On February 3, 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting.
On February 3, 1887, Congress adopted the Electoral Count Act to clarify how Congress was to count electoral votes.
Electoral vote counting is the oldest activity of the national government and among the oldest questions of constitutional law. It was Congress’s first task when a quorum appeared in the nation’s new legislature on April 6, 1789. It has happened every four years since then. Yet, electoral vote counting remains one of the least understood aspects of our constitutional order.
The Electoral Count Act of 1887 (ECA) lies at the heart of this confusion. In enacting the ECA, Congress drew on lessons learned from its twenty-five previous electoral counts; it sorted through innumerable proposals floated before and after the disastrous presidential election of 1876; and it thrashed out the ECA’s specific provisions over fourteen years of sustained debate. Still, the law invites misinterpretation. The ECA is turgid and repetitious. Its central provisions seem contradictory. Many of its substantive rules are set out in a single sentence that is 275 words long. Proponents of the law admitted it was “not perfect.” Contemporary commentators were less charitable. John Burgess, a leading political scientist in the late nineteenth century, pronounced the law unwise, incomplete, premised on contradictory principles, and expressed in language that was “very confused, almost unintelligible.” At least he thought the law was constitutional; others did not.
Over the nearly 120 years since the ECA’s adoption, the criticisms faded, only to be renewed whenever there was a close presidential election. Our ability to misunderstand the ECA has grown over time. During the 2000 presidential election dispute, politicians, lawyers, commentators, and Supreme Court justices seemed prone to misstate or misinterpret the provisions of the law, even those provisions which were clear to the generation that wrote them. The Supreme Court, for example, mistakenly believed that the Supreme Court of Florida’s erroneous construction of its election code would deny Florida’s electors the ECA’s “safe harbor” protection; Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s hasty submission of his state’s Certificate of Ascertainment was untimely under the Act; and Democratic members of Congress framed their objections to accepting Florida’s electoral vote on the wrong grounds. Even Al Gore, the presidential candidate contesting the election’s outcome, misread the federal deadline for seating Florida’s electors.
Only the United States Congress could so obfuscate a matter as seemingly simple as counting that its Act remained undecipherable for more than one hundred years.
The Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by Delaware on February 3, 1913, giving the Amendment the requisite Constitutional supermajority of three-fourths of the states. The text of the Amendment reads, in its entirety,
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
President Woodrow Wilson died on February 3, 1924 in Washington, DC. Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia (pronounced Stan-ton) and spent most of his youth to age 14 in Augusta, Georgia. Wilson started practicing law in Atlanta, Georgia in 1882, leaving the next year to pursue a Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University. His wife, Ellen Louise Axson, was from Savannah, and they married in Rome, Ga in 1885.
On February 3, 1959, a chartered Beechcraft Bonanza carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson crashed near Mason City, Iowa, killing all aboard.
Jimi Hendrix recorded Purple Haze on this date in 1967.
A new exhibition at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, GA explores the historic role of African-Americans in the development of railroading.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections
Governor President Democrat Stacey Abrams believes America will be ready for her to take the reins in 2040. From Hot Air:
Stacey Abrams did an interview with journalist Clare Malone of FiveThirtyEight on Friday. She has some big plans for herself and shared them.
Abrams even predicted the outcome of a presidential election twenty years in the future. She will be the winner because America will be ready to elect a black woman and it will be her. That’s a pretty bold prediction, right? Who knew Abrams possesses psychic powers?
Clare Malone teed it up for Abrams. She asked if America will be ready to elect a black woman as president and Abrams said yes. Malone asked a follow-up question – “Do you think they’ll elect you?” Abrams’ response was “Yes. I do. That’s my plan. And I’m very pragmatic.”
Under the Gold Dome Today – LD 10
1:00 PM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 10) House Chamber
TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP
1:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR 310 CLOB
1:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1
2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH – CANCELED 307 CLOB
2:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY MEZZ 1
2:00 PM HOUSE APPROP GENERAL GOVT 341 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTHCARE 406 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY AND HOMELAND SECURITY 606 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE STATE PLANNING AND COMMUNITY AFFAIRS 403 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE INTERSTATE COOPERATION 515 CLOB
3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES – CANCELED 450 CAP
3:00 PM HOUSE Welch Sub Judiciary Civil 132 CAP
3:00 PM HOUSE Regulatory Sub Regulated Ind 415 CLOB
4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB
SENATE CONVENES AT 10:00 A.M.
SENATE RULES CALENDAR
SB 296 – Funeral Directors and Embalmers; alternative cremation process; provide (RI&U-31st)
SR 554 – Iran; protest the hostile actions of the Iranian regime without subjection to violent retaliation; support the rights of the people of Iran (RULES-45th)
SR 538 – U.S. Congress; pursuing impeachment proceedings against President Donald J. Trump; condemn (RULES-51st)
Tobacco taxes might be under upward pressure this year due to legislative budget issues, according to Dave Williams of Capitol Beat News Service, via the Ledger-Enquirer.
The legislature passed a bill early in the 2020 session to tax online purchases made through such “marketplace facilitators” as Amazon and Google. Supporters cited the need for more revenue to help offset sluggish state tax collections threatening to force painful spending cuts.
The revenue grab could move next to tobacco products. Legislation before the Georgia House of Representatives would increase the state’s tobacco tax, the nation’s third lowest, from 37 cents per pack of cigarettes to $1.87.
That higher rate, which would move Georgia’s tobacco tax above the national average, would generate $425.2 million a year in new revenue for the state, said Andy Freeman, government relations director for the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.
“Resolving the budget deficit and addressing the highest tobacco use rate in 20 years … would mark a major health and fiscal win for our state,” Freeman said.
Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, the bill’s sponsor, said reducing demand for tobacco products by raising the tax also would yield huge savings.
“We’re spending half a billion dollars a year in Georgia to treat smoking-related illnesses,” Stephens said. “That’s coming out of taxpayers.”
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said human error caused the only glitches seen in the House District 171 Special Election, according to the Albany Herald.
“The new secure paper-ballot system continued to function well in this special election as it had during the November pilot and December runoff,” Raffensperger said. “The types of small human errors that occurred are the kinds of miscues that occur in every election, no matter the type of equipment.”
“The transition to any new system will inevitably trigger some human error, and we experienced some minor ones. Our challenge is to scale up this success to more than 2,000 polling places in March for the Presidential Preference Primary. That’s a lot of new users and a lot of opportunity for these types of minor errors.”
It is the first election in Mitchell and Colquitt counties using Georgia’s new secure paper-ballot system, but it is the second in Decatur, which participated in a pilot with five other counties during the November municipal elections.
Early voting continues in nine other southwest Georgia counties for the special election in Senate District 13 caused by the death of Sen. Greg Kirk, R-Americus.” Election Day for that contest is Tuesday.
Every county will use the new system statewide for the March 24 Presidential Preference Primary.
Secretary Raffensperger called for study of possible results before changing election rules further, according to the Gainesville Times.
Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Friday that he believes the state should hold party primaries to select nominees before special elections, instead of letting all candidates run against each other regardless of party affiliation. But he wants to study the issue and make no changes now.
The issue arose after House Bill 757 began advancing in the chamber. The legislation would require party primaries be held in advance of a special election to the U.S. Senate this year. That race, which features appointed incumbent Kelly Loeffler, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, the Rev. Raphael Warnock and others, will determine who serves the final two years of a U.S. Senate term after Johnny Isakson resigned.
The House bill was seen as a way to help Collins defeat Loeffler in the Republican primary. It had drawn a veto threat from Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed Loeffler and is backing her. Democrats were supporting the bill too, hoping to consolidate support behind Warnock and prevent a January runoff, which would follow if no one won a majority.
Opponents of domestic violence will rally at the State Capitol tomorrow, according to the Albany Herald.
Neighbors could no longer formally complain about the smell of a chicken house, noise of a tractor or any other alleged nuisance on farms in Georgia that have been operating for at least a year under a bill proposed in the state House.
Legislators are looking to balance the needs of the state’s top industry with the concerns of property owners who may be negatively affected by living near a farm.
Under House Bill 545, property owners would lose the right to bring a nuisance suit, or a legal complaint about noise, odor or a similar issue, against an agricultural operation if the agricultural business has been operating for at least a year.
The bill has gained support from many farming groups, such as the Georgia Farm Bureau and Georgia Poultry Federation, but has some environmental groups concerned about impacts on neighboring properties.
Agriculture remains Georgia’s No. 1 industry, and according to the text of the bill, legislators want to protect farmers who lose resources when nuisance suits arise.
“Agricultural operations and facilities, including support facilities and forest land, are often the subject of nuisance actions when nonagricultural land uses are also located in agricultural areas,” the bill reads. “As a result, such facilities are sometimes forced to cease operations. … It is the purpose of this Code section to reduce losses of the state’s agricultural and forest land resources by limiting the circumstances under which agricultural facilities and operations or agricultural support facilities may be deemed to be a nuisance.”
The bill passed the Georgia House of Representatives last year, gaining the support of Hall County’s delegation. Now, the bill is being reviewed by the Senate’s Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, which held a hearing on the changes on Tuesday, Jan. 28. That committee is chaired by state Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, who represents part of East Hall.
I’ve been following that bill, and I believe the authors and stakeholders are working on a new version. It’s hard to be sure that any article written about the bill correctly conveys what’s in the bill at the moment.
Democrat Ed Tarver, a former United States Attorney and state senator, will announce his campaign for the United States Senate seat held by Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Atlanta), according to the Augusta Chronicle.
The Augusta attorney and former Democratic state senator is running in the Nov. 3 special election to complete the term of former GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson, he confirmed Jan 10. The special election will pit eight announced candidates – three Republicans and five Democrats – against each other, with the two top finishers going to a runoff.
The Thursday announcement by Atlanta Pastor Raphael Warnock – who was immediately endorsed by Democrat Stacey Abrams and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee – left Tarver unfazed.
“My primary focus is on preparing to launch my campaign for the U.S. Senate,” he said Friday. Endorsements aside, “the bottom line is voters will have their chance to make a decision.”
Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Tadia Whitner kicks off her campaign later this month to retain the seat Gov. Kemp appointed her to, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.
Whitner was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp last summer to replace Judge Melodie Snell Conner, who resigned last year. Although Whitner just joined the bench in 2019, she was always going to have to run for her seat this year.
Whitner will officially kick off her campaign Feb. 20 at the 1818 Club, which is located in the Gwinnett Chamber building at 6500 Sugarloaf Parkway in unincorporated Duluth, according to a Facebook event posting. The event will be held from 5:30 until 8 p.m.
The nonpartisan judicial election will be held in May.
The Augusta Chronicle looks at fundraising by candidates for Augusta Commission.
Only two of the five candidates seeking the District 1 seat had any reported contributions, including Jordan Johnson, the head of the Richmond County Democratic Party, whose $10,155 came from widely varied sources.
Johnson, who Stacey Abrams made an appearance for Friday, reported a maximum $2,800 contribution from Abrams’ voting rights group, Fair Fight Inc., in addition to $1,000 from Paul King, the Democratic Party headquarters landlord. He received $500 from government contractor Infrastructure Systems Management, owned by former Augusta engineering director Abie Ladson and $3,325 in contributions of less than $100 each.
The Fair Fight contribution irked former Commissioner Moses Todd, who supports candidate Von Pouncey. Todd said that Fair Fight is “using money that I gave to the political action committee against me if I don’t support that candidate” and that “Atlanta should stay out of local elections.”
The City of Port Wentworth has suspended its city manager with pay, according to the Savannah Morning News.
Mayor Gary Norton confirmed Davis’ suspension, but declined to offer any details.
“We can not discuss personnel items outside of the executive session,” Norton said.
The city will try again to conduct business with a meeting set for Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 6:30 p.m.
The stop in council action began in November when four council members surprised the mayor and two council members by voting to hire Davis as city administrator. They also voted to change then city administrator Phil Jones from his job to one as a consultant for Davis. Jones has worked part-time as city administrator since June of 2018.
The city has a six-member council which requires four members present to constitute a quorum and allow for voting. The mayor, however, legally can hold a meeting without a quorum as long as no votes are taken.
Cook County Probate Court Judge Chase Daughtrey announced his court will dismiss speeding tickets and refund fines attributable to a Georgia State Patrol Trooper who was fired for alleged cheating, according to Valdosta Today.
“The Georgia State Patrol informed us yesterday that a trooper assigned to Post 13 in Tifton was accused of cheating on an exam for the Speed Detection Operator component of the trooper school curriculum. Based on this information and a review of court citations, I am announcing the speeding citations issued by the former Post 13 Trooper will be dismissed and fines will be refunded to the defendants. All other cases involving this Trooper will be reviewed by the Solicitor and decisions regarding prosecution will be made on a case by case basis,” [said Judge Daughtrey].
Glynn County Commissioner Peter Murphy will hold a Town Hall meeting Wednesday, according to The Brunswick News.
Hall County Commissioners approved qualifying dates and fees for local offices, according to the Gainesville Times.
Qualifying for the May 19 General Election primaries will be held March 2-6.
The Rome News Tribune profiles new Georgia Board of Education member Phenna Petty.
Petty, who was named to represent the 14th Congressional District — comprised of 12 counties in north Georgia, including Whitfield and Murray — said state Board of Education members are from various walks of life, including attorneys, entrepreneurs and county commissioners, so “there’s not a singular vision,” and she’ll bring yet another perspective based on her background.
Petty became director of Career, Technical and Agricultural Education for Murray County Schools in 2002, and that area remains “close to my heart,” she said. “There is a skills gap in the world — not just here (locally) — and there are always job openings that are high-paying for highly-skilled (positions).”
“A farmer, diesel mechanic or welder may not wear a suit and tie, but that is (the look) of success, too,” she said. “If we don’t have the skilled workforce, we’re going to get left behind” on a national and international scale.
The writer of that article and their editor are each docked two points for incorrect use of the work “comprise.”