Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 2, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 2, 2021

On July 5, 1737, James Oglethorpe sailed from England to Georgia with a warship and troop transports carrying a regiment to be stationed at St. Simons Island.

On July 5, 1742, Spanish forces based in Florida sailed past Fort St. Simon, bypassing English forces there. That night, Oglethorpe’s troops left Fort St Simon and fell back to Fort Frederica.

Fort Frederica National National Monument on St. Simons Island

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution by Richard Henry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) calling for independence from Britain. The delegations of twelve colonies voted in favor, while New York’s abstained, not knowing how their constituents would wish them to vote.

On July 4, 1776, the United States declared its independence from Great Britain.

On July 2, 1826, representatives from Georgia and Alabama met to begin surveying the border between the two.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826.

On July 2, 1861, Georgia voters approved a new state Constitution, which had been adopted by the state’s Secession Convention.

July 2, 1863 saw day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg, with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia attacking Meade’s Army of the Potomac.

Union cavalry under Gen. Kenner Garrard reached Roswell, Georgia on July 5, 1864, setting the town alight.

On July 4, 1868, the Georgia General Assembly convened for the first time after passage of the Constitution of 1868 with a legislature comprising 186 members, of whom 36 were African-American.

On July 3, 1889, the Georgia General Assembly held its last session at the Kimball Opera House, located at the corner of Marietta and Forsyth Streets in downtown Atlanta before moving into a new Georgia State Capitol. On July 4, 1889, the Georgia State Capitol was dedicated, then housing all three branches of the state government.

Happy birthday to Idaho, which became a state on July 3, 1890.

On July 2, 1898, the first pot of delicious Brunswick Stew was made in Brunswick, Georgia. I think I’ll celebrate with a bowl for lunch today.

On July 3, 1913, the Georgia state Senate tabled a motion to allow the Georgia Women’s Suffrage Association to address the chamber.

Construction of USS Augusta, a cruiser, began on July 2, 1928, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

She would be completed and launched in February 1930, “sponsored” by Evelyn McDaniel, of Augusta, who would later become the wife of a Superior Court judge.

Augusta saw service in the Pacific and later became a command ship during Operation Overlord and the D-Day invasion. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman traveled aboard her during wartime treaty endeavors, and the latter would publicly announce the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima from his office aboard the ship.

USS Augusta was built at Newport News Shipbuilding, where my father worked when I was a child, and where we occasionally attended christenings and launches.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1864. Major provisions included outlawing discriminatory application of voting laws, prohibiting racial discrimination in public accomodations, allowing the Attorney General to join lawsuits against states operating segregated public schools, and prohibiting discrimination by state and local governments or agencies receiving federal funds.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a witness to Johnson’s signature, standing behind the President in the Oval Office. Johnson presented King with one of the 72 pens used in signing the legislation.

Occasionally, pens from the Civil Rights Act signing come onto the collectors’ market. A collection of 50 pens used to sign legislation by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson went across the block in November 2013. This pen went unsold.

As a student of Dr. Merle Black in the political science department at Emory, we began our study of Southern politics from the premise that race relations and the legacy of racial discrimination shaped Southern politics. One book we read every year was The Longest Debate: A Legislative History of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which belongs on the bookshelf of any serious student of American politics, political history, and legislative process.

On July 3, 1970, the Atlanta Pop Festival was held in Byron, Georgia.

Among the artists playing at Byron were the Allman Brothers Band and Jimi Hendrix.

The Clash played their first live show on July 4, 1976 at The Black Swan in Sheffield, England.

Back to the Future was released on July 3, 1985.

On July 3, 1986, President Ronald Reagan reopened the Statue of Liberty after a two-year restoration.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is the deadline for absentee ballots to be received in the Special Runoff Election for Dougherty County Board of Education District 2, the first election under the rules put in place by SB 202. From WALB:

The runoff election will be on July 13.

The time frame for the elections office to receive absentee voting applications is now shorter.

“Now the new cutoff is 11 days, where previously it would have been the Friday before the election. So the current cutoff for us to receive an absentee ballot is Friday, July 2,” said Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson.

“So we’re hopeful that people will come out and participate, so of course we’ll have advanced voting. That’s four days because Monday is a holiday. So, July 5 through July 9, we’ll be at the Riverfront Resource Center and the Candy Room, we encourage voters to come out then,” said Nickerson.

Nickerson said absentee ballot use has picked up. If you want to request one online, you must use the Secretary of State’s Office.

“That’s also a new thing, but if an individual family member, grandmother, granddaughter, aunt, uncle, they are also able to apply for ballots on behalf of the voter as well. The law allows that as well,” explained Nickerson.

Former State Senate President Pro Tem Pete Robinson died at 66, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Robinson served one year on the Muscogee County School Board in the 1980s, when it was appointed by the grand jury. In 1984, he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, beating incumbent Milton Hirsch in the Democratic primary and former legislator Gary Cason in the general election.

When the city faced a budget crisis in the late 1980s, Robinson was part of the Columbus delegation that persuaded the legislature to pass a law allowing a 1% sales tax option for consolidated governments. Columbus/Muscogee County was the only one in the state at the time.

After six years in the state House, Robinson’s reputation for working across the aisle turned into an opportunity to run for the state Senate. According to the story he told the Ledger-Enquirer in a 2014 interview, Republican state Sen. Ted Land informed him in 1990 that he wouldn’t run for reelection. State Rep. Tom Buck, one of his mentors, advised him “it probably would be a good thing for the community” to have him in the state Senate.

Zell Miller also was among Robinson’s mentors, first as a professor while he majored in religion and political science at Emory University (Class of 1977). Then, after Miller was elected governor in 1990 and Robinson succeeded Land in the state Senate, Miller asked Robinson to be his floor leader.

“Everybody needs a Pete Robinson in their life,” state Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, told the L-E. “When he walked into the room, the conversation level went up. It was business, and everybody knew that he was always prepared. He had a world of knowledge, but he never sought the limelight.”

“He probably was the most respected lobbyist there,” Smith said. “You knew he wasn’t blowing smoke. His information was 100% correct. He could talk to the Democrats, the Republicans. He could sit down with the governor, the speaker, the lieutenant governor, and they all admired him because of how he did his job.”

Governor Brian Kemp appointed Duff B. Ayers to the State Court of Jenkins County.

The United States Supreme Court declined to hold that Arizona voting laws are unconstitutional, according to CNN via the Albany Herald.

The court upheld two provisions of the Arizona law. The first provision says in-person ballots cast at the wrong precinct on Election Day must be wholly discarded. Another provision restricts a practice known as “ballot collection,” requiring that only family caregivers, mail carriers and election officials can deliver another person’s completed ballot to a polling place.

“Neither Arizona’s out-of-precinct rule nor its ballot-collection law violates §2 of the VRA,” Alito wrote. “Arizona’s out-of-precinct rule enforces the requirement that voters who choose to vote in person on election day must do so in their assigned precincts. Having to identify one’s own polling place and then travel there to vote does not exceed the ‘usual burdens of voting.’”

Alito said that while the Voting Rights Act provides “vital protection against discriminatory voting rules, and no one suggests that discrimination in voting has been extirpated or that the threat has been eliminated … Section Two of the law does not deprive the States of their authority to establish non-discriminatory voting rules.” And touching on arguments made by Republicans and Trump, Alito said that “one strong and entirely legitimate state interest is the prevention of fraud.”

“Fraud can affect the outcome of a close election, and fraudulent votes dilute the right of citizens to cast ballots that carry appropriate weight” Alito wrote, adding that fraud can “also undermine public confidence in the fairness of elections and the perceived legitimacy of the announced outcome.”

From the AJC:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold parts of Arizona’s election law Thursday emboldened Republican supporters of Georgia’s new voting measure and may make it harder for its opponents to succeed in their pending lawsuits.

“In Georgia, it’s easy for eligible voters to vote,” Raffensperger said, echoing a theme of the Arizona opinion. “I call on the U.S. Department of Justice to heed this decision and dismiss their wrong, politically motivated lawsuit against Georgia.”

The lawsuit the Justice Department filed last week takes a different approach by focusing on the Republican-led General Assembly’s intent in passing the new state law in Senate Bill 202 as the federal government attempts to prove that the Georgia law was designed to harm non-white voters.

“In discriminatory purpose cases, it’s always been understood to be, in most contexts, a far more difficult hurdle to surmount” than proving that voting laws have discriminatory outcomes, Pildes said. “There’s no question this decision will have very significant consequences on how Voting Rights Act cases are litigated going forward.”

The Justice Department alleges that 29% of Black voters cast an absentee ballot in Georgia’s November election, compared with 24% of white voters, according to the lawsuit.

The disparity in the law’s voter ID requirements are more severe, according to the lawsuit, which cites the same data first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this month.

Bibb County Sheriff David Davis and the Macon District Attorney’s Office concluded a gun sting that netted 50 arrests, according to 13WMAZ.

The goal? To get illegal guns off the streets.

His office, along with the Macon District Attorney’s office, says this is the beginning of a new way they plan to crack down on illegal weapons.

“We are going to prioritize illegal gun possession, stopping that, as well as stopping, as the sheriff said, the senseless gun violence in this community that is wreaking havoc on this community. Our children deserve to have a safe community,” says Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney Anita Reynolds Howard.

The Georgia General Assembly’s joint reapportionment committee heard from local voters in Northwest Georgia, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

“The people tonight have been very specific about why they like their district boundaries,” said state Sen. John F. Kennedy, R-Macon, chairman of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee. “That’s instructive to us about what works and what doesn’t work.”

But Kennedy cautioned that redistricting is driven by population numbers. He said the census numbers won’t be available until the end of September. The legislature will then hold a special session to redraw not only congressional districts but also state House and Senate districts.

Nicole Robinson, a policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia, noted that “the Greater Dalton Area, Whitfield and Murray counties, has grown more diverse in the last 10 years. The voting-age population has increased by about 4%. And on top of that, the Black voting-age population has grown by 15%. The Asian voting-age population has grown by 25%. The Hispanic voting age-population has grown by 23% And the white voting-age population decreased by about 2%. So overall, the people of color voting age population in the Greater Dalton area has grown by 22%.”

“The maps that are drawn in this need to take diversity into account and ensure that voters of color have the same opportunity to elect candidates of their choice as white voters do,” she said.

Several people also expressed concern that if some counties are removed from the 14th Congressional District they could lose [U.S Representative Marjorie Taylor] Greene as their congressional representative.

“We want her to stay in our 14th District,” said Walker County resident Nancy Burton to applause.

State Rep. Trey Kelly (R-Cedartown) will retain his legislative seat but step down from a leadership role, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Rep. Trey Kelley has reportedly told colleagues that he is stepping down from his leadership role in the state General Assembly but intends to keep his seat in the Georgia House.

The information, first reported by the AJC’s Greg Bluestein, came Thursday night, July 1, as the decision by a judge whether to quash Kelley’s indictment on a charge of misdemeanor reckless conduct in connection with a 2019 hit and run is expected in the next week or so.

Kelley, R-Cedartown, was first elected to the state house representing Polk and Haralson counties in 2012 and is in his fifth term in office. He was elected Majority Whip for the 2019-2020 session after serving on the whip team and a number of committee assignments. He continued as Majority Whip for the 2021 session.

According to Bluestein, Kelley sent an email to his colleagues in the House on Thursday night saying he is stepping down as Majority Whip.

United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) touted  in Columbus, according to WTVM.

Senator Ossoff spoke about the New Tax Cut for Families, which is part of the American Rescue Plan.

Beginning July 15, some families will begin receiving $300 in monthly tax refunds per child under the age of 6, and $250 per child ages 6 to 17.

Half of the tax cut will come via monthly direct refunds through the end of 2021, and the rest of the tax cut will be a refund on next year’s tax filing.

Augusta City Commissioners voted against auditing spending and P-card use because “it would look bad” to do so, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Augusta Commission passed on seeking a citywide audit Thursday, with opponents saying it looked bad and would hurt morale.

Two commissioners, John Clarke and Catherine Smith McKnight, called for a “forensic audit” of all departments receiving local tax dollars after multiple media reports of questionable credit card spending by the mayor’s office.

One of seven to vote against the audit, Commissioner Dennis Williams said he’d seen nothing to warrant a costly audit.

“The idea of a forensic audit gives the general perception to the public that something is wrong. Show me something that was done wrong or is being done wrong then I’ll go along with it,” he said.

Commissioner Ben Hasan said a citywide audit assumed employees were doing wrong.

“Just like any other household, we have problems,” he said. “Let’s not indict all these hardworking people that we have working for us and make them think that we don’t trust them.”

Clarke’s motion to seek the audit failed 7-3 with Garrett joining him and McKnight in favor.

Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools faces a shortage of bus drivers for the coming year, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Those students most in jeopardy of losing school bus transportation are those attending choice schools.

In SCCPSS, choice programs are offered at 25 schools (elementary, middle and high) to “provide students with a diverse portfolio of educational options,” according to the district website. Students must apply — usually in the spring for the next school year — have at least a B average for the previous three semesters, and self-report satisfactory behavior. The GMAS score requirement was waived for 2021-22 due to COVID-19. Choice schools hold lotteries among all applicants and create wait lists if necessary.

Of the district’s 36,000-plus students, about 25,000 depend on school buses.

Glynn County Commissioners adopted a short term rental ordinance, according to The Brunswick News.

“The ordinance is intended to create a level playing field for all rentals in Glynn County, whether they be hotels or individual homes, by setting uniform rules for noise, parking, trash and accommodation taxes,” said Matthew Kent, public communications manager for the county.

The ordinance applies to all short-term rentals in unincorporated Glynn County, except Jekyll Island. Brunswick is incorporated and the new ordinance does not apply to short-term rental homes in the city limits.

Owners of short-term rental homes have until Oct. 1 to come into compliance with the new ordinance. They will have to pay $150 for an Accommodation Excise Tax Certificate, which has to be renewed once a year. The certificate must be posted in a conspicuous location in the main entrance of the home.

They will also have to pay any outstanding taxes collected.

Prior to passing the ordinance last year, county officials estimated the owners of as many as 1,000 short-term rental units are not paying the 5 percent local bed tax on nightly room rentals or sales taxes.

The first offense is a $250 fine. A second fine within 12 months of a prior violation will cost the offender $500. A third violation within 12 months will cost $1,000 and possible revocation of the person’s short-term rental license.

A new state law that went into effect also impacts short-term rentals, according to WTOC.

The new law tacks on new fees for anyone renting through websites like Airbnb and VRBO. A $5-per-night lodging tax that hotels and motels already charge their guests.

[Michael Owens,] [t]he president and CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council in Savannah says the new law levels the playing field between short term vacation rentals and traditional lodging.

Another component of the new law also says short-term vacation rentals also have to pay local excise tax, something Owens says has already been happening in Savannah.

Savannah will allow bars to open on Sunday for the Independence Day holiday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

This is an exception for what are known as “true bars,” businesses that make less than half of their revenue from food sales.

The City usually prohibits true bars from being open on Sundays. The City has made this exception before for other celebrations like New Years Eve and St. Patrick’s Day when they have fallen on a Sunday.

After all, toasting Liberty is the Savannah tradition, dating back to June 5, 1775.

The City of Pooler plans to raise the property tax millage rate, according to the Savannah Morning News.

For the first time in a decade, the City of Pooler is proposing a millage rate increase for property owners. As the second-fastest growing city in Chatham County and ninth in the state, the increase is needed in Pooler, said the city’s Financial Officer Chris Lightle.

“We need more public safety officers, we need more first responders,” said Lightle. “With growth comes an increase in cost and that’s essentially what this millage rate is about.”

The current millage rate stands at 3.651. The rollback millage, based on changes to the city’s tax digest over the last year, would be 3.597.

The proposed new millage rate is 4.597, a 1 mill increase.

A home assessed at $250,000 would see a $250 tax increase. The assessed value of the property is not the same as the fair market value of the residence.

Art Gallegos, Jr. will run for Gainesville City Council, according to AccessWDUN.

Art Gallegos, Jr., the co-founder of the Gainesville-based Latinos Conservative Organization, has announced his candidacy for a post on Gainesville City Council.

“I’m running for Municipal Council to build better communities within our great city of Gainesville,” Gallegos said in a statement announcing his run for the Ward 4 post on the council. Incumbent Councilman George Wangeman, who had entertained a run for mayor, instead plans to run for re-election to the Ward 4 post.

Gallegos, a member of the Hall County Republican Party, said in his statement he believes now is a time to make a change in leadership.

Buford will raise property taxes, according to the Gainesville Times.

The City of Buford is planning to raise its property taxes by .76% over the rollback millage rate.

A rollback millage rate is a rate that would produce the same total revenue for the tax district next year as the previous year when accounting for reassessments on property value going into the new year.

Public hearings on this tax increase will be held at the Buford City Arena, 2795 Sawnee Ave. on July 19 at 7 p.m. and two meetings will be held at the Buford City Arena on Aug. 2 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

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