Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 24, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 24, 2020

Georgia History

The Supreme Court of Georgia held its first meeting on January 26, 1846 at Talbotton, Georgia.

John Sammons Bell was born on January 26, 1914 in Macon, Georgia. He would go on to serve as Chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, as a Judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals, and as chief judge of the appellate court. He is today best known as the designer of the state flag featuring the Confederate battle flag, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1956.

Jekyll Island

On January 24, 1915, the first transcontinental telephone call was placed from Jekyll Island, Georgia

Emory Window 628

On January 25, 1915, a charter was issued in DeKalb County Superior Court to Emory University.

January 24, 1933 saw the first sales tax in Georgia proposed to fund schools and aid for farmers.

On January 25, 1943, Georgia Gov. Ellis Arnall signed legislation eliminating the governor as an ex officio member of the State Board of Education, State Board of Regents, Department of Public Safety, and State Housing Authority, as part of a proposal to reduce the Governor’s power over education.

On January 24, 1960, Martin Luther King, Jr. became co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, sharing the pulpit with his father.

On January 24, 1987, some 12,000 to 20,000 civil rights protesters marched in Forsyth County, a week after a smaller protest. From the New York Times reporting:

CUMMING, Ga., Jan. 24— This small town in Forsyth County was overwhelmed today by civil rights marchers, members of the Ku Klux Klan and their sympathizers and an army of National Guardsmen and law-enforcement officers who kept the opposing groups separated.

Guarded by what a spokesman for the Governor’s office called ”the greatest show of force the state has ever marshalled,” a crowd of marchers estimated at 12,000 to 20,000 funneled slowly into Cumming, where a week earlier counterdemonstrators, throwing stones and bottles, disrupted an interracial ”walk for brotherhood” prompted by the all-white county’s racist legacy.

As the marchers headed into Cumming, which has a little more than 2,000 people, they found waiting for them, behind a stern-faced force of 2,300 guardsmen and police officers, a group of hundreds if not thousands of white, mainly young, rural men and women, repeatedly shouting, “N***er, go home!”

Whatever the final figure, the march was one of the largest civil rights demonstrations since a 1965 rally that followed a march from Selma, Ala. to Montgomery. The rally, led by Dr. King, drew 25,000 people.

Seriously, read the Times report.

On January 24, 2001, the Georgia House of Representatives approved legislation changing the state flag to the Barnes design with the state seal on a blue background and a banner depicting five previous flags that flew over Georgia.

2001GeorgiaFlag

On January 26, 2001 a new state flag, first designed by Atlanta architect Cecil Alexander, passed out of committee in the General Assembly by a 4-3 vote and would be voted on later that week. Click here to view the floor debate from 2001.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Voters in House District 171 will go to the polls Tuesday in a Special Election, according to The McDuffie Progress.

The seat became vacant Nov. 25, 2019, after Jay Powell (R) passed away. A runoff election, if necessary, is scheduled for February 25, 2020.

Jewell Howard (D), Tommy Akridge (R), and Joe Campbell (R) will face off in the special election. Powell was first elected to District 71 in 2008. He was unopposed in his 2014, 2016, and 2018 re-election bids. In 2012, Powell was opposed by Howard (D), whom he defeated with 59% of the vote.

Republicans have a 104-74 majority with two vacancies in the state House. Georgia has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

Governor Brian Kemp continues his economic development trip to Germany, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Kemp left on Tuesday, accompanied by First Lady Marty Kemp and Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. They will return to Georgia on Saturday.

The trip will be highlighted by the opening of the economic development agency’s new Europe office in Munich, which is relocating from its old digs into a larger space. The delegation also will visit with large and small German companies with a Georgia presence, including manufacturers with operations in the Peach State.

“Marty and I are honored to travel to Germany – Georgia’s fourth largest export market … to reaffirm our strategic partnership and strengthen business ties across multiple industry sectors,” Kemp said.

Georgia exports to Germany in 2018 were valued at $2.29 billion, while Georgia imported $9.8 billion in goods from Germany that year, making Germany Georgia’s No.-2 source of imports.

Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget Director Kelly Farr spoke at Joint Budget Hearings this week, according to The Brunswick News.

State Rep. David Knight, R-Griffin and chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education, questioned Farr on whether or when the governor would take into account expected revenue by the recently-passed online sales tax legislation. The state estimate is it should bring in around $150 million annually.

“We haven’t talked to him about it and I certainly can’t speak for what the governor would do, but if he asked my advice, the one thing I would caution him on is using estimates to change anything,” Farr said. “That’s kind of maybe why we’re in the challenge we’re in now, is because a lot of people relied on the estimate from when the 25 basis-point reduction was made last time. And it didn’t quite perform like we had hoped.

“And so, I think it would be prudent, if the governor asked my opinion, to wait and see what the performance actually was for marketplace facilitator legislation before making any changes to the revenue estimate.”

Some state legislative leaders are questioning additional raises for teachers, according to AccessWDUN.

Both Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Hill and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England said Thursday that more than $200 million in budget cuts are hard to swallow when the Republican Kemp wants to spend $376 million to give $2,000 raises to K-12 and preschool teachers. That’s the back end of a $5,000 raise Kemp promised when running for governor. He also seeks $45 million for a $1,000 pay increase for state employees now earning less than $40,000 a year.

“It would be easy to explain the cuts if we weren’t turning around and spending it on raises,” said Hill, a Reidsville Republican. England echoed that in a separate interview, with the Auburn Republican saying, “There’s a lot of truth to that.”

The focus now turns to the House, which is likely to pass an amended budget for 2020, and then a spending plan for the 2021 year beginning July 1. England said he is particularly worried about proposed cuts to mental health, county health departments, university agricultural and research programs and the state Department of Agriculture.

“Members are concerned about the cuts, which is to be expected when you put a face to it,” Hill said.

Bartow County‘s state house delegation is busy, according to the Cartersville Daily Tribune News.

The lone piece of legislation, as of Wednesday, sponsored by all three of Bartow’s State representatives is House Bill 737, which would allow the Bartow County Board of Education to “change the definition of the education districts.”

The only other bill District 15 State Rep. Matthew Gambill (R, Cartersville) has sponsored in the 2020 Legislative session to date is House Bill 765, a bill which looks to increase the minimum compensation for Georgia’s chief magistrates and “to provide for the calculation of future increases in the minimum compensation for chief magistrates.”

The legislation was also sponsored by District 14 State Rep. Mitchell Scoggins (R, Cartersville.) In addition to sponsoring HB 737 and HB 765, he also sponsored House Bill 538, a bill that was withdrawn by the House and recommitted on Jan. 14.

Of Bartow’s three House lawmakers, District 16 State Rep. Trey Kelley (R, Cedartown) has sponsored the most bills thus far, lending his signature to seven pieces of legislation since the General Assembly reconvened on Jan. 13.

That includes House Bill 276, a piece of legislation that seeks to amend State Code relating to sales and uses of taxes. In particular, it adds a section defining a “marketplace facilitator,” describing such individuals as those who “contract with a seller in exchange for any form of consideration to make available or facilitate a retail sale that is taxable under this chapter.”

Bartow County state Senators are also busy with legislation, according to the Daily Tribune News.

District 52 State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R, Rome) is the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 293, also known as the “Balance Billing Consumer Protection Act.”

The proposed legislation would add a new chapter to the Georgia Code section pertaining to insurance practices, with an emphasis on addressing “surprise bills” — i.e., unanticipated health care costs stemming from insured patients “inadvertently” receiving services from an out-of-network provider.

Hufstetler has also sponsored House Bill 276, a piece of legislation that would, essentially, reclassify Georgia’s “marketplace facilitators” as dealers for taxation purposes.

“A marketplace seller shall not be obligated to collect and remit or be liable for the taxes levied or imposed by this chapter on any retail sale for which its marketplace facilitator is obligated and liable,” the bill text reads.

To date, District 14 State Sen. Bruce Thompson (R, White) has sponsored three bills in the 2020 Legislative session, two of which were prefiled in the Senate on Jan. 6.

Senate Bill 285 would amend Georgia Code to allow “military spouses licensed in other states to practice certain professions and occupations without being required to obtain a license” in Georgia. Among other changes, the bill would address reciprocal licenses for Class I electrical contractors, journey plumbers, Class I conditioned air contractors and utility foremen.

Senate Bill 282 by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) would require that 90% of early admissions to some Georgia universities be to in-state students, according to The Brunswick News.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Brandon Beach, would require the university system to make sure at least 90% of early-action admissions to the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University and Augusta University are offered to in-state students.

“In my eight years in the Senate, the most calls I get are from parents who say, ‘Can you help my daughter or son get in Georgia or Georgia Tech?’ ” said Beach, R-Alpharetta. “I want to take care of our parents, who are hardworking taxpayers, and our students.”

With growing demand for admission, colleges have been setting higher standards for incoming students. It’s not uncommon for high school students carrying a 4.0 grade-point average or better with high standardized test scores to be denied admission.

At the same time, Beach said, slots at Georgia’s top-tier schools are going increasingly to high-achieving out-of-state students.

Dallas Mayor Boyd Austin will run for the State Senate District 31 seat being vacated by the retirement of Sen. Bill Heath, according to the AJC.

Austin was first elected to lead the Paulding County city in 1995, and he’s the presumed front-runner in the race to represent the west Georgia district.

He would also have been a formidable U.S. House candidate, but his calculations may have changed when Ben Bullock, the real estate investor, decided to enter the race. Their families have long been close.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is working to reduce a backlog of cases, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

As of Jan. 1, the crime lab operated by the GBI were backlogged with 44,020 cases, up from 37,000 cases in February of 2019.

“We did a lot of work in 2019 on the issue of gangs and we have more work to do there,” [GBI Director Vic] Reynolds said, “but there is no issue to me any more important today than addressing the issues of this crime lab … I give you my word I will do the very best I can to make sure those issues are looked at from top to bottom.”

Of the backlogged cases, 77% require forensic biology, including processes such as DNA testing, and chemistry (drug identification).

House Bill 470 that passed during last year’s session and became effective in April of 2019 sent for the first time DNA collection and analysis for first offenders to the GBI. The change added about 8,000 cases to the GBI’s list, Reynolds said.

Of the backlogged cases, 46% range from 31 to 180 days old, the ideal shelf life of a case. A total of 70% fall under a two-year shelf life. But out of the remaining cases, 13% are between three to six years old.

The Port Wentworth City Council remains stalled as two members missed a second meeting, preventing a quorum, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Port Wentworth council members Thomas Barbee and Mark Stephens were no-shows Tuesday night (Jan. 21) for the second council meeting in a row.

The deliberate move to avoid having a quorum of members Tuesday was made clear by an email sent by Stephens to the mayor and council on Tuesday morning.

“Thomas and I will not attend a meeting and you will not have a quorum until we have an opportunity to discuss the future of this city where you, Linda and Pig show some respect to the needs of the northside,” Stephens wrote. Stephens was referring to council members Linda Smith and Glen “Pig” Jones in the email.

Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell announced he will run for reelection, according to the Gainesville Times.

Billy Powell has represented District 2 for nearly sixteen years. He says he still has some things he hopes to accomplish while a commissioner, but singled out one particular project he hopes to see begin: the Sardis Connector linking Dawsonville Highway (SR53) with Thompson Bridge Road (SR60).

“One major project planned for the near future is the Sardis Connector,” Powell said during the commission meeting, “which I would thoroughly enjoy seeing ground-breaking for that project before I leave office.”

Powell’s name will appear on the May 19th ballot for the general primary. (Currently no other Republicans have announced an intention to seek the District 2 seat.) He will then be on the ballot November 3rd for the general election along with the candidate chosen to represent the Democratic Party. (No one has been named as of this writing.)

The Richmond County Board of Elections will hire high school students as poll workers, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Board of Elections executive director Lynn Bailey said the Student Poll Worker Program will accommodate the introduction of a new voting system and hopefully give students a unique experience at the same time.

“Georgia has a new voting system coming in this year, and in anticipation of that, and the big election year in general, the Board of Elections was seeking ways to beef up the number of poll workers we have, and we immediately thought of bringing more young people into the mix, knowing that young people, generally speaking, have a fairly good technical background,” Bailey said. “We felt like it was a perfect fit for our purposes, and also, we believe, it’s a great opportunity for students to have this experience and this opportunity for public service.”

Student poll workers will be paid $60 per shift and an additional $20 for attending training. Shifts are from 5:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. or from 1 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Students will also learn how elections are conducted and work closely with existing poll officers.

Augusta City Commissioners are considering ending curbside recycling pickup, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Citing the program’s operating loss, Commissioner Sammie Sias called for ending the program last month, but commissioners decided to hold off until they could conduct a workshop, which happened Thursday.

The program, attached to city garbage pickup, is underused. Of Augusta Environmental Services’ nearly 63,000 residential customers, 38 percent or around 24,000 have a recycling cart, but only around 4,800 or 20 percent put the cart on the curb each week, interim deputy Environmental Services Director Becky Padgett told commissioners.

Since China quit accepting foreign recyclables due to contamination, prices for them have collapsed, Padgett said.

The low prices have helped push the recycling program’s annual operating loss to around $380,000, Padgett said. Some $100,000 of that is to supply or replace damaged $50 carts used for recycling, she later added.

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