Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 12, 2022

12
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 12, 2022

On January 12, 1775, St. Andrews Parish on the Georgia coast passed a series of resolutions that included approving the actions of patriots in Massachusetts, three resolutions critical of British government actions, and a renunciation of slavery. The resolutions also appointed delegates to a provincial legislature at Savannah and urging that Georgia send two delegates to the Continental Congress to be held in Philadelphia the next year.

On January 12, 1872, Benjamin Conley stepped down as Governor of Georgia, the first Republican to hold the office and the last until January 13, 2003, when Sonny Perdue was sworn in.

He joined the Republican Party and became president of the state Senate after the Civil War. That was the office he held in October 1871 when Gov. Rufus Bullock, also an Augusta Republican, left the state under pressure from state Democrats. According to the Georgia Constitution, Conley became governor, holding the job until a replacement could be elected and take office two months later.

On January 12, 1906, the American Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee legalized the forward pass. Some credit Georgia Tech coach John Heisman as having popularized the idea of making the forward pass legal after seeing it in a game between Georgia and North Carolina.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was elected the first Commissioner of Baseball on January 12, 1921. Judge Landis was named after the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, where his father was wounded fighting for the Union.

Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia on January 12, 1971.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

10:00 AM – Senate Floor Session (LD 2) Senate Chamber
11:00 AM – HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 2) House Chamber
1:00 PM – House Governmental Affairs Special Subcommittee- Cityhood 406 CLOB HYBRID
2:00 PM – Senate Retirement Committee 310 CLOB
3:00 PM – Senate Finance Committee 450 CAP

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris appeared yesterday in Atlanta. From the AJC:

Joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, Biden — on the campus of Morehouse College — also called on Congress to pass election legislation in a passionate speech about protecting voting rights.

“Today, I’m making it clear: protect our democracy,” the president said. “I support changing our Senate rules whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights.”

In her speech, Harris took aim at Georgia’s new restrictive election law.

“We must not be deceived into thinking a law that makes it more difficult for students to vote is normal,” she said. “We must not be deceived into thinking a law that makes it illegal to help a voter with a disability vote by mail is normal. There is nothing normal about a law that makes it illegal to pass out water or food to people standing in long voting lines.”

Biden spoke for 40 minutes on the importance of passing federal voting legislation, especially in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol fueled by election misinformation, plus new laws that Georgia and other Republican-led states passed that make it harder to cast a ballot.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp called Biden “out of touch with reality” Tuesday for advocating for new federal laws. Georgia’s new law, Senate Bill 202, helped build confidence in election security, Kemp said.

”The facts are simple: SB 202 expands early voting opportunities, secures drop boxes around the clock, reduces long lines at polling places and implements the very same voter ID requirement for absentee ballots that we’ve had for in-person voting for well over a decade,” he said.

Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s most prominent voting rights activist and a candidate for governor, also did not attend, citing a scheduling conflict. Biden told reporters prior to departing the White House on Tuesday morning that he had spoken to Abrams and they are on the same page.

Dear reader, in what must have been an early(ish) morning haze, my native cynicism, honed by thirty years of being lied to by politicians, failed me yesterday. I didn’t think twice about the statement that Stacey Abrams had another commitment that a note from the President wouldn’t have gotten her excused from.

From the Associated Press:

During a day that was shrouded in the city’s legacy as a bastion of the Civil Rights Movement, the absence of one of the nation’s most prominent voting rights activists created something of an awkward moment.

For Biden, it was an unexpected snub at a time when he faces mounting vulnerabilities, including skepticism from Black voters who elected him and now question his dedication to their priorities. And for Abrams, who once openly lobbied Biden to pick her as his vice president, her absence left the impression that she was now distancing from the leader of her party as she campaigns for Georgia governor.

Biden and Abrams quickly sought to smooth over any damage. An aide said late Monday that an unspecified scheduling conflict would prevent Abrams from attending Biden’s event, but after Biden spoke, she released a statement saying she welcomed his commitment to changing the filibuster to allow voting bills to come to a vote. “I look forward to continuing to work with them to make progress for Georgians,” Abrams said.

“We have a great relationship,” Biden said. “We got our scheduling mixed up.”

“Not being in attendance because you have something to do is a way for you to not alienate the president, who’s the stand-in for the establishment wing of the party,” said Emory University political scientist Andra Gillespie. “But it also shields you from criticism from progressives, who might be critical if it looked like she was accepting of a symbolic gesture that didn’t come with any substantive announcement.”

It was videos and photos with Biden that she feared, dear reader! Stacey Abrams knows that Biden’s support is tanking and correctly surmised he could sink her effort to become Emperor Governor.

From the Hill:

Stacey Abrams helped Biden steal the 2020 Election in Georgia but now she won’t even share a stage with Joe,” Trump said in a statement, repeating his false claim that the 2020 presidential election in Georgia was marred by widespread voter fraud.

“Stacey knows that Biden actually lost BIG in Georgia, and in the 2020 Presidential Election as a whole, and he’s been so terrible she now wants nothing to do with him,” Trump added. “Even the woke, radical left realizes that Joe Biden’s Administration is an embarrassment!”

From an opinion piece that ran in the Hill:

It is stunning, to the point of disturbing, that the president and most of his party are focused on voting rights when the subject isn’t on the minds of most Americans. A recent AP poll shows that 66 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. (The number was just 49 percent when Biden took office.)

But the rubber truly meets the road when those surveyed are asked what the government needs to prioritize moving ahead in 2022: 68 percent said the economy, which is experiencing 40-year high in inflation. Voting generated just 6 percent.

In order to apply maximum pressure and gain maximum media attention for the Georgia visit, Biden-Harris needed the presence and support of Abrams, the Democrats’ most high-profile voting rights activist. But out of nowhere, she pulled out, citing a scheduling conflict and only offered support via Twitter.

So why the snub? One reason is that even before completing one year in office, Biden and Harris are toxic to members of their own party. A December Hill/Harris-X poll found that 37 percent of Democrats don’t want Biden to seek reelection, a remarkably high number so early into a first term. Most voters overall don’t want Biden to run, including nearly 6-in-10 independents. And some of the harsh criticism is now on the record, a real sign of Biden’s weakness within the ranks.

“We do not need any more speeches, we don’t need any more platitudes,” James Woodall, former president of the N.A.A.C.P. of Georgia, told the New York Times this week. “We don’t need any more photo ops. We need action, and that actually is in the form of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, as well as the Freedom to Vote Act — and we need that immediately.” Needless to say, Woodall and the NAACP of Georgia also declined to join the president and vice president on Tuesday.

From the New York Times:

Voting rights groups looked to Mr. Biden, who had pledged to protect the right to vote, for an aggressive response. He delivered a forceful speech last summer in Philadelphia, and assigned the voting rights portfolio to Ms. Harris. But the administration poured its energy into passing Mr. Biden’s economic agenda, including the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the sweeping Build Back Better plan.

The failure to press as hard for voting rights legislation has soured some of those advocates for voting rights on the administration.

From 11Alive:

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger held a press conference Tuesday morning where he presented four proposals he wants federal lawmakers to consider to reform elections nationwide.

“I am calling on Congress to take steps to strengthen our elections systems and restore the confidence that decades of stolen election claims have stolen from our elections infrastructure,” Raffensperger said during his press conference.

The Secretary of State’s proposals include:

• Amending the U.S. Constitution to ban noncitizens from voting in elections
• Nationwide voter ID requirements
• A nationwide ban on ballot harvesting
• Federal law to shorten the blackout period for elections officials to conduct voter roll maintenance prior to an election

Gov. Brian Kemp also held a press conference Tuesday afternoon amid the presidential visit.

“I’m going to stay on the side of fighting for the bill that we got passed last year,” he said.

“I believe it does exactly what we needed. It restores confidence in the elections process here in our state,” he said.

“Municipal elections last year went incredibly smooth,” he said.

Governor Kemp is asking the General Assembly to move quickly on $2000 raises for teachers to be delivered as bonuses, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

Gov. Brian Kemp wants teachers to get the remaining $2,000 of his proposed $5,000 raise as soon as possible, with plans to ask lawmakers to give teachers a one-time $2,000 bonus before the current budget year ends, according to information obtained by The Associated Press.

The information indicated Kemp would seek to make the increase a permanent part of their salary when the next budget year begins July 1.

“Students from all walks of life are confronted with mental health struggles, teachers are asked to do more and more every year, and the need for a world-class K-12 education to prepare our children for an ever-changing workforce has never been greater,” Kemp plans to say in his annual State of the State speech Thursday, according to draft remarks obtained by the AP.

Kemp also plans to seek a one-time $2,000 payment to other full-time K-12 employees and administrators who aren’t teachers, while asking them to pay a $1,000 one-time bonus to part-time employees, school nurses, bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

Fewer ballots were put in drop boxes in 2021 after adoption of new state election rules, according to the AJC.

Roughly half as many absentee voters returned their ballots in drop boxes in metro Atlanta’s core counties in 2021 compared to the 2020 general election, according to ballot collection forms obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Now, Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill that would eliminate drop boxes entirely in future elections.

Most absentee voters in metro Atlanta relied on drop boxes in 2020 rather than depend on the postal service to deliver their ballots before polls closed on Election Day.

Georgia’s voting law limited drop boxes to early voting locations and hours, meaning voters were unable deliver ballots in the evening or during the three days before election day.

The law also capped the number of drop boxes at one per 100,000 active voters in each county. As a result, the number of drop boxes in Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties decreased from 87 in 2020 to 20 last year.

One-third of absentee voters returned their ballots in drop boxes in last fall’s elections, according to drop box collection forms obtained by the AJC through records requests to Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties. Gwinnett County didn’t run local elections in 2021.

By comparison, 60% of absentee ballots were delivered in those three counties’ drop boxes during the 2020 election, when they were more widely available.

Gwinnett County will pay for voting materials in four additional non-English languages, according to AccessWDUN.

Gwinnett County will soon be making voting materials available in more languages. Last week Gwinnett Commissioners approved a budget that will fund voter materials and sample ballots into four Asian languages.

The budget will mean that everything that isn’t an actual ballot will be provided in multiple languages. Actual ballots will still be provided in English and in Spanish as is required by federal law. Other materials include sample ballots, registration paperwork, and other informational materials about voting and working at the polls.

This year’s Gwinnett budget contains $4.4 million in expanded election services, including the new translation initiative and eight new elections division positions. Also covered by that funding is a pay increase for poll workers and postage for absentee ballots.

Georgia State Senator Clint Dixon (R-Buford) will pursue again making Gwinnett County Board of Education eections nonpartisan, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

After looking at the possibility of changing school board elections across Georgia to make them nonpartisan, state Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, says will not pursue a statewide change — but he will introduce legislation specifically targeting the Gwinnett County Board of Education.

Dixon confirmed his plans with the Daily Post on Monday. He said he plans to introduce a bill within the next few weeks to switch the Gwinnett school board from partisan to nonpartisan elections, although he added that there are some details that need to be sorted out first.

“After talking to stakeholders as far as education professionals and elected officials statewide, I mean it was certainly a mix is being in favor and being in opposition of it going statewide,” Dixon said. “(That was) bipartisan, both Republicans and Democrats. I’m definitely going to focus on Gwinnett though.”

As local legislation, Dixon, who is the only Republican in Gwinnett’s Senate delegation, would need to get some Democrats in Gwinnett’s House and Senate delegations to sign on to the proposal.

“I’ve not determined exactly how it will look, but I want to move forward on it pretty quickly,” Dixon said.

Brunswick Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Stephen Scarlett heard arguments on a lawsuit to halt the Spaceport Camden, according to The Brunswick News.

Camden County Attorney John Meyers argued the request by opponents for a countywide referendum to determine if the voters should decide if the county should be allowed to purchase the property from Union Carbide is too late.

Meyers said organizers of the petition drive intentionally submitted petitions signed multiple times by the same people and questioned the motivation and timing of the petition.

Dana Braun, a lawyer representing two plaintiffs who filed the complaint, said the civil complaint in Superior Court to stop the land purchase could not be filed until the petitions went to Probate Court in Camden County.

County officials said the deal to close on the property this week could be jeopardized if Scarlett grants the request to delay the purchase until Probate Court certifies if there are enough valid signatures to hold a referendum. About 3,200 valid signatures from registered voters are needed to hold the referendum.

Evans County Charter School System will remain virtual this week due to staff shortages, according to WTOC.

Due to an excessive amount of COVID-related employee and student absences, the Evans County Charter School System will be closed January 12-14, 2022.

Superintendent Martin Waters said the district will observe MLK Holiday on Monday, January 17th and reopen on Tuesday, January 18, 2022.

“We don’t have enough employees to operate, not enough teachers to operate, not enough school nutrition workers to serve lunch. I mean, it went from 63 yesterday to 83 today and we know we’ll have potential cases tomorrow so we simply just didn’t have the staff to operate school. All of the indications from medical advisors, is that Omicron is extremely contagious and it appears that’s what happened. We’ve had a case or two and it’s spread like wildfire,” said Dr. Waters.

More Richmond County schools are going online, according to WJBF.

Staff shortages are affecting school bus service in the Columbus area, according to WTVM.

A nationwide school bus driver shortage is causing stress to families in our area.

For the past several mornings, [a local mother] explained her children have been standing in the cold weather for up to an hour – missing the school bus and late for school.

Just Monday, over in Harris County, the School District released a statement urging parents who rely on a school bus to have a back up plan in place for the time being.

Justin Finney, the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services and Technology for Harris County explains routes haven’t had to be altered yet, but they want to be prepared.

“Right now, out of our 80 drivers, we do have 15 drivers off their routes,” Finney explained. “Five vacancies, some COVID numbers and other various reasons. If we do have to alter a bus route, we determine the route we have to alter then we call parents as quick as we can.”

In Harris County they are also in desperate need of bus drivers. It takes up to eight weeks after being hired for drivers to start a route.

Chatham County Health Department is also affected by staffing shortages, according to WTOC.

Three Savannah-area schools switched to virtual attendance due to staff shortages, according to WSAV.

Dalton public schools face rising COVID numbers, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Augusta Commissioners have heard from residents opposed to fireworks, according to WJBF.

“I don’t see a reason why on a regular evening, that fireworks should be going off until midnight, we should cut back to ten or 11 o’clock,” said Commissioner McKnight.

Fireworks are legal until midnight, in Georgia and 1 AM New Year’s Eve, McKnight saying she got a lot of complaints about noise into the wee hours on New Year’s Day, that’s why she’s saying they should end earlier.

McKnight taking her request to do something about fireworks noise to the commission Public Services Committee, where commissioners were told if you want earlier hours for fireworks, create a local ordinance.

“If the commission, it’s there will to change pretty much any of these local ordinances I believe you have the ability to do so,” said City Administrator Odie Donald.

The ability is there for a local fireworks ordinance, but it appears right now, not the will.

Two new Dougherty County Commissioners were sworn in, according to the Albany Herald.

The new Commissioners, Jalen Johnson in Ward II and Vilnis Gaines in Ward III, took the oath of office with Commissioner Bob Langstaff, who won a sixth term during the 2021 municipal election.

Judge Ronald K. “Ronnie” Thompson was appointed by Gov. Kemp to the Superior Court for the Ogeechee Circuit, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Politics and preparations to add a fourth judge in the circuit, which includes Bulloch, Effingham, Jenkins and Screven counties, began several years ago. The new judgeship was created, but postdated to begin this year, with the Georgia General Assembly’s passage in early 2020 of House Bill 786, which also created additional judgeships in two other circuits. Funding was approved in 2021 with the current budget.

“I’m glad Governor Kemp picked me,” Thompson said Tuesday.  “The other two individuals, Martha and Matt, they’re very well qualified. But I’m glad he picked me. You know, I’ve been doing this for 19 years and I just felt it was time to try something different, and I’m qualified, ready to serve, looking forward to serving.”

He took office as full-time Effingham County State Court judge on Jan. 1, 2003, after winning an election over two other candidates, and has since been re-elected without opposition multiple times.

Thompson is slated to be sworn in Tuesday, Jan. 18, in a ceremony at the Capitol in Atlanta. He is limited to 15 seats for guests, and plans to be accompanied by his wife, Crystal, and some other family members, friends and local officials.

With the expansion to a fourth judge, the circuit is also receiving state funding for a legal assistant or secretary for Thompson, an additional staff attorney to work for all of the judges, an added attorney for the District Attorney’s Office and another for the Public Defenders Office.

Meanwhile, Effingham County is in need of a new State Court judge. Thompson would have been up for re-election to that office this year, with his term set to end Dec. 31. Now, the governor will probably appointment someone to serve out the year, and candidates can qualify to seek a full term, Thompson said.

 

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