Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 7, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 7, 2021

On July 7, 1742, General James Oglethorpe was victorious over the Spanish at the Battle of Bloody Marsh and the Battle of Gully Hole Creek; a week later Gov. Montiano would call off the invasion of Georgia from Florida, leaving Georgia to develop as a British colony.

Sliced bread was invented on July 7, 1928 at the Chillicothe Baking Company in Chillicothe, Missouri.

On July 7, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act.

The first female cadets enrolled at West Point on July 7, 1976.

Sandra Day O’Connor was nominated to the United States Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan on July 7, 1981.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp declared a State of Emergency for 92 counties ahead of the landfall of Hurricane Elsa. From News4Jax:

Gov. Brian Kemp issued a state of emergency Tuesday affecting 92 counties in middle, south and southeast Georgia in preparation for the storm. Brantley, Camden, Charlton Glynn, Ware counties in Southeast Georgia were included.

In Glynn County, which includes Brunswick and St. Simons Island, officials urged people to prepare and stay off the roads. School summer programs, public pools and some courts announced plans to close, but Brunswick and Glynn County said they would keep their other offices open Wednesday.

If winds are high enough, the Georgia Department of Transportation could close bridges to St. Simons Island and a high-rise bridge going south out of Brunswick. Interstate 95 is unlikely to be affected, though.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s office said state officials are actively monitoring Elsa, with some coastal counties opening emergency operations centers. Georgia Power Co. says it’s ready to respond to any power outages.

From WALB:

The counties covered by the state of emergency include Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Baker, Baldwin, Ben Hill, Berrien, Bibb, Bleckley, Brantley, Brooks, Bryan, Bulloch, Burke, Calhoun, Camden, Candler, Charlton, Chatham, Chattahoochee, Clay, Clinch, Coffee, Colquitt, Columbia, Cook, Crawford, Crisp, Decatur, Dodge, Dooly, Dougherty, Early, Echols, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Glascock, Glynn, Grady, Hancock, Houston, Irwin, Jeff Davis, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, Jones, Lanier, Laurens, Lee, Liberty, Long, Lowndes, Macon, Marion, McDuffie, McIntosh, Miller, Mitchell, Montgomery, Muscogee, Peach, Pierce, Pulaski, Quitman, Randolph, Richmond, Schley, Screven, Seminole, Stewart, Sumter, Tattnall, Taylor, Telfair, Terrell, Thomas, Tift, Toombs, Treutlen, Turner, Twiggs, Ware, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Webster, Wheeler, Wilcox, Wilkinson and Worth.

Unless renewed by the governor, the state of emergency will expire on Wednesday, July 14 at 11:59 p.m.

Governor Kemp interviewed applicants for appointment to the Georgia Supreme Court, according to the Georgia Recorder.

The Republican governor has started the process of interviewing six finalists as potential replacements for the seat left vacant after last week’s retirement of Chief Justice Harold Melton, a 16-year veteran of the state Supreme Court.

The next justice will also become the third member to join within the last year for the state’s court of last resort. The justices decide cases as serious as upholding a death penalty conviction as well as whether the government can forcefully take ownership of private property.

“We sort of think of the court as a monolith, but it’s not,” said Amy Steigerwalt, a political science professor at Georgia State University. “It is a small group of nine people, and when all of a sudden three of them change kind of overnight, that’s a huge deal. There are a lot of interpersonal dynamics that go into how the court operates.”

But if Kemp’s history of appointments is any indication, the odds are high that the trend of at least one Black justice will continue, Steigerwalt added.

“From day one of his administration, Governor Kemp has been committed to appointing highly qualified Georgians of all backgrounds to positions throughout state government and the judiciary,” Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said Tuesday. “He will continue to select individuals dedicated to upholding the rule of law, streamlining state government, and putting Georgians first.”

The Georgia Department of Labor has received threats of violence, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Georgia Department of Labor is factoring in “threats of violence” as it weighs reopening offices that have been closed since the COVID-pandemic began last year.

“We don’t have firm dates yet,” spokeswoman Kersha Cartwright told The Times this week, adding that when reopening happens, “it will be done in phases.”

Tensions have been high throughout the pandemic, with much of the public’s ire aimed at the department’s response to unemployment claims. Four Georgia residents are suing the state Department of Labor, saying delays in processing, paying and hearing appeals on unemployment claims violate state and federal law.

Metro Atlanta law enforcement officials discussed increasing crime numbers, according to the AJC.

To Atlanta police Chief Rodney Bryant, the locations where crimes are happening most frequently tell a troubling story. Bryant — who came out of retirement to accept the chief’s role after serving on the force for 31 years — said during a roundtable radio discussion on KISS 104.1 that the recent uptick mirrors patterns that he’s seen before.

“In 1996, crime was through the roof,” he told radio host Frank Ski. “But if you take that and fast forward and look at those maps, (today’s incidents) are in the exact same places that they were in 1996, letting me know that there are systematic issues that really need to be addressed.”

Bryant was joined in the discussion by Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat, Gwinnett County Sheriff Keybo Taylor and DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox, who said they attribute the recent crime wave to an inability to appropriately settle interpersonal conflicts paired with a lack of school and community initiatives to help prevent young people from entering the criminal justice system.

“Now, the first thing you do is go to a gun. It’s just so easy for people to go get a gun and it’s done,” Maddox said. “But now you have to deal with the consequences.”

Bibb County Probate Judge Sarah Harris discussed state law and decisions on carry permits, according to 13WMAZ.

Bibb County Probate Judge Sarah Harris says part of her job is deciding who gets approved and denied for gun licenses.

“You have an active felony warrant or you’re under indictment for a felony you can be denied for that,” says Judge Harris.

Judge Harris says federally, a person is automatically prohibited from getting a firearm if that person has a felony, active warrant, or a judge rules they need extensive mental health treatment.

“You have to understand that the laws relating to the issuance of a license for weapons carry is very black-and-white, so we don’t have a lot of discretion in that.”

She says she makes her decisions on a case-by-case basis, but she must follow both federal and state laws.

“Until we fix the mental health system, it really doesn’t matter about the rest of it because that’s the part that’s really broken,” she says.

Harris says in the state of Georgia, if you pass the background check and mental health evaluation, you can get approved for a license.

But she says if you do fail and are ordered to mental treatment, it can drop off your background check within five years. Then, you can reapply.

“So you could still be sick, you could still have problems, and if you haven’t been involuntarily committed, you may be able to still get a gun license because it doesn’t show up on your background check.”

Gwinnett County District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson (D) announced a new accountability court program for some offenders, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The new program is set to begin in September with 25 participants and the goal of eventually expanding it. Austin-Gatson and Rehabilitation Enables Dreams, also known as RED, founder David Lee Windecher signed a memorandum of understanding on June 23 to formalize the partnership.

“Giving first time offenders a second chance is paramount in furthering progress within our communities,” Austin-Gaston said. “Expanding accountability courts and rehabilitative resources is essential to the betterment of Gwinnett. We believe RED’s program is a worthy solution to keeping people out of trouble and back on a productive path.”

The new program is centered around teaching the first-time offenders social, financial and civic skills and lessons in an effort to reduce recidivism and, in turn, lower incarceration rates. The District Attorney’s Office said RED has seen 94% of its participants graduate from its programs and successfully re-enter society.

The Gwinnett County Commission has scheduled three required hearings prior to adopting a property tax millage rate, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County commissioners are planning to hold three public hearings this month on a proposal to keep the county’s general fund millage rate at same level it was at in 2020.

The proposal announced by county officials calls for having a millage rate of 6.95 mills. The first hearing on the rate is set to be held at 9 a.m. on July 12 at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, which is located at 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville.

The other two hearings will be held at GJAC at 9:30 a.m. and at 6:30 p.m. on July 19. Residents can also offer comments to commissioners, until 9 p.m. on July 19, through an online portal located at www.gwinnettcounty.com.

Albany City Commission is considering ending the city’s mask requirement for government buildings and public transportation, according to the Albany Herald.

After a year of requiring visitors and staff to wear masks in city-owned buildings and while riding public transportation, commissioners are considering whether to rescind the requirements.

The commission also passed a controversial mask mandate in September that applies to individuals in businesses and other public places, with the exception of those that opt out, that is only in effect when COVID-19 numbers reach a certain threshold. It has not been in effect since a Christmas/New Year’s holiday spike in transmission of the novel coronavirus.

The Dougherty County Commission rescinded its mask requirement in its buildings earlier this year.

Albany Commissioners are also considering adding a Juneteenth paid holiday, according to the Albany Herald.

Albany city employees could get a new holiday next year, as interim City Manager Steven Carter has asked to add the day that celebrates the emancipation of slaves in the U.S. to the city’s holiday calendar.

“It kind of came suddenly, and we did not have the opportunity to address that when it came into effect,” Carter said. “Juneteenth is not a black or African-American holiday. I think all Americans should be considered when we think about celebrating that day.”

The Dougherty County Commission added the Juneteenth to its calendar of paid holidays in June as part of its 2020-2021 budget discussions.

Mayor Bo Dorough said he supports the addition but suggested that Carter look at having it replace a floating holiday.

The Augusta Richmond County Coliseum Authority authorized a bond issue ahead of receiving proceeds from a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The resolution amounts to $15,230,000, according to the authority’s attorney J. Edward Enoch. These funds were already approved under SPLOST, but Enoch said those funds are not due to come in until January.

This agreement will go to the Augusta Commission for approval. If passed, Coliseum Authority Chairman Cedric Johnson said they expect to receive the funds within three weeks.

The funds from the bond will go toward continuing work with the architects and finding builders, contractors and other necessary workers ahead of the start of demolition in early 2022.

Floyd County, like the state as a whole and its region of Georgia, saw more opioid-related overdose deaths in 2020 than the prior year, according to the Rome News Tribune.

In both years Floyd County’s opioid-related death rate was just above state average when factoring in the county’s population.

With a population near enough to that 100,000-mark, Floyd reported 15 opioid-related deaths in 2020 compared to 11 in 2019. That figure is over the state average, but it’s under the 10-county Northwest Health District rate of 16.8 deaths per 100,000 people.

In 2019 the health district reported 80 opioid related deaths. That number rose to 116 in 2020 — a 45% increase.

That opioid death rate has been buoyed primarily by fentanyl-involved overdoses, with the number of deaths specifically linked to the drug doubling in the past three years.

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