Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 10, 2021

10
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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 10, 2021

On February 10, 1787, the Georgia House of Assembly named William Few, Abraham Baldwin, William Pierce, George Walton, William Houstoun, and Nathaniel Pendleton to the Constitutional Convention called to revise the Articles of Confederation at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

On February 10, 1861, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi received word that he was chosen as President of the Confederate States of America.

On February 10, 1972, David Bowie made his first appearance as Ziggy Stardust.

https://youtu.be/G8sdsW93ThQ

On February 10, 2015, on the anniversary of the United States House of Representatives passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation proclaiming February as Black History Month.

Milton Lockett was the Army’s first Black Ranger instructor at Fort Benning and later spent his career with the Columbus Police Department, according to the Ledger Enquirer. It’s a great story.

The Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson has canceled tours planned for President’s Day, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The museum’s normal tours will resume on Feb. 24, according to Robyn Macey, programs and marketing director with Historic Augusta.

At that time, tours will again be available Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays on the hour from 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. by appointment. Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for students K-12. Call Historic Augusta at (706) 722-9828, or visit www.wilsonboyhoodhome.org.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Save the Dates:

March 9 – Runoff Election in State House District 90, comprising parts of DeKalb, Henry, and Rockdale Counties

March 16 – Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education (E-SPLOST) in Oconee County. Early voting begins February 22, 2021.

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM Senate Veterans, Military and Homeland Security – 307 CLOB
8:00 AM HOUSE Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Energy Subcommittee – 406 CLOB
8:00 AM HOUSE INSURANCE – 606 CLOB
9:00 AM Senate Health and Workman’s Comp Subcommittee of Insurance and Labor- canceled – 450 CAP
9:00 AM HOUSE RULES – 341 CAP
10:00 AM Senate FLOOR SESSION (LD 15) – Senate Chamber
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD15) – House Chamber
Noon Senate Rules Upon adjournment – 450 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Health and Human Services- canceled – 450 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Natural Resources and Environment – canceled – 307 CLOB
1:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION – 606 CLOB
1:00 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Ad Valorem Tax Subcommittee – 403 CAP
1:10 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Income Tax Subcommittee – 403 CAP
1:30 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY – 132 CAP
1:30 PM HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE – 506 CLOB
2:00 PM Senate Georgia Department of Transportation Board Election for 3rd Congressional District – Senate Chamber
2:00 PM HOUSE HUMAN RELATIONS AND AGING – 341 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE Regulated Industries Occupational and Licensing Subcommittee – 515 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS – 406 CLOB
2:15 PM Senate Judiciary Subcommittee A – Mezz 1
2:15 PM Senate Education and Youth – 307 CLOB
2:15 PM Senate Retirement – canceled – 450 CAP
3:30 PM Senate Finance – 450 CAP
3:30 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY NON CIVIL – 132 CAP
3:30 PM HOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM – 406 CLOB
4:45 PM Senate Judiciary- canceled – 307 CLOB

Senate Resolution 82 is the current Adjournment Resolution:

Wednesday, February 10 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . convene for legislative day 15
Thursday, February 11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . convene for legislative day 16

Tuesday, February 16 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . convene for legislative day 17
Wednesday, February 17 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . convene for legislative day 18
Thursday, February 18 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . convene for legislative day 19

Monday, February 22 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . convene for legislative day 20
Tuesday, February 23 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . convene for legislative day 21
Wednesday, February 24 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . convene for legislative day 22
Thursday, February 25 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . convene for legislative day 23
Friday, February 26 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . convene for legislative day 24

Monday, March 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . convene for legislative day 25

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 44 – Special License Plates; honoring Support Our Troops, Inc.; establish (PUB SAF-14th)

SB 60 – Georgia State Indemnification Fund; shall be paid in instances of a heart attack, stroke; public safety officer; revise (PUB SAF-14th)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Structured Rule

HB 97 – Courts; oath for certain clerks of the probate court; require and provide (Judy-Leverett-33rd)

HB 106 – Georgia State Indemnification Fund; replace the term National Guard with the term organized militia (Substitute)(D&VA-Clark-147th)

HB 134 – State government; meetings relating to cybersecurity contracting and planning from open meeting requirements; exclude (Judy-Anderson-10th)

HB 153 – Fair Business Practices Act of 1975; solicitations of services for corporate filings required by the Secretary of State; provide for requirements (A&CA-Wiedower-119th)

Governor Brian Kemp announced that January net state revenues exceeded those of January 2020. From the press release:

The State of Georgia’s net tax collections for January totaled $2.53 billion, for an increase of $175.6 million, or 7.5 percent, compared to January 2020, when net tax collections approached $2.36 billion. Year-to-date net tax collections totaled $15.10 billion, for an increase of $898.1 million, or 6.3 percent, compared to the previous fiscal year, when net tax revenues totaled almost $14.21 billion.

The changes within the following tax categories help further explain January’s overall net tax revenue increase:

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections increased by a total of $85.7 million, or 6.3 percent, compared to last year when Income Tax collections totaled $1.35 billion. The following notable components within Individual Income Tax combine for the net increase. Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) declined by $29.7 million, or -40.8 percent. Individual Withholding payments for the month increased by $8.9 million, or 0.8 percent. Individual Income Tax Estimated payments were up $25.6 million, or 11 percent, over FY 2020. All other Individual Tax categories, including Tax Return payments, were up a combined $21.5 million.

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections for the month totaled $1.35 billion, for an increase of $108.9 million, or 8.8 percent, over January 2020. Net Sales and Use Tax increased by $63.8 million, or 10.2 percent, over FY 2020 when net sales tax totaled $626.7 million. The adjusted Sales Tax distribution to local governments totaled $657.4 million, for an increase of $49.5 million, or 8.1 percent, compared to the previous year. Lastly, Sales Tax refunds decreased by nearly $4.4 million, or -54.1 percent, compared to FY 2020.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections during the month totaled $75.7 million for an increase of $25.6 million, or 51.2 percent, over FY 2020 when Corporate Tax collections totaled $50.1 million. The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the net increase. Corporate Income Tax refunds issued (net of voids) were down $17 million, or -60.1 percent. Corporate Income Tax Estimated payments for the month increased by $16 million, or 45.1 percent. All other Corporate Tax types, including Tax Return payments, were down a combined $7.4 million.

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections increased by $2 million, or 1.3 percent, compared to FY 2020.

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees in January decreased by $8.7 million, or -21.6 percent, whereas Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections increased by $5.4 million, or 10.1 percent, compared to last year’s total of $53.5 million.

The Georgia Senate passed their version of the mid-year Supplementa Budget, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

An amended state budget that increases spending on K-12 schools and public health passed the Georgia state Senate on Tuesday with a 52-0 vote, racing one step closer to passage.

With Senate changes, House Bill 80 returns to the House, where representatives could agree to Senate changes or demand a conference to work out differences. Legislative leaders have said it’s a priority for the budget to move quickly in case a COVID-19 outbreak forces lawmakers to stop meeting.

The measure spends $26.6 billion in state funds and $15.6 billion more in federal money in the current year ending June 30.

House Minority Leader Gloria Butler, a Stone Mountain Democrat, criticized the spending plan for not doing enough to help vulnerable Georgians, saying Democrats would have liked to have seen more spending for county health departments, a reduction in tax breaks and an increase in tobacco taxes.

“Many Georgia families exist on a wing and a prayer, barely holding it together right now,” Butler said.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post:

The mid-year budget leans on federal COVID-19 relief funds to plug spending gaps in education, public health and other agencies.

The Senate version of the mid-year budget largely mirrors the spending recommendations Gov. Brian Kemp unveiled last month, which avoids imposing additional cuts after shrinking agency budgets by $2.2 billion last June due to the pandemic.

Along with no reductions, the mid-year budget restores more than half of the $950 million cut from K-12 public schools last year. The remaining shortfall will be covered with federal funds to keep school budgets stable.

The Senate-passed budget also hands the governor $7.5 million extra in emergency funds to battle the virus and would give state prison guards and juvenile corrections officers a 10% salary raise starting April 1, tapping into savings from eliminating vacant staff positions.

“I think this is a budget we can be proud of,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia. “It certainly is a lot better position than we were facing this time last year.”

“We believe – I believe – we should have done more,” said Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain. “The politics of the day do not drive our best thinking and our best policy and budget-making decisions.”

State Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah) favors requiring photo ID for absentee voters, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The method included in Senate Bill 67, introduced in January, would require voters to provide their photo identification twice in order to cast an absentee ballot.

Sponsored by state Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), the bill is part of the first push from the Republican-controlled body to overhaul state election laws since Democrats flipped the state blue in the presidential and Senate runoff elections.

Watson said the goal of the bill is to “re-establish the integrity and the faith in the electoral system” and “closes the loophole” of not needing to provide an ID for absentee ballots.

“If you have to get an ID to vote in person, and you have to have an ID to vote the day of, you certainly should have to have an ID to vote absentee,” Watson said.

Should the bill pass as currently written, it would require voters to show valid ID when requesting an absentee ballot as well as to provide a photocopy of the ID in the absentee ballot envelope when it is mailed back.

“Let’s restore the confidence that the people have in the voting system,” Watson said.

One of Watson’s colleagues in the Chatham County legislative delegation, Georgia House Rep. Derek Mallow, worries about the potential consequences of SB 67.

“This is yet another attempt by the Republicans to put an additional process on minority families to go out and make a copy of their identification,” Mallow wrote in an op-ed published Feb. 9 in the Savannah Morning News. “Problems from bad copies or missing information will continue to disenfranchise minority voters.”

State House legislation to tighten voting procedures was amended in Committee before receiving a “Do pass” recommendation, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, originally proposed barring county elections officials from mailing out absentee ballots fewer than 10 days before an election in Georgia.

The measure was tweaked Tuesday to set the deadline for voters to hand in applications for mail-in ballots at 5 p.m. on the second-to-last Friday before Election Day and to prohibit local election officials from accepting absentee ballots after the Wednesday before an election.

The House Special Committee on Election Integrity, which Fleming chairs, passed the bill on Tuesday for a second time with the changes included. It heads back to the House leaders who decide which bills reach the floor for full votes.

Fleming said he brought the bill back to the committee after state House Minority Whip David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, requested the revisions so that “he could support the bill and would encourage (others to do) the same.”

[C]hanges to Fleming’s bill appeared to satisfy some Democratic state lawmakers who voted against it last week.

“I know this is a good-faith effort,” said state Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, the General Assembly’s longest-serving member. “I believe we’re almost there. We’re much, much closer.”

The bill discussed in the preceding article is House Bill 270. One of my pet peeves is articles about legislation that do not contain the bill number.

From the AJC:

The legislation would also require county election officials to get absentee ballots in the mail within three business days after receipt.

Currently, voters can request absentee ballots until the Friday before election day, but that doesn’t leave much time to receive and return ballots. State law requires absentee ballots to be returned to county election offices before polls close on election day.

“It’s almost misleading the way our current law works,” said state Rep. Barry Fleming, a Republican from Harlem and chairman of the House Special Committee on Election Integrity. “You could request a ballot properly, and there would be almost no way you’d get it back in time.”

The measure, House Bill 270, doesn’t make exceptions for last-minute absentee ballot requests from voters with emergencies, such as COVID-19 quarantine, illness or military duty.

The State House passed House Bill 112 extending protections for businesses against COVID-19 liability, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

Lawmakers voted 99-68 along party lines to extend the sunset on a bill the General Assembly passed last June shielding businesses and health-care facilities in Georgia from lawsuits brought by people who contract COVID-19 in all but the worst negligence or recklessness cases.

Majority Republicans argued businesses are still struggling to keep their doors open amid the ongoing pandemic.

“While they’re being attacked by the virus, what we don’t need is for them to be attacked by frivolous lawsuits,” said House Majority Whip Trey Kelly, R-Cedartown, the bill’s chief sponsor.

But Democrats countered that while the legislation looks out for the interests of Georgia businesses, it doesn’t protect essential workers forced to stay on the job at the risk of exposure to the virus.

“They have sustained our economy throughout the pandemic, yet we have no protections in place for these workers … forced to work in unsafe conditions,” said Rep. Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta.

Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, said the liability shield also protects Georgia hospitals and other health-care facilities as they struggle to maintain bed capacity and distribute COVID-19 vaccines.

“This measure will allow health-care providers to continue to stay focused on the most vulnerable in our society,” he said.

Speaker David Ralston proposed naming a Savannah area bridge after former United States Senator Johnny Isakson, according to the AJC.

House Resolution 119, filed Tuesday, would direct the Georgia Department of Transportation to rename the bridge on State Route 307 that crosses the Georgia Ports Authority mega rail site in Garden City.

“Sen. Isakson has served this state and nation with honor and distinction, and his vision and unyielding commitment have set the standard for public service and it is abundantly fitting and proper that the outstanding accomplishments of this remarkable and distinguished Georgian be appropriately recognized by dedicating a bridge in his honor,” the resolution reads.

An Atlanta developer is releasing a series of renderings of proposed sin destinations casinos, according to the Statesboro Herald.

A Georgia developer who helped build The Battery, a mixed-use complex in Cobb County that includes the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park, recently released renderings of three proposed casino resorts around the state, injecting tangible details into an issue that has been debated more often in broad generalities.

“It gives a hometown flavor to have somebody in Georgia who would be a frontline player,” said state Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, co-sponsor of a constitutional amendment to legalize casinos in Georgia introduced in the state House of Representatives late last month.

While previous efforts to get casino gambling through the legislature have fizzled, Lackey said Georgia’s economic plight amid the coronavirus pandemic makes this year different. Casinos offer tens of thousands of jobs — both temporary construction and permanent — and hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment, he said.

“In the past, Georgia had very low unemployment and very high tax revenues,” Lackey said. “Now, we don’t. We have a need for jobs and increasing tax revenues.”

While the Georgia Lottery Corp. just reported record profits for the last six months of 2020, lottery ticket sales are failing to keep pace with the demand for scholarships, which has opened up a $300 million hole in HOPE funding, said Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, the resolution’s chief sponsor.

Stephens said another advantage to the legislation is that casinos would not be able to set up shop where they’re not wanted. If voters statewide approve the constitutional amendment, a second local vote would be required to build a casino in a city or county, the same requirement the General Assembly imposed on Sunday sales of alcohol 10 years ago.

There’s also Gov. Brian Kemp to consider. The governor is “not a big fan” of legalizing gambling in Georgia and could veto anything that comes out of the General Assembly as a standalone bill.

Constitutional amendments, however, bypass the governor and go directly to the voters.

Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Marie Broder (R) won election yesterday, according to The Citizen.

Appointed District Attorney Marie Broder of Griffin is now the elected district attorney after defeating her Democrat challenger Dexter Wimbish in the Feb. 9 special election by a 13,429 vote margin across the four counties of the Griffin Judicial Circuit.

The final unofficial tally was Broder, a Republican, with 73% (21,295 votes) and Wimbish, an attorney in private practice in Griffin, with 27% (7,866 votes).

Broder had worked as assistant D.A. for D.A. Ben Coker until Coker was appointed the newest superior court judge in the circuit by Gov. Brian Kemp early last year. Kemp then named Broder acting D.A. until he appointed her in June 2020 as Coker’s replacement to fill out his unexpired term.

Two Democrats advance to the runoff in the Special Election for House District 90, according to the AJC.

Stan Watson, who also served as a DeKalb County commissioner, and Angela Moore, a public relations specialist who finished in third place in a 2010 primary for secretary of state, received the most votes out of the six Democratic candidates in Tuesday’s special election.

The two are vying to fill the House District 90 seat left vacant when state Rep. Pam Stephenson, D-Lithonia, resigned and withdrew her candidacy in September. Since neither Watson nor Moore received a majority of the about 3,000 votes cast, a runoff election is required. It will be held March 9.

Watson has had his fair share of scandal while in public office, including pleading guilty in 2017 to receiving about $3,000 in advances for government trips and using the money for personal purposes. Watson, who repaid the money before he was charged with a crime, was sentenced to 12 months of probation and 150 hours of community service for a misdemeanor count of theft by conversion.

Moore was removed from the ballot in 2015 in a special election for Senate District 43 after an investigation determined she did not live in the district.

Some parents in Gwinnett County rallied in support of Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, according to the AJC.

A group of about 30 parents of Gwinnett County Public Schools students rallied outside school district headquarters Tuesday to show support for Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks.

The Glynn County Board of Education approved a $250 stipend for some priority substitute teachers, according to The Brunswick News.

The $250 stipend will be paid to “priority substitutes” who work 50 percent or more of a semester. The stipend is an incentive for substitute participation.

“When we gave the teachers a stipend a few months back, some of the substitute teachers were upset that we did not include them,” said Superintendent Scott Spence. “We wanted to find a way to reward those substitutes who show up consistently on a yearly basis.”

Augusta Commissioners are considering raising their own pay and that of the Mayor, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

As proposed, the increases would nearly double the salaries of the 10 commissioners, who make between $15,300 and $17,300 except for the elected mayor pro tem, who makes $27,041, and the mayor, who makes $84,983.

The size of Augusta officials’ salaries and the awkward government structure has been blamed for a lack of interest in the elected positions, with candidates unwilling to give up good-paying employment for what can take up much of their time.

State law prohibits elected officials from giving themselves an immediate pay increase and any raises wouldn’t go into effect until after next year’s election cycle, which will replace the mayor and up to five open commission seats.

Richmond County Board of Education members want to require mask wearing on school buses, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Board member Venus Cain said during the board’s Tuesday committee meeting that she received calls from three bus drivers who were concerned about their safety in regard to not getting support from school principals when they report children refusing to wear masks and discipline/behavior issues on buses.

“Our drivers are driving a large vehicle and one mistake could end up injuring a lot of kids,” Cain said. “We will never be able to control the virus if everyone is not wearing a mask.”

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Jan. 21 mandating masks be worn on buses, and school board attorney Leonard Fletcher said he determined the mandate extends to school districts.

Richmond County schools provide masks on buses to students who do not have one.

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