Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 28, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 28, 2020

On February 29, 1692, in Salem, Massachusetts, arrest warrants were issued for Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, accusing the three women of witchcraft.

On March 1, 1778, the Georgia legislature confiscated property owned by 117 people after labeling them traitors.

The Articles of Confederation were ratified on March 1, 1781.

The nation was guided by the Articles of Confederation until the implementation of the current U.S. Constitution in 1789.

The critical distinction between the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution —the primacy of the states under the Articles—is best understood by comparing the following lines.

The Articles of Confederation begin:

“To all to whom these Present shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States”

By contrast, the Constitution begins:

“We the People of the United States do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

On February 28, 1784, John Wesley executed a document titled “The Rev. John Wesley’s Declaration and Establishment of the Conference of the People called Methodists.”

On February 28, 1827, the first American railroad organized to transport people and freight commercially, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, was chartered. At the time, Baltimore was the second largest city in the nation.

On February 28, 1854, 30 anti-slavery opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would repeal the 1820 Missouri Compromise, met in Ripon, Wisconsin and called for the creation of the Republican Party.

On March 1, 1875, Governor James Smith signed legislation making cruelty to animals a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $50.

On February 28, 1885, the American Telephone and Telegraph company was incorporated, though some accounts says March 3d.

On February 29, 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed the first Panama Canal Commission.

Paul Broun, Sr. was born on March 1, 1916, in Shellman, Georgia, and served 38 years in the Georgia legislature.

Broun was first elected to the state senate in 1962 in a historic election that took place after the federal courts struck down Georgia’s long-established county unit election system. Broun was one of several new senators elected in a class that included Jimmy Carter, the future president of the United States; Leroy Johnson, the first black legislator elected in Georgia since Reconstruction; and politicians like Hugh Gillis, Culver Kidd, and Bobby Rowan, who would have a lasting impact on legislative politics.

Broun was elected to nineteen consecutive terms in the senate, where he served as the chairman of the Appropriations Committee and the University System Committee.

Dorothy Felton was born on March 1, 1929, and served as the first Republican woman elected to the Georgia legislature.

Dorothy Felton was the first Republican woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly and eventually became the longest-serving Republican and the longest-serving woman of either party in the state legislature. She also worked for more than a quarter of a century for the right of the Sandy Springs community of Fulton County to incorporate as a municipality, a goal that was not achieved until four years after she retired from elective office.

Felton was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1974 from a district in Sandy Springs.

On February 29, 1936, a board appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt recommended constructing a dam on the Savannah River at Clarks Hill, north of Augusta.

On February 29, 1940, Gone With the Wind received eight Oscars, including Best Supporting Actress for Hattie Mcdaniel, the first African-American winner.

On February 28, 1991, the First Gulf War ended, as President George H.W. Bush declared a ceasefire and that Kuwait was liberated.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia Department of Public Health is preparing for a possible coronavirus outbreak, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

“We urge Georgians to prepare for hurricanes or flooding or take measures to prevent flu, so preparing for an outbreak of COVID-19 is no different,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, commissioner. “DPH is working to make sure our health systems, first responders and county health departments have the resources they need to respond to a COVID-19 outbreak.”

DPH already has a detailed pandemic flu plan that was developed in partnership with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, the Georgia Department of Education and other state agencies, and will be adapted for a COVID-19 outbreak in the state. DPH has responded to other serious disease outbreaks, including Ebola and Zika virus and each instance has provided new insight and guidance and highlighted the need to be as prepared as we can be.

Should it become necessary, DPH may recommend appropriate community mitigation measures for affected communities, such as temporary closure of child care facilities and schools/colleges and universities, school and workplace social distancing measures, and postponement or cancellation of mass gatherings. Additionally, businesses should consider ways to implement strategies to reduce the impact of a potential COVID-19 outbreak on their workforce, including teleworking and cross-training employees on essential job functions.

Passenger screening at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport is ongoing. This is to identify people coming from China who may have been exposed to and are at risk of developing COVID-19, and to provide appropriate assessment and monitoring to protect the general public.

From the Athens Banner Herald:

Some of the pandemic’s toll on schools like UGA may come in the future.

UGA operates a study-abroad program in Italy, one of the countries now being hit hard by COVID-19. Some American universities have shut down their study abroad operations in Italy as a result, but UGA’s program in Cortona is far away from the regions in Italy where cases have multiplied.

College officials across the country fear fallout from the outbreak could curb enrollment by Chinese and other Asian students, an important source of revenue for many U.S. colleges, including UGA.

From Georgia Health News:

The Georgia Public Health Lab recently received a diagnostic test kit from the CDC for COVID-19 (the name for the new coronavirus), but like those sent to other states, its components were flawed.

“We are waiting on new components from CDC, once we get them it will take about a week to do quality assessment and quality control to be sure everything works as it should,’’ said Nancy Nydam, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Health.

The second challenge — at least potentially — is funding. No special state funds have been allocated to fight COVID-19. The White House, though, has submitted a funding request to Congress. The federal funding is expected to go to additional testing capacity to identify cases, development of a vaccine and treatments for the disease, more personal protective equipment, and money for states to quarantine people and treat cases, officials said.

The Department of Public Health is confronting state budget cuts that are expected to impact local health agencies. But a spokesman for Gov. Brian Kemp, Cody Hall, said that budget reductions “do not in any way affect the Department’s ability to respond to a potential coronavirus case here in Georgia. If any emergency were to arise, the Department has a comprehensive plan in place to protect the public with significant state and federal funds at their disposal.”

From the AJC:

So far, many involve travel. Some companies already have put limited measures in place, from restricting international visitors in facilities to curbing employee trips.

But if U.S. cases grow as expected, changes will affect more employees closer to home. A top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended this week that companies start preparing for in-person meetings to be replaced by telephone conferences or other “teleworking” options. Some kinds of work, though, can’t be done remotely.

Companies are wrestling with growing questions about the COVID-19 outbreak’s potential impact on their financial results, as U.S. stock markets were hammered again Thursday.

Package delivery giant UPS is still making deliveries globally in most areas, but said for its employees it has suspended all international travel that it doesn’t consider business critical. It also has expanded distribution of face masks to its workers not only in mainland China but now also in northern Italy.

Coca-Cola Company has suspended non-essential international business travel to and from Italy as well as the Asia Pacific region. It also installed temperature screening in offices and manufacturing operations in areas particularly hard hit by the virus, and provided workers with face masks and hand sanitizers.

“We have asked our office workers in certain regions to work from home if they are able to do so as a further precaution against spreading the virus. As the situation evolves, we will take additional actions if needed,” Coke added in a written statement.

Under the Gold Dome – Legislative Day 21

8:00 AM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR- SUBCOMMITTEE on SB 313 310 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE 506 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE Compensation Resolution Ad Hoc Public Hearing 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE JUDICIARY NON CIVIL 132 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 515 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE RETIREMENT 415 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE Resource Management Subcommittee of Natural Resources and Environment 606 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

9:30 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 21) House Chamber

11:00 AM HOUSE HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES 606 CLOB

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

12:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR- SUBCOMMITTEE ON SB 415- After Rules Committee Meeting 450 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE WORKING GROUP ON CREATIVE ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT 403 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE Occupational Professional Licensing Subcommittee of Regulated Industries 415 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 362 – Livestock Running at Large or Straying; impounding animals and disposing of impounded animals; change the fees (AG&CA-50th)
SB 371 – Department of Transportation Officers; state investment in railways and railroad facilities and equipment; provide (Substitute) (TRANS-51st)
SB 388 – General Income Tax Provisions; certain actions relating to false or fraudulent material matter on returns, affidavits, claims, or documents; penalties; increase (JUDY-18th)
SR 690 – Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund; support implementation of the Coastal Georgia Greenway; encourage (Substitute) (NR&E-3rd)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule

HB 463 – Motor vehicles; issuance of a Class C driver’s license to operators of certain three-wheeled motor vehicles; provide (MotV-Momtahan-17th)

HB 859 – Motor vehicles; tinting of windows or windshields; provide maximum monetary penalty (Substitute)(PS&HS-Pirkle-155th)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 555 – Criminal procedure; add public child welfare case manager to the people for whom arrest warrants may be issued only by certain judicial officers (Substitute)(JuvJ-Carpenter-4th)

HB 752 – Professions and businesses; national background checks by FBI through Georgia Crime Information Center for licensing to practice as a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant; provide (Substitute) (RegI-Belton-112th)

HB 842 – Gracie’s Law; enact (Substitute)(Ins-Williams-145th)

HB 987 – Health; additional measures for the protection of elderly persons; provide (Substitute)(H&HS-Cooper-43rd)

Governor Brian Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr, and announced indictments for human trafficking, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Attorney General Chris Carr announced Thursday indictments were handed down recently for four people charged with human trafficking in Gwinnett, Chatham, Greene and Cobb counties.

Carr said more arrests and indictments are expected to come from his office’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, which was launched last spring after.

On Thursday, the governor also highlighted a new training program required for all state employees focused on identifying signs of human trafficking and victimization.

“We won’t stop until we put an end to this modern-day slavery in our state,” Kemp said.

From the Savannah Morning News:

A Chatham County indictment in a domestic sex trafficking case involving minors was featured Thursday, Feb. 27, by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr in championing the state’s new Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

In Savannah, Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap said, “My office takes human trafficking cases very seriously. Chief Assistant District Attorney of Juvenile Court Diane McLeod serves on the State Task Force for Human Trafficking.

“In addition, my office is currently seeking a number of grants to bring additional resources to the victims of Chatham County.

“Human trafficking has to be stopped. Partnerships such as this one bringing together state, local and, when necessary, federal agencies, is the only way to save victims and hold predators accountable.”

Heap’s office, in partnership with the state’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, obtained an indictment last week from the Chatham County grand jury charging Jevarius Wisdom with one count of trafficking of persons for sexual servitude and one count of pimping for persons under 18.

House Bill 719 by Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs) and Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Cobb) would modernize state criminal laws regarding exposure to HIV, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The measure was introduced at the tail end of last year’s legislative session and sailed through a House Health and Human Services Committee earlier this week with no debate.

Current law makes having sex or giving blood without disclosing HIV status a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Under the bill, it would only be illegal to knowingly transmit HIV.

Cooper said lawmakers have an updated knowledge of HIV prevention and treatment since many of the HIV criminal justice laws were passed in the 1980s.

“It is time for us to remove part of the stigma that keeps people that are HIV positive from getting treatment or even go to be identified,” she said. “Which then puts the rest of our population at risk for further infections.”

Last year in President Donald J. Trump’s State of the Union address, he announced a $13.5 million initiative to accelerate state and county efforts to end the HIV epidemic. Four Georgia counties were awarded nearly half a million in funds — Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties.

The Georgia Senate Finance Committee added a 50-cent rideshare fee to House Bill 105, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

A proposed 50-cent excise tax for ride-share bookings cleared the Senate Finance Committee after some lawmakers questioned whether it should be added to legislation before the Georgia House of Representatives meant for such a different purpose.

The original meat of House Bill 105, sponsored by Rep. Sam Watson, involves an income-tax exemption for farmers receiving federal disaster aid payments to recover from the destruction the Category 5 storm brought to the heart of Georgia’s agriculture industry in late 2018.

The excise tax, which acts like a flat fee, stems from separate legislation to collect sales taxes from third-party retailers like Amazon and Google that facilitate online transactions for other businesses.

House and Senate lawmakers hashed out a compromise measure last month after pledging to give Uber an exemption in separate legislation.

An amendment brought to Watson’s bill on Thursday proposes such an exemption, while separately charging Uber and Lyft a new 50-cent fee per ride for single-person bookings and a 25-cent fee for shared rides. The fee would also apply to other transportation companies like taxis and limousines.

Revenues would be dedicated to funding transportation infrastructure repairs and public transit upgrades. Sen. Steve Gooch, who pushed for the amendment to be added onto Watson’s bill, framed the fee as a way to raise as much as $40 million a year for transportation projects, particularly in more isolated rural areas.

Tort reform has become an issue before the legislature again, according to the AJC.

The legislation is sure to spark heated debate under the Gold Dome and pits big business interests and the insurance industry against the state’s network of influential trial lawyers.

“I suspect it will be an all-day fight on the floor when it gets there,” said the bills’ chief sponsor, Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega.

Gooch has introduced Senate Bill 390 and Senate Bill 415, the latter of which is a similar, but more limited, version of SB 390. Proponents of SB 415 made sure it bypassed the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has trial lawyers as members, and was instead assigned to the Insurance and Labor Committee, where it received a warm reception.

At a Thursday press conference, Gooch said he hopes the committee will approve SB 415 sometime next week.

“The reputation of Georgia’s civil justice system is being called into question,” said Gooch, who owns an environmental services business. “The system must change if Georgia is going to continue to be a good place to do business and to live.”

Local legislation by Rep. Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain) would consolidate the Muscogee County Marshal’s Office into the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The bill consolidates the marshal’s office with the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office, eliminating the position of marshal and transferring all of the office’s deputy positions and functions to the sheriff’s office beginning Jan. 1, 2021.

That means three candidates who were intending to qualify to run for the office next week may be qualifying for an office that won’t exist.

House Rep. Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain) filed the bill to consolidate the offices. Known as House Bill 967, it was introduced to the House on Feb. 20. It passed the House earlier this week and passed the Senate on Thursday.

The bill was co-sponsored by all four of the remaining Columbus state representatives: Richard Smith (R-Columbus), Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus) and Debbie Buckner (D-Junction City).

The United States House of Representatives released a report on allegations of voter suppression in Georgia in 2018, according to the Union-Recorder.

A federal report accuses then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp of mocking allegations of voter suppression with staffers.

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform reported after its investigation it found “concerning information about voter suppression in Georgia.”

But Georgia Congressman Jody Hice defended state officials.

“It has never been easier to register or to vote in the state of Georgia. In fact, this last election, all demographic groups had record number turnouts,” he said. “That’s because of the efforts that have taken place in Georgia to make voter registration and voting easier and more accessible to everyone.”

The United States House of Representative Democratic majority will declare Stacey Abrams the Governor of Georgia as soon as it can say that with a straight face. More partisan witch hunts in DC.

Brunswick resident Sheila McNeill announced she will run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. William Ligon, according to The Brunswick News.

McNeill, a former president and first female president of the National Navy League, currently serves as president of the Camden Partnership, an organization dedicated to promoting sea services both military and civilian.

“My experiences with the Navy League, as well as the many other organizations I have worked with, have prepared me for the opportunity to serve the constituents of (Senate District 3) as their next state Senator,” McNeill wrote in a press release. “I have spent my career building valuable relationships throughout our state and in Washington, D.C., and I am looking forward to the opportunity to leverage my experience as we foster economic growth and prosperity for our region.”

She is the second candidate to announce a race for Ligon’s seat, following Camden County resident and businessman Cody Smith.

Candidate qualifying begins March 2 at 8 a.m. and ends at noon on March 6.

Chatham County Commissioners will hold a public meeting to discuss proposed regulations of AirBNB and other rental sites, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The proposal, which was given a first reading at the Chatham County Commissioners’ Feb. 21 meeting, aims to license but not regulate all short-term rental properties throughout unincorporated Chatham County, according to the draft ordinance on pages 300-311 in the Feb. 21 agenda packet.

“With the proliferation of non-traditional rental accommodations throughout the county due to platforms such as Airbnb, VRBO, and other commercial ventures, the county has no method to license the rentals of these units that are operating in the unincorporated area,” states a memo on the ordinance proposal from county Attorney R. Jonathan Hart.

“Adoption of this ordinance will allow the county to license the activities of short-term rentals and allow a fee that pays for that oversight,” the memo continues. “However, the regulation of the short term rental market would fall to the market itself, leaving Chatham County only with the authority to stop such a rental if it disturbs the peace, welfare, or public safety of the county.”

According to the ordinance draft, all applicants for the county’s short-term-rental license must have an ownership interest in the property; rental agencies would not be eligible to obtain licenses. First-time license applicants would need to pay a $250 fee for consideration, followed by paying an annual renewal fee of $150.

The public meeting will be 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27 in the second-floor County Commission chambers at the Old Courthouse, 124 Bull St. The Chatham County commissioners plan to consider this ordinance at their next meeting on March 6.

Democratic DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond has endorsed Mike Bloomberg for President and will also run for reelection, according to the AJC.

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