Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 29, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 29, 2022

July 30th could be celebrated as the birthday of democracy in America, as the Virginia House of Burgesses became the first legislative body in the New World on July 30, 1619.

Its first law, which, like all of its laws, would have to be approved by the London Company, required tobacco to be sold for at least three shillings per pound. Other laws passed during its first six-day session included prohibitions against gambling, drunkenness, and idleness, and a measure that made Sabbath observance mandatory.

On July 31, 1777, the Marquis de LaFayette was commissioned a Major General in the Continental Army, serving without pay.

The cornerstone for the first United States Mint was laid in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 31, 1792, becoming the first building constructed by the federal government under the Constitution.

On July 28, 1868, United States Secretary of State William Seward proclaimed that the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution had been ratified and was now part of the Constitution. The first section of the 14th Amendment often forms the basis for litigation and reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Georgia initially rejected the 14th Amendment in 1866, later ratifying it on July 21, 1868 as a condition for readmission.

Former President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded President Lincoln upon his assassination and oversaw much of the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, died of a stroke in Tennessee on July 31, 1875.

Vincent Van Gogh died of a gunshot wound on July 29, 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise, France.

On July 31, 1906, a bill to place a Constitutional Amendment on the November election for voters to decide whether to create an intermediate-level Georgia Court of Appeals was approved by the Georgia General Assembly.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt made his eighth visit to Warm Springs, Georgia on July 29, 1927.

On July 30, 1931, Georgia Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr. signed legislation merging Milton and Fulton Counties if voters in each county approved a referendum. Fulton had earlier merged with Campbell County, to the south.

Congress passed legislation establishing the National Aeronautic and Space Admininistration (NASA) on July 29, 1958.

Actor Laurence Fishburn was born in Augusta, Georgia on July 30, 1961.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed legislation creating Medicare, for seniors, and Medicaid for some low-income people on July 30, 1965.

The Doors’ “Light My Fire” became their first #1 hit on July 29, 1967.

On July 28, 1978, Animal House was released, instantly becoming one of the greatest films of all time. In case you’ve never seen the film, there is a tiny little bit of adult language in the following clip.

Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer on July 29, 1981.

On July 31, 1987, “The Lost Boys” was released. From the New York Times:

“The Lost Boys” is to horror movies what “Late Night With David Letterman” is to television; it laughs at the form it embraces, adds a rock-and-roll soundtrack and, if you share its serious-satiric attitude, manages to be very funny.

Nolan Ryan, the greatest pitcher in major league baseball history, won his 300th career game on July 31, 1990. During eight innings, Ryan threw 146 pitches, while today, many pitchers are pulled at around the 100-pitch count.

“In the old days throwing that many pitches was a normal game,” said Nolan Ryan, who tossed a record seven no-hitters and is the all-time leader in strikeouts, fifth in innings pitched.

Ryan, currently the Rangers’ team president, is an outspoken detractor of the recent trend toward monitoring pitch counts. In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Ryan expressed his belief that today’s pitchers are “pampered” and that there is no reason why today’s pitchers cannot pitch as much as he and his colleagues did back in the day. As a result, Ryan is pushing his team’s pitchers to throw deeper into games and extend their arms further, emphasizing conditioning over what some would call coddling.

As Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux told SI: “This generation of players has become a creature of the pitch count. Their ceiling has been lowered. It’s up to us to jack it back up.”

Although I think that time he whipped Robin Ventura should count as a win.

On July 28, 1994, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating “The General” locomotive, which was stolen in 1862 during the Great Locomotive Chase. Today, The General may be viewed at The Southern Museum in Kennesaw.

Carl Lewis won his fourth consecutive gold medal in the long jump at the Atlanta Olympics on July 29, 1996.

On July 28, 2016, Hillary Clinton became the first female Presidential nominee for a major party.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Bulloch County Board of Education adopted a partial rollback of the property tax millage rate that still yields higher revenue than the previous year due to rising assessments. From the Statesboro Herald:

Presented with a dilemma in which returning about $1.1 million to local property taxpayers would result in the loss of more than $5 million state funding to the schools, the Bulloch County Board of Education on Thursday tentatively adopted only a partial millage rate rollback.

A state law called the Georgia Property Taxpayers Bill of Rights requires local government boards to roll back their tax millage rates to offset any inflation in property values or announce a tax increase and hold three public hearings before final action. The partial rollback doesn’t fulfill that requirement, so the school board now has two tax increase hearings set for 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Aug. 8 and a third set for noon on Aug. 15.

Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson’s annual advice to the school board, for about a decade, had been to adopt the full rollback rate whenever possible and avoid any tax increase hearings until a real increase in the millage rate is actually needed.

“We’ve always captured that rollback, and we had intended to do that same thing this year,” Wilson said. “However, a little bit of a unique situation here. We have to combine the millage rate that y’all adopt …  with the effective millage rate of the Local Option Sales Tax. …”

The sales tax he was talking about is not the Education Special Purpose Location Option Sales Tax, or E-SPLOST, which is used for school construction and other capital spending, but the older, original 1% local sales tax. As established decades ago in county-specific legislation, all proceeds from the original Local Option Sales Tax in Bulloch County go to the operation of the public schools.

Bulloch is one of fewer than 10 Georgia counties that do this; elsewhere, the tax goes to county and city governments. But here, the school property tax millage is offset by the sales tax for school operations, which has to be counted toward a total “effective millage rate” for school funding purposes.

This article may be in the running for “Explainer of the Year,” as it does a good job of explaining a complex issue. I learned something about a quirk of Georgia law here.

Thirty-one percent of Savannah-Chatham County public schools ninth-graders are being held back from advancing, according to WTOC.

Thirty-one percent of ninth graders were held back from going to the next grade.

Tenth graders have also been falling behind. Twenty-four percent of 10th grade students were retained.

While transitioning from middle to high school is already a challenge, the pandemic has created another hurdle for ninth and tenth graders and their parents. [Superintendent of Secondary Schools Bernadette] Ball-Oliver says the pandemic has played a role in the increase in ninth graders in the Savannah-Chatham school district failing their classes.

Savannah-Chatham schools also face a continuing shortage of bus drivers, according to WTOC.

The Savannah-Chatham Public School System is just five days away from the start of the school year, but they are short about 80 school bus drivers.

Students of all grade levels from elementary school through high school that go to choice schools do not qualify to ride the bus this upcoming school year.

Unless there are some major changes, this is how it will be for the entire school year.

“If we find that is an option, certainly we will come back and say maybe we could do more but it would require a significant number of drivers so that we can be certain because we don’t want to say yes we can only to find out no we really cannot,” said SCCPSS Transportation Lead Director Tammy Perkins.

Gainesville City Schools report a shortage of teachers, according to AccessWDUN.

Savannah City Council adopted the lowest property tax millage rate in 35 years but still higher than the full rollback, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah City Council voted to adopt the proposed millage rate of 12.2 mills Thursday night, marking a third tax break for many property owners in Savannah.

The rate of 12.2 mills is the lowest in 35 years, and is expected to reduce property taxes for the majority of the 19,000 Stephens-Day exemption qualified households in the city. The move follows millage rate cuts by both Chatham County and the Savannah-Chatham School Board last month.

Gibson-Carter and Miller Blakely both argued on behalf of adopting the rollback rate of 11.399 — the rate that would allow the city to make as much money off property taxes as it did last year, taking into account the increase in property value in that time.

“I would prefer to vote for a rollback,”  Blakely said. “I want the public to know I do not support this.”

From WTOC:

“We’re coming off two record years of real estate. Properties in this county is at an all time high whether you’re selling renting or buying,” a resident said.

“Are we considering the rise in inflation, food crisis and transportation and everything when we’re also considering raising property taxes?” questioned a resident.

“We’re reducing property taxes,” Mayor Johnson said.

“So it’s going down?” the resident responded.

“We’re reducing property taxes,” said the mayor.

If your home is valued at $100,000, you would pay an additional $32 in taxes under this rate. More than 19,000 households do have the Stephens-Day exemption so the city said most of them will see a reduction.

“We made a significant push on Stephens-Day this year because we wanted to make sure people had that exemption. And now, here’s an opportunity to not only provide tax relief, but to also make sure our law enforcement remains competitive,” said Mayor Van Johnson.

The only way for all citizens to see a reduction is a roll back to 11.399 mills.

The city said if they rolled it back any further they couldn’t increase pay for first responders.

Commissioners in both Floyd County and Rome adopted lower property tax millage rates, but Rome’s new rate is higher than the full rollback and will yield higher revenues, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Now former Tattnall County Chief Magistrate Judge Eddie Anderson was charged with terroristic threats against his neighbor, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The GBI Regional Investigative Office in Statesboro was requested on June 22 by Tattnall County Sheriff Kyle Sapp to investigate allegations of theft, trespassing and terroristic threats involving the 70-year-old judge after an incident report was filed on the matter.

Anderson allegedly entered the property of another citizen and took produce from his garden without permission. The homeowner called Anderson to discuss the issue and Anderson made a threat of violence against him in the presence of witnesses, according to a release from the GBI.

This investigation is complete, according to the release, and will be given to the Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

Growing pains: growth in the Georgia Ports Authority is stressing related infrastructure, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Georgia Ports Authority contributes $51 billion to the state’s economy annually, or 8% of state gross domestic product. In Chatham County, more than 45,000 people are employed at the ports or in port-related industries, according to a 2019 economic impact report.

The industrial real estate market is the hottest in the nation, with price-per square foot averaging $5.90, according to a Q2 market report from Cushman Wakefield. On average, industrial space costs $1.10 a square foot, according to global real estate company Prologis. In high-demand areas like Dean Forest Road and along I-16 and I-95, vacancy rates sit at zero.

With all the companies coming to town, workers are desperately needed. Unemployment in Savannah sits at 2.6%, more than a full percentage point below the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wages in port-related jobs have grown 20% in the past five years, according to SEDA, and nearly 40% in the past decade.

The Upper Floridan Aquifer, where the Savannah-Hilton Head region gets its water, has long been classified as a “Red Zone,” meaning the dangers of saltwater intrusion and overuse pose very real threats to life along the South Carolina and Georgia Coast.

“In order to sustain this growth rate, regional water planning must consider alternative and redundant sources, especially as saltwater intrusion continues to threaten the Floridan aquifer,” the 2018 MPC report concludes.

Camden County is suing the Union Carbide Company for backing out of a land sale that a majority of Camden County residents voted against. From the Associated Press via WSAV:

Commissioners in coastal Camden County said in a statement Thursday that Union Carbide Co.’s refusal to sell the 4,000 acre (1,600 hectare) property if allowed to stand, “will cause the County the loss of the Spaceport Project as well as an enormous financial loss in excess of $11 million.”

County officials have spent that sum over the past decade seeking to license and build Spaceport Camden, a site for launching satellites into space. Opponents say the project would pose safety and environmental risks that outweigh any economic benefits. The county held a referendum in March in which a large majority voted to kill the land deal.

Commissioners opted to disregard the vote, which they contend violated Georgia’s constitution. But Union Carbide balked at the county’s efforts to move forward with closing on the property. The company said last week that the deal was off because it had been “repudiated” by voters.

The county filed a civil suit Wednesday in Camden County Superior Court in hopes of keeping the spaceport project alive. Commissioners said the company still has a “contractual obligation to sell the property.”

Meanwhile, county officials are trying to have the referendum declared invalid by the Georgia Supreme Court. Their legal appeal argues that Georgia’s constitution doesn’t allow voters to veto government projects such as the spaceport. The court is scheduled to hear the case Aug. 23.

Albany and Dougherty County are at loggerheads over the split of sales tax revenue and may be headed for mediation, according to the Albany Herald.

“We want to go ahead and tell the county it’s going nowhere. We want to invoke mediation,” said Mayor Bo Dorough.

For weeks now, both the City of Albany and Dougherty County have been going back and forth on how to split both LOST and SPLOST funds.

City Commissioner Chad Warbington said they have until next week to make a decision.

″These coincide every 30 years to have two large sales tax initiatives in front of us. I think it’d be prudent to go immediately into arbitration.” said Warbington.

The idea is to bring in a superior court judge or someone that has no connections to decide what the proper split should be, but that recommendation would be nonbinding. Meaning so neither party has to accept the results. A move Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas calls worthless.

Floyd County and its two municipalities may also be headed to mediation over splitting sales tax revenue, according to the Rome News Tribune.

[Rome] City Manager Sammy Rich said, looking at recent sales tax negotiations, and the inability to reach a consensus — that the city and county may be headed toward hiring an arbitrator.

The Glynn County Board of Elections and Registration voted to borrow enough voting machines to reach state-mandated levels ahead of November’s elections, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County Board of Elections and Registration voted in a special-called meeting Thursday to borrow enough voting machines to meet the state mandate of one machine for every 250 registered voters.

The decision will save county taxpayers $183,000, election officials said.

Elections Supervisor Chris Channell will drive to Atlanta next week to pick up the 16 machines loaned to the county by the state.

Elections officials also approved a call for a special election for voters to consider a Special Local Option Sales Tax collected for six years.

Georgia Democrats want to use abortion to bring voters to their side, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

With polls showing the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade is unpopular with a majority of Americans, Democrats see an advantage to focusing on their support for abortion rights – particularly in battlegrounds that President Joe Biden narrowly won over Trump in 2020.

This eastern section of Cobb County, with more affluent, highly educated residents, is a prime example of a place where some might forsake the Republicans’ message that Democrats are to blame for inflation and an uncertain economy.

While East Cobb is still majority Republican, Democrats made inroads as they began winning majorities overall in Cobb County, once the flagship of the state GOP.

[A] recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll that shows that while most Americans are unhappy with the Supreme Court decision, half say they feel at least somewhat anxious or hopeless — a warning sign for Democrats who hope to use anger to motivate voters. But the same poll shows college-educated voters, like those that dominate East Cobb, are more likely than those without degrees to say abortion should be legal most or all of the time.

So some Democrats argue abortion rights might be a winning issue for them. In a previous incarnation of American politics, it was anti-abortion fervor and pro-gun politics that powered Republican campaigns. Now, as the GOP campaigns on the price of gas and groceries, Democrats like Abrams declare themselves “enraged” and appeal to voters to prioritize social issues like abortion.

“Things go up, things go down. But this law is permanent. Unless we have new leadership, this law will govern their lives, the lives of their daughters, the lives of their friends,” Abrams said hours after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put the law into force last week. “And I would say to balance whether your immediate concerns about money outweigh your concerns about your constitutional, protected rights.”

State Rep. Sharon Cooper, who represents much of East Cobb, voted against the law that took effect last week. The measure passed through the House committee she chairs, where the retired nurse softened it by including a clause that says abortions are allowed for “medically futile” pregnancies if “an unborn child has a profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal anomaly that is incompatible with sustaining life after birth.”

That’s a pattern for Cooper, who describes herself as pro-life, but has repeatedly expressed qualms about legislation sought by anti-abortion groups. She’s been unsuccessfully targeted by abortion hardliners in past GOP primaries. Democrats narrowly missed beating Cooper in 2018 and 2020, before her district was redrawn to include more reliably Republican territory.

“Most people will tell you they’re pro-life, and like me, they wish that every child was wanted and born into a loving family. But that’s not always the way it happens,” Cooper said. “Given those circumstances, they don’t want abortion to be totally not available.”

It’s probably much easier for a millionaire like Stacey Abrams to tell voters not to worry about economic issues like paying the rent, bills, rising prices and taxes, and feeding your family than it is for someone living that reality.

There’s a bright spot for Democrats, though. People who don’t vote like them more. From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is leading Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams by 8 points – 51% to 43% – according to the survey of likely voters conducted by Boston-based Beacon Research on behalf of the nonprofit Environmental Project.

However, when the poll asked respondents who said they were unlikely to vote in November, Abrams was up 46% to 34%.

“This data reveals a significant turnout opportunity for Georgia Democrats if they are able to bring low-propensity voters off the sidelines,” the poll’s executive summary stated.

One-third of the respondents in the four states listed inflation and the economy as the most important issue. Nine percent ranked “protecting abortion rights and reproductive rights” as a top priority.

Before 2018, it would be easy to say that unlikely voters don’t matter, but this year, Gov. Kemp is opposed by the one politician with a proven track record of making unlikely voters turn out.

The AJC released results of their latest polling, and could very well have hedlined their piece, “It’s the Economy, Stupid!” From the AJC:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll found three-quarters of likely Georgia voters considered the rising cost of gas and groceries “very” or “extremely” important — and just 4% said it wasn’t a factor in their November decision at all.

But the poll also showed that most voters considered the scourge of gun violence as an equally important factor in their general election calculus, following more tragic news about mass murders by heavily armed gunmen and frequent headlines about shootings in metro Atlanta.

About two-thirds of voters said abortion access is a key concern, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision that eliminated the constitutional right to abortion and paved the way for a restrictive Georgia law to take effect. But far more Democrats than Republicans indicated the issue was “extremely important” to them, and 42% of those polled said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to protect access to abortion.

Biden’s approval rating is upside-down, and more than three-quarters of likely Georgia voters say the nation is on the wrong track.

Two-thirds of Republicans and nearly half of independents saw inflation as “extremely” important, suggesting the economic turmoil could be a uniquely motivating factor at the polls.

Even some die-hard Democrats are dour about the state of the nation, and one-fifth disapprove of Biden’s performance in office. About the same proportion say Kemp, a Republican, is doing a good job as governor.

DeKalb County Chief Executive Michael Thurmond, a former state labor commissioner, said Democrats should “take the bull by the horns” and more aggressively address the economic problems rather than clash over definitions.

“If you’re a working person and you can’t afford gas or food or clothes to send your kids back to school, it doesn’t matter whether it’s called a recession,” he said. “You just know you’re hurting.”

In that same AJC poll, Republican Burt Jones is leading the race for Lt. Governor, and Republican Brad Raffensperger leads the race for Secretary of State.

Raffensperger, whose reelection chances earlier this year appeared iffy in the fallout of the 2020 election, is ahead of Nguyen 46% to 32% among those polled by the AJC. About 15% of voters are undecided, and 7% favored Libertarian Ted Metz.

The incumbent’s advantage is larger than that of candidates in tight races for the U.S. Senate, governor and lieutenant governor, all of which are within 5 percentage points.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has released the latest compendium of hunting regulations, according to the Albany Herald.

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