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

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

On September 21, 1780, General Benedict Arnold met with British Major John Andre and began plotting to surrender West Point to the British.

On September 21, 1863, the federal Army of the Cumberland retreated to Chattanooga after its defeat at Chickamauga.

Bert Lance resigned as Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Jimmy Carter on September 21, 1977. After a jury acquitted him on ten federal charges in 1980, Lance served as Chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia from 1982 to 1985.

General Colin Powell was confirmed by the Senate Armed Services Committee as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on September 21. 1989. Powell served as National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan before being appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by President George H.W. Bush; in 2000, Powell was nominated by President George W. Bush as Secretary of State, the first African-American to hold that post.

On September 21, 2011, R.E.M. announced on their website that they were quitting as a band.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order #09.20.21.01, renewing the State of Emergency for contined economic recovery from the COVID pandemic, and Executive Order #09.20.21.02, continuing regulatory suspensions made for continued economic recovery.

Yesterday, I wrote that when Governor Kemp misspoke about an “AIDS vaccine,” it was clear to me he meant a vaccine for “HPV,” the human papillomavirus, but I didn’t explain that. We’ll go back to 2007 for that.

In the 2007 Session of the Georgia General Assembly, State Senator Don Balfour (R-Liburn) introduced Senate Bill 155, which would have required an HPV vaccine for female students entering the sixth grade. Spirited debate ensued. From the Augusta Chronicle dated February 15, 2007:

Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, introduced a bill Wednesday calling for the vaccination, adding Georgia to a growing list of states taking up the controversial issue of mandatory HPV shots.

Senate Bill 155 would add the vaccine to other childhood immunizations against measles and mumps, but the newly approved shot would cost more than all the other required ones combined.

Similar measures in other states this year have met criticism from parents wary about unknown side effects and from conservative groups arguing that the vaccine would encourage young girls to become sexually active.

In Georgia, 120 women die of cervical cancer each year, a statistic prompting support from both political parties for Mr. Balfour’s legislation.

“We’ve had a breakthrough on addressing cervical cancer and vaccines that protect young women,” said Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta. “I think Sen. Balfour’s bill merits a close look, and I’m supportive.”

Earlier this month, Texas Gov. Rick Perry bypassed the Legislature and issued an executive order requiring the HPV vaccine for schoolgirls, but 32 lawmakers have asked him to rescind it.

Roughly 30 bills dealing with the vaccine are being debated in other states.

From the Associated Press dated March 1, 2007:

A new national estimate released on Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in four U.S. women ages 14 to 59 is infected with the sexually transmitted virus that in some forms can cause cervical cancer. The U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that girls between ages 11 and 12 should be vaccinated.

“I think it’s a great thing for the health of women in the state of Georgia,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Don Balfour of Snellville. “It’s good for your daughters.”

But the issue is controversial in large part because the HPV virus is transmitted through sexual contact. Religious conservatives lined up to speak against the bill at a hearing Tuesday arguing the decision to require the vaccine for 11-year-old girls should be made by their parents – not the state.

Carolyn Garcia of the Georgia chapter of Americans United for Life said the bill might encourage promiscuity.
“It comes from behavior,” Garcia said of the virus. “It’s a moral issue.”

Sadie Fields, director of the Georgia Christian Alliance, said state lawmakers were “rushing to judgment” on a vaccine before the full picture was known on potential risks and side effects.

“We believe this decision should be made between parents and their doctors,” Fields said.

Balfour allowed that this is the first time state lawmakers have stepped in to mandate a vaccine. The state Department of Human Resources typically uses regulations to do so. But Balfour said the department showed no signs it was moving forward.

The bill passed 8-3 and now goes to the full Senate.

After the bill passed out of committee, it never made it to the floor of the Senate for a vote on final passage. Given that the sponsor was then Chairman of the Rules Committee, I suspect the decision to kill the bill was made at a higher level.

Some of the arguments about parental choice and against mandates in healthcare were very similar to the arguments about mask and vaccine mandates today.

Governor Kemp served in the State Senate from 2003 to 2007 and again from 2008 until he was appointed Secretary of State by Governor Perdue. While he was not in the Senate during the 2007 session, he was very much politically active and in the beginning part of his career in Georgia government. So this was a very hot issue during his formative period in politics. Clearly it made an impression on him. And that’s why when I read he referred to an “AIDS vaccine,” I immediately understood he misspoke and said AIDS, which is caused by the HIV virus, when he meant to say “HPV vaccine”. But unless you were obsessively involved in Georgia politics in 2007, you wouldn’t necessarily understand this context.

Salon writes of the current kerfluffle:

When reached for comment by the station, Kemp’s office said he meant to mention the human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine. But even this statement raises eyebrows — the HPV vaccine is also mandated in a number of states to attend public schools (among other inoculations), a campaign that has been largely effective in getting school-age children vaccinated, 11 Alive reported.

That’s why history and context are so important to understanding what happens in Georgia politics or anywhere else. If you went through the 2007 Session, you probably understood exactly what Gov. Kemp meant when he misspoke. And why Georgia is all the poorer for the loss of political journalists like Jim Galloway. Greg Bluestein is an excellent reporter (I pre-ordered his book on the 2020 and 2021 elections – maybe it will be the first GaPundit book club selection), but Greg didn’t join the AJC until 2012, and before that was not on a political beat, so he wouldn’t have been at the Capitol frequently during 2007.

Republican Georgia State Senator Burt Jones will campaign for Lieutenant Governor with Donald Trump, Jr. tomorrow, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Donald Trump Jr. and state Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, a candidate for lieutenant governor, will campaign at the Strand Theatre this week.

Advertised as “an event about the state of America,” the two will share the stage at the Strand starting at 6 p.m., Wednesday.

Jones, one of several Republicans vying for the lieutenant governor’s seat in 2022, received the endorsement of former President Donald Trump earlier this month. Incumbent Geoff Duncan is not seeking reelection.

Interested parties should visit https://events.donjr.com/events/donald-trump-jr-event-in-marietta-ga to learn more.

Senator Jones will also join former President Donald Trump on stage at the Trump rally this weekend, according to the AJC.

[Herschel] Walker, who announced his campaign last month with Trump’s blessing, is set to address the crowd.

So are state Sen. Burt Jones, a candidate for lieutenant governor who earned Trump’s endorsement, and Rep. Jody Hice, his pick for secretary of state. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the far-right first-term Republican who Trump labeled a “rising star,” will also speak. Not on the list of scheduled speakers: Either of Gov. Brian Kemp’s longshot challengers. Nor, of course, the governor himself.

We wouldn’t be surprised if the entire pro-Trump ticket lines up for a photo on stage with the former president.

Governor Brian Kemp joined 25 other Republican Governors in urging President Joe Biden to meet with them to discuss the Southern Border, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a letter on Monday with 25 other Republican governors requesting a meeting with President Joe Biden in the next 15 days to discuss the southern border crisis.

The GOP letter to Biden was spearheaded by Govs. Doug Ducey of Arizona and Greg Abbott of Texas.

“As chief executives of our states, we request a meeting with you at The White House to bring an end to the national security crisis created by eight months of unenforced borders,” it said.

“The negative impacts of an unenforced border policy on the American people can no longer be ignored. Border apprehensions are up almost 500% compared to last year, totaling more than 1.3 million—more people than the populations of nine U.S. states,” they wrote.

“We must end the current crisis and return to border operations that respect the laws of our land and the lives of all people, including those in our states looking to the federal government to enforce and protect our nation’s borders,” it said, concluding “due to the emergent crisis, we respectfully request a meeting as soon as your schedule allows within 15 days.”

Georgia has a large revenue surplus, according to the AJC.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in July that state tax collections for fiscal 2021, which ended June 30, were up a record $3.2 billion.

The state saw revenue grow 13.5% in 2021 over 2020.

A new state report shows that the surplus for the year was even bigger — about $3.7 billon — once state agencies returned leftover money. The report says the state was able to increase its rainy day reserve from $2.7 billon to almost $4.3 billion — enough to run the state government for two months.

That left nearly $2.2 billon in surplus money that didn’t, by law, have to go into the reserve.

“Thanks to the conservative leadership and fiscal responsibility of the governor and the General Assembly, Georgia is on strong financial footing,” Kemp press secretary Katie Byrd said. “By budgeting wisely — despite an unpredictable global pandemic — the state was able to fund its priorities of education, public safety and health care, and avoid draconian cuts or significant reductions in essential services.”

“Looking ahead to the next legislative session, the governor looks forward to working with both the House and Senate on a number of their priorities — in addition to the governor’s previous commitments from the campaign trail to raise educator pay, exempt military and first responder retirement pay from state income tax, and make it more affordable for Georgia families to send their kids to college.”

Kemp will receive pressure from his fellow Republicans to use the money to cut taxes on Georgians. Kemp has also promised teachers a pay raise that will cost about $350 million a year.

However, because the surplus is a one-time windfall, some state officials are reluctant to back any ideas that have annual, year-after-year costs attached to them.

Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Mark Jones (D) beat The Man. Or he is The Man. Or something. Anyway, criminal charges related to the filming of a campaign commercial were dismissed, according to WTVM.

“I no longer believe it is in the interest of justice to move forward with this matter,” said special appointed Prosecutor Brian Patterson.

More from WTVM:

During a brief virtual hearing presided by Judge Jeffrey Monroe from his Macon office, with lawyers from both side in attendance, Attorney Brian Patterson gave the state’s position on the case.

Patterson said after talking with jurors whom expressed their frustrations with the case, he plans to filed a detailed motion called, Nolle Prosequi, a Latin term that means, “not to wish to prosecute”  to the court by Friday.

As the hearing proceeded Patterson did not absolve Jones of guilt, but did confirm that the jurors’ dissatisfaction did influence the decision.

“My review revealed that there is direct and circumstantial evidence that tends to point to the guilt Mr. Jones and Mr. Whittington,” said Patterson.

Patterson added the state no longer believes it is in their interest to move forward with the case.  This does not mean the case is over, however. Judge Monroe still has the final decision on whether or not to retry the case. He said he will make that decision after the state’s motion is filed before the court.

From the Ledger-Enquirer:

Patterson said he still believes that “direct and circumstantial evidence” indicates Jones and Whittington are guilty of the charges of interfering with government property and first-degree criminal damage to property, but the sentiments of the jurors in the case weigh against further prosecution.

“They were concerned about how politics have come to bear on this case, that this is a felony prosecution, that it appears that some other individuals similarly situated have not been prosecuted in a similar manner for this kind of conduct, and that Muscogee County has other pressing criminal justice matters and concerns,” Patterson told the court during the online hearing.

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia announced his office will look into the death of Julian Lewis, who was shot by a Georgia State Trooper, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Lewis died from a single shot from on Aug. 7, 2020 on Stoney Pond Road, a country dirt roadway in Screven County. [State Patrol Trooper] Thompson began pursing Lewis due to a non functioning tail light, stopped Lewis’s car with a PIT maneuver, forcing the vehicle into a ditch. Thompson said he feared for his life when Lewis revved his Nissan engine and wrenched the steering wheel. Lewis was Black and Thompson is white.

Thompson was dismissed from the Georgia State Patrol after being charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. A Screven County Grand Jury failed to indict Thompson on June 28.

Dougherty County vaccinated more than 500 local residents in a drive that provided $100 gift cards to recipients, according to the Albany Herald.

A Saturday COVID-19 vaccination clinic that included $100 gift cards to entice reluctant or procrastinating Dougherty County residents to roll up their sleeves brought out 538 people to get shots.

Of those, 493 received a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 45 got second shots of the two-dose product, Sam Allen, director of Dougherty County Emergency Medical Services, said Monday.

Numbers were not available on Monday for how many of those vaccinated were eligible to receive a $100 Visa gift card. The incentive was only available to Dougherty County residents 18 and older, although vaccines were available to children 12 and older and to residents of other counties.

The Dougherty County Commission approved last week spending up to $338,000 in federal COVID relief funds on the $100 incentives.

The county, working with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Albany Area Primary Health Care and Georgia Department of Public Health, will hold another clinic in about a month. Gift cards also will be awarded during that event.

“It was great,” Dougherty Commissioner Russell Gray said of the clinic. “I’m really impressed with the turnout. It could have gone either way. I don’t think it was a flop by any stretch of the imagination.”

Atlanta voters will decide in November whether to make permanent a temporary property tax homestead exemption against school taxes for some homeowners, according to the AJC.

If approved, eligible property owners would continue to receive a homestead exemption from school taxes in the amount of $50,000 of their home’s assessed value, while requiring them to pay taxes on at least $10,000 of the assessed value.

The tax break was initially given to homeowners a few years ago to provide temporary relief as rising Fulton County property values pushed tax bills higher.

Republican former State Representative Jeff Jones will run for State Senate against fellow Republican Sheila McNeill, according to The Brunswick News.

Jeff Jones said he will be a candidate in 2022 for the Senate 3 seat now held by Republican Sheila McNeill. Jones served three two-year terms in the House District 167 post before losing the seat to Buddy DeLoach, R-Townsend, in the 2020 Republican primary.

McNeill indicated in August she will run for another two-year term.

The Senate 3rd District post takes in Glynn, Camden, McIntosh, Brantley and Charlton counties.

In a press release emailed to The News on Monday, Jones said managing the state’s multi-billion dollar budget is important, but it’s not the only challenge facing Georgia.

He said he would push to replace the Dominion voting system with a secure paper ballot system, including a true “voter-verifiable paper trail (VVPT),” ideally in time for next year’s elections.

“A fundamental problem with Dominion is that the VVPT voting record is in machine-readable barcode, not human-readable form,” he said.

Jones would like to strengthen penalties for individuals who violate voting integrity laws and voter trust.

“I also want to, once and for all, ban Critical Race Theory from our public schools by law, not just by an executive order,” he said. “If there is one thing we’ve learned under the Biden Administration (it’s) the importance of enacting laws, not simply issuing executive orders.

“Our future generations deserve an honest look at the history of our country, not the distorted lies of Critical Race Theory. Gov. Kemp banned Critical Race Theory by an executive order, and I applaud him for that. But if Stacey Abrams has her way and becomes governor, she’ll do away with the executive order and push Critical Race Theory in our schools.”

Primary elections in Georgia are set for May 24, 2022. The general election will be held roughly six months later on Nov. 8.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger‘s staff is writing a book to be published on election day, according to the AJC.

“Integrity Counts” will be published by Simon & Schuster and hit bookstores Nov. 2.

Simon & Schuster describes the book as, “Raffensperger’s inspiring story of commitment to the integrity of American democracy,” and says he’ll speak out in the book, “against the former president’s false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.”

But it the Secretary of State won’t be limiting his criticisms to just Trump and Republicans. He’ll also take Stacey Abrams and Democrats to task for refusing to concede the governor’s race in 2018.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will host a webinar for small businesses, according to the Albany Herald.

The webinar will offer an opportunity for [Disadvantaged Business Enterprises], small business owners and veteran-owned small businesses to gain insight into the agency’s procedures and goals and to establish themselves as qualified contractors with the state. They will learn about available free supportive services and become acquainted with the Georgia DOT personnel and supportive service staff.

Chatham County District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones (D) announced the formation of a Cold Case Unit, according to WTOC.

The new Cold Case Unit will be led by Chatham County District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones, and veteran prosecutor and Court Operations Chief Jennifer Parker. Parker says while prosecutors have investigated cold cases and taken them to trial in the past, this is the first dedicated Cold Case Unit in the history of the office.

“Just in the last few years I have been involved in the prosecution of a 14-year old homicide, and a 40-year old homicide. And so, I don’t think with those cases you can ever give up hope. There is always hope. There’s always hope that someone will come forward with information that they wouldn’t share before. But after enough time has passed, circumstances change, they’ll be willing to talk,” said Parker.

Whitfield County Commissioners voted to hire Robert Sivick as the new County Administrator, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

“We’ve got some big agreements coming up that we have to renegotiate,” said Commissioner Greg Jones. “We’ve got the LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) and service delivery agreements coming up, and he’s got experience in those kinds of negotiations.”

The LOST is a 1% tax on most goods sold in the county. Every 10 years, following the U.S. census, the county and the cities within it must reach an agreement on how they will split the revenues from the LOST.

The service delivery agreements outline which services each government will provide and how they will be funded. They, too, must be renegotiated every 10 years.

Negotiations will start next year.

Warner Robins City Council voted to raise property taxes for some residents but will vote again later to try to get it right unanimity, according to 13WMAZ.

They took a vote on whether the millage rate would remain the same, but since the vote was not unanimous, it’s been moved to a second reading.

Council’s special called meeting is on the September 27 at 5 p.m. If council approves to keep the current millage rate, which is 9.98, some people will see an increase in property taxes.

In Monday’s council meeting, members voted 4 to 2, with councilmembers Derek Mack and Larry Curtis voting “no.”

Reis says he hopes council will make the best decision for the city, “The reason why I’m against raising taxes is because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. We’re also in the middle of a financial crisis. Both of those put together does not spell tax raise.”

Stella did the math and says for a fair market home of $150,000, homeowners in Houston County would see an increase from last year of about $22., and those homeowners in Peach County would see an increase of about $55.

Monday’s vote had to be unanimous for the first reading, but it wasn’t, which means they will have a second reading next week.

A new restaurant in Columbus named The Animal Farm will offer “house-butchered” meat, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Animal Farm, 105 12th St., will officially open to the public Wednesday, co-owner Hudson Terrell told the Ledger-Enquirer. The restaurant, run by Terrell and his business partner Landon Thompson, will focus on house-butchered meats and seasonal local produce.

“I just want people to have a good time,” Terrell said. “I don’t want it to be a place where you go for a nice dinner and it feels stuffy and serious. We don’t want to take ourselves serious. We want all the food to be fun. Really, I just want people to have a communal dining experience.”

“The whole premise of (Animal Farm) is we focus on local, whole-animal butchering,” Terrell said. “So, it’ll be a lot of interesting cuts.”

“It’ll have a communal, fun dining experience,” Terrell said. “You’ll see a lot of interesting cuts of meat that you won’t see anywhere else. … We’re trying to bring all the stuff that we learned from Atlanta and Athens, and bring it here. That’s the idea.”

The kitchen is “right smack in the middle” of the space, with a long window allowing diners to view the scene on the other side. It’s “basically an open kitchen,” Terrell said.

Their motto should be “All Animals are Equally Tasty. Some are more equally tasty than others.”

We’re waiting for someone to open a fraternity themed cafeteria called “The Animal House.”

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