Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 17, 2021


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 17, 2021

On November 17, 1732, the first English headed to colonize Georgia set off from Gravesend, England, down the Thames. Their supplies included ten tons of beer.

On November 17, 1777, Congress submitted the Articles of Confederation to the states for ratification.

Abraham Lincoln began the first draft of the Gettysburg Address on November 17, 1863.

Herman Talmadge was sworn in as Governor of Georgia on November 17, 1948, ending the “Three Governors” controversy. Click here for a review of the “Three Governors” episode by Ron Daniels.

Richard Nixon declared before a television audience, “I’m not a crook,” on November 17, 1973.

Journey and Billy Idol headline the “Fund my Retirement” tour, hitting State Farm Arena in April 2022. From the AJC:

Journey and Billy Idol have teamed up for a national tour that comes to State Farm Arena in Atlanta on April 25, 2022.

Tickets go on sale Friday, Nov. 19. Ticket prices have not yet been released.

Journey, a classic rock staple that has been touring arenas for decades, was last seen live in Atlanta at what was then called SunTrust Park in 2018 and is now Truist.

The band, which includes Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain and Randy Jackson, has relied on lead singer Arnel Pineda, who was found on YouTube and has been touring with the band since 2007. Steve Perry, who sang their primary hits, hasn’t toured with the band in 23 years.

He looks pretty good in that 2016 clip, even if he can’t hit the high note in “Eyes Without a Face.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Albany Ward 3 will host a runoff election on November 30, 2021, according to WALB.

Incumbent BJ Fletcher is running against Challenger Vilnis Gaines. In the Nov. 2 election, Fletcher garnered 397 votes and Gaines got 435 votes.

Early voting starts on Nov. 22 and lasts until Nov. 24. Early voting will be at the Candy Room at the Riverfront Resource Center, 125 Pine Avenue, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

The deadline to submit an absentee ballot is Nov. 19. Absentee ballots can be submitted at UPS, FedEx or the absentee ballot drop box location, 222 Pine Ave., 2nd floor, Suite 220.

Georgia’s employment market is upside-down with more jobs available than people looking for work, according to via the Rome News Tribune.

A record number of job openings and fewer workers to fill them have left 42 states with more available jobs than people looking for work, according to an analysis of federal statistics from August, the latest available.

The ratio of jobs-to-jobless is almost 3 to 1 in Nebraska and more than 2 to 1 in Utah, New Hampshire, Vermont, Idaho, Georgia, Alabama and Montana. In most states, the ratio is higher now than it was before the pandemic.

Most of the states with more jobless people than jobs have plenty of white-collar positions that allow people to work remotely. The labor shortage is most acute in sectors with relatively low pay and high public contact, such as transportation, food service and hospitality.

The labor shortage, by one measure the most acute since 1968, means higher wages and increased bargaining power for workers.

But some experts fear it also could dampen economic growth as the country struggles to recover from the pandemic. And it could make it more difficult to implement the $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan Congress approved, which the White House has said is expected to create millions of jobs in fields such as construction and trucking.

United States Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia) wears her $63k in fines as a mask badge of honor. From WJBF:

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said Tuesday that she has accumulated $63,000 in fines for refusing to wear a mask on the House floor, with additional fines likely to be imposed as she continues to defy the chamber’s mask requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m up to $63,000,” Greene told The Hill outside the House chamber while not wearing a mask and confirmed that the fines are automatically “deducted out of my check.”

Greene also volunteered that she is not vaccinated against COVID-19 after declining to disclose her vaccination status for months.

“I’m not vaccinated either. And I won’t be getting vaccinated. And that’s my own personal choice. I support people that want the vaccine. If anybody wanted one, I would drive them to go get one because I support people’s freedom to make their own decision. But I do not want to get the vaccine myself, and I don’t need to wear a mask. It’s not changing anything,” Greene said.

“Well, you know what’s really expensive? People getting fired for not taking a vaccine that they feel they don’t need,” Greene said

Greene first announced that she is not vaccinated during a Monday interview with Newsmax, declaring that she “will be standing strong, standing up for the people across this country that refuse to get vaccinated.”

Greene’s disclosure comes after she was suspended from Twitter for promoting misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

At least one other House Republican is also accumulating hefty fines for not wearing a mask. Greene’s fellow Georgia Republican, Rep. Andrew Clyde, has been fined at least $15,500 for not wearing a mask on the House floor in recent weeks.

I think her campaign should be allowed to reimburse her the fines as they will help her reelection effort. Imagine the heads exploding in DC if she wore a mask depicting the old Georgia flag.

From the AJC:

Both are ultraconservative Republicans serving their first year in the House. Lately they have refused to wear masks on the House floor nearly every time a vote is called, defying precautions that Speaker Nancy Pelosi put in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Greene says she has chosen to actively defy a rule she believes is unjust and unnecessary.

“Over the past year and a half, Communist Democrats have ruled our country as tyrannical dictators with mandates and lock downs,” the Rome Republican said in a statement this month after receiving notice of additional infractions. “Now, the American people have had enough and are standing up against these outrageous and unconstitutional policies. I will continue my stand on the House floor against authoritarian Democrat mandates, because I don’t want the American people to stand alone.”

Clyde, who lives in Athens, has not spoken publicly about the fines. His office sent an email indicating Clyde is no longer abiding by the mask mandate because the rules were relaxed slightly by Pelosi in May, four months after House Democrats voted to implement the fines.

From the perspective of her reelection, getting the AJC to call her “ultraconservative” is worth at least $63k. The only thing more valuable would be her as-yet unannounced GOP opponent touting their establishment endorsements.

Governor Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr announced they filed a lawsuit challenging the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for some health care workers. From the press release:

Governor Brian P. Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr today announced the State of Georgia has filed a lawsuit challenging the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for health care workers. The emergency regulation, issued on Nov. 5, 2021 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), mandates full COVID-19 vaccination for all eligible staff at health care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs by Jan. 4, 2022.

“After healthcare heroes went above and beyond the call of duty to keep Americans safe and healthy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Biden is now threatening their livelihood if they refuse COVID-19 vaccination,” said Governor Kemp. “Yet another unlawful mandate from this administration will only worsen worker shortages in a critical-need area as we continue to balance the everyday healthcare needs of hardworking Georgians and fighting COVID-19. We will continue to fight this repeated, unconstitutional overreach by Joe Biden and his administration in court.”

“President Biden’s reckless ‘one-size-fits-most’ approach to governing continues to create immense disruption and uncertainty for Georgia businesses and employees,”” said Attorney General Carr. “With this latest unconstitutional mandate, the Biden administration is targeting a health care community that is already reeling from the impacts of a global health pandemic. Georgia health care providers, particularly those located in our rural areas, cannot afford to lose workers or lessen care services due to the unlawful actions of the federal government. We will continue to stand up for the rule of law and defend against this blanket mandate as we work to protect the citizens of this state.”

The plaintiffs are asking the court to enjoin the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CMS from enforcing the mandate on individuals working at Medicare and Medicaid-certified facilities. The lawsuit asserts the vaccine mandate is unlawful and unconstitutional for many reasons.

The mandate:

• Exceeds CMS’s statutory authority under the Social Security Act;
• Involves an unlawful attempt to supervise or control the practice of medicine in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1395;
• Was issued without statutorily required public notice and comment;
• Violates the Congressional Review Act;
• Is arbitrary and capricious;
• Was issued without consulting the appropriate state and local agencies in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1395z;
• Violates 42 U.S.C. §1302, which requires public notice and comment for all new rules that will have a significant impact on rural hospitals;
• Violates the Spending Clause by placing an unconstitutional condition on receipt of federal funds;
• Violates the Anti-Commandeering Doctrine by directing state officers to administer federal law; and
• Violates the Tenth Amendment because the federal government lacks the power to mandate vaccines.

Georgia has joined the states of Louisiana, Montana, Arizona, Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia in filing the lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana (Monroe Division).

A copy of this lawsuit can be made available by request to the Office of the Attorney General.

Previously, on Oct. 29, Governor Kemp and Attorney General Carr filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia (Augusta Division) to challenge the vaccine mandate for federal contractors. The plaintiffs in that suit have asked for a preliminary injunction. A hearing on that request is scheduled to take place on Dec. 7, 2021.

Also, on Nov. 5, Governor Kemp and Attorney General Carr filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to challenge the OSHA vaccine mandate for employers with 100 or more workers and have asked the court to stay the mandate. The plaintiffs are awaiting the court’s ruling on that motion to stay. The initial announcement can be found here.

Chatham County will be represented by an additional state Senator under the redistricting maps passed by the Republican legislative majority and signed by Governor Kemp, according to the Savannah Morning News.

For the first time in decades, Chatham will be home to three Senate districts instead of two. In addition to District 1, currently represented by Sen. Ben Watson, and District 2, led by Sen. Lester Jackson, District 4 will see its boundaries creep across the Effingham County line and into Bloomingdale and Pooler.

District 4 encompasses Effingham, Bulloch, Evans and Candler counties and is represented by Billy Hickman, a Statesboro resident. Hickman succeeded legislative icon Jack Hill upon Hill’s death last year.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the new maps into law Tuesday, and the redrawn districts promise big changes for the county, particularly from a partisan standpoint. Chatham has long been a Democratic stronghold, yet District 4’s encroachment means the county will be represented by two Republican state senators, Hickman and Watson, and one Democrat, Jackson.

State Senators will delay consideration of legislation to add seats to the Gwinnett County Commission and make Gwinnett Board of Education seats nonpartisan, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

Sen. Clint Dixon, a Buford Republican, said Tuesday he wants to study the issues and seek more input on his proposals to add five new members to the all-Democratic Gwinnett County Commission and to change county school board elections from partisan to nonpartisan. Both measures would have also redrawn electoral district lines for the officials for the next 10 years. Dixon said he’s now aiming to return in the regular session in January with a proposal to make all school boards elected by party nonpartisan.

“We’re going to take some time,” Dixon said. “We’re going to create a study committee. We’re going to hold some hearings.”

Dixon repeatedly said that Republicans pushing the moves had plenty of support and a “clear path” to passage in the special session, which is likely to wrap up within the next week. But Sam Park, a Lawrenceville Democrat who chairs the Gwinnett House delegation, credited the reversal to “the outcry this caused with Gwinnett voters,” saying he had received hundreds of emails from unhappy constituents.

Republicans said both measures would improve governance. They argued that the Gwinnett commission needs more members because the Atlanta suburb has grown to nearly 1 million people. They also said party politics could lead to harmful effects on the school system, such as the introduction of critical race theory, an academic framework that centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people. In recent months, it has become a catch-all political buzzword for any teaching in schools about race and American history. Gwinnett school officials say the district does not teach anything harmful.

I like how the Associated Press feels free to editorialize about what “critical race theory” means in the context of a story that began as news reporting.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

“I’ve come to realize … there’s a bigger issue than just Gwinnett County in regards to nonpartisan school boards,” Dixon said during a press conference in Atlanta. “Currently, 61% of the school districts in the state of Georgia are nonpartisan and my intent is to spend the next six weeks hearing from parents, educators and children across the state as we examine nonpartisan boards of education.”

“The education of our children is a nonpartisan issue. Let’s get politics out of our schools and once again focus on educating our children.”

“We want to commend Sen. Dixon for recognizing the importance of input from the Board of Commissioners and our residents,” Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson said.

“Their trying to claim it’s a power grab by the GOP and has something to do with race is simply ridiculous and false,” [Dixon] said. “The attacks against me is nothing more than the same cancel culture that is sweeping across this country.

From the AJC:

Some Republicans accused the critics of fearmongering. State Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, disagrees with the assessment of the maps and said the overhaul would increase participation from minority communities in future elections by creating new government posts.

“Increasing the size of the county commission would allow for more compact districts, where commissioners would represent fewer constituents and would allow for the concerns or issues of their respective districts to be effectively represented,” Efstration said.

A six week long statewide tour discussing education issues could be the best possible thing the Georgia GOP could do. I’m excited to discuss this more.

Gwinnett County may add as many as 151 employees under the next budget, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson said she wanted her first county budget proposal since taking office to address an array of community needs ranging from human services, to transit expansion, increased public safety and better access to elections materials.

Hendrickson’s $2.06 billion proposed 2022 county budget was unveiled to her fellow commissioners on Tuesday. Among the items in the budget is the addition of 151 employees, with 30 of them being new police officer positions, as well as more than $2 million for transit expansion and a 4% pay-for-performance salary increase for county employees on their work anniversary dates.

“I wanted to make sure with this budget that we were really addressing the community’s priorities,” Hendrickson said. “This budget really takes steps to address a lot of the community needs, such as the expansion of human services, such as addressing our issues around poverty, addressing language equity in our elections process.”

“And, in spirit of reprioritizing our efforts to focus on some of those issues, we’re still able to propose a fiscally sound and balanced budget without having to raise taxes. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of our staff and I’m proud of our citizens who gave input in that process.”

Some Savannah residents protested against gun violence, according to WSAV.

Coaches and parents met at Memorial Stadium to make a call across the City of Savannah to take a stand against gun violence. The advocates held a rally in response to a deadly shooting at the Jennifer Ross Soccer Complex.

During the Reverse The Curse rally, families who have been impacted by gun violence shared their experiences. Candles were lit in memory of those lives lost.

From WTOC:

City, county and youth leaders talked about how gun violence has affected young people and the community of Savannah and Chatham County as a whole. There were also brothers, mothers and more who shared about gun violence has changed their lives forever.

Dozens of families, coaches and more met at Memorial Stadium to talk about ending gun violence. Organizer Todd Rhodes says they want to reverse the curse, gun violence has on Savannah and around Chatham County.

“It affects us all and I’m to a point now that I’m tired and I’ve had enough. Because I’m tired that doesn’t mean I just type on Facebook and say that I’m tired. No. It’s about putting boots on the ground and being consistent. Going into our communities and letting people know enough is enough. Let’s come together. We all have somebody in this city that we know that’s been affected by gun violence,” Rhodes said.

“The solution long-term is making sure as a coalition we challenge the city, we challenge the county to make sure that they give us the resources that we can provide the tools necessary to help these kids evade away from violence and actually start thinking about in future tense,” said Jay Jones, Savannah Coalition of Youth Leaders.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson revised his mask mandate to an advisory, according to WTOC.

The mayor tweeted the update Tuesday morning, saying based on local numbers, he’s reducing the order. He said citizens are still advised to wear masks whenever necessary.

Savannah City Council is working on their 2022 budget, according to WTOC.

Augusta Commissioners adopted a Nondiscrimination Ordinance (NDO), according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Augusta Commission adopted the ordinance with no fanfare, approving it and about 30 other items unanimously as a group with no discussion, joining Atlanta, Savannah, Athens, Statesboro, Tybee Island, Fulton County and at least nine metro Atlanta municipalities to adopt similar bans on discrimination.

“Congratulations, Augusta,” said Augusta attorney Matthew Duncan, head of Equality Augusta, which pushed for the ordinance. “Our city leaders have declared our community to be one where anyone can be who they are, raise their family and earn a living regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The Augusta ordinance prohibits businesses or individuals from discriminating in providing jobs, goods, housing, accommodations or other services based the following: Actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, marital status, familial status or veteran or military status.

Pooler City Council adopted a revised alcohol ordinance, according to the Savannah Morning News.

City council voted Monday to revamp the alcoholic beverage chapter of its municipal ordinance, expanding opportunities for businesses to serve alcohol in the fast-growing city.

Council member Aaron Higgins, who spearheaded the change, said the update was much needed so that city laws could adhere closer to state regulations that allowed for services like brewpubs, complimentary drinks and homebrewing.

Pooler’s code on alcohol hasn’t had an overhaul like this for decades, Higgins said.

The push for change dates to the 2017 passage of Georgia Senate Bill 85, which allowed breweries and distilleries to sell alcohol directly to customers for the first time. Breweries, distilleries and brewpubs have proliferated across Georgia in the four years since, including in the city of Savannah.

The state law didn’t automatically apply to Georgia cities; instead, jurisdictions had to opt in. This caveat necessitated the move to revamp the ordinance, Higgins explained.

Legal guidance on homebrewing and homebrewing events were also added. This allows residents to make their own malt beverages at home and host homebrew events as long as they’re not selling the product.

Warner Robins City Council discussed user fees for a sports complex, according to 13WMAZ.

Should taxpayers be charged to use a building their tax money paid for?

That’s the question Warner Robins council members were split on Monday night, discussing fees for the North Houston Sports Complex.

“This beautiful facility that we have was built on SPLOST money, and the SPLOST is funded by the taxpayers of the city,” Derek Mack, Post 1 councilman, explained.

“It’s a bad look to ask the citizens to pay for a facility, then turn around and ask them to pay for daily usage of the facility,”” Mack said.

But councilman Kevin Lashley says the SPLOST just paid for the building and facilities, not for the cost of running them.

“When we have operations like that, we do have payroll we have to meet, we have facilities we have to pay for power, water, everything we still have to pay for that stuff,” he explained.

I like that this story illustrates that SPLOST funds pay for buildings, but the taxpayers or users are on the hook for the operating and maintenance costs once it’s complete.

Former George W. Bush Administration Press Secretary Dana Perino spoke at a dinner benefitting the Georgia Christian School in Valdosta, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Dalton City Council voted to change the benefits of municipal retirees, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The City Council approved the measure 3-0 to replace the existing group health and major medical insurance plan for retired former city employees with an HRA [health reimbursement arrangement]. Ward 3 Councilman Tyree Goodlett was absent, and Mayor David Pennington typically votes only if there is a tie.

The plan will be particularly helpful for retirees who don’t live in Northwest Georgia and find it difficult to find doctors and other healthcare providers in their network, according to Batts.

“The amount (of the reimbursement) given differs from person to person. It varies by a couple of different things. It varies based on age. It’s also based on their geographic location.”

There are more than 80 retirees on the city health plan, and retirees covered by the pension plan can remain on the city’s health insurance until they reach age 65 and are eligible for Medicare, according to Batts. The city closed the pension plan in July 2002, and all employees hired by the city or by Dalton Utilities since then are covered by a defined contribution plan similar to a 401(k).

The council members also voted 3-0 to certify election results from earlier this month, and Dennis Mock, the new Ward 1 council representative, took the oath of office at the start of the meeting. A former mayor. he was the only candidate seeking to fill the unexpired term of Derek Waugh, who stepped down in July after taking a job in the Atlanta area. The term runs through Dec. 31, 2023.

Annalee Harlan was reelected decisively to the Ward 2 seat, defeating Rodney Miller by 1,481 votes (71%) to 610 votes (29%), and former state senator Steve Farrow received 1,060 votes (51%) to 1,013 votes (49%) for incumbent Gary Crews in the race for the Ward 4 seat. Both terms are four years, and Farrow will take his seat on the council in January.

Former State Rep. Josh Clark spoke to Martha Zoller about his announced GOP candidacy for United States Senate on WDUN.

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