Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 10, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 10, 2022

On January 10, 1868, the Georgia Equal Rights Association was formed in Augusta.

On January 10, 1870, the Georgia General Assembly convened and seated African-American legislators who had been expelled in 1868.

Eugene Talmadge was sworn-in to his first term as Governor of Georgia on January 10, 1933.

Talmadge fired elected officials who resisted his authority. Others were thrown out of their offices. Literally.

After Julian Bond’s election to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, the chamber voted against seating him ostensibly because he had publicly state his opposition to the war in Vietnam. On January 10, 1967, after the United States Supreme Court held the legislature had denied Bond his right to free speech, he was seated as a member of the State House.

Eight years ago, on January 10, 2014, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution released a poll of the Georgia Governor’s race that showed Nathan Deal with 47 percent to 38 percent for Jason Carter. The nine-point Deal advantage was as close as the AJC polling firm would come all year to correctly predicting the point spread in the General Election.

Governor Nathan Deal was sworn-in as the 82d Governor of Georgia on January 10, 2011 while snow shut down the planned public Inaugural.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Atlanta on Tuesday, according to the AJC.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Atlanta Tuesday to push for federal voting rights legislation from the campuses of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College.

They will also make a stop at the King Center on Auburn Avenue to lay a wreath in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, with a visit then planned for Ebenezer Baptist Church nearby.

But the visit comes over the objections of some local voting rights groups, which put out a strongly worded statement last week warning the White House not to use Atlanta as a backdrop “without signs of real, tangible work,” too.

The Georgia State House was scheduled to convene in Session this morning at 8:30 AM. From the live stream, they appear to have started by watching a University of Georgia Football video.

The Georgia State Senate convenes at the more leisurely 10 AM.

Both chambers will reconvene on Legislative Day 2 on Wednesday, January January 12, 2022.

House Bill 854 by Rep. Todd Jones (R-Cumming) was introduced this morning to incorporate Buckhead City and was assigned to House Governmental Affairs. SB 324 is the Senate version, introduced by Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) and others. I am struck by the similarity of the hair styles of both legislators.

From WTOC:

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is pinning one of his legislative goals for the new year on what he says is a rise in crime nationwide. The governor announced a plan last week to loosen handgun requirements in the state. The plan would do away with the need to get a license to carry a handgun in public. It’s a pitch he hopes to get before the General Assembly this year. If it passes, Georgia would join the more than 20 other states that allow concealed weapons in public without a permit.

For some local representatives, Jesse Petrea says one thing he hopes to get done this session is eliminating state income tax on military retirement income, and for Representative Carl Gilliard, he says one of his goals is to work on getting braille into early education classrooms.

“Just trying to hope that we as a state do smart legislation that is going to help the people. We have got to start playing into these different bases and focus on the people, and Medicaid expansion is a big part of that,” said Rep. Carl Gilliard, (D) Garden City.

“I think our job is to continue to do everything in our power to make Georgia a land of opportunity for people, where people can come here and find opportunity to work and raise their families and do so and make sure they are safe. Public safety has been a hallmark of my service,” said Rep. Jesse Petrea, (R) Savannah.

Before leaving for Indianapolis for the game, Governor Kemp proclaimed today “Hunker Down Day.”

From 11Alive:

The governor is calling on everyone around the Peach State to don red and black to rally behind the Bulldogs.

“With our Bulldogs ready to take the field of battle, let us all rally behind the men who now wear silver britches,” the proclamation reads. “Georgians, join me in wearing red and black this Monday to support our team and, as the great Larry Munson once said, ‘hunker it down one more time.’”

Governor Kemp also announced four judicial appointments and a District Attorney appointment, according to a press release.

Judge Charles E. Bailey will fill the seat on the DeKalb County State Court formerly held by the Honorable Kimberly Alexander who was appointed to the DeKalb County State Court Jury Division, effective August 31, 2021. Ana Maria Martinez will fill the seat vacated by the Honorable Dax Lopez. Judge Ronnie Thompson will fill the seat on the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit created by the passage of HB 786 during the 2020 session of the Georgia General Assembly. Judge Richard Read will fill the seat on the Rockdale County State Court created by the passage of SB 508 during the 2020 session of the Georgia General Assembly. Finally, Governor Kemp intends to appoint Mr. William Kendall to be District Attorney of the Houston Judicial Circuit. This vacancy was created by the resignation of George H. Hartwig, III.

Charles E. Bailey has served as the sole practitioner at the Law Office of Charlie E. Bailey since 2010, as well as a registered neutral on the Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution. Additionally, he has served as a judge on the Decatur Municipal Court since 2016 and a substitute judge on the State Court of DeKalb County, Traffic Division since 2016. From 2013 to 2015, Bailey served as a substitute judge on the DeKalb County Recorders Court. Prior to that, he was an attorney at the Law Office of Warner Mayoue Bates, PC from 2002 to 2010. Bailey received his Bachelors of Arts from Vanderbilt University and received his Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt Law School.

Ana Maria Martinez has served as a staff attorney at the DeKalb State Court, Division Six, for the Honorable Dax E. Lopez since May of 2013. She also serves as president of the Latino Law Foundation. Previously, she worked as an attorney at Owen, Gleaton, Egan, Jones & Sweeney, LLP from 2009-2013. She has held various leadership positions at the Georgia State Bar, as well as the Georgia Hispanic Bar Association, the Atlanta Bar Association, and the DeKalb Bar Association. She has been recognized as a 40 Under 40 award recipient by both the University of Georgia and Georgia State University. She received her B.B.A., cum laude, in Marketing from the University of Georgia in 2004 and her J.D., cum laude and with Pro Bono distinction, from the Georgia State University College of Law in 2009. She is a Barrister in the Lamar Inn of Court and a LEAD Atlanta graduate.

Ronnie Thompson has served as an Effingham County State Court Judge since January 2003, and previously worked as a practicing attorney for 13 years specializing in criminal defense, civil litigation, and real estate transactions. Thompson received the Champion of Justice Award from the Georgia Council of State Court Judges for his handling of Jane Doe v. USA Gymnastics. Thompson received his Bachelors of Arts in History from Armstrong State College and received his Juris Doctorate from Cumberland School of Law.

Richard Read has served as a senior assistant district attorney for the Rockdale Judicial Circuit since August 2018, and previously served as district attorney from January 1999 – December 2017. He also previously worked as an attorney at Schneider, Read, and LaMalva from November 1996 – December 1998, and was chief assistant district attorney for the Rockdale Judicial Circuit from June 1992 to October 1996. He is a member of the State Bar of Georgia and has also served as a Georgia high school mock trial coach since 2008. Read received his Bachelors of Arts in Political Science from the University of Georgia and received his Juris Doctorate from University of Georgia School of Law.

William Kendall has served as the chief assistant district attorney for the Houston Judicial Circuit since March 2021, and previously served as assistant district attorney from April 2019 to March 2021. Kendall also served as the assistant district attorney for the Cordele Judicial Circuit from December 2018 through March 2020. Prior to his legal career, he worked as a Marine Criminal Investigator from 2009-2013 and as a Marine Military Police/Military Working Dog Handler from 2006-2009. Kendall received his Bachelors of Science in Homeland Security and Public Safety from Vincennes University and received his Juris Doctorate from Southern Illinois University School of Law.

Mr. Kendall intends to run for election to as District Attorney, according to the Macon Telegraph.

A special election is yet to be set for voters to choose Hartwig’s successor, but Kendall on Friday told The Telegraph that he intends to be a candidate.

“I am honored and grateful of the governor’s decision to allow me to continue to serve the citizens of Houston County,” Kendall said in a statement about the governor’s appointment.

Kendall went on to note that at the time of Hartwig’s departure the DA’s office had just four attorneys on staff and that since then hirings have the office at or nearly back to its capacity of a dozen prosecutors.

Separately, Governor Kemp announced the appointment of Rebecca Sullivan as Commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services.

“Building on her experience as General Counsel and Assistant Commissioner of Government Affairs at the Department as well as her established career as a legal professional with vast experience in state government, I am confident that Rebecca will continue to serve Georgians well as Commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services,” said Governor Kemp.

Rebecca Sullivan most recently served as General Counsel and Assistant Commissioner of Government Affairs, where her responsibilities included managing the agency’s legal division as well as providing advice and counsel to the agency’s five operating divisions that support the enterprise of state government: statewide procurement, risk management, fleet management, surplus property, and human resources administration. Prior to joining DOAS, Ms. Sullivan spent time in private practice and served as a Policy Advisor, Deputy Executive Counsel, and Executive Counsel to former Governor Sonny Perdue. Sullivan began her legal career in labor and employment law.

Sullivan is a “Double Dawg,” having earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Georgia and a Juris Doctor from the UGA School of Law. She resides in Snellville with her husband and two children.

House Resolution 570 is the scheduling resolution that has the General Assembly reconvene on Wednesday, with sessions also scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Next week no session due to budget hearings.

Governor Brian Kemp has announced he will seek $5000 pay raises for state agency employees, according to WSB-TV.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday announced a proposal to give a $5,000 annual pay raise to state agency employees as lawmakers survey what’s likely to be a prosperous state revenue picture.

Kemp would add the largesse for state employees to the remaining $2,000 of a $5,000 pay raise he wants to give to K-12 teachers.

In a letter to state agency heads Friday, Kemp thanked them for finding ways to cut costs and said he has consistently heard from them that state employee pay needs to be improved to reduce turnover. He wrote that he included in his budget proposal for the legislature’s consideration an annual $5,000 pay increase for full-time, benefit-eligible state employees, effective as soon as April 1, and an increase in the employer match for 401(k) contributions from a maximum of 3 percent to a maximum of 9 percent.

“I am confident that these strategic investments in our state government workforce will enhance our ability to serve hardworking Georgians,” Kemp wrote.

With that extra cash, Gov. Brian Kemp wants lawmakers to boost teacher pay by another $2,000, completing his promise to give teachers a $5,000 raise over four years. That’s projected to cost $461 million. It would cost $383 million to bring the state’s K-12 funding formula to the full amount that it says the state should provide for schools. The state could also restore austerity cuts to universities.

“The one thing I’m pretty sure of is that the austerity budget will be restored,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, an Auburn Republican.

Lawmakers could look to satisfy one or both of those priorities as early as the amended budget for the current year, England said. Those budget changes typically begin March 30. But pay raises could be complicated in the current year because school districts also pay employees out of local funds and typically match state raises for locally paid employees.

Both England and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, a Vidalia Republican, said the state may need to raise pay for noneducation employees because of inflation and competition for labor. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan is calling for pay increases for prison employees. Tillery said a general pay raise may be considered on top of additional increases for employee shortage areas. But Ralston warns there may not be enough money for everyone.

From the AJC:

The governor’s spending plan would also make permanent a $5,000 cost-of-living adjustment for full-time employees, increase the employer match for 401(k) contributions to a maximum of 9% and allow employees to withdraw up to 40 hours of eligible leave as pay each year.

“During the pandemic, I asked for your help in making the tough, necessary spending cuts to ensure we were prepared for the unknown,” he wrote.

“You rose to the occasion, identifying ways to leverage technology, streamline operations and curb unnecessary expenditures while still improving customer service.”

“I’m trying to keep count of how many groups we’ve promised pay raises to — and the list gets longer every day,” quipped House Speaker David Ralston earlier this week.

“I know that we’re in a fairly good budget situation,“ he added, “but at some point, we are going to run out before we get to everybody.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:

“Gov. [Brian] Kemp will try to position himself to block [Republican primary opponent] David Perdue, and the [GOP} lieutenant governor candidates are both in the Senate,” Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said. “If one comes forward with a proposal, the other might say, ‘I’ll see you and raise you.’ ”

But the leaders who run the two legislative chambers — Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who presides over the state Senate — are vowing not to let politics get in the way of addressing mental health and crime.

“Those two topics will be my focus for the session,” Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said. “I’m not going to be distracted by what other people do in their campaigns.”

Last summer, Ralston called for a $50 million budget appropriation to beef up law enforcement and mental health services. He said the House also will take up a comprehensive mental health bill that includes a provision aimed at addressing a shortage of mental health workers.

“To do what we need to do in mental health, we’re going to have to incentivize people to train in that,” Ralston said.

Additional tax relief also will be on the General Assembly’s 2022 agenda. Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, who is running for lieutenant governor, pre-filed a bill last month that would eliminate Georgia’s income tax.

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

BUCKHEAD CITY

Bills introduced by Republicans would authorize a referendum to allow residents of Atlanta’s tony Buckhead neighborhood to decide whether to secede and form their own city. Supporters of the effort say Atlanta officials have done a poor job of addressing a surge in crime in the neighborhood. Opponents say it’s a racist attempt to create a wealthy, white enclave.

Georgia’s powerful Republican House Speaker, David Ralston, said Thursday he has not come to a conclusion about the effort. He expressed concerns about its potential to set a bad precedent. “This is a big issue. I understand the feelings are intense on both sides,” he said. He added, “I want us to get it right.”

MENTAL HEALTH

State lawmakers are looking at ways to ensure private insurers provide the same level of coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment as they do for other health problems.

Ralston said mental health was a focus for him entering this year’s legislative session. “Both public safety and mental health speak directly to the quality of life Georgians enjoy, and they have a profound impact on our families, our communities and our economy,” he said at a news conference on Thursday. He expects budget proposals that will increase spending for mental health treatment and bed space. The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities was among the state agencies that saw its budget slashed during the coronavirus pandemic over fears of a big drop in revenue. Ralston said a separate bill would include incentives for people to get trained as mental health workers.

From the Ledger-Enquirer:

Health care, gambling, education and mental health are among the major issues legislators hope to address during the session.

Reps. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), Debbie Buckner (D-Junction City), Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus) and Richard Smith (R-Columbus) told the Ledger-Enquirer that health care is a top priority this session.

Buckner, a former senior public health educator with the Columbus health department, said she’s concerned about the state’s health care payment system as Georgia continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Buckner said it could be addressed in several ways, including through an expansion of Medicaid.

Richard Smith said health care is one of several “900-pound gorillas in the room” that state lawmakers need to address. Rural parts of the state, like Harris and Stewart counties, need more doctors, pharmacists and other health care infrastructure, he said.

“We’ve got to encourage physicians to go to these underserved areas to provide these Georgians with health care,” he said.

Education, mental health, transportation and gambling will also be key focus points for Smyre. The longtime Columbus representative mentioned destination resorts like casinos and sports betting as two areas to address.

Such gambling in the state is outlawed, though Smyre was one of six lawmakers who proposed a constitutional amendment last year that could have allowed casino operation in Georgia. A swath of 150 acres along the Chattahoochee River near Rigdon Park has been eyed as the site of a possible Columbus casino.

State Rep. Matt Dubnik (R-Hall County) spoke about the legislative session, according to AccessWDUN.

“We have to address mental health in a very, very serious way, in a very big way,” said Rep. Matt Dubnik. “And I think some of the initiatives that have already come from the House show our seriousness and our dedication to that obligation for the people of Georgia.”

State Sen. Butch Miller of Gainesville is proposing eliminating the state’s 5.75 percent income tax as part of his campaign platform for lieutenant governor. Dubnik said the idea is intriguing, but he has several questions that need answers.

“If you look at our neighbors in Tennessee and Florida, they have no state income tax,” Dubnik said. “So it can work. We’ll just have to promote a tax structure that encourages productivity, that that relies on restraining expense and taxing consumption.”

“If we eliminate the income tax, I don’t think that it’s fair just to turn around and say, well, we’ve cut one tax now we need to add on more,” he said. “I think that would be counterproductive. But to Senator Miller’s point, there is a way to do this there, and if the numbers do support it, I think we’ll find a way to make it happen.”

“We have to run every other year, which seems like every other week,” Dubnik said. “There’s always election year politics that come into play. We call it the silly season. We call it the crazy season. Are we going to see any more silly or crazy this year than, you know, any other year? Honestly? Probably not. It’s just I think it just gets amplified because to your point, everybody leads with it in the media.”

State Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Rome) spoke to the Rome News Tribune:

“The budgets are always something that gets top priority,” Lumsden said.

He expects education and teacher pay raises to take center stage this year along with public safety and mental health. Legislation to eliminate the permit requirement for carrying handguns also will be on the table.

As a member of the House Governmental Affairs Committee, he also expects to be heavily involved in “cityhood” debates.

“It’s not only Buckhead,” he said about the community seeking to break away from Atlanta. “Several other places around the state have made some requests.”

From the Gainesville Times:

Someone of Perdue’s stature challenging a sitting governor in his own party is unprecedented in the modern era, said Charles Bullock, professor of political science at University of Georgia.

“Although the governor is not a member of the legislature, he is the biggest dog in the fight,” Bullock said. “So his being also challenged by a (Donald) Trump-endorsed candidate could well impact the kinds of legislation the governor proposes.”

Gainesville Sen. Butch Miller is running against Sen. Burt Jones, R-Milner, who has received the former president’s stamp of approval. Miller and Rep. Timothy Barr, R-Lawrenceville, are the only local legislators facing primary challenges. Barr is running for the 10th Congressional District, which does not include Hall County, and faces seven other Republican challengers after U.S. Rep. Jody Hice announced he would run for secretary of state.

Miller has said he isn’t concerned about the lack of support from Trump, and his campaign fundraising numbers from his last filing in June 2021 showed strong support with about $2 million raised. Campaign fundraising reports for Jones have yet to be released.

Another lawsuit by liberal groups seeks to enjoin the redistricting maps adopted by the Georgia General Assembly, according to WTOC.

Voting rights groups and individual voters have filed a federal lawsuit that says the new map for three Georgia congressional districts violate the Constitution and weaken the power of voters of color.

It challenges the 6th, 13th and 14th congressional districts, al of which are in the Atlanta area.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the lawsuit Friday on behalf of Common Cause, the League of Women Voters of Georgia and individual voters.

State legislators from Athens proposed a new redistricting map for Athens-Clarke County Commissioners, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Members of the Athens-Clarke County Legislative Delegation released a proposed updated map for the Athens-Clarke County district boundaries, one that the delegation says is more geographically compact, has less deviation in population, and overall is a better representation for the county.

“We believe this new map will bring significant improvements to the map proposed by the county commission. Instead of carving up communities of interest to protect incumbents, we took the approach of keeping neighborhoods and communities of interest whole to reach equal population in each commission district,” said a written statement from the state delegation.

Many elected officials have voiced their opposition to the map, including several county commissioners, Mayor Kelly Girtz, and Rep. Spencer Frye.

The local board of elections submitted the map for commission approval on Nov. 9, and commissioners approved the new map in a 6-3 vote, with Commissioners Allison Wright, Mike Hamby and Ovita Thornton voting against the map. Commissioner Russell Edwards presided over the meeting and could not vote.

Now, ahead of the state’s legislative session, Athens’ delegation has presented a new map, which was released on Jan. 6 in a press release, which names Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens), Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville) and Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) and Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) as the creators. Athens’ other representative, Spencer Frye (D-Athens), was not mentioned.

“Per the Constitution and laws of this state, the General Assembly must pass an updated redistricting map every 10 years for the county to ensure equal population in each district. The Athens-Clarke County mayor and commission have been unable to reach a consensus; therefore, this delegation worked to create a draft map,” said the press release, which can be read in full on the Georgia House of Representatives website.

U.S. Representative Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) spoke about the GOP Primary for Governor, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Carter says he respects both Gov. Brian Kemp and former Georgia Senator David Perdue, and considers them his friends. He was hoping it wouldn’t come to this.

“I wish we could have avoided this. I think everybody wishes we could have avoided this. But it is what it is. And we were very fortunate to have two good candidates. I think Brian Kemp did a great job as governor. I think David Perdue did a great job as senator, and that if he were to be elected governor, he’d do a fine job there as well. Again, I wish we could have avoided this, but it is what it is. We have to face it. We’re going to get through it.”

“I talked to both of them the week that David announced and told them that the only commitment I ask of them is that when this is over with, when it’s over and said and done, that we all come together as Republicans. That we make sure that we have a Republican in the governor’s mansion after the next election,” Carter said.

The primary will cap a period of soul searching for Georgia’s Republican voters. Since the 2020 election, amidst Trump’s unsubstantiated voter fraud allegations, Georgia’s GOP has seen a rift form between those who believe Trump and those who are ready to move ahead to the next election.

“I will tell you that Stacey Abrams, who I served with when I was in the House of Representatives, and who was a different person back then, she represents the values of the state of Georgia about like the man on the moon,” Carter said. “We do not need Stacey Abrams in the governor’s mansion, that would be the worst thing that we could have for the state of Georgia. It would set us back up decades from what we have been able to achieve with the Republican leadership after 2020.”

Gwinnett County Board of Education Chair Everton Blair (D) filed paperwork to run for State Superintendent of Schools, according to the AJC.

Blair, a Democrat, announced in November that he would not seek reelection to his school board seat in 2022. He was first elected in 2018 and became the board’s first Black, openly gay and youngest-ever member.

The state school superintendent leads the Georgia Department of Education, and is responsible for monitoring schools and distributing state and federal funding to them.

In November, former state school superintendent John Barge said he would campaign in the Republican primary against incumbent Richard Woods.

Blair was elected as the Gwinnett board’s chair for 2021, leading the board through numerous decisions related to the pandemic.

Gwinnett County has adopted a mask mandate for county buildings, according to AccessDWUN.

Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Nicole Hendrickson has signed a local emergency order requiring masks to be worn in all facilities that are owned or leased by the county.

“As an employer, Gwinnett County has experienced a significant amount of employee absenteeism due to the spread of COVID-19 and its variants,” Hendrickson said in a prepared statement. “Because we want to be proactive and keep essential services running without interruption to our residents, business owners and customers, we will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health and take measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 for the safety of those who visit our facilities and work in them as well.”

[T]he mask mandate does not apply to privately owned businesses, Gwinnett County court facilities, the Gwinnett County Board of Education and city governments.

The order is effective from Jan. 10 through Jan. 26.

From 11Alive:

County officials said the mandate was issued in the wake of the latest surge of the COVID-19 omicron variant. As of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s latest report, Gwinnett County has seen 134,801 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the onset of the pandemic.

The mandate was issued “in order to ensure that County services are continued without disruptions and are provided in a manner which helps slow the spread of COVID-19 in accordance with guidance of the County’s public health partners and the Governor’s Executive Order,” the emergency order reads.

Staffing shortages led Gwinnett County Solicitor General Brian Whiteside to suspend his office operations, according to CBS46.

Gwinnett County’s Solicitor General, Brian Whiteside, announced that Gwinnett County Solicitor’s Office has been temporarily closed amid increased COVID-19 infection rates.

Solicitor Whiteside explained, “we have given a great deal of consideration to the idea of briefly suspending in-person operations. Given the recent increase in COVID-19 transmissions, we strongly believe that this is the best course of action not just for our staff, but for the people we serve each day as well.”

Officials anticipate the closure, beginning on January 3, to last into the month of January. The surge in COVID-19 infections has lead to staffing shortages at the Solicitor General’s Office.

The closure of these offices means that there will not be in-person State Court from January 3 through January 20. The Gwinnett County Recorder’s Court and Jail Court will remain open, according to officials.

A Gwinnett County judge questions Whiteside’s authority to suspend operations, according to Fox5Atlanta.

Last Friday, Whiteside announced that his office was suspending in-person state court through mid-January, even though the Chief Judge told him he couldn’t make that decision and the court needed his staff here for arraignments during this week.

“Court reporters were present,” Attorney Walt Britt with Chandler, Britt & Jay, LLC explained. “Everybody was in place except the solicitor general’s office.”

Britt is representing the court and Judge Ronda Colvin-Leary who’s named in this petition.

“On the 3rd, they took all these acts to call off court without any authority and without letting the court know. They canceled the Spanish interpreter. They sent two people up to post a notice on the door saying everything was canceled, and they didn’t show up virtual. They could have showed up virtual,” Britt detailed.

The petition alleges that Solicitor Whiteside and four members of his staff are in contempt of court because they ‘jointly and severally’ violated an official code of the state – after temporarily closing his office last Friday.

“Our intent was never to close the court,” White told Reporter Brian Hill. “It was to hopefully do virtual. I put an email out on Thursday asking to be virtual.”

But Brit disagrees saying “they didn’t ask for virtual. They didn’t show up. They just didn’t do anything. They wanted a vacation.”

Jury trials in Athens-Clarke County have been suspended due to COVID, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Jury trials scheduled for the week of Jan. 10 at the Athens-Clarke County Courthouse have been cancelled due to a spike in cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, court officials announced Friday.

The decision affects trials scheduled for the both Superior Court and State Court.

McDuffie County public schools are delaying a return to in-person instruction due to teacher shortages caused by COVID, according to WRDW.

Due to staffing shortages, there will be no classes on Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 10-11. The district will evaluate staffing numbers Tuesday afternoon. At that time, the decision will be made for the return of students or virtual learning for the remainder of the week. During this time, all athletics and extracurricular activities will be suspended.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson said he has no plans for additional COVID restrictions, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Columbus’ mayor has no plans to implement COVID-19 restrictions , like a mask mandate, as cases spike amid the spread of the omicron variant. Muscogee County is seeing the highest number of cases in the pandemic with 2,266 COVID cases reported in the past two weeks at a rate of 1,183 cases per 100,000 people as of Jan. 5, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

No other restrictions are currently being considered because of the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, Mayor Skip Henderson told the Ledger-Enquirer. In addition to vaccine availability, he said people have access to personal protective equipment they can use to protect themselves.

“If anybody is in an environment where they don’t feel comfortable, they can wear a sturdier mask like an N95,” he said.

The Whitfield County Board of Assessors is asking property owners to submit property tax returns online instead of in person, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Glynn County Commissioners scheduled nine Town Hall meetings for local issues and possible discussion of a 2022 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum, according to The Brunswick News.

The first on the list, scheduled for Jan. 13 at Marshes of Glynn Baptist Church, will be hosted by Commissioner Sammy Tostensen, who represents District 1. Commission Vice Chairman Wayne Neal and Commissioners Allen Booker, Bill Brunson and Cap Fendig will host the rest, according to the release.

“The meetings will be an open forum to discuss local issues, a potential SPLOST 2022 program and take questions,” the statement reads. “Each person will be given five minutes to speak and the meetings will end promptly after one hour. The public is encouraged to attend, wear masks and practice social distancing.”

The topic of a new special- purpose, local-option sales tax, or SPLOST, comes roughly 10 months after the public rejected the commission’s last proposal. In a referendum held in March of 2021, 53.5% voted against the measure and 46.5% voted in favor.

SPLOST is a 1% sales tax that can be implemented for up to six years at a time to raise money for capital projects in the county’s jurisdiction. Proceeds must be split with municipalities within the county’s boundaries, and Glynn County has elected in past proposals to give a cut to the Jekyll Island Authority and the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission as well.

Floyd County Board of Education members will consider a proposal for a Local Option Sales Tax for Education, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Floyd County Board of Education will be voting Monday on a resolution that would clear the way for a new 1-cent education local option sales tax package to be placed on the ballot in May.

If passed, the package would allow Rome City Schools to build a new Rome Middle School, while Floyd County would focus on multiple infrastructure projects.

If the ELOST isn’t passed during the May election, none of the Floyd County projects or the RCS projects will come to fruition.

The agenda also includes a letter between the school system and Citigroup Global Capital Markets Inc. to give the superintendent permission to sign off on bonds in the case the ELOST is approved.

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