Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 23, 2022

23
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 23, 2022

Patrick Henry addressed the Virginia Convention in Richmond on March 23, 1775, stating, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

On March 23, 1861, the Georgia Secession Convention adopted a new state Constitution to be submitted to a referendum of the voters on the first Tuesday in July and then adjourned.

On March 23, 1972, in the case of Gooding v. Wilson, the United States Supreme Court held that a Georgia statute, OCGA § 26-6303, which provided: “Any person who shall, without provocation, use to or of another, and in his presence . . . opprobrious words or abusive language, tending to cause a breach of the peace . . . shall be guilty of a misdemeanor,” was unconstitutionally vague and violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

On March 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan called for the development of an anti-missile system that would come to be known as the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – Legislative Day 34

TBD Senate Rules Committee upon Adjournment 450 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE INSURANCE COMMITTEE 606 CLOB HYBRID

8:00 AM HOUSE AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMITTEE 406 CLOB HYBRID

8:00 AM HOUSE BANKS & BANKING 506 CLOB HYBRID

8:00 AM Senate Appropriations Committee 341 CAP

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES COMMITTEE 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 34) House Chamber

10:00 AM Senate Floor Session LD 34 Senate Chamber

1:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION 606 CLOB HYBRID

1:00 PM HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE 341 CAP HYBRID

1:00 PM HOUSE STATE PROPERTIES COMMITTEE 506 CLOB

1:00 PM Senate Health and Human Services 450 CAP

1:00 PM Senate Natural Res & Envt – canceled 307 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Tax Revision Sub 403 CAP HYBRID

1:30 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE 132 CAP HYBRID

2:00 PM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 406 CLOB HYBRID

2:00 PM Senate Education and Youth Committee 307 CLOB

2:00 PM Senate Retirement Committee 310 CLOB

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

3:00 PM HOUSE INDUSTRY AND LABOR 506 CLOB HYBRID

3:00 PM Senate Finance Committee Mezz 1

3:00 PM Senate Health and Human Services- Mental Health Parity Subcommittee 450 CAP

4:00 PM Senate Transportation Committee 450 CAP

5:00 PM Senate Ethics Committee 307 CLOB

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order #03.21.22.01, renewing the State of Emergency for Continued COVID-19 Economic Recovery through April 15, 2022.

The Biden Administration announced a new project to address port congestion, according to WTOC.

The Biden-Harris Administration unveiled Tuesday details about a data-sharing pilot project that involves the Georgia Ports Authority and 17 other partners.

Last October, we saw port congestion firsthand – with more than 20 container ships anchored off the coast of Tybee Island waiting to get into the Port of Savannah.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says situations like this are why the government is working with the private sector to help streamline freight logistics. The initiative is called the Freight Logistics Optimization Works, or known simply as FLOW.

It will create a data sharing network to open communication between the ports, ocean carriers, terminal operators, businesses, trucking, chassis, and warehouses with the goal of moving goods moving faster.

The secretary says Georgia Ports Authority is a key player in agreeing to participate in the data sharing initiative. He explained why all this matters to you – the consumer.

Democrat Stacey Abrams spoke at the Georgia Theatre in Athens, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee expressed a clear preference for that chamber’s approach to the medical cannabis licensing cluster. From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune:

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday essentially scrapped legislation the Georgia House of Representatives passed last week aimed at breaking a logjam that has sidetracked the program. Instead, the panel approved the same version the full Senate passed last week.

Both bills would throw out the selection process a state commission created to oversee the program used to tentatively award licenses last summer to six companies to grow marijuana and convert the leafy crop to low-THC cannabis oil. The process left 16 losing bidders disgruntled and threatening to tie up the process in litigation.

The General Assembly created the commission back in 2019. At first, it couldn’t get off the ground because it took four months for its members to be appointed. Then, another year went by before the commission released a request for proposals from interested companies.

The full Senate could re-adopt its version of the legislation by the end of this week. However, the differences between the House and Senate bills could land the measure in a joint conference committee during the final days of this year’s legislative session to see if an agreement can be reached.

Bill Torpy of the AJC writes about his experience clandestinely buying low-THC oil in a Petco parking lot.

Four years earlier, in 2015, the state legislature, in its wisdom, voted to allow those suffering from several diseases to obtain marijuana oil with a doctor’s prescription. Michael’s oncologist wrote a script but explained that Georgia remained in a bizarre limbo: A doctor can prescribe low-THC marijuana oil and you can possess it, but it is illegal to grow the plant that supplies the oil here. It is also illegal to bring it into the state from elsewhere.

In 2019, a full four years after the state allowed doctors to write prescriptions, legislators passed a bill establishing a process for companies to grow it here and supply that need.

Therefore, you must get it from the Pot Fairy. Or somewhere. It’s not clear. The legislature, again, in all its wisdom, didn’t elucidate.

With the prescription in hand, I made some calls and came into contact with what is, in essence, a medical marijuana underground railroad. I was forwarded to a pleasant lady who had some oil matching his prescription. I was told to meet her in the parking lot outside a suburban Petco. I asked what she looked like. She was in a Honda Odyssey, just like me. It was modern-day drug deal of two middle-aged people in minivans making a score outside a big box store.

Allen Peake, a former Republican state rep from Macon, is the legislator who started all this in 2015. He remains frustrated by the state’s inaction, saying, “It’s completely and utterly devastating for Georgia families to continue the delay to get access. Our leaders have failed us.”

“If there was a strong will on the part of the governor, the House and the Senate, it’d get done,” he said. “Clearly there has not been that will.”

I have a similar story from when my late wife was on the registry.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved their version of the state budget for FY 2023, according to the AJC.

Georgia Senate budget writers on Wednesday approved a spending plan for the coming year that includes a $2,000 pay raise for teachers and continues attempts to slow state government turnover.

State lawmakers would be among those getting the full $5,000 raises in the upcoming year’s budget. Legislators haven’t received an increase on their $17,000 part-time salary in more than a decade.

The $30 billion spending plan for fiscal 2023, which begins July 1, builds on the record midyear budget that Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed into law.

The midyear budget, which runs through June 30, includes $2,000 bonuses for teachers and school workers and $5,000 cost-of-living raises for most state and university employees.

The budget for the upcoming year turns the teacher bonus into a raise — meaning it would be built into their future years’ salary — and continue to fund the state employee increases. Some staffers in areas with hard-to-fill jobs, including corrections and mental health agencies, would get bigger raises.

As the House did, the Senate plan backs Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal to boost state spending on higher education and eliminates the “institutional fees” that students have been forced to pay since the Great Recession, when the General Assembly slashed college funding.

House Bill 1064 by State Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) would exempt some income for military retirees from the state income tax, according to the Savannah Morning News.

To military retirees under the age of 62 who have served for more than 20 years, the bill would mean $17,500 off of their taxes annually. And since military retirees are typically around 40 years old, they usually get another job elsewhere.

Petrea’s bill takes this into consideration too: if retirees continue to work, they get an additional $17,500 exemption on top of that for their regular income, up to a total of $35,000.

“People retiring after 42 have a lot of years left to work. Well, the No. 1 issue we hear from industry and business in this state is they can’t hire people who want to work,” Petrea said. “What better way to incentivize patriotic, industrious, skilled, disciplined people to stay here and work?”

The price tag for HB 1064 is an estimated $60 million chunk of the state budget annually. And that’s dialed back from Petrea’s past attempts to get it passed.

“Originally, it would’ve eliminated all military retirement income taxes. My proposal would not have capped it,” Petrea said. “But the governor’s chosen, and I would say wisely, to be cautious and make it [capped], to make sure we don’t spend too much in our budget.”

House Bill 385 passed the State Senate and would allow some retired teachers to return to the classroom without forfeiting pay, according to WJBF.

Senators voted 50-1 for House Bill 385, sending it to Gov. Brian Kemp to sign into law.

The Republican governor proposed the bill last year as part of a package to increase teachers statewide.

Under the measure, teachers who have 30 years of service could return to the classroom after at least 12 months of retirement.

They would earn both a full salary and their pension.

Districts could hire retired teachers in three top need areas, as designated locally by the state Department of Education.

The Georgia Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee heard testimony on the “Freedom to Farm Act,” House Bill 1150, aimed at protecting agricultural operations from nusiance lawsuits, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The Freedom to Farm Act would replace a law the General Assembly passed in 1989.

Under House Bill 1150, which the Georgia House passed early this month, neighbors bothered by bad smells, dust or noise emanating from a farm would have one year to file a nuisance suit. After that, any farm operating legally would be protected.

“In 32 years of application, not a single nuisance lawsuit has been lodged successfully against an agricultural operation in this state,” said Neill Herring, a lobbyist for the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club.

But the bill’s supporter said they’re concerned about the potential for future nuisance suits as urban encroachment into farmland spreads across the state.

The committee did not vote on the legislation Monday. To reach the Senate floor during the final two weeks of this year’s session, the bill must pass both the Agriculture and Rules committees.

Senate Bill 331, the “Protecting Georgia Businesses and Workers Act,” passed the State House and would prevent local governments from regulating employee hours, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

The bill passed 99-67 largely along party lines and now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.

House Democrats criticized the measure as as attempt by the state to usurp local control.

“We already tell [local] governments, ‘You can’t set minimum wages,’ ” said Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Atlanta. “All local governments are trying to do is give predictability to workers in their areas.”

Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, said the legislation provides a practical benefit to businesses by allowing them to operate across city and county lines without being subject to local regulations governing employee hours or schedules that could be different.

The Senate passed the bill 31-21 last month.

Fort Gordon and Fort Benning will be renamed, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The Naming Commission, which Congress created last year to rename military installations named for historical figures with ties to the Confederacy, has developed a list of fewer than 100 names it is considering. The panel will make recommendations to the U.S. House and Senate Armed Services committees by Oct. 1.

Fort Gordon near Augusta is named for John Gordon, who served as a general in the Confederate Army and went on to become Georgia’s governor. Gordon presided at the formal surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, Va., in April 1865.

Fort Benning south of Columbus was named for Henry Benning, who was a leader in Georgia’s secessionist movement before the Civil War. Like Gordon, he was a general in the Army of Northern Virginia commanded by Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Columbus State University will waive standardized test scores for some applicants, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The college is adopting “test-free” admissions requirements for the upcoming summer and fall semesters.

Freshman students applying for these semesters will not be required to submit ACT or SAT scores – as long they have a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher (based on their Required High School Curriculum as calculated by CSU).

Individuals who have previously applied for the Summer or Fall 2022 semesters will be re-evaluated to the new criteria, according to CSU.

“We are committed to providing all our future CSU Cougars a ‘creative to the core’ academic experience,” said Sallie McMullin, associate vice president for enrollment management. “With this move, we look forward to helping more graduating high school seniors with their transition to a successful and rewarding college experience.”

University officials say this change is part of its mission to expedite the undergraduate admissions process and help make college admission accessible.

That will be true for most University System of Georgia schools, according to AccessWDUN.

Students applying to attend a public college or state university in Georgia this fall will not need to submit an ACT or SAT score to enroll. In the past, any students applying were required to submit those results to enroll, but this week the University System of Georgia announced it will temporarily waive those score requirements for most of the schools in the state.

Students must still meet all other admission requirements, including their grade-point averages (GPA). Students applying to a research university must have a 3.4 GPA, comprehensive universities require a 3.2 GPA, and state universities call for a 3.0 GPA.

Students must still submit scores if they are applying to Georgia College & State University, Georgia Tech or the University of Georgia. Those are the most academically competitive schools. Students must also still submit scores if they would like to receive the Zell Miller Scholarship, which pays the full tuition at the University System schools. The HOPE scholarship will NOT require an ACT or SAT score.

Harris County public schools are delaying opening by two hours today due to weather, according to WTVM.

Floyd County Commissioners voted to approve the hring of a new Elections Supervisor, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Hall County Sales Tax revenues are up, according to the Gainesville Times.

The county estimated it would raise about $50.5 million from July 2021 through the end of last year, but revenues came in nearly 40% over projections over that span for a total of $70.5 million.

“We’ve seen record sales tax checks,” County Administrator Jock Connell said. “We were scratching our heads.”

Connell said he expects the new online sales tax, implemented in April 2020, was a large contributor to strong revenue. And inflation in certain areas, such as grocery prices, helps boost government funds, too. At its current rate, the county would bring in $303 million by July 2026, well over its $217 million estimate.

Hall County, like most counties in Georgia, funds many large capital projects through a one-penny sales tax. That Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is voted on every 5-6 years, and Hall is now on its eighth SPLOST since 1985. Some major projects funded by SPLOST dollars include the Gainesville parking deck next to the downtown library, new ambulances, the East Hall library, water/sewer improvements and trail improvements.

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