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

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

On July 15, 1864, Sherman’s army began crossing the Chattahoochee River and would take the better part of three days to complete the crossing. Georgia Public Broadcasting has a series on Sherman’s Georgia campaign, and you can watch this week’s episode here.

Major General George Stoneman’s cavalry had come to the area south of Atlanta. On July 15, 1864, Stoneman wrote from camp near Villa Rica, Georgia.

As I indicated to you in my last note, we completed the bridge (Moore’s), and were ready to cross at daybreak yesterday morning, but before we essayed it a report came from Major Buck, in command of a battalion seven miles above, that the enemy had been crossing above him on a boat or a bridge, and that his pickets had been cut off.

Colonel Biddle, who was left with his brigade at Campbellton, reports the enemy quite strong at that point, with two guns of long range in each of the two redoubts on the opposite bluff, which are opened upon him whenever any of his men show themselves.

I was very anxious to strike the railroad from personal as well as other considerations, but I became convinced that to attempt it would incur risks inadequate to the results, and unless we could hold the bridge, as well as penetrate into the country, the risk of capture or dispersion, with loss of animals (as I could hear of no ford), was almost certain.

On July 15, 1870, Georgia was readmitted to the United States, with the signature by President Ulysses Grant of the “Georgia Bill” by the U.S. Congress.

On July 15, 1948, President Harry Truman was nominated at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago to run for a full term as President of the United States.

On July 15, 1964, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater was nominated as the Republican candidate for President.

On July 15, 2006, a group messaging service called Twttr launched, later changing its name to Twitter. May God have mercy upon their souls.

After Williams asked the team of 14 employees to brainstorm their best ideas for the flailing startup, one of the company’s engineers, Jack Dorsey, came up with the concept of a service allowing users to share personal status updates via SMS to groups of people. By March 2006, they had a working prototype, and a name—Twttr—inspired in part by bird sounds, and adopted after some other choices (including FriendStalker) were rejected. Dorsey (@Jack) sent the first-ever tweet (“just setting up my twttr”) on March 21.

Within six months after the launch, Twttr had become Twitter. Once the service went public, its founders imposed a 140-character limit for messages, based on the maximum length of text messages at the time; this was later expanded to 280 characters.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

In observance of Shark Week, the Savannah Morning News brings us news of sharks off the Georgia coast.

Several dozen species of sharks can be found in Georgia’s coastal waters. Some take up permanent residence offshore, while others are present in our estuaries and nearshore waters during pupping or migration.

Summer months are an active period for many sharks along our coast due to ideal environmental conditions and an abundance of food sources. Just ask any angler who casts a line in the surf, or a shrimper trawling off one of our barrier islands.

Some beach-goers fear sharks, but despite the peak shark activity and influx of visitors to our beaches in the summer, unprovoked shark incidents are extremely rare along the Georgia coast. According to the International Shark Attack File, there have only been 15 confirmed unprovoked shark bites since the program began keeping records in 1837.

Georgia has a much shorter coastline than its neighbors to the north and south, and many of its islands and beaches are not accessible by vehicle, which may contribute to lower encounters. Even though the odds of being bitten by a shark are extremely low, some common-sense tips while visiting Georgia’s coast can go a long way in further reducing one’s risk.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld an eviction moratorium by the CDC, according to the AJC.

The 2-1 opinion by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the landlords who brought the suit failed to do what they needed to do to strike down the moratorium: prove they have suffered an “irreparable injury” because of the freeze.

The moratorium has been in place since March 2020, first under the CARES Act and then after the CDC imposed the freeze last September. The Biden Administration has since repeatedly extended the moratorium, and when announcing in June it was banning evictions until July 31, the administration said that was “intended to be the final extension of the moratorium.”

In the 11th Circuit case, the landlords argued they will never recover unpaid rent because their tenants are insolvent.

Judge Britt Grant, writing for the majority, noted that tenants had to file documents that declared they could not pay rent because of loss of income or extraordinary medical expenses, they had tried their best to make partial payments and if they were evicted they could become homeless.

“These attestations certainly show that the tenants could not afford their rent at the time they were signed,” Grant wrote. “But they paint a hazy picture — at best — of any given tenant’s ability to pay later.”

Writing in dissent, 11th Circuit Judge Elizabeth Branch dismissed that reasoning: “The government has not demonstrated that allowing a handful of evictions go forward would cause any loss of life, let alone the massive loss of life it has claimed could happen if the (eviction freeze) is invalidated nationwide.”

It’s interesting to me that both Judge Grant, author of the panel’s plurality opinion, and Judge Branch, dissenting, were both appointed by President Trump, as was the District Court Judge who decided the underlying case, Judge J.P. Boulee.

Former President Donald Trump said he will not support Georgia Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) in his run for Lieutenant Governor, according to AccessWDUN.

In a statement released Wednesday night, Trump said Miller refused to “work with other Republican Senators on voter fraud and irregularities in the State.”

“Hopefully, there will be strong and effective primary challengers for the very important Lieutenant Governor position!” Trump wrote in his statement.

From the AJC:

“I’ve fought for election integrity, I’ve fought for conservative values, and you can be damn sure I’ll keep the fight going,” Miller said in a statement. “I’m confident that when Georgia voters get a chance to compare my conservative record and character to my opponents I’ll be in good shape.”

Jackson Republican state Sen. Burt Jones, a wealthy oil executive who has angled for Trump’s support and is expected to get in the race for lieutenant governor. Republican activist Jeanne Seaver also announced her intent to run for the office earlier this year.

But [Miller’s] name was absent from the list of Georgia’s Republican lawmakers who signed an amicus brief filed in support of a failed attempt by Texas officials to sue Georgia and other states in December over their election results.

When Miller announced his candidacy in May, he said he thought Trump would be “favorable” to his candidacy, too, but said he would run for the job regardless.

“Whoever wins the primary needs to remember they have to win in November or it’s all for nothing. And that’s the key: I can win in November,” Miller said in May. “I don’t care who gets in this race other than Jesus. If he gets in, I’m out.”

Former Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) announced he will publish a book on the first impeachment of President Trump, according to AccessWDUN.

The Clock and the Calendar: A Front-Row Look at the Democrats’ Obsession with Donald Trump focuses on the first impeachment of President Donald Trump.

Collins, who served as the top Republican on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment of the former President, contends the impeachment was a sham and Trump had nothing to do with Ukraine or the Russia collusion hoax. In the book, Collins said the effort by the Democrats to discredit Trump began the night Trump defeated Hillary Clinton for the White House in November 2016.

Collins is the first Republican member of Congress to author a book on the impeachment of President Trump. Collins was elected to Congress in 2013 and served until January 3, 2021.

The Clock and the Calendar will be released by Post Hill Press on November 16, 2021.

Senior care facilities are still grappling with the financial aftermath of COVID, according to the AJC.

The pandemic upended the assisted living industry in Georgia and across the country, driving up costs, devastating occupancy rates and creating a marketing nightmare even though many of the private-pay facilities had few COVID-19 deaths.

A recent report revealed that Atlanta’s senior housing and assisted living facilities have been among the nation’s hardest hit. The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care (NIC) report issued this month found the occupancy rate for senior housing in the metro area is the second lowest among the 31 largest markets.

Assisted living and memory care fare a little better, ranking 20th in occupancy rate at 73.1%, but they still lag the national average by more than 2 percentage points.

Now the senior care industry is hoping relief will be on the way. The state was projected to receive $17.4 billion in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act that was adopted this spring. Some $4.8 billion is to help businesses, including long-term care facilities, impacted by the pandemic.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s office issued a statement saying long-term care facilities have received a significant amount of support from the state throughout the pandemic.

They “will have the opportunity to submit applications through the ARPA application process that will meet the eligibility and reporting requirements required by Treasury,” according to Kemp’s office.

A White County group called Citizens for Transparent Education says that Critical Race Theory is being taught in local schools, according to AccessWDUN.

“Once the citizens of White County realize that critical race theory is not a threat to White County, but is actively in the schools now, they will express their concern,” said group spokesman James King.

White County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Laurie Burkett said the accusations from the group are not true.

“I’m super proud of our school district and I’m super proud of our teachers and what we teach,” Burkett said. “We will always teach the Georgia Standard of Excellence straight from the [Georgia] Department of Education. That is what we teach in our schools, that is what we teach in our classrooms every single day and we will continue to do this.”

The State Capitol will feature a new exhibit on agriculture, according to the CAES News via the Albany Herald.

The exhibit is designed to educate visitors on the importance of the state’s No. 1 industry.

The Georgia Capitol Museum is a unit of the University of Georgia’s Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, which rallied a team of UGA historians and archivists to create “From Your Farm to Your Table,” a permanent exhibit to highlight the influence of agribusiness on Georgia’s economy and culture.

Muscogee County Superior Court Judge William Rumer announced his retirement at the end of Augusta; Governor Kemp will appoint a successor, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The position comes up for election again in 2024.

Local attorneys already are talking about who may seek the job. Stacey Jackson, a prominent criminal defense attorney and lifelong Republican from Harris County, said Wednesday that he will put his name in. Ben Richardson, who has been a state court judge here since 2014, after serving 11 years as solicitor general, said he also will seek the position.

Mallory Staples announced she will run as a Republican for the Sixth District seat held by U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath. From a Press Release:

Mallory Staples is a strong, conservative woman who is ready to reset the American government. Battling against radical ideals such as critical race theory, defunding the police, and open borders. She has had enough.

“I believe that now is the time for Americans to stand up for our country, stop apologizing for our beliefs, and protect our way of life.” said Staples. “My children have inspired my run for Congress. I intend to protect the American Dream for them and future generations by fighting for the values of freedom, hard work, personal responsibility and faith in God” Staples continues.

As a true “Georgia peach”, Mallory was born and raised in Stone Mountain, attending Redan High School and then going on to attend the University of Georgia, where she graduated in 1994. She and her husband Brad have three beautiful children- James, Reagan and John (along with a multitude of family pets).

Savannah City Council is considering how to spend $55 million in federal COVID relief funds, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The City of Savannah will receive a total of $55 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March. The city received half of the total — $27,795,623 — this past May and will receive the remaining half in May 2022.

While the government provides guidance on classification of the expenditures, ultimately council is going to have to be able to decide how the funds are used, Mayor Van Johnson said.

The federal government dictates how the city can use the monies. Funding must be applied either to support public health expenditures; to address negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic; to replace lost public sector revenue; to provide premium pay for essential workers, or to investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

During a day-long budget workshop on Tuesday, city revenue officials recommended the the city classify the expenditures as replacing lost public sector revenue, which would provide more flexibility in spending under U.S. Department of Treasury rules.

Lee County Commissioners voted to spend some federal COVID relief funds on one-time payments to county employees, according to the Albany Herald.

The board approved a one-time payment of $1,000 for all full-time county employees and a one-time payment of $500 for all part-time county employees.

“We like to do everything we can to hire and retain the best employees in Lee County,” Mathis said. Elected officials are not eligible for this consideration.

An environmental group called 100 Miles is asking for a styrofoam ban covering Glynn County beaches, according to The Brunswick News.

Commissioners will consider a proposed amendment that is the result of recent conversations between the commission, the environmental advocacy organization One Hundred Miles and a recent Brunswick High School graduate who worked with other students to push for a change that will protect the environment.

The proposed amendment attached to tonight’s meeting agenda falls short of the originally proposed goal, said Alex Muir, an advocacy coordinator for One Hundred Miles.

A ban that only prohibits Styrofoam coolers, rather than all Styrofoam containers, dilutes the purpose, said Mackenzie Buck, who graduated in May as valedictorian of Brunswick High’s Class of 2021 and who has participated the past two years in One Hundred Miles’ youth leadership program, YELP.

Keeping Styrofoam trash off local beaches has also long been a goal of the nonprofit Keep Golden Isles Beautiful.

Microplastics are the leading pollutant found on state beaches, Muir said.

“And what’s our No. 1 economic driver in Glynn County? Our beaches,” she said. “So why would we not address what has been shown to be such a significant issue from research coming out of our own state?”

Valdosta City Schools reopening plans are drawing criticism, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

JD Rice, former fire chief and mayoral candidate, voiced his concerns Tuesday evening, telling school board members that as a concerned grandparent of five children who attend multiple schools in the city district, he wants more precautions.

The school system’s plan includes disinfecting school facilities and school buses on a regular basis, reopening the cafeteria for grab and go breakfast and allowing all students, staff and visitors in with optional masks.

Rice says that’s not enough.

“I looked at the schools reopening plan and compared that to the CDC guidelines and it concerned me that I saw the conflicts,” Rice said. “I’m concerned about that. I want my kids and everyone else’s kids and grandkids to be safe because there is nothing more important in this room than the education of our children and grandchildren. But I think we should model what we do in Valdosta according to what the CDC recommends.”

One change will allow homeschooled children to participate in the school system’s extracurricular activities.

The proposal for Competitive Interscholastic Activities Grades 6-12 includes the new law, Dexter Mosley Act, to allow homeschool students to participate in extracurricular activities.

Superintendent Dr. Todd Cason presented the first read of the statement which will be added as an amendment to the policy: “To participate in extracurricular and interscholastic activities the school system requires resident students to be enrolled full time during the semester of participation, unless the student schedule approved by school officials during the registration process provides otherwise. Home study students must enroll in and attempt to complete one qualifying course as defined in state law the semester of participation.”

Another change deals with paid parental leave for school system employees. The proposed Paid Parental Leave policy will allow full time and part time employees of Valdosta City Schools up to 120 hours of paid leave over a 12-month period in the case of child birth, child adoption, or receiving a foster child.

Whitfield County Schools also announced protocols for reopening, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The administrative retreat will also include discussions about COVID-19 safety protocols for 2021-22, said Superintendent Mike Ewton. “There’s new guidance from the” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and “we’re going to look at that, as well as” advice from the state and from “local public health.”

Vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear masks inside school buildings, and in-person learning, rather than virtual learning, is “a priority” for the 2021-22 school year, according to the CDC. However, it’s recommended anyone over the age of 2 who isn’t fully vaccinated – students, teachers and staff – continue to wear masks indoors and to try to maintain three feet of distance.

Whitfield County Schools will not offer virtual learning in 2021-22, although students who desire it can do so through various offerings from the state. While roughly 30% of Whitfield County Schools students opted for virtual learning at the start of the 2020-21 school year, that figure had dropped below 10% by the end stages of the year.

Savannah-Chatham County public schools face a shortage of bus drivers, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“We have the buses. We have the money. We just need the drivers,” said Joe Buck, board president at the board’s informal meeting on Wednesday morning.

The district continues to aggressively interview and hire bus drivers — even now interviewing six days a week. “If someone is available to interview only on a Saturday, we will interview that person on a Saturday,” Miller-Kaigler told the board. She said the district’s billboard campaign has resulted in 25 new hires, and the district will also recruit at job fairs during the month.

From WTOC:

The headline is that students will be back to full in person learning in just a few weeks and masks will be optional.

While it’s clear visitors to the schools will be limited, they will be screened before entry, though a decision on if students will be screened is still to be determined.

Social distancing will be efforted while at school, but with all students back that will be a challenge. Additionally, cleaning and disinfecting will continue to happen every day with regular sanitation and fogging.

Bussing is where things are a bit different this year. They will run at full capacity meaning no skipping of seats, though masks will be required due to transportation guidance.

District officials also mentioned that while most students will go back to the classroom, they do have a full virtual option with the Savannah-Chatham e-learning academy, which has 1,000 students registered.

Muscogee County schools unveiled their planned COVID protocols, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Masks: Optional in schools, but they are required on buses, per a federal mandate.

Physical distancing: Implemented where possible.

Virtual attendance online: Available only for students who have medical conditions preventing them from attending in-person instruction.

Harris County schools will adopt similar rules, according to the article.

The City of Brooklet is considering installing a sewer system to serve downtown businesses, according to the Statesboro Herald.

City officials in Brooklet, which has no town-wide sewer system, are looking at installing a small system, with pumps and a pipeline leading to large septic tanks and a single drain field, to serve businesses in the downtown area.

Brooklet’s only city-owned sewer system connects homes on Goodman Street and a neighboring street to a couple of big, shared septic tanks. Currently serving about 17 homes, this system was installed more than 30 years ago because the streets are in a low-lying area where private septic tanks like those behind most of the homes and businesses in Brooklet wouldn’t always work.

Lately, some businesses along Parker Avenue in the heart of downtown Brooklet have a similar problem.

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