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

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

Herman E. Talmadge was born on August 9, 1913, son of Eugene Talmadge, who later served as Governor. Herman Talmadge himself served as Governor and United States Senator from Georgia.

On August 9, 1974, Gerald Ford was sworn in as President of the United States after the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Ford, the first president who came to the office through appointment rather than election, had replaced Spiro Agnew as vice president only eight months before. In a political scandal independent of the Nixon administration’s wrongdoings in the Watergate affair, Agnew had been forced to resign in disgrace after he was charged with income tax evasion and political corruption.

In September 1974, Ford pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed while in office, explaining that he wanted to end the national divisions created by the Watergate scandal.

On August 9, 1988, President Ronald Reagan announced his nomination of Dr. Lauro Cavazos as Secretary of Education, succeeding William Bennett. Cavazos was the first Hispanic to serve in a Presidential Cabinet position. Interestingly, he was born on the King Ranch.

On August 9, 1990, voters in the City of Athens and Clarke County chose to unify the two governments into Athens-Clarke County government.

On August 9, 1995, Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack while at a residential drug treatment facility. I remember where I was when I heard.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney heard arguments in a lawsuit claiming the “Heartbeat bill” violates the state Constitution, according to CBS46 via WTVM.

The lawsuit was filed by SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Coalition, a group of organizations that had earlier, and successfully, filed an injunction against the 2019-approved bill, also known as the “heartbeat bill.” That injunction was lifted by the 11th Circuit Court Appeals after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mississippi’s abortion law that bans the procedure after 15 weeks.

The challenge said Georgia’s six-week abortion law was void from the start under Georgia judicial precedent because it violated federal constitutional precedent when enacted in 2019, and a subsequent change in federal law cannot revive it. The lawsuit also said, “the Georgia Constitution’s especially strong protection for the fundamental right to privacy prohibits this political interference with an individual’s deeply personal and medically consequential decision whether to continue a pregnancy.”

The plaintiffs said they have filed a temporary restraining order, which, if approved by a superior court judge, could temporarily block the abortion ban.

Monday’s hearing focused on whether the judge has the power to block the law temporarily while the litigation plays out and whether the law was invalid from the start because it violated the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent when it was enacted.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune:

McBurney indicated he would issue a ruling on the request for an injunction soon.

“The Georgia Constitution says there is a right to privacy and that right to privacy extends to a person’s body and a person’s health,” said Susan Lambiase, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“(People) either have to forcibly remain pregnant, or they have to figure out a way … to go to some state that provides more access (to abortion).”

From the AJC:

“I understand that this is something that needs immediate attention,” McBurney said. “This is an important issue that has been rippling across the country and we need to deal with how Georgia — or at least one little judge in Fulton County — is going to deal with it, initially, and you all are going to take it to bigger and better places once I’ve had my say.”

A ruling from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month allowed Georgia’s 2019 abortion law to be enforced. That means most abortions are no longer allowed once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, typically about six weeks into a pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant.

“From the moment the Legislature enacted this law, it was void,” said Julia Kaye, an attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “The legislature is free to re-enact it, but Dobbs does not automatically bring this law back to life like a zombie.”

McBurney asked Solicitor General Stephen Petrany, representing the state, why state lawmakers should be able to “pass any law we want because, by golly, we’re the Legislature,” even if it contradicts existing law.

“What you’re describing sounds like democracy,” Petrany said. Elected officials “can continue testing the judiciary,” she added.

Georgia will appeal a federal court decision to cancel November elections for the Public Service Commission and keep the two members who were up for election in office. From the AJC:

The appeal means the case will next be considered by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after Friday’s decision put on hold this year’s planned elections to the utility regulating board.

The Public Service Commission sets electricity and natural gas rates, but only one Black candidate has ever won an election to the board in its 143-year history.

U.S. District Judge Steven Grimberg, who was nominated to the bench by former President Donald Trump, wrote in his order that statewide Public Service Commission elections violate the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racially discriminatory voting laws.

Grimberg’s ruled in favor of plaintiffs who alleged that because about half of Georgia’s population is white, they dilute the votes of Black voters, who make up more than 30% of the statewide electorate. His decision prevented PSC elections involving two Republican incumbents, Tim Echols and Fitz Johnson, until state legislators redraw districts and set a new election date.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that altering rules on short notice before elections could bewilder voters and discourage them from participating. But Grimberg said in court last month that his ruling would come before a deadline to set Georgia ballots on Aug. 12.

Governor Brian Kemp announced a new program that will award scholarships to CNA students, according to a Press Release:

Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced a new program aimed at ensuring students negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic have the opportunity to pursue successful careers while receiving a high-quality education. Through the Governors Emergency Education Relief Program, more than $800,000 will be awarded for a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Pilot Program.

“Here in Georgia, we are committed to meeting the needs of our young people as they prepare to enter our world-class workforce following years of pandemic disruptions, and we are excited to see how this program will make a difference in their lives as it also helps us fulfill a critical workforce need,” said Governor Brian Kemp.

The Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Pilot Program will be allocated $843,000 and will allow 500 current Dual-Enrollment High School students across 10 Georgia College and Career Academy sites a grant to cover the cost of achieving a Nurse Aid Technical College Certificate (TCC), including in-person clinical training through partnering healthcare systems. Also, half of those students will be able to acquire an additional Geriatric Care TCC. All 500 students will accomplish these certifications while remaining on track to complete their High School Diploma on time. The grant will also cover the cost of completing the CNA examination administered at the end of the program that must be passed before they are allowed to work in that field. The pilot will allow students whose schedules have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to maintain their path toward typical on-time high school graduation while also accelerating their intended Technical College path so that both achievements can be completed simultaneously. Due to the pandemic, the instructional and educational pathways of many of these students were disrupted, including a halt in clinical rotations required to complete one’s CNA. The structure of the pilot program allows them to get back on track and gain the support needed to overcome the loss of workplace opportunities that might otherwise have helped to fund their educational pathways. In summary, 500 students will achieve their High School Diploma on time, achieve a TCC in Nursing Aide (CN21) at a College & Career Academy with clinical learning, experiential training, and internships at a partnering healthcare system, and have their CNA examination test fee covered. 250 of the 500 students will also achieve an additional TCC in Geriatric Care (GC51) to be able to work at assisted living facilities.

About Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA), was signed into law on December 27, 2020. This Act provides funding to supplement the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund awarded to each state under the previous CARES Act. Additionally, this Act provided for the transfer of remaining Emergency Assistance to Nonpublic Schools (EANS) funding to the Governor’s Office for designation of allowable use under GEER requirements. GEER funding is awarded for the purpose of providing local educational agencies, institutions of higher education, and other education-related entities with emergency assistance in response to COVID-19. The total of additional funding available to award is $59.7 million. More awards will be announced in the coming months.

More about the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund can be found here.

Governor Brian Kemp is reportedly considering another round of “retro-earning” tax dollars back to taxpayers. From Fox5Atlanta:

Sources tell FOX 5 Gov. Brian Kemp is looking at a second round of tax rebates similar to those that went out over the summer.

Last month Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is running against Kemp, proposed identical tax rebates, though hers would be limited to Georgians making $250,000 or less.

This time, the governor is also considering a property tax rebate for homeowners. He is expected to make an official announcement later this week.

From the AJC:

The governor plans to unveil a $1 billion tax rebate financed by Georgia’s record surplus this week, according to officials with knowledge of his plans. It’s the second time this year he’s promised a check from the state’s coffers.

His administration is also exploring a separate rebate for homeowners, with plans to roll out the details at a press conference on Thursday at the state Capitol. The proposals are the first significant policies he’s outlined for his second term.

Abrams’ campaign cast the Kemp tax proposals as another in a series of attempts to one-up her agenda.

“While Brian Kemp is following Stacey Abrams’ lead in calling for tax rebates, he’s still pushing an extreme and dangerous agenda that threatens Georgia families and puts our economy at risk,” said Abrams spokesman Alex Floyd.

That’s rich. Stacey Abrams’s campaign calling Brian Kemp a copycat when he has already done a billion-dollar tax rebate and she hasn’t.

From 11Alive via 13WMAZ:

The top three takeaways for Abrams include investments into Georgia, helping the striving and working class, while also helping keep rural counties from falling behind.

Abrams said she hopes to do all of this, without raising state taxes.

“We have a generational opportunity with $5 billion in surplus to actually invest in Georgia, to invest in rural Georgia, invest in a skilled workforce, invest in our young people, invest in our future,” Abrams said.

The gubernatorial candidate said she would take portions of the state’s surplus and create a small business fund, while also investing in a farm-to-school initiative to help grow the state’s agricultural future.

“We have an aging population agriculturally, but it’s also one in every seven jobs in the state. I want to make certain that we’re working with our schools, our technical colleges, and our universities to ensure that we get more young people into the pipeline,” she said.

Medicaid expansion is another topic Abrams would hope to address if elected governor. It’s also been a top priority for the Biden administration, as well as an issue tackled by Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock.

“If Georgia expands Medicaid, we will access $3.5 billion every year that we are already entitled to and that we have forfeited for the last eight years under Republican governors, including Gov. Kemp,” said Abrams. “If we draw down those dollars, we will be able to save rural hospitals, will be able to get half a million Georgians access to health insurance, which means the rest of us who are currently paying their bills can stop paying for someone else’s health care. We will also see 64,000 good-paying jobs across the state.”

Abrams will attempt to pass off her copycat measures as an economic platform tonight at 6:30 PM. From CBS46 via WRDW:

Democrat Stacey Abrams will deliver what her campaign is calling a “highly anticipated … major economic address” Tuesday night.

Abrams, who is challenging Gov. Brian Kemp in his reelection bid, “will highlight her plans to create jobs, expand opportunity and grow Georgia’s economy, all without raising taxes,” her campaign said Monday.

From Business Insider:

During a recent campaign event in Toccoa, Ga., Kemp made the case that the upcoming election will test the strength of the GOP as the party must now compete in a state that has changed dramatically in recent years, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“We’ve been in control for a long time,” the governor said at the event. “We’ve got to run like we’re hungry again — like we did back in the mid-2000s.”

He continued: “We’ve got to bring that mentality back, that work ethic back, and we have to have the ground game to do that as well. Quite honestly, the Democrats have beaten us at that game. But we’re not going to let that happen in this election.”

Governor Kemp will deliver the Governor’s Environmental Address on Friday in Gwinnett County, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful officials said Kemp is set to deliver his Governor’s Environmental Address at 11:15 a.m. on Friday at the Gas South District in Duluth. It will mark the first time since 2019 that Kemp has been able to give the annual address after Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful was unable to hold the event in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic.

Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful launched the governor’s Environmental Address in 2001 when then-Gov. Roy Barnes was in the Governor’s Mansion. Govs. Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal continued the tradition, which eventually became an annual event until the pandemic hit.

This year will mark the 14th time that the Governor’s Environmental Address has been held.

Rudy Giuliani says a doctor’s note should excuse him from traveling to Georgia to testify in a fake grand jury investigation. From the AJC:

Attorneys for Giuliani will challenge his subpoena, technically known as a certificate of material witness, at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday in front of Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney. That’s roughly the same time their client is scheduled to testify before the 23-person special grand jury.

A lawyer for the former New York City mayor submitted doctors notes to the Fulton County District Attorney’s office saying that Giuliani is recovering from a “recent invasive procedure” following a “complex artery diagnosis” and isn’t yet cleared for air travel.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson (D) said her office will prosecute dangerous abortions, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Austin-Gatson told the Daily Post this week that people who put the lives of women in jeopardy by providing abortion services in what are effectively back-alley clinics, where it is possible the person performing the abortion may be unskilled or using unsafe procedures, will face prosecution.

“I am concerned about unscrupulous people taking advantage of the vacuum left when abortions are illegal, and women are hurt,” Austin-Gatson said. “Due to the fact that there are so many nuances surrounding this issue, I will have to look at this on a case-by-case basis.”

The Tybee Island Storm Risk Management Act passed the United States Senate and heads to the House, according to the Savannah Morning News.

If the bill passes through the House and is signed by President Joe Biden, Tybee Island can continue to implement coastal storm risk management projects for an additional 12 years (the current contract is set to expire in 2024), a key change to the original legislation which asked for an extension of 50 years.

However, the final timing of the extension is still up for debate as the U.S. House has passed its own version calling for the original 50-year extension. A conferencing of the two bills is expected, according to Sen. Jon Ossoff’s office who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia).

The Storm Risk Management Act served as a rider on the larger Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (WRDA) – a key measure passed biannually by Congress to “authorize U.S. Army Corps of Engineers activities for flood control, navigation and ecosystem restoration.”

“I have secured bipartisan Senate passage of the Tybee Island Storm Risk Management Act to help protect homes and businesses on Tybee from coastal flooding, storm surge, and high winds,” Sen. Ossoff said in a press release. “I thank (Chatham) Chairman (Chester) Ellis and (Tybee) Mayor (Shirley) Sessions for their help as I’ve built bipartisan support in the Senate for this bill.”

United States Representative Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) predicts the GOP will take both the House and Senate in November, according to The Brunswick News.

Carter, R-1, made the prediction at the Coastal Republican Women’s Club meeting Monday.

The nation is in a recession, even if Democrats don’t acknowledge it, he said, and the legislation passed by Democrats to address the economy won’t work.

“This administration is tone deaf,” he said. “They don’t get it. You can’t spend your way out of inflation.”

“On the world stage, a lot has happened with this administration,” he said. “This administration has shown weakness. Potentially, we could be on the brink of World War III.”

Carter said he supports continued support for Ukrainian troops but draws the line on American boots on the ground.

He supported Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan to ensure China understands the United States’ position of support.

“We are the most powerful country in the world,” he said. “We have to be tough with China.”

Democrats in Columbus are ramping up for November, according to WTVM.

“We will be upfront and in your face from now until election day. We’re going to fight and we’re going to win,” said Councilwoman Toiya Tucker.

The group is joining forces to train volunteers on canvassing and phone banking in order to engage the community to exercise their right to vote. Leaders say their goal is to bridge voters to their ballot once Election Day gets here.

Organizers say the motivation behind this launch training comes after voters in Kansas turned out in record numbers to protect reproductive freedom

“People need to know these things they need to know that our lives are in jeopardy,” said Leslie Lanning. “If we don’t do something about this and stop them from eliminating our rights.”

Organizers say they are not telling you who to vote for, but to just get out and vote.

Whitfield County Schools are talking about how to address the trauma felt by students, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

In discussions with — and about — students, “the word ‘trauma’ comes up, without fail,” said Lisa Jones, director of elementary curriculum for Whitfield County Schools. “It is a reality of the world we live in, and as administrators we need more training and help.”

“We need to be cognizant of what these (students) are dealing with, (because) it’s about what is causing the behavior (issues), not about punishment,” said Jones, formerly principal of Varnell Elementary School. “How do we ensure these behaviors aren’t repeated? How do we support our students living in — or who have been in — traumatic situations? How do we help them so they don’t repeat a cycle?”

It’s critical to move from “”being trauma-informed to being trauma-responsive,” said Clayton Adams, lead community care coordinator for the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning. “Lots of (behavioral issues) have bubbled up with kids this year, and we have to start at the earliest ages.”

Bulloch County Schools are emphasizing the importance of attendance after the pandemic, according to the Statesboro Herald.

“We’re encouraging attendance because re-establishing that work ethic with our students is really important,” said Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson. “At the same time, we don’t want to people to come to school if they’re sick or to come to work if they’re sick, so this really is more of a common-sense sort of follow-through.”

At this point, no COVID-specific protocols remain, and the schools are not doing contact tracing or special reporting of cases. The schools are addressing it as a “normal sickness,” and students should stay at home when they are sick and see a doctor when needed, he said. But with COVID-19 still around in a usually milder or now more treatable form, that renewed emphasis on being present may not include the return of perfect attendance awards this year, if ever.

“I think that’s sort of an antiquated concept that we need to just sort of let go to the wayside, because if you stress that you have people encouraging, inadvertently, sick children to come to school,” Wilson said. “Perfect attendance is not the award we want to focus on. We really are more interested in the growth that our students receive, regardless, but we also know you need to be here to be able to learn.”

Augusta area schools might need to address absenteeism, according to WRDW.

The ITEAM uncovered more than 11,000 students were chronically absent from schools across Augusta since the start of the pandemic.

And a thousand of those students were even referred to juvenile court to face fines or even jail time.

“The amount of students who are chronically absent has more than tripled across the U.S.” Dr. Betsy VanDeusen is the Literacy Center Director at Augusta University. She has studied the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on students across the country and at home.

“Before the pandemic, one in seven students was chronically absent. That is about 8 million students (about half the population of New York). And, if you think about tripling that amount of those chronically absent, we are talking about a whole other level of not just missed instruction but wellbeing.”

The ITEAM combed through attendance records and found more than 20,000 students had five or more unexcused absences during the first two full years of the pandemic.  The district referred nearly a thousand to juvenile court for truancy since COVID hit.

Dr. VanDeusen says finding those missing kids and getting them back in class by any means necessary – is critical right now. “One of my favorite quotes is you start by starting.  We start by having a plan and start doing it actively- not just on paper not just by sending emails.”

Muscogee County Schools face a shortage of bus drivers, according to WTVM.

There are 63 vacancies for just normal bus drivers and 14 for special needs bus drivers. I spoke with the chief operations and facilities officer Travis Anderson, who says not only does the shortage of bus drivers play a role in the delay, but the increase of students riding the bus is also playing a role in this problem.

Chief Operations and Facilities officer Travis Anderson says “And the fact that we have increased ridership, we believe we have increased ridership because parents are more comfortable with COVID as well as the increase in gas prices so don’t wanna drive this through to school, and we also think that parents are having to return to the workplace into the office and they’re not able to bring their students and children their children to school, so we’re looking forward to having those increase riders but it does put a strain on our resources because we have fewer bus drivers.”

Godfrey Jackson, Director of Transportation, says they are working diligently to fill these open positions.

“But we do have 14 drivers that are finishing up training, and they should be assigned as of next week, so that’ll lessen that burden there’s also twelve more additional drivers that are in the August class, 12 more addition plus more that are coming so we’re trying to lessen that gap that we continue to recruit to get more employees behind the wheel,” said Jackson.

Wilcox County Schools will beef up security at football games after a firearm incident, according to WALB.

The shooting incident happened during the high school football scrimmage game between Wilcox County High Patriots and Johnson County High Trojans.

Wilcox County Schools Superintendent Dale Garnto said for school sporting event home games, enhanced security protocols will be enforced.

Although this incident didn’t happen at Wilcox County, Garnto wants to ensure visitors, staff, students and parents are aware that school safety is at the forefront of what they do daily. The superintendent said they are adding an extra security officer, in addition to their school resource officer.

Wilcox County High School Athletic Director Josh Owens said he initially thought it was fireworks until he realized after the fourth round, that it sounded like a gun. Owens said this happened just before the fourth quarter.

“We were more prepared for it maybe because last year, I think I seen it on film where Dublin and Swainsboro had a similar situation. Turns out, it was just fireworks. Our players, when it happened they hit the ground, once the shots quit, the coaches went to get them to the locker room and get behind concrete bleachers and walls,” Owens said.

The Clarke County Board of Education named Dr. Robbie Hooker the sole finalist in the search for a new Superintendent, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Negotiations between Albany and Dougherty County on dividing Local Option Sales Tax revenue appear to be closer to resolution, according to the Albany Herald.

The choice for the Albany City Commission on Monday afternoon was between two options on the special-purpose local-option sales tax, a multiyear 1% tax that funds capital spending for the two governments.

The first of the options presented by the county was to continue the same 64-36% split, with the city receiving the larger share plus an additional $3.5 million for its stormwater/sewage separation work that has an estimated cost of $105 million.

The county’s second option was to proceed without an intergovernmental agreement, meaning the SPLOST, if approved by voters, would be extended for only five years instead of six. The county also had increased its list of favored projects by about $16 million that would be taken off the top, with the remainder split between the two governments and the end result being roughly the same as that offered in option one.

The offer approved by city commissioners agreed to that basic framework, but Commissioner Chad Warbington added a few caveats. Those were that the $3.5 million be provided to the city in the first year of collections, that language be included in the referendum stating the split equals the 33-67 percent split the city had offered as a compromise during negotiations, that separate negotiations be held over a separate local-option sales tax and that a non-binding referendum be included on the November ballot asking voters’ opinion on the consolidation of the city and county governments.

A former Waynesboro city council member will fill the remainder of the term of Mayor after Mayor Greg Carswell resigned, according to WRDW.

Carswell plead guilty to multiple felony charges, which caused him to lose his job. His replacement, a long-time city councilman, is ready to gain back community trust.

Tinley has not officially been sworn in, but he’s hitting the ground running. The Waynesboro native has a lot of things he wants to accomplish, and growth is at the top of his list.

Serving 30 years as a council member, he will now serve as mayor.

Tinley’s full agenda will come after he is officially sworn in as mayor of Waynesboro.

Not once in the story is the new Mayor’s first name mentioned. It’s Bill. I had to google it. From an article published Friday:

Qualifying for the mayor’s special election ended Friday at noon. Councilman Tinley was the only candidate to qualify.

Rome City Commissioners voted to raise the pay for their positions, which will also raise the pay of Rome Board of Education members. From the Rome News Tribune:

The measure will raise the annual pay of commissioners to $12,000 from the current $8,400, which has been in place since the late 1990s. The change will take effect in January 2024, the term following the next regularly scheduled city elections in November 2023.

The amendment includes the 10% premium for the commission chair — the mayor — to compensate for extra duties. The pay for that position, elected annually by the board, will rise to $13,200 a year.

Rome Board of Education pay also will be affected, since the city charter sets members’ salaries at half that of the city commission. They’ll be getting $6,000 a year in 2024, with the chair earning $6,600.

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