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

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

The Stars and Stripes first flew in battle on September 3, 1776 at Cooch’s Bridge, Delaware.

A fleet of 22 French ships arrived off the coast of Savannah on September 3, 1779 to help wrest control of the city from the British.

On September 3, 1862, the writ of habeas corpus was suspended in Atlanta and within five miles of its border by the Confederate government. Two years later, September 3, 1864, General William T. Sherman would occupy Atlanta.

The Georgia General Assembly expelled 25 of 29 African-American members from the State House on September 3, 1868, arguing that Georgia’s constitution did not allow them to hold office.

Anne Frank, age 15, and seven other Jews who were hiding together in Amsterdam were the last Dutch prisoners transported to Auschwitz on September 3, 1944.

Having received the Democratic nomination for President, Jimmy Carter began the General Election with an address from his front porch in Plains, Georgia on September 3, 1976.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia State House District 71 voters will go to the polls today in a special election, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Governor Brian Kemp ordered the evacuation of areas east of I-95 along the Georgia coast.

A mandatory evacuation is in effect for individuals east of I-95 in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty, and McIntosh Counties due to Hurricane Dorian.

Contraflow of I-16 will begin at 8:00 am Tuesday morning. Now is the time to put your emergency plan into action. Stay tuned to your local news and follow all guidance from your local emergency management officials.

A state of emergency is still in effect for all of the following Georgia counties: Brantley, Bryan, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce and Wayne.

An Executive Order was issued temporarily suspending federal rules and regulations which would otherwise limit the hours that operators of commercial vehicles may drive.to ensure an uninterrupted supply of petroleum products, emergency supplies, and food. This Executive Order also temporarily waives specific weight, height, and length restrictions for vehicles traveling through Georgia for purposes of disaster preparation or relief, subject to Department of Public Safety oversight and permitting.

For the most current weather updates on Hurricane Dorian, check the National Hurricane Center website. Hurricane Dorian is currently a dangerous category 5 hurricane at this time. There is still time to prepare! Please visit our Hurricane Preparedness page for information on how to get ready.

Resources

Sheltering

Six shelter locations have been identified in Bibb, Columbia, Coffee, Laurens, McDuffie and Ware counties. Information regarding those shelter locations will be posted here and on GEMA/HS social media pages.

Currently. the following shelters are OPEN and ready to receive evacuees:

  • Bibb County – 1:00 PM

South Bibb Recreation Center - 7035 Houston Rd, Macon, GA 31216

  • Laurens County

Dublin High School:  1127 Hillcrest Pkwy. Dublin, GA 31021

East Laurens High School:  920 US Hwy 80 East. East Dublin, GA 31027

  • Coffee County

Central Square Complex:  216 South Madison Avenue. Douglas, GA 31533

  • McDuffie County

Sweetwater Recreation Park: 180 Sweetwater Road. Thomson, GA 30824

  • Ware County

Ware County HS:  700 Victory Drive. Waycross, GA 31503

  • Richmond County

Trinity on the Hill: 1330 Monte Santo Ave. Augusta, GA 30904

More locations will be added in the coming hours/days.

Ahead of the storm’s arrival the Atlanta Motor Speedway is opening its camping facilities to evacuees seeking refuge from Hurricane Dorian. The Speedway, which is equipped to handle thousands of campers during its annual NASCAR weekend, will provide camping space free of charge for dry RV and tent campers in its Legends Campground. A limited number of camping spaces with water, power and sewer are also available for a nominal fee of $20 per night in the Premier Campground.Located adjacent to the campgrounds, AMS will also open The Rinnai Shower Station camper bath house, allowing evacuees free access to hot showers and restroom facilities during their stay. More information can be found at https://www.atlantamotorspeedway.com/media/news/ams-opens-camping-facilities-dorian-evacuees.html

If you are looking for accomodations in Georgia visit the Official Georgia Tourism and Travel website at https://www.exploregeorgia.org/travel-alerts

Evacuees and their pets are welcome in Georgia’s State Parks, including horses at parks with equestrian facilities. Check GaStateParks.org for hurricane policies and status updates.

Pet Shelters

Several pet shelters are open to assist with placement of pets for evacuees. We recommend contacting the shelter to check availability for your pet:

  • Bibb County Animal Control: 4214 Fulton Mill Road, Macon, GA 31216 (Kennels)
  • Okefenokee Fairgrounds: 2451 Knight Avenue, Waycross, GA 31503 (Kennels, Livestock)
  • Augusta Animal Services: 4164 Mack Lane Road, Augusta, GA 30906 (Kennels)
  • Hippodrome Horse Complex: 5540 Jefferson Davis Highway, Beech Island, SC 29842 (Equine)
  • McDuffie Animal Control: 802 White Oak Road, Thomson, GA 30824 (Kennels)
  • Belle Meade Hunt: 3532 Wrightsboro Road, Thomson, GA 30824 (Equine)
  • Pine Top Farm: 1432 Augusta Highway, Thomson, GA 30824 (Equine)
  • Southern Pines: 575 Southern Pines Road, Dublin 31021 (Equine)
  • South Eastern Arena: 2410 Arena Road, Unadilla, GA 31091 (Equine)
  • Paws Humane Society: 4900 Milgen Road, Columbus 31909 (Kennels)

Pet friendly hotels can be found at this link: http://www.pet-friendly-hotels.net/

Governor Kemp also authorized the Georgia Department of Defense to call up to 2000 National Guard members to assist in preparation, response, and recovery to Hurricane Dorian. This executive order expires at 11:59 PM on September 9, 2019.

Gov. Kemp flew to Savannah yesterday to address the incoming storm, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“We strongly urge all residents to stay vigilant as we track its path and evaluate potential impact and damage,” Kemp said at a press conference in the Chatham County Commission chambers. “At noon, the mandatory evacuation will be in effect for those east of I-95. And I would like to ask everyone, heed those warnings, especially those that are on our barrier islands. You might be on your own if first responders are unavailable to get to you. We have the ability with first responders to move trees out of roads and cut trees up and clear roadway passes. That is a whole different story when we have flooding on causeways and we can’t get vehicle traffic to you in a time of need.”

“It is immensely powerful with strong winds of 40 to 60 mph here on the coast,” he said. “It also threatens to bring a very dangerous storm surge of 3 to 6 feet along the immediate coast with heavy rainfall of 4 to 6 inches, which may cause flash flooding.”

“On top of the storm surge potential, we’ve got those king tides that we’ve been experiencing over the last several days,” he said. “And we’re going to keep having those king tides over the next several days. So Dorian will be coming along our coast right at several high tide cycles. And with the king tides associated with the storm surge, we anticipate quite a bit of flooding throughout our community.”

Homer Bryson, director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, said the state had allocated over 1,500 state employees to the Hurricane Dorian effort.

“They range, as the governor mentioned, from law enforcement to debris removal to the swift water rescue, and we will continue to allocate resources to meet the needs of the local governments,” Bryson said.

Tybee Mayor Jason Buelterman cautioned that Hurricane Dorian had defied predictions so far. It didn’t hit Puerto Rico, he said. It didn’t weaken into a tropical storm before it got to the Bahamas. And it’s not crossing the Florida peninsula to go into the Gulf. He urged Tybee Islanders to play it safe, especially those who might be inclined to ride it out.

“Look at what happened to people who stayed for Hurricane Michael down in Florida; you don’t want to be in that situation,” Buelterman said. “So it might be an inconvenience. And you might leave, perhaps for no reason. That’s totally possible. But why would you risk that just so you don’t inconvenience yourself for a couple of days? It doesn’t make sense to risk your life. You know, it doesn’t make sense to risk your life and gamble everything on what is a very unpredictable storm.”

From The Brunswick News:

“Given the risk of strong winds and potential for flooding in these areas, if you decide not to evacuate, I want to be clear — you will be on your own if first responders are unable to reach you,” Kemp said at the Glynn County Emergency Operations Center. “We certainly have the threat of that, especially with flooding on … causeways and other roadways. Please, don’t take this risk if you are able to evacuate.”

The governor, Georgia Emergency Management Agency Director Homer Bryson and state Insurance Commissioner John King arrived in Brunswick to provide an overview of coordination between state, local and federal officials ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian, which at that moment continued to churn through Grand Bahama Island.

“It’s also going to bring a really tough storm surge force down here,” Kemp said. “I know right now we’re experiencing high tides because of the moon phase that we’re in — we’re predicting 3-6 feet of storm surge along the coast, and heavy rainfall of 4-6 inches, which may cause flash flooding.”

“Even with all this preparation, we still cannot stress enough that Hurricane Dorian remains a significant threat to our state,” Kemp said. “We strongly urge all residents to stay vigilant and track its path and continue to evaluate the potential impact on themselves and their families.”

“We’re rallying not only industry, insurance companies, but as soon as routes are open, we can start bringing teams in to help assist people getting back on their feet,” King said. “This is an incredibly resilient community. I’ve been coming down here in one way or another for over 20 years, and so I know the grit you all bring to this, and we all stand with you.”

United States Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue addressed the storm, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“I urge Georgians to take precautions ahead of Hurricane Dorian and follow the advice of Governor Kemp and local officials, including the mandatory evacuation of all individuals east of I-95 in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh counties,” said Senator Isakson. “If you are in these areas, please make arrangements to evacuate today. This is a dangerous and powerful storm with the potential to bring damaging winds and catastrophic flooding to parts of Georgia. Please stay informed and make sure you are taking steps to keep yourselves and your families out of harm’s way. Senator Perdue and I will continue to work with federal, state and local officials to ensure that Georgia has the resources needed to prepare now and recover fully from the impact of Hurricane Dorian.”

“Hurricane Dorian is a powerful storm with the potential to impact many Georgians as it approaches our coastline,” said Senator Perdue. “Governor Kemp and local officials are working hard to prepare for the hurricane and will continue to update Georgians as the situation develops. For everyone’s safety, including the safety of our first responders, please take this storm seriously and evacuate if you are directed to do so.”

The Savannah Morning News has ongoing news on local closings.

Savannah-Chatham County public schools will be closed through Friday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Talmadge Bridge in Savannah will close at 8 PM today, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Talmadge Memorial Bridge on U.S. 17 in Savannah will close at 8 p.m. Tuesday in anticipation of tropical storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian, according to a news release from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

“Motorists attempting to navigate vehicles across either of these bridges in conditions with the high wind levels anticipated from Hurricane Dorian may not be able to properly control their vehicles,” the release said.

It is unknown when the bridges will reopen, the release said.

Middle Georgia could see one million evacuees, according to the Macon Telegraph.

In a news release Monday, GDOT encouraged drivers to avoid the stretch of I-16 from Spring Street to the I-75 interchange to allow crews to work more quickly. The eastbound lanes of I-16 are set to close at 8 a.m. Tuesday for westbound traffic. Locals are being encouraged to avoid the interstates.

An American Red Cross shelter for evacuees opened up at the South Bibb Recreation Center at 7035 Houston Road Monday. Other shelters were opened Dublin High School and East Laurens High School. More shelter locations were expected to open later Monday. For an updated list of shelters, visit www.gema.georgia.gov.

Atlanta Motor Speedway also opened up to evacuees, offering a camping space free of charge for dry RV and tent campers. A limited number of camping spaces with water, power and sewer also were available for $20 per night.

Albany area government agencies are in a wait and watch mode, according to the Albany Herald.

“We’re standing by, though, keeping a close watch on things, monitoring the situation. There’s been no call (by local or state Emergency Management Agency officials) to open our emergency center, so we’re all just on standby right now. The people who would be called in (in the event of a local emergency) are listening out, ready to come in if they’re needed.”

Georgia Southern University and Ogeechee Technical Institute have canceled all classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the Statesboro Herald.

According to its website, East Georgia State College also is canceling all classes on Tuesday in Wednesday in Statesboro. Classes in Swainsboro and Augusta will go on without change.

Glynn County government has canceled public meetings, according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County Animal Control has evacuated all animals from the shelter, according to The Brunswick News.

Richmond County Schools are closed through Thursday to help evacuees, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

All Richmond County School System extracurricular events are canceled, including middle School and junior varsity football games.

All Richmond County School System 10-, 11-, and 12-month employees not directly supporting hurricane relief efforts will not report to work.

Any decision on make-up days will be made by the Richmond County Board of Education at a later date.

“Richmond County Schools are closing in order to host evacuees, however, our schools have not been designated as an evacuee host site,” the Columbia County School District said in a tweet. “We will provide updates if and when any decisions to close are made.”

Evacuees have started reaching Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Local emergency response officials prepared the city to support the evacuees after Gov. Brian Kemp ordered a mandatory evacuation of coastal communities.

Residents who needed transportation and have medical needs arrived first at the shelter at Westside High School. Trinity On The Hill United Methodist Church opened as a shelter for evacuees who were able to transport themselves. Additional shelters at locations including Butler and Glenn Hills high schools will be opened if needed, Augusta Fire Chief Chris James said.

“These are citizens that are in a bad situation; it’s unsafe to leave them at home,” James said. “Augusta has always stepped up to help. … Augusta’s attitude toward assisting the evacuees from Chatham County has been outstanding.”

The city can accommodate up to 3,000 evacuees, James said.

Local hospitals are taking in patients who require round-the-clock attention at a medical facility. University Health Care System planned to receive patients from Savannah Memorial Hospital and nursing home residents from Savannah. Four pediatric patients were set to arrive at AU Medical Center, which is using its Critical Event Preparedness and Response office to assist at shelters.

 

Gwinnett County‘s participation in the federal 287(g) program could be an election issue next year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The 287(g) issue in Gwinnett is complex combination of the debate over the program itself; the participation of Gwinnett’s sheriff’s office in the program; and the county’s growing diversity and shifting politics that loom on the political horizon as the 2020 elections approach.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement runs the 287(g) program where local law enforcement departments hold undocumented residents they arrest for various crimes until ICE agents take them into custody.

“In Gwinnett, (immigration issues) might be very important,” longtime University of Georgia political science professor and political observer Charles Bullock said. “It has a reputation of being the most diverse county in Georgia, some people would even say the most diverse urban county in America, so it means that a number of Gwinnett voters probably have relatives or neighbors or friends who may have immigration problems.

“I would be surprised if it’s not a significant issue brought up during the sheriff and the commission elections, and potentially in some of the legislative elections in this area,” said Gwinnett District 1 Commissioner Jace Brooks, who hasn’t made decision on whether he will run for re-election, seek a different political office or exit public office next year.

Conway asserted in a recent letter to the Daily Post that participation in the 287(g) program is “about criminals committing crimes in Gwinnett County” and “has nothing to do with immigrants or checking immigrant status.”

Chatham County Superior Court Judge Louisa Abbott ordered the current grand jury to remain in a special term, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The directive from Judge Louisa Abbot will mean the June term panel, which would have completed its three-month term Wednesday, will remain in place beginning Tuesday, Sept. 3, for an additional four to five weeks. The new panel, the September term grand jury, will be sworn once the error is corrected, Abbot’s order said.

The issue arose because the list of grand jurors provided by the state of Georgia “contained the names of deceased persons,” Abbot said in her two-page order.

“Because the county-wide list the state provided could be subject to challenge based upon the inadvertent inclusion of deceased persons, it is necessary to require the June term of 2019 grand jury to continue to serve as the special term 2019 grand jury until the error is corrected,” Abbot said.

“The alternative — suspension of the grand jury — would prejudicially delay the administration of justice. … Due to the volume of cases, even a temporary suspension of the grand jury would have grave consequences for those whose life, liberty and property could be at stake, for the victims of crimes and for public safety.”

“Every jurisdiction (in the state) is dealing with this issue,” she said.

The Georgia State House Rural Development Council discussed mental health needs in rural communities, according to the Moultrie Observer.

The state sent $69 million to Georgia’s public schools this year to beef up physical security after a string of school shootings in other states. Now, a north Georgia superintendent says educators need more state aid to address the less tangible side of the issue.

[Dawson County School Superintendent Damon] Gibbs said his district has had five student suicides in as many years, with neighboring Lumpkin County losing four students to suicide.

State lawmakers, at Gov. Brian Kemp’s urging, added another $8.4 million to this year’s budget to increase the number of high schools receiving community-based mental health services provided through a program called Apex.

“We need mental health counselors that are with our kids every day, that don’t worry about what type of insurance they have,” [Gibbs] said.

The first of the council’s five-meeting roadshow focused on education and workforce development. The council is also expected to delve into agriculture, economic development and rural health care in the coming months before offering up a slate of proposals in December.

The Rome News Tribune interviewed Senator Johnny Isakson after he announced he will retire at the end of 2019.

Q: You’ve amassed a 45-year political career, and we touched on this earlier, but what stands out to you as your greatest accomplishments? On three levels — for you personally, for the state of Georgia and for the nation.

[T]here’s no question that when I saved Delta’s pension fund … four minutes before midnight on August 4th of 2005, that was probably the most impactful thing I ever did. Delta was going bankrupt, going into a structured bankruptcy and we saved every pension for every employee in the state — whether a baggage handler or a teller or a stewardess or anything, not the pilots, but everybody else. They’re now the biggest airline in the world and have 35,000 retired employees on pensions they would’ve lost. That meant a lot to me. … the president of Delta was in the gallery when I did it, not because he was a plant, but because his company was on the line and we won with only four dissenting votes. That’s the hardest I ever worked on anything because we had no time.

Kate Puzey, the Peace Corps volunteer who was murdered in Benin (city in Nigeria). I saw an article in the (Atlanta) Journal Constitution on the Sunday after she had been killed. I did not know her. I said, gosh, I’m her congressman. So I went to the family funeral and I sat at the back of the church, didn’t know the family, but I just felt like I ought to be there. And when it was over, one of the family members came up to me and asked me who I was. I told them, they said, I thought that was you.

I said, well, here’s my card. If they ever need help, call me. And two weeks later they did. And I helped them get some things from Benin and one thing out of Ghana back to the family and we sat down and had some coffee and cried a little bit over their loss. It was a terrible loss for them. This girl was number one in her class at UVA, number one in her class at Forsyth County High School. She was a superstar and was brutally murdered as a Peace Corps volunteer. Then we passed The Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act, which is now known as the Kate Puzey Act. There’ve been a number of women who were sexually abused and now have found retribution or found justice because of that law. And it’s preventing a lot of problems in the future that happened in those countries. So that wasn’t meaningful for me to do.

I’m working on the port of Savannah, the work I’ve done in Metro Atlanta for transportation, which I was on the transportation committee in the house, but in the Senate I’ve had a lot of opportunities on transportation with the port and with Hartsfield(-Jackson airport) to work on.

Georgia Trend has a Q&A with Governor Kemp before Dorian became a threat.

GT: How would you appraise your first months in office?

Kemp: It’s really been two things. No. 1, we got a lot done. No. 2, we did a lot of historic things. I’m very proud of that. We had a lot of folks that helped. In the legislature, we had a very aggressive agenda. We were successful on just about all of it.

GT: Can you give us some specifics?

Kemp: First and foremost, the historic teacher pay raise, [one of] the largest teacher pay raises ever in the state’s history, fulfilling the down payment on a big commitment I had to our teachers to do a $5,000 pay raise. We did $3,000 this year.

We also fulfilled a promise of something else I campaigned on. That was school safety and doing school security grants. We did that in the amended budget – almost $70 million to help our administrators and school board members work with teachers, parents, students and law enforcement officers, with complete local control. The grant requests are just flooding in.

GT: Why was this the right year to do something about Medicaid? Your predecessor and many other Republicans were opposed to Medicaid expansion.

Kemp: Gov. Deal resisted Medicaid expansion, which I support. This is not Medicaid expansion. This is innovating and fixing a broken system. What got lost in that conversation, and what I heard in the campaign – we have an issue on the private sector side. I can’t tell you how many Georgians came up and said, “Look, my family, we can’t afford $1,500-$2,000 per month for a health insurance plan, and the dang thing has a $5,000 deductible.” Voters were calling on us to reform this.

GT: What’s the time frame?

Kemp: We are moving very rapidly on the waiver process. Deloitte won the bid. They’ve got a great team that’s been very successful working on this in other states. We’re focused every day on that process and working with the Trump Administration to make sure we’re going down the right lanes.

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