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

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

The British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act on February 22, 1766.

Georgia’s first Governor Archibald Bulloch died mysteriously on February 22, 1777.

[Bulloch] became a leader in the state’s Liberty Party and was elected to the Commons House of Assembly in 1768, to the post of speaker of the Georgia Royal Assembly in 1772 and finally to the Continental Congress in 1775.

On June 20, 1776, Bulloch was elected the first president and commander in chief of Georgia’s temporary government, posts he held until February 5, 1777, when Georgia adopted its state constitution. Just over three weeks later, on February 22, 1777, Georgia faced a British invasion, and the state’s new government granted Bulloch executive power to head off the British forces. A few hours later, Bulloch was dead. The cause of his death remains unknown but unsubstantiated rumors of his poisoning persist.

[H]e is also known as the great-great-grandfather of America’s 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt.

The Cyclorama painting of the Battle of Atlanta went on display on Edgewood Avenue on February 22, 1892.

On February 22, 1976, a series of U.S. Postage stamps commemorating the Bicentennial was issued, featuring the state flags.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The United States Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in a lawsuit between Georgia and Florida over water, according to the Albany Herald.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit the state of Florida filed in 2013 demanding the justices order Georgia to use less water. It’s just the latest episode in the so-called “tri-state water wars,” a legal battle over water allocation between Florida, Georgia and Alabama that has dragged on for nearly three decades.

The suit claims Georgia is taking so much water out of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin to meet the needs of fast-growing metro Atlanta and irrigate crops in the lower Flint that Florida isn’t left with enough freshwater for its once-thriving oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay.

Georgia appears to have the advantage going into Monday’s hearing, Chris Manganiello, the water policy director for the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, said. A special master the Supreme Court appointed to hear the dispute recommended in late 2019 that the court dismiss Florida’s case.

“Special Master (Paul) Kelly was pretty clear: Florida failed to make a compelling argument that Georgia was using too much water or that any harm to Florida’s fisheries could be traced to Georgia,” Manganiello said.

Metro Atlanta’s ability to grow its population while reining in water consumption has been one of Georgia’s major arguments in defending against Florida’s lawsuit. Since 2000, total water use in the region has dropped by more than 10%, even as the population has increased by more than 1.3 million.

Senate Resolution 82 is the current Adjournment Resolution:

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

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

8:00 AM HOUSE Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Energy Subcommittee – 406 CLOB
8:00 AM HOUSE Motor Vehicles Driver Safety and Services Subcommittee – 515 CLOB
9:00 AM HOUSE RULES – 341 CAP
10:00 AM Senate FLOOR SESSION (LD 20) – Senate Chamber
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD20) – House Chamber
Noonish Senate Rules Upon Adjournment – 450 CAP
12:00 PM HOUSE Regulated Industries Special Subcommittee – 606 CLOB
1:00 PM Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs – canceled – Mezz 1
1:00 PM Senate Finance – 450 CAP
1:30 PM HOUSE Judiciary Gunter Subcommittee – 132 CAP
1:30 PM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY AND HOMELAND SECURITY – 406 CLOB
1:30 PM HOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM – 341 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs General Government Subcommittee – 506 CLOB
2:15 PM Senate Judiciary – 307 CLOB
2:30 PM Senate SLOGO – 310 CLOB
3:00 PM HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ELECTION INTEGRITY – 406 CLOB
3:00 PM HOUSE Judiciary Scoggins Subcommittee – 132 CAP
3:00 PM HOUSE Insurance Property and Casualty Subcommittee – 506 CLOB
3:00 PM HOUSE Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications – Telecommunications Subcommittee – 403
3:30 PM Senate Education and Youth – 307 CLOB
3:30 PM HOUSE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY – 606 CLOB
3:30 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs State and Local Government Subcommittee –506 CLOB
4:45 PM Senate Ethics – 307 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SR 28 – United States Congress; call a convention; limit on the number of terms that a person may be elected; United States House of Representatives; request(GvtO-46th)

SR 29 – Article V of the United States Constitution; a convention of the states; apply to Congress for balanced budget amendment (GvtO-46th)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Pursuant to House Rule 33.3, debate shall be limited to no longer than one hour on all legislation. Time to be allocated at the discretion of the Speaker.

Modified Structured Rule

HB 98 – State government; conditions for meetings and public hearings to be held by teleconference in emergency conditions; provide (GAff-Lumsden-12th)(Rules Committee Substitute LC47 0855S)

HB 150 – Public utilities and public transportation; prohibit governmental entities from adopting any policy that prohibits the connection or reconnection of any utility service based upon the type or source of energy or fuel (Substitute)(EU&T-Williamson-115th)

HB 156 – Military; sharing of information and reporting of cyber attacks; facilitate (Substitute)(EU&T-Parsons-44th)(Rules Committee Substitute LC36 4675S)

HB 210 – Motor vehicles; recording of odometer readings upon certificates of title; exempt certain vehicles (Substitute)(MotV-Corbett-174th)

HB 234 – Self-funded Healthcare Plan Opt-in to the Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act; enact (SCQHC-Hawkins-27th)

HB 245 – Professions and businesses; podiatry; amend a provision relating to fingerprint and criminal background checks (H&HS-LaHood-175th)

HB 268 – The Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact Act; enact (Substitute)(RegI-Werkheiser-157th)

HB 273 – Distilled spirits; initiate a referendum election for the authorization of the issuance of licenses; provide additional method (RegI-Ballinger-23rd)

HB 307 – Georgia Telehealth Act; revise (Substitute)(H&HS-Cooper-43rd)HB 342Professions and businesses; certain advertisements related to plumbing; prohibit (A&CA-Washburn-141st)

HB 354 – State Board of Cemeterians and Funeral Service; report suspected unlawful activity to the sheriff’s office and the Attorney General; require (Substitute)(RegI-Williams-145th)

HB 362 – Environmental Protection Division; effective date for standards, rules, and regulations; revise (Substitute)(GF&P-Rhodes-120th)

Governor Brian Kemp last week announced that Georgia will disburse $522 million dollars in federal aid for emergency rental assistance.

Governor Kemp announced that the State of Georgia has received more than $552 million in stimulus funds through the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Congress appropriated $25 billion to provide relief to landlords and tenants who are behind on rent and utility payments due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The effects of COVID-19 have hit many Georgians hard financially,” Governor Brian Kemp said. “In addition to protecting lives, we have to protect livelihoods so that Georgians can continue to have economic opportunity. I am pleased to be able to provide this rental relief to renters and landlords who have been impacted the most.”

The Department of Community Affairs (DCA) will administer the State of Georgia Rental Assistance (GRA) program, which will be subject to US Treasury guidelines (which are still under development). The payment will be made directly to the landlords and utility providers. Payments generally may not exceed 12 months, but some households may qualify for a total of 15 months under certain circumstances.

In general, households meeting all following criteria will be eligible:

▪  Qualified for unemployment benefits or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to COVID-19; and
▪  Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and
▪  Has a household income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), with priority given to: 1) households below 50 percent of the AMI, or 2) households with one or more individuals who have been unemployed 90 days or longer at the time of application

▪  Qualified for unemployment benefits or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to COVID-19; and

▪  Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and

▪  Has a household income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), with priority given to: 1) households below 50 percent of the AMI, or 2) households with one or more individuals who have been unemployed 90 days or longer at the time of application

The CDC Eviction Moratorium has been extended until March 31, meaning that no one should be evicted solely for non-payment of rent until that date. Visit GeorgiaLegalAid.org for more information.

DCA anticipates launching the public application portal in March, and additional program details will be available soon. For more information, visit garentalassistance.ga.gov.

Governor Kemp yesterday toured a mass vaccination site in Albany, one of four setup by the state that will open Monday, according to WSB-TV.

The vaccine sites have been set up at the Albany Georgia Forestry Site, the Habersham County Fairgrounds, the Macon Farmers Market and the Delta Air Lines Museum in Hapeville.

Vaccines are currently open to people eligible in Phase 1A, which includes people over 65 and their caregivers, healthcare workers, law enforcement and EMS personnel and residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

On Sunday, Kemp encouraged people to register with the state’s new vaccine portal, myvaccinegeorgia.com or call 1-844-275-3428, even if you aren’t eligible yet.

Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said the Albany site has the ability to vaccinate over 1,100 people a day. Albany is also the only site where you can drive up without an appointment if you are eligible.

Cohilas also clarified who qualifies as a “caregiver.”

“If you are caring for somebody inside your home who is over 65, that qualifies you for the vaccine,” officials said. “I know we have a lot of folks in this community who have elderly people within their home. That is a qualifying factor.”

From 13WMAZ:

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller says state leaders chose the Farmers Market off Eisenhower Parkway specifically because it is already owned by the state.

Governor Brian Kemp says another factor in picking the site locations was to ensure vaccine access to minority communities.

“He [Governor Kemp] realizes we have a vast need in Macon-Bibb County for especially our elderly population and our minority population being underserved,” Miller said. “He’s trying to do what he can to educate everybody but also let us make a key focus point because we’re centrally located.”

Gov. Kemp unveiled legislation aimed at street racing. From the Press Release:

Governor Kemp announced his administration’s introduction of H.B 534, a bill to combat dangerous street racing in Georgia. Governor Kemp was joined by law enforcement officers along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in support of the legislation.

“In recent months, we have watched in horror as crime has skyrocketed in our capital city. Our brave law enforcement officers have worked tirelessly to contain the lawlessness, protect the communities they serve, and keep Georgians safe,” said Governor Kemp. “Today, I am proposing legislation to crack down on street racing by toughening penalties for offenders and holding those who promote these criminal activities responsible. In Georgia, we will not tolerate this reckless, illegal behavior.”

Read the full legislation here.

House Bill 372 by State Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton) passed out of the House Juvenile Justice Committee  with a unanimous do pass recommendation, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The age for charging most people with adult crimes would rise from 17 to 18 in Georgia under a bill moving forward in the state House.

House Juvenile Justice Committee Chairman Mandi Ballinger, a Canton Republican, has been pushing the idea for years. She cites testimony from experts that teen brains are still developing to full adulthood and lack the impulse control that older people usually develop.

Advocates say that means 17-year-olds should go before juvenile courts, where judges can decide their cases with an eye toward promoting positive growth and change without giving them a permanent criminal record — instead of adult court, which is more focused on punishment.

Such a change also would mean parents have to be notified of an arrest and could be present when teens are questioned by police.

People who are 17 would still be charged as adults for certain violent crimes including murder, rape, child molestation and armed robbery with a gun — as teens 13 to 16 already are in Georgia. However, as with younger children, prosecutors could decide to send charges down to juvenile court.

There are still opponents in Georgia, though. Terry Norris, the executive director of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association, said as many as 5,000 17-year-olds are arrested in Georgia in a typical year, with half charged with felonies.

“This age group is an age group that commits a lot of crime,” Norris said.

Senate Bill 142 by State Senate Rules Committee Chair Jeff Mullis (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia) would legalize some forms of sports betting, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Statesboro Herald.

The state Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee held a hearing on legislation that would legalize online sports betting in Georgia under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Lottery Corp.

“Over 2 million [Georgians] are doing it now,” said Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, chief sponsor of Senate Bill 142. “Do you know who’s in control of it? The bookies.”

Mullis’ bill is similar to sports betting legislation before the Georgia House of Representatives.

Both measures would put the state Lottery Commission in charge of licensing at least six operators such as FanDuel or DraftKings to run online sports books in Georgia. The companies would pay annual licensing fees of $900,000.

But the bills also feature some key differences. While the licensed operators would pay a tax of 14% of their adjusted gross revenues toward Georgia’s HOPE Scholarships and pre-kindergarten programs, the Senate version calls for a tax of 10%.

The House bill would limit bettors to using debit cards, a provision intended to keep potential problem gamblers from getting in their over their heads.

The Senate measure, however, would allow both debit cards and credit cards.

The bill’s opponents argued sports betting cannot be legalized in Georgia without a constitutional amendment.

Virginia Galloway, regional field director of the Duluth-based Faith and Freedom Coalition, cited a 2016 opinion from the Georgia attorney general’s office to that effect.

But Robert Highsmith, a lawyer representing the Atlanta Hawks, said the state Constitution only expressly prohibits casino gambling. Sports betting only requires the legislature to pass a statute authorizing the Georgia Lottery Corp, to add sports betting to its current operations, he said.

Committee Chairman Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, suggested that Mullis prepare a constitutional amendment to introduce next week in case lawmakers decide it’s necessary.

Mullis said he has one ready to go.

State Senator Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) proposed legislation renaming the Savannah River bridge after John Lewis, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A resolution introduced in the Georgia General Assembly this week proposes dedicating the bridge in the memory of late U.S. Rep. John Lewis as the John Lewis Freedom Bridge.

“Although Georgia is not his birthplace, Georgia was his home for much of his life. He represented Georgia with not only distinction, but with valor. He was a man who risked his life to stand up for righteousness and justice for all Americans, and should rightly so be honored in Georgia,” Jackson said.

Under state law. only the Georgia Department of Transportation can institute a name change for the bridge. However, a resolution would make the DOT aware of the Legislature’s opinion and desire to have the change taken into consideration.

Jackson is currently seeking a committee hearing for the resolution. From there it would move to the Rules Committee before going to the Senate floor for discussion. With 22 legislative days remaining in the 40-day session, there is enough time to get the measure through, Jackson said.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission will review nearly 70 applications for licenses to manufacture cannabis oil, according to the AJC.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission announced this month it will review the proposals and then award licenses to six companies, possibly in late spring or early summer.

The winning companies will then have one year to begin operations, according to state law, providing medicine for 14,000 registered patients for conditions including seizures, terminal cancers and Parkinson’s disease. Though they’re allowed to consume the medicine, there’s no legal way to buy it until the companies come online.

“The goal is to ensure that patients have access to the highest-quality medicine that we can arrive at in our state with these production facilities,” said Andrew Turnage, the commission’s executive director. “I’m very impressed with the quality and caliber of applicants.”

Under the law, six companies will be licensed to cultivate medical marijuana, which can have no more than 5% THC, the compound that gives marijuana users a high. They’ll be allowed to grow the drug on a total of 400,000 square feet of indoor growing space statewide.

“The only thing we should be thinking about is how we can get the safest oil and the best medicine to Georgia patients,” said state Rep. Micah Gravley, a Republican from Douglasville who sponsored legislation starting the program. “The licensees should be the six companies who are capable of creating a lab-tested, trusted, safe oil, and have a tested and proven product in other states.”

Mrs. GaPundit had her card for the oil, and she died more than three years before the state will allow people like her to actually receive what the card purports to allow.

Former U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler will launch a another multi-million dollar boondoggle to benefit erstwhile political professionals political organization. From the AJC:

Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler is wading back into Georgia politics weeks after her runoff defeat with the start of a new voter registration group aimed at helping Republicans recover from the stunning Democratic victories in November and January.

The former financial executive framed the launch Monday of the Greater Georgia organization as a Republican answer to the powerful Fair Fight voting rights group that Stacey Abrams started days after her 2018 defeat in the race for governor.

In her first extensive interview since her Jan. 5 loss to Raphael Warnock, Loeffler said the group will focus on a trio of initiatives: Registering droves of likely conservative voters, building a network to promote “big tent” proposals and advocating for conservative electoral policies.

“Right now there is no answer on the Republican side to a comprehensive platform that provides the resources, the scale, the network, the message, the communications platform that we need for statewide success in 2022 and beyond,” Loeffler said.

Georgia State Patrol Troopers may now wear long-sleeved shirts to cover tattoos, according to AccessWDUN.

Georgia’s Department of Public Safety says state troopers still can’t have visible tattoos, but can now wear long-sleeved shirts year-round to cover up marking on their lower arms.

Department of Public Safety recruiting coordinator Lt. Auston Allen tells WMAZ-TV that the change was announced earlier this month.

Applicants still can’t have tattoos on their neck or face.

The policy could particularly affect military veterans who would like to become troopers, Allen said.

“People that are in service, in public service, have been allowed to get tattoos on their forearms or slightly below the elbow that until this policy change has automatically been disqualified from attending trooper school,” he said. “Now they have an option and some of those will make outstanding troopers no doubt.”

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller wants to promote free mental health services to prevent violence, according to the Macon Telegraph.

“You can’t really address violent crime without going to the root causes, and one of those is mental health,” Miller said. “We believe that by targeting 300 to 500 families in those areas, we can make a dramatic impact in our crime rate in the future.”

The program, called Macon Mental Health Matters, would provide a variety of mental health support services to neighborhoods that have been identified through data. Miller said he would ask the county commissioners to approve a one-year, $600,000 contract with the Southern Center for Choice Theory to provide the services.

“The data tells us that we have several communities in Macon-Bibb County who need more assistance than others. They’re more challenged from a financial standpoint and from a crime standpoint, and we’ve identified these areas and we’re going to have a mental health group that’s going to be targeting those areas, mainly our youth and our youth parents,” Miller said.

County commissioners will have a chance to approve the initiative Tuesday during their committee meeting, Miller said.

Glynn County Manager Alan Ours is resigning effective August 27, 2001, according to The Brunswick News.

Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner Tiffany Porter announced changed hours for the tag office, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Tax Commissioner Tiffany Porter announced her office will shift the tag office hours on weekdays to be open hour later in an effort to address higher demand for services in the afternoons. The new hours go into effect on March 1.

“If an in-person visit is necessary, Gwinnett residents can now take care of their tax, tag and title work without taking time off work,” Porter said. “I promised to make tag offices more accessible and this is the first step.”

Tag offices had been open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., but they will shift to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. next month. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Lawrenceville, Norcross and Snellville tag offices will stay open an extra hour, closing at 7 p.m. The Lawrenceville branch will be closed on Mondays, however, and will continue to offer its 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. hours on Saturdays.

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