Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 16, 2022

16
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 16, 2022

James Madison, drafter of the Constitution and fourth President of the United States, was born on March 16, 1751.

The United States Military Academy was established at West Point, New York on March 16, 1802.

On March 16, 1861, delegates in Savannah unanimously ratified the Confederate Constitution and voted to have a new state constitution drafted.

On March 16, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Illinois Democratic Primary. His spiritual successor President Barack Obama, from Illinois, would visit Carter’s home state of Georgia on March 16, 2012.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – Legislative Day 29

TBD Senate Rules Committee upon Adjournment 450 CAP

8:00 AM Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee 307 CLOB

9:00 AM Senate Health and Human Services Committee 450 CAP

9:00 AM Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee – canceled 307 CLOB

10:00 AM Senate Retirement Committee 310 CLOB

10:00 AM Senate Health and Human Services- Subcommittee on Mental Health Parity Mezz 1

10:00 AM Senate Education and Youth Committee – canceled 307 CLOB

11:00 AM Senate Finance Committee 450 CAP

11:00 AM Senate Insurance and Labor Committee Mezz 1

1:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION COMMITTEE 606 CLOB HYBRID

1:00 PM Senate Floor Session LD 29 Senate Chamber

1:30 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE 132 CAP HYBRID

2:00 PM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 29) House Chamber

2:00 PM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE 406 CLOB HYBRID

3:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY NON CIVIL COMMITTEE 132 CAP HYBRID

3:00 PM HOUSE INDUSTRY AND LABOR COMMITTEE 506 CLOB HYBRID

4:00 PM Senate Transportation Committee – canceled 450 CAP

Yesterday was Crossover Day in the Georgia General Assembly. That’s the legislative day by which a bill must pass either chamber to remain eligible for final passage in this session. From 11Alive via 13WMAZ:

Republicans advanced some bills that will make conservative voters happy in an election year.

Republicans in the Senate passed a bill that would enhance penalties for unlawful assemblies – a bill directed at protests that have roiled Atlanta and other cities the last two years.

They also passed a bill that would protect protesters at school board meetings from being evicted too quickly.

And House Republicans passed an election bill that would give the GBI authority to investigate election irregularities – a bill rooted in discredited allegations connected to the 2020 election.

“By all means lets vote for this. Get it on across” to the senate, said state Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), discussing a medical marijuana measure.

The House passed a bipartisan bill designed to restart the process to award licenses to Georgia growers of medical cannabis.

The House also passed bills encouraging schools to schedule recess for children K-5. Gov. Kemp vetoed a similar bill in 2019.

The House also passed a bill to increase the salaries of lawmakers based on Georgia’s median income. The measure would double their current salaries of about $17,000, and would give Georgia voters the chance to decide.

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday spoke to the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, according to The Citizen.

The Honorable Brian P. Kemp, Governor of Georgia, spoke to community business leaders and local elected officials during a luncheon held at the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. He was accompanied by his wife, Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp.

The capacity crowd was welcomed by Fayette Chamber CEO/President Colin Martin. Fayetteville Mayor Ed Johnson offered opening remarks including the Pledge of Allegiance and the Invocation.

Governor Kemp thanked local business leaders for their role in keeping Georgia open for business. He told the crowd that he ran for public office in the early 2000s to cut taxes, fees, and government red tape on job creating businesses and Georgia families. Kemp stated that he is fighting to keep Georgia #1 for business, which benefits everyone. He also talked about the decisions he made during the COVID-19 pandemic to minimize state mandates in order to help citizens maintain their livelihoods.

Kemp spoke for 45 minutes on a wide range of topics including the Georgia economy, employment, crime, affordable housing, COVID-19, education, and mental health issues. He thanked Piedmont-Fayette Hospital for their role in providing critical health care services. Kemp also thanked the Georgia National Guard for their role in providing support during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also recognized the work of First Lady Marty Kemp for her work in combating Human Trafficking.

Governor Kemp also campaigned in Harris County, according to WTVM.

In Harris County, Governor Brian Kemp held a meet and greet at the county courthouse speaking to people in the community about his plans if he wins the election.

He said, if re-elected, he will continue his work in keeping Georgia moving in the right direction.

He plans to continue strengthening rural communities and lowering healthcare costs.

“Make no mistake this election is gonna be about more of the same keeping our state moving in the right direction doing things like keeping our economy open so you have enough revenues that you’re able to suspend the gas tax for tax for two months which we’re fixing to do because of what we’re seeing in Ukraine and inflation before the war started on gas prices to give Georgians some relief at the pump,” said Kemp.

Democrat Stacey Abrams campaigned in Middle Georgia, according to 11Alive.

Democrat Stacey Abrams made her first 2022 campaign tour through Georgia Monday. The Democrat may get a rematch this fall with Gov. Brian Kemp – if Kemp can get past GOP challenger David Perdue.

Abrams spent much of the day south of Macon and Columbus – her first stops in what will be a roughly eight-month-long campaign for governor.

“She’s kind of a celebrity,” [Kayla Golay, who moved to Warner Robins from Colorado] said as she waited for Abrams at a restaurant near Robins AFB. “I’m excited. I already texted my family.”

Sydney Seligman-Miguel moved to Georgia from California. “I’m really stoked to see like Stacey Abrams for real in person,” she said.

Democrats are counting on winning over new voters. Enough of them voting in 2022 could lift up Abrams, who narrowly lost to Brian Kemp in 2018.

Houston County isn’t precisely Abrams country, but it’s trending in a direction that could help her win this year. In 2018, she lost the county to Kemp by 16.8 percentage points. Two years later, Joe Biden also lost the county by 12.4  points, closing the margin for the top-of-the-ticket Democrat.

Abrams rattled off the names of rural Georgia counties she expects to visit, saying Democratic votes are valuable in each of them “across the state of Georgia, and I’m going to talk to every single one of them.”

Abrams barely mentioned gas prices or inflation, two issues that Republicans want to tie to President Biden, and Abrams by extension.

The House and Senate passed competing bills to fix the licensing for low-THC oil production, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Both bills would throw out the selection process a commission the state created to oversee the program used to tentatively award licenses to six companies to grow marijuana and convert the leafy crop to cannabis oil.

The Senate bill, which passed unanimously, instructs the commission to restart the selection process and award six licenses by May 31.

However, it goes a step further by requiring the state Department of Administrative Services (DOAS) – rather than the commission – to issue a new request for proposals. The DOAS would bring in an independent consultant to score the bids.

Starting over with consultants playing a key role in the licensing process is the fairest way to get the long-delayed program off the ground, Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, told his House colleagues Tuesday.

“It moves this process out of the hands of a bunch of appointed folks and puts it in the hands of professionals,” he said.

Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville, who sponsored the 2019 bill, urged lawmakers to stay focused on the 20,000 Georgia patients who are on the state registry to receive cannabis oil once the program gets started.

“The sole purpose of the bill is to move the ball forward toward getting medical cannabis to folks on the registry,” said Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, the Senate bill’s chief sponsor.

The Georgia Senate Finance Committee voted to recommend passage of House Bill 304, which would temporarily suspend collection of the state motor fuel tax, according to WTOC.

The House approved the bill last week. Gov. Kemp has indicated he will sign the bill, which will suspend taxes on gas until May 31.

Currently, Georgia’s gas tax is 29 cents a gallon for gasoline. For diesel, the state tax is almost 33 cents a gallon. The bill would suspend the state tax through May 31.

State representatives in the Georgia House approved the measure last week. If the Georgia Senate approves the bill, it would then go to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature. Kemp has said he will sign it.

At the federal level, U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock told CBS46 last week he’s working on legislation in Washington D.C. to cut federal gas taxes for much longer.

House Bill 304 began its journey as a different kind of tax cut, but it got repurposed into the sales tax suspension in the committee process.

From 11Alive via 13WMAZ:

The Senate Finance Committee recommended that H.B. 304 pass by committee substitute, setting it up for a full Senate vote, though it’s not yet clear when that might happen. The bill has already passed the Georgia House.

“We realize Georgians need relief at the pump, and we’re gonna get them that,” Kemp said.

After it passed in the House, the governor thanked the state’s House of Representatives for “helping us bring relief to hardworking Georgians by temporarily halting the state gas tax!”

Kemp said he would sign the bill “as soon as it passes.”

From WSAV:

“I certainly will vote in favor of suspending the gas tax, which is 29 cents in the state of Georgia. The House voted on it Friday, so it came to us today,” said Sen. Ben Watson, a Republican from Savannah.

Watson said the legislation could be taken up as early as Wednesday but that the Senate must suspend the rules to deal with this type of bill. He did say there appears to be bipartisan support for the bill, so he’s hopeful a vote will be taken quickly.

“I think everybody is interested in this as the price of gasoline has skyrocketed, and, you know, I think this is something we can do certainly in support of Ukraine and obviously, for the citizens of Georgia,” said Watson.

Camden County Commissioners are still trying to get the Spaceport off the launching pad after voters limited their ability to purchase land for the project, according to The Brunswick News.

Camden County Administrator Steve Howard believes there could be an announcement as early as next week with a third party to establish a fund to build a spaceport at no cost to taxpayers.

“We continue to have a high level of interest from the private sector concerning this catalyst project,” he said.

A company with the financial backing will be soon visiting Camden County to discuss the Union Carbide site, which indicates a spaceport, while floundering, is still a possibility.

“They have indicated their renewed interest in having their own spaceport,” Howard said. “Camden’s future remains bright.”

I’m not sure if I’ve seen such open contempt for the voters as is being displayed here.

The Jekyll Island Board Authority approved proposed projects for a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax to be considered by Glynn County residents, according to The Brunswick News.

The suggested projects will be submitted for consideration by the Glynn County Commission. The total cost is about $3.1 million.

The commission has yet to announce a full list of SPLOST projects that could be on the ballot in November.

In 2021, voters rejected the proposed SPLOST.

SPLOST is a 1% sales tax used to raise money for capital projects in the county’s jurisdiction. Proceeds are split with municipalities within the county’s boundaries.

Augusta’s Tax Commissioner and Deputy swapped places after the Commissioner qualified to run for Mayor, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Last Thursday, Richmond County Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick, a frontrunner in the mayoral election, effectively vacated the office, which created an opening automatically filled by his chief deputy, Chris Johnson.

Johnson then turned around and named Kendrick as his chief deputy.

Several of Kendrick’s eight opponents in the May 24 contest and their supporters leapt at the opportunity to criticize the move. Most refused to comment publicly, but one candidate did.

“It don’t pass the smell test with me,” said former commissioner and mayoral candidate Marion Williams. “I’ve never heard of anybody doing that before. How can he appoint somebody as the tax commissioner, then that person turns around appoints him?”

Athens Clarke County commissioners voted on a plan to spend nearly $40 million in federal COVID relief funding, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The plan covers eight areas of funding, with five specific buckets:
• $11 million for Affordable Housing
• $7 million for Youth Development and Violence Prevention
• $5 million for Homelessness
• $4 million Business Development and Workforce Support
• $4 million for Behavioral Health

These “buckets” are general areas to be funded and advisory committees will oversee the buckets and allocate funds to specific projects.

The local government will also work with community partners on how to spend the money in each bucket, including the Clarke County School District, Georgia Initiative for Community Housing, Athens Homeless Coalition and Advantage Behavioral Health Systems.

The Hall County and Dawson County Juvenile Courts added a fourth judge using COVID funds, according to the Gainesville Times.

Assistant Public Defender Matt Leipold was named Tuesday, March 15, as the fourth judge on the Juvenile Court bench for Hall and Dawson counties.

The courts received  American Rescue Plan funding in December to add a fourth judgeship, which they had otherwise hoped to do by 2024.

Leipold was appointed by the Superior Court judges and will handle some civil Superior Court matters in the immediate future.

“We’re very pleased to have Mr. Leipold continue his public service in this new capacity,” Chief Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin said in a statement. “He’s earned a reputation as a devoted advocate and skillful practitioner, with a sharp knowledge of the law.”

Moody Air Force Base is in line for federal funding to upgrade their helicopter landing area, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Millions of dollars for a helicopter landing apron were included in a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill that cleared the House of Representatives last week.

The spending bill now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., said he expects the bipartisan bill to come up for a vote and be passed.

The $12.5 million for Moody’s apron was not part of the regular annual defense spending bill, he said. Warnock worked with Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., to secure the funds.

The apron will serve the new HH-60W Pave Hawk combat rescue helicopters of the 41st Rescue Squadron. The first HH-60Ws were delivered to Moody in November 2019.

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