Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 19, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 19, 2021

On July 19, 1879, Griffin, Georgia native John Henry “Doc” Holliday killed Mike Gordon after Gordon shot up Holliday’s saloon in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

The 1996 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony was held on July 19, 1996 and competition started the next day.

The Georgia State Quarter was released on July 19, 1999.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission plans to move forward toward awarding production licenses, according to Fox5Atlanta.

The state’s Access to Medical Cannabis Commission has announced that it plans to vote on which growers it will award licenses to on Saturday.

“Wow, I mean this is seven years in the making,” said Joshua Littrell, founder of Veterans for Cannabis.

“The next step is to issue what is known as a ‘Notice Of Intent to Award’ the license contracts,” said Andrew Turnage, executive director of the state-run Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission. “The Commission anticipates the announcement, which will name the companies the Commission intends to award low-THC oil production licenses to, will be voted upon at the next public meeting.”

“Right now, patients have to go to the unregulated market to get medicine if they want to get relief,” said Alexis Harris, who had a medical marijuana card for PTSD, but let it expire because she cannot use it.

About 70 companies are competing for six licenses to grow cannabis in Georgia.

Former Republican state Rep. Allen Peake of Macon was a leading supporter of legalizing low THC oil when he was in the General Assembly. He has continued to work with what he characterized as an “underground network” to bring the oil from out of state to Georgia families. Importing the oil is illegal. He has applied for a processing license. “We’re two years from passing a bill that said you could grow, process and distribute medical cannabis oil in our state,” he said. “But we don’t have the licenses issued to folks to allow them to do that yet.”

The United States Senate Rules Committee will hear evidence liberal political propaganda in Atlanta today. From the AJC:

The agenda includes testimony from U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, Democratic state Sen. Sally Harrell of Dunwoody, Helen Butler of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda and Jose Segarra, a Houston County voter. U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, a member of the committee, is also expected to help lead the questioning.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who will chair the hearing, held a roundtable on voting rights Sunday afternoon in Cobb County, which featured Stacey Abrams.

“What I regret deeply is that, unfortunately, this seems to be a partisan conversation, but it’s not,” [Abrams] said. “The process of electing our leaders is not a partisan process. Our selection may be be partisan, but our elections should not be. Our elections are how we determine the course and the quality of our democracy.”

However, supporters of the law say it will make elections more secure and actually increase access. Many proponents of the law echo former President Donald Trump’s false claim that there was widespread voter fraud.

From the AJC Political Insider:

Gov. Brian Kemp will participate in a call with reporters about voting and elections following the Rules Committee’s hearing. And state House Republicans are holding a separate committee meeting at the same time on Atlanta’s rising crime rate.

After legal documents revealed nearly 200 mail-in ballots in Fulton were initially tallied twice before one of the state’s official recounts, a range of Republican rivals quickly got on the same page as they demanded swift action.

House Speaker David Ralston called for Richard Barron, the Fulton County Elections Director, to bring in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. And Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, eager to win support from conservatives, called for Barron to resign.

From the Abrams Roundtable, according to the AJC:

Klobuchar singled out Georgia among dozens of states that have either passed laws or are considering bills that voting rights advocates say would make it harder to vote and targets low-income and Black voters.

She called such efforts “discrimination with surgical precision” and include measures to “sow chaos and confusion and make it harder to vote.”

Governor Brian P. Kemp appointed Candice Broce as Interim Director of the Georgia Department of Family and Childrens’ Services, according to a press release.

“Candice Broce has served in numerous vital roles in my administration and I deeply appreciate her willingness to lead a critical state government agency on an interim basis,” said Governor Kemp. “I know she will bring dedication, integrity, and leadership to the Division of Family & Children Services so the agency can deliver the highest quality of care and essential services to Georgians in need.”

Candice Broce most recently served as Chief Operating Officer in the Governor’s Office, having also served as Communications Director and Chief Deputy Executive Counsel for Governor Kemp. Broce previously managed communications and served as legal counsel for elections and legislative affairs at the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. Broce holds a bachelor’s degree in Management from the Georgia Institute of Technology and law degree from Georgia State University College of Law. Originally from Cartersville in Bartow County, she now lives in White, Georgia with her husband, Jason, and two sons, Beau and Jack. She is a member of the State Bar of Georgia, Federalist Society, Republican National Lawyers Association, and Georgia Board of Nursing.

Interstate 16 has re-opened after a bridge crash closed it in both directions, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Westbound traffic on 16 resumed Friday evening, state transportation officials said. The Georgia Department of Public Safety tweeted that eastbound traffic began flowing later on the vital trade route to and from the Southeast ports and tourist beaches.

“I-16 is now open in both directions,” the tweet said, congratulating Georgia’s Department of Transportation for swift work in demolishing the damaged overpass that crossed over the interstate.

The DOT said crews worked through the night to break up the overpass and removed its remains Friday. The work went more quickly than expected and were able to reopen after a crash knocked the overpass bridge from its support beams. Officials decided the fastest and safest way to reopen I-16 is to destroy the badly damaged overpass and replace it.

An Augusta vigil celebrated the life of the late Congressman John Lewis (D-Atlanta), according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Richmond County chapter of the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda held a nationally sponsored vigil at the Augusta Common. The gathering included hymns such as “Amazing Grace” and “Victory is Mine” and a reading of Lewis’ final words.

The vigil also included a call to action by Traci George, coordinator of the Richmond County chapter, and Gayla Keesee from the CSRA League of Women Voters. The pair challenged the gathering of just over two dozen people to continue to contact elected officials about voter laws and restrictions.

“What good does it do to elect (Jon) Ossoff and (Raphael) Warnock if we still allow the minority to rule?” Keesee asked. “We need to hold our elected officials accountable and we need to talk to them.”

The United States Navy named a new ship after Rep. Lewis, according to CNN via the Albany Herald.

With the breaking of a bottle of sparkling wine across its bow, the first in a class of Navy oiler ships was christened the USNS John Lewis in San Diego on the one year anniversary of the longtime US congressman’s death.

“On behalf of my beloved, uncle, the entire Lewis family, we’re humbled and grateful for the christening of the USNS John Lewis,” said Marcus Tyner, a nephew of Lewis. “We all agree that what is most important at this critical time, and what will please my uncle most is the passing of the John Lewis Voting Rights Bill.”

“Civil Service Mariners will operate this ship with the skill, resolve and courage displayed by John Lewis. With this ship, our naval service is better positioned to meet the challenges that lie ahead,” said Rear Admiral Michael Wettlaufer, commander of Military Sealift Command.

Future John Lewis-class oilers will be named for other prominent civil rights leaders Harvey Milk, Earl Warren, Robert F. Kennedy, Lucy Stone and Sojourner Truth, according to the Navy.

Retiring Gwinnett County Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks spoke to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“On Aug. 1, I will start a new chapter in my life,” Wilbanks said at the end of the meeting. “On that morning, for the first time in more than 25 years, I won’t start my day with my mind fixed on the roles, responsibilities and expectations that go along with being the superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools.

“While I will be leaving the role behind in a few weeks, I take great pride in the work that has been accomplished during my tenure, and proud to have been a part of Gwinnett County Public Schools story.”

Wilbanks’ contract had been set to expire in June 2022, and he had announced plans to not seek an extension of that contract. The Gwinnett County Board of Education voted earlier this year, however, to end his contract 11 months early, effective July 31.

“He’s had a very exalted and remarkable career,” [Board of Education Member Dr. Mary Kay] Murphy said. “From those residents in District 3, which is the area of the county that I represent — those who live in Norcross, Duluth, Peachtree Corners, Peachtree Ridge, Sugar Hill and Suwanee — Mr. Wilbanks, we send you our deepest appreciation for the incredible work you have done to leave a legacy of a world-class school system for our 177,000-180,000 students, 22,500 employees — 12,500 of those being our teachers.”

Gwinnett County will collect $7.5 million dollars more than the previous fiscal year due to increases in property values, according to AccessWDUN.

Citizens of Gwinnett County will have until Monday to voice their concerns about their property tax rates. While property tax rates are expected to remain the same, that will mean properties that went up in value during the pandemic will see a tax increase.

Tax dollars will increase as Gwinnett County grows and more homes have been added. Also, property values have increased as inventory in the real estate market has not been able to meet the demand.

Annual property tax bills are based on the assessed value of a home, which is 40% of its fair market value. They’re calculated with so-called “millage rates” set by county government, school boards and cities.

Gwinnett County Public Schools plans to lower its property tax rate. Residents whose properties are reassessed at a higher value will still likely see a tax increase.

The county sets tax rates not only for the general fund but for the police, fire and emergency services, development and code enforcement, recreation, and economic development funds. Commissioners will also set these rates on July 20.

United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) held a press conference, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Sen. Jon Ossoff is still pushing for the inclusion of a federal Medicaid expansion in the fast moving $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill.

“Our objective is to make sure that the inclusion of provisions that will help families in Georgia get the health care, health insurance they deserve despite our state’s refusal to expand Medicaid,” he said Friday during a press conference outside Fort Gordon. “Sen. Rev. (Raphael) Warnock and I are working to insure the inclusion of a provision like that in the upcoming infrastructure bill.”

The “Medicaid Saves Lives Act” was announced by Warnock’s office on Monday and sponsored by Ossoff and Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. It would create a federal Medicaid expansion for people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line – the cap in states that have expanded, but not in the 12 states, like Georgia, that have not.

A group called “Women for America” held a Town Hall meeting on election security in Columbus, according to WTVM.

The group says the goal is to elevate and engage women to make a difference. At the townhall, they discussed what they call inconsistency and fraud in the 2020 election.

Townhall Chairwoman Amy Kremer says the group wants to put pressure on Governor Brian Kemp to call for a special session for a forensic audit in Georgia.

“Election integrity goes to the foundation of our nation,” said Kremer. “If confidence and trust is not restored where we believe that we do have free and fair elections, we have a serious problem. Americans are very concerned about it and it’s our duty as citizens to rise up.”

Columbus is the third stop on their Election Integrity Townhall Tour following Rome and Alpharetta.

Retiring Muscogee County Superior Court Judge William Rumer spoke to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The pandemic was a factor in Rumer’s retirement, he said: He didn’t like the online Zoom hearings the courts had to switch to, as the coronavirus prevented people from gathering in-person.

“Personally, I like to see live people,” he said. The coronavirus crisis was a sign to him that, “This is probably a better time for me to stop.”

He also was influenced by Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” about a white attorney representing a Black suspect in the Jim Crow South. He first read the book at age 16. As a judge, he has made pilgrimages to Monroeville, Alabama, on which the story’s setting is based, and joined re-enactments of the novel’s courtroom scenes, once serving on the jury.

Eleven years later, the judge says his only advice for his successor is to find a good administrative assistant, like Ashley Yates, who has worked for him for 13 years, and handles scheduling and other routine office affairs so he doesn’t have to.

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp will have an opportunity to appoint a new superior court judge for a six-county circuit based in Columbus.

The Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit covers Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Talbot and Taylor counties.

Rumer asked Kemp to appoint him as a senior judge to preside in cases where other judges have a conflict of interest or are unavailable because of illness or other emergencies, the newspaper reported. Senior judges may serve in any judicial circuit.

Stacey Jackson, a criminal defense attorney and Republican from Harris County, has said he wants to be considered for the position. Ben Richardson, who has been a state court judge since 2014, said he also will seek the position, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission sent Gov. Kemp a short list of candidates for appointment to the Superior Court for the Augusta Judicial Circuit, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The nominees are Kristi G. Connell of the Connell Law Firm located in Augusta; Amanda N. Heath, who currently serves as a juvenile court judge in the Augusta Judicial Circuit, and Edward J. Tarver of Enoch Tarver, P.C., located in Augusta.

In May, Judge Brown announced he would give up his role as chief judge immediately and retire June 30 in an agreement with the state’s judicial disciplinary board rather than fight allegations of ethical violations.

Complaints against Brown had been filed with the Judicial Qualification Commission including nepotism and favoritism over juvenile court matters, trying to improperly influence the appointment of assistant magistrate judges in Burke County and inserting himself improperly in the plea negotiation process. Brown began his role of chief judge in 2016 and has been a Superior Court judge since 1994.

Augusta has adopted a new policy on Open Records Act requests, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

City Administrator Odie Donald and General Counsel Wayne Brown crafted the new policy after Mayor Hardie Davis said the number of requests his office has received this year has tied up his staff.

With some 51 filed since March, the level of requests “brings us to a grinding halt,” Davis said.

Under the new policy, set to go for a commission vote Tuesday, requests for the mayor’s documents might not go through the mayor’s office. The policy calls for all requests to go through an open records officer, a new position in Donald’s office.

The new policy “makes it very clear who receives and responds and allows us to be sure to respond within a timely manner to all open records requests,” Donald said after a brief presentation Wednesday.

Augusta Commissioners will consider a policy on “Purchasing Card” or “P-card” use by employees and elected officials, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

City Administrator Odie Donald on Wednesday unveiled the draft policy, which closely mirrors state law and governs the use of credit cards and purchasing, or “P,” cards. The policy goes for an Augusta Commission vote Tuesday.

Last month the commission voted unanimously to develop a credit card policy – which the city did not have – after Commissioner Brandon Garrett called into question Mayor Hardie Davis’ heavy use of his card, based on local media reports. Garrett said the policy was needed as soon as possible.

Under the policy, any elected official who wants a card must get approval by the commission and none may use one without signing an agreement to follow the policy.

The purchases must be “directly related to the public duties of the authorized elected official only,” and the card can’t be used to avoid following city procurement policies that might require an open bid process or employment ad.

In addition, the administrator must collect and maintain “receipts, invoices and other supporting documentation of all purchases made with a county purchasing or credit card.” Required information includes the name and address of the vendor; the quantity, description and unit price; the amount paid without sales taxes, from which the government is exempt and an explanation for the purchase, “sufficient to show the expense was in the performance of official county duties.”

Chatham County Commissioners adopted an FY 2022 budget, according to WTOC.

After several weeks of delay, Chatham County Commissioners voted Friday morning to approve the FY22 budget. Also, they retroactively approved county employee raises that were supposed to go into effect on July 1.

At the end of June, Commissioners agreed on a continuing resolution, which meant they have been operating on a continuation of last year’s budget.

The budget approved today was the same proposed by county staff. County Commission Chairman Chester Ellis said that could change down the road.

“Pass the budget now, and then we’ll come back in January at mid-term. We calculated on two percent rather than four.”

Clarke County schools will provide free school supplies, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Schools housing students from Kindergarten to the 8th grade will have “supply closets” available for students. In these “closets,” all of these students will be able to receive their supplies free of charge.

“All you need to do is pull up with a book bag and we will fill the bag with supplies,” said Harris.

The schools will not provide backpacks and electronic items such as headphones for students, but there will be items like notebooks, pencils, binders, crayons and Ziploc bags, among other items.

Each school will contact parents with their individual plans, according to Harris, as principals will communicate the exact dates and times for receiving the supplies. The new school year is set to start on August 4.

Glynn County Board of Elections and Registration member Patty Gibson is retiring from her service on the board after 25 years, according to The Brunswick News.

Flowery Branch‘s next city council members and Mayor will receive higher pay, according to AccessWDUN.

Currently, the mayor is paid $500 per month and council members are paid $400 per month. The increase would boost the mayor’s pay to $750 per month and council members’ pay to $600.

The new pay structure would become effective Jan. 1, 2022, according to Interim City Manager Vickie Short.

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