Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 3, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 3, 2019

On July 4, 1776, the United States declared its independence from Great Britain.

On July 2, 1826, representatives from Georgia and Alabama met to begin surveying the border between the two.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826.

On July 4, 1868, the Georgia General Assembly convened for the first time after passage of the Constitution of 1868 with a legislature comprising 186 members, of whom 36 were African-American.

On July 3, 1889, the Georgia General Assembly held its last session at the Kimball Opera House, located at the corner of Marietta and Forsyth Streets in downtown Atlanta before moving into a new Georgia State Capitol. On July 4, 1889, the Georgia State Capitol was dedicated, then housing all three branches of the state government.

Happy birthday to Idaho, which became a state on July 3, 1890.

On July 3, 1913, the Georgia state Senate tabled a motion to allow the Georgia Women’s Suffrage Association to address the chamber.

On July 3, 1970, the Atlanta Pop Festival was held in Byron, Georgia.

Among the artists playing at Byron were the Allman Brothers Band and Jimi Hendrix.

The Clash played their first live show on July 4, 1976 at The Black Swan in Sheffield, England.

Back to the Future was released on July 3, 1985.

On July 3, 1986, President Ronald Reagan reopened the Statue of Liberty after a two-year restoration.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia State Troopers will be on the roads this weekend across the state, according to the Albany Herald.

With record-setting roadway traffic expected for the Independence Day holiday period, Georgia public safety officials are reminding drivers in the state to stay alert and drive sober.

Last year, five people died in traffic fatalities in Georgia over a short 30-hour holiday period as determined by the Georgia Department of Public Safety.

This year’s holiday driving period is much longer at 102 hours. With the holiday falling on a Thursday, DPS officials count the period from 6 p.m. Wednesday to midnight Sunday.

“With a record number of travelers hitting the roadways this holiday, we want everyone to pack a load of patience for traffic delays and to put safety first by following the posted speed limit, not driving while impaired, making sure all occupants are restrained, and keeping your hands off of your cellphones,” Col. Mark W. McDonough, commissioner of the Georgia DPS, said.

The Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts was affected by a recent cyber attack, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

News outlets report hackers demanding a ransom infected computers with malware at the Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts. Agency spokesman Bruce Shaw said Monday officials have “quarantined our servers and shut off our network to the outside.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how many Georgia courts were affected, or to what degree their operations were interrupted. The agency’s website,, was offline Monday. Websites for the Georgia Supreme Court and court clerks in the state’s larger counties appeared to be operating.

The Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts provides computer applications to some local probate and municipal courts. Shaw said the agency doesn’t store private information aside from what’s in public court documents.

There has been no disruption to services in Lowndes County, said Paige Dukes, Lowndes County clerk and public information officer.

From the Rome News Tribune:

Floyd County’s courts are continuing to function in the wake of a malware attack on the state’s eCourt system, but Court Administrator Phil Hart said Tuesday some operations are on hold.

“We’re keeping a manual record of events and the sort of things we can’t schedule right now …. We can’t schedule hearings — civil, criminal, the whole deal,” Hart said. “We’re optimistic they will be able to recover fairly soon.”

The AOC is working with a range of federal and state experts including the FBI, GBI, Georgia Technology Authority, the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency and the Georgia National Guard Cyber Protection Team.

Hart said Floyd County previously maintained its case management system locally and had a back-up system. The move to the eCourt system — which interfaces with other courts around the state — was completed in February.

The old system was obsolete and voters approved a $500,000 earmark in the 2013 special purpose, local option sales tax package for new software.

A federal lawsuit claims that Georgia’s Department of Driver Services is imposing additional requirements on people moving from Puerto Rico, according to the AJC.

Human rights advocates have filed a lawsuit claiming Georgia illegally discriminates against citizens of Puerto Rican descent who seek driver’s licenses.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, says the state’s Department of Driver Services seizes the identity documents of Puerto Ricans and often fails to award licenses in a timely manner. It also says the department requires Puerto Ricans to take extra driver tests and to answer “trick” questions about Puerto Rico to prove they are from the U.S. territory.

The lawsuit says the Department of Driver Services is violating due process, equal protection and civil rights provisions of federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

Spokeswoman Susan Sports said the Department of Driver Services has not been served with the lawsuit. She said the issuance of all licenses — including those for applicants from Puerto Rico — are handled in accordance with state and federal law.

The lawsuit says Georgia does not afford the same reciprocity to Puerto Rico driver’s licenses that it extends to licenses issued by U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Unlike other out-of-state applicants, they also must successfully pass knowledge and road exams before a license is issued.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education held a meeting on the proposed property tax millage rate, and no members of the public showed up, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is proposing a 19.7-mill maintenance and operation millage rate — which is the rate used to determine how much money a property owner owes the district in property taxes — and a 1.9-mill debt service millage rate.

The proposed rate is slightly lower than the 19.8-mill maintenance and operation rate and the 1.95 debt service millage rate from 2018, but it’s still higher than the 18.434-mill rollback operations rate so three public hearings were scheduled to gather public input.

The only people in the audience at the first of those hearings, however, were a handful of district staff, including Heffron, who made the millage rate presentation to the board.

The school board will hold two more public hearings on the proposed millage rate, both of which will be held July 9 at the J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Support Center, which is located at 437 Old Peachtree Road NW in Suwanee.

The first of those hearings will be held at 11:45 a.m. and the second one will be held at 6 p.m.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioners have conditioned an alcohol sales permit for a convenience store on meeting new criteria, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Macon-Bibb County Commission approved a license for the new owner of Super Gas in Unionville. The license comes with conditions from the county designed to get rid of the troublemakers.

The requirements requested by the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office are:

No loitering signs posted
Alcohol not sold to anyone under 21
No sales of single cigarettes
Functioning security cameras
Adequate lighting

Commissioners are mandating the conditions are met within 30 days or the license will be revoked, said Commissioner Joe Allen.

People are known to gather outside the store for illegal purposes like selling drugs, Col. Henderson Carswell recently told commissioners. He said he doesn’t place blame on the previous owners for all the problems.

Sheriff David Davis said last week that there’s an opportunity for the new owner to change the atmosphere. That owner also told county officials he was willing to make any changes necessary for the license.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis changed his position on the location of a new arena, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis’ decision to reverse course on where to build a new James Brown Arena turned heads Monday but continues to raise questions as a former supporter on the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority, Darren Smith, claims another site remains a viable option.

Nearly two years ago on Aug. 22, 2017, Smith delivered a letter from Davis to the authority suggesting it enter a long-term lease of the vacant Regency Mall, rather than building at the current arena site, prompting four members to vote in favor of building a new arena there.

Davis, who has said little on the matter recently, sent Johnson a letter Monday, copied to commissioners, authority members and the media insisting the authority embrace the current arena site on Seventh Street.

“It is important for the ARCCA to progress beyond impasse and bring the community together around a venue and facility that excites Augustans young and old,” the letter said. “Timely action is imperative to build synergy and to continue to maintain broader regional support for Augusta’s Entertainment Complex,” the mayor wrote.

Savannah City Council accepted a donation of nearly 900 acres, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia Power has proposed a rate increase, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As outlined in the company’s filing with the Georgia Public Service Commission late last week, the typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month would see an increase of almost $10 per month or $120 per year on their bill. A final decision by the five-member elected PSC is expected in December.

In the filing, the company highlights nearly $18 billion in recent and future investments being made to improve the reliability and resiliency of the state’s electrical system and to comply with federal regulations.

The company is also requesting to rebuild its storm restoration fund after more than 50 severe weather events have impacted its network in recent years, including Hurricanes Michael, Irma, and Matthew, and Ice Storm Pax. These storms not only depleted the storm restoration fund but they also created an additional $450 million in restoration costs not currently covered in rates. The filing also details costs of the company’s environmental compliance programs, including efforts to help protect air and water quality, particularly with its coal-fired power plants.

Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said the company’s basic service charge has increased only $2.50 over the past 30 years (from $7.50 to $10) and remains among the lowest of all electricity providers in the state.

Georgia Power also noted that its rates are comparatively low, at 16% below the national average. And for nearly 30 years, inflation has outpaced rate increases so that customers pay less today, and will pay less after the requested increase, than they paid in 1990 on an inflation-adjusted basis. Residential customers currently pay less than $1 more per month today than they did in 2011.

The proposed rate hike doesn’t include any of the capital costs for the behind-schedule and over-budget expansion of the nuclear plant Vogtle. The latest cost estimate of $27.5 billion is nearly twice the initial estimate of $14 billion when the two additional reactors were approved in 2009. Georgia Power owns 45.7% the project.

Charles W. Penny is at work as the new City Manager for Statesboro, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The ACLU and Glynn County settled a federal lawsuit over the county’s cash bail system, according to The Brunswick News.

The plaintiffs and the defense filed a joint stipulation of dismissal with the federal court June 18, coming a full month after Glynn County commissioners voted May 16 to settle the matter.

Commissioner Bob Coleman, in making the motion at that meeting, said, “I motion the board of commissioners approve the settlement agreement and release of claims in Mock v. Glynn County … which includes a payment of $62,500 and affirmative policy changes to the standing bail order issued by the state court.”

According to the ACLU of Georgia statement on the settlement, the county agreed to bail hearings held at least four times a week with none more than 48 hours apart, “prompt judicial evaluations of bail amounts using an improved financial hardship/indigency affidavit and considering what amount of money the person who is arrested is ‘currently able to pay,’” improved notice to arrestees of the bail process and contact information for the public defender, along with a term of independent monitoring to make sure these changes go into place.


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