Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 11, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 11, 2021

Casimir Pulaski, a Polish aristocrat who fought with the colonists in the American Revolution, died in Savannah on October 11, 1779.

Former Georgia Governor and President of the United States Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 11, 2002.

Bobby Cox managed his last game in Game Four of the NLDS on October 11, 2010.

President Biden signed a proclamation recognizing October 11 as “General Pulaski Memorial Day,” according to WTOC.

The proclamation was made in honor of Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski, a Polish American hero of the American Revolution.

General Casimir Pulaski is celebrated across the nation in schools, landmarks, and parks such as the Fort Pulaski National Monument. It was established as a national monument in October of 1924.

In the proclamation released by the White House, saying the day is to celebrate his life and the “values shared by the United States and Poland, which underpin the enduring bond of friendship between our countries.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early Voting begins Tuesday in much of Georgia. From WSAV:

Due to Senate Bill 202, voters should expect several changes in Chatham County when it comes to in-person voting and mail-in ballots.

New guidelines for absentee voting include having to physically request a ballot through your local board of registrars, their website, or on the state elections website.

Absentee ballots will be verified through ID or the last four digits of your social security.

There are three drop off box locations for Chatham County. They are inside early voting locations. The deadline to submit absentee ballots is October 22.

Officials encourage in-person voters to wear masks and remain socially distanced.

Early voting lasts three weeks and ends on October 29.

From the Gainesville Times:

The earliest residents could request a mail-in ballot was Aug.16. Previously, Georgians could request an absentee ballot 180 days before an election.

Under the new law, to request and return an absentee ballot, voters are required to submit either a driver’s license number, a state ID number or a photocopy of an acceptable form of voter ID. That method of verification replaces the signature match system.

All that must be done by Oct. 22, including mail with that day’s postmark. Under previous law, the last day was the Friday before election day, so the application process for this election ends a week earlier.

From the Rome News-Tribune:

Voters in Cave Spring and the city of Rome start casting their ballots Tuesday for the Nov. 2 elections that will decide local government and school board representatives.

Early in-person voting runs through Oct. 29.

Three of the nine Rome City Commission seats are on the ballot and six candidates are vying for a spot.

Two incumbents, Jamie Doss and Randy Quick, are running for reelection. Elaina Beeman Victor Hixon, Tyrone Holland and LuGina Brown also are seeking a seat. Voters can mark up to three of them on the ballot.

In Cave Spring, three of the five City Council seats are on the ballot as separate races and each incumbent has a challenger.

Cave Spring City Clerk Judy Dickinson is elections supervisor for her city. Early voting is open during the week from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at City Hall, 10 Georgia Ave. Saturday voting will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 16 and 23.

Rome elections are conducted through a contract with the Floyd County Elections Department, 12 E. Fourth Ave. It will be open for early voting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week; from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16 and 23; and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 24.

A second early voting location, at the Rome Civic Center on Jackson Hill, opens Oct. 18. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — including the weekend — through Oct. 29.

Rome voters by mail must ensure their ballots are returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Those who prefer to hand-carry them can put them in the drop box in the county elections office during business hours. A new state law allows just one drop box per county, inside a monitored location.

From the AJC:

But a body of research on voting rules such as those in Georgia doesn’t support the narrative that turnout will decline significantly because of the law.

Studies in Georgia and across the nation indicate that almost all voters who want to vote will find a way to cast their ballots despite tougher ID requirements, limits on ballot drop boxes and a shorter early voting period before runoffs.

While Georgia’s law reduces the ease of voting in several ways, particularly for those using absentee ballots, that doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of people will be prevented from casting ballots in upcoming elections, such as this fall’s race for Atlanta mayor or next year’s statewide vote.

Academic research shows that voter ID laws have little to no effect on turnout. One nationwide study found that expansions of absentee voting in some states in last year’s election didn’t alter turnout. A federal government report that summarized elections research said the evidence is mixed on whether early voting or no-excuse absentee voting made a difference in turnout.

The impact of requiring absentee voters to provide additional proof of their identities is likely “pretty close to zero,” said Trey Hood, a University of Georgia political science professor who has studied voter ID laws.

Absentee voters will have to provide a driver’s license or state ID number, and those who lack those forms of ID can provide a photocopy of other ID, such as a U.S. passport, utility bill or bank statement. Until this year, election officials verified absentee voters by checking the handwriting of their signatures and confirming their voter registration information.

“People will adjust and comply with the law, and most people are already in compliance,” Hood said. “I used to have to sign my ballot, and now I’ve got to put my driver’s license number on my ballot envelope. Well, that’s not much of a hassle.”

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners voted for a new kind of public restroom called the “Portland Loo,” according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Commissioners voted 7-3 Tuesday on a project concept for the public restroom at the College Avenue Parking Deck. Commissioners Ovita Thornton, Mike Hamby and Allison Wright voted against the plan.

The Portland Loo, according to its website, is a stand-alone, one-seat bathroom designed in conjunction with the City of Portland, Ore., and is supposed to allow for easy cleaning and be graffiti-resistant.

Part of the design also includes an exterior hand-washing station, solar lighting, a station for filling a water bottle and a baby-changing station. As part of its anti-crime measures, grating at the top and bottom of the structure allows law enforcement to see the number of people inside.

“I think this is going to be a real boon for our community. I think it’s been well-researched by staff,” said Commissioner Jesse Houle, who made the motion to approve the project concept.

The State wants to introduce bodycam footage in their case against elected Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Mark Jones, according to WTVM.

According to a motion filed in Superior Court this week, the document states a 10 minute conversation between Jones and a lead investigator in the death of Sara Holtrop was captured on bodycam. The evidence pertains to Jones allegedly trying to get the officer to upgrade a suspects charges from involuntary manslaughter to murder.

At the end of the conversation, the document goes on to state that Jones realizes he is being recorded and tells the officer he was just kidding around and joking.

And this from the Ledger-Enquirer:

Suspended district attorney Mark Jones drew the attention of police officers outside of a Broadway bar this summer when he threatened to shut the business down because a security guard wouldn’t let him in without ID, according to new court filings.

Motions filed by Deputy Attorney General John Fowler say this July 7 dispute got the interest of three uniformed police officers working part-time security in the downtown entertainment district, and that’s why they were lingering outside a Broadway bar called The Hooch when Jones approached them.

The ensuing exchange, recorded on the officers’ body cameras, led to charges that Jones tried to influence the testimony of police Cpl. Sherman Hayes in a fatal shooting that Hayes had found to be accidental.

When Hayes and other officers stopped by The Hooch while making their rounds, the guard told them Jones was in the bar, and had been allowed in even though he did not show his identification to prove he was old enough to drink alcohol.

“Jones refused to produce his ID and threatened to shut down the bar if the security guard did not let Jones inside the bar,” Fowler wrote. “The security guard did not want to argue with the district attorney, so he let Jones in the bar.”

Bryan County Sheriff’s deputies have joined the Borg Collective been equipped with bodycams, according to WTOC.

Governor Brian Kemp announced that September state revenues were up more than 30% over the year previous. From the press release:

Georgia’s September net tax collections totaled nearly $2.82 billion for an increase of $655 million, or 30.3 percent, compared to September of last year when net tax collections totaled $2.16 billion. Year-to-date and through the end of one quarter, net tax revenue collections totaled $7.10 billion, for an increase of $903.7 million, or 14.6 percent, compared to FY 2021.

The changes within the following tax categories account for September’s overall net tax revenue increase.

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for September totaled $1.42 billion, for an increase of $165.9 million, or 13.2 percent, compared to FY 2021 when net Individual Tax revenues approached $1.26 billion.

  • The following notable components within Individual Income Tax combine for the net increase:
  • Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) fell by $15 million, or decreased by 17 percent, from last year.
  • Individual Withholding payments increased by $59.4 million, or 5.8 percent, compared to September 2020.
  • Individual Income Tax Return payments increased by $30.2 million, or 88.1 percent, from last year.
  • Individual Income Tax Estimated payments were up $40.6 million, or 21.4 percent, over FY 2021.
  • All other Individual Tax categories, including Non-Resident Return payments, were up a combined $20.7 million.

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections totaled nearly $1.3 billion in September, for an increase of $198.5 million, or 18.1 percent, over last year. Net Sales and Use Tax increased by $334.6 million, or 104.8 percent, compared to FY 2021, when net Sales Tax revenue totaled just $319.2 million. FY 2021 net Sales Tax collections were lower due to a one-time audit adjustment to re-state previously incorrect Sales Tax allocations for returns captured during an extensive audit review period completed last fall.

Conversely, the monthly Sales Tax distribution to local governments was higher due to the DOR audit, with a total of $768.3 million in FY 2021, resulting in a favorable year-over-year decrease of $129.8 million, or decreased by 16.9 percent, in the current year (FY 2022) comparison to September 2020. Lastly, Sales Tax refunds decreased by $6.4 million, or decreased by 62.9 percent, compared to September FY 2021.

Corporate Income Tax: Net Corporate Income Tax collections increased by $133.5 million, or 50.4 percent, over last year when net Corporate Tax revenues totaled $264.9 million in September.
The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the net increase:

  • Corporate Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were up $12.2 million, or 95.3 percent, over last year.
  • Corporate Income Tax Estimated payments were up $130 million, or 54.6 percent, over FY 2021.
  • Corporate Income Tax Return payments increased by $12.8 million, or 54.2 percent, from last year.
  • All other Corporate Tax payments, including S-Corp payments, combined for an increase of $2.9 million.

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections for the month increased by $14.5 million, or 9.1 percent, up from a total of $159.8 million in September FY 2021.

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fee collections increased by $0.6 million, or 1.9 percent, compared to September 2020 when Motor Vehicle fees totaled $30.3 million, while Title ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections were up $9.6 million, or 16.5 percent, compared to last year’s total of $58.1 million.

Governor Kemp urged Georgia’s members of Congress and Senators to oppose part of the federal budget reconciliation that he says is unfair to Georgia, according to a press release:

Governor Brian P. Kemp today issued a letter to all members of Georgia’s congressional delegation, urging them to support Georgia jobs and protect job creators from a disastrous provision in the federal Budget Reconciliation bill that would negatively impact Georgia’s thriving automotive industry.

“As governor, I have worked alongside the General Assembly to maintain a stable and fair business environment that protects the jobs of hardworking Georgians and supports our job creators,” said Governor Kemp. “There is currently a tax credit provision in the massive reconciliation package that would significantly damage the automotive manufacturing industry in our state and endanger 55,000 Georgia jobs. I am asking members in both the U.S. House and Senate to quickly work to remove this provision from consideration or oppose the overall bill when it comes up for a final vote.”

As currently drafted, Section 136401 – Refundable New Qualified Plug-In Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit for Individuals – creates a discriminatory $4,500 supplemental tax credit only for buyers of electric vehicles (EVs) assembled by organized labor. Georgia is a state where our quality workforce combined with below-national average unionization rates are key reasons why companies in the automotive industry choose to locate and expand here. Our state employs over 55,000 auto workers, and the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) reported an increase of 43 percent in automotive job creation from fiscal year 2021. Limiting the tax credit to union-built, U.S.-assembled vehicles and applying these proposed limitations to the current EV market, puts Georgia job creators and workers in the automotive industry at a severe disadvantage.

Over the last five years alone, the state has seen more than 78 new automotive locations or expansions, representing thousands of jobs. With the transition to electrification, that number will continue to rise – unless Congress unwisely creates a barrier to job growth in our state.

I’d like to take a few minutes to look at another part of the federal budget and how it impacts an existing problem in Georgia, the child care work force. From the New York Times dated October 9, 2021:

Until their elder son started kindergarten this fall, Jessica and Matt Lolley paid almost $2,000 a month for their two boys’ care — roughly a third of their income and far more than their payments on their three-bedroom house. But one of the teachers who watched the boys earns so little — $10 an hour — that she spends half her time working at Starbucks, where the pay is 50 percent higher and includes health insurance.

The center’s director wants to raise wages, but has little room to pass along costs to parents who are already stretched. She has been trying since February to replace a teacher who quit without warning; four applicants accepted the job in turn, but none showed up.

Democrats describe the problem as a fundamental market failure — it simply costs more to provide care than many families can afford — and are pushing an unusually ambitious plan to bridge the gap with federal subsidies.

The huge social policy bill being pushed by President Biden would cap families’ child care expenses at 7 percent of their income, offer large subsidies to child care centers, and require the centers to raise wages in hopes of improving teacher quality. A version before the House would cost $250 billion over a decade and raise annual spending fivefold or more within a few years. An additional $200 billion would provide universal prekindergarten.

The Treasury Department reported last month that the average cost of care is roughly $10,000 a year per child and consumes about 13 percent of family income, nearly twice what the government considers affordable. At the same time, it noted the average teacher earns about $24,000 a year, many live in poverty, and nearly half receive some public assistance.

The coronavirus pandemic has made the problem worse. Competing employers have raised pay, and some teachers are afraid to supervise children who cannot be vaccinated or masked. Nationally, the work force has declined by about 12 percent from prepandemic levels.

Child care is expensive because it is labor intensive. Many centers spend half or more of their budget on wages, so raising pay has a major financial impact. Under the Democrats’ plan, the federal government would cover all new costs for the first three years, but states would then pay 10 percent.

How much Democrats would raise pay remains unclear. The House bill says child care workers should receive a “living wage,” which it does not define, but also says they should be paid the same as elementary educators with the same credentials, a different standard.

So, the Democratic administration wants to raise the pay for child care workers to the same level as elementary educators. This is partly to address shortages of workers for the child care industry, and partly to address the high cost for families who use child care services. Two problems with this, one of which being that now private child care services will be competing for workforce with elementary education, and area where workforce shortage can already exist.

Now this, from the Valdosta Daily Times, dated September 30, 2021:

At least two full-time vacancies and three part-time vacancies remain at the [Heritage Learning Center], she said, causing the current staff to work longer hours and office staff having to help in classrooms.

The center received a grant from the state during the pandemic, which allowed Willingham to boost pay for current employees and increase the starting pay to $9-$11 per hour based on experience. That’s still below the national child care worker pay, estimated at $12.24 in May 2020 by Bureau of Labor Statistics and a clear indication that low pay is a major contributing factor to staffing shortages.

“There’s so many places that are offering such higher pay now, and you really can’t compete without increasing child care rates significantly,” Willingham said, adding that only four employees have remained since the start of the pandemic.

“The state of Mississippi’s child care program has really tried to help us financially through CARES Act money,” said Brenda Wilson, the [Smith Learning Center] director. “The federal government has really tried to keep us afloat but of course if today day cares are not here, people can’t work. That’s the only reason I’ve been able to keep my doors open with less children and the same staff is because of the assistance we’ve been given federally.”

Whitfield County-Dalton Day Care in Dalton, Georgia, receives federal and state funding, in addition to funding from United Way. Director Julia Clayton said funding is what has kept her facility operational.

“That’s kinda the key right now,” she said. “If you’re going to be in child care, you better have multiple sources of funding or you’re not going to make it.”

Because of federal funds, and more, the center can pay its workers well above the national average, between $15-$16 an hour.

“Our salaries as a whole is a good bit more than what you would find in the private sectors and I think because of that, we’re OK right now,” Clayton said, noting the longevity of its employees. “The stability of staff is so critical to program quality. We’re glad we’re holding on to them.”

So in this case, we see a Georgia day care center receiving federal and state funding that is able to pay better than private services because of public funding. So public funding is pushing pay higher already. Next, from Martha Dalton at WABE, dated July 29, 2021:

Georgia childcare centers are struggling to hire and keep staff members. Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) has distributed $165 million in stabilization grants to childcare providers, which has helped many of them stay open. However, low wages are keeping many workers away.

“It really has devastated us,” she says. “You can go down to Cheeseburger Bobby’s or Target and make $14, $15 an hour, and you have to be highly educated and have years of experience to reach that pay level in childcare.”

Childcare employees need to have early childhood credentials just to make the average pay in most centers of $9-10/hour. Historically, Foster says it’s been hard to keep teachers who could make a lot more teaching Kindergarten in public schools.

“We have to have all the same skills [as public school teachers],” Foster says. “We have to be able to write lesson plans and execute them. We have to understand brain development. The majority of that occurs from birth to three [years old]. So we’re the ones setting the foundation for this child’s lifelong learning.”

Unlike public schools, which are funded by taxes, most childcare providers rely on parent tuition. So, Foster says if they want to pay teachers more, that cost is usually passed on to parents.

The state requires early childhood classes to be smaller than those in K-12 schools. For example, the state’s student/teacher ratio for an infant and toddler class is 6:1.

Meanwhile, Georgia has seen a decline in the child care work force, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune on September 7, 2021:

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center’s updated National and State Child Care Data report, there were 14,350 child care workers in Georgia in 2020. That number represents a 17% decline in the number of child care workers from 2019 and a 25% decline since 2016.

Many women are leaving the labor force at this time, according to the Wall Street Journal on October 9, 2021.

Many workers, especially women, exited the labor force last month, leading to a smaller pool of labor and driving the unemployment rate lower.

Many people are avoiding the workforce for fear of catching the coronavirus, according to an August survey by the job-search website Indeed. Other factors include parents not wanting to take jobs outside their home at a time when Covid outbreaks have pushed some classes into quarantine and led to temporary school closures, and daycare centers have limited staff. For others, the pandemic caused some to re-evaluate the choice between working and staying out of the workforce to care for family members.

The slowing growth in the job market is especially apparent among women, whose labor-force participation shrank among both the older and younger.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas estimates that 2.6 million Americans have retired during the pandemic.

Not only are women driving this decline, but they are more likely to be so-called marginally attached workers—those who aren’t in the labor force but want to work, are available for work and had looked for a job some time in the prior year.

While more men fall into this group overall, more women want a job, but they aren’t searching for one because of personal reasons, such as having school and family commitments, health issues or a lack transportation.

And, as we mentioned recently, the need to care for elderly family members is also causing some to leave the workforce. From GPB News on October 4, 2021:

To better understand caregivers’ experiences over the last two years, the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers conducted a national survey, which was released Sept. 28.

The report, Working While Caring: A National Survey of Caregiver Stress in the US Workforce, found that, over the course of care, 44% of family caregivers employed full time said they had to go part time.

A fifth of working caregivers in Georgia said they had to quit their jobs entirely.

Olsen said 80% of caregivers experienced increased burden and stress due to the pandemic. Their No. 1 challenge was emotional distress from trying to balance caregiver and employee roles, without much support from employers.

The survey shows younger caregivers of color and those with lower levels of education and income are less likely to have flexibility with employers.

“Specifically, only about 40% of employers are offering mental health coverage to their employees,” Olsen said. “And so I think there’s a disconnect when we say we know the caregivers are struggling — employers are aware that this is a population — but the action and making change, that’s what needs to happen now.”

Before the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted the number of people over age 65 would double by 2030, and the Alzheimer’s Association projected the disease would increase by nearly 27% in Georgia by 2025.

In Savannah, cargo is piling up both onshore and offshore, reaching a crisis level according to the New York Times:

Like toy blocks hurled from the heavens, nearly 80,000 shipping containers are stacked in various configurations at the Port of Savannah — 50 percent more than usual.

The steel boxes are waiting for ships to carry them to their final destination, or for trucks to haul them to warehouses that are themselves stuffed to the rafters. Some 700 containers have been left at the port, on the banks of the Savannah River, by their owners for a month or more.

“They’re not coming to get their freight,” complained Griff Lynch, the executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority. “We’ve never had the yard as full as this.”

It has come to this in the Great Supply Chain Disruption: They are running out of places to put things at one of the largest ports in the United States. As major ports contend with a staggering pileup of cargo, what once seemed like a temporary phenomenon — a traffic jam that would eventually dissipate — is increasingly viewed as a new reality that could require a substantial refashioning of the world’s shipping infrastructure.

As the Savannah port works through the backlog, Mr. Lynch has reluctantly forced ships to wait at sea for more than nine days. On a recent afternoon, more than 20 ships were stuck in the queue, anchored up to 17 miles off the coast in the Atlantic.

But the situation at the port of Savannah attests to a more complicated and insidious series of overlapping problems. It is not merely that goods are scarce. It is that products are stuck in the wrong places, and separated from where they are supposed to be by stubborn and constantly shifting barriers.

Georgia state legislators are preparing to roll the dice again on legalized gambling. From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Macon Telegraph:

Bills that could lead to casinos, pari-mutuel betting on horse racing and/or sports betting in the Peach State will be on the table when the 2022 legislative session convenes in January for the second year of a two-year term.

Proposals to legalize gambling in Georgia in some form have come up virtually every year for the last decade, with most of the bills dedicating part of the proceeds to the hugely popular HOPE Scholarships and pre-kindergarten programs. But after years of failing to gain traction, the effort gained momentum during the 2021 session.

The state Senate passed a constitutional amendment last March calling for a statewide referendum to legalize sports betting. While Senate Resolution 135 failed to reach the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives, it marked the first time a gambling bill had made it through either legislative chamber.

A coalition of Atlanta’s pro sports teams – including the Braves, Falcons, Hawks and Atlanta United – is backing the idea. They want to use sports betting to gin up fan engagement, said Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, another supporter of legalized gambling. “They want folks sitting in stadiums betting on their phones,” he said.

But Powell is not a fan of legalizing sports betting in isolation. App-based betting on sports wouldn’t raise nearly the revenue the state could bring in from bricks-and-mortar casinos, he said. “There are no jobs created,” Powell said. “There’s a right way and a wrong way to do this.”

Muscogee County public schools have seen a 55% decrease in COVID cases, according to WTVM.

United States Senate candidate Herschell Walker (R) is breaking away from the pack in fundraising. Or some other appropriate sportsball metaphor. From the AJC:

Republican Herschel Walker has raised $3.7 million since launching his campaign for U.S. Senate about five weeks ago, as GOP donors came off the sidelines to support the former Georgia football star.

Walker’s campaign said Monday that it amassed the contributions from nearly 50,000 donors in all 50 states after he entered the race against Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock on Aug. 24.

It’s the biggest fundraising report yet this election cycle for the Republicans racing to unseat Warnock, who won a January runoff to fill out the remaining two years on retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term.

United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) discussed solar power in Savannah, according to WTOC.

The head of the U.S. Department of Energy, along with Senator Jon Ossoff and Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, participated in a round table discussion to talk about the benefits of and need to embrace solar energy.

That included not only utilizing renewable, clean energy sources more, but also creating manufacturing opportunities to produce the panels and solar systems.

During the round table, Senator Ossoff said the pursuit of more solar energy is about ending pollution, investing in American manufacturing jobs and about energy independence.

Senator Ossoff is also pushing to pass the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Act, which his office says will boost solar production in the U.S., create jobs and help meet the Biden administration’s goal of having solar energy account for 40-percent of the nation’s energy by 2035.

The Cobb County Board of Elections is reconsidering a change that put a voting precinct in a police academy, according to the AJC.

Cobb County elections officials will meet Monday afternoon to reconsider a plan to shift the polling location for a majority-Black voting precinct.

More than 5,200 registered voters are assigned to the Austell precinct. The site is currently at Cooper Middle School, but the elections board on July 19 voted to move it to the Cobb County Police Academy beginning next year.

The panel reopened the discussion after board members received letters, phone calls and emails criticizing their summer decision. During a Sept. 13 meeting, board members decided to hold a public hearing on the matter. Two of the three board members who voted to move the Austell polling site in July seemed poised to change their vote at the September meeting.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has been publicly critical of the move and sent the elections board a Sept. 13 letter demanding members move the voting location back to Cooper Middle School.

The Gainesville Times profiles candidates for Mayor of Gainesville, and Gainesville City Council Post 1.

Bulloch County‘s elections office received an award for their performance in 2020, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The Georgia Association of Voter Registration and Elections Officials presented the Bulloch County Office with the Phoenix Award during their annual conference earlier this year.

The Phoenix Award is given to one county per region annually that provided exemplary performance during the 2020 elections. The nominations for the award are given by peers across the state in elections and registration offices.

“The 2020 Election was a challenge for all elections offices, so Bulloch County is proud to accept this award for its dedicated employees and poll workers who persevered to hold a successful election,” says County Commission Chairman Roy Thompson.

“Just before the election, then Elections Supervisor Pat Lanier Jones suffered a tragic loss in her family, so she was out of the office several of the days leading up to the election,” said Hadley Campbell, chair of the Bulloch County Board of Elections. “Her team rallied together to help cover her responsibilities in addition to their own and, in my opinion, did an outstanding job. Pat has since retired from the elections position but remains an integral part of the Bulloch County family.”

White County named Akyn Bailey as their new Elections Supervisor, according to AccessWDUN.

White County was recognized as a Broadband Ready Community by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, according to AccessWDUN.

The Valdosta Daily Times printed Q&As with candidates for the Valdosta Board of Education.

Dalton State College will receive a $4.5 million dollar federal grant to increase STEM opportunities for students, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Dalton State was awarded the Title III STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) grant from the Department of Education due to its status as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a federal designation given to colleges where at least 25% of the student population is Hispanic. Dalton State is currently at 34%.

“As Georgia’s first and only Hispanic-Serving Institution, we are in a unique position to bring together diverse ideas to improve our society and economy while also enriching human interaction and learning on campus,” said Margaret Venable, president of Dalton State. “We know different perspectives lead to more innovation and sustainable solutions for our most challenging problems. Everyone benefits when we can engage with each other. This grant will provide us with more resources that will directly impact our students.”

Resources and services will be expanded to help all students, especially those who are part of underserved populations, such as low-income students, Hispanic students and first-generation students.

The grant will also fund a new position responsible for working directly with students in need to make sure they have access to the resources they need to succeed. That person will be responsible for connecting students with healthcare providers, state or federal benefits, food pantries, alternative housing, tutoring, counseling or disability access.

“Students cannot focus on classes if they are worried about where their next meal is coming from or healthcare,” Johnson said. “This position allows us to better connect our students with resources that could make the difference in finishing their degree.”

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