Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 13, 2020


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 13, 2020

On February 13, 1941, Gov. Eugene Talmadge signed legislation that proposed a Constitutional Amendment changing the 2-year terms for Governor and other statewide Constitutional Officers to 4-year.

On February 13, 1956, Gov. Marvin Griffin signed legislation adopting a new state flag incorporating the Confederate battle flag.

On February 13, 2007, United States Congressman Charlie Norwood (R-Augusta) died at home.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today






Governor Brian Kemp spoke about the budget process that currently has the state Capitol rapt, according to Fox5Atlanta.

“I think we’re going to have a great budget when we get finished now what it’s gonna look like we’re still working through that but I think they got a lot of answers yesterday but we stand ready to continue to defend the focus that we made on different parts of the budget,” said Gov. Kemp.

Some of Gov. Kemp’s priorities for the budget include pay raises for teachers and growing “Georgia Made” businesses.

Governor Kemp launched a “Georgia Made” initiative to highlight in-state manufacturing, according to AccessWDUN.

The program parallels the existing Georgia Grown certification that promotes agricultural products. The Georgia Department of Economic Development will begin certifying products as Georgia-made later this year, giving the stylized peach logo to any product at least 50% made in the state.

“I hope each of the companies here will place it on your products as a badge of honor,” Kemp said. “The world-class goods that each of you produce are a large part of what sets our state apart, and what keeps Georgia on the mind of the domestic and international companies looking to invest here.”

Proposed state income tax cuts could be more costly than previously estimated, according to the AJC.

Last summer, an analysis put the cost of Part 2 of the General Assembly plan to cut the state income tax rate at $550 million.

That cost to the state – and savings for some Georgians – might have been low-balling it.

A new report from the same analyst – Dan Kanso, a tax expert for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute think tank who worked for then-Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle when the two-step plan was approved two years ago – now says Phase 2 will cost closer to $615 million.

Jeffrey Dorfman, the state’s fiscal economist and a University of Georgia professor, told lawmakers last month that most Georgians probably didn’t notice the first tax cut because at the same time they were seeing a slight dip, they were also probably seeing a rise in what they paid for health insurance.

At $615 million a year, the second rate reduction would likely force lawmakers to cut spending much deeper than they are planning to this session. Kemp’s proposed cuts would amount to $200 million this year and $300 million in fiscal 2021, which begins July 1.

State budget cuts could cause cutbacks for accountability courts, according to the AJC.

Council of Accountability Court Judges executive director Taylor Jones told lawmakers Wednesday that 336 fewer people would be able to participate in the diversion program if the agency’s budget is cut by 4%.

Gov. Brian Kemp last summer asked state agencies to trim 4% from the 2020 fiscal year budget and another 6% in fiscal 2021, which begins in July.

Jones told a panel of Senate budget writers that Kemp’s proposal actually cuts 5.3% — or almost $1.4 million — from the agency’s budget, meaning even fewer people could be diverted to the program.

“There would be less treatment offered … less surveillance visits performed by local law enforcement, less drug testing that would occur,” [Jones] said. “But overall we would anticipate an increase downstream in the correctional and juvenile systems.”

Over the past eight years, with increased funding and incentives, the number of accountability courts statewide has increased from 72 to 163.

Georgia Democrats plan to campaign against some state budget cuts, according to the Georgia Recorder.

Georgia Democrats gave a preview of the political sparring to come at a Tuesday press conference held to decry Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed budget cuts, particularly to health care.

“The reality is that the budget is a value proposition for those who are in power,” state Rep. James Beverly, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, said at the event. “And at this particular point, that’s why we’re doing everything we can to flip the House, and hopefully, we’ll do that this year.”

Some of the reductions flagged by Democrats – such as cuts to public health departments, mental health services and a rural physician recruitment program – have also troubled many of their colleagues across the aisle.

“We may not have a hospital everywhere, but we do have health departments, and they do not need to be cut as severely as they’ve been cut this budget,” said Rep. Debbie Buckner, a Junction City Democrat who is the vice chair of the legislative rural caucus.

“When we look at the cost of these cuts, it isn’t so much about dollars and cents,” Buckner said. “Put quite simply, we need to put our constituents first or they will pay for these cuts dearly, many times with their lives.”

Senate Bill 280 by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta) would ban some uses of plastic bags, according to the Albany Herald.

Plastic grocery bags would be banned in Georgia under a Senate bill filed in the 2020 legislative session.

Senate Bill 280 would prohibit retailers from handing out plastic carryout bags starting next year.

The legislation would exempt several bag styles including plastic wrappers, newspaper sleeves, take-out bags and trash bags.

James, D-Atlanta, said she aims to curb plastic pollution after trying unsuccessfully two decades ago to push legislation calling for Georgia to be a “zero waste” state by this year.

Food retailers in the state support curbing plastic use but are wary of an outright ban that could spur more reliance on other non-recyclable products like garbage bags, said Kathy Kuzava, president of the Georgia Food Industry Association.

She said a better approach might be to encourage more voluntary plastic-reduction policies to help stores transform their customers’ habits on bag use.

“It’s really trying to get the customers used to a change in mentality,” Kuzava said Wednesday. “And I think that’s happening.”

State Rep. Matt Gurtler (R-Tiger) announced he will run for the 9th Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Doug Collins, according to the Gainesville Times.

Gurtler was first elected to the state House in 2016 and represents House District 8, which includes Union, Towns, Rabun and White counties.

“I support President Trump’s agenda to bring our troops home, cut job-killing regulations, and defend the right of the unborn. Unlike out-of-touch politicians, I stand by my conservative voting record in Atlanta,” Gurtler said in a statement. “I want to ensure that Georgia’s most conservative congressional district sends a proven conservative to Washington, not another go along to get along politician, or a Democrat in sheep’s clothing.”

State Senate District 50 has two new candidate. Franklin Spring Mayor Lee Moore and Andy Garrison, retired director of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Athens.

Charles Baker will run for reelection as Hall County Clerk of Courts, according to the Gainesville Times.

The AJC Political Insider has an interesting analysis of Democrat Lucy McBath’s endorsement of Mike Bloomberg for President.

McBath’s endorsement of Bloomberg comes only hours after former Vice President Joe Biden, heretofore the favorite of African-American voters, finished a disappointing fifth in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

Biden didn’t wait for New Hampshire returns to roll in. He left Tuesday afternoon for South Carolina, a state rich in African-American voters. It’s his firewall.

Bloomberg has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on TV ads, across the country and in Georgia, boosting his own candidacy and dumping on President Donald Trump. His focus is on March 3 SuperTuesday primaries and beyond. Georgia votes March 24.

Bloomberg has hired about 50 staffers and opened a half-dozen offices around the state. He’s courted Stacey Abrams and state party chair Nikema Williams.

If Biden can’t right himself, Bloomberg is positioning himself as the best choice for a calculating African-American base that wants to see Trump gone above all else.

McIntosh County Commissioners approved a measure declaring the coastal community a Second Amendment Sanctuary, according to The Brunswick News.

Chairman David Stevens said the measure is meant to protect residents “from any federal or state override of our Second Amendment rights.”

The resolution states, “Opposition will include any means available under the U.S. Constitution and the laws of Georgia, including the withholding of funds, direction of county employees, legal action and other means as deemed necessary and legal.”

It further states that the McIntosh County government “shall not authorize or appropriate government funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings or offices for the purpose of enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of any element of such actions, laws, orders, mandates, rules or regulations that infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms as described in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

McIntosh County Commissioner Bill Watson proposed the resolution.

The resolution passed with a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Roger Lotson was not present at the meeting.

Gwinnett County Commission Chair Charlotte Nash gave her last annual State of the County address, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Nash is preparing to head off into retirement at the end of this year and a crop of candidates are vying to replace her as the head of Gwinnett government. Given that political backdrop, one could be forgiven if Nash’s final annual summation on the state of Gwinnett at times felt like advice for whoever succeeds her in 2021.

“”Will we continue to be extraordinary going forward?” Nash asked audience members during her speech. “My answer is a resounding ‘Yes … If.’ Yes, because the conditions are in place for us to prosper even as we evolve. We have the essential ingredients: talent, experience, knowledge, resources, and energy.”

“But there’s also an ‘If’ – If we can summon the type of vision and courage that made Gwinnett extraordinary in the first place.”

Not only has Nash opted against running for another term this year, but Commissioner Jace Brooks has also opted to not run again, leaving at least two open commission seats up for grabs in this year’s elections.

Nash preached a need for continued sustainability as well as discipline in government spending, and knowing the limits of what the county can do in any given year with its financial resources.

The City of South Fulton is considering an ethics complaint against a council member, according to the AJC.

The city of South Fulton’s ethics board plans to conduct a mini-trial to determine if a City Council member must repay public money used to cover expenses for a training seminar that he did not complete.

Members of the ethics board on Monday night voted to move forward with the complaint against councilman Khalid Kamau, who in late August attended the Robert E. Knox Jr. Municipal Leadership Institute on Jekyll Island.

Kamau said he left early from the four-day training seminar after Gov. Brian Kemp issued a state of emergency — not an evacuation — in Glynn and several other counties as Hurricane Dorian approached.

The ethics complaint is yet another example of the squabbling that the South Fulton City Council has exhibited since the city incorporated in May 2017. Initiated by Khalid, he and three other council members during the holidays unsuccessfully tried to remove Willis and Mayor Bill Edwards from office for their roles in a development deal.

Residents and leaders of the young city keep saying they want to move forward from the drama, but Willis spoke against Kamau at the ethics board hearing. The ethics board also considered — but ultimately dismissed — a complaint by Wise against council member Naeema Gilyard for allegedly misusing taxpayer dollars on a purchase at Victoria Secret that ended up being for a school drive.

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