Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 14, 2019

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 14, 2019

On August 14, 1784, Russians invaded settled Alaska, founding the first permanent Russian settlement at Three Saints Bay.

Dentist, gambler, and gunfighter Doc Holliday was born on August 14, 1851 in Griffin, Georgia.

On August 14, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln hosted a group of African-American men at the White House to discuss emancipation of American slaves outside the United States as colonists.

The Second Battle of Dalton was joined on August 14, 1864.

The County Unit System of elections was created on August 14, 1917 when Governor Hugh Dorsey signed legislation by the General Assembly.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935. The road to perdition is paved with good intentions.

On August 14, 1945, the Japanese surrender to the Allies was made public in Japan.

In the afternoon of August 14, Japanese radio announced that an Imperial Proclamation was soon to be made, accepting the terms of unconditional surrender drawn up at the Potsdam Conference. That proclamation had already been recorded by the emperor.

A Special Session called by Governor Zell Miller to address legislative redistricting convened on August 14, 1995, after the United States Supreme Court threw out Georgia’s Congressional redistricting map.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early voting has opened in the Special Election for House District 71, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

The real news today from my perspective is that Democrat Stacey Abrams has been in the national media so much that the Washington Post no longer feels a need to explain who she is in headlines.

“Stacey Abrams chooses building a national voter protection program over running for president in 2020”

It isn’t until the fourth paragraph that the WaPo explains who this savior of voters is:

The initiative, called Fair Fight 2020, takes its name from the organization that the Georgia Democrat founded last year after narrowly losing her bid to become the nation’s first black female governor.

Likewise, The New Yorker leads with the headline “Stacey Abrams’s Fight for a Fair Vote” and doesn’t explain who she is until the third graph.

The nation got a preview of the battle for the future of electoral politics last year, in Georgia’s gubernatorial race. The Republican candidate was declared the winner by a margin of less than two percentage points: fifty-five thousand votes out of nearly four million cast—a record-breaking total for a midterm election in the state. Many Georgians, though, still use the terms “won” and “lost” advisedly, not only because the Democrat never technically conceded but also because of the highly irregular nature of the contest. The Republican, Brian Kemp, was Georgia’s secretary of state, and in that role he presided over an election marred by charges of voter suppression; the Democrat, Stacey Abrams, has become the nation’s most prominent critic of that practice.

Although she has only recently come to wide attention, Abrams, a forty-five-year-old tax attorney, romance novelist, and former state representative, has been working on electoral reform—particularly on voter registration—in Georgia for some fifteen years. In that regard, some Georgians view her campaign as a success; she won more votes than any Democrat has ever won for statewide office. Georgia is representative of the nation’s demographic changes.

Five Democratic candidates for President will speak at the Young Leaders Conference in Atlanta this week, according to the AJC.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker; South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro are slated to speak at the Young Leaders Conference on Friday afternoon at the Georgia International Convention Center.

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders will be interviewed onstage a day later beginning at 11:30 a.m., according to Black Church PAC, which is co-hosting the event.

Black Church PAC said two of its co-founders, Rev. Leah Daughtry of Washington, D.C., and Pastor Michael McBride of Berkeley, Calif., will seek to “gauge the candidates’ plans for engaging and communicating with Black churchgoers, ensuring diversity among campaign staff, consultants and vendors and the campaigns’ efforts to engage Black voters around gun violence, mass incarceration, immigration and other key issues.”

Georgia State House Speaker David Ralston set legislative hearings to discuss the budget after Gov. Kemp ordered agencies to begin planning for budget cuts, according to the AJC.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, on Tuesday announced that his chamber’s Appropriations Committee will hold rare fall hearings on the state budget ahead of the 2020 legislative session.

He did so about a week after Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration sent a memo to state agencies telling them to offer 4% cuts to their budgets this year and 6% in fiscal 2021, which begins July 1. Kemp wants to cut the budget to give him the money he needs to meet his top priorities, including more teacher pay raises.

“Looking for cuts in an already lean state budget will not be an easy task and will require some difficult decisions regarding service delivery and personnel levels in each state agency,” Ralston said.

“Adjusted for inflation, Georgians still pay less per capita to operate state government than they did before the recession hit in 2007,” Ralston said. “What’s more, we’ve invested in rewarding teachers and law enforcement officers, fully funding public education and improving our transportation and mobility infrastructure while also cutting the state’s income tax rate.”

United States Court of Appeals Judge Gerald Tjoflat will take senior status on the 11th Circuit, giving President Trump another judicial appointment, according to the AJC.

The 11th Circuit sets precedents in the tri-state circuit on some of the contentious issues of the day, such as abortion, immigration, the death penalty, gay rights and voting rights.

The court is considered one of the nation’s most conservative when deciding cases on discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Its precedents have made it extremely difficult for plaintiffs to prevail in hostile work environment claims, so much so that most of the accusations get dismissed before they go to trial.

A third party tester validated Georgia’s new voting machines, according to the AJC.

The testing by Pro V&V evaluated the voting equipment’s functionality. It didn’t grade the security of the $107 million voting system by Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems.

Starting with the presidential primary on March 24, all Georgia voters will use touchscreens attached to printers that produce paper ballots. Voters will then be able to review their ballots before inserting them into optical scanners for tabulation. Ballots will be stored for audits and recounts.

The certification allows the voting system to be used in elections. Up to six counties will test the system during local elections this November.

The certification test evaluated touchscreens, election databases, ballots, voter registration iPads and other equipment.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger issued his certification that the Dominion system is reliable and accurate on Friday after receiving the Pro V&V test results.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler will host a series of employer summits across the state, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

A new partnership between Gov. Brian Kemp and state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler will be highlighted on Wednesday, Aug. 28, when the commissioner hosts an employer summit in Dalton.

The meeting is one in a series of 12 being held throughout the state called Employers in the Know. The meetings offer the commissioner a chance to meet with employers around the state to share the department’s work and hear back from employers on how they can better be served.

“These summits are always a learning experience for the department and me,” said Butler. “We are able to inform businesses directly about programs and regulations that may impact their companies. But more importantly, I get to hear directly about what we can do to help make the state even more attractive as a place to locate and grow a business.”

This year there’s a new addition with participation by leadership of the governor’s Georgians First Commission. That group will join in at all 12 stops to engage the audience in a similar conversation.

“The Georgians First Commission looks forward to partnering with Commissioner Butler in this event,” said Scott Hilton, GFC executive director. “Together we will make Georgia the number one state for small business, and an even better place to live, work and operate a business.”

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) announced that cranes imported from China for use at the Port of Savannah will be exempt from U.S. Tariffs, according to a press release.

The United States Trade Representative today announced the Chinese imports which will include an additional tariff of 10 percent. Carter worked with the Georgia Ports Authority to ensure the cranes were exempted from these tariffs, including contacting United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. If the cranes were included, it could have added millions of dollars to the purchase of the new cranes.

“The Port of Savannah is the third largest and fastest growing port in the United States,” said Carter. “These new cranes are critical to ensure the port is able to keep up with the continued growth.”

“Unfortunately, the tariffs posed a threat to the purchase of the new cranes. That’s why I worked with the Georgia Ports Authority to ensure the cranes were exempted from the additional tariffs announced today.”

“While I applaud President Trump for putting America first and working to correct the unfair trade practices against the United States, adding tariffs to the purchase of these cranes would be detrimental to the port, therefore detrimental to the jobs and economy in our area and the entire nation.”

The Georgia Department of Transportation finished installation of 24 new bridges replacing failing structures, according to the AJC.

Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap denied racial discrimination in firing an employee at her previous job, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Cobb County will decline to prosecute most cases of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, citing a conflict with a new state hemp-farming law, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Cobb County police and court staff are suspending their prosecution of people for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, until a way around a new state law can be found.

[Cobb County Police Chief Tim] Cox cited Georgia’s new hemp law, signed by Gov. Brian Kemp on May 10, allowing the legal possession of industrial hemp for farming, making it difficult for police officers to distinguish between the legal material and the Schedule I drug.

“As a result, effective immediately, any misdemeanor amounts of marijuana that an officer encounters will be confiscated and sent to the evidence unit to be destroyed. A criminal charge will not be made until a solution can be found to this dilemma,” Cox’s letter states.

Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes told the MDJ her office will also not be moving forward with prosecutions in misdemeanor marijuana cases, “as we wait for a legislative or testing fix,” following discussions with state prosecutors, representatives from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and law enforcement partners.

“We are handling cases different from Gwinnett County,” he said. “Cases in the system prior to the governor’s signing of the bill will go on as normal. Cases in the pipeline since the signing of the bill will be reviewed on a case by case basis.”

In a lawsuit seeking to invalidate developer impact fees in Bryan County, the judge denied a request to halt collection of the fees, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The fees apply to all new residential and certain new non-residential construction in unincorporated south Bryan County and are collected from developers who submit building plans and apply for building permits.The money is due at the same time as the building permit fee and the home builder can pay the fee or pass the cost on to the home buyer.

On new homes, the fee would be $3,100 and the fee for commercial projects varies depending on the project. Funds raised via the impact fee are to be used to help pay for transportation related projects in south Bryan County.

The suit, which was filed by the home builders association in February, alleged that the DIFO was unconstitutionally discriminatory and transgressed the parameters of the state statute. It also claimed that the IDO created unconstitutional exclusive zoning.

The Gainesville Times examines how international trade disputes are affecting local businesses.

“Foreign companies that are already here, that want to make expanded investment in the U.S., everything is on hold,” Barnett said. “… They’re already here, they’re supporting the economy, but they’re not going to make a half billion or billion dollar investment until they know what’s going to happen with the trade relations.”

But panelists at Tuesday’s Economic and Political Forecast event, including State Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, Northeast Georgia Health System CEO Carol Burrell, and Brett Fowler, partner at Turner, Wood & Smith Insurance, were still confident in the future of the area’s economy and Hall County’s ability to attract and keep businesses.

President Donald Trump’s trade office said Tuesday it would delay until Dec. 15 the 10% tariffs on some Chinese imports, including goods like cellphones, laptops, video game consoles, some toys, computer monitors, shoes and clothing.

The administration is also removing other items from the tariff list entirely, based on what it called “health, safety, national security and other factors.” Officials still plan to go ahead with 10% tariffs on about $300 billion in Chinese imports. Most of the new tariffs will begin Sept. 1.

The AJC looked at how Georgia farmers are doing in the midst of trade disputes.

Already depressed cotton prices sagged another 15% last week with the news out of China. That left prices well below many farmers’ break-even point, with harvest just weeks away for some Georgia farmers.

“That ain’t good,” said Clay Pirkle, a cotton grower in Ashburn.

He briefly wrestled with whether to keep irrigating his cotton, as he normally would, to maximize quality and yield of his potentially money-losing harvest.

“It is going to have a negative impact on the bottom line because I’ve lost a consumer of a quarter of my output,” he said.

Pecan farmers, already smacked with a nearly 50% tariff by China, fret about that, too, and wonder if China, traditionally their biggest customer, might drop them for good, even beyond the current trade war. Georgia is the nation’s largest pecan producer.

While many Georgians may not be aware of it, China has had a powerful influence on the state’s agriculture industry and rural communities, said Hudson, the pecan farmer in Ocilla and a retired University of Georgia professor.

That includes his home county of Irwin. He estimated that, counting multiplier effects, China has spurred hundreds of millions of dollars of spending in his area.

Chinese buyers purchased about 90% of what he sold two years ago. In 2018, that was down to zero. He said he was seeing signs of making some headway earlier this year before the trade battle heated up again.

Some Snellville property owners will be getting revised tax bills after the county has corrected a glitch in calculating the stormwater fees, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Former Bibb County School Superintendent Romain Dallemand, currently in federal prison, was ordered to pay the school system more than $47 million dollars, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Whitfield County Commission appointed members to a citizens oversight committee for a future Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The Chatham County Board of Elections approved plans for new voting precincts in Pooler, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham County Board of Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges said the current plan is to implement the new precincts before the March 24, 2020, presidential primary.

Bridges said Godley Station School has committed to serving as a polling place for the new 8-16 precinct but is not yet confirmed.

Bridges said Shepherd Living was confirmed as the polling location for the new 7-16 precinct.

Another change is coming countywide for the March 24 presidential primary: a new voting system.

The board of elections will receive the training equipment this month, and the state will provide directions and training, Bridges said.

“We’re just as in the dark as the voters are today as to how this is going to work, but between now and March 24, 2020, we’ve got to become experts,” Bridges said.

The Glynn County Board of Elections will relocate some polling places, according to The Brunswick News.

The Burroughs-Molette polling place was moved to Zion Baptist Church during the school’s reconstruction. That polling place may return to Burroughs-Molette, but Elections and Registration Supervisor Chris Channell said the board should consider moving it to the Roosevelt Harris Senior Center.

Schools across the country are heightening security to protect students, Channell explained, and officials with Glynn County Schools have asked the board to move polling places out of school buildings whenever it can.

The board voted unanimously to move the polling place into the senior center if the city agrees, and back to Burroughs-Molette if it doesn’t.

At its next meeting, the board will consider moving a polling place from Glynn County Fire Station No. 2 to St. William Catholic Church on Frederica Road.

The polling place had been moved to Glynn County Fire Station No. 2 from St. William during renovations to the church. Now that renovations are complete, he said the polling place should move back.

The Lowndes County Board of Education lowered the property tax millage rate, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

At a board of education meeting Monday evening, the board approved reducing the millage rate from 16.541 in 2018 to 16.384 this year.

“That will put us over the last three years as over a half a mill lower than we were then,” said Ken Overman, assistant superintendent. “We’re excited to be able to do that. We’re good where we are with budgeting, so let’s give back to the taxpayers.”

The millage rate was 16.911 in 2016.

Overman said that translates to paying almost $14 less in property taxes than last year if a residence is valued at $200,000.

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