Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 9, 2022

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May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 9, 2022

On May 9, 1862, a Union general, David Hunter, ordered the freedom of all slaves held in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, but President Lincoln issued a counter-order.

In Georgia on May 9, 1864, Union troops under General Sherman took Snake Creek Gap. In Atlanta, a notice was published,

“ATTENTION MILITIA! All persons between the ages of 16 and 60, not in the service of the Confederate States, in the second ward, are hereby notified to be and appear at the City Hall today, at 2 o’clock P.M., for the purpose of being armed and equipped for local defense. Herein fail not under penalty.”

On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first official “Mother’s Day.”

On May 9, 1974, the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary opened hearing on the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.

On May 9, 2005, Governor Sonny Perdue signed legislation recognizing the Green Tree Frog at the official state amphibian.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early voting turnout in Glynn County is on track for record levels, according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County voters cast a total of 1,940 ballots by the time early voting polls closed on Friday, according to Assistant Elections and Registration Supervisor Christina Redden. That figure accounts for almost 3% of registered voters.

In the 2018 midterm primary, a total of 3,448 voters cast ballots during the three weeks of early voting, which was 6.72% of the electorate that year.

“We’ve also already accepted approximately the same total of absentee ballots by mail than were accepted in 2018,” Redden said.

That year, 147 ballots were cast by mail in the entire primary.

“The state mailed out all those absentee applications in 2020 so we had extraordinary by-mail turnout which impacted early voting turnout,” Redden said. “I think turnout is generally slightly better than 2018, but I’m not seeing indicators of significantly increased turnout yet beyond explainable population growth.”

From a Press Release:

Governor Brian P. Kemp signed seven bills designed to benefit patients in Georgia and strengthen the state’s healthcare system. The legislation includes:

  • HB 733, which, among other components, requires insurers who cover diagnostic examinations for breast cancer to treat cost-sharing requirements the same as annual mammograms, furthering access to potentially life-saving health exams and increasing the likelihood of early detection for those tested regularly.
  • HB 937, which provides for notification to all eligible recipients of insurance coverage for annual mammograms to women over the age of 40.
  • HB 1304, which allows patients to appoint a lay caregiver after discharge from a hospital, thereby improving their quality of care and recovery.
  • HB 1069, which provides for a new licensure category for adult mental health facilities and programs, further supporting the mental health reforms signed into law earlier this year by expanding access to mental health facilities for adult treatment.
  • SB 341, which empowers patients to receive prior authorization for prescribed conditions requiring ongoing medication therapy for up to a year, cutting red tape for those receiving treatment.
  • SB 340, which creates a new accreditation organization for residency programs and removes the 50-resident cap on designated teaching hospitals, strengthening and expanding the workforce pipeline for healthcare workers.
  • HB 1041, which raises the cap on income tax credits for contributions to rural hospital organizations to $75 million per year.

“When I ran for governor, I told Georgians I would focus on bringing innovative solutions to our healthcare challenges – not just expand a one-size-fits-all, broken government program,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “The bills I have signed into law today further deliver on that promise, building on the efforts we made during the pandemic to confront that once-in-a-century event and its challenges.”

“I want to thank Representative Tyler Paul Smith, Senator Jason Anavitarte, Representative Darlene Taylor, and Senator Sheila McNeil for their work on HB 733, as well as the members of the General Assembly who gave this bill overwhelming, bipartisan support. Our daughters, wives, and mothers will now be better equipped to detect and fight breast cancer, so that it does not take even more of them from us.”

“I also want to thank Representative Sharon Henderson and Senator Gloria Butler for sponsoring HB 937 which further encourages women in Georgia to get their annual mammogram examination, a crucial test that leads to better outcomes for patients.”

“I want to thank Representative Lee Hawkins, Senator Dean Burke, and the legislators that voted unanimously to pass HB 1304. Caregivers are a vital part of any recovery, and this legislation helps us ensure patients have a reliable partner by their side when they’re on the mend.”

“Similarly HB 1069 — carried by Representative Bruce Williamson, Senator John Kennedy, and their co-sponsors — received overwhelmingly bipartisan and near unanimous support. This needed change in how we approach mental health treatment and access, along with Speaker Ralston’s Mental Health Parity Act (HB 1013) that I signed into law last month and other legislation, is yet another reason why this past session was historic for mental health in Georgia.”

“I’m also proud that by signing SB 341, carried by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick, Representative Mark Newton, and their co-sponsors, we are cutting red tape for patients in Georgia. The last thing an ailing person should have to deal with is more paper work, time-consuming bureaucracy, and expense.”

“One of the challenges the pandemic highlighted was the need for a larger, more robust healthcare workforce. With SB 340 now law, carried by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick and Representative Sharon Cooper and also having received unanimous support from the General Assembly, we are growing the pipeline for that in-demand workforce so that more doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals are able to provide quality care to sick or hurt Georgians in the years ahead.”

“Lastly, I want to thank Representative Clay Pirkle, Senator Billy Hickman and the legislators that gave strong backing to HB 1041 so that we can further support our rural hospitals and the Georgians who rely on their care.”

“With these common sense policies now in place, Georgia patients will now have both greater access to healthcare and a higher quality of care when they or a loved one are in need of medical attention. My thanks to all those who helped make this past session historic by implementing measures that will make Georgia a healthier place to live, work, and raise our families.”

From 11Alive:

After signing, the Georgia politician took to Twitter recognizing National Nurses Day and noted how this new legislation will reportedly help make a healthier Georgia.

He said, “On this #NationalNursesDay, I was proud to sign legislation to help strengthen our healthcare workforce.

“We will always be grateful for the resilience shown by these everyday heroes during the pandemic and the skilled care they give to sick and injured Georgians.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) upheld the determination by an Administrative Law Judge that U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R – Upper Left Hand Corner) may run for reelection and is not barred by a Constitutional prohibition, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

A state administrative judge Friday ruled against a lawsuit attempting to throw U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, off the ballot based on the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, citing insufficient evidence.

Lawyers for several voters who live in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District argued at a hearing two weeks ago that Greene should be declared ineligible to run for a second term in the House because she sought to overthrow the federal government through her actions following the November 2020 presidential election leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“The court concludes that the evidence in this matter is insufficient to establish that Rep. Greene, having ‘previously taken an oath as a member of Congress . . . to support the Constitution of the United States . . . engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or [gave] aid or comfort to the enemies thereof” under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution,” State Administrative Judge Charles Beaudrot wrote in a 19-page decision. “As this is the sole basis for challengers’ suit, the court concludes that Rep. Greene is qualified to be a candidate for representative for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who had the final say over Beaudrot’s ruling, upheld the decision late Friday afternoon.

From the AJC:

Greene on Friday applauded the decision and said it “gives me hope that we can win and save our country.”

“Democrats know they can’t beat me at the ballot box, so left-wing Communist activists tried to rip my name off the ballot,” she said. “And they failed.”

Free Speech For People and Our Revolution, a group that grew out of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, were behind the challenge to Greene’s candidacy.

Greene faces five challengers in the May 24 Republican primary for her seat, and all of them say they would be more effective and less controversial if voters sent them to Washington.

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Verda Colvin spoke to the Albany Herald about her path to the highest bench in the state.

“I was 14 years in in my career in the U.S. Attorney’s office, and I was a litigator through and through,” Covin said during a visit to Albany with Court of Appeals judge, and former Dougherty County District Attorney, Ken Hodges during law week this week. “When an opening came up in Macon Superior Court (in 2014), people — including my boss, Michael Moore — told me I should consider applying. I was a single mom with two kids, and I loved what I was doing.”

“People asked me ‘How did it go?’ after the interview process, and I said, ‘I don’t know what will happen, but I knocked it out of the park,’” Covin said.

Gov. Nathan Deal obviously agreed, and he called the candidate personally to tell her she got the job.

“That was surreal, but Gov. Deal and I developed a great friendship,” Covin said. “When we saw each other, we didn’t shake hands, we hugged.”

Six years later, another governor — Brian Kemp — appointed Covin to the state Court of Appeals, and 15 months into that tenure, then-Chief Justice Harold Melton announced plans to retire. Covin interviewed again, made the short list and eight months ago was appointed to the state high court, again by Kemp.

“Chief Justice Melton was the only African-American on the Supreme Court when he announced his plans to retire,” Covin said. “I knew we needed diversity on the court, and with others encouraging me to apply for the position, I kind of wanted to see if some of the older judges were interested. I’m one of those people who believes in the value of climbing the ladder.

“I didn’t want to risk not applying and losing that opportunity for diversity, though. So I applied, made the short list, and was appointed by Gov. Kemp.”

The Brunswick News asked candidates about the reported Supreme Court leak of  a draft opinion.

Gary Black, one of six Republicans in the primary race for U.S. Senate, says the premature release of the draft written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is a discipline issue that needs to be addressed.

“I hope they find out who (leaked) this, and they are punished to the full extent of the law,” Black said. “I view it as an attack on the institution, and that’s very serious.”

“We have a draft and maybe that’s the way it is going to be, but I think we have to wait until the final decision,” he said. “It is still probably a little premature to know what the final deal is, but if it goes (that way)…I’m all for it.”

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, says the leak is a serious issue, while one of his Democratic opponents, Wade Herring, is calling on voters to elect more Democrats to Congress.

“This leak is a serious breach of trust that undermines the sanctity of the Supreme Court,” Carter said. “We cannot allow fear and intimidation to sway the opinion of our justices, who are fulfilling their constitutional duty to protect life.”

“I do not subscribe to Washington Democrats’ extreme belief that babies should be able to be killed up to the moment of birth and I look forward to the states, not unelected judges, being able to make this decision for themselves,” Carter said.

An AJC writer suggests the Georgia Supreme Court could protect abortions in this state.

If the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade — as a leaked draft opinion suggested it was poised to do — then some Georgia abortion rights supporters plan to embrace a strategy that would throw the decision to the state’s top court. With its ruling in the [1903] Pavesich case, the Georgia court became the first of its kind to recognize an enforceable right to privacy, the same right at the center of the Roe decision.

“People don’t think of Georgia as progressive, but we have some of the strongest privacy protections,” said state Sen. Jen Jordan, a Democratic candidate for attorney general.

Jordan said if she is elected, she will file a lawsuit in state court rooted in the state’s privacy precedents. Legal experts from both sides of the political aisle said it would have a legitimate chance of success.

“It’s a real open question,” said Josh Belinfante, a lawyer who has represented prominent Republicans in the state. “Georgia will not necessarily follow the Supreme Court’s lead.”

Attorney Steve Sadow used the Pavesich case to persuade the Georgia Supreme Court in 1998 to strike down the state’s anti-sodomy law. Sadow said he believed an abortion challenge based on similar reasoning would prevail.

“There are direct parallels,” he said. “Both deal with personal privacy.”

Former Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, a Republican, said the basis for a privacy-based abortion lawsuit seemed valid. But he questioned whether the state attorney general — who typically defends state laws — would be justified in challenging a law passed by the General Assembly.

“It seems to me it would be a violation of the oath of office,” Olens said. “Certainly, I’m not aware of any other instance where that has happened.”

The Savannah Morning News starts an explainer on their local school board elections with this lovely paragraph:

The first Savannah-Chatham County School Board election since emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic arrives this month freighted with more political discord than in years past. That discord spiked alongside the virus during the 18 months of lockdown as parents took a greater role in their children’s virtual classrooms and curriculums, which has, in turn, led to more vociferous questioning of the teachers, administration and policymakers overseeing their children’s education.

All of which has resulted in calls for greater transparency from the public school system — one of the central themes among school board candidates and why some are running in the first place.

The “ever-evolving nature” of pandemic-related decisions — from school re-openings and mask mandates to contact tracing and rolling closures — exacerbated existing issues surrounding inconsistency in terms of how information is disseminated throughout the school district.

In a series of emails from SCCPSS parent Angela Beck to Savannah Morning News, Beck detailed her experience with the lack of district communication when she learned her 16-year-old daughter had undergone mandatory COVID testing as a student-athlete at Savannah Arts Academy without parental consent. The testing company, she asserts, admitted to her that some students under age 18 at SAA and other schools filled out online consent forms during school hours and that parents without home access to a computer or for whom English is not their first language most likely did not sign the electronic consent forms before students were tested.

As with most business and governmental operations, the school district turned more toward technology to inform its community. “We communicate with parents through callout/email/social media/web postings and media releases so that our media partners can assist us in getting the word out,” Blanco explained.

Geography is a force to be reckoned with in electoral politics. From the Savannah Morning News:

Lester Jackson hung up his uninterrupted 24-year stead as the state senator for Savannah’s District 2 this year, all to run for state labor commissioner.

Most of Georgia’s population is located within the metro Atlanta area, and for a Democrat like Jackson, that’s an area he has to win — Jackson estimates that ⅔ of the votes in the Democratic primary will come from voters within 50 miles of downtown Atlanta.

Building his brand in Atlanta and Georgia’s other population centers – Columbus, Macon, Augusta, Athens – is Johnson’s top priority.

“Whenever you’re running, especially running a statewide campaign, name recognition is just everything,” Jackson said. “It’s a lot of committee meetings, a lot of conference meetings, a lot of going around meeting different people all around this great state.”

In the past, politicians who were popular within their district have found that gaining statewide popularity, especially the favor of the Atlanta metro area, isn’t easy.

Take Republicans Jack Kingston and Eric Johnson for example.

Jeanne Seaver is one of four Republicans running for lieutenant governor. She touts her statewide presence, pointing to her 20 years of grassroots organizing for candidates including former President Donald Trump and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.

Some state legislators in the Columbus area held a public town hall meeting, according to WTVM.

Senator Ed Harbison, State Representative Calvin Smyre, along with Representatives Carolyn Hughley and Debbie Buckner talked with residents and presented an end of session report, updates on state bills, the state budget and topics like health care, education and police reform – just a few of the things on the table. The townhall is a way to get the community involved and ask questions to local leaders.

“Our job is to represent the interest of the citizens here,” said Representative Carolyn Hughley. “It’s our way of keeping in touch, letting them know what we’re facing the obstacles. It also gives us an idea to what are citizens are concerned about, what they’re feeling what they what us to continue working on.”

Georgia candidates jumped on the reported Supreme Court opinion, according to the Savannah Morning News via the Augusta Chronicle.

Abortion law changes dominated campaign chatter Tuesday. Candidates across several races issued statements, and Republican lieutenant governor hopefuls called for an outright abortion ban in a televised debate. The Georgia Legislature is adjourned until next year, so enacting additional abortion restrictions before the start of the 2023 session would require the governor to call a special session.

“As a woman, I am enraged by the continued assault on our right to control our bodies and our futures,” Abrams wrote on Twitter. “As the next governor of Georgia, I will defend the right to abortion and fight for reproductive justice.”

Renitta Shannon, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, said Supreme Court action on Roe would put the onus to protect “reproductive freedoms” on legislative bodies, such as the U.S. Congress and the Georgia General Assembly.

“Reproductive freedoms should never had been left up to the courts and needs to be codified in law,” Shannon said during a debate Tuesday.

Columbia County Commissioners are likely to pass another property tax rate reduction, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Columbia County’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year is expected to include the county’s seventh property tax reduction in the past eight years.

“Our millage rate currently is 5.683 in the general fund, and we’re suggesting that we roll that back to 5.651,” County Manager Scott Johnson told Columbia County commissioners at a recent public hearing on the budget. “That would give us the necessary revenue to do what we need to do and also put some money back into the taxpayers’ pockets.”

“Then after some additional work we actually looked at the tax digest, spoke with the tax assessor’s office, looked at it historically and got very comfortable with a 5% growth in the digest,” Johnson said. “For reference purposes, last year was a little over 6, almost 7% growth in the digest. It looks like we’re on track to do the same thing this year.”

Separate millage rates are applied to pay for countywide fire service, and to fund debt service on a general obligation bond approved by voters in 2016. Added to the general fund’s millage, Columbia County’s total millage rate stands at 9.071 mills.

“I’m very happy to report that – we’re not to this point yet – but we are anticipating recommending at least a 8.999 millage rate,” Johnson said. “This will be the first time I can remember that Columbia County had a total millage rate below 9.”

The Port of Brunswick Navigation Channel Improvement Act passed out of the United States Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, according to The Brunswick News.

“I’m working across the aisle to improve the Port of Brunswick’s navigation channel,” Ossoff said. “These improvements would strengthen Georgia’s economy, ensure safe shipping operations in our waters and reduce supply chain bottlenecks.”

Loretta Lepore, chief communications officer at Georgia Ports Authority, provides a simple explanation for the objective of the project.

“This is indeed the project that ‘straightens’ out the harbor a bit,” Lepore said.

The tour came on the heels of the announcement of the construction of a fourth berth at Colonel’s Island, the largest dedicated roll-on/roll-off facility in the United States and the second busiest in the nation. Some $14.6 million in funding is already in place for the new berth.

In his bill, Ossoff notes that Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 496,700 jobs throughout the state and contribute $29 billion in income, $6.1 billion in federal revenue and $3.4 billion in state and local taxes.

“As the busiest gateway in the U.S. Southeast for roll-on/roll-off cargo, the Port of Brunswick plays a vital role in the international trade of vehicles and heavy machinery,” [Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff] Lynch said. “The proposed navigational improvements will allow GPA to serve large vessels with greater efficiency and strengthen Brunswick’s ability to attract and support Georgia jobs.”

Macon-Bibb County is suing the owners of a motel claiming it is a nuisance after more than 600 emergency calls in six years, according to the Macon Telegraph.

County officials announced in a press release they had filed a lawsuit in superior court against Bridgeview Inn and Suites. The lawsuit, which does not yet appear in the court’s digital filing system, claims the motel is a public nuisance and calls on the owners and management to fix, or “abate,” the nuisance.

The emergency calls, according to the county, were placed between February 2016 and March 2022 and included calls about drug crimes, armed robbery, rape and “other illicit activity.”

Bibb County Parks and Recreation continues to struggle with finding enough lifeguards to keep their pools open, according to 13WMAZ.

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