Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 10, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 10, 2022

On August 10, 1774, a group calling itself the “Sons of Liberty” met at Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah, the first move in Georgia toward what would become the Revolutionary War. The Sons of Liberty adopted eight resolutions, among those one that reads,

Resolved, nemine contradicente, That we apprehend the Parliament of Great Britain hath not, nor ever had, any right to tax his Majesty’s American subjects; for it is evident beyond contradiction, the constitution admits of no taxation without representation; that they are coeval and inseparable; and every demand for the support of government should be by requisition made to the several houses of representatives.

Resolved, nemine contradicente, That we concur with our sister colonies in every constitutional measure to obtain redress of American grievances, and will by every lawful means in our power, maintain those inestimable blessings for which we are indebted to God and the Constitution of our country–a Constitution founded upon reason and justice, and the indelible rights of mankind.

The first copy in Georgia of the Declaration of Independence was read publicly in Savannah on August 10, 1776.

On August 10, 1787, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart completed “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.”

Missouri was admitted as the 24th State, and the first entirely west of the Mississippi River, on August 10, 1821.

On August 10, 1864, the bombardment of Atlanta by Union force continued, with Sherman writing, “Let us destroy Atlanta and make it a desolation.”

The first Georgia state Motor Fuel Tax was enacted on August 10, 1921, when Governor Thomas Hardwick signed legislation imposing a one-cent per gallon tax.

Japan accepted unconditional surrender on August 10, 1945, one day after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

Red Dawn, the first movie rated PG-13 was released on August 10, 1984.

Wolverines!

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former President Donald Trump said, “We’ll be looking at everything,” in response to being asked whether he’d support Brian Kemp over Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Governor Brian Kemp was asked if he’d welcome Trump’s endorsement, and replied, according to Fox News:

“Look, I want everybody’s endorsement going into this November 8th election,” Kemp said Monday. “That’s what I said after primary. It’s time for all Republicans to unite and really all Georgians to unite against Stacey Abrams who scares a lot of people.”

Kemp continued, “She’s been funded by the likes of George Soros and California donors and New York donors trying to have their way with our state- that’s what I’m seeing around the state is all Republicans are uniting but even people in the middle are worried about how extreme Stacey Abrams is and where she would take our state and I want to keep Georgia moving in the direction that has been with good opportunity no matter what your zip code or your neighborhood and that’s what we’re working hard to do.”

Kemp previously defeated Trump-backed David Perdue, earning a whopping 73.7% of the vote in a heated GOP primary in May.

Democrat Stacey Abrams wants to expand gambling in Georgia, according to the AJC.

Stacey Abrams backed a plan to legalize casino gambling and sports betting to expand the HOPE scholarship and finance a needs-based program as part of a revamped economic platform she hopes will boost her chances to unseat Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

The Democrat said Tuesday that the new tax dollars generated by legalized gambling would be a “permanent source of revenue to underwrite broader access to education,” including extending the scholarship to students with a “C” average and above.

“Studies project that the potential for billions exists in economic impact, funds that will not only finance our efforts to replenish and expand the HOPE scholarship but it will also provide new economic opportunities for Georgia that can grow jobs and make our economy stronger for everyone,” she said.

The plan would require a constitutional amendment that would need to be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature and a majority of Georgia voters in a referendum. Abrams pushed the idea, along with her call to dip deeper into a bulging state surplus, as a can’t-miss chance to finance long-sought priorities.

She also promised to deliver free technical college for Georgians, create a $10 million small business growth fund and emphasized her a plan to use surplus funds to finance a $1 billion tax refund. And she said she would take aggressive steps to bring more economic equity by financing more apprenticeships.

Sixty-three of Georgia’s 159 counties lack a pediatrician, according to WJBF.

Senator Jon Ossoff is especially concerned about the shortage of pediatric health care workers in Georgia and is working to remedy that.

“There’s a shortage of pediatricians and pediatric nurses as well as maternal health care specialists,” he said.

Out of Georgia’s 159 counties, 63 of them don’t have a pediatrician. In 2021 there were 76.2 pediatricians per 100,000 children in Georgia. That’s an average of more than 1,300 patients per doctor.

“So, what I’m working to do is strengthen the National Health Service Corp, which sends doctors who specialize in, for example, pediatric and maternal health care, to work in rural areas and parts of our state, parts of the country where there’s a shortage of those professionals,” he said.

According to Dr. [Valera] Hudson, [Pediatrician in Chief at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia] one reason students don’t go into pediatrics, which is part of primary care, is because the money is better in specializing.

“Identifying those students early, putting them into a curriculum where they can finish medical school in three years, which saves them a year of tuition, and offer them the opportunity for scholarships either through medical school or through the program Senator Ossoff is looking to expand, to deal with their tuition debt,” She said.

The Biden Administration Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rejected Georgia’s proposed Medicaid waiver, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The waiver program was a cornerstone of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s approach to reforming health care in the Peach State.

Under Kemp’s model, Georgians would have enrolled in insurance plans through private insurance brokers rather than the federal healthcare.gov health insurance marketplace.

The plan to set up Georgia’s own marketplace system initially gained federal approval under then-President Donald Trump in November 2020.

A letter Tuesday from Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator of the agency’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), outlined some of the problems with the Georgia waiver plan that led the agency to suspend it.

“Consumers in Georgia will continue to use HealthCare.gov, which CMS will operate, to purchase individual health insurance coverage for 2023,” a CMS spokeswoman said.

A national survey ranks Augusta among the highest property tax increases, according to WJBF.

Using analysis from real estate data platform ATTOM Data, Agent Advice examined the average property tax in more than 100 major metropolitan areas across the country to see where property taxes increased the most from 2020 to 2021 (the latest data available).

To be included, each metro area had to have a population of at least 500,000. Metro areas include the main city and its surrounding towns and suburbs. The average tax rate is calculated using the average estimated market value of homes in each area.

The Augusta, Georgia metro area includes Richmond, Burke, and Columbia as well as seven other nearby counties. Home values have risen considerably in the region since the pandemic began. The typical Augusta home listed for $215,000 in April 2022—up from nearly $120,000 in April 2020, according to Realtor.com.

In 2021, a majority of homeowners in Augusta were saddled with higher property tax bills due to skyrocketing property values. After six years of tax rate cuts, the city declined to cut property tax rates in 2021.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ordered Rudy Giuliani to testify in the Fulton sham grand jury. From the AJC:

A Fulton County judge is directing Rudy Giuliani, the personal attorney to former President Donald Trump, to appear before a special purpose grand jury next week unless he can provide more detailed medical explanation from his doctor about why he must further delay his testimony.

[Giuliani Lawyer Bill] Thomas said he was brought on late last week after Giuliani’s New York attorney failed to make headway with the DA’s office. He said prosecutors did not reach out to Giuliani’s doctor to confirm the lawyer’s condition and eventually stopped returning phone calls.

Nathan Wade, a Fulton prosecutor, said Giuliani’s team initially said he couldn’t travel at all. A day later, Giuliani tweeted a smiling photo of himself with a young woman in New Hampshire. (Giuliani’s lawyer later clarified that he had been driven to New England.)

In a Monday court filing, the DA’s office also said it had received evidence that Giuliani purchased plane tickets to Italy and Switzerland for dates after his surgery. Thomas said those tickets were for a conference and other events scheduled before Giuliani’s procedure and that he ultimately cancelled his trip.

Glynn County Board of Education approved a partial rollback of the property tax millage rate, which will still yield higher revenues, according to The Brunswick News.

The board plans to decrease its current 16.175 millage rate to 15.65. It will be the board’s first millage rate change since 2014. The board is now legally required to advertise a tax increase, though, before officially adopting the millage rate.

A calculated [full] rollback rate of 14.938 requires the board to advertise a tax increase because the board is not rolling back to that rate.

“The Department of Revenue requires you to do a rollback calculation which basically again looks at the (2021) digest compared to the (2022) digest,” Griner said. “It factors in any inflationary growth, like reassessment growth of your property.”

Several board members commented that they feel the district owes this relief to taxpayers in Glynn County.

Oakwood City Council will likely retain the same property tax millage rate, effectively raising taxes on property owners with higher assessments, according to the Gainesville Times.

Bulloch County public schools face a shortage of bus drivers, according to the Statesboro Herald.

A local school board-approved raise has boosted the starting pay of drivers by more than 12% this year alone, recruiting efforts are underway, and some people with other roles in the schools are now allowed to drive buses as a second job.

But as of Friday, the Bulloch County district, with 93 bus routes serving 15 schools, had vacancies for 27 drivers, plus one bus mechanic and one assistant director of transportation, reported Hayley Greene, the Bulloch County Schools public relations director.

“Bus driver shortages are a nationwide trend,” she wrote when asked about the situation as the school year began. “We began experiencing it here in Bulloch County about five years ago. The global COVID pandemic exacerbated the issue.”

To make up the difference, “drivers are driving double and triple routes,” Tanner said. “This extends the times of our routes. Elementary routes now end by 3:30 and middle and high school routes end by 5 p.m.”

“Our school district does not currently set any limitations on the distance children have to live from a school before they can be eligible to receive transportation services,” [Greene] wrote.

In Columbia County, some parents say buses are overcrowded, according to WRDW.

Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education approved a two-year contract extension for Superintendent Ann Levett, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Statesboro is considering a comprehensive code revision, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The revamped zoning plan will factor in housing, the environment, storm water, trees and more. The update will reduce the need for council to grant zoning variances for numerous projects.

“There are many things we can do to update this ordinance to make it more friendly to developers and for residents to understand,” Planning & Development Director Kathy Field said.

The final step will be vote to approve by city council. They anticipate having everything ready sometime during 2023.

Dougherty County and the City of Albany continue negotiating over sales tax distributions, according to WALB.

Tuesday, the city gave the county a counter-proposal asking for several issues before entering into an agreement.

One was that SPLOST funds be split 64/36 in the city’s favor. The county agreed.

The city also asked for the county to allocate $3.5 million for their sewer project in the first year SPLOST is collected. The County Commission agreed to give them the money over a two-year period.

The city also asked for a question to be put on the November ballot regarding if the city and county should consolidate on the November ballot.

Some county commissioners agreed that the governments should consolidate, but these issues should not be part of this negotiation.

Talk about a shotgun wedding proposal.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said the city may work with federal law enforcement to reduce gun violence, according to WSAV.

Mayor Van Johnson announced the potential partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office Tuesday, in front of victims’ families.

The Clarkes were at City Hall Tuesday to support the mayor’s announcement of a potential new partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney to focus on guns and violent crime in Savannah.

“That position will be funded through the city attorney’s office, but the position will reside in the U.S. Attorney’s office,” Johnson said.

The Special Assistant U.S. Attorney position must be approved by city council. Johnson plans to have it on the agenda for this Thursday’s meeting.

Chatham County District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones told WSAV she supports an Assistant U.S. Attorney focused on Savannah, as long as that person doesn’t come from her office.

From WTOC:

Mayor Van Johnson says if Council approves the [Memorandum of Understanding] during this Thursday’s Council meeting, getting to the process to find a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office will move quickly, adding funding has already been found through the City Attorney’s office for the role.

Mayor Johnson says if repeat offenders face federal sentences that come without the possibility of parole, they might think twice before doing so, and be more willing to give up information on unsolved cases to investigators to avoid federal time.

“I’m hoping that from that, we’ll be able to solve some of these other other unsolved homicides here in our city.”

The Mayor was asked if partnering with the feds indicates local prosecution efforts aren’t effective enough when it comes to keeping violent criminals off the streets.

“It says nothing, other than we have a criminal justice system that is overwhelmed. And we have individuals that are more prolific than others, and that can be addressed through the federal system.”

The Glynn County Board of Education has received some borrowed voting machines for the November elections, according to The Brunswick News.

The additional machines are required to meet the state mandate of one machine for every 250 voters, but they hope they don’t use them to prove a point that the extra machines are not needed in most rural Georgia counties.

Elections officials plan to instruct poll workers to direct voters to the county-owned voting machines and leave the state loaned machines idle to prove the county does not need the additional machines. If county officials can prove their argument, it could save Glynn County more than $180,000.

Channell’s efforts have the support of the Board of Elections. They said it will be important to document the number of votes cast on the county machines and to show the wait times for voters on Election Day is not excessive.

“If we don’t give them the data, we’ll have to buy the equipment,” said Patricia Featherstone, chair of the county’s elections board.

State officials are requiring the additional machines because of complaints about long lines and waits lasting hours in some metropolitan Georgia counties. In Glynn County, many people cast early votes or absentee ballots, helping tp reduce the lines on Election Day.

Perry Police Department has installed speed cameras in some school zones, according to the Macon Telegraph.

After a 30-day warning period, police will mail speeding tickets to drivers that exceed 10 mph over the speed limit during school hours. School hours are from one hour before school starts to one hour after school ends.

Columbus may spend $16 million on renovating a building for the Sheriff’s Office headquarters, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The building would cost an estimated $2.5 million, and the renovations would cost another $13 million. Under the city’s preferred financing method, roughly $3 million in funding would come from Other Local Option Sales Tax public safety reserves and $13 million from Columbus Building Authority Bonds. The city could also fund the entire purchase through building authority bonds, [Deputy City Manager Pam] Hodge said.

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