Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 2, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 2, 2022

Georgia delegates Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton signed the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776.

On August 2, 1983, the United States House of Representatives voted to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a federal holiday on the third monday in January.

On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait.

President Barack Obama visited Georgia on August 2, 2010 – his first trip to Atlanta and second to Georgia after his election in November 2008. The occasion of his 2010 trip, like his trip to Atlanta yesterday, was to deliver a speech to the Disabled American Veterans Conference at the Hyatt Regency. From his 2010 speech:

As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.  Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31st, 2010, America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing — as promised and on schedule….

As agreed to with the Iraqi government, we will maintain a transitional force until we remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of next year.

At the same time, every American who has ever worn the uniform must also know this: Your country is going to take care of you when you come home. Our nation’s commitment to our veterans, to you and your families, is a sacred trust. And to me and my administration, upholding that trust is a moral obligation. It’s not just politics.

That’s why I’ve charged Secretary Shinseki with building a 21st century VA.  And that includes one of the largest percentage increases to the VA budget in the past 30 years. We are going to cut this deficit that we’ve got, and I’ve proposed a freeze on discretionary domestic spending. But what I have not frozen is the spending we need to keep our military strong, our country safe and our veterans secure. So we’re going to keep on making historic commitments to our veterans.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Live Nation, a publicly-traded company, announced it is canceling Music Midtown and blaming the Georgia “Constitutional Carry” law. From the AJC:

Democrats hope that the cancellation of the Music Midtown festival will prove just as galvanizing to their supporters as a challenging November election nears.

Eager to upend a political landscape dominated by economic uncertainty, Democrats quickly blamed their GOP rivals for the demise of the two-day event, which was slated to bring tens of thousands of concertgoers to the heart of Atlanta in September.

“Republicans want to say they’re all about business,” said state Sen. Jen Jordan, the Democratic nominee for attorney general. “But the radical no-compromise wing of the GOP controls their party. And this is a consequence of that.”

Though festival organizers would only cite “circumstances beyond our control” for their decision, officials said that legal fallout stemming from a Republican-backed gun expansion signed in 2014 paved the way for the cancellation.

Really? That’s a bigger problem than people simply not willing to go to a second-rate overpriced festival because of crime, an horrific unsolved murder in Piedmont Park and drive-by shootings in Atlanta?

Music Midtown attracted 300,000 attendees in the early years, but by 2019 had fallen to 50,000 attendees after numerous reboots. The gun law didn’t kill Music Midtown, it was already on life support at best.

Governor Brian Kemp announced that movie and film production spent $4.4 billion in Georgia during the 2022 Fiscal Year. From the Press Release:

“When the pandemic struck, we worked hard in Georgia to communicate with our partners in the Georgia film, TV, and streaming industries,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “Together, we forged a safe and appropriate path to allow the film industry to return to operations and deliver Georgia Made productions to eager consumers all around the world – even when some states continued to stay shut down and stifle the industry’s return to normalcy. Because of this partnership approach and the resiliency of our state’s film and television infrastructure, which state and local economic development officials have been working for almost fifty years to build, we are once again celebrating incredible growth and investment from industry leaders.”

Studios and support service companies provide additional infrastructure and jobs not included in productions’ direct spends.

“In addition to providing production jobs that range across a variety of skills from accounting to carpentry to engineering and graphic design, productions are using local vendors, eating at Georgia restaurants, and staying in our hotels,” continued Governor Kemp. “We’re proud to be training more Georgians to be decision-makers in film and television production, keeping their talents in our state, and we look forward to this industry’s continued success in the Peach State!”

In addition to working with studios and communities to bring productions to Georgia, the Georgia Film Office provides multiple resources for local businesses and talent to list their services to industry decision-makers such as the Georgia Reel Crew™ database, which is a searchable, online directory of crew and support services; the Georgia Reel Scout™ database of local properties available for filming; certification and a searchable map of Georgia Camera Ready communities; information on available stage space; and other information that links Georgia assets with industry representatives.

“Georgia’s thriving creative arts and entertainment industries support thousands of jobs across our state,” said Speaker David Ralston. “By working collaboratively between the public and private sectors we have created an economic engine that is the envy of the nation. From blockbuster motion pictures to the latest video games, Georgia-produced content is everywhere, demonstrating our competitive advantages in this multi-billion-dollar industry. For producers who are serious about having access to the best talent available and state-of-the-art facilities, Georgia is on their mind.”

This fiscal year, as Georgia-lensed “Spider-Man: No Way Home” continued to rise on box office charts during the year, movies filmed in Georgia claimed four of the top six spots for highest domestic-grossing movies: “Avengers: Endgame” (No. 2), “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (3), “Black Panther” (5), and “Avengers: Infinity War” (6).

Streaming episodic and limited-series programming continue to choose Georgia for hit programming, including Season Four of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” which reached an all-time Neilson streaming record in July for its more than 7 billion minutes of viewing time during the first half of the season. This show, as well Georgia-lensed Netflix hit “Ozark,” each earned 13 Primetime Emmy® nominations in July. Emmy nominations also came in for HBO Max’s “The Staircase,” Disney+’s “Loki” and FX’s “Atlanta” among others, totaling 46 nominations for productions in the state. Georgia-lensed productions earned prestigious Peabody Awards in June: both “The Underground Railroad” (Amazon Prime) and “The Wonder Years” (ABC) won in the “Entertainment” category.

Among other industry developments during the year, Reynolds Capital announced that they would invest $60 million in Athena Studios, a new soundstage development in Athens, Georgia. Athena Studios will initially host approximately 350,000,000 square feet of stage and mill space as well as a building for the University of Georgia and the Georgia Film Academy to teach students film production.

Cinelease Studios-Three Ring broke ground on a $144-million studio expansion in Covington, and Electric Owl Studios broke ground on their 17-acre site in the City of Stone Mountain, where Capstone South Properties and Domain Capital Group are building the world’s first ground-up, LEED Gold-certified film and TV studio campus in March. Also in March, United Talent Agency kicked off their new full-service office, where all 40 of their divisions will be actively represented in Atlanta, from film and TV to gaming and sports to podcasting and music. While developing the former Doraville GM site, Gray Television announced a new partnership with NBCUniversal Media (NBCU) to lease property for content creation as well as manage all production facilities, including Gray’s studios. This partnership is estimated to create more than 4,000 new jobs in the state.

The largest studio-based equipment company in the world for film, television, and events, MBS Equipment Company (MBSE), in October 2021 announced the opening of their new East Coast headquarters at Trilith Studios in Fayette County.

“The credits rolling are the names of our neighbors and our cities, and it’s incredibly exciting to bring our Georgia people and places around the world through entertainment,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson. “We thank Georgia’s leadership, the companies doing business here, the professionals at our Georgia Film Office, and all of our partners who have worked continuously to bring more film and television production to Georgia. Their tireless efforts improve the lives of thousands of Georgians and their families, and a make significant positive impact on our state’s overall economy.”

In addition to new homes, shops, and production space at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville, The Town at Trilith now has a state-of-the-art boutique hotel, expected to open in fall 2023. As production blurs the line between passive and active viewing with the use of virtual and augmented reality, Trilith Studios and NEP Virtual Studios announced a new state-of-the-art virtual production facility – the first Prysm Stage has become available at the Creative Technologies District at Trilith Studios. This permanent stage facility will offer filmmakers stable and advanced real-time workflows and technology, operated by experienced virtual production experts.

“It’s very gratifying to see the continued commitment to Georgia’s film industry through local investment in soundstages, support services companies, and educational programs throughout the state,” said Georgia Film Office Director Lee Thomas. “We send a big thanks to the companies who have invested here and the communities that work so hard to make films dreams a reality for their local residents and economy.”

Gaming, esports, and other interactive entertainment projects such as mobile games; virtual reality, augmented reality, and console and PC game development are also part of production growth in the state, but are not included in the film industry’s direct spend totals. Riot Games recently announced that the 2022 League of Legends World Championship semifinals will be held in Atlanta.

To view video clips of recent productions’ experiences filming across the state, visit the Georgia Film Office’s YouTube page.

The Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission will move forward with a probe of Stacey Abrams-related organizations, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

At the center of the dispute is whether the activities of the New Georgia Project and an affiliated fund were sufficiently political in nature to require registering as campaign and ballot committees under Georgia law.

Founded in 2013, the New Georgia Project is registered as a 501(c)(3) organization under Internal Revenue Service rules. The New Georgia Action Fund is registered as a 501 (c)(4) group.

A complaint filed with the ethics commission alleges the two groups crossed the line into political activity and failed to register as campaign committees under Georgia campaign finance law.

The groups advocated for electoral candidates, namely gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams and other Democrats, in 2017 and 2018, said Joseph Cusack, staff attorney for the commission.

Cusack pointed to campaign literature that called on people to vote for Abrams and other Democrats distributed by New Georgia Project canvassers.

The materials were labeled as being supported by the New Georgia Project. Cusack also pointed to scripts canvassers used asking people to vote for Abrams and identifying the New Georgia Project.

Chatham County District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones is requiring employees to sign a confidentiality agreement, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Employees in the Chatham County District Attorney’s Office are required to sign what the office is calling a “confidentiality agreement” in an effort to protect sensitive work in the office. However, the agreement could violate open records law and hinder EEOC investigations.

“Confidentiality Agreements are necessary to preserve the sensitive work of this office and are common in the legal industry. All current and future employees are required to sign it,” said DA spokesperson Nathaneal Wright in response to emailed questions about the agreement.

“What she’s done is she’s used a jackhammer to do what she should do with a scalpel,” [attorney Michael Caldwell of Atlanta-based law firm Georgia Wage Lawyers] said in reference to Chatham County District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones.

When asked if they were aware the “confidentiality agreement” could potentially violate open records law or could hinder EEOC violations, the DA’s office responded, “This question calls for a legal conclusion and, therefore, violates the rules protecting attorney opinion and work product.”

The City of Savannah has increased pay for public safety personnel, according to WTOC.

The city nearly spent nearly $4.3 million in additional investments for public safety. According to the city, that puts Savannah’s public safety departments in the top 5% in Georgia.

Gwinnett County is once again looking at transit and asking for public input, according to AccessWDUN.

Gwinnett County is seeking input from the community through a short online survey as they reimagine the future of public transit with their Transit Development Plan.

“Local transit has the unique ability to transform and enhance quality of life for residents and visitors to the county,”  Gwinnett County Chairwoman Nicole Hendrickson said. “To keep our transit system going in the right direction, we must constantly evaluate what we’re doing right and what can be done better. This feedback from our community will be an integral part of that process.”

The survey will remain open until Aug. 15 at GwinnettCounty.com/TDPSurvey and is accessible in multiple languages. For more information about the TDP or to access frequently asked questions, visit GwinnettCounty.com/TDP.

A PAC backing Herschel Walker is buying people groceries, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

34N22, a pro-Walker political action committee [] stood outside the combined fuel stop, pharmacy and grocery store last week, giving away roughly $10,000 worth of vouchers in about 40 minutes.

The giveaway is part of the committee’s rural outreach to areas they say are overlooked as inflation and other economic pressures squeeze these residents. Future stops include cities and counties with larger Black populations — a group with which Republicans have struggled to make inroads.

“Some of these counties where there’s a heavy African American population are struggling,” said Stephen Lawson, a 34N22 representative. “They’re struggling with 40-year (record-high) inflation. They’re struggling with gas prices, and these are communities that are often neglected and forgotten by campaigns and candidates.”

The group has held similar gas and grocery events in cities like Atlanta, Macon and Camilla over the past few months. Republicans hope efforts like these will help them come election time. Georgia’s battleground status means every vote matters, and this election could determine the balance of power in the Senate. Democrats have decried the giveaways and questioned their legality.

The Ledger-Enquirer sampled 96 people who received grocery vouchers. Most — 45 people or roughly 47% of those who responded to the unofficial survey — said they’d vote for Walker in November. Thirty-five said they were undecided, and 16 said they were voting for Warnock.

Dougherty County Commissioners are setting the property tax millage rate, according to WALB.

For the Countywide District, property taxes will be levied by 22.87 percent over the milage rate.

It will rise this year by .23% over the rollback millage rate for the Special Services-Unincorporated.

Each year, the board of tax assessors is required to review the assessed value for property tax purposes of taxable property in the county. When the trend of prices on properties that have recently sold in the county indicates there has been an increase in the fair market value of any specific property, the board of tax assessors is required by law to re-determine the value of such property and adjust the assessment, called reassessment, the county said.

The budget tentatively adopted by the Dougherty County Board of Commissioners requires a millage rate higher than the rollback millage rate. Before the Dougherty County Board of Commissions can finalize the tentative budget and set a final millage rate, Georgia law requires three public hearings to be held to allow the public an opportunity to express their opinions on the increase.

Augusta-Richmond County voters will elect a Tax Commissioner and two members of the Board of Education, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Richmond County Board of Education trustees Charlie Hannah and Venus Cain as well as appointed Richmond County Tax Commissioner Tederell “Chris” Johnson have attracted opposition.

Johnson, the longtime deputy tax commissioner under former Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick, was appointed tax commissioner when Kendrick qualified to run for mayor in March. Johnson filed a declaration of intent to seek campaign contributions Friday.

Also filing a declaration Friday was Veronica Freeman Brown, who works as finance director for the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and lives in the Hephzibah area.

Hannah represents District 2 schools and serves as president of the school board. He also ran for mayor this year. He faces challenges from Yiet S. Knight, and the Rev. Larry Fryer.

Cain has represented Super District 9 on the school board since 2006. She is a Department of Defense employee. She is facing a challenge from former candidate Christopher Mulliens.

Official candidates qualifying for the posts will be held the week of Aug. 22-26. Election Day is Nov. 8.

The Georgia Department of Revenue has released guidance on how income taxpayers may claim an unborn child under the “Heartbeat Bill,” according to the AJC.

In a press release, Revenue Department officials said anyone who is expecting a child as of July 20 through the end of the year can claim in their 2022 filing a $3,000 tax deduction per embryo or fetus on the “other adjustments” line of the state’s tax documents. The department said it may ask for proof of the pregnancy.

“Similar to any other deduction claimed on an income tax return, relevant medical records or other supporting documentation shall be provided to support the dependent deduction claimed if requested by the department,” the agency said in the press release.

Georgia set a new record for sea turtle nests, according to The Brunswick News.

So far this year, St. Simons has had 12 nests. Across Georgia, at least 3,977 sea turtle nests have been counted, which surpasses the record set in 2019.

Mark Dodd, a senior wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources who coordinates sea turtle conservation efforts in the state, offers training most summers to the volunteer team on St. Simons. Most already have extensive experience working in sea turtle conservation on various Georgia islands.

“We do not call it a hatch unless we see hatchling tracks,” Dodd said. “A lot of y’all have been around a long time and you know what it looks like.”

Numerous pieces of important data need to be recorded with each nest, including the date of hatch, the number of incubation days and the number of hatchlings that made it out.

Days of incubation in a nest will indicate its hatchling sex ratio. Longer incubation times — closer to 70 days — are tied to more male hatchlings, while shorter incubations of maybe 50 or so days will lead to more female hatchlings.

“We still don’t really understand the process by which hatchlings imprint on their natal beach,” he said. “We know they’re going to come back 30 years from now to their natal beach or the area of their natal beach to nest. But we’re not exactly sure how they’re imprinting.”

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