Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 21, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 21, 2021

Union General Irvin McDowell’s forces engaged Confederates under General Pierre G.T. Beauregard and General Joseph Johnston at the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run on July 21, 1861.

On July 21, 1868, the Georgia General Assembly ratified the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution as a condition for readmission.

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois.

On July 21, 1988, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis accepted the Democratic nomination for President at the National Convention in Atlanta.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Your prayers are requested today for Senator John Albers, his son, Will, their family, and the team who will this morning transplant a kidney from Senator Albers into his son. From the AJC:

With COVID still raging through the state, Albers family took Will to a doctor, who sent them to the hospital. Almost immediately he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit with no function in either kidney. Doctors later told them Will had nearly died.

“No parent should ever see their child with that many tubes coming out of them,” Albers said. “I never felt so helpless in my life, to be able to do nothing but literally sit there hold his hand and pray for him.”

It also meant he’d need a kidney transplant, joining the nearly 100,000 people in the country the National Kidney Foundation estimates are also on the list to receive a donor kidney.

That news was grim, since the average wait time to find a suitable donor runs an average of three and a half years. More than 4,000 people die every year waiting for a kidney transplant.

But unlike most other vital organs, kidneys can come from living donors. And direct relatives can be the best donors of all.

Throughout the year-long odyssey of Will’s illness, as his father ran for re-election in his highly contested Roswell-based Senate district, went through the wildly contentious 2021 legislative session, left his job and later got a new one, Sen. Albers never shared the news of Will’s health struggles beyond his immediate family and close circle of friends.

But last week, with the transplant surgery successfully scheduled, Will suggested that his dad post a note to social media.

They could use more prayers than fewer, Will reasoned. And maybe they could help spread the word about living kidney donations, too.

Governor Brian Kemp announced six judicial appointments yesterday.

Judge Verda M. Colvin from Court of Appeals to Georgia Supreme Court

Georgia Solicitor General Andrew Pinson from AG’s Office to Court of Appeals Colvin seat

Chuck Eaton to Fulton County Superior Court from Georgia Public Service Commission

Judge Rhonda Kreuziger from Associate Juvenile Court Judge to Superior Court for the Griffin Judicial Circuit

Chaundra Lewis to Henry State Court

Judge Kimberly Alexander from DeKalb County State Court- Traffic Division to Dekalb County State Court

From the AJC:

Five years ago, then-Bibb County Judge Verda Colvin gave an impassioned lecture in her courtroom to at-risk youth, telling them to “stop acting like trash.” The speech quickly made Colvin an internet sensation as it was captured on video and went viral.

Colvin unwittingly made a name for herself on March 25, 2016, when she addressed a group of kids aged 9 to 17, admonishing them to respect themselves.

During the nine-minute lecture, Colvin told the youths if they didn’t change their ways, they would have the “ultimate experience.” Exasperated, she reached down, pulled out a cadaver pouch and laid in out in front of her.

“You can be in this body bag,” she said. “And the only way somebody will know you are in here is by this tag that’ll have your name on it. What do you want to do? That’s the question you need to ask yourself.”

“I’m sick of seeing young men who look like you all … coming in this court system and going to jail for something stupid,” she said. “Get yourselves together. Stop this. Why would you want to be another statistic?”

“It was meant to be private,” she said. “I do what I do from the heart and I am committed. I don’t want people to take what I did out of context and I don’t want the kids to think I was doing it for show. But I am glad that it is out there and touching people.”

Governor Kemp appointed Fitz Johnson to the Georgia Public Service Commission seat vacated by Chuck Eaton, according to the AJC.

Johnson is a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Army and retired businessman who ran unsuccessfully for the Cobb County Commission last year and state schools superintendent in 2014. A Citadel graduate, he was a former owner of the Atlanta Beat women’s soccer team.

Kemp said he was drawn to Johnson because of his “remarkable record of service to our nation, experience as a private sector business leader, and dedication to his community.”

“With his diverse background and real-world leadership credentials, I know Fitz will work hard every day to ensure Georgia remains the top state for business and the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Johnson will soon try to earn the approval of voters, too. He’s up for election in November 2022 to fill out the remaining two years of Eaton’s unexpired term. If he wins, he’ll be back on the ballot in 2024 for a full six-year term.

Eaton, a former manufacturing executive, enrolled in night law school during his first term on the commission and passed the state bar exam in 2013. He narrowly won a third term on the commission in 2018 after being forced into a runoff against Democrat Lindy Miller. He’ll replace Judge Shawn LaGrua, who was elevated to the state Supreme Court by Kemp in January.

United States Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia) spoke about her most recent Twitter time out, according to the Associated Press via the Valdosta Daily Times.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene blasted social media companies over her temporary suspension from Twitter on Tuesday, calling it “a Communist-style attack on free speech.”

“Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the Silicon Valley Cartel are working hand in hand with the White House to censor Americans,” the Georgia Republican said in a statement.

“We took enforcement action on the account @mtgreenee for violations of the Twitter Rules, specifically the Covid-19 misleading information policy,” the company said in an email.

“These Big Tech companies are doing the bidding of the Biden regime to restrict our voices and prevent the spread of any message that isn’t state-approved,” Greene said in the statement. “I will not back down.”

Twitter previously censored people talking about the “lab leak theory” of COVID-19’s origin.

Two days after Facebook confirmed that it would no longer censor posts discussing whether the coronavirus pandemic originated from a Chinese lab leak, Twitter is refusing to say whether it will do the same.

Despite President Biden ordering US spy agencies to conduct a 90-day investigation into whether COVID-19 was released by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Twitter said it had no updates to share at this time.

Twitter did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for clarification on its misinformation policy, though a spokesman told Politico that it continues to “work in close consultation with global public health authorities.”

In a statement, he revealed that two theories predominate current US official thinking: that the virus emerged naturally from animals or escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.

Camden County set a record high for daily COVID cases, according to The Brunswick News.

An all-time, single-day record of 56 new cases was reported Saturday in Camden County, said Ginger Heidel, risk communicator with the Coastal Health District.

“Our message remains the same — the crisis isn’t over, but unlike last year, we now have vaccines as a powerful new tool to stop the spread of illness,” she said. “But unless more people get vaccinated, the virus will continue circulating in our communities causing illness, hospitalization, and death, and potentially mutating to a stronger virus that causes even more severe illness.”

Only 28 percent of Camden County residents have received the vaccine. Health department officials said 39.4 percent of Glynn County residents have received the vaccine. Both counties lag behind the state average of nearly 45 percent of people having at least one shot.

Scott Bassett, public information officer at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, said the ongoing spike in cases is being closely monitored.

“We are aware of the numbers the health department is releasing,” he said, “We continue to follow (Department of Defense) and (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance.”

Georgia State Rep. James Beverly (D-Macon) is recovering from COVID, according to 13WMAZ.

The minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives says he decided to get tested before he was supposed to travel to a National Conference of State Legislatures seminar in Salt Lake City. Beverly said he felt tired and lost his sense of taste and smell.

The Macon representative says he received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine in February. This is the first time he says he’s tested positive for COVID-19.

“It’s no joke. You just fall into a false sense of security. You got the vaccine, you’re good. People telling you you’re going to be fine. The reality is you can get it,” Beverly said.

Beverly says he believes that because he is vaccinated, his symptoms were less severe.

Albany City Commissioners lifted the mask requirement for municipal buildings, according to the Albany Herald.

The city and Dougherty County implemented a mask ordinance in all of their buildings after re-opening following the initial COVID-19 lockdown, a requirement that has remained in place.

At the jointly owned Government Center, there have been different requirements as the city required wearing masks at its meetings. The county rescinded its mask requirement in buildings it owns earlier this year, and most members of the public and county employees no longer wear face masks during its meetings.

In Georgia, Wheeler County’s vaccination rate was worst in the state, with 19.05 percent of its population receiving at least one dose of the two-dose vaccine regimen and 17.57 having received both doses, according to the Georgia COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker website. Oconee County was best, with 55.54 percent having received at least one dose and 52.12 fully vaccinated.

For the state as a whole 44.69 percent were fully vaccinated and 39.85 percent had at least one dose.

The Albany Commission also heard a proposal for a moratorium on new alcohol licenses, according to the Albany Herald.

Mayor Bo Dorough suggested forming a committee with a representative appointed by each commissioner to discuss the issue.

The commission can continue granting licenses on an individual basis without calling a halt to licensing entirely, Commissioner Chad Warbington said.

“I think in general, all city policies are up for improvement,” the Ward IV commissioner said during an interview after the meeting. “I think a moratorium for all businesses would be harmful. There’s no reason to put a moratorium in place that would negatively affect businesses; we just need to bring some new ideas to the table.”

The commission could vote on the moratorium proposal next week.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is encouraging mask use in schools, according to 13WMAZ.

With the COVID-19 Delta variant on the rise and kids under 12 still unable to get a vaccine, the American Academy of Pediatrics says all students older than 2 years old and school staff should wear masks.

This includes even those who are vaccinated, which differs from the CDC’s guidance.

Bibb County schools is “strongly encouraging” all students and staff wear masks in school.

Houston County schools say, as of Tuesday, masks will be optional for students, staff, and visitors.

Baldwin County’s Board of Education is voting Tuesday night.

Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Mark Jones will be tried in September on felony charges related to filming a campaign ad, according to Newsweek.

Mark Jones, the district attorney in the six-county Chattahoochee circuit, is charged with first-degree criminal damage and interfering with government property. So are four other people who police say gathered in the parking lot of the Columbus Civic Center in May 2020 to record stunt driving moves such as donuts with smoking tires.

The circuit is centered in Columbus, including Muscogee, Harris, Chattahoochee, Marion, Talbot, and Taylor counties.

The trial will be held in Columbus, but an out-of-town judge and prosecutor have been appointed in the case.

Jones also faces separate felony charges of two counts of driving under the influence and one count of reckless driving following a November 2019 vehicle crash.

[Jones’s lawyer Christopher Breault] claimed Jones was prosecuted “because the ‘Good-ole boy network’ in Columbus, GA could not stomach the fact that Mark Jones — of all people — would become the district attorney of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit — an ‘unthinkable’ and ‘unacceptable’ outcome.”

Breault said authorities also were provoked by Jones’ pledge to investigate police abuses.

Peach County will vote on a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation in November, according to 13WMAZ.

If you live in Peach County, this fall you can vote on a new tax aimed at improving transportation and road conditions — the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) would tack on a 1% sales and use tax in the county.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Martin Moseley says it would raise around $27 million over five years.

“The citizens of Peach County will be deciding if we can add a penny for transportation projects in Peach County, mostly resurfacing projects. Might be a couple of connector roads that we’re gonna pave that we feel are vital here in Peach County, but mostly will be just upkeep of roads,” said Moseley.

Georgia State House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) has proposed additional funding for law enforcement, according to the AJC.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston is calling on the state to give local police and sheriffs’ employees a $1,000 bonus and increase funding for law enforcement and mental health programs.

Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, who has a House committee looking at the rise in violent crime over the past year, announced a $75 million funding package Wednesday during a Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia conference on Jekyll Island.

He said it is aimed at supporting local law enforcement, going after criminals, and getting Georgians with mental health problems the treatment and services they need.

“This proposal is one I am proud to offer and the House of Representatives will stand firmly behind when we consider it as part of our 2022 budget process.”

Ralston said he wants the state to set aside $25 million for bonuses. Local law enforcement agencies would apply for the money to give $1,000 bonuses to officers. The money couldn’t be used for anything else.

“Georgia is a state that stands firmly with those who wear the badge,” said Ralston. “This $25 million is about rewarding those police officers and sheriff’s deputies who protect and serve our communities each and every day, often putting themselves in harm’s way in the line of duty.”

Tybee Island City Council may decriminalize marijuana possession, according to the Savannah Morning News.

At a meeting earlier this month, Tybee Island city council saw a proposed marijuana decriminalization ordinance, which, as currently written, would reduce the penalty for possessing less than an ounce of weed on the island.

Locally, decriminalization measures have picked up steam in recent years: Savannah passed a similar measure in 2018, and Chatham County followed suit last year.

In both Chatham and Savannah, officers have discretion when it comes to giving a ticket or making a misdemeanor arrest. Tybee’s ordinance currently doesn’t include this, though Councilwoman Nancy DeVetter, who introduced the ordinance to the council, said it’s one of the “moving parts” being considered.

“We want to maintain officer discretion, but we also want to save officers’ time so that they don’t have to spend time on marijuana,” DeVetter said. “That was the whole impetus for the ordinance.”

But it’s another facet of Tybee’s proposed ordinance that would be arguably the biggest step beyond the other local measures: reclassifying past marijuana convictions under the ordinance and sealing the records of those who were arrested.

“Within six months of the effective date of this ordinance, the Clerk of the Tybee Island Municipal Court shall ensure that all prior misdemeanor marijuana convictions are resentenced as city ordinance violations; that such charges are restricted from the defendant’s GCIC, and that the court record is sealed if all charges related to the underlying arrest were dismissed, nolle prossed, or reduced to a city ordinance violation,” the proposed ordinance reads.

Of course, marijuana possession is still a crime under state and federal law.

Gwinnett County Commissioners voted to retain the existing property tax millage rate for FY 2022, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The county government’s overall millage rate, which determines how much money a property owners owes in property taxes, was set at 14.71 mills. That total millage rate number includes rates for several funds, such as public safety service districts and the county’s general fund, which covers the costs of county services.

The rate set by the commissioners, however, only deals with the portion of property taxes used to fund county government. It is separate from rates set by the various city councils and Gwinnett County Public Schools and Buford City Schools boards of education.

Although the county government’s overall millage rate will stay the same, property owners could still end up paying more in property taxes this fall depending on whether the value of their property increased and what kinds of exemptions they have.

Conasauga Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office Investigator Kevin Caylor was named Investigator of the Year by the District Attorneys Association of Georgia, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

While presenting the award, Poston recalled one case Caylor worked on where the offender, Jeff Bully, had operated an unlicensed “sober living facility” in Chatsworth that housed a number of probationers from other circuits. Bully used his position of authority to exploit those sent to his facility and that included multiple sexual assaults of female residents.

When law enforcement began investigating the case, Bully fled out of state. No one could find him, and even the FBI gave up, stating that they had exhausted all resources.

Caylor took up the hunt and tracked Bully to a Cherokee Indian reservation in Oklahoma. Working with local law enforcement, Caylor arranged to lure Bully off the reservation where he could be arrested and extradited to Georgia.

Caylor then set about tracking down Bully’s victims, both those who had been assaulted in Murray County and several that he had assaulted elsewhere but who were later allowed to testify at trial to show Bully’s pattern of behavior. A total of 13 victims testified against Bully at trial. Because of Caylor’s efforts, Bully is now serving three consecutive life sentences in the Georgia Department of Corrections.

Augusta Commissioners approved a new policy governing “P-card” use, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The commission vote was unanimous for the new policy, with all 10 members present, and included two changes. One, requested by Commissioner Brandon Garrett, was to remove “commissioners” as authorized cardholders and replace  them with the clerk of commission, who currently holds the only commission card.

The other change, sought by Commissioner Ben Hasan, was to shift enforcement of the policy to the administrator, who can appoint a designee. The policy had given the city finance and procurement departments a greater role.

The new policy places a limit of $500 per purchase and $5,000 in charges per month, which Davis’ spending routinely exceeded. The mayor made a brief effort at Tuesday’s meeting to raise the limit per purchase to $5,000, “in line with the procurement process,” he said. The city procurement policy requires approvals and a bid process for expenditures greater than $5,000.

Richmond County public schools plan a staggered schedule for returning students, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Superintendent Kenneth Bradshaw announced during the board meeting on Tuesday that traditional elementary schools ( PreK-5th grade) will still start school on Thursday, August 5. All other schools’ start dates have been delayed to Monday, August 9.

“By providing us a staggered start, we can focus all district-level resources on ensuring that, after [not] being in school 100% for over a year, that we can devote all efforts in ensuring that we have a quality school opening,” Bradshaw said.

Masks will no longer be required on school premises for students and staff, even for those who have not been vaccinated. Because there is a mask mandate for all public buses, however, school buses will still require face coverings for all riders and drivers. Additionally, while it is not required, masks are highly recommended for visitors and anyone not vaccinated.

Gainesville City schools and Hall County schools will continue free lunch programs in 2021-22, according to the Gainesville Times.

The program is an extension of U.S. Department of Agriculture waivers first issued in spring 2020 as schools closed as the coronavirus pandemic hit. USDA announced the most recent extension in April. The waivers allow schools to serve free meals without needing to verify student eligibility for federal programs.

Gainesville City Schools has offered something similar for the past 10 years based on the high poverty rate in the school system.

Habersham County Commissioners hired Brandalin Carnes as County Clerk, according to AccessWDUN.

The City of Pooler is considering raising the property tax millage rate, according to WTOC.

For the first time in nearly a decade the City of Pooler is proposing an increase to their millage rate.

The increase would be by one mill. According to the city that would mean an average increase of about $70 per household annually if this mill increase is approved.

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