget, but the percentage increase it uses from the current fiscal year is 2.7%, not 4% as described in the Budget Process document, which is available from the agenda posted on Local tax revenue is expected to generate $276.5 million of the general fund, which Cooley described as the day-to-day fund for the district. It does not include much local tax revenue from the 1% Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) collected at the register.

The administration’s Budget Process document provides a breakout of an overall Savannah-Chatham County public schools budget of $607.7 million, with the general fund accounting for $447.1 million. Capital projects account for $77.0 million, special revenue like Title I and School Food Service revenue represents $68.1 million, a debt service fund is estimated at $11.7 million and an internal service fund at $3.8 million.

“Two areas I just want to point out are components of Gov. Kemp’s budget recommendation, and this proposed budget includes a $3,000 certificated staff salary increase for all certificated staff and a 2% pay raise for all classified employees,” Cooley said.

Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods and Governor’s Office of Student Achievement Executive Director Joy Hawkins are held a listening session, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Their two-hour listening session Tuesday morning at the First District Regional Educational Service Agency headquarters in Brooklet was the 13th of 16 such sessions, one in each RESA region. About 50 people, including superintendents of most of the 19 public school systems that First District RESA serves, filled the room. Woods reported seeing similar levels of interest and participation from local superintendents and support staff in other regions.

“Of course, school safety is one of the topics that keep coming up,” Woods said after the meeting. “They’re looking at teacher raises, teacher recruitment and retention. Dual enrollment, the QBE formula and assessment and accountability are probably some of the major topics that we consistently hear across the state.”

“Some of the other barriers that they’re commenting on are redundancies that have occurred between our agency and the DOE, and that’s an easy fix,” Hawkins said. “To have two masters doesn’t make any sense, so we’re working with the DOE to figure out what should be with GOSA and what DOE should take on so that school systems are not confused about who they report to and whose goals they aspire to.”

“The message from our superintendents was we want to be held accountable for what we’re doing, but they’ve got two different mechanisms right now and they measure different things,” Smith said. “We’d like to see them get one single accountability measure and leave it the same for some time.”

Muscogee County School Superintendent Virginia Korcha spoke about proposed changes to school times, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Tabitha Ponder Beckford of Moultrie announced she will run for an open seat on the Georgia Court of Appeals being vacated by Judge Sara Doyles, according to the Albany Herald.

Glynn County Tax Commissioner Jeff Chapman will soon complete an expansion of their physical offices, according to The Brunswick News.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced that commercial and recreational shrimp season will open at 8 AM on Wednesday, and oyster season closes Saturday, according to The Brunswick News.

“The data collected through DNR’s Ecological Monitoring Trawl Survey show that Georgia shrimp numbers are in great shape this year and are higher than average at the moment,” B.J. Hilton, a DNR marine biologist, said in a statement. “We feel the numbers and count size are where they need to be to open the fishery in Georgia’s state waters.

“The water temperature is well above what last year’s averages, which allowed inland waters to warm faster and speed up the growth and development of the shrimp in estuaries. In turn, the shrimp migrated to sounds and beaches earlier than normal to spawn.”

The closing of wild oyster harvesting is to reduce the chances of people contracting illnesses from Vibrio parahaemolyticus, instances of which increase in filter-feeding shellfish as waters warm.

“This closure ensures that Georgia meets the requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program to protect public health by implementing a Vp control plan,” Dominic Guadagnoli, shellfish fishery manager for the DNR Coastal Resources Division, said in a statement. “We expect this closure to have little adverse impact on recreational and commercial oyster harvesters, since most individuals refrain from eating freshly harvested wild oysters during the summer months when the combination of spawning and warm water makes oysters less desirable as seafood.”

I’d like a fried platter, please.

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