Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 23, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 23, 2021

President elect Abraham Lincoln arrived in Washington, DC on February 23, 1861.

WW2_Iwo_Jima_flag_raising

On February 23, 1945, United States Marines raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi, the highest point on the Pacific island Iwo Jima.

This first flag-raising was photographed by Marine photographer Sgt. Louis R. Lowery. On Lowery’s way down Mt. Suribachi, he ran into AP photographer Joe Rosenthal and two other Marine photographers, PFC Bob Campbell and PFC Bill Genaust, who was shooting movies, informing them that the flag-raising they were looking for had already occurred, but encouraging them to check out the view from the top of the hill. The three men continued up the volcano.

Once atop Mt. Suribachi, Rosenthal attempted but was unable to find the soldiers involved in the first flag-raising, deciding instead to photograph the second flag-raising, which featured a much bigger and more photogenic Stars and Stripes. Lowery’s film was sent back to military headquarters for processing via ordinary army post–and took a month to arrive. Rosenthal’s film was sent by seaplane to Guam, and sent from there via radio-photo to the United States. The photograph so impressed President Roosevelt that he ordered the men pictured in it to return home for a publicity tour. Rosenthal later won a Pulitzer Prize for the photo, but for years was forced to deny erroneous reports that he personally staged the second flag-raising and attempted to pass it off as the original.

Although the famous photograph has long led people to believe that the flag-raising was a turning point in the fight for Iwo Jima, vicious fighting to control the island actually continued for 31 more days.

Today, the first and second flags flown atop Mt. Suribachi are held at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia.

On February 23, 1954, the first children in the U.S. were inoculated against polio using a vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Holy smokes, Georgians are voting today! From The Brunswick News:

Light turnout characterized the first day of early voting on two special purpose local option sales tax-related referendums, with 180 casting a ballot in person Monday.

In addition, a total of 85 voters requested absentee ballots for the dual referendums, one to ratify Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax 2021 and the other to declare the Oglethorpe Conference Center an infeasible project, thereby providing an avenue to return to the taxpayers $2.5 million in SPLOST IV and V proceeds that remain allocated for the project.

As of the close of business Monday, 74 mail-in ballots were on their way to voters and 11 were in the hopper.

Voters will be able to cast their ballots from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at the Office Park Building at 1815 Gloucester St. in Brunswick; the Ballard Community Building at 30 Nimitz Drive; and on St. Simons Island at Glynn County Fire Station No. 2, 1929 Demere Road.

All polling precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on March 16.

Glynn County commissioners propose implementing a 1 percent sales tax for three years, which would generate a total of $68.5 million split among the county, city of Brunswick, Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission and Jekyll Island Authority for infrastructure and capital projects.

Noonish Senate Rules Upon Adjournment – 450 CAP
8:00 AM Senate Veterans, Military and Homeland Security – 307 CLOB
8:00 AM Senate Government Oversight – 450 CAP
8:00 AM HOUSE SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT – 506 CLOB
8:00 AM HOUSE Special Committee on Election Integrity Blackmon Subcommittee – 132 CAP
8:00 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES – 606 CLOB
9:00 AM HOUSE RULES – 341 CAP
10:00 AM Senate FLOOR SESSION (LD 21) – Senate Chamber
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD21) – House Chamber
1:00 PM Senate Insurance and Labor – Mezz 1
1:00 PM Senate Higher Education – 450 CAP
1:00 PM HOUSE Insurance Life and Health Subcommittee – 406 CLOB
1:30 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY – 132 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT – 406 CLOB
2:15 PM Senate Health and Human Services – 450 CAP
2:15 PM Senate Science and Technology – 307 CLOB
2:15 PM Senate Public Safety – Mezz 1
3:00 PM HOUSE ENERGY, UTILITIES AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS – 403 CAP
3:30 PM Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities – 450 CAP
4:45 PM Senate Transportation – 450 CAP
4:45 PM Senate Ethics Subcommittee A – 307 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 67 – Elections and Primaries; submission of identification in connection with absentee ballot applications; provide(Substitute)(ETHICS-20th)

SB 188 – Elections and Primaries; election results reporting system to be established and maintained by the Secretary of State; provide (ETHICS-46th)

SB 40 – Elections and Primaries; the time and method for opening and tabulating absentee ballots; revise (Substitute)(ETHICS-6th)

SB 184 – Elections and Primaries; inputting credit for voting data; revise the time (ETHICS-46th)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Structured Rule

HB 68 – Professions and businesses; certain military certifications; extend time to qualify (RegI-Clark-147th)

HB 119 – Professions and businesses; chiropractors may own professional corporations with physicians; provide (RegI-Hawkins-27th)

HB 161 – Local government; downtown development authorities; remove provision providing perpetual existence to such authorities (GAff-Tankersley-160th)

HB 241 – Insurance; revise meaning of property insurance; change parameters under which certain contracts or agreements may be canceled (Substitute)(Ins-Gambill-15th)

HB 286 – Local government; restrict ability of county governing authorities to reduce funding for county police departments (Substitute)(GAff-Gaines-117th)

HB 305 – Professions and businesses; massage therapy; revise a definition (RegI-Hawkins-27th)

HB 367 – Controlled substances; Schedules I, II, III, IV, and V; change certain provisions (JudyNC-Parrish-158th)

Structured Rule

HB 149 – Income tax; certain elections to be made by Subchapter “S” corporations and partnerships for the filing of tax returns and imposition of taxes; allow (Substitute)(W&M-Williamson-115th)

HB 374 – Sales and use tax; local authorities providing public water or sewer service; exempt (W&M-Gaines-117th)

Governor Brian Kemp filled four seats on Superior Courts.

Nancy N. Bills as Superior Court Judge of the Rockdale Judicial Circuit, serving Rockdale County;

Rosemary M. Greene as Superior Court Judge of the Cherokee Judicial Circuit, serving Bartow and Gordon Counties;

Richard L. “Dick” Perryman III as Superior Court Judge of the Alapaha Judicial Circuit, serving Atkinson, Berrien, Clinch, Cook, and Lanier Counties; and

Jesse C. Stone as Superior Court Judge of the Augusta Judicial Circuit, serving Burke, Columbia, and Richmond Counties.

The United States Supreme Court yesterday heard oral arguments in the water lawsuit between Florida and Georgia. From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:

A lawyer representing the state of Florida asked the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to order Georgia to use less water irrigating crops in order to restore Florida’s devastated oyster industry.

But Georgia’s lawyer told the justices the costs of a court-ordered cap on water consumption by farmers in Southwest Georgia would far outweigh the minimal benefits it would provide the Sunshine State’s oyster harvests.

“A 50% cut in irrigating would cost Georgia hundreds of millions of dollars to benefit Florida’s oyster industry by 1%,” Craig Primis said during hourlong opening arguments.

Garre confirmed what has been clear at least since a special master heard the dispute in late 2019: Florida is no longer focusing on the amount of water used in metro Atlanta to supply the region’s growing population. Essentially, Florida has conceded that Atlanta-area municipal water utilities have made such strides in water conservation that a case can’t be made in that part of the river basin.

Garre acknowledged in answer to a question Monday from Justice Amy Coney Barrett that Florida instead is targeting the amount of water used for irrigation in Southwest Georgia. He suggested Georgia could fix the problem with steps that wouldn’t cost much, including halting illegal irrigation, eliminating over-watering, reducing farm-pond evaporation and doing a better job scheduling irrigation.

Governor Kemp also announced that the state is working to expand the criteria for Covid vaccine eligibility, according to Patch.com.

“We will be finalizing our expanded criteria in the coming days,” Kemp said at the Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters, as reported by Atlanta news station WXIA-TV. “Our goal is to protect those vulnerable to this virus and get Georgians back to normal as quickly as we can.”

Currently, only healthcare workers, adults 65 and over, first responders and residents and staff of group care facilities are eligible for the high-demand COVID-19 vaccinations.

When Kemp loosens COVID-19 eligibility requirements, the next groups in line will include more essential workers like teachers and grocery-store employees. Kemp said Friday that plans for expanding eligibility would be announced within the next two weeks.

When asked by a reporter what he thought of efforts to limit his authority during a pandemic, Kemp replied that he did “not think it sounds like a good idea” when quick decisions are necessary.

“If you have a governor who doesn’t have those powers, you can have local jurisdictions overriding,” Kemp said, without mentioning Bottoms by name. “We saw that early in the pandemic when some mayors wanted to shut some of the things down that were overreaching from what the executive order actually said.” Kemp said he would veto such a bill.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R-Forsyth County) discussed rural healthcare, according to the Union Recorder.

“I look at health care as we wasted the better part of 20 years trying to solve the issues around health care nationally, because we’ve been stuck in partisan corners,” Duncan said. “But the reality is: 11 million Georgians really don’t care, when they’re sick or hurting or need a, you know, a prescription filled or they need a lower cost on their health care premium. They don’t really care who’s a Republican or Democrat — they just want somebody to solve their problems.”

Georgia’s rural health care system was arguably already near crisis levels before the pandemic added another challenge.

A number of rural hospitals across the state have shuttered in the last two decades — two more last year due to the financial blow of COVID-19. A steady increase in Georgia’s uninsured population has further complicated reimbursement for services.

“I’m certainly grateful for the COVID relief funds that have shown up and allow them to stabilize their ERs and their critical care — especially after their lack of being able to serve the community for a period of time with profitable elective surgeries,” he said. “But we need to focus on trying to make sure that they’re able to not just survive but thrive.”

The Republican said he is disappointed that Gov. Brian Kemp’s Medicaid waiver proposals were put on hold after the change in presidential administrations.

“Fifty-thousand people here in Georgia would have access almost immediately to health care coverage that don’t currently have it,” he said of the proposals. “That’s a help to those that are maybe not seeking medical attention because they don’t have some sort of health package that protects them. Also it hurts the hospital system or the doctor that’s providing that health care when somebody walks in the ER, that doesn’t have coverage.”

The Republican said there needs to be more coordinated conversations between state and local partners on efforts to increase and expand access to rural health care — from utilizing technology to help solve problems like COVID-19 vaccine distribution to recruiting medical professionals to live and work in rural areas.

“There’s entire communities — multiple communities — that count on a hospital that nearly at times is only hours away from making a payroll,” he said. “We can never expect a rural community to grow if they don’t even have basic access to health care.”

House Bill 531 would dramatically rewrite state voting laws was discussed in the House Election Integrity Committee, according to the AJC.

An expansive bill that would end Sunday voting, limit drop boxes and require ID for absentee ballots moved closer to a vote after a Georgia House elections committee listened to nearly three hours of public comments Monday.

Voting rights advocates told lawmakers the bill would reduce turnout and create new limitations on voting without doing much to improve election security.

Skeptics of Georgia’s elections said they’re suspicious of absentee voting and encouraged legislators to pass stricter laws that would ensure only legitimate voters cast absentee ballots. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, 1.3 million Georgia voters cast absentee ballots, but election officials, backed up by multiple recounts, have said there’s no evidence that widespread fraud occurred during the presidential election.

The House Election Integrity Committee could vote on the sweeping legislation, House Bill 531, as soon as Tuesday, potentially setting it up for a vote in the full House of Representatives within days.

From the Capitol Beat News Service:

The 59-page bill contains roughly two dozen changes including controversial proposals boosting identification rules for mail-in voters, requiring absentee-ballot drop boxes to be located inside polling places and outlawing early voting on Sundays.

Other changes outlined in the bill include consolidating precincts with long wait times outside polling places, banning people from offering food or drinks to voters while they wait in line and allowing local officials to open and scan absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

Democratic lawmakers and voting-rights groups have skewered the bill, sponsored by state Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem. Fleming chairs the House Special Committee on Election Integrity, which has held three hearings on the measure. It will likely face a vote this week on whether to advance to the full House.

“There has been controversy regarding our election system,” Fleming said at an earlier hearing on Feb. 18. “I believe the goal of our process here should be an attempt to restore the confidence of our public in our elections system.”

Fleming’s wide-ranging bill would also eliminate Georgia’s “jungle primary” format for special elections that place candidates from all parties for a vacant seat on the same ballot. It would scrap the kind of free-for-all election that forced former Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler into a losing runoff with now-U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock last month.

House Bill 150 by State Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) would prohibit local governments from limiting energy service connections, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Sponsored by state Rep. Bruce Williamson, R-Monroe, the bill would block city and county governments from prohibiting service connections to local houses and businesses “based upon the type or source of energy or fuel to be delivered.”

Williamson cast his local-ban bill as a measure to give communities more choice in whether to burn natural gas or alternative fuels, rather than letting city and county governments limit options.

“Now’s not the time to take away consumers’ choice,” Williamson said from the House floor on Monday. “Nothing precludes local governments from incentivizing your citizens toward the energy policies you deem best for your citizenry.”

No cities in Georgia have enacted any policies yet to restrict energy sources, Williamson noted. Atlanta, Augusta, Athens, Savannah and Clarkston have passed resolutions setting long-term goals of converting their buildings to 100% clean energy.

The bill passed by a 103-62 vote largely along party lines, with some Democrats voting in favor. It now heads to the Georgia Senate.

From WABE:

“This bill would put such a burden on restaurants. I’m not even sure the Waffle House would even exist if we didn’t pass this bill,” said Republican Rep. Kasey Carpenter, a restaurant owner who voted for the bill. “Natural gas is important for my industry and for all restaurateurs. We’re all for ‘local control’ until locals get out of control.”

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Bruce Williamson, says more options mean a lower cost.

“House Bill 150 gives Georgians a resilient path for assuring the lowest possible energy pricing in their homes and businesses. It assures consumers freedom of choice,” said Williamson, who added that the bill wouldn’t preclude local government from offering incentives to residents who choose cleaner forms of energy.

Georgia State Senators voted to adopt two resolutions calling for a federal Constitutional Convention, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

The state Senate voted 34-20 Monday for both Senate Resolution 28 to limit the number of terms a federal lawmaker can serve and Senate Resolution 29 to require a balanced budget. The measures move to the House for more debate.

The sponsor of the resolutions, Republican Bill Cowsert of Athens, said the measures will “reel Congress back in so it will become a functioning body again.”

It would be at least the fourth time that Georgia has called for a convention to consider a balanced budget and at least the second time it’s called for a convention to consider term limits.

Georgia’s term limits resolution does not specify how many terms House members and senators should be limited to, and its balanced budged resolution does not specify what the rules should be.

Cowsert said Georgia could become the 34th state to call for a balanced budget, trigging a convention. But that number is in dispute, in part because some states have rescinded previous calls.

A local group calling themselves “Citizens Facts PAC” took out an ad against U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) in the Savannah Morning News, who then wrote a news story about it.

In the Feb. 17 edition of the Savannah Morning News, a full-page advertisement bearing the face of District 1 Congressman Buddy Carter urged readers to “Remember the Capitol.”

Savannah lawyer Wade Herring, one of the founding members, alongside self-described private citizen Tom Kohler, and Chatham Area Transit Authority Board Member Clinton Edminster said elected officials should always seek to act in the best interest of those they represent, not just when they’re running for re-election.

Herring said he was “angry and disappointed” in Carter’s behavior and objection to confirming the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. Herring penned an op-ed published Jan. 25 calling on Carter to resign.

Augusta City Commissioners will consider reopening public facilities following CDC guidelines, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Allowing events on Augusta property – such as parks or other public spaces – could resume soon if organizers follow CDC guidelines. A blue ribbon panel to review the government’s structure as well as sending a vote of no-confidence to the Georgia General Assembly also go before the Augusta Commission or its committees Tuesday.

Resuming outside events – such as the Saturday Market held on Eighth Street – goes before the full commission at its 11 a.m. standing called meeting. Requested by Commissioner Sean Frantom, the plan requires event organizers to follow CDC guidelines.

[Commissioner Dennis] Williams said he favors sending a resolution to the state legislature in opposition to multiple pending bills that would limit access to voting. The measures include eliminating Sunday voting and no-excuse absentee voting, limiting the amount of time to return absentee ballots, requiring a driver’s license number or photocopied ID to get an absentee ballot, removing or limiting access to ballot drop boxes and ending automatic voter registration.

“I don’t care for some of the changes they’re putting out,” Williams said. “What’s wrong with having voting on Sunday?”

The restrictions “make it more difficult for people to get to the polls” or to vote, such as those with limited mobility, he said. “I can’t see why we can’t have early voting to accommodate people.”

Hall County Commissioners and the Board of Elections are at odds over who should supervise the Elections Supervisor, according to AccessWDUN.

In a special called meeting, [elections board] members voted to allow attorney Ken Jarrard with Jarrard & Davis, LLP to begin discussion with county representation over supervisory responsiblity of the Elections Director. This position currently reports to the County Administrator.

Jarrard explained that the board’s concern centers around a 2014 act passed by the Georgia General Assembly that created the Board of Elections. He said that this act was later amended by the Hall County Board of Commissioners in 2018.

“The issue is that the Hall County Board of Elections is a creature of local acts, adopted and approved through the Georgia General Assembly,” said Jarrard. “The Hall County Board of Commissioners amended the local acts applicable to the Board of Registrations to set up an Elections Director situation and the Hall County Board of Elections now is of the mind that may not have been proper.”

“I feel strongly that the integrity and responsibility of Hall County elections, including the supervision, development and oversight of the Director of Elections, rests uniquely with the Board as it was approved by the governor and state legislature on April 10, 2014,” said [Board of Elections Chair Tom] Smiley. “Clearly the act that established the Election Board, intended for accountability over the Hall County elections, including the Director of Elections, to begin and end with this board.”

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