Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 22, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 22, 2020

General William Tecumseh Sherman gained the upper hand in the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864. Estimated casualties were 12,140 (3,641 Union, 8,499 Confederate).

On July 22, 1964, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia released their opinion in the case Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States. The court held that the Commerce Clause gave the federal government the ability to order private businesses to comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From the New Georgia Encyclopedia:

Notwithstanding such states’ rights–based challenges, the Court in the Heart of Atlanta Motel and McClung cases unanimously held that the sweeping antidiscrimination provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act were a proper exercise of Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. In effect, the Court reasoned that race discrimination by even very localized businesses, when viewed in the aggregate, had such far-reaching negative effects on the interstate movement of people and products that Congress could remove these impediments to commerce whether or not its true motives centered on a moral condemnation of racism.

Ensuing enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 led to the dismantling of many of the most overt forms of racial discrimination, which in turn contributed to the emergence of the “New South” and the explosion of economic activity that spread throughout the region in ensuing decades.

On July 22, 1975, the United States House of Representatives voted to restore U.S. Citizenship to General Robert E. Lee posthumously.

Though President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation of amnesty and pardon to the Southern rebels in 1865, it required Lee to apply separately. On Oct. 2, 1865, the same day that Lee was inaugurated as president of Washington College in Lexington, Va., he signed the required amnesty oath and filed an application through Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.

Nonetheless, neither was Lee pardoned, nor was his citizenship restored. After receiving it, Secretary of State William Seward gave Lee’s application to a friend as a souvenir. Meanwhile, State Department officials, apparently with Seward’s approval, pigeonholed the oath.

In 1970, an archivist, examining State Department records at the National Archives, found Lee’s lost oath. That discovery helped set in motion a five-year congressional effort to restore citizenship to the general, who had died stateless in 1870.

President Gerald Ford signed the congressional resolution on July 24, 1975, correcting what he said was a 110-year oversight. The signing ceremony took place at Arlington House in Virginia, the former Lee family home. Several Lee descendants, including Robert E. Lee V, his great-great-grandson, attended.

On July 22, 1977, Elvis Costello released his first album, My Aim is True.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The late Dr. C.T. Vivian will lie in state in the Capitol today, under an Executive Order (07.21.20.01) signed by Gov. Kemp. From the AJC:

Vivian, the Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient who moved to Atlanta in the 1970s, died last Friday at his home at the age of 95.

Following the three-hour viewing, a horse-drawn open carriage will take Vivian’s casket from the Capitol to the crypt of one his closest allies, Martin Luther King Jr.

Vivian’s casket is expected to arrive at the Capitol at 11:30 a.m. and be moved to the rotunda. At noon, the Vivian family will be received by Gov. Brian Kemp, who will escort them to the rotunda.

Vivian’s funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at Providence Missionary Baptist Church. The services will be private, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but it will be streamed on the Providence website and through WSB-TV.

The New York Times obituary of Mr. Vivian is worth reading in its entirety.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kelly Lee Ellerbe yesterday recused herself from the Kemp v. Mayor of Atlanta case and it was reassigned to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn LaGrua, who also recused herself. From Fox5Atlanta:

Judge LaGrua announced Tuesday afternoon that she had recused herself, citing her previous role as Inspector Genreal for Gov. Kemp, among others.

Fulton County officials tell FOX 5 Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick has now been assigned to the legal showdown.

“Governor Kemp must be allowed, as the chief executive of this state, to manage the public health emergency without Mayor Bottoms issuing void and unenforceable orders which only serve to confuse the public,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit asks a judge to overturn Bottoms’ orders that are more restrictive than Kemp’s, block her from issuing any more such orders, instruct the City Council not to ratify Bottoms’ actions or adopt any ordinances inconsistent with Kemp’s orders, to force Bottoms not to make any public statements claiming she has authority that exceeds Kemp’s, and to require city officials to enforce “all provisions” of Kemp’s existing orders.

From the AJC:

Addressing [Judge Ellerbe's] decision, the Georgia Attorney General’s Office issued a statement saying Ellerbe “notified all of the parties that she spoke with an Appellate Judge … about a prior opinion that she felt may have some bearing on the issues in this case. Judge Ellerbe became concerned about having had this discussion, and she immediately notified the parties. Our office appreciates Judge Ellerbe’s transparency and professionalism.”

Meanwhile, the Georgia Municipal Association filed court papers siding with Atlanta, saying the governor “has attempted to usurp local control and Home Rule authority by using emergency powers which do not exist in the Georgia Constitution or in statutory law. There is no indication in Georgia law that the Governor has the power to suspend Home Rule, even in times of an emergency.”

“It should not be within the power of the Governor, emergency or not, to wield legislative and judicial powers to determine by fiat what statutory language adopted by the Georgia General Assembly should be amended to say or what it should be interpreted to say,” the association continued. “As provided for in the Georgia Constitution it is vital that the ‘legislative, judicial, and executive powers shall forever remain separate and distinct; and no person discharging the duties of one shall at the same time exercise the functions of either of the others except as herein provided.’”

On Fox News Tuesday, Kemp said Atlanta’s mask requirement is “not the point” but rather it’s the city’s push to reinstate Phase 1 of its pandemic guidelines that urge restaurants to stop in-person dining and encourage residents to stay home for all but essential reasons.

Governor Brian Kemp signed five bills designed to reduce human trafficking and improve Georgia’s foster care system, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp [] signed to improve Georgia’s foster care system and crack down on human trafficking in Georgia. Joined by legislative leaders in the Ceremonial Office, Governor Kemp signed HB 823, HB 911, HB 912, HB 993, and SB 439.

“Today is an important step forward to ensure a brighter, safer future for Georgia’s children in foster care and bring an end to human trafficking in our state,” said Governor Kemp. “As these bills take the force of law, we are fulfilling an ongoing commitment to enhance our foster care system, achieve positive outcomes for our children, and hold the perpetrators of human trafficking accountable. I am grateful for the hard work done by the General Assembly on this important legislation, and I look forward to continuing to work together to safeguard our children’s futures.”

Two of the bills signed today are part of First Lady Marty Kemp’s initiative to end human trafficking and protect children in Georgia:

HB 823: House Bill 823 provides that a person who knowingly uses a commercial motor vehicle in the commission of sexual or labor trafficking crimes will be disqualified as a commercial motor vehicle driver for life.

HB 911: House Bill 911 closes a dangerous loophole and strengthens penalties for offenses of sexual misconduct by a foster parent.

“I want to thank the sponsors of HB 823 and HB 911 for working alongside Governor Kemp and I to put Georgia’s children first, hold bad actors accountable, and ultimately bring an end to the evil of human trafficking in our state,” said First Lady Marty Kemp. “This fight is far from over, and it is one that we are focused on winning. Every day, we will continue to do our part to keep our children safe and ensure that those who would put them in harm’s way know that they have no place in Georgia.”

From FoxNews:

One of the bills signed into law, HB 823, will penalize anyone who “knowingly” drives a motor vehicle to commit human trafficking crimes — like smuggling someone in the back of a truck or transporting a child for sex abuse — with a lifetime ban on operating commercial vehicles.

Georgia already has strong anti-human trafficking laws. In 2011, the state increased the punishment for such crimes from a minimum sentence of one year to 10 years in prison. Trafficking of minors for sex crimes carries a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Governor Kemp is asking Georgia residents to do “Four things for four weeks” to combat COVID, according to a press release:

Governor Brian P. Kemp and Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey are calling on all Georgians to implement “Four Things for Four Weeks” into their daily routines to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Today, I am encouraging all Georgians – from every corner of our great state – to do four things for four weeks to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Kemp. “If Georgians commit to wearing a mask, socially distancing, washing their hands regularly, and following the guidance in our Executive Order and from public health officials, we can make incredible progress in the fight against COVID-19. Together, we can protect our loved ones, revive our economy, and continue to take measured steps forward.”

“Georgians, we need your help,” said Dr. Kathleen Toomey, M.D, M.P.H., Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “By implementing these simple – but effective – practices, we can slow the spread of the coronavirus and continue on a path toward ultimately defeating COVID-19.”

To stop the spread of COVID-19, Governor Kemp and Dr. Toomey are asking all Georgians to follow these four steps:

Four Things for Four Weeks:

1) Wear a mask when out in public or when you cannot keep distance inside.

2) Practice physical distancing – six feet from those you don’t live with.

3) Wash your hands for 20 seconds several times throughout the day with soap and warm water.

4) Follow the Executive Order and heed the guidance provided by public health officials.

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond issued an Executive Order purporting to require masks in public, according to WSB-TV.

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners approved CEO Michael Thurmond’s amendments to the mask ordinance originally passed last week.

A written warning will be given for the first violation. Those who violate the order a second time will be required to attend a COVID-19 prevention class online or in-person. Anyone who fails to attend the class will be fined $250.

The county told Channel 2′s Sophia Choi it planned to pass the order, despite the governor saying cities and counties cannot require masks.

DeKalb County said it will help residents and small businesses mask up, handing out 20,000 free masks for small businesses alone.

The DeKalb CEO believes a mandate is valid.

“The ultimate decision will, of course, if it gets to that point, will be the courts,” Thurmond said. “In the words of John Lewis, ‘If it’s so, then we’ll stir up some good trouble.’ But it’ll be good trouble that’s focused on saving lives and keeping us healthy.”

From CBS46:

Additionally, the DeKalb mask ordinance contains a unique “conscientious objector” clause that exempts any person from penalty who swears in a written affidavit to be presented in court, that they will not wear a mask for health-related, religious or ethical reasons.

The county will also distribute 20,000 masks to local brick-and-mortar small businesses which agree to implement a “No Mask, No Service” policy.

From the DeKalb County government website:

The amended ordinance, which CEO Thurmond asserts is “consistent” with Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order, requires DeKalb residents over age eight “to utilize a face covering or mask which covers the nose and mouth when in any public place.”

Macon-Bibb County Commissioners adopted a mask requirement, according to Channel 41.

The “emergency ordinance” regarding face coverings says the Macon-Bibb County Commission “hereby declares that an emergency exists in Macon-Bibb County with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic” and that “all residents and visitors to Macon-Bibb County are hereby ORDERED to wear a face covering over both the nose and mouth at all times while as practicable while outside their homes or places of residence.”

Commissioners voted 7-2 to pass the ordinance. Commissioner Valerie Wynn abstained from voting, which, under the rules, counted as a yes vote. Commissioners Joe Allen and Scotty Shepherd voted against it.

Commissioner Mallory Jones offered a “friendly amendment” to keep face coverings from being required outdoors, to which the sponsor, Commissioner Elaine Lucas, responded, “I don’t accept that.”

The ordinance adds that anyone who fails to comply shall not be imprisoned but instead punished by a civil fine of no more than $25 on the first offense, no more than $50 on the second offense and no more than $100 on the third and subsequent offenses.

The 8-page ordinance also says nothing in it “shall be interpreted as limiting or discouraging the enforcement of Executive Order 07.15.20.01, or any subsequent executive order, according to its term.”

That executive order, issued by Governor Brian Kemp, extended the state’s gatherings ban of more than 50 people, renewed business restrictions, protected the medically fragile and strongly encouraged Georgians to wear masks in public. It also said that “enforcement of any county or municipal ordinance that is more or less restrictive than this Order is hereby suspended.”

The Atlanta City Government website notes a shortage of sanitation workers delaying pickup.

Due to reduced staff and additional impacts from the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Department of Public Works is experiencing delays in Solid Waste Services. This page is being updated regularly as changes occur. Please check back frequently for updates.

Atlanta Public Works COVID shutdown

The DeKalb County Commission has declared “racism” a Public Health Emergency, according to the AJC.

DeKalb is believed to be the first government in Georgia to make such a declaration, but joins about five dozen other states, counties and cities across the country that have taken similar actions in recent months.

DeKalb’s resolution, like the others, is predicated on scores of studies that have documented how the discrimination long-ingrained in American society produces disparate health outcomes for Black people and other minorities.

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black Americans also have shorter life expectancies and are more likely to be diagnosed with conditions like heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Black babies are more likely to be born underweight and more likely to die. In Georgia, Black mothers are up to four times more likely than white mothers to die during child birth.

But Johnson said the current movement is about a lot more than lip service. The idea is both simple and potentially seismic. Take a closer look at things, re-evaluate how you do them and why, follow the data and be more intentional about addressing inequities, he said.

“We’re a billion-dollar-budget agency,” the commissioner said. “And all of these institutions that build our quality of life, we have some decision-making in the process. So how do we use our influence to make sure these things come from a equitable standpoint?”

Some Absentee Ballots were sent to voters with the mailing address on the reply envelope, according to the AJC.

Some voters in Fulton County are receiving absentee ballots with envelopes that lack a mailing address for them to be returned.

The space for the address of the county elections office is blank. Voters would have to fill in the address of the Fulton elections office themselves. Otherwise, the U.S. Postal Service wouldn’t be able to deliver their ballots.

It’s unknown how many voters are affected by the issue. So far, nearly 42,000 Fulton voters have been mailed absentee ballots for the Aug. 11 runoff.

The problem occurred on absentee ballot envelopes printed by Fulton’s elections office, according to the Georgia secretary of state’s office.

Fulton spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez said election officials believe “no more than a handful” of envelopes without addresses were sent to voters.

In addition, 688 absentee voters in Fulton were mailed the wrong runoff ballots this month, receiving nonpartisan ballots instead of the Democratic Party ballots they had requested. Those voters have been sent replacement ballots.

Fulton County is changing some election procedures to address problems, according to CBS46.

“We’re back to doing in-person training, we had a new voting system in June, we’ve been able to get poll workers back, we’re starting to get a lot of our polling sites back, we’re up to 175 for this election from 164,” said Richard Barron, the Director of Registration and Elections for Fulton County. “We were supposed to have 198 in June, we’re hoping to get up to 210-220 locations or more for November.”

Barron said they’re offering nearly 20 early voting locations, including Georgia’s largest voting location at State Farm Arena.

“It’s our mega site, we have 100 ballot marking devices here along with 18 check-in stations,” Barron added. “The Hawks made their own [voting] sticker, and it has a Georgia Peach basketball.”

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) campaigned in Bulloch County, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Last week when Congressman Doug Collins, candidate for the U.S. Senate seat previously held by now-retired Sen. Johnny Isakson, visited Bulloch County, someone asked him how he would “defend,” in other words definitely not “defund” law enforcement.

Collins, a Republican from Gainesville, has represented Georgia’s 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2013. As ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee from Jan. 2019 until March 2020, he gained national notoriety as a leading defender of President Donald Trump during the Democrat-led impeachment process.

“It’s one thing to go along and discuss the changes that need to be made in policing, which they do,” Collins said. “Now, some of you say, ‘Doug, what are you talking about policing for?’ Well, I think I’ve got pretty well the best right, maybe in this room. My father was a Georgia state trooper for 31 years. I’m a trooper’s kid from North Georgia. …”

“That is where I come from, and when I see this issue of ‘defund the police,’ let’s just call it what it is, it’s called disrespect the police,” he said.

Gwinnett County Commissioners voted to add a transit referendum to the November ballot, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County commissioners voted 4-1 to ask voters to once again decide whether a tax should be implemented to fund transit expansion in the county.

The transit expansion vote will take place Nov. 3, less than two years after voters rejected a referendum on Gwinnett joining MARTA. This referendum will be different in that it is mostly asking voters to approve funding to expand Gwinnett County Transit, which is the existing county-run transit.

The Dalton Board of Education voted to require masks in schools this fall, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The Dalton Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to direct Superintendent Tim Scott to devise a mask mandate. Scott will bring exact language to the board for a vote at the board’s Aug. 10 meeting. The school year is expected to begin on Aug. 31.

The mask mandate will include reasonable exceptions, such as when a social distance of 6 feet or greater can be observed, or during lunch (since it’s impossible to eat with a mask on), Scott said. Principals and teachers “can use discretion,” he said.

The system already has roughly 15,000 cloth masks to provide students if they lose their masks, but students will be accountable for keeping their masks, he said. “We’ll still need more, (because) 15,000 won’t last the year.” The system has about 7,900 students.

The system also has 6,000 disposable masks, and “we’re waiting on 9,000 washable masks to arrive,” said Rusty Lount, director of operations. However, even those additions likely won’t sustain the system through the year, so more masks will need to be procured at some point.

Camden County Schools will reopen August 3, with online and in-person options for students, according to The Brunswick News.

Muscogee County Public Schools will push reopening back a week to Augusta 17 and go online-only, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

During the school board’s monthly meeting Monday night, [Superintendent David] Lewis said MCSD will reopen Aug. 17, one week later than scheduled, and conduct all classes virtually instead of allowing an in-person option for at least the first three-and-a-half weeks.

“We have continued to closely monitor the data related to the spread of COVID-19 in our community to include discussions with epidemiologists and infectious disease doctors from Emory University,” Lewis wrote. “These specialists cited two specific benchmarks to help determine the re-opening of schools: the 7-day average rate of infections, the positivity rate of 10% or greater and hospital capacity. Unfortunately, Columbus has met all three indicators.”

Delaying the first day of classes by a week will give teachers “ample time for relevant professional development,” Lewis said.

The board wasn’t required to vote on the recommendation, but board members praised Lewis for his decision. None of the nine representatives spoke against it.

Amy Stecz was appointed by the Lowndes County Board of Education to fill a vacancy for District 6 through December and will take office as the elected member for the district next year, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Bulloch County Commissioners voted against a request to add contextual information to a Confederate monument, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Bulloch County commissioners, by a 3-2 vote along racial lines Tuesday morning, denied the Willow Hill Heritage & Renaissance Center’s request for a marker placing the 1909 Confederate memorial on the courthouse grounds in the context of white supremacy and glorification of “the Lost Cause.”

Macon-Bibb County Commissioners voted to move a Confederate monument, according to WGXA.

The resolution allows the county to move forward on plans to create a plaza at Cotton Ave. and Second St. and to move the Confederate Men of Bibb County Statue there to Whittle Park.

“The only reason you’re doing that, and I’m pointing my finger at you,” [Commissioner Valerie] Wynn said to the Mayor, “is because you want to move that statue. And you’re backing into it by saying we need a road project. We do not need a roundabout at the top of Poplar at First. And I think that that’s stupid to even recommend that.”

The two commissioners also argued that there are more pressing issues concerning the community, like crime.

Local residents are asking the Augusta City Commission to remove a Confederate monument, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

A local Black lives activist and an Augusta University professor are joining the call to move the city’s Confederate monument out of the public eye.

Cities around the state have begun removing the monuments, despite a state law prohibiting altering memorials to any war dead. Last week, two Augusta Commission candidates met with the Sons of Confederate Veterans members to discuss a possible better home for the 76-foot obelisk.

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