Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 1, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 1, 2021

Georgia’s first colonists landed at Yamacraw Bluff on February 1, 1733.

The United States Supreme Court held its first session in New York City, Chief Justice John Jay presiding, on February 1, 1790.

On February 1, 1861, Texas seceded from the Union.

On February 1, 1871, Jefferson Franklin Long of Macon, Georgia became the first black Member of Congress to speak on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Long was born into slavery and taught himself to read and write. Long was a prominent member of the Republican Party, speaking on its behalf in Georgia and other Southern states. He helped elect 37 African-American members to the 1867 Georgia Constitutional Convention and 32 members of the state legislature; Long continued after his term in Congress as a delegate to Republican National Conventions through 1880. In 1880, Long’s support of Governor Alfred Colquitt showed that African-Americans could be an electoral force in Georgia politics.

On February 1, 1965, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived in Selma, Alabama, where he was arrested.

Richard M. Nixon announced his candidacy for President of the United States on Feburary 1, 1968.

On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded while re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

https://youtu.be/3TnSlEMJCNs

The Ledger-Enquirer has a great historical profile of Primus King, who fought for voting rights in Georgia beginning in the 1940s.

When he walked into the Muscogee County Courthouse in 1944 to try voting in the all-white Democratic Party Primary, he was midway between being born a Russell County sharecropper’s son in 1900 and dying a successful Columbus businessman and Baptist preacher in 1986.

His actual aim was not to vote, but to be denied that right on account of his race. And he was: A white police detective accosted him, called him the N-word, and asked what he thought he was doing.

“I’m going to vote, sir,” King said.

The Democrats in 1944 claimed theirs was a private party that only white people were allowed to join. Black residents could register to vote, but they couldn’t vote in the primary, and the primary decided Georgia’s elections, because only Democrats won office back then.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order #01.29.21.01, renewing the Public Health State of Emergency through March 7, 2021 at 11:59 PM, and Executive Order #01.29.21.02, providing guidance for public health protocols.

Under the Gold Dome Today

Legislative Committee Meetings

10:00 AM Senate FLOOR SESSION (LD9) – Senate Chamber Room
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD9) – House Chamber
11:30 AM Senate Appropriations Judiciary Subcommittee – Mezz 1
12:00 PM Senate Rules Upon Adjournment – 450 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Finance – 450 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs – Canceled – Mezz 1
1:00 PM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY AND HOMELAND SECURITY – 606 CLOB
1:30 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY SCOGGINS SUBCOMMITTEE II – 132 CAP
1:30 PM HOUSE CREATIVE ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT – 403 CAP
2:15 PM Senate Judiciary Subcommittee A – 307 CLOB
2:30 PM Senate Appropriations General Government Subcommittee – 450 CAP
3:00 PM HOUSE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY – 403 CAP
3:30 PM Senate Education and Youth – 307 CLOB
4:45 PM Senate Ethics – 307 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 6 – “Tax Credit Return on Investment Act of 2021”; enact (FIN-56th)

SB 9 – Courts; the Columbia Judicial Circuit and to be composed of Columbia County; create a new judicial circuit for the State of Georgia (Substitute)(JUDY-24th)

SR 30 – State Election Board; Matthew Mashburn; appoint (RULES-46th)

HOUSE GENERAL CALENDAR

HB 44 – State government; Georgia shall observe daylight savings time year round; provide

HB 56 – Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit; superior court; provide additional judge


Governor Kemp last week rolled out his legislative agenda related to adoption and foster care reform. From the press release:

Governor Brian P. Kemp [] announced his administration’s adoption and foster care reform initiatives for the 2021 legislative session, introduced by Representative Bert Reeves and Senator Bo Hatchett:

HB 114 – Increasing Georgia’s Adoption Tax Credit: Increases the tax credit for families that adopt a child from foster care from $2,000 to $6,000 per year for five years.

HB 154 – Lowering the Required Age to Adopt: The age at which an individual may petition the court to adopt a child will be lowered from age 25 to 21, making it easier for close relatives to adopt children out of foster care.

SB 28 – Streamlining the Juvenile Code to Protect Georgia’s Children: Expands the resources available to juvenile courts to respond to the safety needs of children and ensures all reliable information is made available to the court in order to make decisions in a child’s best interests.

“Placing our kids in safe, loving homes is not controversial. It is not an issue that often gets enough attention or steals the spotlight, and it should never be a matter of partisan politics. It is our solemn duty, as elected leaders who long to see our children grow and thrive in a sometimes dark and dangerous world, to take meaningful action,” said Governor Kemp. “With these reforms, my administration is doing just that. The most fundamental need for any child is a safe, loving home. By making it more affordable to adopt, reducing bureaucratic red tape that stands in the way of loved ones adopting kids, and championing the safety of children across our state, we can ensure Georgia’s children are placed in those homes and secure a safer, brighter future for generations to come.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:

The bills would revive Kemp’s push to raise the tax credit for foster parents from $2,000 to $6,000 and lower the minimum age adults are allowed to adopt children from 25 to 21. Those proposals were shelved when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted last year’s legislative session.

A third bill would add more training for juvenile court officers, expand rules for parents under court-ordered alternatives care and require officials to report on a range of child-abuse treatment including abandonment, neglect, emotional abuse and exposure to chronic alcohol or drug use.

The measures follow Kemp’s signing of a bill last year that prohibits foster parents from engaging in improper sexual behavior with children in their care, closing a loophole in current state law.

The State House’s Supplemental Budget for the current fiscal year includes $1.7 million dollars for a behavioral health crisis center serving people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, according to the Rome News Tribune.

[State Rep. Katie] Dempsey said the crisis center would include 10 beds specifically designated for patients with IDDs. It will be funded by approximately $1.7 million in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage savings that were identified by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

“My colleagues and I recognize how the pandemic may be intensely isolating for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Dempsey said during an interview last week on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Lawmakers show.

“I have listened to my colleagues and constituents’ calls to find a placement for loved ones with IDDs,” she continued. “We are currently identifying funding opportunities to provide additional support specifically for people with these issues.”

Dempsey said the House Republican Caucus will continue championing improvements to services.

“We want anyone who is fighting through mental health issues to know that we are fighting for you here at the Capitol. You are not alone,” she said.

Georgia Medicaid enrollment has increased during the pandemic, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The number of Medicaid beneficiaries in Georgia jumped by about 338,000 between March 2020 when the pandemic broke out and December, boosting the total number of children, adult and family recipients to roughly 2,104,000, according to state Department of Community Health (DCH) data.

Currently, Medicaid coverage is available for Georgia adults with incomes about 35% below the federal poverty line, as well as children in households making up to 138% above the poverty line and low-income senior, blind and disabled adults.

Eligibility is set to change under Kemp’s plan for partial Medicaid expansion, which would cover adults earning up to 100% of the poverty line or possibly 50,000 more beneficiaries, according to state estimates. It also requires recipients to work, attend school or volunteer at least 80 hours each month.

The plan won federal approval last October and is set to roll out in phases starting in July.

Its backers view the plan as a timely tool to help prop up Georgia’s lowest-earning residents as they struggle through the pandemic, particularly if certain jobs never return or are changed drastically in the rebounding economy.

“[The plan] tried to address those jobs right around the eligibility level and create a pathway off Medicaid,” said Chris Denson, the policy and research director for the nonprofit Georgia Public Policy Foundation (GPPF). “There are going to be a lot of long-term ramifications out of this pandemic as far as the economy.”

An early favorite to win the race for “most cynically-named legislation” is Senate Bill 30, the “Rural Georgia Jobs and Growth Act,” which aims to legalize gambling on horse racing. From the Capitol Beat News Service:

The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Brandon Beach, follows the introduction of two measures in the Georgia House of Representatives to legalize online sports betting and casino gambling.

Beach’s 51-page bill calls for the construction of up to three mixed-use developments featuring a racetrack, hotels and restaurants. The facilities also could include convention space, entertainment venues and retail shopping.

One of the racetrack complexes would have to be located within 50 miles of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and require an investment of at least $250 million. The other two facilities would be outside of metro Atlanta and require a smaller investment of at least $125 million.

Portions of the betting proceeds would go toward education, health care, rural development and to efforts to address problem gambling and promote the horse racing and breeding industries in Georgia.

Beach’s bill would create a commission to oversee horse racing in Georgia. Track operators would have to put up $500,000 for a license from the commission and pay $250,000 per year to renew the license for up to 10 years.

Legalizing pari-mutuel betting on horse racing requires a constitutional amendment, which has yet to be introduced so far this year. Passing a constitutional change and putting it on the statewide ballot for Georgia voters to decide is a difficult hurdle in the General Assembly because it requires two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate.

The Georgia State House State Planning Community Affairs Committee recommended passage of House Bill 44 by Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock) to move Georgia permanently to Daylight Savings Times and eschew twice-yearly time changes, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Statesboro Herald.

Georgia would observe daylight saving time all year long subject to congressional approval under legislation that cleared a committee in the state House of Representatives Thursday.

Switching every six months between daylight and standard time disrupts sleep patterns and has been shown to increase the number of heart attacks, car crashes and workplace injuries, Rep. Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock, the bill’s sponsor told members of the State Planning & Community Affairs Committee.

“Our bodies are built to adjust slowly to the amount of daylight,” he said. “The vast majority of people want time change to stop.”

Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana have passed bills calling for year-round daylight time, Cantrell said. If those became law, other states in the region would follow suit, he said.

“The entire Southeast would have it if Congress approves,” he said.

Amen, brother!

State Rep. Emory Dunahoo (R-Gillsville) spoke about his query to state educators about teaching “white privilege,” according to the Gainesville Times.

As a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, Dunahoo said he hopes to have responses to his request by next week and that the information should be an aid for discussing future budgetary action.

“As we comb through the budget on the Appropriations committee, I have a duty to ask my constituents what their priorities and concerns are,” he said. “The questions I sent to Chancellor Wrigley came from parents of my district who want to know what is being taught to their kid when they sent them away to college.”

Matthew Boedy, an associate professor of rhetoric and composition at University of North Georgia in Gainesville, said the legislative request is an “attack” on higher education.

“It perpetrates a pernicious agenda,” Boedy said. “I don’t know why a state representative who won his district by 40 points needs to throw red meat to his base, but this echoes national conservative discourse that has been laughed from the public square by historians and other experts.”

For UNG professor and sociologist David Broad, he said that Dunahoo’s legislative request is a case [of] “fact denial.”

“Dunahoo is choosing to ignore the facts of how privilege and oppression in this country has worked against marginalized groups over the course of American history,” he said. “It’s clear that there’s an agenda to frame white privilege as an attack on the individual. Conversation about privilege and oppressions is never about the individual.”

Broad said that in his class discussions on the topic, he’s only observed a “small minority” of students who have rejected the conversations on white privilege.

“A large majority of students are curious about how privilege and oppression impacts them and has continued to shape much of the modern world,” he said. “Attempting to remove discussions that tackle raw truths about male privilege, white privilege from any curriculum, is a stark denial of facts.”

Dunahoo denied any claims that his request is to further an agenda, and said that he won’t come to a conclusion until he receives responses from his request.

Again with the arrogance, professors.

Local court workloads will shift under a Senate bill that splits the Augusta Judicial Circuit, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

If the Augusta Judicial Circuit is split, there will be more work for judges in Richmond and Burke counties and less work in Columbia County. What’s true for all three counties’ taxpayers is they can expect to pay more for the same services.

A bill pending in the Georgia Legislature calls for the creation of a separate circuit for Columbia County, leaving Richmond and Burke counties behind 151 years after the three counties were combined into the Augusta Judicial Circuit.

If the circuit is split as the bill requires, Richmond and Burke county taxpayers, mostly Richmond County taxpayers, will be left alone to pay supplements that help fund the working prosecutors and public defenders. Columbia County would have to decide whether it will pay extra for front-line prosecutors and public defenders, too.

If the circuit splits as the bill intends, Columbia County would have three judges, working just below what the Administrative Office of the Courts considers a full workload. Richmond and Burke counties would not only be down one judge until Kemp fills the empty position, but the four judges would also have a workload that should be shared by six judges, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Thirty two former Georgia State Patrol cadets were cleared of allegations they cheated, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

The cheating claims last year led to the state firing the 32 cadets and the resignation Mark McDonough, then head of the Georgia State Patrol.

The Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, which oversees training for state and local law enforcement officers statewide, tells news outlets that it has cleared all but one member of the training class.

The one cadet found to have actually cheated submitted his resignation. The other 32 were fired after an internal investigation determined they had passed an unsupervised speed detection exam with help.

“Did the cadets work together and utilize their computers? Yes. There is no doubt about what they did. Did they have the intent to be deceitful, to lie, to cheat? No,” said Mike Ayers, executive director of the POST council.

Ayers said the investigation found the troopers believed they were allowed to collaborate with each other and use computers and electronic devices for an online test. Academy staff said the troopers misunderstood; two instructors were decertified after the POST investigation. Ayers said sanctions were recommended for the cadet who resigned, the two instructors and a cadet from a previous class. He said those four cases are under appeal.

The 32 fired troopers maintained their certification and can be rehired as police officers.

“There is no indication that there was any willful deception on the part of those troopers,” Ayers said.

Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady (D) discussed his approach to the job with the AJC.

Flynn Broady, a Democrat who defeated incumbent Republican Joyette Holmes in the Nov. 3 general election, wants nonviolent offenders to get help for their problems instead of sending them to jail.

“Restorative justice” programs allow people charged with certain crimes to take advantage of alternatives to incarceration such as accountability courts that treat substance abuse and mental illness.

Sending defendants through diversion programs instead of prosecuting them, Broady said, can “get their mindset away from criminal behavior” and let them re-enter society as productive citizens.

Broady said his office wants to find a balance between punishment and rehabilitation in the criminal justice system. This is done by emphasizing education, treatment and counseling for non-violent offenders, which can help reduce recidivism and keep communities safe, he said.

Restorative justice is gaining traction in some places around the country because “the old way hasn’t worked,” Broady said. The traditional practice of arresting and charging someone, who will most likely either plead guilty or be convicted of a crime, and throwing them in prison does not help that person change their behavior, he said.

Madison County Commissioners increased the starting pay for Sheriff’s Deputies to attract and retain more officers, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

“I think it will help morale a lot, and as far as retention (of deputies), I’m already starting to see applications coming in,” the sheriff said. “Some of the deputies that left me to go somewhere else for more money are actually calling.”

The patrol division in Madison County had been short four deputies for months, and those shortages were being covered as much as possible in responding to calls, according to Moore.

Savannah City Council continues the search for a new City Manager, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham Area Transit (CAT) announced an interim CEO until a permanent replacement can be hired, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Bulloch County Board of Education has adopted a schedule for the 2021-22 school year, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Dr. Steven Flynt is the incoming Columbia County School District superintendent, starting June 30, 2021 according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Gainesville City Council is considering revisions to their alcohol ordinance, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Atlanta Board of Education will vote on whether to rename Grady Stadium, according to the AJC.

The Atlanta Board of Education is scheduled to vote Monday on a recommendation to rename the high school football stadium in Midtown. The proposed new name is Eddie S. Henderson Stadium.

The board in December voted to change the name of Henry W. Grady High School to Midtown High School after months of discussion and a student vote.

Atlanta Public Schools officials want to distance the district from Grady, a managing editor of The Atlanta Constitution who died in 1889. Grady spoke about the supremacy of the white race while promoting his vision for a “New South.”

It’s part of a broader APS effort to remove names of those who espoused racist views from school buildings. The board also renamed Brown Middle School and is considering a new name for Forrest Hill Academy, an alternative school in southwest Atlanta.

Guyton temporarily closed City Hall after two municipal employees were diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Guyton closed its city hall Friday because an employee tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 26. A second city employee, in public works, also tested positive.

Mayor Russ Deen said most of the city’s work will continue, with employees working from home.

“Thanks to computers and technology, we are able to continue with basic city business,” he said. “We’re going to sit in our houses and not able to pull that deed from 10 years ago.”

He said city hall will remain closed at least until Monday and he predicted the city’s next meeting will be held virtually.


U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia)

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta) wants to censure her fellow Georgia freshman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, according to WSB-TV.

Rep. Nikema Williams and Rep. Sara Jacobs said they will introduce legislation next week to formally censure Greene over her remarks supporting the assassination of current and former elected officials.

“Congresswoman Greene’s comments and actions are dangerous, unpatriotic, and a clear threat to every Member of Congress. It would be irresponsible for us to allow her to use the ‘People’s House’ as a platform to peddle discredited conspiracy theories that only fan the flames of hatred and violence,” Williams and Jacobs said in a statement.

“This is the same rhetoric that provoked the lawlessness we saw during the January 6th Domestic Terrorist attack. We must do everything we can to prevent similar events from occurring ever again.”

Greene released a statement late Friday afternoon:

“Every attack. Every lie. Every smear strengthens my base of support at home and across the country because people know the truth and are fed up with lies,” part of the statement read.

A Gwinnett County State Representative likewise wants to cancel MTG. From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

A state legislator from Gwinnett County is calling on U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to strip controversial U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., of her committee assignments and back a censure of the congresswoman.

State Rep. Shelly Hutchinson penned the open letter to McCarthy on Friday. Greene, who has been referred to as the “QAnon congresswoman” for pushing debunked conspiracies linked to the group, has been in the news in recent days for her past actions prior to her election to Congress.

“If Leader McCarthy fails to take this action, it will mean that the ‘Party of Lincoln’ has now become the ‘Party of QAnon,’” Hutchinson said in a statement. “It is disgraceful for Republican leadership in Washington, D.C. to continue elevating these bizarre and deranged conspiracy theories. Our politics weren’t always like this. If Leader McCarthy wants to live up to the standard of his fellow Californian, Ronald Reagan, he will relieve U.S. Rep. Greene of her committee assignments and support the resolution censuring her.”

“Our great republic was built on leaders rising to the moment, showing bravery, and doing what was right regardless of partisanship,” Hutchinson wrote in the letter. “It is my hope and belief that those qualities still exist in our leaders today and that you are capable of displaying them.”

Dr. John Cowan, whom MTG beat in the primary runoff election, said voters in the District knew what they were getting with MTG, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Cowan said voters knew plenty about Greene, a brazen 46-year-old now facing a firestorm of national criticism including accusations of inciting the violent Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol with false claims of election fraud. Her views as seen on social media have included supporting racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim positions.

“A lot of people call me and say, ‘Wow, we didn’t know she was really going to be this way!’” Cowan said. “We knew what we were getting.”

Cowan is clear on what Congress has to do: expel Greene from the House.

“This is not just about Marjorie Taylor Greene, it’s about the fractures within the party nationally,” said Brian Robinson, a GOP strategist and former staffer for former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.

“The rest of the delegation cringes,” Robinson said in an interview. “They’re constantly being asked to comment on what she says, and it forces them to take a stand on things that divide their own primary electorate. They don’t want to deal with that headache.”

During the campaign, Cowan said, a lot of people said: “John, you know, we’ve seen people like you before, smart, whatever, and they’ve just never been able to get anything done. We need somebody who’s going to be a flamethrower up there.”

“I think that’s what they got,” he said. “The problem is she is unable to focus the flames. She’s just kind of like a grenade that goes off.”

From Politico:

The Georgia GOP is tearing itself apart in a civil war. It lost two Senate seats in an ill-fated January run-off election. And the once-Republican suburbs in metro Atlanta — the most populous part of the state — have bolted toward the Democratic side.

[MGT] tweeted Friday that she raised $1.6 million off all the controversy and on Saturday told her 300,000 followers she just had a chat with a supportive Donald Trump — the former president who has referred to her as a “future Republican star.”

“If you have any common sense, you know she’s an anchor on the party. She is weighing us down,” said Gabriel Sterling, a Republican election administrator who became a leading voice criticizing the baseless election conspiracy theories espoused by Trump and his supporters like Greene.

“Some people are saying maybe [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi will throw her out” of Congress, Sterling said, referring to the House speaker. “The Democrats would never throw her out. They want her to be the definition of what a Republican is. They’re gonna give her every opportunity to speak and be heard and look crazy — like what came out Wednesday, the Jewish space laser to start fires. I mean, I don’t know how far down the rabbit hole you go.”

“Greene was just a symptom of what’s going on in the Republican Party in the state and, frankly, the nation, in our election,” a Loeffler adviser said. “But in 2022, she’s going to be a symbol, assuming she’s not now already.”

“MTG is the AOC of the GOP. But as much as I hate to say it, AOC is nowhere as crazy as this,” Cowan said. “I’m a neurosurgeon. I diagnose crazy every day. It took five minutes talking to her to realize there were bats in the attic. And then we saw she had skeletons in the closet.”

In Gordon County, GOP Chair Kathleen Thorman said there’s a feeling that Greene has been inaccurately portrayed in the mainstream news media. Greene’s constituents, Thorman said, appreciated some of her early actions in Congress, such as her petition to impeach Biden, because people want to know more about his son’s business dealings when he was vice president.

“People are mad because they feel Congress and the media are trying to silence their voice. They voted for her and they feel it’s their voice being silenced,” Thorman said. “In two years, when she runs again, we’ll see what happens.”

Tony Abernathy, the Murray County GOP chair, echoed a similar sentiment in a text message: “The real story is we love Marjorie Taylor Greene and are tired of national media coming into Georgia trying to tell us how to think in her district.”

“Here’s the problem with Marjorie Taylor Greene: you can’t look away. She has great camera presence. She has great TV presence. She’s a natural, a true talent,” [Brian] Robinson said. “The question is whether she’s a moron who’s a natural talent or is she just a cynical manipulator?”

Here’s my quick analysis: sour grapes from establishment Republicans she beat last year and attacks from Democrats or others in Washington, DC, will only strengthen her within her District and increase her online fundraising. Make of it what you will.

On June 19, 2020, I wrote, “My political analysis is that attacks by out-of-state Congressional leaders, and even Georgia congressmen, probably helps Greene win her Primary Runoff Election. All she needs now to assure her victory in August is an endorsement of her opponent by the very groups mentioned in the Washington Post editorial.”

The other problem is that people trying to cancel MGT might succeed in removing her from office, but if it’s done any way other than the ballot box, you’ll have another MGT take her place. You will also reinforce the narrative that Democrats, establishment Republicans, and the mainstream media are colluding to suppress the truth and the voices of rural conservative voters. You’ll ossify and entrench the very politics you seek to destroy. It’s like none of y’all ever watched the original Star Wars trilogy.

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