Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 30, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 30, 2021

On March 30, 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was formally adopted after sufficient number of the states ratified it.

With the adoption of the 15th Amendment in 1870, a politically mobilized African-American community joined with white allies in the Southern states to elect the Republican Party to power, which brought about radical changes across the South. By late 1870, all the former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union, and most were controlled by the Republican Party, thanks to the support of African-American voters.

In the same year, Hiram Rhoades Revels, a Republican from Natchez, Mississippi, became the first African American ever to sit in Congress. Although African-American Republicans never obtained political office in proportion to their overwhelming electoral majority, Revels and a dozen other African-American men served in Congress during Reconstruction, more than 600 served in state legislatures, and many more held local offices. However, in the late 1870s, the Southern Republican Party vanished with the end of Reconstruction, and Southern state governments effectively nullified the 14th and 15th Amendments, stripping Southern African Americans of the right to vote. It would be nearly a century before the nation would again attempt to establish equal rights for African Americans in the South.

Robert E. Lee arrived in Augusta on March 30, 1870.

On March 30, 1937, Georgia Governor E.D. Rivers signed legislation authorizing non-profit Electric Membership Corporations to electrify rural Georgia.

On March 30, 1945, President F.D. Roosevelt arrived for his final visit to Warm Spring, Georgia.

The Savannah Morning News looks back to the 1918 Pandemic.

October was the cruelest month. During those 31 days, the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic stormed through Savannah, killing 114 people and leaving a swath of despair and a sense of desperation in its wake.

“Sick patients were being taken to the various hospitals by the wagon load,” the Savannah Morning News reported on Oct. 27. That came after 102 new cases were registered just the day before.

The vulnerability to infectious diseases. Not knowing what to do. The fear. Being a little bit out of control. It was “very similar to today,” said Sara Plaspohl, one of the authors of “The Effect of the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic on Mortality Rates in Savannah, Georgia,” a 2016 article in the Georgia Historical Quarterly.

The GHQ article concentrated on the 6,520 recorded deaths in Savannah-Chatham County during a three-year period, Jan. 1, 1917, to Dec. 31, 1919. The numbers are scary. Of the 2,433 deaths in 1918, 223 – 9% of the aggregate total – perished during the pandemic.

And the total, said Plaspohl, was likely higher. The handwriting on the certificates was often not legible, and, when it was, they still only counted certificates that specifically stated Spanish flu or influenza as the cause of death.

Warnings were also plentiful. The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Thacker pointed out, published out a circular during the 1918 pandemic that presaged the cautionary admonitions of 2020:

‒ If you are really sick, stay at home and remain there until the fever is over. A day in bed may save you from serious consequences …

‒ Don’t spray others with the secretions from your nose and throat in coughing, sneezing, laughing or talking.

‒ Boil your handkerchiefs and other contaminated articles.

‒ Wash your hands frequently.

‒ Keep away from others as much as possible while you have a cough.

“After the pandemic subsided, it left a significant scar on the surviving population,” the GHQ article stated. “Many children lost one or both of their parents, and widowed spouses suddenly became the only source of income and support for their families.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

11:00 AM Senate State and Local Governmental Operations – 307 CLOB
11:00 AM HOUSE RULES – 341 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY – 132 CAP

Governor Brian Kemp is forced to cancel events in Valdosta today because he was exposed to Covid and is quarantining, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

“Following exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual while touring storm damage in Newnan on Saturday, the governor is following CDC/DPH protocol and quarantining,” his office said.

Kemp tested negative for COVID-19 Monday morning after taking a rapid-response antigen test.

Adam Floyd, Wild Adventures Theme Park marketing communications manager, confirmed Monday evening that Kemp would not be appearing in-person but will be sending a special video message for the event.

Additionally, Marty Kemp was scheduled to speak at a women’s luncheon in Tuesday afternoon in Downtown Valdosta, which she will now do virtually, according to Lauren Pope, a Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce representative.

From the Savannah Morning News:

“Our office was notified of the individual testing positive today (Monday),” Kemp communications director Cody Hall tweeted. “The Governor tested negative this morning on a rapid-response antigen test.”

The governor was vaccinated last week in Waycross after announcing earlier in the week that all Georgians age 16 and older would be eligible for the COVID vaccination.

The Georgia Emergency Management Agency is limiting vaccinations without appointments at the Columbus mass vaccination site, according to WTVM.

The COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Civic Center in Columbus is now limiting the number of people who can show up without an appointment.

According to GEMA officials, this change is not to discourage people from driving up to get their shot, but is meant to ensure you will be able to get it without having to wait and leave empty handed.

According to Jason Ritter, site coordinator at the Civic Center, the number of drive up appointments depends on the number of scheduled appointments for the day.

Ritter said, “We are still allowing walk ups, as we were Thursday, and Friday, however, we are having to limit our number of walk ups, based on our appointment schedule for the day, and our allotment of vaccine for the day. So we compare the two and we determine how many walk-ups we can have come through per day.”

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson is pressuring large companies based in Georgia to take political position on Senate Bill 202, according to the Savannah Morning News.

He said he was “reevaluating” his relationship with Coke, Home Depot, Delta and UPS. Johnson said these companies should want what is best for Georgia, and in Johnson’s eyes, The Election Integrity Act of 2021 isn’t it.

“These are major corporations that play a major role in lobbying efforts. And so personally, I’m very concerned about what transpired,” Johnson said. “We had an election system that seemed to be changed because the majority did not like the results, which is unfortunate.”

“The Secretary of State issued a statement that said this election was the most secure election in Georgia history, and we now have these quote-unquote reforms that are draconian in my mind,” Johnson said. “Recognizing that businesses have a shared responsibility to be good corporate neighbors, as well, to say they have corporate values toward one thing, yet be solidly complicit in others.”

Earlier this month, Coca-Cola made headlines after it was accused of requiring employees to watch an online “Confronting Racism” training that included a tip to “be less white.”

In a statement, Coca-Cola denied the video and images circulating on social media were part of the company’s learning curriculum.

Johnson pointed out that next year is a big one for Georgia elections, with a governor’s race and newly elected Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock up for re-election.

“The implication of this is very clear. And so the urgency of it is very clear. I think people have not been fooled by what they’re seeing,” Johnson said. “Again, if this was just outrage in Georgia, that’s one thing, but it’s across the country, the president of the United States weighed in on it. This is something that could hurt Georgia.”

A federal lawsuit has been filed against the Georgia election legislation, according to the AP via AccessWDUN.

The lawsuit, filed Sunday against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other members of the State Election Board, asks a judge to find that the law violates the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act and to block state officials from enforcing it. The suit was filed a day before a Democratic lawmaker returned to the state Capitol after being arrested while protesting the law.

The complaint argues that Republican “officials have resorted to attempting to suppress the vote of Black voters and other voters of color in order to maintain the tenuous hold that the Republican Party has in Georgia.”

“In other words, these officials are using racial discrimination as a means of achieving a partisan end,” it says.

The complaint was filed by the Georgia NAACP, Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, League of Women Voters of Georgia, GALEO Latino Community Development Fund, Common Cause and the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe.

Democratic Sen. Nan Orrock mocked the “onerous sin” for which Cannon was arrested.

“I’m here today to stand for Park Cannon, to stand for state Rep. Park Cannon and deplore the treatment she received at the hands of state troopers,” Orrock said.

Republicans, meanwhile, said Cannon was grandstanding. Republican Sen. Randy Robertson said Cannon had ignored “nine warnings” and lawmakers needed to stand behind the police and state troopers who guard the Capitol.

“This is all publicity,” Robertson said.

From CNN via the Gwinnett Daily Post:

The law specifically imposes voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empowers state officials to take over local elections boards, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water.

“Unable to stem the tide of these demographic changes or change the voting patterns of voters of color, these officials have resorted to attempting to suppress the vote of Black voters and other voters of color in order to maintain the tenuous hold that the Republican Party has in Georgia,” the lawsuit states. “In other words, these officials are using racial discrimination as a means of achieving a partisan end. These efforts constitute intentional discrimination in violation of the Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”

The Democrats’ go-to election attorney, Marc Elias, had filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of the New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter and Rise Inc. on similar grounds.

“In large part because of the racial disparities in areas outside of voting — such as socioeconomic status, housing, and employment opportunities — the Voter Suppression Bill disproportionately impacts Black voters, and interacts with these vestiges of discrimination in Georgia to deny Black voters (an) equal opportunity to participate in the political process and/or elect a candidate of their choice,” that lawsuit states.

State Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville) has written a section-by-seciton review of the election legislation on Facebook. It’s comprehensive and worth reading on the author’s Facebook page, or reprinted with the author’s permission at GaPundit. For the moment, I want to talk about the section on food and water:

Section 33 is one of those moments of forgetfulness. In the November election the Democrats led by Stacey Abrams and her Fair Fight group set up food trucks and food pantries at polling places. One was described to be reminiscent of Disney where you walk through the gift shop after the ride.

Here, you went to the food bank and received can goods and non-perishables after voting. In Georgia, outside of 150’ from the polling place, they can do what they want. Inside of 150’ there is no campaigning. That is why I have a 200’ tape measure so no campaign signs are too close to the building. I am not even allowed to wear a name tag within 150” of a polling place when I vote.

If you want to disagree with me, go ahead, but if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck… These food giveaways were buying votes. That should not happen.

The entire analysis by Rep. Kirby is worth reading.

House Bill 146 by State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) has passed both chambers and heads to the Governor for his signature or veto, according to 13WMAZ.

The House voted Monday to agree to changes to House Bill 146 made by the Senate, sending it to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature or veto.

Nearly 250,000 employees of state agencies, universities and K-12 schools would be eligible for the leave after the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.

House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, has made the measure one of his priorities. A similar bill nearly passed last year, but failed on the last day of the session in the Senate.

Both mothers and fathers could use the leave. An employee would qualify after six months of continuous employment with a government agency, college or school.

House Bill 218 by State Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton) passed the state Senate with amendments and heads back to the House to reconcile the bills, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

Georgia state senators voted 34-18 on Monday for a bill that loosens the state’s gun laws less than two weeks after police say a man bought a gun and killed eight people at three different massage businesses.

“I’m proud to say this bill will protect the Second Amendment rights of Georgians,” said state Sen. Bo Hatchett, a Republican from Cornelia.

Because the Senate made changes to House Bill 218, it goes back to the House for more debate. If the House agrees with the Senate changes, the measure would go to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature or veto. It would take effect as soon at the governor signs it.

The measure would loosen Georgia law to allow ranyone from any state that has a concealed weapons permit to carry their gun in Georgia. Before now, that privilege was only extended to residents of states that recognized Georgia’s law.

“We’re going to open that up,” Hatchett said. “Anyone with a concealed weapons permit in another state that comes into Georgia will have reciprocity. Georgia will recognize those.”

House Bill 534 by State Rep. Josh Bonner (R-Fayetterville), aimed at curbing automotive hooliganism, passed the Senate, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Josh Bonner, R-Fayetteville, would make it a misdemeanor for anyone in Georgia who organizes, promotes or participates in street racing, also called drag racing.

Drivers caught participating in drag races would have their driver’s license suspended for up to one year for the first offense and three years for a second offense. A third drag-racing offense would see their license revoked. Misdemeanor charges and fines would also be involved as part of the punishment.

Drag-racing drivers who have been convicted three different times could also have their vehicle confiscated unless it is a family car that would lead to financial hardship. In that case, the vehicle’s title would have to be transferred to another family.

The crackdown measure on drag racing was pushed by Gov. Brian Kemp as part of his legislative priorities on crime matters including toughened penalties for human traffickers and criminal gangs. It echoed a separate drag-racing bill sponsored by Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur.

The state Senate passed the bill by a 46-3 vote on Monday after clearing the House by a 130-39 vote earlier this month. It now goes to Kemp’s desk for his signature.

Senate Bill 100 by state Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah) passed and would , according to the AJC.

The state House of Representatives Monday approved Senate Bill 100, which could eventually switch Georgia to year-round Daylight Saving Time. It’s the Legislature’s latest attempt to end the twice-annual changing of the clocks that annoys many residents.

According to the Congressional Research Service, 11 states have adopted measures authorizing permanent Daylight Saving Time, including Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee. But they cannot make the switch unless Congress authorizes it. Congress has considered but not approved such legislation.

The Georgia House and Senate have taken different approaches to the issue. SB 100 initially would have switched Georgia to year-round Standard Time as an interim measure – a move that would not require Congressional approval. The bill would have switched Georgia to permanent Daylight Saving Time once Congress allowed it.

The House stripped the bill of language moving Georgia to Standard Time. Now it authorizes permanent Daylight Saving Time once Congress allows it.

The revised measure passed by a vote of 111 to 48. It now goes back to the Senate.

House Bill 479 by State Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Cobb) repeals the existing citizens arrest statute and passed the Senate in amended form, according to the AJC.

“When citizens try to play police officer, not being trained and not having the full picture, that’s when it becomes a problem,” said state Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens.

The Senate approved the measure 52-1, with only state Sen. Frank Ginn, a Danielsville Republican, voting in opposition. Senators altered the legislation, so it will now go back to the House for its consideration.

House Bill 479 would repeal citizen’s arrest from state law while still allowing employees at businesses, security officers, private investigators and inspectors at truck scales to detain someone they believe has committed a crime. The bill also would allow law enforcement officers to make arrests outside their jurisdictions.

The National Park Service is raising issues associated with the proposed Camden County Spaceport, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Earlier this month the Federal Aviation Administration issued an update on the status of the proposed Spaceport Camden.

Omitted were concerns the National Park Service holds about the spaceport’s impact on island visitors. The NPS manages Cumberland Island National Seashore.

Spaceport Camden plans to launch rockets from an abandoned industrial site on the mainland over nearby residences on Little Cumberland Island and over Cumberland Island National Seashore, where there are permanent residents as well as overnight visitors. While the plans for a launch prescribe clearing the water of boats, the islands will not be evacuated.

The National Park Service is not on board with the plan.

“NPS believes there is a significant risk to (Cumberland Island National Seashore) that is not adequately addressed in the document,” NPS Regional Director Stan Austin wrote to the FAA in a four-page letter dated Dec. 10, 2020.

The Park Service finds this problematic. Austin notes that the document states in one place that the security zones and exclusion zones needed to keep people safe during a launch wouldn’t close or restrict access to any of the park’s property. But in another section it depicts three security check points located within the Cumberland Island National Seashore that would limit access in the park. The US Coast Guard Security Zone it depicts encompasses the northern half of the national park.

“The (document) as written contradicts the restriction statements and indicates the FAA and County are proposing restricted access and closures to NPS’ resources,” Austin wrote.

Camden resident Steve Weinkle, who opposes the spaceport as a boondoggle that has already cost Camden taxpayers almost $10 million, said if the FAA licensed Spaceport Camden it would be unique, not because of proximity to a national park but because of the proposed path of rockets.

“The FAA, Air Force, and NASA have never knowingly approved launches over US civilian populations in the Safety/Exclusion Zones,” Weinkle wrote in an email.

United States Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Atlanta) toured Fort Gordon, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

“Georgians ought to be really proud that such an impressive military establishment is here that is so important to our nation’s national security,” Warnock said following a tour of the base.

Warnock said he was impressed by Fort Gordon’s leadership’s commitment to their students and the military personnel and civilians. He said he plans to continue to work in the Senate to make sure Fort Gordon has everything it needs.

Warnock said the Georgia Senate Bill 202, which restricts certain voting activities, was “terrible.” He is concerned over a number of provisions, including that the state board of elections will now be able to take over local elections with little explanation. He classified the provision as a “political move.”

Warnock also touted and expressed how proud he was about the American Rescue Plan, signed earlier this month by President Joe Biden. He said the plan was a “historic and transformational piece of legislation.”

“It would not be happening if it not for the fact that Georgians were able to freely exercise their right to vote, to give us the majority in the United State Senate, therefore we were able to pass this amazing piece of legislation that will put shots in arms, money into people’s pockets and support small businesses right here in Augusta,” he said.

Following his visit to Fort Gordon, Warnock met with Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis and other elected officials.

Sen. Jon Ossoff will be visiting Augusta Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, he will meet with local community leaders for a roundtable discussion on the American Rescue Plan.

On Wednesday, he will be visiting the Craig-Houghton Elementary School COVID-19 vaccination site with local officials. Ossoff visited Fort Gordon last month.

Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner Tiffany Porter , according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County’s tax commissioner and one member of its Board of Commissioners are engaged in a public dispute over whether the county’s top tax official should charge eight cities that use her office for tax billing a fee that would reportedly generate a $110,000 supplement to her salary.

Commissioner Kirkland Carden raised concerns last week about the higher fee that would be included in a new contract between Tax Commissioner Tiffany Porter’s office and the cities of Berkeley Lake, Dacula, Grayson, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Peachtree Corners, Snellville and Sugar Hill.

“These proposed changes would drastically increase the financial burden placed on municipalities and taxpayers,” Carden said. “I can’t think of a worse time to hike the fees a city must pay than right now after their budgets have already been devastated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A key point of the argument is over the fee that would generate a supplement to Porter’s salary.

The tax commissioner said the situation has been portrayed as a “greedy pay raise,” which she said is a false narrative. She said it should instead be viewed as “additional compensations for additional responsibility.”

The tax commissioner is paid $141,098 a year, according to salary figures county officials released for all of Gwinnett’s constitutional officers at the beginning of March.

“I am 100% satisfied with my salary and job, which is the Gwinnett County tax commissioner,” Porter said. “I did not run or agree to be the tax commissioner for any city. I question the morality of additional responsibility without additional compensation.”

If the contracts — which Carden said would require final approval by the Board of Commissioners, possibly in May — are approved, the additional fee would mean Porter would take home just over $250,000 a year — more than any other local elected official, or even Gov. Brian Kemp.

The Georgia Ports Authority Board approved plans and funding for an expansion of the Garden City container terminal, according to the Savannah Morning News.

After it’s busiest February ever, the Georgia Ports Authority Board on Monday approved $205 million for capital improvement projects that will increase the Port of Savannah’s container capacity by 20%. This would bring a total annual capacity of 4.7 million 20-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) to more than 6 million.

“The volume that we’re handling today is volume that we didn’t expect to handle until 2025,” GPA’s executive director Griff Lynch told the Savannah Morning News, “both the ILA, which is the union folks, and the GPA employees are working really hard to step up to the plate and process this cargo.”

Last month, the Port of Savannah moved 390,804 TEUs of cargo, an increase of 7.2%, or 26,400 TEUs compared to February 2020. Between September and February, GPA handled 2.64 million TEUs, an increase of nearly 375,000, or 16.5%, compared to the same six-month period a year ago. According to Lynch, that is the equivalent of an extra month of trade in terms of cargo volumes since September.

The Gainesville Times reviews progress on an Inland Port in Hall County.

With a wetlands permit and property mostly in hand, the Georgia Ports Authority is now trying to pool together funding before it proceeds with building the Northeast Georgia Inland Port in northeast Hall County.

The authority has spent $8 million to $9 million on buying land for the cargo terminal off White Sulphur Road near Ga. 365.

Hall County is working to assemble a small last portion needed for a roadway into the 104-acre site. At the Feb. 8 Board of Commissioners work session, attorney Van Stephens said the county would take the necessary steps to acquire the property in a “timely fashion” by either negotiation or condemnation.

The bigger issue for the authority is securing funding to complete the $100 million project.

“Our intention is that this project would be handled with internal revenues, and that has been our limiting factor in pursuing this (inland port) to this point.”

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