Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 9, 2021

9
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 9, 2021

The Continental Congress renamed their new nation the United States of America, from the previously used “United Colonies” on September 9, 1776.

On September 9, 1933, WSB Radio in Atlanta was upgraded to broadcasting via 50,000 watt transmitter. The first broadcast included Will Rogers and a letter from President Roosevelt.

On September 9, 1939, an audience at the Fox Theater in Riverside, California watched a preview of Gone With the Wind.

The first actual computer bug was identified on September 9, 1947, when Grace Hopper removed a moth from an electrical relay in the Harvard Mark II computer. Hopper received her Ph.D. in Mathematics from Yale in 1934 and attained the rank of Rear Admiral, Lower Half in the United Stated Navy. USS Hopper (DDG-70) was named after her.

On September 9, 1954, Marvin Griffin won the Democratic Primary election over Melvin Thompson. Below is a photo of the monument to Gov. Griffin in Bainbridge.

Marvin Griffin Monument

Elvis Presley first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956.

Happy 79th birthday to former Congressman John Linder. Linder served in the State House from 1974-1980 and 1982-90. In 1990 he ran unsuccessfully for Congress against incumbent Democrat Ben Jones; in 1992, after redistricting, Linder was elected to Congress from the 7th District and served until his retirement after the 2010 election.

Monroe County will celebrate its bicentennial, according to 13WMAZ.

In just two weeks, Monroe County celebrates its bicentennial. It’s a celebration 200 years in the making!

“The county was formed in 1821. The county was cut up into land lots. Did you know that Monroe County, at one time, went all the way from the Ocmulgee river to the Flint river?” [Nolen] Howard said.

The bash will happen Saturday, September 25 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, September 26 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp’s office released August tax revenue numbers, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp announced that Georgia’s August net tax collections totaled nearly $2.13 billion, for an increase of $240 million, or 12.7 percent, compared to August 2020, when net tax collections totaled almost $1.89 billion. Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled $4.28 billion, for an increase of $248.7 million, or 6.2 percent, compared to FY 2021 after two months.

The changes within the following tax categories account for August’s overall net tax revenue increase:

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections during the month approached $1.11 billion, up from $970.3 million in August 2020, for an increase of roughly $134.8 million, or 13.9 percent.

The following notable components within Individual Income Tax combine for the net increase:

•  Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were down $8.3 million, or decreased 8.6 percent.
•  Individual Income Tax Withholding payments were up by $121.8 million, or increased 12.6 percent, over FY 2021.
•  Individual Income Tax Return payments were down by $12.2 million, or decreased 34 percent, from last year.

All other Individual Tax categories, including non-resident return payments, were up a combined $16.9 million.

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections increased by $180.8 million, or 15.9 percent, up from a total of nearly $1.14 billion in FY 2021. Net Sales and Use Tax, which totaled $663.1 million for the month, increased by $69.4 million, or 11.7 percent, compared to August 2020. The adjusted sales tax distribution to local governments totaled $648 million, for an increase of roughly $112.8 million, or 21.1 percent, compared to FY 2021. Lastly, Sales Tax refunds were down by $1.4 million, or decreased 15.4 percent, from last year.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections totaled $2.1 million for a decrease of $9.2 million, or down 81.3 percent, compared to August FY 2021.

The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the net decrease:

•  Corporate Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) increased by $19.1 million, or 134.7 percent, over FY 2021.
•  Corporate Income Tax Estimated payments increased by $12.4 million, or 112.1 percent, over last year.
•  All other Corporate Tax categories, including Corporate Return payments, were down a combined $2.5 million.

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections for the month increased by $19.2 million, or 12.6 percent, compared to August 2020 when Motor Fuel Tax collections totaled $152.2 million.

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fee collections in August increased by $3.6 million, or 11.7 percent, compared to last year, while Title ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections totaled nearly $69.1 million, for an increase of $8.4 million, or 13.8 percent, compared to FY 2021.

From the AJC:

The continued gains have Gov. Brian Kemp and lawmakers looking to 2022, when they are up for reelection and the state may have a record amount of money to spend.

Longtime House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, who studies Georgia’s economy closely, has been surprised by the continued strength of state revenue growth.

“Everything in modern economics you might as well throw out the window at this point because nothing is making sense,” he said.

When the books are fully closed on fiscal 2021, which ended June 30, the state is expected to have a huge surplus for the year. The state lottery, which raises money for HOPE college scholarships and pre-kindergarten programs, also had a banner fiscal year.

In addition, Kemp is expected to announce in January grants for high-speed internet, road and bridge improvements, and economic impact programs as part of a $4.8 billion federally funded COVID-19 relief plan.

Increasing the pay of Georgia’s more than 100,000 educators is politically popular and something Kemp promised to do when he initially ran for governor in 2018. Kemp said then that he wanted to raise teacher pay by $5,000, and he got $3,000 of that in his first year in office.

Then the pandemic hit and plans to raise teacher pay the additional $2,000 vanished because state officials expected a recession.

Keeping that promise will be a major priority for the governor in 2022. Doing so will cost about $360 million a year.

Governor Kemp urged Atlanta City Council to support a proposed training center for law enforcement and first responders, according to a press release.

The Atlanta City Council is in a unique position to support a new training facility for law enforcement and first responders. Increasing training and support for public safety personnel has united all sides of the political spectrum here in the Peach State in the past, and at a time when residents in our capital city are being plagued by a drastic rise in violent crime, I am encouraging the council to promptly approve this facility.

Our capital city and surrounding metropolitan area are facing a crime crisis. That’s why I have dedicated additional state resources, including the Department of Public Safety’s Crime Suppression Unit and millions of emergency dollars in state funding, to support the Atlanta Police Department. This has been a productive partnership and their joint efforts are seeing significant progress with dozens of wanted criminals taken off the streets, hundreds of stolen vehicles recovered, and thousands of arrests and citations for unlawful conduct.

The security of our families and communities hang in the balance, and we must continue to do all we can to support our public safety partners.

From Fox5Atlanta:

City leaders initially proposed building the massive training facility on 300 acres in DeKalb County, where a police firing range is already located on a piece of the property.

However, city council tabled a vote on a controversial state-of-the-art training facility on Aug. 16, stating public engagement on the matter was poorly executed.

Those in favor of the facility say that amid an uptick in crime, a shortage of officers, and a morale crisis in the police department, the facility is badly needed.

Some opponents argue the land should used for trails. Others say they would like to see the money designated for the facility’s construction used on community resources rather than more policing.

Governor Kemp responded to calls by two Congressional Democrats to dictate what hospital procedures are necessary and which are not. From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post:

U.S. Reps. David Scott, D-Atlanta, and Hank Johnson, D-Stone Mountain, urged Kemp Tuesday to order a statewide pause on elective, in-patient surgeries. They also called for Kemp to extend licensing waivers for hospitals and health-care workers who provide critical services beyond the current waivers’ Sept. 19 expiration date.

“Hospital systems are being forced to make difficult decisions about how to care for patients when there aren’t enough resources to go around,” they said. “Our state is at a critical point in its fight against the pandemic and as elected officials, we must prioritize the health and well-being of our citizens above all other considerations.”

In response, Kemp urged Scott and Johnson to “request the Federal Emergency Management Administration to set a maximum rate for contract healthcare workers” and “demand clear guidance from the CDC and the White House regarding COVID-19 booster shots and their detailed logistical plans to assist states in this enormous undertaking.”

“My top priority over the last month has been to ensure hospitals across our state have the necessary resources at their disposal to deliver care to Georgians in need,” Kemp responded. He said he has directed the state Department of Community Health to increase state-supported hospital staffing from 1,500 to 2,800 personnel, and authorized up to 2,500 Georgia National Guard troops to assist hospital systems with non-medical staffing needs.

“We urge you to take the necessary steps to ensure the availability of adequate hospital capacity to provide the best possible care for COVID-9 patients,” Johnson and Scott wrote. “Placing a temporary pause on elective procedures and extending licensing requirement waivers for hospitals and health-care workers would demonstrate Georgia’s commitment to our health care community and your continued dedication to eradicating the pandemic.”

“While well-intentioned, it is abundantly clear that you have not reached out to my office or spoken with hospital leadership across Georgia,” Kemp replied. “If you had, you would know I have repeatedly utilized executive orders to streamline licensing requirements on healthcare systems since March 2020.”

Georgia hospitals are delaying elective procedures voluntarily due to the strain of COVID on hospital resources, according to the AJC.

Grady Memorial Hospital on Wednesday resorted to canceling all “non-essential” outpatient surgeries and procedures to deal with the continuing surge of COVID-19 patients that is testing the capacity of hospitals across Georgia.

As COVID-19 cases have exploded during August, hospitals in every region of Georgia have been forced to cancel joint replacements, hernia repairs and other procedures that can be safely delayed.

Patients seriously ill with COVID-19 made up 34% of the state’s hospitalized patients as of Wednesday, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. The vast majority of the 5,935 COVID-19 patients in Georgia hospitals are unvaccinated.

The current COVID patient loads statewide now exceed the previous pandemic peak reached in January, forcing hospitals back into crisis mode as they try to handle the ongoing flood of patients when their emergency departments and intensive care units are already full.

“Our current situation is untenable,” said Dr. Jason Williams, Phoebe Putney’s Medical Director of Perioperative Services, when he announced the change last month. “By postponing elective cases, we will free up operating room resources to best serve our community in this time of desperate need.”

“When people think about electives, they think it’s something cosmetic or it’s not something you really need to do,” [Dr. Cecil] Bennett said. “But we could be talking about a person who may need a knee replacement and has been in severe pain, and they’ve been waiting for a long time for that surgery and now it’s going to be pushed back even longer. This could be a hernia repair surgery and you may think it’s not that big of a deal to delay it but you could have a situation where delaying the surgery leads to serious complications.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams extends her fiction franchise to children’s book, according to the AJC.

Stacey Abrams’ new children’s book, “Stacey’s Extraordinary Words,” will be published in late December. The cover art, a young girl with red ribbons in her pigtails competing in a spelling bee, was released on Wednesday.

According to the publisher’s blurb, the main character is chosen to compete in [a spelling] bee and has to overcome her own fears and self-doubt.

Stacey will learn that win or lose . . her words are powerful, and sometimes perseverance is the most important word of all.

Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Mark Jones (D) plans to go on leave after being indicted, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Jones told the Ledger-Enquirer that he filed a request with the courts for two weeks of emergency leave. As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, he said it has not yet been granted.

The embattled attorney who was indicted Tuesday on nine felonies alleging misconduct while in office said he filed the notice in an attempt to “postpone any court work this week.”

Jones himself is set to stand trial Sept. 13 for damage allegedly done to the Civic Center parking lot during the filming of a campaign ad last summer.

“I just don’t want to fool with that given the circumstances,” he said of appearing in court as a prosecutor. “But the hearing is still on. I’m going to have to go.”

“I just didn’t want to have to go to court considering (the Sept. 13 Civic Center trial) is next week,” Jones said. “And now the Georgia Attorney General (Chris Carr) is sending me love letters, basically, with this … indictment. … So, it’s kind of a stressful situation. I thought maybe that hearing should be continued until next month.”

Jones again denied the allegations of misconduct laid out in Tuesday’s indictment. He told the L-E that he has no plans to resign as chief prosecutor for Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Talbot and Taylor counties, and alleged the timing of felony misconduct indictment was “suspect.”

“So, basically, you say I tried to bribe my staff in March and you didn’t do anything,” Jones said of Carr. “You wait six months on a bribery charge? … I don’t like that.

“I feel like this AG guy is coming out of woodwork trying to take the people’s seat,” he added. “I took an oath, and I’m going to protect that seat as long as I can.”

DeKalb County elections director Erica Hamilton was placed on a leave of absence, according to the AJC.

DeKalb County elections director Erica Hamilton has been placed on an “extended leave of absence,” according to a joint statement issued by elections board leaders.

The statement from Dele Lowman Smith and Nancy Jester, the DeKalb elections board’s chair and vice chair, respectively, was provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution late Wednesday.

Twyla Hart, the county’s current voter registration supervisor, will step into Hamilton’s role on an acting basis, the statement said. Hart has been with the DeKalb elections department for nearly two decades and “will ensure continuity for DeKalb County voters, partners and stakeholders,” according to the statement from Lowman Smith and Jester.

In DeKalb, November’s elections include a slew of municipal races and a countywide vote on renewing the education sales tax that funds projects for local schools.

The move to sideline Hamilton comes at a crucial time, as counties across the state implement changes related to Georgia’s new elections law. Leaders in heavily Democratic counties like DeKalb are particularly on edge thanks to part of the law that allows the State Election Board to replace local election boards after conducting performance reviews.

Democratic Party of Georgia Executive Director Scott Hogan will be leaving his position, but continue consulting for the group, according to the AJC.

He’ll depart as the executive director who helmed the Democratic party during a campaign that resulted in Georgia flipping blue in a presidential race for the first time since 1992 and then Democratic sweeps in the U.S. Senate runoffs.

It was one of several personnel moves by the party. Krystal Spencer was hired as a deputy organizing director, Rebecca Galanti promoted to Communications Director and James Jelin named the Digital Director.

Stewart County public schools will resume virtual learning, according to WTVM.

The decision to return to virtual learning for three weeks was made Friday and started Tuesday.

Before students were sent home, each student was given a laptop and school officials sent out a bulletin stating the expectations over the next three weeks. Meals are also delivered to each home by 3 p.m. Accommodations are also being made for students without internet access.

While learning from home isn’t permanent, Fedd says the district is collecting surveys from parents about whether or not they would like their children to stay at home for the rest of the school year.

“If the board approves the survey, then we’re giving options to our parents — the option of face to face or virtual,” said Fedd.

While some parents may be upset about the abrupt transition to virtual learning for a little bit, school officials say they had to take the necessary precautions to protect the entire school district.

Lee County public schools added a fifth school to those learning virtually, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

South Smiths Station Elementary School has stopped in-person classes due to what a letter on its Facebook page says is a “high rate” of COVID-19 exposures.

Blended learning requires students to attend classes remotely while teachers and other staff continue to work in the building if they don’t have a current COVID-19 infection and aren’t quarantined because of close contact with an infected person.

This is the fifth out of the district’s 15 schools to close in-person classes during the first four weeks of the school year due to rising COVID data. Smiths Station High School (Aug. 25-Sept. 7), Beulah and Wacoochee elementary schools (Aug. 23-27) and West Smiths Station Elementary School (Aug. 31-Sept. 9) are the other ones.

Dalton City Council voted to provide monoclonal antibody treatment to inmates with COVID, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The Dalton City Council voted 3-0 Tuesday to approve a memorandum of understanding with Whitfield County that will give the jail access to the city’s Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment for the disease. Mayor David Pennington typically votes only if there is a tie, and one council seat is vacant.

“We plan to put this to good use, and we have great hopes that it will be well received by the inmate population,” said sheriff’s office Capt. Wesley Lynch. “The treatment itself will be voluntary, of course. We also plan on releasing educational materials to our inmates informing them of the potential benefits.”

The council members also held the first reading of an ordinance that would revise a previous ordinance requiring Georgia Power customers and North Georgia Electric Membership Corp. customers inside the city limits to pay the city government a 4% franchise fee. Under the proposed ordinance the start of the fee would now be Oct. 1.

Hall County will require employees to wear masks while indoors, according to the Gainesville Times.

Hall County is now requiring staff members wear masks in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

County administration notified staff of the change on Friday, Sept. 3, county spokeswoman Katie Crumley said, and the new guidelines went into effect Tuesday, Sept. 7. This latest requirement applies only to administrative staff, and there are some departments that may set different guidelines, Crumley said.

Mack Kitchens is running for Tybee Island City Council, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Just last summer, Mack Kitchens made headlines when he saved one of two drowning swimmers in the waters near Tybee.

His kiteboard rescue of a teenage girl made him a reluctant hero among island residents and public officials. Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Savannah) spoke of Kitchens’ bravery and selflessness at a Tybee City Council meeting, as did Tybee Mayor Shirley Sessions.

But Kitchen’s inability to save the girl’s friend, who was swept away by ocean currents and was found drowned the next day, still haunts him. That death, along with others in Tybee’s waters in the months since, has made him a fierce advocate for beach safety.

A candidate for mayor in 2019 — he finished last in a three-way race with only 96 votes — Kitchens recently qualified to run for Tybee City Council in the Nov. 2 municipal elections. Beach and public safety are the crux of his campaign platform.

His is one of six familiar faces running for the three at-large council seats. The other contenders include Planning Commission Member Elaine McGruder, former Ethics Commission Member Marie Rodriguez, previous council candidate Bryan West and incumbents Monty Parks and Michael “Spec” Hosti.

The top-three vote getters in the pool election win seats.

Baldwin County Commissioners voted for a property tax millage rate increase, according to 13WMAZ.

Baldwin County commissioners passed a property tax increase Wednesday morning after a final public hearing.

According to county manager Carlos Tobar, it passed with a vote of 3-2.

This means the bills of county residents will go up around $25 for every $100,000 their property is worth. Homeowners will see that increase later this fall.

The Alpharetta Planning Commission wants to restrict where medical cannabis products can be produced or sold in the city, according to the AJC.

The Alpharetta Planning Commission has recommended the City Council amend the city code so businesses that sell or produce “low THC oil,” or medical marijuana oil, will be a conditional use in light industrial districts.

So far, no companies have applied to open dispensaries or production facilities in Alpharetta, but the city’s staff received an inquiry about potential marijuana business locations outside light industrial areas, Community Development Director Kathi Cook told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“We want to follow approvals from the state,” Cook said. “When there’s new uses that come into the community, we have to make sure our code … keeps up with state regulations.”

The City Council is scheduled to consider the measure during its regular meeting on Sept. 27.

Cook said the recommendation is in response to the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission’s selection in July of six medical marijuana producers granted permission to sell the drug. Each licensee will be authorized to open five dispensaries.

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