Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 16, 2020

16
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 16, 2020

On June 16, 1736, General James Oglethorpe arrived in England with Tomochichi, the Yamacraw Indian chief, Tomochichi’s wife and several other members of the tribe on a trip to meet the Georgia Trustees and King George II.

On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln addressed the Illiniois Republican Convention as a candidate for U.S. Senate and warned that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

The Atlanta Constitution was first published on June 16, 1868.

Bob Dylan recorded “Like a Rolling Stone” on June 16, 1965.

The Monterey Pop Festival opened at the Monterey Fairgrounds on June 16, 1967, often considered one of the opening events of the “Summer of Love.” Among the artists playing the Festival were the Jefferson Airplane, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Macon-born Otis Redding.

Six Flags Over Georgia opened on June 16, 1967.

Atlanta Braves player Otis Nixon tied the modern record for steals in one game with six stolen bases agains the Montreal Expos on June 16, 1991.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

My personal condolences to the friends and family of Bill Kokaly, who died of cancer, according to AccessWDUN.

Gwinnett County continues counting ballots in last week’s primary elections, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Still counting,” counting spokesman Joe Sorenson said. “Will be counting through the evening tonight too.”

It was not immediately clear on Monday exactly how many absentee-by-mail ballots the county has left to count.

“They are seeing daylight,” Sorenson said. “They may be wrapping up the main part of the count tonight or tomorrow morning.”

The Clarke County Board of Elections held an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss uncounted votes, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

There is one item on the agenda for the meeting, which will be held virtually: “June 9, 2020 Election Issue: Possibility that Dominion Scanner & Software Did Not Count All Votes Marked on Absentee Ballots.”

“I witnessed dozens of votes that were missed like this,” said Adam Shirley, a member of a bipartisan vote review panel that watched Athens-Clarke elections workers tabulate absentee ballots, in a Facebook post.

Elections workers and volunteers corrected the error when they found it, Shirley said, and there is still time to correct the errors. Local elections boards have until Thursday to certify the results.

Officials or advocates detected the same problem in DeKalb, Morgan and Cherokee counties, according to the Associated Press.

Since the problem has been detected in four counties, it is likely a widespread issue, according to an expert quoted by the AP.

The Secretary of State‘s office has extended the period for voters whose absentee ballots were rejected for a signature mismatch to challenge the action, according to the AJC.

The change came the same day the Democratic Party of Georgia filed a lawsuit arguing that many voters wouldn’t be notified about problems with their ballots until it was too late to correct them.

Voters will have three business days after they’re notified of issues with their absentee ballots to fix problems, according to a bulletin from the secretary of state’s office. Voters can submit photo ID or other documentation to validate their identities.

Georgia Democrats outvoted Republicans last week, according to the AJC.

The latest results, still being tallied as absentee ballots are counted, show Democratic turnout in Georgia surpassed 1,060,851 – the previous high-mark set during the 2008 presidential primary when then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama trounced Hillary Clinton.

Republicans lagged behind, with more than 950,000 votes in last week’s contest. But there was no competitive statewide contest on the ballot, since President Donald Trump had already captured his party’s nomination and U.S. Sen. David Perdue faced no primary opposition.

The turnout numbers soared mainly due to a surge in absentee ballots after an expansion of mail-in voting ordered by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, amid coronavirus restrictions. A review showed those mail-in ballots were roughly split between Democrats and Republicans.

It was also due to intense on-the-ground work cultivating potential voters. Scott Hogan, the party’s executive director, said Democratic officials contacted 1 million potential voters in the four days before the primary.

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

8:00 AM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 606 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

11:30 AM HOUSE JUDICIARY 132 CAP

TBD Senate Rules Upon Adjournment 450 CAP

1:00 PM Senate Ethics – CANCELED 450 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES 606 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT 406 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Environmental Quality Subcommittee of Natural Resources and Environment 506 CLOB

2:15 PM Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities 450 CAP

3:30 PM Senate Banking & Financial Institutions – CANCELED Mezz 1

3:30 PM Senate Natural Resources & Environment 307 CLOB

4:00 PM HOUSE BANKS AND BANKING 606 CLOB

4:45 PM Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs 450 CAP

4:45 PM Senate Transportation- canceled 307 CLOB

Protestors at the Georgia State Capitol called for passage of hate crimes legislation and policing changes, according to the Associated Press.

And only minutes after lawmakers began business, thousands of protesters led by the NAACP marched up to the Capitol. The march was fueled in part over outrage over the death of Rayshard Brooks, 27, a black man who was shot and killed by a white officer on Friday after Brooks seized a stun gun in a struggle and ran away. The city’s police chief resigned hours later and the officer who fired the fatal shot was terminated.

A few protesters came inside the Capitol, their chants echoing through a rotunda adorned with monumental portraits, including onetime Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens.

“I thought it right that we come into the people’s house, and show them we are not afraid,” said Georgia NAACP President James Woodall, his arms linked with protesters encircling the rotunda. “We will not falter, nor will we fail. Nor will we sleep nor eat nor rest until freedom come.”

Woodall said he supports the push for a bill to further penalize hate crimes, as well as a push by some other protesters to remove Confederate statues and symbols from the Capitol grounds. But Woodall said his group’s top priorities are repealing the state’s citizen’s arrest law and repealing its “stand your ground” law that allows people to use force without retreating. Woodall also said top priorities are improving elections and working to change state law to define crimes of moral turpitude in such a way that would allow many people previously convicted of felonies to vote again.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Organized by the Georgia NAACP, protesters called for lawmakers to repeal the citizen’s arrest law, expand voting rights for nonviolent felony offenders, amend the state’s stand-your-ground laws and reject an elections bill that Democrats urge will cause more confusion with the process.

“We will shut down this Capitol, if they do not answer our demands with immediate action,” the Rev. James Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP, said.

Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville — one of the the governor’s floor leaders — stood up in support of passing hate crimes legislation.

“No single law can or will end racism,” he said. “We should pass meaningful hate crimes legislation this session. We should continue to work with law enforcement to bolster and review the training and we should increase outreach to our minority communities.”

From GPB News:

“Let us show the world that Georgia is strong in condemning hate and wanting to move into a world that is better,” said Minority Leader Sen. Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain. “I ask for you the majority party especially join with us … it will only take eight republicans to pass 426.”

“It’s not just a black issue. It’s not just a democratic issue. It is a people’s issue. It’s a human rights issue. It’s just the right thing to do,” said Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R-Forsyth Co) spoke about hate crime legislation with Fox News.

Duncan described the video of Brooks’ encounter with officers Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan as “disturbing, very disturbing.”

“It absolutely grabbed my attention, it has grabbed our city of Atlanta’s attention and our whole country’s attention,” he added.

“As we continue to look for ways to move forward, I think one of the big issues … is trying to define the policies and procedures around the use of deadly force. One of the things we can do is look for a way to create a more uniform definition of the use of deadly force and create more clarity.”

“Trust across all types of bridges and divides and looking for opportunities to earn that trust, not to just put words on a piece of paper.”

“We have an opportunity to perfect a piece of legislation … and have an opportunity to empower communities,” he said. “Not just a single prosecutor that might or might not think it’s a good idea to seek a hate crime [charge].”

“This is an opportunity for us to empower a community and a grand jury to bring forward the charge of a hate crime and allow the opportunity for the courtroom to hear that charge and for us to move forward. I think this is a big opportunity for us here in Georgia.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) said the hate crimes bill stands a better chance of passing his committee this year, according to 11Alive.

The chairman of the committee that’s been holding up the bill for more than a year told 11Alive News he’s “cautiously optimistic” it will come out of his committee before this session ends.

State Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) said the hate crimes bill, which passed the State House last year, didn’t have enough votes to get out of his judiciary committee early this year.

That, he says, is changing. The members “are pulling together, and that’s what I’m optimistic about,” Stone said.

Sen. Stone said he is working on a substitute for the bill now that he says would “strengthen” the measure.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about it. We’re working very hard behind the scenes, building consensus,” Stone said. “We want to pass something that is more than just a title, ‘hate crimes’ legislation. We want to really have an impact.”

COVID-19 is producing a surge in Medicaid enrollment, according to Georgia Health News.

State figures show Georgia’s Medicaid enrollment increased by 42,000 in May. That rise followed an enrollment spike of 91,000 in April.

During such tough times, more individuals and their family members wind up enrolled in Medicaid, the federal/state program for the poor and the disabled.

Nearly 2 million Georgians are currently members of Medicaid and PeachCare – and most of them are children.

Georgia’s Department of Community Health has suspended the collection of all Medicaid co-pays for services and PeachCare premiums and co-pays. The suspension of payments will continue through the duration of the coronavirus national health emergency, or when the state is approved to reinstate applicable premiums and/or co-pays, whichever comes first.

Community Health officials indicated this week that overall use of medical services by Medicaid members has dropped. That’s part of a trend across the health care system during the COVID-19 crisis, as many patients have chosen to forgo or delay care due to fear of infection, financial hardship or other reasons.

But pent-up demand for medical services is expected to be unleashed at some point, and that will combine with the expiration of the extra federal funding to put a financial squeeze on the Georgia Medicaid program, [Georgia State University healthcare expert Bill] Custer said Friday.

Four groups of doctors are advocating for a tobacco tax hike, according to Georgia Health News.

Four physician groups — the Georgia Society of Clinical Oncology, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Georgia Association of Family Physicians — sent out a strong statement Sunday pushing an increase in the state tobacco tax, which is now at 37 cents per pack of cigarettes.

A fiscal note showed that if Georgia increased its tobacco tax to the national average of $1.87 a pack, it would generate between $485 and $515 million per year in new revenue for Georgia. That’s more than enough, the doctor groups say, to prevent all proposed cuts to the public health and health care delivery system in Georgia.

The Georgia Academy of Family Physicians noted that a program to reduce the state’s high maternal mortality rate is facing a $1.5 million cut. The academy’s president, Dr. Jeff Stone, said that “Georgia’s state ranking for maternal mortality is one of the few rankings lower than our 47th-out-of-50 tobacco tax ranking. Both are unacceptable. But both are fixable with one bill. Let’s support Georgia’s new moms, not subsidize tobacco profits.”

House Resolution 1023 by State Rep. Andy Welch (R-Henry County) passed the State Senate, according to the Albany Herald.

Passed unanimously, the measure proposes a constitutional amendment targeting the doctrine of sovereign immunity, a centuries-old legal concept that holds that the “sovereign” – or government – cannot be sued without its consent.

If ratified by voters this fall, it would change state law to let Georgians sue governments to halt unconstitutional laws but would not allow them to collect monetary damages or attorneys’ fees.

Sen. John Kennedy, who sponsored identical legislation on sovereign immunity in the Senate, said permitting lawsuits against the state and local governments would give Georgians a greater voice in the operations of governance and legislating.

Senate Bill 345 by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Cobb), called the “Save our Sandwiches” bill, passed the State House yesterday, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The bill, which passed 150-12 and now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk, was prompted when state health inspectors halted a Marietta-based summer food program last summer after 24 years of serving free sandwiches to thousands of school children in Cobb and six other counties.

A stipulation in state law barred MUST Ministries from receiving and distributing donated homemade sandwiches, forcing the group to raise nearly $250,000 to keep the program afloat last summer.

“Every community that’s represented here has children that if they don’t go to school, they do not eat,” said Georgia Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, who carried the bill in the House on behalf of state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta, who introduced the bill in the Senate.

The Georgia Senate Public Safety Committee stripped a bill of its contents and inserted protection against COVID-19 lawsuit for businesses, according to the AJC.

Senate Public Safety Chairman John Albers, a Roswell Republican, shepherded the legislation through his committee on Monday, amending a bill that initially would have created a specialty license plate for the Georgia Tennis Foundation.

The legislation would protect businesses, organizations and health care providers from March 14, the date Gov. Brian Kemp declared a public health emergency, through two years after the emergency order expires. The current order is set to expire June 30.

The panel’s three Democrats voted against the measure, which passed 5-3.

According to the proposed legislation, businesses and other organizations — including charity groups and municipal and state governments — would be protected from civil lawsuits if a person gets sick and/or dies from COVID-19 after being exposed to the disease on the property. Health care providers also would be protected from liability lawsuits.

The groups would not be protected if it was found the disease was spread as a result of “gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm or intentional infliction of harm.”

The Georgia Supreme Court extended the COVID-19 state of emergency that affects courts in Georgia, according to the AJC.

The emergency order was reissued just hours before it was set to expire last week. It now extends until midnight on Sunday, July 12.

“[T]he Judicial Covid19 Task Force is developing policies, procedures, and templates to allow the safe resumption of jury trials and grand jury proceedings,” the order reads. “These materials should be available in July 2020, but it is unlikely that any jury proceedings will begin until August or later.”

The new order also included a plan to reimpose many of the deadlines for civil and criminal cases that have been suspended since the emergency first went into effect in March.

Most deadlines will be reimposed as of July 14.

Athens-Clarke County Attorney Judd Drake opines that votes cast for late commissioner Jerry NeSmith  should be voided and his opponent declared the winner, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Votes for the late Jerry NeSmith in Tuesday’s election for the District 6 seat on the Athens-Clarke County should be declared null and void under Georgia law and his opponent in the race, Jesse Houle, should be declared the winner, according to Athens-Clarke County Attorney Judd Drake.

In response to requests for legal opinions from Director of Voter Registration and Elections Charlotte Sosebee and Board of Elections Chair Jesse Evans, Drake also said a special election should be scheduled with the upcoming Nov. 3 general election for the remainder of NeSmith’s current term.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) campaigned in Rome, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“I’m not a believer than we need to extend the federal part of unemployment any further, because we’re hearing from businesses all the time that it’s keeping employees from coming back to work,” Collins said. “They’re making more per week now than they would be if they were working.”

The congressman said he feels the U.S. economy will return to some semblance of normalcy following the COVID-19 problem much quicker than it did after the recession a decade ago.

“This one was not an internal monetary issue, this is not an economic issue,” Collins said. “This came out of the simple fact that our government said no, for our own safety, we need to make sure people are social distancing and keeping out.”

Coastal State Prison in Savannah is in the midst of a deadly COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Dougherty County Commissioners heard a report on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and mental health services, according to the Albany Herald.

Some uncertainty also applies to Aspire, whose primary state funding agency, like all state agencies, is looking at a possible 11 percent budget cut. That is the amount of budget reduction state lawmakers are considering to deal with the impact of decreased economic activity due to COVID-19.

State funding makes up about 50 percent of Aspire’s budget, followed by about 45 percent from payments through Medicaid and Medicare. Glass told commissioners she has not gotten a figure for the exact amount of cuts Aspire could face for the budget year beginning July 1.

Aspire’s ability to provide services online and by telephone has been significant during the pandemic, Commissioner Clinton Johnson said. Continuing services through that method in the future will help those who may see a “stigma” in seeking services in person.

“To be able to connect to services in their homes, I think that can make a big difference,” Johnson said. “I think it gives access to your services.”

Dalton residents met to discuss a Confederate statue, according to the Dalton Daily News.

Kennesaw City Council voted to remove a confederate flag from a public monument, according to the AJC.

Kennesaw’s decision was based on its interpretation of a state law some believe prohibits the city removing the flag from the memorial. That law originated from a 2001 compromise in the Legislature that removed the segregation-era state flag that incorporated the Confederate battle flag; and stated no publicly owned monument on public property can be moved or altered in any way.

According to a resolution read by Mayor Derek Easterling, this statute also allows the city to “take appropriate measures for the preservation, protection, and interpretation” of memorials by replacing the “historically unrelated” battle flag with the one Georgia flew during the Civil War.

Resident Debra Williams said the City Council would be breaking state law if it removed the flag.

“When you break the law, you are at that moment a criminal and immediately should be arrested,” she said, adding elected officials should not base their decisions on their likes and dislikes.

Athens-Clarke County will begin budget hearings, including a proposal by two Commissioners to defund local police, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Valdosta and Lowndes County will both hold budget meetings, according to the Valdosta Daily Times

 

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