Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 14, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 14, 2020

Representatives of three cities in Connecticut adopted the “Fundamental Orders,” the first written Constitution in an American colony and one of the first founding document to cite the authority of “the free consent of the people.”

On January 14, 1733, James Oglethorpe and the rest of the first colonists departed Charles Town harbor for what would become Savannah, and the State of Georgia.

The Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War on January 14, 1784. The Treaty was negotiated by John Adams, who would later serve as President, and the delegates voting to ratify it included future Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.

On January 14, 1835, James M. Wayne took the oath of office as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. A Savannah native, Wayne had previously served in the Georgia House of Represestatives, as Mayor of Savannah, on the Supreme Court of Georgia, and in Congress. His sister was the great-grandmother of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, and his home is now known as the Juliette Gordon Low house. When Georgia seceded from the Union, Wayne remained on the Supreme Court.

On January 14, 1860, the Committee of Thirty-Three introduced a proposed Constitutional Amendment to allow slavery in the areas it then existed.

Julian Bond was born on January 14, 1940 in Nashville, Tennessee, and was one of eleven African-American Georgians elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965. After his election, on January 10, 1966, the State House voted 184-12 not to seat him because of his publicly-stated opposition to the Vietnam War. After his federal lawsuit was rejected by a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the United States Supreme Court ordered Bond seated.

True story: Julian Bond was the first Georgia State Senator I ever met, when I was in ninth grade and visited the state Capitol.

On January 14, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, requiring Japanese-Americans, including American-born citizens of Japanese ancestry, as well as Italians and Germans to register with the federal Department of Justice. The next month, Roosevelt would have Japanese-Americans interned in concentration camps in the western United States.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

Today is Legislative Day 2 in the Second Session of the 155th General Assembly. Here’s the schedule for the rest of the month, as adopted yesterday by both chambers:

Tuesday, January 14 – Day 2
Wednesday, January 15 – Day 3
Thursday, January 16 – Day 4

January 20-24 will be Budget Hearings

Monday, January 27 – Day 5
Tuesday, January 28 – Day 6
Wednesday, January 29 – Day 7
Thursday, January 30 – Day 8
Friday, January 31 – Day 9

Monday, February 3 – Day 10
Tuesday, February 4 – Day 11
Wednesday, February 5 – Day 12
Thursday, February 6 – Day 13

Monday, February 10 – Day 14

COMMITTEE MEETINGS TODAY

1:00 PM SENATE ETHICS- Canceled 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENT 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 450 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT 515 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT 310 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE BANKING & FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS MEZZ 1

4:00 PM SENATE AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS – Canceled 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION- Canceled 310 CLOB

Governor Brian Kemp‘s office released December tax revenue numbers.

The State of Georgia’s December net tax collections totaled nearly $2.23 billion for an increase of $65.8 million, or 3 percent, compared to the previous fiscal year when net tax collections totaled roughly $2.16 billion. Year-to-date, net tax collections totaled $11.85 billion for an increase of roughly $32.3 million, or 0.3 percent, compared to FY 2019 when net tax revenues totaled almost $11.82 billion.

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections totaled nearly $1.16 billion, for an increase of $14.4 million, or 1.3 percent, compared to December 2018 when Income Tax collections totaled $1.14 billion.

• Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) increased by $41.4 million or 167.4 percent.
• Individual Withholding payments for December were up $36.7 million, or 3.4 percent, over last year.
• Individual Income Tax Estimated payments for the month were up $4.6 million, or 11 percent.
• All other Individual Tax categories, including Non-Resident Return payments, were up a combined $14.5 million.

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections increased by $15.4 million, or 1.5 percent, up from a total of $1.04 billion in FY 2019. Net Sales and Use Tax increased by approximately $0.2 million compared to last year when net sales tax totaled $526.1 million. The adjusted Sales Tax distribution to local governments totaled $524.1 million for an increase of $21.2 million, or 4.2 percent, while Sales Tax Refunds fell by roughly $6 million, or -53.3 percent, from a total of $11.2 million in FY 2019.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections increased by nearly $66.5 million, or 36.9 percent, compared to FY 2019 when Corporate Tax collections totaled approximately $180 million for December.

• Corporate Income Tax refunds issued (net of voids) were up $16.9 million or 142.1 percent.
• Corporate Estimated Tax payments for the month increased by $67.9 million or 43.7 percent.
• Corporate Income Tax Return payments were up $16.1 million, or 67.7 percent, over last year.
• All other Corporate Tax categories, including Corporate S-Corp payments, were down a combined $0.6 million.

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections increased by nearly $0.7 million, or 0.5 percent, compared to FY 2019.

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees decreased by $0.5 million, or -2 percent, compared to last year, while Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections declined by almost $19 million, or -28.5 percent.

From the Augusta Chronicle and Dave Williams with Capitol Beat News Service:

Georgia lawmakers got some good news on tax revenues Monday but not enough to avoid painful cuts in state spending as the 2020 General Assembly session unfolds.

State tax collections last month rose 3% or $65.8 million compared with December of last year, the Georgia Department of Revenue reported Monday.

The governor is expected to release his spending recommendations to the Legislature by the end of this week. The state House and Senate appropriations committees will hold three days of joint hearings on the proposed budget next week.

The Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion, and Education (GRACE) Commission, headed by First Lady Marty Kemp, announced an initiative with the Department of Administrative Services to make anti-human trafficking training available for state employees, according to a press release.

As public servants, state employees are uniquely positioned to safeguard the well-being of our citizens. Proper human trafficking awareness training will empower them to meet that call to action by imploring them to learn the signs of sex trafficking and how to report suspicious activity.

“I want to thank Commissioner Atwood and his team at the Department of Administrative Services for their dedicated work to develop this human trafficking awareness training program,” said First Lady Marty Kemp. “By educating individuals on the issue, we are creating an army of trained eyes which will literally have the ability to save lives.”

“I am incredibly proud of Marty, the Department of Administrative Services, and everyone involved in crafting this training module,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “I challenge all state employees to take this training. Together, we can stand up to protect our state’s most vulnerable and dismantle this criminal enterprise for good.”

“I am proud of the work that the Department of Administrative Services has done with our partners – collaborating with the First Lady and the GRACE Commission – to deliver a quality training for more than 78,000 state employees,” said Commissioner Alex Atwood. “We believe the training, along with the resources available through our website, will pay big dividends in helping create awareness across the state.”

In conjunction with this important training, First Lady Marty Kemp announced that she will partner with the Georgia Public Safety Training Center to host two self-defense classes on January 30, 2020. Both classes are open to the public, but registration is required.

Any individuals interested in attending the 9 AM class should register here, and all wishing to attend the 1:30 PM class should register here.

From WABE:

Kemp said he will mandate that all members of his staff take the training and said he will encourage the heads of state agencies to mandate it for almost 80,000 state employees.

“That’s 80,000 boots on the ground ready to help a victim if needed,” Marty Kemp told supporters at the state Capitol.

The half-hour video course is also available to the general public, and Kemp said she hoped churches, civic groups and others would encourage their members to view it.

Marty Kemp said her husband also planned legislative proposals to combat human trafficking but didn’t give details. The Republican governor has been talking about the issue as one of his top priorities for this year, saying he would toughen laws to stop people from being exploited.

From the Savannah Morning News:

The GRACE Commission is co-chaired by Marty Kemp; Georgia House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones, R-Milton; and Vic Reynolds, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

“There are terrible people out there who control [victims’] every move and force them to do unspeakable things,” she said. “Education and awareness is the way to fight against human trafficking.”

“This will be a tough battle against a ruthless enemy,” DOAS Commissioner Alex Atwood said. “But it’s one we can win if we work together.”

Governor Kemp discussed his legislative priorities with WMAZ.

“Well, I’m excited to build off, quite honestly, a great year we had last year. I think we got a lot more done than most people thought coming out of an election year,” says Kemp.

“We’re continuing to look at ways that we can go after street gangs and put some more teeth in our laws to help our local prosecutors and law enforcement,” says Kemp. “And also to really hone in on sex trafficking, on those that are committing these evil acts, but also, how can we help the victims.”

The Habersham County Commission voted to name itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary, according to AccessWDUN.

“Whereas, it is the desire of the Habersham County Board of Commissioners to declare its support of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and to the provisions of the Constitution of the State of Georgia that protect Habersham County citizens’ induvial, inalienable rights to keep and bear arms,” the resolution reads in part.

The resolution states no agent, employee or official of the county, or any corporation providing services to the county, shall provide material support or participate in any way with the implementation of federal acts, orders, rules, laws or regulations in violation of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Prior to the vote on the matter, Commission Chairman Stacy Hall read a letter from 10th District State Rep. Terry Rogers and delivered a prepared statement.

“It is of paramount importance that we the people remind these legislators that their simple dislike of a constitutional amendment makes it no less constitutional and that we will not give those rights up easily,” Hall said. “The Constitution is not an aging, irrelevant document with increasing insignificance over time. Quite the contrary; it is the very fabric that this great country has woven together. It is a living, breathing document that protects us all from an overreaching and overbearing government.”

Georgia State Senator Bill Heath (R-Bremen) announced that he will not seek reelection this year, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Fighting back tears, Heath said he wants to spend more time with his wife.

“There is more to life than politics. I’m convinced of that,” he said.

Heath was elected to the Georgia Senate in 2005 after serving one term in the House of Representatives. He unseated then-House speaker Tom Murphy, a towering figure in Georgia politics who was among the longest-serving state House speakers in the country, serving from 1973 to 2002.

Senate District 31 covers Polk County, Haralson County and part of Paulding County.

Much of the opening day business surrounded honors for Rep. Jay Powell of Camilla who died unexpectedly at 67 in November, and the late Sen. Greg Kirk of Americus, who died in December after a battle with cancer.

From the Dalton Daily Citizen News:

[State Rep. Jay] Powell loved the Georgia House of Representatives, [Speaker] Ralston said.

“He regarded it as a place where good, sound policy was formulated, not a place to be burned down,” he said on the House floor. “For members who sincerely wanted to understand the legislative process, there was not a better member of this body.”

Ralston said that Powell was “truly a son of Southwest Georgia” and worked hard to revitalize rural areas across the state.

“As a founder of the House Rural Development Council back in 2017, he brought an intense passion and unrivaled work ethic to the goals of they already see,” Ralston said. “And I want to tell you today that because of Jay Powell’s leadership, Southwest Georgia, and particularly future generations of young people there, will have greater opportunities and a better quality of life.”

From the Savannah Morning News:

A special election to choose Powell’s successor in House District 171 will be held Jan. 28. The district includes all of Mitchell County and part of Decatur County.

On the Senate side of the Capitol, lawmakers paid tribute to the late Sen. Greg Kirk, R-Americus, who died last month of cancer. Flowers were laid on his vacant desk in the Senate chambers and kind words came from Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who presides over the Senate, and other senators.

“Senator Kirk was a true statesman and a distinguished member of this body,” said Duncan. “He will be missed by all of us.”

“There really are no words that can express our remorse,” said Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R-Forsyth County) and Senate Republicans are not prioritizing legalization of gambling, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

“I’ve not had a line of senators over the last nine months outside that office trying to take the door off the hinges to talk about gambling,” Duncan said during a pre-session press conference. “I just haven’t seen that overwhelming push for gambling here in the state of Georgia — I certainly haven’t heard it out as I’ve traveled around the state.”

In the same press conference, Duncan talked strategy for his first session as lieutenant governor. Health care — a main priority of Duncan’s when he served in the House — will again make the top of his list, he said.

“The federal government is in a place where they’re leaning more on the states and we want to be a state that creates solutions,” Duncan said. “Some of the things you’ll see from us in health care will be price transparency and also the right to shop. We’re going to continue to work in ways that allow us to really build a system in this state that allows consumers or patients to know how much their health-care costs — well before they get home from the hospital.”

When asked if he had concerns about the governor’s budget cuts stalling legislation — which has drawn criticism on the House side — Duncan said he is “certain” there is wasteful spending that can be cut.

“We have 40 legislative days to work through the budget and the two things I’ll guarantee you is: we will pass a budget and it will be balanced, and I look forward to working with the governor and his staff on the budget process,” he said.

State legislators appear to have come to an agreement to close a sales tax loophole, according to the AJC.

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said he has worked with House colleagues since last session on an agreement that would close a loophole that allows many online retailers to skip sending in taxes on their sales.

Hufstetler said an agreement on the measure — which could mean hundreds of millions of dollars a year for the state — could come this week, the first of the 2020 General Assembly session. The measure’s original sponsor last year, House Ways and Means Chairman Brett Harrell, R-Snellville, said he, too, hopes a deal can be reached quickly.

Hufstetler told reporters Monday: “We’ve got a revenue issue. But bigger than that, we have a collection issue. We need to be collecting money that is owed Georgia so that those that are paying their fair taxes don’t have to pay more.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, said: “We are planning on being able to collect that money really quickly from out-of-state entities that has been due to our state for a while now. If it’s owed, it needs to come in.”

Different versions of the measure passed the chambers last session, but the two sides couldn’t strike a deal.

Hufstetler said another measure would spur the Department of Revenue to use data analytics to ferret out potential fraud or people not paying taxes. If the state can get a large chunk of the money that’s due but not being collected, it could raise hundreds of millions of dollars more, he said.

From The Brunswick News:

Among the bill’s details, it would require sales taxes for use of ride share apps, and an online marketplace facilitator would be obligated to pay taxes for retail sales, not the marketplace seller. A marketplace facilitator, as defined in the bill, is someone who “contracts with a seller in exchange for any form of consideration to make available or facilitate a retail sale that is taxable under this chapter on behalf of such seller directly or through any agreement with another person….”

Retail sales will be assumed to be made in Georgia “if it is to be held for pickup, used, consumed, distributed, stored for use or consumption or rendered as a service within this state.”

Columbus will enjoy a higher profile under the Gold Dome this year, according to WRBL.

Republican Richard Smith moves into that key leadership position as he takes over over the powerful House Rules Committee. That makes him one of Speaker David Ralston’s top lieutenants.

“I heard somebody say that it is a very powerful position in the state that nobody knows,” Smith said. “So, I think that’s one of the things that makes this job intriguing, you do have a say-so on what happens.”

Smith has taken over the committee after the death of Jay Powell of Camillia.

Legislators representing Glynn County are considering a referendum on the role of the county police department, according to The Brunswick News.

State legislators are considering local legislation to let Glynn County voters choose whether or not to leave the Golden Isles’ law enforcement in the hands of the Glynn County Police Department or to fold it into the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office.

“We’re still talking about it,” said state Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island. “I think the voters ought to have a right to vote on almost anything.”

Former State Rep. Jonathan Wallace announced he will run for the seat held by Republican Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville), according to the Red and Black.

Wallace is challenging Republican incumbent Rep. Marcus Wiedower for District 119, which includes areas of Clarke and Oconee counties.

Wallace won the seat in 2017 in a special election, flipping the district from Republican to Democratic.

Wiedower defeated Wallace in the Nov. 2018 general election with 52.8% of the vote. Wallace will run as a Democrat again for the 2020 election, according to his ActBlue page.

Weston Stroud announced he will run for Bibb County Commission District 2, according to WGXA.

“One of the biggest things we can change is just access to opportunity. We have ample opportunities here in Macon, but accessing it is always the key. There are various hurtles that are between opportunity that we have to think about as a local agency,” says Stroud.

 

Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown announced he will run for reelection, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Brown seeks to expand the Bulloch County Jail, administrative space, inmate intake areas and training space, he told the Statesbnoro Herald. During his first term, construction has already begun on buildings that will house a new training room, clinical areas, office space and a larger evidence room. He has been pitching for new jail pods as well, citing overcrowding in the current space.

“If taxes have to be raised, so be it,” he said. “My priority is the protection and safety of Bulloch County citizens. As sheriff, I am mandated by law to keep peace and safety in this county.”

There are problems with the core infrastructure in Bulloch County’s public safety system, and improvements are vital to the ability of the Sheriff’s Office to meet the challenges of a swiftly growing county, he said.

“This is not a want, it is a need,” he said. “We have to grow in place.”

 

 

The Whitfield County Commission tabled a vote on whether to put a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on the 2020 ballot, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Members of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners say they still plan to vote on a resolution to place a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the May general primary ballot by the end of January.

But on Monday, commissioners voted 4-0 to postpone that vote as well as a vote on an intergovernmental agreement with the cities of Dalton, Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell that would determine how the proposed four-year, $66 million SPLOST would be spent.

Members of the Dalton City Council tabled a vote on the intergovernmental agreement last week, saying they needed more time to study the agreement and also to see what impact mediation with the county over the service delivery agreement, which spells out which services each government will provide and how they will be funded, might have on the SPLOST projects.

If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, commissioners could still place a SPLOST on the ballot. The Tier 1 projects would be funded first, and the rest of the money would be split among the county and the cities based on their share of the population.

The Brunswick News profiles announced candidates for Glynn County Commission.

The Richmond County Board of Elections has revised three voting locations, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Richmond County Board of Elections has announced three polling place changes going into effect for the March 24 presidential primary and referendum on extending the 1% transportation sales tax.

After accessibility concerns arose last year, polling places at Augusta University’s Christenberry Fieldhouse and Crawford Avenue Baptist Church will no longer be used.

All four affected precincts lean heavily Democratic. Each supported Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams by 75% or more in the 2018 race for governor.

Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson will host a paddle on the Withlacoochee River, according to ValdostaToday.com.

Since before Scott James Matheson was officially sworn in last Thursday as Valdosta’s new mayor, he had already been dedicated to seeing the city through its worst sewage spill on record.

When WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc.’s John S. Quarterman talked to him about the spill after it first happened, Mayor Matheson did not shrink away from what was to become the first, and perhaps his ultimate legacy, of his mayoral tenure. Matheson asked Quarterman to schedule a paddle, call it the “Mayor’s Paddle,” and the two projected that it would be held Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.

“We’ll paddle by the site of the projected Troupville River Camp, supported by Valdosta and Lowndes County, Georgia, and Madison and Hamilton Counties, Florida,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “We’ll also pass the outflow from Valdosta’s Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), which did not spill, although it is in a stretch of the river that was contaminated by Valdosta’s December 2019 record raw sewage spill.”

“The only way to dispell the stigma of sewage spills that affects the entire Suwannee River Basin, is frequent, regular, water quality sampling with published results,” added Quarterman. “The dozen-county Florida Rivers Task Force to deal with Valdosta sewage wants to promote cross-state-line eco-tourism. We should all be marketing our rivers. We are, with this paddle, and with Troupville River Camp. But we need a solid foundation of testing so we can say when the rivers are clean, and the few (we hope) times when they are not.”

“Meanwhile, the recent rains have provided plenty of water in the river, several feet more than when we paddled the same route with 300 people in Paddle Georgia in June 2019, so we should have smooth sailing,” Quarterman said.

That’s a pretty cool thing to do for the Mayor and the Riverkeeper, and if I weren’t already scheduled for the weekend, I’d love to do that.

The Bulloch County public schools sex ed curriculum for sixth to ninth grade students will not address gender identity in the current school year, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The plan for the current year, which administrators said could be put into use in April, does not include the “sexual orientation and gender identity” and “undoing gender stereotypes” lessons that were part of a plan unveiled last summer for a three-year rollout. Even in that original version, those topics were not for sixth grade and would not have been taught this school year. But they would have been introduced in the ninth grade next school year and in the seventh and eighth grades in 2021-22.

However, the committee that reviewed and revised the curriculum from late October to early December was asked to focus on a single-year plan, said Assistant Superintendent for School Improvement Teresa Phillips. That short-term focus bypassed the question of whether the gender identity topics will be reintroduced in the future.

Rome City Commissioners elected their Mayor, according to the Rome News Tribune.

….Rome City Commissioners and city officials witnessed the swearing in of six newly-elected board members and Mayor Bill Collins was re-elected to his position by a unanimous vote of his colleagues.

Collins is Rome’s first black mayor, elected for the first time in 2019. Before he resumed his seat after the undisputed vote of confidence, he paused to catch his breath.

“It’s not been an easy road, but I appreciate the fine citizens of this here county and thank the commissioners for their trust in me,” Collins told the crowd that spilled into the hallway outside chambers. “I want my grandson here to know it takes dedication and integrity and everything that goes along with making sure you hold yourself accountable.”

…Commissioner Jamie Doss nominated Commissioner Craig McDaniel as mayor pro tem.

As was the case for mayor, no other names were presented for pro tem and McDaniel was elected to be Collins’ right-hand man by a 9 to 0 vote.

The Hall County Board of Education elected Craig Herrington as Chair, according to AccessWDUN.

The Savannah Chatham County Board of Education issued an RFP to sell its administrative building, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Berry College Bald Eagles produced their first egg of the year, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Multiple cameras that focused on the nest, at www.berry.edu/eaglecam, went offline during the storm. Sometime after those cameras came back online, the female eagle moved to change position and the egg was visible.

In past years a second egg usually followed the first within a few days. When eagles lay multiple eggs, they are generally a minimum of three days apart.

Once eggs are laid, both adults will take turns incubating them for approximately 35 days before they hatch.

The pair of eagles at Berry has had two eggs every year since 2013. Last year, both eggs hatched but neither of the nestlings survived their first week. The year before, one of the two nestlings fell out of the tree and died. In another year, 2014, one of the eggs failed to hatch.

The nest behind the Cage Center athletic complex was first discovered in the spring of 2012 and the pair produced their first two eaglets in 2013.

Those two, if they have survived, are now at the point where they could be reproducing. It takes bald eagles five years to become sexually mature.

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