Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 15, 2021

15
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 15, 2021

The Magna Carta was sealed by King John on June 15, 1215.

The charter consisted of a preamble and 63 clauses and dealt mainly with feudal concerns that had little impact outside 13th century England. However, the document was remarkable in that it implied there were laws the king was bound to observe, thus precluding any future claim to absolutism by the English monarch. Of greatest interest to later generations was clause 39, which stated that “no free man shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised [dispossessed] or outlawed or exiled or in any way victimised…except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” This clause has been celebrated as an early guarantee of trial by jury and of habeas corpus and inspired England’s Petition of Right (1628) and the Habeas Corpus Act (1679).

On June 15, 1740, Spanish troops attacked the English who were led by James Oglethorpe, at Fort Mose, two miles north of St. Augustine, Florida. With 68 English killed and 34 wounded, it was the heaviest losses sustained by Oglethorpe during his campaign against St. Augustine.

George Washington accepted the assignment of leading the Continental Army on June 15, 1775.

The Oregon Treaty was signed on June 15, 1815 between England and the United States, establishing the border between the U.S. and Canada.

On June 15, 1864, a funeral was held at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta for Confederate General Leonidas Polk, who was killed the day before at Pine Mountain near Marietta.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Upper Left Hand Corner) apologized for comments on face mask requirement, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

“I’m truly sorry for offending people with remarks about the Holocaust,” the Georgia Republican told reporters outside the Capitol, saying she had visited Washington’s U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum earlier in the day. “There’s no comparison and there never ever will be.”

Her apology came more than three weeks after appearing on a conservative podcast and comparing COVID-19 safety requirements adopted by Democrats controlling the House to “a time and history where people were told to wear a gold star.” She said they were “put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. This is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.” Pelosi, D-Calif., is House speaker.

“Anti-Semitism is true hate,” she said. “And I saw that today at the Holocaust Museum.”

On Monday, she told reporters that when she was 19, she visited the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp in what during World War II was Nazi-occupied Poland. “It isn’t like I learned about it today,” she said of the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews and huge numbers of other people were killed. “I went today because I thought it was important,” she said, and wanted to talk about it as she apologized.

From the AJC:

Greene made her apology during a news conference Monday evening and after visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. She said her parents, including her father who died in April, had taught her to own up to her mistakes.

The congresswoman said she had agonized after making comments in late May that drew false parallels between the treatment of Jewish people by the Nazis and coronavirus recovery measures under President Joe Biden, such as mask mandates and efforts encouraging people to get vaccinated. But she said the museum visit is what convinced her she should say something publicly.

“The horrors of the Holocaust are something that some people don’t even believe happen,” she said, according to video of her remarks posted by a reporter for Forbes. ”Some people deny, but there is no comparison to the Holocaust. And there are words that I have said — remarks that I have made — that I know that are offensive, and for that I want to apologize.”

Gwinnett County’s misdemeanor prosecutor Brian Whiteside has some thought on how Gwinnett County Public Schools Police Department should work, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett Solicitor General Brian Whiteside raised questions Monday about the Gwinnett County Public Schools Police Department’s handling of security at the May 20 county Board of Education meeting.

Whiteside said he’d heard reports that officers with the school district’s police force were not immediately taking reports from attendees at the meeting who claimed they had been harassed or threatened.

“I won’t tolerate fear in our community, I won’t tolerate people being intimidated (and) I will not tolerate a police department that won’t take a report because there are federal guidelines that go over that,” Whiteside said.

“But, what’s troubling is when you’re on the scene that you don’t take any action,” Whiteside said. “This is what people talk about with ‘Justice and Just Us.’ In the Black community, there’s a saying that ‘Just Us’ means there’s justice for other people, but not Black people. It’s supposed to be ‘Justice.’”

District spokesman Bernard Watson said the district’s police department has obtained videos from the meeting. He added that, based on their behavior on May 20, two unidentified individuals will receive criminal trespass warnings if they show up at the school board meeting scheduled for this Thursday.

“(GCPS) Police continue to investigate complaints from last month’s meeting,” Watson said. “That investigation has included numerous hours reviewing video from multiple sources.”

“In one of the reported incidents, the citizen called out for police during a verbal confrontation with others. Three officers responded and de-escalated the situation. In the other case, there was a verbal altercation noticed by two officers who responded and de-escalated it. Neither citizen involved asked to press charges that night but did so two weeks later.”

The Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission sent Governor Brian Kemp a short list of contenders for a vacancy on the Georgia Supreme Court.

The Judicial Nominating Commission has submitted to Governor Kemp recommendations to fill a vacancy on the Georgia Supreme Court.  The vacancy was created by the retirement of the Honorable Harold Melton.  Governor Kemp will fill the vacancy from among the list.  The Governor’s Office will contact candidates to schedule interviews.

The following names were submitted to Governor Kemp:

Verda M. Colvin – Judge, Court of Appeals of the State of Georgia
T. Mills Fleming – partner, Hunter, Maclean, Exley & Dunn, P.C.
Aaron B. Mason – Judge, Clayton County Superior Court
Shondeana Crews Morris – Judge, Superior Court of DeKalb County
Andrew A. Pinson – Solicitor General, Office of the Attorney General
Holly W. Veal – Judge, Superior Court of the Flint Judicial Circuit

From the AJC:

After interviewing 21 candidates last week, the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission said Monday it has sent its list to Kemp. The governor’s appointee will succeed Chief Justice Harold Melton, who is stepping down from the state’s high court at the end of the month.

Melton’s replacement will be a justice on the Supreme Court. Justice David Nahmias, who has served on the court since 2009, will become Georgia’s next chief justice on July 1.

Kemp is expected to announce his choice after interviewing the six candidates, said Atlanta lawyer Vincent Russo, co-chair of the nominating commission.

Governor Kemp yesterday sat for an interview with Adam Murphy of CBS46.

“I’m focused on my re-election because I know it’s important to keep families safe. I feel like Georgians know that as well and the party I’m going to be running against whoever their nominee is they’re the party of defunding the police,” Kemp said. “We are partnering with the Atlanta Police Department on that, but look their officers are having to ride with us because they can’t chase anybody. These are bad people and they need chasing.”

The Governor said Atlanta Police officers are now riding with State Patrol troopers since the city does not allow officers to chase criminals. Troopers are also patrolling hot spots they would not normally patrol.

“You have a conservative Governor that has kept us as the number one state in the country for business, we’ve given the largest teacher pay raise in the history of the state, we passed over 50-healthcare bills, we’ve got transportation, logistics and infrastructure projects. We’re working to strengthen rural Georgia,” Kemp said.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek) visited coastal Georgia, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger visited Springfield and Statesboro on Tuesday to offer his congratulations in person to retiring Bulloch County Elections Board Director Pat Jones, and meet with county election boards about the implementation of new legislation, namely Senate Bill 202, Georgia’s new elections law.

A provision nestled within SB 202 allows the State Elections Board to intervene with “underperforming” county election boards and replace them.

“No one wants to take over a county election board. But when you have a situation that’s gone on for 25 years, at some point, people say enough is enough,” Raffensperger said. “The rest of the state is getting frustrated. So are Fulton County residents. They want the results. They want them accurate. They want them on time.”

Raffensperger did note that a takeover would be a “nonpartisan” and “methodical” process, and “it probably wouldn’t happen before 2022.”

“And so that would be something that the state election board would consider, perhaps, doing an investigation — a thorough investigation, bipartisan, nonpartisan, you want to make sure you do it with a methodical process,” Raffensperger said. “If you really look at the structure of SB 202. I think that’s what you’ll find. It supports a very methodical, careful, measured response.”

Raffensperger also touched on the notion of a “forensic audit” of the Nov. 3 results in Georgia. It’s the latest rallying cry from Republicans who believe Trumps “Big Lie,” in part spurred on by a third-party audit of 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona, which is still underway.

“I don’t believe it’ll show anything. We’ve already done a forensic audit of the machines, so the accuracy of the machines has been certified. We did a 100% hand recount. But if someone wants to look at the fibers of the paper, if it can help restore voter confidence at the end of the day. I don’t believe that the results will change.”

“Sometimes, people say, ‘Why are you being so open to that idea?’ Because I understand that voter confidence is very important,” Raffensperger said. “It’s taking shots from both sides of the aisle, and we want people to have confidence that when they go out to vote, their vote will count.”

From the Statesboro Herald:

“Both sides, because last year we witnessed an awful lot of rioting and other destructive behavior, violence when cities were overtaken and it came from far-left radical elements that were violent, and no one from the political establishment on the left condemned it,” Raffensperger said. “Likewise when it happens on the right, it requires us to then condemn violence that comes from the far fringes of our side.”

“We have  to condemn  violence on both sides, but  it’s not  going to  work if I  don’t clean up my own back yard first,” Raffensperger said, “and  so  if we on the right don’t clean up our back yard, how do  we expect to have the moral authority to  be challenging what’s happening on the left?”

When he ran for secretary of state in 2018, Raffensperger was already saying that Georgia needed to move away from signature matching for absentee ballots to driver’s license numbers “as a form of objective identification,” he  recalled.

“That’s what the General Assembly has finally done with SB 202,” he said. “My personal feeling is, that’s the best part of the whole bill because it removes the subjective nature of signatures and it goes to an objective nature of photo ID with your driver license number and then your birthdate.”

Secretary Raffensperger opened an investigation into paperwork on absentee ballot drop boxes, according to CNN via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has opened an investigation into Fulton County for allegedly violating state rules “requiring absentee ballot drop box transfer forms to be filled out,” his office confirmed to CNN on Monday.

A source with knowledge of the investigation cautioned to CNN that the probe “does not have any implications about fraudulent or missing ballots in Fulton any more than it meant that in the other smaller, more conservative counties,” saying: “To be clear, we’re investigating a rule violation” in Fulton County.

“Restoring confidence in our elections is going to be impossible as long as Fulton County’s elections leadership continues to fail the voters of Fulton County and the voters of Georgia. They need new leadership to step up and take charge,” Raffensperger wrote in a tweet on Monday.

“New revelations that Fulton County is unable to produce all ballot drop box transfer documents will be investigated thoroughly, as we have with other counties that failed to follow Georgia rules and regulations regarding drop boxes. This cannot continue,” he added in another tweet.

From the AJC:

Fulton is the fourth county to face an investigation into allegations it failed to complete absentee ballot transfer forms every time election workers collected ballots from drop boxes. The forms provide a record of how many ballots were picked up at each drop box location.

Raffensperger’s office previously announced similar investigations of Coffee, Grady and Taylor counties, which didn’t complete ballot drop box transfer forms as required by State Election Board rules.

The investigations will focus on ballot transfer forms, not ballots themselves. All absentee ballots were issued to eligible Georgia voters and verified by election workers based on signatures and registration information.

“Fulton County followed procedures for the collection of absentee ballots from Fulton County drop boxes,” Fulton spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez said. “We maintain a large quantity of documents and (are) researching our files from last year to produce the ballot transfer forms.”

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler (R-Carrollton) announced that unemployment requirements suspended during the pandemic will return, according to the Albany Herald.

In accordance with the plan for re-employment and the announcement to no longer participate in the federal unemployment insurance programs enacted through the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan Act, the Georgia Department of Labor will reinstate many of the eligibility requirements waived during the recent pandemic.

Pandemic-related eligibility rules previously suspended require that claimants be able to work, available to work, and actively seeking work. These requirements will again become mandatory for UI claimants on June 27. Claimants must be able and available for work and actively seek employment for each week benefit payments are requested.

“States across the nation are reinstating work search mandates as emergency rules are lifted and businesses reopen to the public,” Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a news release. “We adjusted many of our regulations during the pandemic to make receiving benefits easier during the crisis, and now those modifications are no longer necessary.”

“We are focused on supporting our job seekers and employers during this readjustment period and reinstating many of the requirements we had in place prior to the pandemic will certainly support these efforts,” Butler said. “At this time, we are not seeing the number of layoffs and temporary shutdowns we experienced last year when many of these temporary rules were created, but we will continue to monitor the job market and make any changes needed to help get Georgians back into the workplace.”

The Department of Labor announced it has processed 4,875,243 regular unemployment insurance claims since March 21, 2020, more than the last 10 years prior to the pandemic combined (4.8 million).

 

U.S. Representative Andrew Clyde (R-Athens) said he will sue over legislation under which he was fined for bypassing metal detectors, according to AccessWDUN.

“That resolution violates our Constitution on three grounds, Article 1, Section 5, Article 1, Section 6 and the 27th Amendment of the Constitution are all being violated by this resolution,” Clyde told Zoller. “That Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in House pushed through without a single Republican vote on that resolution.”

The resolution addresses fining members, delegates, or the Resident Commissioner for failing to complete security screenings at the entrance of the House Chamber, as well as for other purposes. The full resolution can be found here.

Clyde’s full comments on Monday’s Martha Zoller Show can be found here.

From the Gainesville Times:

The lawsuit claims that it violates Article I and the 27th Amendment of the Constitution by “selectively and punitively enforcing a House Rule against only Republican Representatives, and engaging in the constitutionally-prohibited reduction of Plaintiffs’ congressional salaries as a means of harassing democratically-elected Representatives who are members of the opposition party in the House of Representatives.”

Security screenings were put in place shortly after the Jan. 6 insurrection caused safety concerns among members of Congress. Metal detectors were installed on Jan. 12 and fines were established in February of $5,000 for a first offense and $10,000 for a second offense.

“The use of magnetometers as a condition of access to the House floor was truly political grandstanding by the House Speaker and a violation of the Constitution,” Clyde said during his press conference.

The 27th Amendment states, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

It also claims that HR 73 violates Article I Section 6 of the Constitution, which states members of Congress, “shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses.”

 

Hall County Commissioners are considering whether to allow senior living homes to sell alcohol, according to the Gainesville Times.

The current ordinance requires restaurants to be open and accessible to the public in order to serve alcohol. Nonprofit clubs and events venues can also apply for alcohol licenses, Hall County Planning Director Sarah McQuade told the Board of Commissioners Thursday, June 10.

“If you think about the model for retirement communities that are developing now, it’s so different from traditional assisted living communities,” McQuade said.

“It is something our residents have been asking for,” [Phoenix Senior Living General Counsel Scott] Burton said.

Those living at the community independently are able to buy alcohol and bring it back as they please, Burton said, but they cannot be served alcohol on the premises until the community has an alcohol license. The potential ordinance change would allow the community and similar senior living communities in Hall County to apply.

Augusta Commissioners will consider limiting purchasing card use, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Also going for approval is referring a discussion about Augusta’s lack of a credit card policy for elected officials that use them to City Administrator Odie Donald II.

Last week commissioners looked at adopting the existing state policy for credit card use, which requires the government set spending limits and other rules for card use, including procedures for audits.

The conversation arose after Commissioner Brandon Garrett saw reports about recent credit card expenditures made by the mayor’s office. Davis responded last week by questioning the lack of a policy.

Dougherty County Commissioners heard a constituent request for changes to rules governing solar panel location, according to the Albany Herald.

Current Dougherty County regulations prohibit placing panels on street-facing sloped or pitched roofs.

[Cheryl] Laughlin made her case to the Dougherty County Commission during a Monday work session and got a sympathetic hearing.

Without the panels on the front street side of her Wildflower Lane residence, the system would be missing sunlight on the south/southwest portion of the roof, she said during an interview after her presentation to commissioners.

“It is an expensive proposition, so we did want to have all of the exposure,” she said. “I’m asking for relief from that requirement.”

Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas requested that County Attorney Spencer draft a resolution to allow placement of solar panels on street-facing sloped roofs for consideration at a later meeting.

If the commission passes a resolution on the issue, it can be presented to the Albany-Dougherty Planning Commission to give consideration at its August meeting, Forgey said.

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller announced an effort to combat root causes of violence, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller and several community leaders announced the Macon Violence Prevention initiative Thursday. The program looks to reduce violent crime by uniting community and government organizations and providing funding for data-driven solutions.

“The MVP, or Macon Violence Prevention, is a comprehensive plan of all local officials, together with the community, to start tackling the root issues, but also being reactive and proactive to the crime that we face here in Macon-Bibb County,” Miller said.

As Miller spoke from Rosa Park Square, police were responding to a fatal shooting less than three miles away. It’s Macon’s 25th homicide by violence of the year.

District Attorney Anita Howard, Sheriff David Davis and Bibb County School Superintendent Curtis Jones also spoke at the event while dozens of people stood and sat behind them in support.

Over the next 30 days, MVP will start hosting meetings in different neighborhoods to gather ideas, and in 90 days, the group plans to release a strategic plan that addresses violent crime. They also plan to collect input through online surveys, Miller said.

“We’re going to reach out to each and every person in the community that will participate across all zip codes, no boundaries in Macon-Bibb County, to get the engagement we need to help solve this important issue,” he said.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson is expected to join a national group of Mayors calling for federal gun control legislation, according to WTOC.

Mayor Johnson will be meeting with the mayors of Dayton, Chicago, Austin, and Houston who also saw mass shootings in their communities over the weekend. They will be holding a virtual press conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss the alarming rise in gun violence across the country and to urge President Biden to take immediate action to make their cities safer for their residents. They also plan to ask the Senate to consider two pieces of legislation that would strengthen the background check system: HR 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, and HR 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act.

Hall County Board of Education members voted to move forward with the FY 2022 budget, according to AccessWDUN.

[Vice Chair Nath] Morris said he liked the tentative FY 2022 budget, one that included a full rollback on the millage rate (more on that budget below), but didn’t feel right in funding healthcare insurance for board members even though such action is approved by the State of Georgia and in practice across the state.

The motion presented to the board and seconded contained both approval of funding of board members health insurance coverage and preliminary approval of the FY2022 budget.  The vote was four in favor, and one (Nath Morris) opposed.

One additional public hearing on the FY 2022 budget will happen at the board’s meeting on June 28th, and that budget will contain funding for board member health insurance coverage.

“Because you are doing a full rollback,” Schofield said of the proposed General Fund budget, “there are no requirements for hearings, but every year that I have been here you have wanted to have a hearing and give the public an opportunity to speak on the budget.”

The Clarke County Board of Education approved an FY 2022 budget, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The millage rate remains at 20 mills, the highest allowed by Georgia law.

The budget calls for spending $177.6 million, with Clarke’s 21 schools receiving nearly $116 million — about $4.5 million more than last year.

Columbia County and the City of Harlem are considering merging their sewer systems, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

A $7 million agreement to merge Harlem’s and Columbia County’s water and sewer systems could be finalized in July.

The Columbia County Board of Commissioners is expected to discuss a proposal in which the county would provide all maintenance and upkeep to Harlem’s water and sewer, including any future expansions.

The city and the county jointly disclosed the merger proposal Friday.

Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler received an apology after addressing allegations his department exceeded its budget, according to the Albany Herald.

The coroner presented budget figures he said showed that the office was in the black for the 2017-2018, 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 fiscal years and had money left over at the end of each year during that time.

During a June meeting, the coroner’s office was accused of exceeding its budget over the previous four years.

“Commissioner (Clinton) Johnson apologized for that statement,” Fowler said.

During a telephone interview following the meeting, Johnson said the Finance Committee has not had a chance to compare its figures to those presented by the coroner.

“He did say he felt like the information wasn’t true, so I did apologize,” Johnson said. “It was a very humble and frank discussion.”

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