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


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

Congress created the United States Treasury Department on September 2, 1789.

With the ratification of the Constitution in 1789, the American government established a permanent Treasury Department in hopes of controlling the nation’s debt. President George Washington named his former aide-de-camp, Alexander Hamilton, to head the new office. The former New York lawyer and staunch Federalist stepped in as Secretary of the Treasury on September 11. Hamilton soon outlined a practical plan for reviving the nation’s ailing economy: the government would pay back its $75 million war debt and thus repair its badly damaged public credit.

Atlanta Mayor James Calhoun surrendered the city to federal forces on September 2, 1864.

Calhoun’s two-sentence letter, directed to Brig.-Gen. William Ward stated: “Sir: The fortune of war has placed Atlanta in your hands. As mayor of the city I ask protection of non-combatants and private property.”

The cornerstone of the Georgia State Capitol was laid on September 2, 1885.

Japan surrendered to the United States on the deck of USS Missouri on September 2, 1945.

On Sunday, September 2, more than 250 Allied warships lay at anchor in Tokyo Bay. The flags of the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and China fluttered above the deck of the Missouri. Just after 9 a.m. Tokyo time, Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed on behalf of the Japanese government. General Yoshijiro Umezu then signed for the Japanese armed forces, and his aides wept as he made his signature.

Supreme Commander MacArthur next signed, declaring, “It is my earnest hope and indeed the hope of all mankind that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past.” Nine more signatures were made, by the United States, China, Britain, the USSR, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands and New Zealand, respectively. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz signed for the United States. As the 20-minute ceremony ended, the sun burst through low-hanging clouds. The most devastating war in human history was over.

Author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien died on September 2, 1973.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Democrats, fresh off a Victory Tour, demanded Governor Kemp overstep his Constitutional powers. From Fox5Atlanta:

A group of Democratic state lawmakers called on Gov. Brian Kemp Wednesday to do more to protect Georgians from COVID-19.

“We all take an oath when we took office to serve and to protect and honestly, the governor has failed that oath,” said state Rep. Donna McLeod, D-Lawrenceville.

The House Democratic Caucus’ COVID-19 Response Team held a news conference at the state Capitol and urged Kemp to institute a statewide mask mandate, particularly in K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities.

The group also publicly pushed for the governor and State School Superintendent Richard Woods to create a statewide virtual learning platform so that children whose schools or classrooms get shut down do no miss out on instruction.

State Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, however, went a step further than his colleagues.

“We need to take a stand and say we’re going to close these schools until everyone has access to the vaccine,” said Rep. Bruce.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved any COVID-19 vaccines for children under the age of 12.

“It is clear — as it has been from the beginning of the pandemic — that the only plan Georgia Democrats have is to play pandemic politics. Their plan is to shut down businesses, close schools, and force every kid to wear a mask. Governor Kemp will remain focused on taking common-sense steps to protect Georgia businesses, encourage vaccination, keep kids in school, and ensure our hospitals and health care workers have the resources they need to deliver care to Georgians in need,” said Cody Hall, Gov. Kemp’s communications director.

The oath of office that Rep. McLeod refers to is codified in OCGA §45-12-4 and reads:

“I do solemnly swear or affirm that I will faithfully execute the office of Governor of the State of Georgia and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution thereof and the Constitution of the United States.”

Nowhere do the words “serve and protect” appear in the oath, except with respect to the Georgia Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.

The powers and duties of the Georgia State Board of Education and State School Superintendent are, under the State Constitution, defined by the legislature. The University System of Georgia Board of Regents is vested with “government, control, and management of the University System of Georgia and all of the institutions in said system.” [Article VIII, Section IV, Paragraph I(b)].

Likewise, Article VIII, Section V, Paragraph II states that “Each school system shall be under the management and control of a board of education.”

I would argue that, absent emergency powers, the Governor of Georgia is not empowered by the state Constitution to institute a statewide mask mandate in public schools or state colleges and universities. Indeed, the very text of his Oath of Office requires that he uphold the Constitutional order that separates powers over public schools and colleges and universities and vests those powers in other Constitutional offices.

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday directed $5.8 million dollars of federal COVID relief funds to support tourism, according to WJCL.

“I’m incredibly proud of the resilience of our tourism industry. While we still have a long way to go to full recovery, the fact that Georgia’s tourism industry saw gains during such a difficult year is astonishing and I am committed to ensuring we maintain this positive momentum,” Kemp said.

The money will go to Explore Georgia, the tourism division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Like other destinations around the world, Georgia leaders said the state experienced COVID-19 pandemic-related losses in travel spending, tourism jobs, and overall economic impact from the industry.

“This funding will help Georgia’s travel and hospitality industry compete in a highly competitive marketing landscape, and ensure visitors and Georgia residents alike have the Peach State on their mind for their next destination,” Kemp said.

Explore Georgia’s Explore Georgia from Home campaign, which ran during the height of the pandemic in 2020, recently won a top award from the U.S. Travel Association. The Mercury Award for Virtual Programming was presented on August 17 in recognition of the state’s innovative marketing campaign to keep Georgia on travelers’ minds.

“Georgia is a beautiful, diverse state, and despite the challenges of the last year, with additional funding and the opportunity for collaboration with the new members of the Georgia Tourism Foundation Board of Directors, there are optimistic signs that point to a tourism industry well-positioned for future success,” Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said.

U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker has been spotted in Georgia, having dined at Chops, according to the AJC.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers approved the state’s request for allocation of drinking water from Allatoona Lake, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via The Brunswick News.

The Corps’ decision on the Allatoona Lake supply came less than a month after a federal judge ruled in Georgia’s favor in a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s use of water from Lake Lanier.

“This is a generational pivotal moment for metro Atlanta that secures our water supply for decades to come,” said Katherine Zitsch, managing director of natural resources for the Atlanta Regional Commission. “[It] significantly increases our drought resiliency … [and] will encourage further smart infrastructure investments and efficient water use in the region.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperfer (R) filed a FOIA request for federal records related the the lawsuit seeking to overturn Georgia’s new voting laws, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

Raffensperger announced Wednesday he has filed a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) with the federal agency to release any records of contacts it may have had with civil and voting rights organizations in light of the lawsuit.

“We believe there’s potential they’ve been following orders from [2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee] Stacey Abrams and others,” Raffensperger said. “We think something is going on.”

The FOIA request calls for the release of communications between the Justice Department and 62 individuals and organizations, including Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group Abrams founded; the American Civil Liberties Union; the Southern Poverty Law Center; and Perkins Coie, a law firm that represents Democrats in voting cases.

Raffensperger accused the Justice Department of unfairly singling out Georgia. For example, the new law’s requirement that Georgians wishing to vote by absentee ballot submit a driver’s license number or some other form of identification is the same provision imposed by the state of Minnesota, he said.

Georgia will allow electronic drivers licenses, according to the AJC.

On Wednesday Apple announced that Georgia is among the first states to allow residents to have a secure copy of their driver’s license or state ID card on their iPhone, using the Apple Wallet app.

In a press release announcing the move, Spencer Moore, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Driver Services, called the state “a national leader when it comes to the safety and security of its driver and identity credentialing process.” He said Georgia is “committed to safety and security through our mobile driver’s licensing efforts with Apple.”

DDS spokesperson Shevondah Leslie said the department also plans to pilot a similar digital license for Android phones. The department has not announced a specific timetable for either Apple or Android licenses.

The company said the federal Transportation Security Administration will accept the electronic licenses and IDs at select airport security checkpoints. The affected airports will be announced later.

The White House COVID Response Team visited Columbus, according to WTVM.

Their visit to Columbus is a part of the Biden Administration’s week-long Community Confidence visits in cities across the South.

“In this pandemic especially with this Delta variant, you have to do everything you can to stay safe and to stay protected,” said White House Senior Policy Advisor for COVID-19 Equity Dr. Cameron Webb.

With only 35% of Muscogee County residents fully vaccinated, officials from the White House’s COVID-19 response team held a round table discussion to determine ways to increase the county’s vaccination rates. City councilors, police and congressman were all at this event learning how to help the community. During the discussion, Dr. Webb, who’s also an internal medicine doctor and lawyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, talked about how COVID-19 effects children.

Augusta-area public safety agencies are getting hit with the COVID surge, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree said there has been a spike of cases within his agency over the past two weeks. The department stopped tracking COVID-19 cases back in April, but started once again in July after positive cases began to show up again.

“Two weeks ago, we had zero cases of inmates (infected). As of today, we have 16 positive cases that happen within two weeks,” Roundtree said.

Among deputies, Roundtree said they had a positive case on July 23 and since then have had 28 positive cases. Roundtree said about 76% of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is vaccinated, but it is not a requirement within the agency.

The Burke County Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday a total lockdown of the Burke County Detention Center for a 14-day quarantine period due to an increase in positive cases among the jail population. Upon being booked into the facility, all detainees are given a rapid test for COVID-19 and individually quarantined for at least three days.

Clarke County public high schools will go online, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

All Clarke County Schools District high schools — Cedar Shoals, Clarke Central, and Classic City — will move to virtual learning next week, beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 7.

A letter was sent to parents on Wednesday evening, notifying them of the change.  Starting Tuesday, students will be moved to virtual learning for four days. Students will already not be in class Friday, Sept. 3 for a student holiday and Monday for Labor Day.

This means that all learning will take place remotely at the three high schools along with Athens Community Career Academy, as COVID-19 cases have increased among the schools.

Glynn County public schools will offer an online option for all students, according to The Brunswick News.

“Due to the COVID pandemic, we understand that some parents would like the opportunity to have their child(ren) attend school under a virtual option,” the school district posted on its website. “We are re-opening the Glynn Virtual Academy application for any student who would like to apply.”

The school district moved Monday to distance learning for all students through at least Sept. 10, due to a drastic rise in COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

High school football games are being canceled due to rising COVID numbers, according to the AJC.

Twenty-four games originally scheduled for Week 3 of the Georgia high school football season have been canceled. In most cases, their contracts were voided, meaning no forfeits. Some teams have found new opponents while others are still looking.

Game cancelations and reschedules remain on the rise as schools across Georgia continue to deal with COVID-19 concerns.

Worth County public schools are considering how to return to in-person learning, according to the Albany Herald.

The Worth County School System plans to inform parents late this week whether its 3,100 students, who have been learning at home since Monday, will return to campuses next week as planned. A shortage of educators and bus drivers led to the decision to halt in-person learning temporarily, Schools Superintendent Nehemiah Cummings said.

“We’re still shooting for returning on Tuesday,” Cummings said of the return of students in Worth County. “I don’t want to say that’s a 100 percent decision right now. Our staffing levels are looking better and should be even better by then.”

Lee County Schools moved from in-school learning for all of its students to virtual learning off-campus last week as some 839 students and staff were quarantined and 138 tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

In Colquitt County, C.A. Gray Junior High and Willie J. Williams Middle School, which each have attendance of about 1,400 students, have been on a hybrid model since Monday. About half of the students attend classes on campus each day for in-person instruction, with the others remaining at home to work on prepared lesson plans.

Long County public schools plan a conditional return to in-person instruction September 13th, according to WTOC.

The Long County School System says it plans to resume face-to-face learning effective Monday, September 13, provided the number of positive COVID-19 cases are trending downward at that time.

Parents who do not wish for their K-12 students to return to face-to-face learning on September 13 are required to complete the Long County Schools 2021-2022 K-12 Virtual Learning Application for First Semester by Thursday, September 2 at 1:00 p.m. Students who continue learning virtually after September 13 will be required to continue through the end of the semester on Friday, December 17.

In an email, Long County Assistant Superintendent said “By offering an optional virtual learning program for at least the remainder of the first semester, we will be able to reduce the number of face-to-face students in our schools and allow for increased social distancing.”

Tybee Island City Council adopted an ordinance decriminalizing the possession of marijuana, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Tybee council’s 4-2 vote during the Aug. 26 meeting reduced marijuana possession of an ounce or less from a criminal offense to a civil one. The law also calls on authorities to explore expunging past marijuana misdemeanors from offenders’ records.

“I strongly believe that governments are best positioned to address large amounts of old criminal records that shouldn’t be relevant anymore,” said Council Member Nancy DeVetter, who brought the proposal to council.

The City of Savannah and Chatham County made similar moves within the past three years, but, as the Savannah Morning News previously reported, there are some key differences in Tybee’s ordinance that make it more progressive, namely expungements and the dropping of officer discretion.

Tybee’s law would automatically classify the minor possession as a $150 citation if not charged with another violation. But officers would further have the option to choose to ticket or not.

“I can’t speak highly enough about reducing penalties for marijuana,” said Council Member Monty Parks, “One of the key parts about this ordinance is that we are not just reducing the fine, we are reducing it from a misdemeanor to a civil penalty. This is very unique, this is very powerful and this is a strong message to Atlanta that we’re ready and we’re responsible adults.”

The expungement portion of the ordinance, also known as record restriction, will be more fully outlined six months from when the ordinance goes into effect. DeVetter said they hope to have information such as how far back Tybee will extend the expungements and how long that process will take available by that time, though it could take longer.

Savannah will resume water cutoffs for non-payment and publicizing assistance programs for those who owe, according to the Savannah Morning News.

In July, the city’s utility services department began contacting customers with unpaid balances to notify them collections would resume in September. Customers have 30 days to pay their bill without penalty. Late fees apply after that date.

Customers are encouraged to apply for assistance or payment arrangement as soon as possible by contacting the utility services department at 912-651-6460 Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:15 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Athens employers are experiencing a staffing shortage in hospitality jobs, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The most acute labor shortage in Athens has been in the leisure and hospitality industry, where restaurants and bars continue to be in need of workers. At locally-owned burrito chain Barberitos, which opened its eighth Athens eatery in June, the staff struggles to support the demand for their food.

“Business is great, but we’re still suffering,” said founder and CEO Downing Barber. “We’ve got people working double shifts and pulling down 60 hours a week just to make it work. At the Prince Ave. location, I almost had to go in there and start rolling burritos.”

Barber spoke about the effect that the labor shortage has had on the mental health of employers and staff who managed to survive the closures and loss of revenue that happened in 2020. Barber said that giving employees adequate time off has been key to retaining staff.

Barber did note that students who are afraid of falling ill with COVID-19 are less willing to seek employment at places like Barberitos where they do come in contact with customers, but he believes the increase in vaccinations that allowed businesses to open back up will also give people more confidence to come back to work.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (R) joined his colleagues from 19 other states in a lawsuit alleging federal government overreach, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Tennessee, accuses the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and U.S. Department of Education of issuing guidance in June that improperly expanded the scope of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.

“The administration is willfully circumventing the authority of Congress and ignoring the rule of law with this regulatory overreach,” Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said Tuesday. “There is an established process to change antidiscrimination law, and federal agencies lack the authority to change the law in this way.”

The Supreme Court decision prohibited employers from firing workers because of their gender identity or sexuality. The ruling had nothing to do with whether employers or schools could maintain sex-separated bathrooms and locker rooms or whether students born male could compete on girls’ sports teams, the plaintiffs claimed.

The states’ federal lawsuit asks the court to declare the agencies’ guidance invalid and to prohibit its enforcement.

Cornelia City Council member Wes Dodd has died, according to AccessWDUN.

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