Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 24, 2020

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Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 24, 2020

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On June 24, 1497, John Cabot first sighted North America, claiming it for the British Crown.

On June 24, 1795, the United States Senate voted to ratify Jay’s Treaty between the UK and United States. The terms of the treaty required an appropriation from the U.S. House of Representatives to implement it, and Congressional opponents tried to defeat the appropriation, which was approved by a 51-48 margin on April 30, 1796. Click here for more background on the treaty and controversy.

On June 24, 1853, President Franklin Pierce signed the Gadsden Purchase, acquiring what it now southern Arizona and New Mexico from Mexico.

General Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River toward Pennsylvania on June 24, 1863.

John R. Lynch was the first African-American elected Chairman of the Republican National Convention on June 24, 1884; Lynch was nominated by Theodore Roosevelt.

Woodrow Wilson married Ellen Louise Axson of Rome, Georgia in Savannah on June 24, 1885.

On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blockaded West Berlin from all road, rail, and barge traffic.

Following World War II, Germany was divided into occupation zones. The United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and, eventually, France, were given specific zones to occupy in which they were to accept the surrender of Nazi forces and restore order. The Soviet Union occupied most of eastern Germany, while the other Allied nations occupied western Germany. The German capital of Berlin was similarly divided into four zones of occupation.

The United States response came just two days after the Soviets began their blockade. A massive airlift of supplies into West Berlin was undertaken in what was to become one of the greatest logistical efforts in history. For the Soviets, the escapade quickly became a diplomatic embarrassment. Russia looked like an international bully that was trying to starve men, women, and children into submission. And the successful American airlift merely served to accentuate the technological superiority of the United States over the Soviet Union. On May 12, 1949, the Soviets officially ended the blockade.

General Lucius D. Clay of Marietta, Georgia was military Governor of occupied Germany at that time.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show was released in West Germany on June 24, 1977. It’s astounding.

Rickey Henderson made his major league debut with the Oakland A’s on June 24, 1979, stealing his first base.

On June 24, 1982, the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution was defeated, having garnered the ratification of thirty-five states, three shy of the requisite Constitutional Majority.

Hopes for ratification before the deadline next Wednesday were dashed this week when the amendment was rejected by the Illinois House and the Florida Senate, two states in which supporters felt they had a fighting chance.

Had Illinois and Florida ratified the amendment, there was at least some chance that either Oklahoma or North Carolina would have provided the final needed vote.

Prospects were far slimmer in the other nonratifying states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

Phyllis Schlafly, a leader of a group called Stop-ERA, hailed the defeat of the amendment tonight, saying: ”They realized E.R.A. is dead and I think that that is an admission they have lost the battle. My feeling is that E.R.A. will take its place with the prohibition and the child labor amendments as ones which did not have enough support of the American people to be in the Constitution.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

8:00 AM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 506 CLOB

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

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 38) House Chamber

TBD Senate Rules Upon Adjournment 450 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE INDUSTRY AND LABOR 506 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION 606 CLOB

Governor Brian Kemp agreed earlier this week to allow appropriators to spend up to $250 million dollars from the state’s rainy day fund in the FY 21 budget, according to Fox28 in Savannah.

Kemp agreed to tap the state’s piggy bank Monday as he set a new revenue estimate for the 2021 budget year. The Republican governor cut the ceiling for spending state-collected revenue from $28.1 billion to $25.9 billion.

Kemp’s new estimate of $2.2 billion less in state funds is actually an improvement over earlier outlooks. It will equal a 10% funding cut for state agencies, K-12 schools, universities and colleges. That’s down from earlier forecasts of as much as 14% reductions.

From the Gainesville Times:

The state-federal Medicaid program will be fully funded, thanks to another $50 million in tobacco money that Kemp allotted Monday, plus increased federal aid because of the pandemic, but Georgia is on track for reduced capacity to treat substance abuse and mental health problems.

The state could spend $1 billion of the $2.7 billion rainy day fund to close the budget gap for the year ending June 30. Some money will come back when Georgia collects state income taxes in July after delaying them from April. That money is supposed to be placed into the current budget, reducing the deficit.

Kemp wrote that he was dipping further into the savings account “to mitigate the impact of this revenue decline on operations of state government and our local education authorities.”

House and Senate lawmakers are in final talks over a budget, needing to reach an agreement before the legislative session ends Friday.

From the Georgia Recorder:

The Republican-led effort [to raise the tobacco tax] would raise the state’s current 37-cent per pack rate up to $1.35, which rivals what Florida charges its smokers. People would pay $1.25 per fluid milliliter or cubic centimeter for vapor products, which are not taxed today.

Alternative nicotine products, such as pouches or dissolvable strips, would be taxed at 10% of wholesale cost, treating them the same as loose and smokeless tobacco. The bill, though, also lowers the tax on cigars, taking it from 23% of wholesale cost to 12%.

“Every time a pack of cigarettes are bought it results in all of us paying $5 in health costs we subsidize with our income taxes,” Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, a Rome Republican, tweeted after his Finance Committee backed the bill Friday. “98 cent increase is very reasonable. Quit making taxpayers pay for other’s choices.”

The sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Randy Robertson, a Cataula Republican, said he proposed raising the tax rate last spring – a year before the pandemic dampened state revenues. He and others argue that taxpayers are subsidizing smokers’ habits, equating the tax to a user fee.

“We’re basically asking somebody to help pay their health care premium,” Robertson said, referring to the cost to the state’s Medicaid program for treating cigarette-related diseases.

The House Governmental Affairs Committee heard from the Secretary of State about this month’s election debacle, according to the AJC.

Raffensperger, a Republican, responded that election officials need to add voting locations, improve hands-on training and encourage early voting. He said he’s reaching out to community groups such as Rotary Clubs, Boy Scouts and sororities to ask whether they can host precincts.

“You need larger polling locations or you need more polling locations,” Raffensperger said. “The most important thing obviously is training, training and retraining, and having more technicians in there.”

Raffensperger said he plans to put a tech support expert in every voting location in November after poll workers struggled to set up voter check-in tablets, touchscreens and printers for the primary. Georgia’s $104 million voting system prints out paper ballots for the first time after 18 years of the state’s reliance on electronic voting.

State Rep. Darlene Taylor, a Republican from Thomasville, said county election officials need to take responsibility for accommodating their voters.

“I feel like we’re pointing fingers everywhere,” Taylor said. “These are things that need to be done at the county level. This goes back on our local folks to get it done.”

But election officials acknowledged Tuesday that they’ll face similar difficulties again if the coronavirus doesn’t subside before the presidential election, when 5 million voters are expected — more than double the 2.2 million turnout in the primary.

The Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 426, hate crimes legislation, and sent it to Gov. Kemp for his signature or veto, according to WTOC.

The bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 47-6 and a House vote of 127-38, stiffens penalties and sentences when a defendant is convicted of a hate crime, meaning the victim was chosen specifically because of their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.

If the hate crime a defendant is convicted of is a misdemeanor, they will receive a prison sentence of at least six months, but no more than one year and a fine of no more than $5,000.

If the hate crime a defendant is convicted of is a felony, they will receive a prison sentence of at least two years and a fine of no more than $5,000.

It also requires law enforcement officers to submit a report on any case they investigate in which they believe a hate crime to have taken place. This data will then be used for statistical purposes.

From the Dalton Daily Citizen News:

The legislation extends protections to people who are targeted on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, or physical or mental disability. It gives judges the ability to enhance criminal penalties for people convicted of a felony or one of a list of misdemeanors and was found to be motivated by hate.

The bill is now on its way to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk whose office said in a statement: “Governor Kemp commends the General Assembly’s bipartisan work and will sign House Bill 426 pending legal review.”

Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, led the longtime efforts to get the legislation passed — before videos of hate-crimes and police brutality shook the country into nationwide protests and spurred calls for action from the government.

“I’ve been in the House for 46 years and I’ve seen a lot, and I’ve had a lot of moments in my career but today is the finest,” said an emotional Smyre, who co-sponsored the bill along with Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

The price Republicans exacted for moving that legislation forward was simultaneous passage of a separate bill that would mandate penalties for crimes targeting police and other first responders.

The action comes after Senate Republicans had added police as a protected class to the hate crimes legislation last week in committee, but then later moved those protections to a separate bill in a deal between the parties.

Democrats on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly against House Bill 838, which includes the increased protections for first responders. The hate crimes legislation, House Bill 426, had bipartisan support, though some conservatives voted against it.

Ralston told reporters that he had “rejected” the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote along party lines to add police and emergency personnel and that he “communicated” that to Senate leaders.

“Frankly that disturbed me because I thought it was extremely important that this be a bipartisan bill,” Ralston said. “You don’t pass a hate crimes bill, which is a piece of legislation with this kind of historic nature and consequence, along party lines.”

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Rep. Chuck Efstration, who sponsored the legislation, reflected on the historic nature of the bill, which if signed by Gov. Brian Kemp would make Georgia no longer one of four states in the U.S. that does not have a hate-crimes law on the books.

“[This bill will] send a strong message that there’s no place for hate in Georgia,” said Efstration, R-Dacula.

“There are very few times that members of this legislative body get called upon at a defining moment in our history,” said [House Speaker David] Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “But this is a defining moment in Georgia.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The General Assembly passed legislation Tuesday aimed at protecting police and other first responders from bias-motivated crimes, marking a compromise between state lawmakers over who should be included in legislation outlawing hate crimes.

The measure, House Bill 838, was overhauled late Monday night to propose punishments for those who commit bias-motivated intimidation against first responders including police officers, firefighters and medics.

That intimidation would have to be motivated because of the victim’s “actual or perceived employment as a first responder,” and would have to involve serious physical injury or property damage.

Senate Bill 435 by State Sen. Brian Strickland (R-Henry County) passed and would allow former sex trafficking victims to petition to vacate convictions for crimes committed while a trafficking victim, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The House unanimously passed The Debbie Vance Act, named for a survivor of human trafficking. Like others who have emerged on the other side of human trafficking, she faced obstacles to moving on with her life, said Georgia Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, who presented the bill on the House floor.

“Victims of human trafficking often come out with criminal arrests and convictions … that can prevent these victims from getting a job, housing and education,” Rich said.

The legislation, which originated in the Senate, is part of a package of human trafficking bills Gov. Brian Kemp has made a priority of his administration for this year’s General Assembly session.

House Bill 1094 was amended in the Senate to include a 10% pay cut for legislators, according to AccessWDUN.

Senators voted 43-3 on Tuesday to pass House Bill 1094, sending it back to the House for more debate.

As now written, the bill would cut lawmakers’ yearly salary of more than $17,350 by 11% in the budget year beginning July 1. Lawmakers would still get their full daily expense pay. Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan’s pay of nearly $92,000 a year would be cut by 14%.

“It is making a statement that we’re all in this together,” said state Sen. Jeff Mullis, a Chickamauga Republican who earlier presented a bill to study raising salaries.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, a Vidalia Republican, has said that House budget negotiators have agreed, in general, to cut spending in their chamber. Representatives have yet to take a vote on a direct pay cut to themselves, though. Lawmakers are expected to wrap up talks on spending nearly $26 billion in state revenue by Friday.

House Bill 879 by State Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) passed out of the State Senate and sets the table for home delivery of alcohol, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The Georgia Senate passed legislation Tuesday allowing restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses licensed to sell alcohol to make home deliveries of beer and wine in Georgia.

Senate passage of House Bill 879, sponsored by Rep. Brett Harrell, comes after many Georgians clamored for alcohol deliveries amid recent stay-at-home orders prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

It cleared the Senate by a 49-9 vote and now heads back to the state House of Representatives.

Liquor stores would also be allowed to make deliveries after Senate lawmakers pushed through an amendment to the bill late Tuesday permitting them to do so. Backers of that change said letting liquor stores join the delivery bunch would help many mom-and-pop businesses keep afloat.

From the AJC:

Kathy Kuzava, a longtime lobbyist for the grocery store industry, said some of the retailers she represents saw an increase in delivery sales of more than 100% during April.

“This is becoming more important to our retailers,” she told a Senate committee last week. In passing the bill, she told lawmakers: “You are making a lot of customers and retailers happy in this state. Your constituents will be very happy.”

Karen Bremer, the CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association, asked lawmakers to make sure her businesses would be allowed to continue delivering.

“Fifteen weeks ago I represented an industry that was the second-largest private employer in the state,” she said. “We were on track to do $25 billion in revenue this year and employed 500,000 people.”

Bremer put losses since the March onset of the pandemic at $4.8 billion statewide, and she said 300,000 employees have been laid off.

Under the delivery bill, beer or wine couldn’t just be left on the front porch like Amazon deliveries. The delivery person would have to check IDs to make sure the buyer is old enough to purchase alcohol.

House Bill 167, gutted, stuffed, and retitled the “Georgia Pandemic Business ProtectionAct,” would protect businesses that followed directives related to COVID-19, according to the Cherokee Tribune and Ledger News.

House Bill 167 would block lawsuits from being filed unless businesses or hospitals willfully disregarded social distancing and sanitizing rules put in place by Gov. Brian Kemp.

It would apply to lawsuits brought by people who contracted coronavirus on a broad range of properties including hospitals, government offices, businesses and sports facilities.

The liability protections are designed to give businesses and hospitals relief from worries that they will be hammered by litigation as coronavirus infections continue and Georgia businesses reopen amid relaxed social distancing rules, said Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon.

“We can provide them some stability and, very importantly, provide them predictability,” said Kennedy, who brought the changes that added liability protections to the bill.

The bill passed by a nearly party-line vote in the Senate and now heads to the state House of Representatives.

The Bulloch County Board of Education is considering how to restart in-person school in Augusta, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The state plan recommends three tiers of steps based on the level of community spread of the coronavirus, to be determined by state and local health officials.

At this point, the intent of Wilson and the board is to start face-to-face classes Aug. 3 as originally scheduled, while also offering an online, at-home learning option for sixth grade through 12th grade, he said in a phone interview Tuesday. At least that is the plan if the “community spread” determination is in the green, “Low or No Spread,” or yellow, “Minimal or Moderate Spread” columns.

“What we got into with the board on that is we do plan to go back to school,” Wilson said. “Our plan is to start school back on August 3rd as scheduled, you know, face-to-face school … and we would follow the state’s guidance to do so.”

The University of Georgia will begin in-person classes August 20 and end the semester at Fall Break, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The final exams slated for Dec. 11-17 also remain as originally scheduled, but “it is essential that faculty plan for final exams being online,” according to UGA’s “Initial Guidelines for Fall Semester Instruction” sent to faculty and staff Tuesday.

Although in-person classes won’t be held between Thanksgiving and finals, the university anticipates many students will return to Athens or remain during the break, so the campus will stay open until the end of the semester with regular services such as housing, dining and campus transit.

Former State Senator Curt Thompson has asked for a recount of ballots in the Gwinnett County Commission Chair race in which he missed making the runoff by 20 votes, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Due to the incredibly small 20 vote margin (out of more than 100,000 votes cast) in the race for county commission chair, my campaign is eligible to request a recount under Georgia law, and has opted to do so,” Curt Thompson said in an email to supporters on Tuesday.

“Gwinnett County experienced record voter turnout for the June 9th Primary election, and with that record turnout came a number of problems with voting in-person and via absentee by mail,” Thompson said. “I have long been a champion of protecting voting rights and ensuring all of our elections are conducted in a free and fair manner. We must recognize these problems and address them to protect our democracy for current and future generations.”

“Regardless of the outcome of the recount related to my race, I am confident that this recount is an opportunity to examine issues with voting in this county, and ensure that both the August runoff and November general election are run more smoothly and that voters have a better experience.”

The winner of the Democratic primary runoff will face Republican David Post in November.

Jefferson City Council revised the alcohol ordinance to allow micro-breweries and taverns among other changes, according to AccessWDUN.

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