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9
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Politics for April 9, 2024

After two days of exchanging letters with his Union counterpart, Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee agreed to meet and make arrangements for the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. At 2 PM on April 9, 1865, Lee and Grant met in a private home owned by Wilmer McLean at Appomattox Court House, Virginia and Lee agreed to the surrender of his army.

Lee was resplendent in his dress uniform and a fine sword at his side. Grant arrived wearing a simple soldier’s coat that was muddy from his long ride. The great generals spoke of their service in the Mexican War, and then set about the business at hand. Grant offered generous terms. Officers could keep their side arms, and all men would be immediately released to return home. Any officers and enlisted men who owned horses could take them home, Grant said, to help put crops in the field and carry their families through the next winter. These terms, said Lee, would have “the best possible effect upon the men,” and “will do much toward conciliating our people.” The papers were signed and Lee prepared to return to his men.

From the account by Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain:

“At such a time and under such conditions I thought it eminently fitting to show some token of our feeling, and I therefore instructed my subordinate officers to come to the position of ‘salute’ in the manual of arms as each body of the Confederates passed before us.”

“When General Gordon came opposite me I had the bugle blown and the entire line came to ‘attention,’ preparatory to executing this movement of the manual successively and by regiments as Gordon’s columns should pass before our front, each in turn.”

“The General was riding in advance of his troops, his chin drooped to his breast, downhearted and dejected in appearance almost beyond description. At the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his swordpoint to his toe in salutation.”

“By word of mouth General Gordon sent back orders to the rear that his own troops take the same position of the manual in the march past as did our line. That was done, and a truly imposing sight was the mutual salutation and farewell.”

On April 9, 1968, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta held the funeral for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. More than 100,000 mourners reportedly showed up for the funeral, which could accomodate only 800; 200,000 mourners followed the mule-drawn hearse to Morehouse College.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Voters go to the polls today in a Special Election for House District 139 the seat vacated by the death of State Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus), according to WTVM.

There are four candidates running are: Sean Knox, Robert Mallard, Doctor Donald Moeller, and Carmen Rice.

The winner of this special election will immediately fill the seat and serve the remainder of Smith’s original term which ends December 2024.

Candidates who want to run for the full two-year term will have to win the primary on May 21 and win the election in November.

Voting takes place tomorrow in Columbus, Cataula, Ellerslie, and Waverly Hall.

Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

 

From the Secretary of State’s Office:

A run-off, if needed, shall be held on May 7, 2024.

The Catoosa County Republican Party filed a federal lawsuit against local election officers, according to the AJC.Continue Reading..

8
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 8, 2024

On April 8, 1917, U.S. President William Howard Taft (R-Ohio) spoke in Augusta, Georgia, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Former President William Howard Taft spoke on the precarious world situation for more than an hour to an Easter Sunday crowd at Augusta’s Tabernacle Baptist Church.

Taft, who had lost the White House four years earlier to Woodrow Wilson, defended the actions of his former rival.

“Our national conscience is entirely void of offense in this war. We have been forced to vindicate our rights,” Taft told an enthusiastic audience.

Hank Aaron hit home run number 715 on April 8, 1974 to become the all-time home run champion, a title he arguably holds to this day.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig wrote about what Aaron meant to baseball and America.

As the last major league player who was a part of the Negro leagues, he was one of the game’s most prominent bridges to integration. For 23 years on the field, this humble native of Mobile, Ala., represented the game with unfailing grace, overcoming obstacles that most of us could not even imagine. In the years since then, Hank has remained one of the most distinguished and revered figures in American public life.

Aaron himself spoke to the Associated Press about the 40th anniversary of his record-breaking home run.

Aaron’s record-breaking homer will be celebrated tonight before the Atlanta Braves’ home opener against the New York Mets.

Hate mail and threats made it impossible for him to savor the chase of Ruth’s revered record, but on Monday he said he’ll enjoy the anniversary because such old friends as former teammate Dusty Baker will return for the pregame ceremony.

Aaron, 80, said he has a greater appreciation for fans who still celebrate his career.

“It does. It means an awful lot to me,” Aaron said.

“I’m not one to go around bragging about certain things. I played the game because I loved the game. … I am quite thrilled that people say that he, whatever he did, should be appreciated. That makes me feel good.”

The Braves will wear an Aaron 40th anniversary patch on their uniform sleeves this season. An outfield sign at Turner Field also will mark the anniversary.

Before hitting the homer into the Braves’ bullpen beyond the left-field wall, Aaron told [Dusty] Baker what was about to happen.

“That I can remember like it was yesterday,” Baker said. “It was a cold, cold night in April. Hank told me, ‘I’m going to get this over with now.’ He knew every pitch that was coming. He had total recall of pitch sequences. He was as smart as they came.”

Aaron confirmed Baker’s tale on Monday: “I think that was right. I think I made that remark and made it to Dusty maybe three or four times. I just felt within myself that eventually before the night was over I was going to hit a home run.”

From the Associated Press via the Valdosta Daily Times on the 50th Anniversary:

Aaron’s teammates, including Dusty Baker, worried on his behalf even as the future Hall of Famer circled the bases following his record-breaking 715th homer on April 8, 1974. Baker, who was on deck, and Tom House, who caught the homer in the Atlanta bullpen behind the left-field wall, will return Monday for the 50-year anniversary of the homer.

After sprinting from the bullpen to deliver the ball to Aaron at home plate, House found Aaron’s mother giving the slugger a big hug.

“You could see both of them with tears in their eyes,” House told The Associated Press. “… It was a mother and son. Obviously, that was cool. It was also mom protecting her boy from at that time everybody thought somebody would actually try to shoot him at home plate.

“So there were all kind of things. I gave him the ball. I said, ‘Here it is, Hank.’ He said ‘Thanks, kid.’”

Bob Hope, then the Braves media relations director, said Aaron would not be deterred by the threats issued late in the 1973 season as he approached Ruth’s record of 714 career homers.

“One time the FBI wanted to come meet with him on a Sunday and asked him not to play because they felt they had legitimate death threats on him,” Hope said.

“We went down to the clubhouse and sat down with him and Hank just said: ‘What kind of statement would that be? I am a baseball player. You guys do what you need to do to keep things secure, but I’m playing baseball.’ And I thought that was very reflective of his personality all the way through.”

To mark the 50-year anniversary of Aaron’s 715th homer, the Atlanta History Center will open a new exhibit to the public, through the Henry Louis Aaron Fund, celebrating Aaron on Tuesday that will remain open through the 2025 All-Star Game in Atlanta. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is expected to attend a preview of the exhibit on Monday.

Aaron’s bat and the ball he hit for the record homer, owned by the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York and normally not open to public viewing, will be on display at Truist Park’s monument garden on Monday.

Kurt Cobain was found dead by his own hand on April 8, 1994.

Governor Zell Miller signed legislation proclaiming Gainesville, Georgia the Poultry Capital of the World on April 8, 1995.

The Square Dance became the official state folk dance on April 8, 1996, when Gov. Zell Miller signed legislation recognizing it.

On April 8, 2005, Eric Rudolph agreed to plead guilty to the fatal 1996 bombing at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Election procedures will differ from previous years after the General Assembly passed election reform legislation, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The General Assembly passed the most far-reaching election law changes last month since 2021, when the legislature’s Republican majorities enacted a sweeping election system overhaul following Democrat Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the Peach State in 2020 and the capture by Democrats of both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats in January 2021 runoffs.

The passage of most of the following five bills came primarily along party lines:

• Senate Bill 189 – Makes it easier to file mass voter challenges; eliminates QR codes from paper ballots; eases requirements for third-party presidential candidates to get on Georgia’s ballot.

• House Bill 1207 – Allows fewer voting machines on election days; requires poll workers to be U.S. citizens; allows closer access for poll watchers.

• Senate Bill 368 – Prohibits campaign contributions from foreign nationals.

• House Bill 974 – Requires secretary of state to set up a statewide system to scan and post paper ballots at a minimum resolution; requires more audits of statewide election results.

• House Bill 1312 – Reschedules state Public Service Commission elections following a ruling in a lawsuit accusing the current system of violating the federal Voting Rights Act.

Senate Bill 189 and House Bill 1207 have drawn the most criticism from legislative Democrats and voting-rights advocates, so much so that the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has threatened to sue if Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signs Senate Bill 189.

What opponents find most objectionable is a provision establishing probable cause – an easier burden of proof to meet – as the standard for filing a successful voter challenge. In 2022, Republican activists filed thousands of voter challenges in Democratic-leaning counties only to see local election boards dismiss the vast majority as baseless.

Republicans say this year’s election bills are aimed at restoring election integrity, citing claims of widespread voter fraud lodged by GOP officials after the 2020 election. Those claims were subsequently dismissed by courts that found no widespread fraud.

“What’s crazy to me is the idea that anybody in this chamber would be OK with a fraudulent vote canceling your legal vote or anybody’s legal vote,” Rep. John LaHood, R-Valdosta, chairman of the House Governmental Affairs Committee, said on the House floor. “Fraud makes votes not matter. What this does is make sure your legal vote does matter.”

“Our bill actually makes the process of challenging more difficult,” added Rep. Victor Anderson, R-Cornelia. “It actually is designed to clarify what constitutes a valid challenge and constitutes an invalid challenge.”

House Bill 1207 takes Republican-led efforts to reduce the supply of voting machines an additional step. After absentee ballot drop boxes were made widely available leading up to the 2020 elections because of the pandemic, the passage of Senate Bill 202 in 2021 limited the number of drop boxes.

The new legislation would give local election superintendents discretion to allow fewer voting machines on Election Day than current law requires, depending on the voter turnout they expect.

While both Senate Bill 189 and House Bill 1207 passed along partisan lines, Senate Bill 368 sailed through the Senate unanimously and cleared the House with only two “no” votes. To Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, prohibiting campaign contributions from foreign nationals was the most important of the election bills.

“This commonsense measure defends Georgia elections,” Raffensperger said. “Voters deserve assurance that their elections remain free from foreign influence.”

House Bill 974 was less controversial than Senate Bill 189 and House Bill 1207, drawing support from many legislative Democrats.

House Bill 1312 was forced upon the General Assembly by a federal lawsuit charging the current system of electing the five members of the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) statewide rather than by district dilutes Black voting strength in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

While the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals subsequently upheld the current system, the case forced the cancellation of PSC elections in 2022 and again this year. House Bill 1312 rescheduled the elections for 2026 and 2028.

Democrats complained the new schedule would let commissioners who normally serve six-year terms stay in office for eight years or longer. Republicans countered that they had no choice because of the court case.

While most of the bills would take effect in time for the November elections, a provision in Senate Bill 189 eliminating QR codes from paper ballots wouldn’t become law until 2026. That’s to give the secretary of state’s office time to develop new technology to replace the QR codes.

Tuesday is the last day to submit comments on the proposed permit for mining near the Okefenokee Swamp, according to Georgia Recorder.

Tuesday is the last day to submit a written comment on Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals’ plans to mine Trail Ridge, which is seen as an important barrier for the swamp, for titanium, staurolite, and zircon. One of the permits would allow the company to withdraw 1.4 million gallons per day from the Floridan Aquifer.

The state regulatory agency, which issued the draft permits in February, will next review and respond to the comments on its website, although there is no set timeline for what comes next.

“If necessary, EPD will request changes to the draft permits,” agency spokesperson Sara Lips said Friday.

Supporters of the project say blocking the mining project would infringe on the landowner’s private property rights, and they have also argued the project will bring needed jobs to the rural area.

But the controversial mining proposal is deeply unpopular among admirers of the largest blackwater swamp in North America, which is home to a diverse ecosystem boasting of thousands of species of animals and plants.

Opponents have blasted the plan as an unnecessary threat to the hydrology of the swamp and its ecosystem that jeopardizes the local tourism economy tied to the swamp and opens the door to more mining.

On Friday, actor Leonardo DiCaprio joined the ranks of people opposing the project, calling on his 62 million followers on Instagram to submit a comment urging state regulators to reject the mine. He linked to a form letter on the Southern Environmental Law Center’s website.

“Help save one of the most significant wetlands on Earth from an 8,000-acre strip mine,” DiCaprio posted, referring to the potential scope of mining operations in the long term. These initial permits are for a 582-acre demonstration mine.

The public comment period is ending more than a week after a legislative push to pass moderate protections for the swamp stalled in the state Senate. A Georgia House proposal called for a three-year moratorium on future applications for the kind of mining Twin Pines plans to do, although that was unlikely to affect the company’s long-term expansion plans. The proposed demonstration project has been in the works now for five years.

Legislative leaders rebuffed another measure that would have permanently blocked new or expanded mining permit applications at Trail Ridge.

Rena Ann Peck, executive director of the Georgia River Network, wrote in the organization’s formal comment that state lawmakers’ hands-off approach to the proposal and deferral to state regulators has left EPD as the “last line of defense for the cherished Okefenokee.”

“With the permittee’s ‘Ts’ crossed and ‘Is’ dotted, the Division is poised to issue a common permit that will do irreparable harm to the uncommon Okefenokee,” Peck said.

If EPD decides to issue final permits, Peck argued for more than the usual permit conditions, calling specifically for a detailed monitoring of groundwater and surface water before, during and after mining.

“The permittee must be held accountable for actions that harm the Okefenokee Swamp and St. Marys River,” she wrote.

A four-hundred million dollar renovation and expansion of the Georgia Capitol campus begins this year, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp in February signed a mid-year budget with money for work on the building to begin this summer. The project is expected to begin with the demolition of two smaller office buildings that once housed, among other things, the Georgia Building Authority, said Gerald Pilgrim, the deputy executive director of the Georgia Building Authority.

“What will go up is an eight-story building that will attach to the Capitol by a bridge that goes across Martin Luther King (Jr. Drive),” Pilgrim said. “There will be an improved area for the press and lobbyists and better areas for the public.”

The Paul D. Coverdell Legislative Office Building — which is on the other side of the Capitol and has housed legislative offices and meeting rooms — was last renovated in the 1990s.

Plans for the new office building show more and larger committee rooms accessible to people with disabilities and improvements to technology and dedicated press areas.

The design also calls for an interior courtyard and a bridge connecting the third floor of the new building and the Capitol, making it easier for legislators and the public to move between them.

As for the 135-year-old Capitol, most of the mechanical systems are from the 1950s, Pilgrim said. Planned upgrades to that building include two additional fire stairways and exits, more bathrooms, and a more public-friendly visitor entrance. The work will also make all public areas accessible for people with disabilities.

Most work on the Capitol would happen between April and November of each year when lawmakers are not in session.

The Georgia Composite Medical Board flip-flopped again on telehealth rules, according to the AJC.

After a sustained outcry from doctors who use telemedicine visits to prescribe controlled drugs such as Ritalin, the Georgia Composite Medical Board on Thursday reversed its plans to restrict the practice, at least for now.

Instead, Georgia’s rules will remain the same as they have been throughout the pandemic until at least the end of the year. The board plans to write new rules from scratch.

The issue of virtual prescribing is a huge one in the South. Specialists are rare in rural Georgia and telemedicine has allowed some to see patients regularly from distant counties and even different states. For instance, the most recent state data showed more than half of Georgia’s 159 counties — 90 — had no psychiatrist.

When the Georgia medical board in December suddenly reimposed its old rules effective Jan. 1, prescribers erupted in confusion over what exactly the old rules allowed when it comes to distant patients who take prescriptions that might renew every month. Some doctors said they would have to stop seeing virtual patients for controlled drugs altogether until the board clarified what was legal.

Now, psychiatrists and other doctors who prescribe drugs via virtual patient visits, can continue to do so, even if they’ve never met the patient in person.

Board Chairman Dr. William Bostock said the board wants to protect patient health while making sure that health care practices have clear, legal rules to follow. A long, careful review of Georgia law concerning teleprescribing found language that was vague or inadvertently contradictory, Bostock said.

“Out of fairness to all parties involved, we’re going to go ahead and rescind our board order that was supposed to take effect May 1,” he said. “The telehealth industry is continuing to evolve. Obviously, it has a part in the delivery of health care for not only citizens of Georgia, but really for the entire nation. And I think our responsibility is to safeguard the public and make sure that we follow what is necessary to that end.”

The AJC looks at what types of bills passed in the 2024 Session.

The AJC analysis looked at all of the successful bills and grouped them into subject areas like finance, healthcare or education. Some of the bills are counted in more than one category. For example, Senate Bill 533, a bill to allow local jails to provide prisoners with mental health treatment while awaiting competency hearings, rather than in a hospital setting. The bill was counted as both a bill related to the judicial system and a bill related to health.

The AJC found the largest category of successful bills involved finances, with 160 bills passing both the House and Senate. Of those financial bills, 130 changed state tax law and tax exemptions, mostly increasing local homestead exemptions. Others in that category levy excise taxes, reduce income taxes, or expand exemptions for sales and use taxes.

The remaining 30 financial bills targeted areas other than taxation, including bills allowing student loan repayment for peace officers and protections for elderly and disabled adults who may be victims of financial exploitation.

Lawmakers passed at least 126 bills applying to the judicial system, including bills raising the pay of some judges or adding judges to some state and judicial circuit courts. Other bills gave law enforcement new powers or responsibilities such as adding antisemitism to Georgia’s hate crimes statute and strengthening immigration laws by penalizing sheriffs who do not cooperate with federal immigration officers. Many bills also affect court procedures, like adding the collection of technology fees onto a fine as a cost of court.

About 40 bills dealing with government functions cover elections specifically. This category includes measures for creating boards of elections and registration in various counties, proofing ballots by local superintendents in certain races, maintaining a state-wide system for posting scanned paper ballots, and time off for employees to vote in advance.

Gwinnett County property owners will soon receive assessment notices, according to AccessWDUN.

Gwinnett County’s Board of Assessors has announced this week that they have mailed out required notifications to all residential and commercial property owners in the county, as of Friday, April 5.

The county is required by law to notify property owners about the annual value each property holds.  The current mailing is reflective of property value as of January 1, 2024.

The Annual Notice of Assessment is not a tax bill but does include an estimate of 2024 property taxes. Officials with the Gwinnett  Assessor’s Office note that each assessment should include:

The estimate combines the 2024 property value with the 2023 millage rates and exemptions on file.
The 2023 tax rates are used because the 2024 rates for county, cities and schools are not calculated until later in the year.
The estimates on the notice do not account for potential changes to fees, such as stormwater, solid waste, streetlights or speed control devices.
The Assessor’s Office suggests that property owners review their Annual Notice of Assessment to ensure accuracy, and to notice if their property is listed at fair market value.

Gwinnett County property owners who disagree with the 2024 value have 45 days from the date on their assessment notice to file an appeal online, in person or by mail.

Camden County Commissioners voted against surrendering their spaceport license, according to The Brunswick News.

A motion by Camden County Commission Jim Goodman to surrender the county’s spaceport license at a meeting this week failed due to the lack of a second.

While the county could not complete the purchase of Union Carbide property for a launch site, Goodman said the motion wasn’t symbolic.

“There’s a lot of sentiment in this community,” he said. “They feel like money is being squandered. There is potential for this to continue to have a life of its own.”

Surrendering the launch operator’s license to the Federal Aviation Administration would show Camden County residents the spaceport saga is finally over, he said.

“I can’t get a straight answer about whether we’re still spending money on consultants,” Goodman said. “I wonder why (commissioners) can’t understand the will of the voters.”

Opponents gathered enough signatures on a petition to force a referendum in 2022 rejecting a commercial spaceport. It was approved by 72% of the Camden County voters.

“From the day the spaceport license was issued, it was useless,” Goodman said. “It’s hard for them to admit they were wrong. It’s time to move on and using things with taxpayer money.”

Steve Weinkle, an opponent who helped initiate the petition that forced the county to abandon plans for a spaceport, said he believes some county commissioners continue to work behind the scenes to find a launch provider who is willing to buy the 4,000-acre Union Carbide property and the license to launch rockets.

“They’re still trying to work a deal,” he said. “I suspect commissioners have a secret, potential user.”

The Valdosta Police Department updated their tattoo policy, according to WALB.

While some jobs may not want to hire you if you have tattoos that can be seen while on the job, Valdosta Police Department says that won’t stop them from hiring you.

Some in the community feel it should be determined on the position your work in, “Tattoos are an expression of creativity. They’re an expression of who you are, how you feel, or just your views. So depending on the area that you’re going in— it can be taken into consideration, and it will be taken into consideration.”

The department says they are currently hiring, and this new policy is affective immediately.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners voted for a zoning code change to take back some power over the process, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

With a unanimous vote, commissioners last week approved an ordinance amendment presented by the county planning department staff, while rejecting a proposal from the county-commission-appointed planning commission.

Briefly, the planning commission, which acts in an advisory capacity to the county commission on zoning-related issues, had wanted to rely on an ordinance provision that allowed the county commission only to cast a “yes” or “no” vote on a text amendment coming from the planning commission.

Commissioners can now change the language of a proposed text amendment when it comes in front of them without sending it back to the planning commission for review and resubmission to the full commission.

“… I think it’s crucial that this body have the real final say on these things. … We’re the democratically elected representatives of the people,” said Commissioner Melissa Link in making the motion to approve the staff-recommended change to the zoning ordinance.

“And us, being those who know these very specific small pockets of the community, are best suited to tweak that language to assure that there aren’t unintended harms brought to certain often voiceless segments of our community,” Link contended.

The City of Gainesville is launching an event transit service, according to AccessWDUN.

Explore Gainesville’s two new Cool Buses will  soon be spotted taking people from parking areas to various events sponsored by the city.

The two refurbished Hall County School surplus buses aim to account for events hosted by the city that may have off– site parking, according to Gainesville Director of Tourism, Robin Lynch.

“We’re excited to offer the community some additional transportation to come to our events,” Lynch said. “Our events are really supported highly by our community members,  and sometimes, our parking deck fill up… so,  we have to use off site lots.  We don’t ever want that to be a deterrent for people to come and use our facilities and visit events.”

The Cool Buses feature seating for up to 42 people, television screens, microphones and speakers to be used by presenters. The bus seats have also been arranged to have  seating that faces each other, rather than that of  a traditional school bus layout. Syfan Logistics worked to tune up and paint the buses, and North Atlanta Customs renovated the interiors and wrapped the  exteriors in Gainesville branding.

Darien hosted their “blessing of the fleet,” according to The Brunswick News.

Darien ended its annual three-day Blessing of the Fleet Sunday with its namesake event, the speaking of blessings over the shrimping vessels moored in Darien and nearby fish docks.

The crowd of at least 1,000 watched from the bridge, city docks, hotel balconies and the northern banks of the Darien River as the shrimp boats idled up to the bridge against a strong outgoing tide for a sprinkling of holy water and words of benediction for safe passages and a bountiful catch.

The theme was there’s nothing like the “real thing,’’ as in wild Georgia shrimp. There were some imposters, however, in the form of people wearing orange, inflatable shrimp costumes. The Rev. Lee Brandt pronounced the first blessing over Shadow Walker. He asked that the boat and crew “be blessed as you go and blessed as you go in” and have the best season ever.

It was the 56th annual blessing and it has grown into a big event with live entertainment, a street parade, arts and crafts, a car show and other attraction.

Former City of Atlanta Chief Financial Officer Jim Beard pled guilty to federal charges relating to his time in office, according to the AJC.

The former chief financial officer for the city of Atlanta pleaded guilty Monday in a federal case alleging he used tens of thousands of dollars in city funds for personal travel and to buy two military-grade machine guns.

Jim Beard, also accused of cheating on his taxes, appeared before a federal judge in Atlanta. He pleaded guilty to one count of federal program theft and one count of obstructing IRS laws. He faces up to 13 years in prison.

Beard also has agreed to pay an amount to be determined at sentencing, which is set for July 12.

Beard, the Atlanta CFO in former mayor Kasim Reed’s administration, used city funds for airline tickets, luxury hotels and limousines for himself, his family and travel companions, prosecutors said. They said he also bought two custom-built, fully-automatic rifles with city money, and falsely claimed losses from a consulting business on his federal tax forms.

The case is part of a years-long City Hall corruption probe in Atlanta that brought multiple city officials and contractors before U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones on criminal charges. Eight defendants were sentenced to prison. Beard was the last defendant facing trial.

Beard was indicted in September 2020 on eight charges, to which he pleaded not guilty. He faced three counts of wire fraud, two counts of federal program theft, and single counts of possessing a machine gun, falsifying an application or record, and obstructing federal tax laws.

Beard used his city-issued credit card for personal trips to Chicago, Louisiana and Washington, D.C., according to his indictment. He also used city funds on a Chicago hotel room so his stepdaughter could attend the Lollapalooza music festival in 2015 and 2016, prosecutors alleged.

Prosecutors claimed Beard used public money for a stay at The St. Regis Atlanta hotel in Buckhead, where he ordered hundreds of dollars worth of room upgrades, private dining and a “rose-petal turndown service” for him and his wife.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is asking boaters to watch out for sea turtles and manatees, according to The Brunswick News.

A 9-foot-long manatee may only make a swirl as they migrate north each spring into the murky Coastal Georgia waters, giving boaters little indication of the massive marine mammal beneath the water’s surface.

Endangered 300-pound loggerhead sea turtles of all species may poke only their heads out of the water when it surfaces, which they are more likely to do in the spring.

Neither are easy to spot, which is why the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is asking boaters to slow down and keep a watchful eye out for the large, rare animals.

Hundreds of sea turtles are hit by boats every year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, making boat strikes the most common cause of sea turtle strandings in the U.S.

Of the 72 dead or injured sea turtles found on Georgia beaches last year, about a quarter of those that could be assessed had suffered injuries from boat strikes, the DNR said.

Sea Turtles have a wider range than many people might think, said Mark Dodd, senior DNR wildlife biologist. They are not limited to the ocean side of local barrier islands.

“They occur everywhere, not just in the ocean,” he said. “They’re in the sounds, the estuaries, the tidal creeks.”

There are similar statistics for manatees. A study by the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute examined 10 years worth of Florida manatee necropsy results and found that one out of every four adult manatee caracasses bore evidence of 10 or more vessel strikes.

In Georgia, watercraft collisions were responsible for more than a fourth of the manatee mortalities documented since 2005.

Manatees migrate each spring from Florida to Georgia. Some move back and forth between the states throughout the summer. Anytime between March and November, people could encounter West Indian or Florida manatees, said Jessica Thompson, senior DNR wildlife biologist.

Both are threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Boaters should be alert and have someone scan for wildlife in front of the boat, stay in deeper channels in the tidal rivers and creeks, and heed low-speed and no-wake zones, particularly around docks, Thompson said.

If boaters do strike a sea turtle or manatee, they should report it immediately to the DNR by calling 1-800-2-SAVE-ME (800-272-8363). Boaters will not be charged if operating their boat responsibly and the collision was an accident.

Coastal Georgia is a national leader in intermodal sea turtle releases. From the Savanah Morning News:

[Steven] Bernstein and another pilot with the organization Turtles Fly Too this week carried nearly three-dozen rehabilitated Testudines from the Northeast to Georgia’s Jekyll Island, where they were reintroduced to the Atlantic Ocean in what organizers say was the largest-ever operation of its kind in the state.

“I fly as an avocation,” he explained.

Certain shelled reptiles, however, turn Bernstein and other volunteers into unwavering advocates for endangered species such as the 33 Kemp’s ridley turtles and a single green turtle released into the Jekyll surf Wednesday.

“We’re going to keep doing it as long as we have the opportunity,” added Bernstein, who estimated that the flight from Massachusetts to Georgia in his Pilatus PC-12 single-engine plane brought his total TFT transports to about a dozen.

The reptile passengers made the flights after spending up to five months in one of four facilities: the Mystic Aquarium in Stonington, Connecticut; New England Aquarium in Boston; Atlantic Marine Conservation Society in Hampton Bays, New York; and New York Marine Rescue Center on Long Island.

All were treated for conditions related to “cold-stunning,” which is the turtle version of hypothermia.

As they waited for the flights to arrive at the airport about 4 miles away, more than a dozen staff members from the six agencies assisting in the release swatted incessantly at swarms of stinging sand gnats and sidestepped jellyfish scattered like loose stones in the wet sand.

In waves, quartets of volunteers reached into the containers and carefully lifted the turtles – typically about 2 feet long and weighing 70 pounds or more – and carried them into the surf. One by one, each person placed a turtle just under the water’s surface and gave it a gentle push.

[A]ll 34 releases were successful, said Rachel Overmeyer, rehabilitation program manager at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which coordinated the effort.

From GPB:

Every year when water in the North Atlantic becomes too cold, many turtles are stunned, disoriented and wash up onshore.

After time spent in rehabilitation facilities in the Northeast, they’re ready to hit the waters here, which are warm enough this time of year for the turtles to thrive.

Terry Carbonell is a pilot with Turtles Fly Too, an organization that shuttles sea turtles all over the country for events like this. During the day’s event, she helped two turtles into the ocean.

“It’s just so amazing,” Carbonell said. “I’ve flown them. You’ve seen them sick, and now, that one especially, was just so healthy he was ready to go.”

A transponder under each of the turtles skin ensures the groups on Jekyll can help them in case they’re caught or stranded again.

8
Apr

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for April 8, 2024

Augusta Animal Services held an adoption event this past weekend to prevent euthanazing animals, according to to WJBF.

According to the Augusta Animal Services Facebook page, the shelter is at maximum capacity and will be open for adoptions only, in an effort to free up kennels for intakes and prevent euthanizing for space.

All adoption fees are $20 and must be paid in cash only.

Available pets are up to date on shots, spayed/neutered, microchipped, and Heartworm tested.

Friends of Augusta Animal Services posted an update on Facebook:

HUGE, HUGE SHOUT-OUT to the community and volunteers that came to Augusta Animal Services or visited the Dog and Cat Networking events today and adopted one of our precious dogs/puppies/cats from the shelter. You opened your homes and SAVED LIVES! Between the two events TWENTY (+) (20+) kennels are now vacant!

Not only did you save the life of the one you took home but these empty kennels save the lives of 20 more who they can now intake without a need to euthanize for space (at least for the short term).

However the sad reality is this. These empty kennels could be full in 24-48 hours. Augusta Animal Services WILL BE doing spay/neuter daily this week so Tuesday-Friday (9th-12th) additional dogs/puppies/cats will be added to the adoption floor. If you have been thinking about adopting, DON’T WAIT, come and meet you new best friend. Without adoptions dogs/puppies/cats/kittens die. For Monday (8 April) SAM and ARLO are looking for their fur-ever family; there are no cats available. THANKS AGAIN to everyone. Visit your local shelter, AAS is open 12-4 Monday-Saturday for adoptions.

 

Arlo is a young male Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Augusta Animal Services in Augusta, GA.

Sam is an adult male Terrier mix who is available for adoption from Augusta Animal Services in Augusta, GA.

Sam is an adult male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Columbia County Animal Services in Appling GA.

Tessa is an adult female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Columbia County Animal Services in Appling GA.

5
Apr

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for April 5, 2024

Thorn (Pen 179) is a 4-year old, 76-pound male Golden Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Pikachu is a 10-week old, 6.4-pound female Chihuahua mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Reese (Pen 156) is a 4-5 year old, female Hound and Shepherd mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

5
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 4, 2024

On April 4, 1776, General George Washington began marching his troops from Cambridge, Massachusetts to New York, in anticipation of an invasion by the British.

On April 6, 1776, the Continental Congress announced that all ports in America would be open to trade with other countries not ruled by the British. The action was taken several months after Britain passed the American Prohibitory Act which forbade trade with the colonies and was intended to punish colonists for the growing rebellion.

On April 7, 1776, the United States warship Lexington captured a British warship, HMS Edward, for the first time.

President George Washington exercised the veto power for the first time on April 5, 1792.

The bill introduced a new plan for dividing seats in the House of Representatives that would have increased the amount of seats for northern states. After consulting with his politically divided and contentious cabinet, Washington, who came from the southern state of Virginia, ultimately decided that the plan was unconstitutional because, in providing for additional representatives for some states, it would have introduced a number of representatives higher than that proscribed by the Constitution.

On April 7, 1798, President John Adams signed legislation authorizing negotiations between three representatives of Georgia and three Presidential appointees over Georgia’s claim to land west of what is now the Georgia-Alabama state lines. Georgia would continue to claim most of what is currently Alabama and Mississippi until 1802.

Georgia Politics Campaign Election

Map by Carl Vinson Institute of Government at UGA

Georgia Politics Campaign Election

President William Henry Harrison died in office on April 4, 1841, a month after his inauguration.

At the inauguration of America’s first Whig president, on March 4, 1841, a bitterly cold day, Harrison declined to wear a jacket or hat, made a two-hour speech, and attended three inauguration balls. Soon afterward, he developed pneumonia. On April 4, President Harrison died in Washington, and Vice President John Tyler ascended to the presidency, becoming the first individual in U.S. history to reach the office through the death of a president.

John Tyler was sworn in as the tenth President of the United States on April 6, 1841.

Tyler was elected as William Harrison’s vice president earlier in 1841 and was suddenly thrust into the role of president when Harrison died one month into office. He was the first vice president to immediately assume the role of president after a sitting president’s untimely exit and set the precedent for succession thereafter.

On April 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln toured Richmond, Virginia the day after the Confederate Capitol fell to Union forces.

The first modern Olympic Games opened in Athens, Greece on April 6, 1896.

The United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, when the US House of Representatives voted 373-50 on a declaration of war that passed the Senate two days earlier.

The Brown Thrasher was first recognized as the official state bird of Georgia on April 5, 1935 through an Executive Order signed by Governor Eugene Talmadge. Later the designation of official state symbols through executive fiat was challenged and the General Assembly would recognize the Brown Thrasher again as official state bird in 1970.

On April 5, 1962, Governor Ernest Vandiver called a Special Session of the Georgia General Assembly to revise the state’s election code following a decision by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Baker v. Carr.On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot in Memphis. James Earl Ray would later be arrested and plead guilty to the assassination.

On April 5, 1968, amid racial tension following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., musician James Brown helped keep the peace in Boston.

2001: A Space Odyssey was released on April 6, 1968.

On April 4, 1974, Hank Aaron hit home run 714, tying Babe Ruth’s record.

On April 5, 1977, Wyche Fowler won a runoff election over John Lewis for the Fifth Congressional District, following the appointment of Andrew Young as Ambassador to the United Nations. Fowler would win election to the United States Senate in 1986, and ironically, lose his seat in a 1992 runoff election to the late Paul Coverdell.

On April 5, 1980, the band that would come to be known as R.E.M. played their first show as Twisted Kites in Athens, Georgia.

On April 4, 1988, the Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly was recognized as the official state butterfly of Georgia.

On April 7, 1995, Governor Zell Miller signed legislation recognizing the peach as the official state fruit of Georgia.

The Atlanta Braves played their first game in Turner Field on April 4, 1997, defeating the Chicago Cubs 5-4. Denny Neagle started on the mound for the Braves and Mark Wohlers earned a save. Atlanta’s Michael Tucker hit the first homerun in the new stadium.

Georgia State Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) died on April 5, 2020, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Republican was first elected to the Georgia Senate from the 4th District in 1990 and was reelected in 2018 to his 15th term. Hill was a 37-year veteran, serving 33 years in the Georgia Air National Guard.

[Lt. Gov. Geoff] Duncan called Hill a “true statesman, a man of overwhelming integrity, and a servant leader.”

“For three decades Georgians have benefited from his leadership and his calm and steady hand at the helm,” Duncan said in a statement. “He exhibited all the characteristics we hope for in a leader and was a true friend to all. Jack always ensured we were good stewards of taxpayer dollars, but it was more than that, he led with kindness and clarity.”

“There is not a member of the legislature whose life was not touched in some way by Jack,” Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller said in a statement. “Whether it was providing insight into a budgetary need for their district, or by just being a friend to lean on, you could always count on Jack to be there. I can personally attest to the many times I sought his wisdom and how much I benefitted from his counsel.”

Gov. Brian Kemp called Hill a “gentle giant.”

“Jack Hill was one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I ever served with,” he said on Twitter. “His loss is devastating to our state, but he leaves behind an unmatched legacy of hard work and public service.”

Hill was sworn into the Senate as a Democrat, but in 2002 switched parties and after winning the election was named chairman of the Senate budget committee.

“Senator Jack Hill was one of the finest public servants I have known,” House Speaker David Ralston said in a statement. “Quiet, studious, thorough, he exemplified the best in a leader. Senator Hill served with integrity. Georgia has lost one of its finest and I have lost a friend and a mentor. Rest In Peace, Mr. Chairman.”

History drives tourism in the Golden Isles, according to The Brunswick News.

Jekyll Island is one of the most obvious sites in Glynn County with its historic landmark district and its 34 structures, including historic homes and museums.

“We have this unique attribute of being a protected state park where preservation and conservation are the core of our mission in managing this special place, but we can also offer visitors and residents the modern-day amenities of a resort destination,” a Jekyll Island Authority official said. “These attributes, along with our historical significance, are key components of what brings visitors to the island. Given our responsibilities to be a self-operating state park, it’s imperative that we maintain that balance every day, and our historical and natural resources continue to be carefully protected and maintained.”

“We see a lot of Glynn County visitors during spring break and throughout the summer, but we also welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors from Atlanta, Jacksonville, Savannah and other nearby cities. Jekyll Island also attracts tourists from across the United States and even international travelers, most frequently from the U.K., Germany and Canada, interested in its unique history and natural beauty,” according to authority officials.

While many of the attractions on Jekyll Island are historic structures, there are also archaeological sites and nature trails like the Dubignon Cemetery and the Wanderer Memorial Trail that educate the public on their significant history through interpretive panels.

Phil Officer, interpretive supervisor at Fort Frederica, said 286,017 visitors came to Fort Frederica in 2023.

“We definitely see a large number of visitors,” he said. “Most of our visitors are not locals, are new to the island or are visiting and were aware of our site. They come to learn, take a stroll and learn more about the fort.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order #04.03.24.01, appointing J. Wade Padgett to the Georgia Court of Appeals seat vacated by former Judge Christian Coomer.

Governor Kemp also issued Executive Order #04.03.24.02, suspending Reginald “Reggie” Loper from his office on the Effingham County Commission after Loper was indicted.Continue Reading..

3
Apr

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for April 3, 2024

Bugatti is a young male Rottweiler mix who is available for adoption from Macon Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA. Personally, I kind of feel like this guy looks as much Hound as Rottweiler, but they may know things I don’t.

Scrappy is a young male mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from Macon Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA.

Roxie is a young female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from Macon Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA. For what it’s worth, I’ve had dogs with similar-looking skin conditions that were resolved with some veterinary attention, better diet, and better living conditions.

3
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 3, 2024

On April 2, 1513, Spanish Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida, claiming it for the Spanish crown. Today he is best-known in Georgia for giving his name to be mispronounced daily on a sketchy street in Atlanta. It is not known if he was wearing jean shorts, or if those were developed later. Georgians began mispronouncing his name immediately.

Georgia began its love affair with the regulation of what can and cannot be sold on April 3, 1735, when James Oglethorpe, founder of the colony, helped gain passage of “An Act to prevent the Importation and Use of Rum and Brandies in the Province of Georgia.” The act provided that after June 24, 1735, “no Rum, Brandies, Spirits or Strong Waters” shall be imported into Georgia.” Permission was also required to sell beer, wine, and ale.

On April 3, 1776, the Continental Congress authorized “privateers” holding a letter of marque and reprisal to attack British ships. This essentially legalizes what would otherwise be considered piracy. Issuing letters of marque and reprisal is among the enumerated powers of Congress under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, though they have seldom been used.

On April 3, 1865, Richmond fell. On April 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln toured Richmond, Virginia the day after the Confederate Capitol fell to Union forces.

On April 3, 1898, President William McKinley called on Georgians to contribute 3000 volunteers for the Spanish-American War.

On April 2, 1917, Jeanette Rankin took office as the first woman elected to Congress, representing Montana.

Born on a ranch near Missoula, Montana Territory, in 1880, Rankin was a social worker in the states of Montana and Washington before joining the women’s suffrage movement in 1910. Working with various suffrage groups, she campaigned for the women’s vote on a national level and in 1914 was instrumental in the passage of suffrage legislation in Montana. Two years later, she successfully ran for Congress in Montana on a progressive Republican platform calling for total women’s suffrage, legislation protecting children, and U.S. neutrality in the European war. Following her election as a representative, Rankin’s entrance into Congress was delayed for a month as congressmen discussed whether a woman should be admitted into the House of Representatives.

Finally, on April 2, 1917, she was introduced in Congress as its first female member. The same day, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress and urged a declaration of war against Germany.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., accompanied by Georgians Hosea Williams and Ralph D. Abernathy, was in Memphis, Tennessee, supporting a strike by sanitation workers on April 3, 1968. He delivered what is known as the “Mountaintop Speech.”

“[L]ike anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

On April 2, 1985, Governor Joe Frank Harris signed legislation recognizing the Right Whale as the official state marine mammal.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The City of Oakwood will swear-in Rhonda Wood to City Council, according to AccessWDUN.

A release from the city Tuesday afternoon said Wood will be sworn in at the next monthly city council meeting on April 8. She will fill the Post 4 seat left vacant last September by the passing of her husband, Dwight Wood. She defeated Volley Collins for the seat by an 88-vote margin.

Hall County elections officials, however, later found that 200 people who did not live in the city cast ballots in that election, while 22 people who should have been able to vote in the race did not have the item included on their ballots. An investigation by one county elections official indicated the errors were not the results of Hall County elections staff failures.

“While the City acknowledges the conclusions of the Hall County Board of Elections and the investigation of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office may be on-going, O.C.G.A. Section 21-2-503(b) provides that the City may swear in the presumptive winner – even if a challenge is pending,” Tuesday’s release said.

The city also cited state law indicating that the window for Collins to challenge the results of the race has passed. Wood was originally scheduled to be sworn in on April 2, but that ceremony was canceled after Oakwood’s attorney recommended a postponement.

A recall campaign against Athens-Clarke County’s Mayor, Sheriff, and District Attorney is moving forward, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Organizers of an effort to recall four local elected officials have reached an initial threshold for collecting signatures seeking recall elections, although they have had to abandon their effort to oust District 2 Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Melissa Link from office.

Still targeted in the recall are Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz, Clarke County Sheriff John Q. Williams, and Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez, whose jurisdiction covers both Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties.

Because petition organizer James Lee, also known as James DePaola, is not a resident of Link’s intown district, he cannot sponsor a recall effort targeting her.

[Athens-Clarke Elections Director Charlotte] Sosebee also let board members know that Lee and others who have been collecting signatures had surpassed the 100-signature minimum in the applications for recall petitions submitted against Girtz, Williams and Gonzalez. The 100-plus signatures collected in connection with the recall efforts all came from registered voters, as verified by county elections officials.

Specifically, recall organizers had collected 159 signatures in the effort to recall Gonzalez, 126 signatures in the effort against Williams, and 118 signatures in the recall effort targeting Girtz as of March 28, the end of the 15-day period allowed for collecting the signatures.

The next step, getting signatures on an actual petition for the scheduling of a recall election, will be a much heavier lift for organizers and whoever they recruit to help them collect signatures.

Organizers must collect the signatures of 30% of the people who were registered to vote in the last election in which the targeted officials were candidates. For the sheriff, the last election was Nov. 3, 2020; for the district attorney, it was a Dec. 1, 2020, special election; and, for the mayor, it was the 2022 general primary.

Note that District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez was elected from the Western Judicial Circuit, which includes Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County. Not sure how a multi-county recall works.

An Athens-Clarke County citizen was tased by police in a Commission meeting, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Richard Camden Pace, a longtime Athens-Clarke County resident who introduced himself Tuesday as a rabbi, and as founder and director of YeshuaNation.org, was ordered out of the commission chamber by Mayor Pro-Tem Ovita Thornton after not relinquishing the microphone when his allotted three minutes expired during a public comment period at the end of the commission meeting.

Thornton repeatedly urged police to get Pace out of the commission chamber shortly after Pace called Girtz “a paid-off, Satan-worshipping communist child-trafficking Democrat.”

[Later] that Pace ripped up the pro-Palestinian sign, and Thornton told the police officer on hand for the meeting – a routine practice – to “Walk him out. Walk him out. Walk him out.”

Pace resisted the police officer and a struggle ensued, during which Pace was tased as he was taken to the floor. Moments later, as stunned commissioners and citizens looked on, Pace was escorted to a police car. Outside City Hall, Pace apologized to the officer, who in turn told Pace that the commission strictly enforces its three-minute limit on public comment.

“When they tell you it’s over, it’s over,” the officer told Pace.

United States Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia) called for Georgia Republican Party Vice Chair Brian K. Pritchard to resign, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Georgia Republican Party first vice chair said he will not step down despite calls to resign from people within his own party, including 14th District U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

“Brian Pritchard must resign immediately,” The Rome Republican wrote on her X account Tuesday. “He’s a convicted felon who committed voter fraud and can not continue to be allowed to represent the Georgia GOP.”

Pritchard told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the demands that he resign were “sensationalized,” despite a recent court ruling that he violated state elections laws by voting nine times while on probation for a felony forgery sentence.

This past week, an administrative court judge fined Pritchard for voting illegally and registering to vote while serving a sentence on a felony conviction in Pennsylvania.

Georgia Republican Party Chair Josh McKoon joined MTG in calling for Pritchard to resign, according to the AJC.

State GOP chair Josh McKoon told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday that he asked Brian Pritchard to resign last night during a meeting of the state executive committee because he was distracting from the party’s goal of flipping Georgia back to the GOP column.

McKoon noted that he ran on two campaign commitments – to help elect a Republican nominee for president and ending what he described as Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ “witch hunt” election-interference trial.

“The judicial finding that our First Vice Chairman registered to vote illegally and voted illegally nine times makes it harder to accomplish both of these goals,” said McKoon.

“His resignation will allow us to focus all of our time, attention and resources on electing President Trump and ending the evil Willis prosecution.”

“Our state party should be the leading voice on securing our elections,” said Greene, who called on Pritchard to resign immediately. “It is unacceptable for our party to have a man in leadership who has repeatedly committed voter fraud himself.”

The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission issued a report finding that Douglas County Probate Judge Christina Peterson should be removed from office, according to the AJC.

Christina Peterson, who became a probate judge in an uncontested November 2020 election, has been fighting the ethics charges since they were filed by the director of the state’s judicial watchdog in July 2021. At one point, Peterson faced 50 separate charges accusing her of violating the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct, but 20 have been withdrawn or dismissed.

Peterson, a University of Georgia School of Law graduate who practiced as an attorney for several years before taking the bench, was accused of inappropriate social media posts, unnecessarily jailing and fining a woman who sought to amend her marriage license and letting wedding participants into Douglas County’s courthouse after hours without permission. She was also abusive toward a fellow judge and other county officials, obstructed access to public records and had improper contact with a litigant, among other things, the judicial commission alleged.

“(Peterson’s) actions demonstrate a troubling pattern of ineptitude and misconduct,” the panel wrote in a 54-page report Sunday. “She is not fit to serve.”

The Georgia Supreme Court will decide whether Peterson remains on the bench.

Throughout the ethics case, Peterson has said that she has faced unfair criticism as the first Black probate judge in Douglas County. During a trial before the commission panel last year, Peterson admitted to making mistakes in her first year as a judge while learning the ropes and said she was trying to do better.

The commission, which is tasked with investigating complaints of judicial misconduct, has twice sought Peterson’s suspension. Both requests were denied by the state Supreme Court.

Peterson has qualified for reelection this year as Douglas County’s probate judge. She is being challenged in the Democratic primary in May by Douglasville attorney Valerie Vie. No Republican candidates have qualified in the race.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson (D) wants to punish people who leave guns in cars or fail to report stolen guns, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The proposed changes to city code, expected to go before city council for a vote next week, would require owners and dealers to report the theft of a firearm to the Savannah Police Department and also require firearms left in parked vehicles be stowed in a locked compartment.

“It is our responsibility to do whatever we can within the parameters of the law to keep Savannahians safe, and I committing to doing just that, whatever it takes,” said Johnson, who has long signaled his intention to reduce the number of firearms stolen from cars.

Infractions under the new ordinance would be city code violations, and potential penalties are a fine not to exceed $1,000 or no more than 30 days in jail, Johnson said. The ordinance comes as response to crime stats that show the majority of guns stolen from vehicles come from unlocked cars.

In 2023, SPD reported 244 guns stolen from cars, with 203 stolen from unlocked vehicles, according to SPD data. Through the end of March this year, 56 out of 69 firearms stolen from cars came from unlocked vehicles.

“We support the Second Amendment, and the right to bear arms,” Johnson said. “This ordinance will not affect one’s ability to legally carry a firearm in your car, but this ordinance does address irresponsible actions by firearm owners.”

From WTOC:

During his weekly news conference Mayor Van Johnson announced the ordinance would require gun owners to report firearm thefts within 24 hours to the Savannah Police Department.

The ordinance says firearms shouldn’t be visible and secure in a locked glove compartment or locked trunk while the car is parked.

“We want to make sure that we balance the right of someone to bear arms and the responsibility of someone to keep those arms secured,” said Mayor Van Johnson, City of Savannah.

He says so far this year, 69 guns have been stolen from vehicles— 56 of which were unlocked.

“The math ain’t mathing and that is a problem for me,” Mayor Johnson expressed.

“People, when you say the G-word it’s, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re trying to take our guns.’ Well, no we’re not. You can have your guns just lock them up, lock them up, lock them up,” said Johnson.

From WSAV:

• All firearm owners and dealers will be required to report the theft of a firearm to the Savannah Police Department (SPD)

• SPD will record and maintain unique identifying information pertaining to each firearm reported stolen

• Everyone who is traveling with a firearm is required to store them in a locked compartment while the vehicle is parked

• Owners may not allow guns to be visible while parked, and all vehicles containing the firearms must be fully locked when not in operation

“Everybody knows you look under the seat or in the center console that’s not locked. It just doesn’t make sense,” Johnson said.

“This ordinance will not affect one’s ability to legally carry a firearm in your car, but it does address irresponsible actions by firearm owners,” the mayor said. “It is our responsibility to do whatever we can within the parameters of the law to keep Savannah safe. I am committed to doing just that, whatever it takes. I have asked city council for their support.”

The proposal will be read at the Thursday, April 11, council meeting at 2 p.m. If approved, Johnson says the city will hold a 30-day public education campaign as well.

Brunswick City Commissioners are considering a new property tax homestead exemption, according to The Brunswick News.

“The city wishes to provide for a new homestead exemption to property owners in the city within the meaning of and as fully permitted under the provisions of the (Georgia) Constitution of the state of Georgia,” according to a resolution included in the agenda for Wednesday.

Local homestead exemptions must be implemented on behalf of a local government by the Georgia General Assembly. The process usually begins with a local government requesting action by the state.

“Usually what happens is the commission will adopt a resolution asking for certain things, and the house or senate member, whoever, will introduce it as a local action,” Chapman said.

Most times, other legislators will support a local act if it’s endorsed by the delegates representing the area, he said.

If commissioners voted to pass the resolution on Wednesday, Chapman said the assembly’s 2024 legislative session just ended so it would not come up under the Gold Dome until 2025 and could not take effect until 2026.

1
Apr

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for April 1, 2024

Georgia is among the top states for the number of dogs and cats killed in public shelters each year, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Georgia had the fifth-most animal killings in shelters in the U.S. in 2023, according to data from Best Friends Animal Society. That year, the state euthanized more than 19,000 cats and dogs.

Tracey Weathers, the shelter manager at Bibb County Animal Services, said shelters euthanize animals for a variety of reasons, but the most common in municipal shelters are public safety concerns and a lack of space in the shelter.

“Municipal shelters have to euthanize because they have a responsibility to the public,” Weathers said. “They’re picking up sick, injured, aggressive animals, and then the ones that are good, they can only hold them for so long before they have to make room for more animals that need to come in.”

In 2023, Bibb County Animal Services took in about 2,351 animals, according to their annual report. The shelter tries to reduce the number of animals euthanized by partnering with rescues to place animals in foster homes and find permanent families. However, while it’s been effective, it doesn’t totally erase the problem. The shelter still had to euthanize 631 animals last year.

Weathers said that in her experience, shelters are more likely to have to euthanize dogs due to the safety threat they present if they become aggressive. Additionally, shelters tend to take in more dogs than cats.

Oscar Meyer is an adult male Dachshund mix who is available for adoption from Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA.

Peabody is a young male mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA.

Harlem is a young female mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA.

1
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 1, 2024

In perhaps the most fitting historical tidbit ever, the United States House of Representatives first met on April 1, 1789 in New York City. Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania was elected the first Speaker of the House. Georgia’s first Members of Congress were James Jackson, Abraham Baldwin, and George Mathews.

On April 1, 1870, Robert E. Lee, President of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, arrived in Savannah, Georgia. Lee’s career in the United States Army began with his first assignment at Cockspur Island near Savannah. While in Savannah for the 1870 trip, Lee was photographed with former General Joseph E. Johnston, who was in the insurance business there.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The City of Oakwood has postponed swearing in a new City Council member after questions were raised about the election and voter eligibility, according to AccessWDUN.

Secretary of State’s Office officials confirmed to AccessWDUN Friday morning that an investigation is underway after 200 people who should not have been eligible to vote in the March 12 city council race cast ballots, along with 22 people who should have been eligible to vote in the race who did not have the item included on their ballots.

Rhonda Wood defeated Volley Collins by an 88-vote margin to win the Post 4 seat that was previously held by her husband, Dwight Wood, who passed away in September 2023.

Oakwood City Manager B.R. White said Friday afternoon that the city has canceled Rhonda Wood’s swearing-in ceremony that was scheduled for the Tuesday, April 2 city council meeting.

“The City will wait on the Sec.of State’s office to complete its investigation,” White said in an email Friday.

“The problem Oakwood has is that we didn’t run the election, so we don’t have any control over anything that’s going on. We’re just like everybody else, waiting to see what’s going to happen,” [Oakwood City Attorney Donnie] Hunt said Friday morning.

“I still am a firm believer, and I’m going to stand my ground, that I won the election,” Wood said. “It’s frustrating because I’ve been waiting to start carrying on my husband’s legacy and taking care of the citizens of Oakwood, and I don’t understand how people are getting these off-the-wall numbers regarding the votes.”

The Hall County Board of Elections issued a statement Friday morning saying the county has investigated the incident and determined that the discrepancies were not a result of errors of Hall County election staff. The board asked that any further inquiries into the issue be directed to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

From a later story by AccessWDUN:

Tom Braatz, Hall County Elections Sr. Specialist, said a combination of factors led to the discrepancy. Aside from the 200 voters who should not have been able to vote in the race, it was previously announced that 22 people should have been able to vote and were unable to. Rhonda Wood won that race by an 88-vote margin, defeating opponent Volley Collins. That election was held the same day as the Presidential Preference Primary in Georgia.

Braatz said the Presidential Preference Primary ballots were delivered to Hall County on Jan. 2. Those ballots were reviewed and validated in a process known as proofing, with that process being complete about a week after they were delivered to the county. The election status then became “ballot ready,” following that review process.

A Federal Court-ordered redistricting was then approved on Jan. 4, two days after the ballots were delivered to Hall County.

The election was carried out in the new, post-redistricting data structure, according to Braatz. However, a failure to properly map the new data to the old, pre-redistricting data led to incorrect ballot assignments to voters from the electronic poll books.

Braatz said the court-ordered redistricting started a series of issues, as it was an abnormal event. He said he believed officials would need to look at the election preparation process to determine what additional steps can be taken in the future to ensure that the issue does not occur again.

“It wasn’t really, unfortunately, until it was all over and done with that we could see the extent of it,” Braatz said. “We wouldn’t obviously stop the Presidential Preference Primary for the City of Oakwood election. And they’re co-mingled, they’re all done together. It’s all on the same equipment … so there was really no reasonable opportunity to stop the election.”

It’s unclear if any action will be taken in the days to come, but Georgia House District 30 Representative Derrick McCollum told AccessWDUN Thursday that he believed another election should be held.

“It just bothers me that they’re going to swear [Wood] in without having another election,” McCollum said. “I hate to cost the taxpayers money, but I feel like they could just have another election on the May primary date and it wouldn’t cost taxpayers any more money.”

State legislators passed a $36.1 billion dollar state budget for the coming fiscal year, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Savannah Morning News.

The spending plan, which passed the state House 175-1 and the Senate 54-1 in the final hours of this year’s legislative session, represents an increase of $3.7 billion over the fiscal 2024 budget lawmakers adopted last spring.

It includes $4,000 cost-of-living raises for most state workers, with an additional $3,000 for employees in state agencies suffering large turnover rates, including law enforcement officers and welfare workers. Teachers would get increases of $2,500.

The budget also contains substantial increases in funding for various education initiatives, including $243 million to account for student enrollment growth, $200 million to buy more school buses, and $108 million in school safety grants to upgrade security on public school campuses. Every public school in Georgia will get grants of $45,000.

A late-arriving increase of $48.4 million would go to Georgia’s lottery-funded pre-kindergarten program, thanks to brisk lottery ticket sales. Gov. Brian Kemp announced late Wednesday he would revise his revenue estimate upward to make room for the additional funds.

“Ensuring Georgia’s children have the strongest possible start in their educational career continues to be a priority for my administration,” the governor wrote in a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees. “I am increasing my revenue estimate … to further address class size, teacher pay, and capital and operational needs critical to the continued success of our nationally recognized Pre-Kindergarten program.”

In a departure from the usual policy of borrowing the funds for building projects, the state’s $16 billion budget surplus allowed the legislature to load up the spending plan with $1.2 billion in cash for a variety of projects. Of that amount, $866 million would go toward buildings at public schools, colleges and universities, and at state agencies.

The budget now heads to Kemp’s desk. Governors typically sign annual budgets in early May.

Legislators also passed Senate Bill 189, to revise some voting procedures, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Savannah Morning News.

The state House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 189 101-73, with the Senate adopting the bill a short time later 33-22. Both votes fell along party lines.

The legislation cobbled together a series of election-reform bills that were introduced separately earlier in the 2024 session. Some of the provisions were not controversial, including the elimination of QR codes from paper ballots – which tended to confuse voters – and tightening the chain of custody of ballots on Election Day.

But other parts of the bill drew fire from legislative Democrats, who accused Republicans of suppressing the vote by making it easier for citizens to challenge voters’ eligibility. Mass challenges have been filed in some Georgia counties in recent years, gumming up the operations of local elections offices with meritless challenges, the vast majority of which ended up being dismissed.

“I can’t believe we’re still bending over to accommodate election deniers and conspiracy theorists,” said Rep. Saira Draper, D-Atlanta. “There’s a very vocal minority out there who will never be satisfied with our elections if they didn’t win.”

“We’ve taken steps to give Georgians confidence in our elections,” House Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, told reporters shortly after lawmakers adjourned the 2024 legislative session just before 1 a.m. Friday.

The bill now goes to GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, who is expected to sign it.

 

 

Two bills by coastal legislators passed in the waning hours of the 2024 Session of the Georgia General Assembly, according to The Brunswick News.

House Bill 181, a bill regulating the sale of kratom in Georgia and introduced by Rep. Rick Townsend, passed Thursday afternoon and House Bill 1207, which carried a substitute measure authored by Rep. Buddy DeLoach on county voting machines, got through in the closing hours of the legislature.

“We passed (it) about 10 p.m. last night,” DeLoach, R-Townsend, said Friday.

DeLoach’s substitute counters legislation passed in the General Assembly in 2021 requiring counties to provide one voting machine for every 250 registered electors during elections. DeLoach’s measure allows the superintendent of elections in each county to decide the number of voting machines needed.

Members of the Glynn County Board of Elections had argued that the 2021 legislation failed to take into account voters who cast ballots early or by absentee. They said the mandate would compel them to acquire more machines that they do not need at a cost of thousands of dollars to taxpayers.

DeLoach’s own bill loosening the voting machine rules failed to pass the House before crossover day, the deadline for a measure to win passage in one chamber in order to be considered in the other. That prompted him to seek approval to attach his legislation to House Bill 1207, which called for increasing the home exemption in the Hall County School District.

For Townsend, passage of a bill regulating the sale of kratom, manufactured from a plant found in Southeast Asia and which is said to relieve pain, was the end of a long journey that began with the 2023 session of the General Assembly. The St. Simons Island Republican had initially sought to have kratom banned in Georgia as it is in other states, but heavy pushback from lobbyists led to the dilution of the bill.

Regulations carried in the adopted version of HB 181 include setting the minimum age to purchase kratom at 21, requiring sales clerks to store products made from it behind the counter and mandating that the manufacturer of its products be properly identified and its contents or strength properly labeled.

“It’s going to be harder for those teenage kids to get a hold of it like they do now,” Townsend told The News earlier this month.

Senate Bill 349 by State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) passed and will allow voters to cap increases in their home value assessment to the Consumer Price Index, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“This will be the largest property tax overall cut in history,” said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, in presenting his bill for a final vote shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday. Less than an hour later, the House gave final passage to the resolution setting the enabling vote in November to amend the state constitution.

If approved by voters, the cap would go into effect Jan. 1, 2025. It would create a statewide homestead exemption that limits increases in assessed value to no more than the Consumer Price Index from year to year.

Jurisdictions that don’t opt out of the cap would be able to vote on a second 1-cent local option sales tax “to be used for one thing, and one thing only: Property tax relief,” Hufstetler said. Right now, only one LOST is allowed under state law.

Calculations done hurriedly on Good Friday indicate a second LOST could reduce Floyd County property taxes by 41%, Hufstetler said, and Bartow County’s by 71%. School taxes would not be affected.

Bigger reductions are likely in city taxes. Hufstetler said Rome could see a drop of about 82% with a second LOST. Cave Spring already uses its existing LOST revenue to eliminate city taxes. That money could go to other government projects if a second LOST is enacted, he said.

House Bill 353 by State Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) passed and will change the Coin-Operated Amusement Machine industry in Georgia, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Senators passed House Bill 353 Tuesday night 29-24, the minimum number of votes needed to pass legislation in the 56-member chamber.

The House followed suit later by a much larger margin of 148-18.

The bill would award non-cash redemption gift cards to winners that could be redeemed anywhere in Georgia for any legal product.

Current law allows COAM winners to redeem their prizes only for merchandise sold in the store where the machine they played is located.

Supporters have argued gift cards would take away the temptation to illegally pay out cash prizes, contributing to a crime problem long associated with the COAM industry.

Senators amended the bill Tuesday night to increase the state’s share of the revenue generated from COAM proceeds from 10% to 13%. The additional 3% would produce an estimated $40 million a year for Georgia’s HOPE Scholarships and pre-kindergarten programs, said Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, who carried the bill in the Senate.

But Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon, said the COAM machines provide a form of entertainment to people without the means to travel to Las Vegas.

House Bill 1146 by State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) passed and will allow private water companies to apply for water permits from GA EPD without approval from local government, according to WTOC.

The bill allows private utility companies to get water service permits from Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division without local government approval.

It only applies to companies that tap into coastal aquifers in areas where a city or county water service would take longer than 18 months to be ready.

“There’s private water systems and public water systems and they’re going to have to work together,” said Sen. Ben Watson, District 1.

State Senator Ben Watson co-sponsored the bill.

He says the change is needed to spur workforce housing development near Hyundai’s Bryan County electric vehicle plant…which is expected to bring more than eight thousand jobs to the area.

“Bryan County needs to go ahead and move on this because if not the developers will be building deep wells for every home and doing septic tanks for every home,” said Watson.

The Georgia Association of Water Professionals and the Georgia Municipal Association also opposed the bill…saying it undermines local government’s authority.

The changes under House Bill 1146 would expire in 2029.

It now awaits Governor Brian Kemp’s signature.

 

Gwinnett County Board of Education members heard a proposed $3.18 billion dollar budget for FY 2025, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County’s school board got its first look at what district officials are putting in GCPS’ proposed $3.18 billion fiscal year 2025 budget on Thursday night during the board’s first of two budget work sessions.

The district expects total enrollment for the 2025-2026 school year will be 182,707 students, up by nearly 500 students from this year.

A big part of GCPS’ efforts in preparing the proposed budget was trying to determine how to make up for ESSR funding ending in September.

The funding was made available to school districts to help them deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that ESSR is ending, however, systems must decide whether to keep programs they supported with that money or discontinue them.

One big part of the proposed budget that will likely catch the eyes of district employees are proposed salary increases in the budget.

All eligible GCPS employees will get a longevity step increase. Teachers will also get a $3,000 raise — this includes a $2,500 raise Gov. Brian Kemp had put in the state’s fiscal year 2025 budget. There will also be a 4% cost-of-living increase for district employees who are not paid on the teacher salary scale.

The district’s “blue book” that goes into more detail about what will be included in the proposed budget is expected to be released when the school board holds its second budget work session on April 18. That is when the school board is scheduled to vote on tentative adoption of the budget.

Two public hearings will then be held on May 16 and June 20, with final adoption of the budget slated to take place on the same day as the second hearing.

The district plans to keep its millage rate, which is the rate used to determine property taxes, at 20.65 mills for the upcoming fiscal year.

United States District Court Judge Roger Hugh Lawson, Jr. (MD-GA) has died, according to WALB.

A Middle District of Georgia judge passed away on Friday, March 29, at the age of 82.

Roger Hugh Lawson, Jr. was born in Hawkinsonville, Georgia. In 1995, Lawson was nominated by Senator Sam Nunn, and appointed by former President Bill Clinton to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. He serrved as the Chief Judge of the Middle District, president of the Eleventh Circuit District Judges Association, and a director of the Federal Judges’ Association, according to his obituary.

Two candidates for Superior Court in the Southern Judicial Circuit met in a public forum, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Judge Richard M. Cowart announced in January that he would not seek re-election, and two Valdosta attorneys have qualified for his seat: Jeremy Baker, the Valdosta Municipal Court judge, and William Whitesell, an attorney and owner of the William Long Whitesell, LLC law firm in Valdosta.

The forum was sponsored by the Democratic Party of Colquitt County, although the judgeship race is nonpartisan.

The judge’s post will be on the nonpartisan ballot for the May 21 election. People who are not registered to vote but wish to vote in this election can register until April 22. Voters can already request an absentee ballot, but the registrar can’t send them out until April 6. In-person early voting will start April 29.

The Southern Judicial Circuit comprises Brooks, Colquitt, Echols, Lowndes, and Thomas Counties.

Rincon City Councilman Kevin Exley has assumed the role of Mayor Pro Tem after former Mayor Ken Lee resigned, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Exley, who is Mayor Pro Tem, resumed mayoral tasks after former Mayor Ken Lee announced his resignation last month after 18 years at the helm. His spot on city council will remain open and he will be allowed to vote since they are without one councilmember.

The abrupt move surprised staff members who thought Lee would finish his term. Lee cited family as his reason for stepping away, saying they need his “complete and undivided attention” in a letter he submitted to the city.

“It happened fast,” said Exley. “He turned his stuff in and walked out. I do feel like the pace we were moving at was much faster than prior. My biggest thing is I didn’t want any of the citizens to think that we had any drop in our ability to lead the city. I thought about the things we needed to do. We had a plan the whole time.”

Exley agreed the move will bolster his campaign when he runs for the position in 2025.

“I feel like I can complete the things that we started off talking about and then people will see that not only can I lead the city through meetings but we can do the things that we were not getting done,” said Exley.

13WMAZ profiles Republican candidate for Houston County Sheriff Jimmy Dunn.

Chatham Area Transit is launching a ride share service for people with disabilities called “CAT SMART,” according to WSAV.

In April of 2023, US Senators Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock secured a $1.2 Million USDOT SMART grant to reduce barriers to mobility and transportation. Today, that vision has become a reality for residents of Savannah.

Chatham Area Transit is taking its service to a new level with the launch their new “microtransit” pilot project called “CAT SMART” which stands for Strengthening Mobility And Revolutionizing Transportation, and that’s exactly what this will do for riders who struggle with mobility.

It will operate in a similar fashion to ride-share services like Uber or Lyft. Passengers will now be able to use an app to arrange transportation from their location to their destination.

The interface will use state-of-the-art technology developed at Georgia Southern University to allow people to request rides and track their driver right on their phone or laptop.

Pooler City Council will not move forward at this time with a short term rental ordinance, according to the Savannah Morning News.

According to Pooler Mayor Karen Williams, the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) notified elected leaders that language could be added to a bill that would be voted on this week before the session ends on March 28. The alert included that the language would likely contain a grandfather clause for properties operating as STRs and make enforcement of STR ordinances impossible over time. Local governments were urged to adopt an STR ordinance if they didn’t have one, which Pooler does not.

Williams called the special meeting to urge council to get an ordinance on the books, in case HB 1121 was passed, which would limit control. By the end of the hour-long meeting Wednesday morning, the gathered councilmembers agreed that they may have been rushing into passing an ordinance.

Mayor Pro Tem Aaron Higgins motioned to postpone the second reading and adoption, which passed unanimously. Williams said she supports the decision to postpone, but also stands by her decision to call a special meeting.

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller is looking at a referendum to extend the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to 13WMAZ.

Now, the county’s nearing its collections cap and it’s almost time for a new SPLOST. Mayor Lester Miller projects the current $280 million SPLOST will reach that cap next June. Current and incoming Macon-Bibb commissioners will need to act quickly.

“Soon as the election is over, whether it’s May 21, or maybe there’s a runoff, whoever’s got a seat at the table at that time will have some input on the next SPLOST,” Mayor Lester Miller said.

His second point first came up in October as Miller announced support for building a new jail as one of the next SPLOST projects.
Miller hopes voters will also get behind new entertainment spaces. He says the county may look to demolish the 55-year-old Macon Coliseum and build a new venue in its place.

“If you’re going to maintain your status in tourism and attraction, you’re going to have to keep up with that and facilities too. What better way to do that is through using some of the SPLOST dollars. I would look for input from the private sector, and I think we’ll get that, to help build those facilities,” Miller explained.

Miller says they’ll have public input sessions for Maconites to discuss what’s important to them. Once those finish up, commissioners will vote on a list to go on the ballot. Miller says voters should get to decide in March 2025. If approved, the SPLOST would continue as normal in June.

Mayoral candidate Shekita Maxwell says she’ll discuss her plans for the SPLOST at a meet and greet this weekend. She declined further comment.

Chatham County Assistant District Attorney Andre Pretorius is running for the big office currently occupied by his boss, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Andre Pretorius, an assistant Chatham County attorney, is kicking it up a notch, so to speak, and running for Chatham County District Attorney.

Pretorius, a Republican, will face the winner of the May 21 Democratic primary race between current DA Shalena Cook Jones, and former Chatham County ADA Jenny Parker, who announced her candidacy for the top job on June 30, 2023.

Initially, Pretorius didn’t seem to be the likely Republican candidate. More than two years ago, former Chatham County Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Anthony Burton announced he would run for Chatham County DA, but on March 8 of this year, he made a Facebook post announcing that he was dropping out of the DA race, and instead will run for Chatham County Probate Judge. In the Facebook post, Burton pledged support for Pretorius’ campaign.

Why are you running for Chatham County District Attorney?

“The reason I’m running for the District Attorney’s office is because I want to get a voice of victims, making sure that the cases are prosecuted for the victims. Then, on top of that, to build a bridge between the DA’s office and the police department so that the cases are thoroughly investigated, and that we are there to support them if they have questions. And then on top of that, to bring in prosecutors who are good prosecutors, hardworking prosecutors are willing to learn and enjoy the job of being the prosecutor.”

“I’ve always had a passion to work with victims. When I started here, we had a domestic violence docket, and I saw how that was being run. So, what I basically did at that point was make sure that that docket changed so that we had the victims there, we had the treatment provider’s there, and kind of figured out what was going on? Is the treatment working? Put them into a domestic violence program, so if it’s a money issue or an employment issue or an alcohol abuse issue, we get them the help and treatment they need for that. [The goal was to] get to the bottom of the struggles that they’re dealing with.”

Republican Buck Holly is running for Chair of the Bryan County Commission, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Don Montgomery, solicitor general of Bryan County, spoke highly of the veteran, saying, “We need Buck Holly.”

“Bryan County deserves a Chairman of the County Commission that will lead us with honesty and transparency,” said Montgomery. “Buck Holly is a leader who will bring his business background to the table, making county finances transparent. His focus is on managing budgets wisely and cutting down taxpayer burdens. In Buck Holly, we’ve got a candidate who isn’t just talking about hearing everyone out, but actually lives and breathes inclusivity, making sure every single person in our community feels heard and valued.”

“I have been the janitor. I’ve done marketing, accounts payable. I’ve negotiated contracts and I’ve been human resources,” said Holly. “All the things that I do are directly relatable to the job of a politician. If you compare my experience to my competitors’ experience, if you put it on paper, I’d be willing to bet that I have more experience than he does, but he can claim that he has political experience.”

Holly’s [opponent] is incumbent Carter Infinger, who has held the seat since 2016.

County Commissioner Patrick Kisgen is president of C&H Precision, but Holly said he does not think there is a conflict of interest there since the commission chairman is not allowed to vote.

“I cannot influence him,” said Holly. “I’ve known him for 15 years. He is one of the most admirable and respectable men I know. There is not enough money in the world to get him to change his vote.”

29
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 29, 2024

Chico (Pen 218) is an eleven year and eight month old, 26.7 pound male Australian Cattledog and Chihuahua mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Remi (Pen 135) is a 9-year old, 32 pound male Beagle mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Mecca (Pen 137) is a 4-year old, 73 pound male tri-pawed Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Annabelle (Pen 105) is a year-old, 65 pound female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.