Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 9, 2020

9
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 9, 2020

On March 9, 1862, CSS Virginia and USS Monitor, a Union ironclad, fought to a draw in the Chesapeake Bay.

On March 9, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed two pieces of legislation dealing with African-Americans, one recognized their marriages, the other legitimized children born to African-American couples prior to the act and required parents to maintain their children in the same way white were required.

Bobby Fischer, the Eleventh World Champion of Chess, was born on March 9, 1943 and is considered by many the greatest player of all time.

Governor Ellis Arnall signed two important pieces of legislation on March 9, 1945. The first created the Georgia Ports Authority, with its first project being the expansion of the Port of Savannah. The second authorized the placement of a referendum to adopt a new state Constitution (in the form of a single Amendment to the Constitution of 1877) on the ballot in a Special Election to be held August 7, 1945.

On March 9, 1970, Governor Lester Maddox signed legislation setting the Georgia minimum wage at $1.25 per hour.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome – Legislative Day 26

7:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS 341 CAP

9:00 AM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 515 CLOB

10:00 AM HOUSE JUDICIARY NON-CIVIL 515 CLOB

10:00 AM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 406 CLOB

10:00 AM HOUSE Lumsden Subcommittee of Public Safety and Homeland Security 606 CLOB

10:30 AM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY AND HOMELAND SECURITY 606 CLOB

10:30 AM HOUSE BUDGET AND FISCAL AFFAIRS 341 CAP

11:00 AM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION 406 CLOB

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

12:30 PM HOUSE DEFENSE AND VETERANS AFFAIRS 506 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR – CANCELED 310 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

1:30 PM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY MEZZ 1

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH – CANCELED 307 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 26) House Chamber

3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES- CANCELED 450 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE State and Local Subcommittee of Governmental Affairs 606 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE Sales Tax Subcommittee of Ways and Means 506 CLOB

3:10 PM HOUSE Ad Valorem Tax Subcommittee of Ways and Means 506 CLOB

3:15 PM HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS 506 CLOB

3:30 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY CIVIL 132 CAP

3:30 PM HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE 341 CAP

3:30 PM HOUSE Elections Subcommittee of Governmental Affairs 606 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

4:00 PM HOUSE AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS 406 CLOB

4:00 PM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 515 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SR 459 – Senate; all persons testifying tell the truth; providing bans on persons found to have lied; request (Substitute)(ETHICS-53rd)

SB 318 – Education; public forums at public institutions of higher education; provide (Substitute)(JUDY-3rd)

SB 344 – Witness or Criminal Defendant; certain proceedings conducted by video conference; requirements; provide (Substitute)(JUDY-53rd)

SB 311 – Health; patient brokering; prohibit; definitions; exceptions; penalties; provide(Amendment)(Substitute)(H&HS-32nd)

SB 369 – Department of Revenue; electronic transmission of returns by public utilities; require (Substitute)(FIN-54th)

SB 391 – “Early Prescription Refills During Emergencies Act”; health insurers to provide coverage for early refills of a 30 day supply; require; enact (H&HS-32nd)

SB 439 – Juvenile Code; enhanced notice to and improved participation of foster, preadoptive, and relative caregivers in certain hearings; provide (JUDY-28th)

SB 442 – Property; amendments to property owners’ association instruments and covenants that restrict rental of residential lots and plots; prohibit (Substitute)(JUDY-3rd)

SB 462 – Banking and Finance; duties, powers, and responsibilities relative to industrial loans from the Industrial Loans Commissioner to Department of Banking and Finance; transfer(Substitute)(B&FI-18th)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Structured Rule

HB 911 – Crimes and offenses; offenses of improper sexual conduct by a foster parent in the first and second degrees; provide (Substitute)(JudyNC-Setzler-35th)

HB 983 – Sexual Offender Registration Review Board; information required to be provided by sexual offenders when they register; revise (JudyNC-Williams-145th)

HB 984 – Criminal procedure; sentencing; change provisions (Substitute)(JudyNC-Burchett-176th)

Governor Brian Kemp announced two more confirmed cases of coronavirus in Georgia, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The Georgia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say one individual is from Cobb County and recently returned from Italy. That person is under isolation at home. Another individual is from Fulton County and is hospitalized. How that person was exposed remains under investigation, officials said.

Testing confirmed a case in Floyd County. The initial testing was done Thursday. That person is hospitalized.

Kemp, in a statement, said federal and state officials continue to test and determine the extent of exposure for confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“The risk to Georgians remains low,” he said. “We ask Georgians to stay vigilant, utilize best practices to mitigate health risk and remain calm.”

As of 10:19 PM last night,

Kemp Tweet Coronavirus 03082020

So, that’s five confirmed cases, and six additional positive tests that are not yet confirmed.

Thirty four cruise ship passengers will be transported to Georgia for testing and quarantine, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Gov. Brian Kemp said in the statement 34 Georgia residents and other Americans who live in the eastern United States are being transferred to Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta from the Grand Princess cruise ship on the California coast.

Kemp said the transfer comes after a Saturday night discussion with federal officials.

From a statement by the Governor’s Office:

“I have learned that thirty-four Georgians and additional American citizens from the eastern United States who are currently on the Grand Princess cruise ship off the California coast will be securely transferred to Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia. These passengers will undergo testing and be quarantined for possible exposure to COVID-19. They are expected to arrive at Dobbins late Monday, March 9 or early Tuesday, March 10.” [said Kemp.]

”I am confident that Dobbins is equipped to provide high-quality care for Americans in need while keeping Georgia families safe, and our state stands ready to assist our federal partners if requested. In the days and weeks ahead, I encourage Georgians to pray for the patients affected by COVID-19 and their healthcare providers. We must continue to support one another, trust the advice of the medical community, and remain vigilant.” [said Kemp.

“My office remains in constant communication with the Trump Administration, lawmakers, and state and local officials to ensure the health and safety of families across Georgia and our country. We will continue to provide updates as soon as they become available.” [said Kemp.]

State legislators continue working to encourage rural broadband expansion, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

“It’s not becoming less of a problem,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon, said. “If you go out to Georgia where we don’t have broadband, you’ll see those folks are suffering even more as the economy in the world and in Georgia moves forward. If you don’t have that broadband service, you won’t be able to move with it.”

The utility pole rates for the state’s EMCs and companies like Georgia Power and AT&T are vastly different — cable companies paying single digits to attach to Georgia Power poles and double digits to attach to the state’s local cooperatives, he said.

The greatest barrier to entry for areas without rural broadband, Kennedy said, is the cost of the pole attachment.

Kennedy has introduced a fix, legislation called the Georgia Broadband Opportunity Act that would seek to curb “discriminatory rates and fee practices” by EMCs and provide a blanket rate for all pole attachments.

Jason Bragg, a lobbyist for Georgia EMCs, represents 41 electric cooperatives that serve 4.6 million Georgians. Bragg disagreed with the notion that EMCs haven’t expanded into rural Georgia since Senate Bill 2 was passed last session. Multiple EMCs have applied for federal reconnect grants but were unsuccessful, Bragg said, but no cable companies applied for that money.

The Georgia Senate passed legislation that was amended to include a 50-cent excise tax on ride sharing services, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

Originally, House Bill 105 by Rep. Sam Watson, R-Moultrie, involved only an income-tax exemption for farmers receiving federal disaster aid payments to recover from Hurricane Michael, which pummeled the heart of Georgia’s agriculture industry in late 2018.

But last week, Senate lawmakers tacked on an amendment to Watson’s bill that proposes charging a 50-cent fee for ride-share bookings for single passengers. The fee would be 25 cents for multiple passengers.

The heavily revised bill passed the Senate by a 51-2 vote, with Sens. Renee Unterman and Greg Dolezal voting against it. It now heads back to the House, which could give it final passage.

Wednesday’s vote in the Senate stems from earlier efforts to collect sales taxes on third-party retailers like Amazon and Google that facilitate online transactions for other businesses.

House and Senate lawmakers hashed out a compromise for those so-called “marketplace facilitators” in January after pledging to give Uber an exemption in separate legislation.

A similar 50-cent fee on Uber and Lyft rides had previously been slated for inclusion in a measure sponsored by Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, that seeks to raise more funding for rural transit services.

Georgia State Senate Bill 402 by Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) would revise the rules for signature bonds, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Fewer people arrested in Georgia could be released on their own recognizance under bail-reform legislation that cleared the state Senate this week.

Calls have long arisen for Georgia judges to rely less on issuing signature, or own-recognizance, bonds that do not require arrested persons to pay a bail amount to be released from jail.

Critics say these bonds too often lead to people committing other crimes after they were recently let out of jail on their own recognizance.

Senate Bill 402 would abolish signature bonds and require that any bond that has a set dollar amount would need to be paid in full to secure release.

Former State Rep. Beth Beskin and former Congressman John Barrow have filed suit seeking to force the Georgia Secretary of State to open qualifying for a seat on the Georgia Supreme Court, according to Fox5Atlanta.

John Barrow of Athens, a former Democratic congressman, and former Republican state lawmaker Beth Beskin of Atlanta both planned to challenge Justice Keith Blackwell for his seat on the Georgia Supreme Court in the May election. Then the court announced last Friday that Blackwell is resigning and his replacement will be named by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

Blackwell’s announcement said he plans to remain on the bench until Nov. 18 — six months after the nonpartisan election for his seat. Yet when Baskin and Barrow showed up to qualify for the race this week, state officials said they had called off the election.

“His seat is not vacant,” Beskin said Thursday, the day before the qualifying period to sign up for Georgia’s 2020 elections was set to expire. “We should be having qualifying for his seat right now. To cancel an election the day before qualifying, I don’t think it’s legal.”

Both candidates filed separate court challenges in Fulton County Superior Court asking a judge to order Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to put the judicial election back on the calendar and allow candidates to qualify.

Georgia’s state constitution allows the governor to appoint judges to fill vacancies on state courts. Both lawsuits argue Kemp can’t appoint anyone to Blackwell’s seat until the judge has left office, and that the state can’t cancel an election to let the governor to make a future appointment.

The State Elections Board will meet Wednesday to address the decision by the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections to use hand-marked paper ballots, according to the AJC.

The state board called an emergency hearing for Wednesday on whether the Athens elections board broke several state laws when it voted 3-2 last week to switch to paper ballots filled out by hand instead of by machine.

The State Election Board has the power under state law to order a $5,000 fine against Athens’ government for each violation of Georgia laws requiring a uniform statewide voting system. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is the chairman of the State Election Board.

The Athens election board abandoned the state’s new voting touchscreens because of concerns that the large, brightly lit screens allow people to see voters’ choices from 30 feet away. The board cited state laws that allow for paper ballots when use of voting equipment is “impossible or impracticable.”

But the secretary of state’s office says the touchscreens can be positioned so they face walls and protect voters’ privacy.

A federal lawsuit over rejected absentee ballots has been settled, according to the AJC.

Under the settlement in federal court, Georgia election officials agreed to contact voters whose ballots were rejected by email, phone and mail within three business days. Voters must be contacted the next business day if absentee ballots are invalidated during the 11 days before Election Day.

The agreement resolves a lawsuit filed in November over 8,157 absentee ballots that were thrown out in the 2018 general election; about 3% of all absentee ballots returned by mail.

Election officials rejected ballots because they believed voters’ signatures didn’t match those on file, and when information on absentee ballot envelopes was missing or incorrect.

Five candidates qualified for Mayor of Macon-Bibb County, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Four Bulloch County-wide offices are contested – Sheriff, Solicitor General, Tax Commissioner, and Coroner, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The Keep America Great Rally in Hall County will Republican candidates, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Keep America Great rally from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 14 at Tap It in Gainesville is co-sponsored by the Republican Women of Hall and Hall County Young Republicans. In addition to hearing the candidate’s speeches, people will also be able to grab lunch from a food truck, learn about new voting machines, buy merchandise and network with local conservative groups.

The candidates, all Republicans, will be on the ballot for the May 19 primary. Qualifying for the primary ended March 6, setting up several contested races.

Candidate speeches will begin at noon. At 11 a.m., Art Gallegos, co-founder of the Latinos Conservative Organization, will lead the invocation. Local 11-year-old Lexi Cole will sing the national anthem, and a Vietnam War veteran will lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

It’s campaign sign season in Glynn County, according to The Brunswick Times.

“Signs that are in the right-of-way are picked up as litter would be picked up,” said county spokesperson Matthew Kent. “In the case of political signs, they are picked up and taken to (the Glynn County) Public Works (office) until after the race is over.”

Anyone who wants their signs back can pick them up at the front desk at 4145 Norwich Street Extension after the campaign, he explained.

“They may not be there the same day they’re picked up, but we don’t throw the signs away,” Kent said.

Signs posted in accordance with county code won’t be picked up, he added.

“In all zoning districts, political signs are restricted by placement and size,” according to county documents. “Any signage that does not meet the restrictions placed on it for political purposes must comply with all other sign ordinances and must have filed sign permits issued. Otherwise, they will be considered in violation.”

Houston County Sheriff Cullen Talton is on track to become the longest-serving in Georgia after he qualified unopposed for reelection, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Talton, 87, qualified Monday to seek re-election, and no one filed to run against him by the noon qualifying deadline, said Andy Holland, registration/election assistant for the Houston County Board of Elections.

“I love serving the people of Houston County. I’ve never forgotten that the office of sheriff belongs to the people of Houston County, and I just represent the people,” Talton said. “I’ve got a good department, good personnel all the way through. … I just appreciate the opportunity to serve.”

Talton, who first took office Jan. 1, 1973, is currently the longest “actively serving” sheriff in Georgia, according to the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association and has been in office more than 47 years.

Talton had shared that distinction with Chattahoochee County Sheriff Glynn Cooper, according the sheriffs’ association. Cooper, who also took office Jan. 1, 1973, decided not to seek re-election and stepped down at the end of 2016.

The late Twiggs County Sheriff Earl Hamrick is thought to be the longest serving sheriff in Georgia’s history, according to the sheriff’s association. Hamrick served about 48 years as sheriff before he retired.

Chatham County Commissioners heard about potential problems higher sea levels could cause for the stormwater system, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Fannin County Tax Commissioner Shirley Sosebee was arrested and charged with forgery and a public corruption charge, according to WSB-TV.

Shirley Sosebee, 63, of Blue Ridge, was charged with forgery and violation of oath by a public officer.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was requested by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office to assist in the investigation on Feb. 27. The Sheriff’s Office received a complaint that Sosebee forged someone’s signature on a deed to transfer title in effort to obtain the Fannin County property for use by her family.

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