Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 27, 2021

27
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 27, 2021

German scientist Johannes Kepler dated the creation of the universe to April 27, 4977 BC(E).

On April 27, 1773, the British Parliament enacted the Tea Act, granting a monopoly on selling tea to the American colonies.

Richard B. Russell, Sr. was born on April 27, 1861 near Marietta, Georgia. Russell served in the Georgia House of Representatives, on the Georgia Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and ran for Governor, Congress, and United States Senate. His son, Richard B. Russell, Jr. served in the Georgia State House, including a stint as Speaker, as Governor of Georgia, and in the United States Senate.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia added more than a million residents between the 2010 census and 2020, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

Georgia’s total population rose above 10.7 million from 9.7 million a decade ago. That 10.6% growth was the 12th fastest in the nation.

Percentage-wise, though, it was the slowest growing decade for Georgia since the 1940s, back when the state only had about 3 million residents, and pales behind the 26.4% increase in population the state saw in the 1990s and the 18.3% growth it saw in the 2000s. It’s the first time since the 1990 Census that Georgia won’t add a congressional seat, holding steady at 14. Before 1990, Georgia had 10 congressional seats for six decades.

Georgia rose from the ninth largest state following the 2010 count to the eighth largest state now. It added the fourth-most number of new residents overall, behind Texas, Florida and California, respectively. Georgia’s growth is part of an overall decades-long shift of population and political power toward the South and West.

State lawmakers have been told to expect a November special session to draw new maps for Congress, state Senate, and state House. The average size of a U.S. House district in Georgia will rise from 692,000 people after 2010 to 766,000 people now. For a state Senate district, that jump is from about 173,000 people to nearly 192,000, while in the state House, it’s from about 54,000 to nearly 60,000.

For the first time in decades, Georgia will not have to get advance clearance for its district lines from the U.S. Department of Justice, after the Supreme Court overturned that part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

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

Georgia will not be allocated additional congressional seats by the U.S. Census during the coming decade for the first time since the 1980s.

The first 2020 Census numbers released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau show Georgia will retain the same 14 U.S. House districts the Peach State was awarded following the 2010 Census.

Georgia is among 37 states that will neither gain nor lose congressional seats, Ron Jarmin, the Census Bureau’s acting director, told reporters during a news conference. Only 13 states will gain or lose seats, the smallest shift since 1941, he said.

The state of Texas will gain two congressional seats, while five other states – Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon – will gain one each.

Each of seven states – California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia – will lose one seat.

Governor Brian Kemp today signed House Bill 317, legislation requiring online short-term rental companies to collect and remit hotel/motel taxes, according to the AJC.

The law makes home rental companies collect Georgia’s $5 per night lodging tax and local excise taxes, which can reach 8%. The costs will be passed on to renters on their bills.

The measure is the latest effort to tax online companies that do business in Georgia, building on laws passed in recent years that tax Uber, Amazon and other internet retailers.

Traditional hotels, taxis and retailers supported taxing their internet competitors, and local governments sought the revenue the taxes will generate.

The lodging tax is projected to raise $17 million for the state in the 2022 fiscal year, according to a fiscal note produced by the state auditor. Local governments could receive a combined $20 million to $30 million annually from hotel excise taxes, according to the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.

The Stone Mountain Memorial Association is considering changes to the park, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

Stone Mountain Park, known for its giant carving of Confederate leaders, would publicly acknowledge that it was a gathering spot for the Ku Klux Klan, relocate Confederate flags and remove the carving from its logo under proposals unveiled Monday to address criticism of its Confederate legacy.

The celebration of the Confederacy at the park is used to “oppress people,” said Bona Allen, with the grassroots group Stone Mountain Action Coalition.

“You, this board, have the responsibility to the citizens of the state of Georgia all the citizens of Georgia to do what’s right right now,” he said. “You have the authority, you have the ability, you have the obligation to remove these symbols without delay.”

The sculpture has special protection enshrined in Georgia law, and Stephens said it wasn’t going anywhere.

The proposals also call for the creation of a new museum exhibit at the park to relate the history of the carving and the consolidation of artifacts and monuments related to the Confederacy in one location. Roads and trails would be renamed, though not any that currently have Confederate names.

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

Monday’s meeting was the first chaired by Rev. Abraham Mosley, who was tapped last week as the association’s first Black chairman after serving on its board of directors since 2019. Mosley said the exhibit and relocation proposals mark a “good start” to address widespread problems with the park.

Efforts to erase the carving gained steam amid recent nationwide protests against racism and police brutality but remain hamstrung by a state law enacted in 2001 that forbids altering or removing “the memorial to the heroes of the Confederate States of America graven upon the face of Stone Mountain.”

That law was bolstered by legislation the General Assembly passed and Gov. Brian Kemp signed in 2019 that bans removing, relocating or defacing monuments and other historical symbols owned by state agencies including those dedicated to the Confederacy.

Stephens said the proposals aim to ease concerns from potential new corporate partners looking to fill the sponsorship gap left by Marriott, which he said does not plan on renewing a longstanding partnership with the park to run its main hotel and conference center that is set to expire in 2022.

The proposals also aim to curb heavy financial losses seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing uproar over Confederate symbols that hacked the park’s revenues from $49 million in 2019 to $22 million last year, Stephens said.

Georgia will close state-run mass vaccinations sites next month, according to WTOC.

An official with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency confirmed that the 13-week contract at the eight remaining sites will expire on May 21. There are no plans to extend that contract.

In preparation for the closure, the sites will shift to providing the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to a news release from the Office of the Governor.

First doses of the Pfizer vaccine will not be administered at these eight state-operated sites after April 30. You will only be able to receive the second Pfizer dose or Johnson & Johnson in the month of May.

“As supply and availability of the COVID-19 vaccines has dramatically increased across the state, far more Georgians are now able to easily access the vaccine at their local pharmacy, grocery store, or doctor’s office,” said GEMA/HS Director Chris Stallings. “With over 300,000 doses administered at the state sites over the last few months, our highly successful state-operated sites have experienced a notable decrease in demand over the last two weeks. This transition to the Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccine for the next month allows us to complete the full vaccination cycle for Georgians who received their first Pfizer vaccination at our sites, continue providing COVID-19 vaccination to Georgians who wish to use our sites, and deploy Pfizer first doses previously allocated to GEMA/HS to other local providers across Georgia.”

Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division will have jurisdiction over an application to mine near the Okefenokee Swamp after a change in the application removed federal oversight, according to The Brunswick News.

The Alabama-based company changed its application to mine last summer to mine on a smaller footprint — 376 acres — than the original 1,200 acres proposed in an early application with the Corps of Engineers. The Corps will have no say under the new regulations.

Gov. Brian Kemp, who visited Folkston last week, has not taken a position over the controversial plan to mine near the Okefenokee, the largest national wildlife refuge east of the Mississippi River.

There are legal challenges to overturn last year’s changes to the Clean Water Act that took the decision about the modified mining project from the Army Corps of Engineers and gave it to the state.

“It will take a new federal rule making for the corps to reassert jurisdiction over the mine, which would take a long time,” [attorney Josh] Marks said. “Thus, all of the permitting decisions right now are exclusively with the state. That is why we hope Gov. Kemp will stand up for the swamp and say no to Twin Pines and any other mining next to the Okefenokee.”

Brunswick is considering how to lower its budget for the next Fiscal Year, according to The Brunswick News.

City Manager Regina McDuffie gave a preview of the ongoing budget process at Monday’s finance committee meeting.

“We’re reviewing requests from each department to decide where cuts are made,” she said. “We’re going to look at things we can’t afford this year. There are not a lot of new initiatives this year.”

McDuffie estimated the budget will be between $16.8 million and $17.3 million. The budget requests for the departments are “significantly out of balance versus expenditure requests,” she said.

City officials — including the mayor, mayor pro tem, finance director, city manager, assistant city manager and city attorney — have started meeting in preparation for next year’s Local Option Sales Tax negotiations with the county. They are currently gathering data, and they are also discussing city recreation programs, which are run by the county under the current agreement.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Bill Howell is working to stop illegal dumping in his district, according to 13WMAZ.

Howell is retired now and says he has the time to drive around his district every day, checking the hot spots for illegal dumping.

He also set up over five trail cams around District 7, trying to catch those causing the problem.

“Let’s just say there’s several places I’m watching these days. It’s amazing what you can catch on a trail cam,” Howell said.

Howell says he was checking around Pinson Street and Buena Vista Avenue on Tuesday when he drove up to find two men unloading a trailer full of debris.

“Plywood, tire, PVC pipe, just scrap of what you’re seeing here now,” Howell said pointing to some debris left behind. “I got evidence on my phone then confronted them and asked what they were doing.”

He says he later turned over a description of the two men and the vehicle along with its tag number to the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.

One of those men Howell encountered that day turned himself in to the Bibb County jail Monday morning. He faces a misdemeanor charge of illegal dumping, and as of Monday evening, he was still in the jail.

Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan, who previously announced he will not run for reelection, is instead seeking a seat on city council, according to the Gainesville Times.

Dunagan cited the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on his dry-cleaning business, Three D Cleaners, as a motivating factor.

“Had things not been like they are (due to the pandemic), I would probably run for one more term as mayor,” he said. “But, COVID has taken a huge impact on my business, and my son, who basically ran the business for me when I was gone for my many duties as mayor, got another job.”

For Dunagan, if elected to serve a four-year term as a councilmember, it would be his last term in local government.

Floyd County public schools will no longer require masks, according to the Rome News Tribune.

With only just over four weeks left in the school year, Floyd County Schools has quietly lifted the mandatory mask policy and will now only “highly recommend” students and faculty to wear masks, according to Superintendent Glenn White.

The change came from a meeting between White and the system’s principals last Wednesday. In that meeting the superintendent decided masks were no longer required beginning this week, but just highly recommended and encouraged.

Since a lot of the community has largely forgone masks out in public, he said, the school system would do the same.

Rome City Schools Superintendent Lou Byars confirmed that they have not made any changes to their mask policy and they are still mandatory system wide.

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