Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 25, 2020

25
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 25, 2020

The British Parliament closed the Port of Boston on March 25, 1774, passing the Boston Port Act in retaliation for the destruction of $1 million worth of tea in the Boston Tea Party.

Flannery O’Connor was born on March 25, 1925 in Savannah, Georgia. She would come to be recognized as one of the greatest American fiction writers. O’Connor graduated from the Georgia State College for Women, now called Georgia College and State University. She returned to Milledgeville in 1951, living at the family farm, called Andalusia, until her death at age 39 in 1964.

At GCSU, the Flannery O’Connor Room is located in the GC Museum, the Flannery O’Connor Collection includes manuscripts, and the College includes a program in Flannery O’Connor Studies.

O’Connor died of Lupus, which also killed her father.

Horton Smith won the first Masters tournament on March 25, 1934.

On March 25, 1937, Governor E.D. Rivers signed legislation creating the Georgia Department of Labor; in 1945, the Commissioner of Labor was upgraded from statutory office to Constitutional.

Governor E.D. Rivers signed a resolution on March 24, 1939, calling for the return of “General” locomotive made famous in the Great Train Chase from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Georgia. It currently resides in The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia. The other locomotive involved in the chase, The Texas, is displayed at the Atlanta Cyclorama in Grant Park  until late last year, when it was removed for restoration and will be displayed in the Atlanta History Center beginning in fall of 2018.

Elvis Presley was inducted into the United States Army on March 24, 1958.

On March 24, 1970, Gov. Lester Maddox signed legislation naming the Largemouth Bass the Official State Fish.

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

On March 24, 2016, the Georgia Senate agreed to House changes to SB 168, naming the Adoptable Dog as the Official State Dog of Georgia. From the AJC:

In addition to showing some love to the needy animals, the bill also shows a little love and appreciation to the many animal shelters around the state and the work done by their staffs, said Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, before the chamber’s 30-14 vote gave final passage to Senate Bill 168.

But the feel-good legislation was not without some pushback.

Having a dog of of an unknown breed as the official state canine is a “disgrace,” said Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen.

Sen. Ellis Black, R-Valdosta, echoed Heath’s opposition to bestowing the state honor on a dog from the pound. “You’re going to have people who are going to use this against the state of Georgia,” he said.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp called on Georgia’s business community to support the COVID 19 response, according to a press release.

“As our state’s hardworking healthcare workers and first responders stand on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, it is our job to come together as Georgians and arm them with the necessary resources to keep them safe and effective,” said Governor Kemp. “Now more than ever, I am confident in both our nation and our state’s ability to work in solidarity as we continue to fight spread of COVID-19. I ask all Georgia businesses who are able to support us in the fight against this global pandemic.”

Critical items include: N-95 masks or equivalent, air purifying machines, face shields, hair covers, hand sanitizer, hospital beds, gloves (various sizes – nitrile or latex-free), negative pressure machines, no-touch thermometers (regular if no-touch are not available), safety goggles, sanitation units, sanitizing spray, sanitizing wipes, shoe covers, surgical masks, Tyvek suits, and ventilators.

Businesses able to provide assistance and resources with factories already up and running, or facilities that can be repurposed for these vital products, are asked to complete an informational form online here. This is simply for the purpose of collecting information. Submission of the form will not equate to a commitment by the state of Georgia to purchase.

As part of this mission, the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) is actively working to identify manufacturers and distributors across the state who have in their inventory, or could produce, distribute, or store critical health care supplies that are already limited in supply or may become scarce in the weeks ahead.

“We could not be more grateful for the dedication our medical workers, first responders, and partners have shown during this challenging time. They consistently continue to make Georgians’ health and safety their number one priority,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “As we fight COVID-19 and its expanded consequences together, we thank our Georgia businesses who have stepped up to help our state and pledge the continued full support of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.”

To complete the information form, visit: www.georgia.org/covid19response.

Governor Kemp also ordered some business closings, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Georgia’s governor said Monday that he was ordering all bars and nightclubs in the state to close because of the coronavirus and giving state officials the authority to shut down businesses that don’t comply as the number of infections confirmed statewide reached 800.

The order will take effect at noon Tuesday and last for just under two weeks, Gov. Brian Kemp said at a news conference. He said the state would also ban gatherings of 10 or more people unless people could maintain a distance of 6 feet (2 meters). Kemp’s announcement did not mention restaurants.

“These measures are intended to ensure the health and safety of Georgians across our state,” he said. “And I would ask for everyone’s cooperation over the next two weeks.”

From WABE:

Gov. Brian Kemp is defending his partial shelter-in-place order, applicable statewide to those with “increased risk of complications” from the coronavirus, including the elderly and those undergoing cancer treatment.

Why limit the shelter-in-place order?

Well, I felt like we had the right response from a state perspective. I mean, look, I understand that cities are dealing with a little bit different situation than a whole state. Certainly, the city of Atlanta has been much different from a lot of the other 600-plus cities around Georgia. And, you know, I’ve been supportive of what the local communities are doing, but also felt like we had a lot of Georgians that were not paying attention and not doing the things that the president and the vice president’s task force and myself and the nation’s governors had been asking.

But we’re also continuing to follow the data on this and looking at a lot of different ramifications, not only from the virus, but economically and other things. And that all factored into my decision-making process.

We’re continuing to keep all options on the table as we move forward. But I’ve told people that, you know, our citizens are the ones that are going to stop this virus. It is not going to be a vaccine this year. It may be next year if it comes, but it’s not going be a cure that’s going to happen, I don’t believe, in the next month or two. So we’ve got to do our part as Georgians to help, you know, flatten the curve and get through this. But we also have to think about the social and economic disadvantages of complete, total lockdown in our state.

Gov. Kemp will host an hour-long Town Hall on Thursday, according to the AJC.

The governor will headline the 8 p.m. special on Thursday that will air live on WSB-TV Channel 2, CBS46, Georgia Public Broadcasting, 11 Alive, FOX 5 Atlanta and Univision 34 Atlanta.

The town hall will also feature Dr. Kathleen Toomey, head of Georgia’s public health department; Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Homer Bryson, head of the state’s emergency management agency.

“During this time, it is crucially important for people and organizations to come together, and by partnering on this initiative, we’re expanding the capability of journalists and news organizations to work for the common good of keeping citizens informed,” said Teya Ryan, chief executive of GPB.

The Georgia Secretary of State will mail absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The unprecedented step will reinforce the social distancing public health officials are recommending in the midst of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

“Times of turbulence and upheaval like the one we Georgians face require decisive action if the liberties we hold so dear are to be preserved,” Raffensperger said. “Georgia has faced challenges before and overcome them, and we can do so again.”

Raffensperger already has postponed Georgia’s presidential primary, which was to have been held Tuesday, until May 19, when it will take place in conjunction with primaries for congressional, legislative and county offices.

Only 5% of Georgia voters cast their ballots by mail during the November elections in 2018 and 2016. But with COVID-19 raging, a much higher percentage of voters likely will vote absentee this spring.

All 6.9 million Georgia voters will be able to request and vote an absentee ballot for any reason.

Georgia’s rural healthcare providers are under more pressure from the Covid 19 outbreak, according to Georgia Health News.

Georgia’s rural hospitals have faced financial challenges for a long time. Even the recent economic boom was not enough to pull them out of the ditch.

Now things may get even worse. The COVID-19 pandemic is both a medical crisis and an economic shock, and in Georgia, the state’s most vulnerable hospitals could bear a formidable burden.

Still, Georgia’s rural hospitals fight to stay open because of what they mean to their communities. A rural area that loses its hospital will have little hope of attracting new residents and businesses, and its downward economic spiral may accelerate.

Some hospital CEOs say their cash flow has been squeezed especially hard this year. “Many rural hospitals are operating with just a few days’ cash on hand,’’ says Damien Scott, CEO at 66-bed Emanuel Medical Center in Swainsboro.

The Teachers Retirement System has lost $15 billion in value to the Covid 19 outbreak, according to the AJC.

The losses since the beginning of the year — about 21% before Tuesday’s gains — could mean state lawmakers will be asked to come up with several hundred million dollars to stabilize the Georgia Teachers Retirement System unless there is a fairly quick bounce back.

In Georgia, besides the 133,000 members receiving benefits, the TRS promises retirement benefits to more than 200,000 teachers and University System of Georgia staffers in the future.

At the end of 2019, the TRS had about $83 billion in pension assets. Buster Evans, the executive director of TRS, said that was down to $65 billion by the end of last week. With Tuesday’s market gains, it was up to $68 billion.

“It has not been usual to see days when our fund has gone down by $4 billion, then up by $4 billion the next day,” Evans told the TRS board Wednesday.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson issued a shelter-in-place order, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The South Health District ordered the closing of dine-in restaurants in Ben Hill, Berrien, Brooks, Cook, Echols, Irwin, Lanier, Lowndes, Tift and Turner counties, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Georgia Municipal Association is asking local municipalities to declare a public health emergency, according to the Center Square.

Gwinnett County has ordered the closure of restaurant dining rooms and non-essential businesses, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Restaurants in Gwinnett County must close their dining rooms and certain non-essential businesses must close all together if they have not already done so, because of the pandemic outbreak of the coronavirus disease known as COVID-19, Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash ordered on Wednesday.

The move is being taken in concert with similar orders being issued by other cities in Gwinnett. Suwanee was the first area in the Gwinnett to take such a move, with Mayor Jimmy Burnette issuing a similar order last week.

A statement from the county shows all 16 cities in Gwinnett have agreed to issues similar orders in concert with the county government.

Georgia’s unemployment may rise, causing further economic issues from the Covid-19 outbreak, according to the Georgia Recorder.

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits is soaring, according to Kersha Cartwright, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Labor.

“We are receiving the same number of claims in one day that we were seeing in a week last year,” she said. “We are working diligently to process these as quickly as possible and answer as many questions as we can. We are asking claimants to file during off-peak hours. Claims can be filed online at any time.”

The state labor department’s career centers where the unemployed can find job-hunting resources were among the latest places to lock down this month as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, but people can still apply for benefits online or by phone.

To file a claim online, visit www.dol.georgia.gov on a computer or smartphone and click “Apply for Unemployment Benefits.” You’ll need to supply your Social Security number, potentially your driver’s license, your banking information and your work history for the last 18 months.

Atlanta’s Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian announced major cuts last week in a letter to employees, including a call for a 70% reduction in flights, temporary pay cuts of up to 50%, cutting the active fleet in half and encouraging employees to take voluntary leave.

Delta employs more than 90,000 worldwide and more than 36,000 in Georgia. “I know everyone is concerned about the security of your jobs and pay,” Bastian wrote. “Given the uncertainty about the duration of this crisis, we are not yet at a point to make any decisions.”

United States Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) has proposed banning the export of medical supplies, according to the Gainesville Times.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday, March 24 to impose a temporary ban on all exports of critical medical supplies.

“In recent days, I have become aware of the struggle of some hospitals to obtain ordered medical supplies due to distributor policies that prioritize orders from other countries,” Collins wrote in his letter to Pompeo. “While I understand that distributors wish to fulfill their international orders, it is vital that we ensure American healthcare workers have the supplies and equipment they need to reduce spread of coronavirus and overcome this pandemic. As we have seen, even a few days can save lives and make a difference in our battle to control the coronavirus pandemic.”

“Each day, our doctors, nurses, pharmacists, first responders, and others in the medical community are taking incredible risks and making sacrifices to stop the spread of coronavirus,” Collins wrote. “We must do what we can to help them, and, right now, they need medical equipment.”

Former Democratic Congressman John Barrow‘s lawsuit seeking a place on the ballot for Keith Blackwell’s seat on the Georgia Supreme Court is getting more interesting as the Supreme Court justices are split on whether they should recuse themselves, according to the Daily Report.

Three justices of the Supreme Court of Georgia have joined with replacements for five of their recused colleagues to reaffirm that the entire bench will not step away from an election fight over Justice Keith Blackwell’s seat.

It took Chief Justice Harold Melton, Presiding Justice David Nahmias and Justice Sarah Warren and five temporary appointees less than four hours to rule that the three justices will not recuse from hearing appeals by former U.S. Rep. John Barrow and former state Rep. Beth Beskin, whose efforts to run for Blackwell’s post have been thwarted by the state.

Barrow’s attorneys said Tuesday’s decision appears to upend the high court’s precedents on two previous recusals by the full bench, runs counter to its previous rulings over trial court judges’ failures to recuse, and—absent any explanation or justification from the three justices who didn’t recuse—appear at odds with ethical standards governing the appearance of conflicts of interest established by the state Code of Judicial Conduct.

Barrow, an Athens attorney, and Beskin, a partner at the Atlanta offices of Freeman Mathis & Gary, are separately challenging the denial of their petitions for writs of mandamus that would compel Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to reopen qualifying and reinstate an election for Blackwell’s seat.

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