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

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

On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to be observed on November 26, 1863 and on the fourth Thursday in November every succeeding year.

This announcement harkened back to when George Washington was in his first term as the first president in 1789 and the young American nation had only a few years earlier emerged from the American Revolution. At that time, George Washington called for an official celebratory “day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” While Congress overwhelmingly agreed to Washington’s suggestion, the holiday did not yet become an annual event.

Thomas Jefferson, the third president, felt that public demonstrations of piety to a higher power, like that celebrated at Thanksgiving, were inappropriate in a nation based in part on the separation of church and state. Subsequent presidents agreed with him. In fact, no official Thanksgiving proclamation was issued by any president between 1815 and the day Lincoln took the opportunity to thank the Union Army and God for a shift in the country’s fortunes on this day in 1863.

On October 3, 1922, Rebecca Latimer Felton was appointed to the United States Senate from Georgia following the death of Senator Tom Watson. After initially being rebuffed by the Senate, Felton was sworn-in on late in November, becoming the first woman to serve in the United States Senate.

On October 3, 1995, O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp presented Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk with an award from the Boy Scouts, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

In presenting Paulk with the 2019 Boy Scouts of America South Georgia Council Distinguished Citizen Award, Kemp said Tuesday evening the sheriff is a leader who exemplifies these qualities.

Kemp praised Paulk’s work with the Boy Scouts, the Boys and Girls Club, the Georgia Sheriff’s Ranch and other youth organizations.

“Sheriff Paulk’s public service is quite legendary in this part of the world,” the governor said.

Kemp also extolled the virtues of Scouting and people who support Scouting.

“I appreciate Scouts for standing up for what they believe in and their values,” he said, adding many people are attacked for their values these days.

Kemp mentioned Paulk’s public service as an elected official. Paulk served four terms as sheriff from 1993 through 2008. He was then elected Lowndes County Commission chairman and served one term before opting not to seek reelection. In 2016, Paulk ran for a fifth term as sheriff and won. He has said he’s running for sheriff again in 2020.

Looking out at the audience in the ballroom of the James H. Rainwater Conference Center, the sheriff said the seats were full because “we’ve got the best governor we’ve had in quite a while. The only way I’d get a crowd this big is if I’d brought all the inmates here.”

Governor Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp hosted a public discussion of human trafficking, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Gov. Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp hosted a blue-ribbon panel discussion Tuesday focusing on legislative steps being taken to combat human trafficking in Georgia.

U.S. Sen. David Perdue, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, Georgia House Pro-Tempore Jan Jones and Attorney General Chris Carr all spoke during the panel talks.

“We have not only the opportunity to do something about this in our state, but across the country,” Kemp said. “… We want to send a clear message (to people) that are selling our children for sex: that we will not put up with that. That we are going to continue to do everything in our power, every single day, to end this evil industry. To fight the fight but also help the victims that are in the aftermath.”

“I think people just didn’t want to talk about it because it’s such an evil and ugly industry,” Marty Kemp said, “but we have to talk about it.”

After last session, Gov. Kemp signed multiple bills addressing the problem, including increasing penalties associated with human trafficking, improving victim protections and including certain crimes in the state’s definition of gang activity. Lawmakers hinted at upcoming legislation that would focus on required training to be able to identify human trafficking.

Perdue and Collins said on a federal level, other states are already looking at Georgia for “best practices” in combatting human trafficking.

“We don’t want to be the number one state for human trafficking but we want to be the number one state in terms of fixing it,” Perdue said.

Chip Rogers, president of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, said you can show numbers as much as you want, but it’s the stories of the survivors that get people involved in helping.

“Our influence, from the American Hotel and Lodging Association perspective,” he said, “we touch every brand, we touch virtually every hotel, how do we use that influence to make other people aware of this?”

Video of a Gwinnett County Deputy returning marijuana to a citizen highlights an issue in the law, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

A video that has now gone viral on social media depicts a Gwinnett County Police officer handing a bag of marijuana back to a driver who he pulled over.

According to Corporal Wilbert M. Rundles, Public Information Officer, “the officer followed the correct policy.”

Thanks to a bill passed earlier in the year, hemp is newly legalized which leaves authorities in a bind until agencies can determine a proper way to differentiate between hemp and marijuana.

In August, Gwinnett law enforcement said via a press conference that they would no longer be making arrests for a low-level amount(s) of marijuana until they receive more guidelines on the new hemp bill.

In the video, viewers can distinctly hear the officer saying, “we cannot seize it, so you are more than welcome to have it back.”

From the AJC:

Gwinnett announced in August it will stop arresting anyone who has small amounts of marijuana. That’s because hemp and marijuana are very hard to tell apart, AJC.com previously reported. The Georgia Hemp Farming Act, which became law in May, allows for licensed farmers to grow hemp.

Unlike the GBI, which has a test in its crime lab, there is not a test that officers can use to distinguish the difference between hemp and marijuana, AJC.com reported.

Congressman Austin Scott (R-Tifton) is working to be named ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee, according to the AJC.

Battle-hardened by the eight-month fight to secure disaster relief money for his South Georgia district, Tifton Congressman Austin Scott is ramping up his behind-the-scenes push to become the top Republican on the committee that oversees the Department of Agriculture.

Scott is one of three GOP lawmakers vying to lead the party on the House Agriculture Committee, the plum panel that writes the farm bill, oversees the food stamp program and looks out for ag interests following natural disasters and trade fights.

First elected in 2010, Scott is currently the top Republican on the subcommittee focused on commodity exchanges, working hand-in-hand with the panel’s Democratic chairman, fellow Georgian David Scott.

Scott credits the Georgia Legislature with keeping many local farmers afloat by quickly approving loan money after the storm, and he said one of his priorities as leader of the Agriculture Committee would be streamlining the disaster relief process. He said he’d also focus on rural development, particularly bringing broadband to underserved areas, and take another look at crop insurance and federal price support for commodities.

The top committee spot doesn’t officially open up until January 2021, and whether Scott is running for chairman or ranking Republican will be determined by which party controls the House following the 2020 elections.

Former Cobb County Commission Chair Tim Lee will be eulogized at a service on Friday, according to the AJC.

A recall petition against elected officials in Hoschton may proceed after a court ruling, according to the AJC.

A superior court judge ruled Tuesday that a citizen-led effort to recall the mayor of Hoschton and city councilman can continue.

Judge David Sweat said Hoschton Mayor Theresa Kenerly’s racially charged comments regarding a black candidate for City Council, her failure to see that an ethics committee was named to hear complaints against her, and a no-bid construction project given to the employee of a city councilman were sufficient grounds for voters to decide whether she stays on the job.

Separately, he found that Councilman Jim Cleveland’s role in failing to appoint an ethics committee was sufficient for a recall against him to proceed.

A Houston County Sheriff’s Deputy is suing the County alleging discrimination, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Houston County sheriff’s Sgt. Anna Lange, a transgender woman who is seeking a gender transition, on Wednesday filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the county and its board of commissioners claiming she is being “denied medically-necessary care” under the county’s health insurance plan.

Lange, 46, a Houston sheriff’s deputy since 2006, according to her lawsuit, requires “doctor-recommended gender-transition treatment” for gender dysphoria.

The lawsuit contends the county is discriminating against Lange for “seeking a gender transition” in that her doing so “transgresses gender stereotypes.”

In February, Lange asked county commissioners to include treatment for gender dysphoria to the county’s insurance coverage. The commissioners denied the request.

Whitfield County SPLOST oversight committee members heard about infrastructure needs, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Whitfield County needs to try to get ahead of some of its transportation needs before small problems become big ones, County Engineer Kent Benson told members of a citizens advisory committee that will make recommendations to the county Board of Commissioners for projects to be funded by a planned 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

Benson spoke to committee members Tuesday night at the Edwards Park Community Center about transportation projects identified by the Greater Dalton Metropolitan Planning Organization, which handles long-range transportation planning for Whitfield County.

Committee members said they don’t have the engineering expertise to determine which of the transportation projects are the most needed but said they agree with Benson that improving safety and staying ahead of the county’s transportation needs are vital.

“One of the major reasons we are here is because this county has been reactive for 50 years,” said committee member David Pennington IV. “It may be time to start being proactive and find ways to help this county grow over the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years.”

David Blackburn dropped out of the race for a seat on the Dalton Board of Education, but his name will still appear on ballots, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The final day to register to vote for that election is Monday. Early voting in the Dalton and Varnell municipal elections starts Monday, Oct. 14, in the elections office at the Whitfield County Courthouse.

Blackburn and attorney Sam Sanders were challenging incumbent Pablo Perez in the Nov. 5 election for the seat on the school board. With Blackburn’s withdrawal, that leaves the race a two-man contest between Perez and Sanders.

In Dalton, in addition to the Perez-Sanders race for school board, former mayor David Pennington is challenging Mayor Dennis Mock.

Two seats on the Varnell City Council are being contested. Seat 3 incumbent David Owens faces Sandy Pangle. Seat 5 incumbent Bob Roche faces Richard Lowe.

Carolyn Palmer will become the next McIntosh County clerk of courts, according to The Brunswick News.

Carolyn Palmer will take the oath of office Friday as McIntosh County clerk of court, replacing embattled former clerk Rebecca McFerrin who resigned effective midnight Monday.

County Attorney Adam S. Poppell III said Palmer will be sworn in to complete the remainder of McFerrin’s term of office which will end Dec. 31, 2020.

Palmer, who was chief deputy clerk, has been running the office in an interim basis since Gov. Brian Kemp suspended McFerrin for 60 days in late March. The suspension came after a three-member panel investigated McFerrin and issued a report alleging misconduct.

Probate Judge Harold Palmer said he would swear in Palmer as soon as he received an email from the Georgia secretary of state with an official oath and documents that Palmer had to sign. Because Palmer already had taken an oath as a deputy clerk, any actions she undertook were official, he said.

Under Georgia law, the chief deputy automatically assumes the office of clerk in the event of a resignation, he said.

The Dahlonega Nugget spoke with five candidates for City Council in the November elections.

Glynn County hosted a Town Hall meeting on St Simons Island, according to The Brunswick News.

At the top of a lot of island residents’ lists was a new golf cart regulation ordinance — details of which can be found at tinyurl.com/golfcartlawdetails — that will go into effect on Oct. 18.

Golf carts are separated into two categories by Georgia state law: a personal transportation vehicle, or PTV, has a top speed of 19 mph or less and can transport no more than eight people, while a low-speed vehicle, or LSV, has a top speed between 20 and 25 mph. Counties can regulate PTVs, but state law governs LSVs.

Once the law goes into effect, LSVs will be relegated to roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less as stipulated by state law, while PTVs will be restricted to streets with speed limits of 25 mph or less.

Multiple residents expressed their confusion with how gas-powered vehicles fit into the equation. A gas-lowered PTV is regulated by the county, no question, but according to Glynn County Commissioner Peter Murphy — backed up by Senior Assistant County Attorney Will Worley — gas-powered LSVs are difficult to pin down.

State law doesn’t include gas-powered vehicles in its definition of LSV, Worley said. Only an electric vehicle can be classified as a low-speed vehicle, he explained.

Worley explained that, according to the state Department of Revenue, gas-powered LSVs may be able to get a regular car tag and title if they are of a certain make and model. Gas-powered LSVs that “start life” as a PTV may not qualify at all, he said.

“I won’t tell you the state law makes sense here, I’m just telling you what it does say,” Worley said.

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