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17
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 17, 2024

Hambone is an adult male German Shepherd mix who is available for adoption from the Habersham County Animal Shelter in Clarkesville, GA.

Meeko is an adult male Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Habersham County Animal Shelter in Clarkesville, GA.

Harvard is an adult male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Habersham County Animal Shelter in Clarkesville, GA.

17
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 17, 2024

On January 17, 1733, Georgia’s Trustees in London voted to ban Jews from the colony.

Martin Luther King, Jr. began the Chicago civil rights campaign on January 17, 1966.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

House Resolution 779 by State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) sets the schedule for the 2024 Legislative Session.Continue Reading..

16
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 16, 2024

Hartley is an 18-month old, 36.5 pound male Terrier mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Ducky (Pen 156) is a 4-year old, 51 pound male Terrier mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Zoey (Pen 181c) is a 5-year old, 37.8 pound female Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

16
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 16, 2024

An elected Provincial Assembly first convened in Georgia on January 15, 1751. The Assembly did not have the power to tax or spend money, but was to advise the Trustees.

On January 18, 1776, James Wright, Royal Governor of Georgia, was arrested by John Habersham, a member of the Provincial Congress.

The state of New Connecticut declared its independence of both Britain and New York on January 15, 1777. In June of that year they would decide on the name Vermont. Vermont would be considered part of New York for a number of years, finally being admitted as the 14th state in 1791.

On January 16, 1786, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was adopted by the Virginia General Assembly.

On January 16, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, prohibiting alcoholic beverages, when Nebraska became the 36th of the 48 states then in the Union to ratify the Amendment.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.

At 4:30 PM on January 16, 1991, the Persian Gulf War began as air attacks against Iraq launched from US and British aircraft carriers, beginning Operation Desert Storm.

On January 16, 1997, a bomb exploded in a Sandy Springs abortion clinic, later determined to be the work of Eric Rudolph, who also bombed Centennial Olympic Park in 1996, a lesbian bar in Atlanta in February 1997, and a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome this week

01/16/2024     9:00 AM          JOINT APPROPRIATIONS – 341 CAP
01/17/2024     8:00 AM          JOINT APPROPRIATIONS – 341 CAP
01/18/2024     8:00 AM          JOINT APPROPRIATIONS – 341 CAP

From the Rome News Tribune:

The Georgia General Assembly is slated to reconvene Tuesday for a week of budget presentations. The joint House and Senate appropriations hearings do not count toward the 40 days of the session.

First up, at 9:15 a.m., is Gov. Brian Kemp, who will present the document he previewed during his State of the State address last week. The hearings, which will run through Thursday, can be viewed online at Vimeo.com/showcase/8988933. State Economist Robert “Bob” Buschman will speak next.

Directors of each state department and agency will have anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes allocated to present their proposed budgets to the legislators, who will have final say. Two budgets must be adopted before the 2024 session ends — an adjustment to the current budget, which runs through June 30, based on updated revenue projections; and the “big budget” spending plan that runs from July 1 through June 30, 2025.

Using Kemp’s proposed budget as guidance, along with the plans presented by agency heads, each chamber will work on its preferred spending plans and then work to reconcile the differences.

That’s one of the better concise descriptions I’ve read of the budget process.Continue Reading..

12
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 12, 2024

Melody is a young female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Mostly Mutts in Kennesaw, GA.

Hi, my name is Melody! I was rescued from animal control, and I sure am glad to be here! I came in with some fur loss and itchy sore skin but with lots of good care and good nutrition, my fur is growing back nicely and I’m looking so pretty! I’m currently in the prison/foster training program off site learning a lot as I don’t think I previously received training or proper stimuli! I’ll have new pictures taken to show off my pretty coat when I return. Please inquire at 770-272-6888 to find out when I’m available to meet.

• LIKES/DISLIKES: I LOVE to play with toys, and I am quite exuberant with my puppy antics – occasionally letting out little growly vocalizations to let you know how excited I am! I especially love tennis balls, so a fenced yard where we can have great fetching games would be wonderful in my new home. I am also very treat-motivated, yum. I love people so much that I need to be in a ‘sit’ when I meet them. / I can’t think of any dislikes right now, though I’m sure I wouldn’t like it if I didn’t get enough love, attention, exercise, and training.

Ruff is a seven-year old, 14-pound male Chihuahua mix who is available for adoption from Mostly Mutts in Kennesaw, GA.

Hi there, I’m Ruff! I came to Mostly Mutts from animal control, and I sure am happy to be in their care while I wait to find my new family to love!! I’m a fun and spirited pup looking for a good leader to follow. I’m in a foster home with a good leader now, so we’re learning lots of things about me.

• LIKES/DISLIKES: I love fetching squeaky balls and treats. I also like walks, although I still need some work in this area. Sitting on the bench and sunning myself a bit next to the nice volunteers is fun too. / I am cautious when new people approach – I am more comfortable when new people let me initiate the interaction. I’m sure I wouldn’t like it if I didn’t get enough love, attention, exercise, and training.

Jennie is a four-year old, 23-pound female Beagle mix who is available for adoption from Mostly Mutts in Kennesaw, GA.

A SWEET & FUN EXPLORER: Approx. 4 years old / Approx. 23 lbs. Hi, my name is Jennie! I had a home, but I kept escaping my family’s yard, so they asked Mostly Mutts to find a new family to love that would be the right fit for me. I should never be left alone in a yard.

• LIKES/DISLIKES: I enjoy being out and about with my people, where I can put my sniffer to the test and explore everything! When chilling out, I love belly rubs and soaking up affection. Stuffed toys are fun, too, so let’s have great play sessions with those after my heartworm treatment and recovery period. / According to my former family, I don’t like thunderstorms or fireworks. Otherwise, I’m sure I wouldn’t like it if I didn’t get enough love, attention, exercise, and training.

Caleb is a 5-year old, 32-pound male Terrier mix who is available for adoption from Mostly Mutts in Kennesaw, GA.

LOOKING FOR A GREAT LEADER: Approx. 5 years old / Approx. 32 lbs. and needs to gain a little weight. Hi there, I’m Caleb! I came to Mostly Mutts from animal control, and I sure am happy to be here! I also came in heartworm positive, but I have been treated for that and am in my rest period now. I got to spend some time in the prison/foster training program where I had a great time and learned a lot, too!

• LIKES/DISLIKES: I love playing with toys, walking with a tennis ball in my mouth, my training sessions and spending time with the nice volunteers. / I don’t like being picked up and will growl. I don’t like it when people grab me by the collar or come at my head or neck too fast. I’m sure I wouldn’t like it if I didn’t get enough love, attention, exercise, and training.

12
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 12, 2024

On January 14, 1639, representatives of three cities in Connecticut adopted the “Fundamental Orders,” the first written Constitution in an American colony and one of the first founding document to cite the authority of “the free consent of the people.”

On January 13, 1733, the ship Ann (sometimes spelled “Anne”) sailed into Charles Town harbor and was met by South Carolina Governor Robert Johnson and the Speaker of the Commons House of Assembly. Aboard the ship were James Oglethorpe and the first 114 colonists of what would become Georgia. Later that year they would land at a high bluff on the Savannah River and found the city of Savannah.

On January 14, 1733, James Oglethorpe and the rest of the first colonists departed Charles Town harbor for what would become Savannah, and the State of Georgia.

On January 12, 1775, St. Andrews Parish on the Georgia coast passed a series of resolutions that included approving the actions of patriots in Massachusetts, three resolutions critical of British government actions, and a renunciation of slavery. The resolutions also appointed delegates to a provincial legislature at Savannah and urging that Georgia send two delegates to the Continental Congress to be held in Philadelphia the next year.

The Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War on January 14, 1784. The Treaty was negotiated by John Adams, who would later serve as President, and the delegates voting to ratify it included future Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.

On January 14, 1835, James M. Wayne took the oath of office as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. A Savannah native, Wayne had previously served in the Georgia House of Represestatives, as Mayor of Savannah, on the Supreme Court of Georgia, and in Congress. His sister was the great-grandmother of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, and his home is now known as the Juliette Gordon Low house. When Georgia seceded from the Union, Wayne remained on the Supreme Court.

On January 14, 1860, the Committee of Thirty-Three introduced a proposed Constitutional Amendment to allow slavery in the areas it then existed.

The donkey was first used as a symbol for the Democratic Party on January 15, 1870 by cartoonist Thomas Nash.

democrat-donkey-cartoon

On January 12, 1872, Benjamin Conley stepped down as Governor of Georgia, the first Republican to hold the office and the last until January 13, 2003, when Sonny Perdue was sworn in.

He joined the Republican Party and became president of the state Senate after the Civil War. That was the office he held in October 1871 when Gov. Rufus Bullock, also an Augusta Republican, left the state under pressure from state Democrats. According to the Georgia Constitution, Conley became governor, holding the job until a replacement could be elected and take office two months later.

On January 12, 1906, the American Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee legalized the forward pass. Some credit Georgia Tech coach John Heisman as having popularized the idea of making the forward pass legal after seeing it in a game between Georgia and North Carolina.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was elected the first Commissioner of Baseball on January 12, 1921. Judge Landis was named after the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, where his father was wounded fighting for the Union.

Julian Bond was born on January 14, 1940 in Nashville, Tennessee, and was one of eleven African-American Georgians elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965. After his election, on January 10, 1966, the State House voted 184-12 not to seat him because of his publicly-stated opposition to the Vietnam War. After his federal lawsuit was rejected by a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the United States Supreme Court ordered Bond seated.

True story: Julian Bond was the first Georgia State Senator I ever met, when I was in ninth grade and visited the state Capitol as part of a school assignment.

On January 14, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, requiring Japanese-Americans, including American-born citizens of Japanese ancestry, as well as Italians and Germans to register with the federal Department of Justice. The next month, Roosevelt would have Japanese-Americans interned in concentration camps in the western United States.

On January 13, 1959, Ernest Vandiver was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia.

On January 13, 1966, President Lyndon Baines Johnson appointed Robert C. Weaver head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), making Weaver the first African-American cabinet secretary in U.S. History.

Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia on January 12, 1971.

On January 13, 1982, Hank Aaron was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

January 13, 1987 saw the inauguration of Governor Joe Frank Harris to his second term in office.

On January 13, 1998, Governor Zell Miller presented his $12.5 billion FY1999 budget to the Georgia General Assembly, including $105,000 to provide CDs of classical music for every baby born in the state. According to the New York Times,

“No one questions that listening to music at a very early age affects the spatial, temporal reasoning that underlies math and engineering and even chess,” the Governor said[]. “Having that infant listen to soothing music helps those trillions of brain connections to develop.”

Mr. Miller said he became intrigued by the connection between music and child development at a series of recent seminars sponsored by the Education Commission of the States. As a great-grandfather and the author of “They Hear Georgia Singing” (Mercer University Press, 1983), an encyclopedia of the state’s musical history, Mr. Miller said his fascination came naturally.

He said that he had a stack of research on the subject, but also that his experiences growing up in the mountains of north Georgia had proved convincing.

“Musicians were folks that not only could play a fiddle but they also were good mechanics,” he said. “They could fix your car.”

Legislators, as is their wont, have ideas of their own.

“I asked about the possibility of some Charlie Daniels or something like that,” said Representative Homer M. (Buddy) DeLoach, a Republican from Hinesville, “but they said they thought the classical music has a greater positive impact.”

“Having never studied those impacts too much,” Mr. DeLoach added, “I guess I’ll just have to take their word for that at the moment.”

In 2003, on January 13 at the Georgia Dome, Sonny Perdue took the oath of office as Georgia’s second Republican Governor, the first since Reconstruction.

Savannah City Council approved a granite marker for Taylor Square, fka Calhoun Square, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Mayor Van Johnson said at a recent press conference the city will commemorate the square at an event in February.

“Because we are caretakers of history, we should not be trying to erase it,” Johnson said at Thursday’s meeting. “We wanted to make sure that the history of the square was adequately codified within the square.”

The marker text will lay out the history of the square’s name, noting that the square was laid in 1851 and subsequently named for John C. Calhoun, the South Carolinian who served as the seventh vice president of the United States. Then it reads in 2022 City Council “removed the name Calhoun, a staunch defender of slavery.”

The marker rounds out noting the square’s renaming for Susie King Taylor in 2023, and includes that Taylor was a formerly enslaved woman, a nurse and an educator, and the first African American to openly teach in the state of Georgia.

Statesboro installed an Historical Marker commemorating nine African-American lynching victims, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The city of Statesboro along with the Remembrance Committee and The Equal Justice Initiative installed a marker to commemorate the nine African- Americans who were lynched in Bulloch County between 1886 and 1911.

“Many of the things that were actually talked about tonight, my family actually lived through those moments and so for this moment to come into fruition, understanding the history of this community and the struggle that we’ve had to make this a community that’s working to value each individual we can’t even put it into words,” said Mayor Jonathan McCollar.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Glynn County voters will begin early voting on February 19, 2024 for the March 4, 2024 Presidential Preference Primary, according to The Brunswick News.

Three polling places will be open for early voting for the Presidential Preference Primary beginning weekdays Feb. 19 and ending March 4 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There will also be two Saturdays on Feb. 24 and March 2 for early voting from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

During Thursday’s Board of Elections meeting, officials said a big challenge for elections officials is the week before the March 12 primary elections when qualifying begins for county, state and federal officials for the May 21 general primary elections.

Qualifying for local and state elections is from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. March 4-7, and on March 8 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the main offices for the board of elections.

Under the Gold Dome Today

TBD     Senate Rules Committee – 450 CAP
9:00 AM          HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD5) – House Chamber
9:00 AM          Senate Floor Session (LD 5)  – Senate Chamber
12:30 PM        Senate State & Local Gov’tal Ops – 450 CAP

Next Week

01/16/2024     9:00 AM          JOINT APPROPRIATIONS – 341 CAP
01/17/2024     8:00 AM          JOINT APPROPRIATIONS – 341 CAP
01/18/2024     8:00 AM          JOINT APPROPRIATIONS – 341 CAP`

Yesterday, Governor Brian Kemp delivered the State of the State Address:Continue Reading..

11
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 11, 2024

Katherine is a young female mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from the Effingham County Animal Shelter in Springfield, GA.

Crosby is a young female mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from the Effingham County Animal Shelter in Springfield, GA.

Mary is a young female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from the Effingham County Animal Shelter in Springfield, GA.

11
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 11, 2024

On January 11, 1765, Francis Salvador of South Carolina became the first Jewish elected official in America when he took a seat in the South Carolina Provincial Congress. Salvador’s grandfather was one of 42 Jews who emigrated to Georgia in 1733. Salvador later became the first Jewish soldier to die in the American Revolution.

On January 11, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a national monument.

“Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is,” he declared. “You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

Marvin Griffin of Bainbridge was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia on January 11, 1955.

Marvin Griffin Monument

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp discussed his legislative priorities at the Georgia Chamber’s Eggs and Issues breakfast, according to a Press Release.

Today, at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual Eggs and Issues legislative preview event, Governor Brian P. Kemp delivered an address celebrating years of record-breaking economic development and laying out priorities for the 2024 legislative session to continue that success.

The Governor announced his administration’s priorities to continue addressing workforce development challenges, including in the area of healthcare; reinforce Georgia’s status as a right-to-work state; address the need for more information regarding civil litigation; invest in infrastructure across the state, including workforce housing; and establish new higher education assets.

Below are the Governor’s prepared remarks:

Good morning, thank you for that introduction. I’m proud to be here today with the nation’s best First Lady – Marty Kemp! And we’re glad to be here with Speaker Burns, Lt. Governor Jones, other members of the General Assembly, Mayor Dickens, and some of the great local partners who have helped us keep Georgia the best state for opportunity. I also want to thank Chris Clark and the Georgia Chamber team for making this yearly event possible.

It’s thanks to all of these partners, and many others throughout Georgia, that we remain the No. 1 state for business. We’ve seen over 171,000 new jobs come to our communities. We’ve brought in roughly 74.5 billion dollars in investment to the state, with the majority going to rural parts of Georgia. We have more people working than ever before in our state. And we have jobs open for anyone looking for work or a new career.

That’s a track record everyone in this room should be proud of.

But that’s where we are today. What everyone in this room should consider is where we need to be in five years, in ten years, in generations to come and how do we get there.

My vision for that future Georgia is one where all people have opportunity and can succeed, where job creators and innovators choose us over and over again because we’re the best place to build the businesses of tomorrow, and where every community in our state benefits from those opportunities.

If we want to maintain the incredible position we’re in today for another generation, we need to make smart moves right now to secure that future.

For too long, business owners and individuals alike have struggled under the weight of sky-high insurance costs.

The cost to do business in our state should not be so high it stalls job creation and impedes growth because of frivolous lawsuits that drive up insurance premiums.

In Georgia, we have some of the highest premiums in the country. We can and should do something about that.

I look forward to working with the leadership and members of both chambers of the General Assembly on meaningful reforms that will stabilize costs for everyday Georgians, incentivize job creators to bring more opportunity to all parts of our state, and ensure Georgia is the best place to start, grow, and operate a business.

That’s why over the past several months, we’ve brought together representatives from a full range of industries to learn more about those challenges.

Following those extensive conversations, my team and I have determined this issue deserves consideration beyond one session. We will begin by taking the first step this year.

Like in every major undertaking our state has tackled in the past, we will work on a Georgia-specific solution; one designed to make meaningful reforms in this area over the next several years.

I look forward to introducing legislation this year that will reflect my priorities to stabilize the market for insurers, stabilize premiums for Georgia’s families, and level the playing field in our courtrooms so we can continue to create even more quality, good-paying jobs.

We’re also working hard to ensure the war on opportunity declared by the Biden administration in Washington does not come to Georgia. Last year we saw just how damaging anti-business actions are for workers and the economy.

The largest strikes of 2023 that lasted just six weeks cost the American economy over 9 billion dollars and more than 75,000 jobs.

The people orchestrating these actions are partisan activists who want nothing more than to see the free market brought to a screeching halt, businesses both small and large go under, and economic growth and opportunity to be dictated by the heavy hand of government – not job creators.

This anti-job playbook has been blessed by the Biden administration, and empowered by a federal government that views businesses as an enemy – not a vital partner in reigniting the American Dream.

I want to be clear: in Georgia, we’re proud to be a right-to-work state – and we’re going to continue to stand for free enterprise, job creation, economic growth, and pro-business policies as long as I’m governor.

Because what this administration fails to recognize is that the American Dream will always provide our people greater prosperity than government ever could.

My commitment to you is that we will never cower to activists who seek to attack job creators and undermine the countless opportunities they create in communities across Georgia – big and small.

We will remain a right to work state, and this legislative session, we will take further steps to protect workers and require transparency from unions.

My administration will be introducing legislation requiring businesses that utilize state incentives to respect their employees’ right and access to a secret ballot, if some seek to unionize.

Georgians have a right to opportunity, and we will defend that right against the overreaches of big government and big labor.

With these new measures added to all those we’ve already achieved, I have no doubt that Georgia will continue to be the epicenter for historic growth and projects that will impact our state for generations to come.

With the help of many in this room, we’re making strategic investments in our communities and workers to keep it that way.

That includes making sure community-level infrastructure is able to meet the increased demand that comes with unprecedented economic development.

That is why in the budget proposals my office will unveil tomorrow, we will invest 250 million dollars of new state funds into the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority for local water and sewer projects across the state.

These new investments will raise the fund’s capacity for new projects to 325 million dollars, and the overall portfolio to nearly 750 million dollars.

It will also give Georgia a competitive edge in attracting even more job creation to our state, especially in our rural communities.

As many of you know, when it comes to attracting new companies to our state… or incentivizing existing businesses to expand, the more the state can do from a water and sewer perspective, the more likely we are to land that project.

That means more jobs, more growth, and more opportunity in zip codes that need it the most.

If you’ve been around metro Atlanta, or down I-16 toward Savannah, or up I-85 to Commerce, or braved GA-400 northbound in rush hour, you know that Georgia is attracting more people, more businesses, and more investment.

While the incredible win streak we’ve been on benefits Georgians from all walks of life, in nearly every region of this state, it’s also true that there are costs to that success when it comes to the movement of people and goods across our state.

To continue being the best state to live, work, and raise a family, our transportation infrastructure must not only keep up with demand, it must look five, ten, twenty years ahead – both for hardworking Georgia families, and businesses here in the Peach state and around the world that rely on us to get their products to market.

That’s why my budget recommendations will also include an additional 1.5 billion dollars in state funds we will allocate to the Georgia Department of Transportation for projects that directly help move commuters and freight.

With the funds provided in our amended 2024 budget, these projects will accelerate GDOT’s existing project pipeline, enabling the agency to work further down its list of priority projects that includes those related to Georgia’s two largest economic development projects in state history.

This funding will also enable us to establish a new program focused on Freight Infrastructure projects that improve efficiency, safety, and reliability for the transportation of goods.

Lastly, 200 million dollars from this pot of money will go to the Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant, essentially doubling the amount available to local governments for Fiscal Year 2024 to 418 million dollars. This money will be well spent on local road engineering, construction, paving, and maintenance.

And just as Georgia’s workers deserve to drive on safe and reliable roads, they also deserve to be able to live in the same community where they work.

That’s why we created the Workforce Housing Fund last year with an initial investment of 35.7 million dollars.

That money has already been put to good use, allowing local development and housing authorities across our state to prepare land for housing projects in areas with upcoming economic development projects.

To date, over 17 million dollars of this has been awarded to 9 projects. The approved projects so far have been grants for water, sewer, and road construction around single and multi-family housing developments.

This year, I’m proposing an additional 50 million dollars in the Amended 2024 budget and 6 million dollars in base funding for the Fiscal Year 2025 budget that will go to this Fund, ensuring these types of strategic investments continue.

I’m confident that by working together with the members of the General Assembly, we can continue to build on the incredible success we’ve had bringing jobs, growth, and opportunity to all parts of our state.

Just as we need to invest in the physical infrastructure of our state to keep up with growth, we also need to invest in the human capital to meet the demands of a growing population.

No sector of our economy needs qualified workers more than healthcare. Since 2019, we’ve invested in more residency slots, incentivized healthcare professionals to stay in Georgia and provide quality care, ensured new mothers in our state are covered, and taken innovative steps to expand access to care, stabilize costs, and increase the number of insurers statewide.

With that in mind, my budget proposal includes 178 million dollars for the design and construction for a dental school at Georgia Southern University – the first school of its kind in our state since the moon landing in 1969!

I am also proposing 50 million dollars for a medical school at our flagship institution – the University of Georgia. This will go a long way to helping us address the medical workforce gap Georgia has struggled with for years.

With these new assets on the way, we will further address the growing need for healthcare professionals in our state, and ensure that we are doing everything we can to address challenges across the healthcare spectrum – from workforce, to cost, to access, to quality.

All of these investments and measures I’ve shared with you today are strategic and designed to keep Georgia what we have made it over these past five years, together – the best state to live, work, and raise a family.

Tomorrow, I will share even more announcements on how we will build on these successes.

Thank you for your partnership, God bless, and may God continue to bless the great State of Georgia!

From the Georgia Recorder:

One of Gov. Brian Kemp’s top priorities is a bill targeting labor unions by preventing businesses that seek state incentives from allowing unions to form without a formal, anonymous election.

“My commitment to you is that we will never cower to activists who seek to attack job creators and undermine the countless opportunities they create in communities across Georgia, big and small,” Kemp said. “We will remain a right to work state, and this legislative session, we will take further steps to protect workers and require transparency from unions.”

Kemp said stopping “frivolous” lawsuits from driving up business owners insurance premiums is a priority that will take longer than this year’s session to resolve.

“Like in every major undertaking our state has tackled in the past, we will work on a Georgia-specific solution; one designed to make meaningful reforms in this area over the next several years,” adding that his office will introduce the first legislation of a coming tort reform suite this year.

House Speaker Jon Burns raised eyebrows with a suggestion that Georgia is considering expanding Medicaid.

“When it comes to health care, there has certainly been a lot of discussion of late about Medicaid expansion. Expanding access to care for lower income working families through a private option in a fiscally responsible way that lowers premiums is something we will continue to gather facts on in the House.”

Georgia is one of 10states that have not adopted full Medicaid expansion, which extends coverage to adults who make less than 138% of the federal poverty level. Expansion could provide access to health care for hundreds of thousands of low-income Georgia adults. The opposition has been largely ideological, with GOP state lawmakers erecting roadblocks to expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Georgia Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark said the General Assembly will consider models approved in other states, including Arkansas. Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion was unusual in that instead of enrolling the expansion population into existing Medicaid programs, Arkansas used the money to buy private insurance for most of its qualifying residents.

From 13WMAZ:

This morning at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast, Gov. Brian Kemp unveiled his $2 billion spending bill.

There were several categories included in the funding measure like transportation, infrastructure and health funding for medical facilities at the University of Georgia and Georgia Southern University.

UGA already has a medical school in partnership with the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. This would be a separate medical school in Athens.

Georgia Southern would receive $178 million in funding to create a new dental school in Statesboro.

According to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia has over 40,000 job openings in the healthcare industry. They predict job openings will grow to 60,000 in the next two years.

So far, the chamber has already provided funding to schools to expand their resources to get more students into the medical field. One of the schools that received funding was Mercer School of Medicine.

Jean Sumner, dean at the Mercer School of Medicine, says Mercer is working to address the shortage.

πYou have to care about people, you have to be able to communicate and of course have to be smart but that said it’s more than just being smart. There are a lot of other factors. We try to select the right people and also. We try to select people that care about what we’re doing and that care about rural Georgia and that respect the people in rural Georgia,” Sumner said.

The state chamber reports by 2030, the Peach State will need over 100,000 healthcare workers.

Stephanie Roseboro is a nurse manager at Piedmont Macon. She says adding another medical school will help more students see what the day-to-day is like for someone in the medical field.

“Having more people coming through here doing their rotations and clinicals is going to give them a better idea of what a great community this is and also what the need is,” Roseboro said.

Sumner says doctors are needed in rural Georgia too because they face a health desert too.

“There are counties in Georgia that have no doctors and one of the counties we put a clinic in had no doctor to 36,000 people,” Sumner said.

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

Republican House Speaker Jon Burns of Newington, also speaking Wednesday, again voiced openness to expanding health care coverage to low-income adults through Georgia’s Medicaid program.

“Expanding access to care for lower income working families through a private option in a fiscally responsible way that lowers premiums is something we will continue to gather facts on in the House,” Burns said.

Kemp says he wants to allot $1.5 billion to the Georgia Department of Transportation before June 30 to speed planned roadwork and establish a freight infrastructure program. Of that money, $200 million would go to cities and counties, increasing what the state sends local governments to maintain their own roads and bridges.

Kemp said he also wants to invest another $250 million in the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, which loans money to local governments for water and sewer projects. Kemp earlier gave out $442 million in water and sewer grants using federal COVID-19 aid.

The governor wants to allot another $50 million to a fund to develop land for housing, and then spend at least $6 million a year on such grants going forward. Lawmakers earlier allotted $35.7 million for Kemp’s “rural workforce housing” plan, and $17 million has been spent so far.

Kemp proposed spending $178 million to create a new public dental school at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, in addition to the current Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University. Kemp also proposed $50 million to create a separate medical school at the University of Georgia in Athens. Now, a four-year medical program operates there in partnership with the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

“With these new assets on the way, we will further address the growing need for health care professionals in our state,” Kemp said.

From the Athens Banner Herald:

Rep. Houston Gaines posted on X in response to the UGA medical school proposal, saying: “The funding process will begin in this year’s state budget—I look forward to supporting this historic initiative.”

Governor Kemp will deliver the “State of the State” address today, according to WTOC.

The address will happen at the Georgia State Capitol in the House of Representatives chamber at 11 a.m. Thursday morning.

WTOC talked to Dr. Kimberly Martin at Georgia Southern University about what we could expect Thursday.

She says this is Governor Kemp’s second term, so he is not necessarily campaigning right now but for other state leaders – it could be a different story.

“It is an election year for other candidates so really the focus will be on state legislators and how this is going to impact this agenda that the governor puts forth is going to impact them when it comes November for their reelection campaigns. What they are going to want to do is pass bills and pass a lot of bills that are useful for their district so they can go back and say, ‘hey this is what I did when I was in Atlanta for you,’” said Dr. Martin.

Savannah area legislators discussed their priorities, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As a practicing physician and the chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, health reform is one of the key issues for the Republican senator. Current Certificate of Need laws require new healthcare facilities to prove a need for new facilities to the Department of Community Health, making it harder to establish new healthcare centers.

“I think that everybody is on the page that that needs to be either done away with or at least modified significantly, because it is monopolistic and anti-competitive,” Watson said. “These nonprofit hospitals that do not pay any property tax are stifling growth in the health industry.”

Senate District 2: Derek Mallow

First elected to the Georgia House in 2020 and the state Senate in 2022, Mallow is a relative newcomer to the Chatham delegation. During his first term as a senator, he championed issues like expanding access to affordable housing and public transit. This legislative session, he is hoping to focus on Medicaid expansion, the 911 and EMS system, and funding the Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program. The senator, who serves as the executive director and CEO of East Savannah United, is also hoping to introduce legislation to mandate that businesses accept cash payments from customers.

Senate District 4: Billy Hickman

Raising Georgia’s literacy rates continues to be an issue of great importance to Hickman, who serves as the Higher Education Committee chairman and is married to an educator. In 2024, Hickman has a slate of education-themed reforms on his priority list, saying he hopes to expand lottery-funded Pre-K programs, provide more funding for schools working to implement the Georgia Early Literacy Act, and pass legislation to make it easier for retired teachers to reenter the field, particularly in rural areas.

It’s a comprehensive article speaking with a number of legislators, and is worth reading in its entirety.

Five candidates qualified in each of the two Special Elections for Georgia General Assembly on February 13, 2024, according to the Associated Press via WSAV.

Qualifying closed Wednesday for the Feb. 13 votes to replace Republican Mike Dugan in Senate District 30 and Rep. Barry Fleming in House District 125. Dugan resigned to run for Congress, while Kemp swore Fleming in as a superior court judge on Wednesday.

Members of all parties will run together in the special elections with no primaries to select nominees. If no one wins a majority on Feb. 13, the top two candidates would advance to a runoff on March 12, the same day as Georgia’s presidential primary.

Running in the Senate race as Republicans are former state Rep. Tim Bearden of Carrollton, real estate agent Renae Bell of Tallapoosa, contract administrator Amber Nixon of Carrollton and consultant Robert “Bob” Smith. Ashley Kecskes Godwin of Carrollton is running as a Democrat. The district covers all of Haralson County and parts of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties.

Bearden was elected to the state House four times before Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him as director of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. Bearden is now the government affairs manager for a billboard company. He’s a former police officer who pushed for expansions of gun rights while in the House.

“My goal is to make sure that this district is set up for a prosperous future,” Bearden told Carrollton radio station WLBB-AM on Tuesday. He said he would seek tougher criminal penalties for trafficking fentanyl and those who injure police officers and firefighters.

Republicans running in the House race include conservative commentator C.J. Pearson of Grovetown, Columbia County Commissioner and car wash owner Gary Richardson of Evans, farmer James Steed of Grovetown and software developer John Turpish of Grovetown. The lone Democrat running is cosmetologist Kay Turner of Grovetown. The district covers parts of Columbia and McDuffie counties.

The Eleventh Circuit United States Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by Chatham County District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones in an employment discrimination case, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to review a district judge’s sanction order against Jones because “it did not determine the amount of costs, attorney’s fees, and expenses for which Jones is responsible, and is therefore not final and appealable.”

“No petition for rehearing may be filed unless it complies with the timing and other requirements of 11th Cir. R. 40-3 and all other applicable rules,” the Circuit Court stated.

In November 2023, Jones requested that the federal judge “set aside” past orders that denied her emergency motions to reschedule her deposition because of her obligations as lead counsel in a rape trial. U.S. District Judge R. Stan Baker of the Southern District of Georgia ruled Jones in default in the case and sanctioned her.

“Mrs. Shalena Cook Jones did absolutely nothing individually to anyone in this case, and anything that she did do or could alleged to have been done would be the scope and course of her employment as the elected District Attorney,” said attorney Mark Tate, who is representing Jones, after the appeal was denied. “We’re going to proceed with that basis and then try the case if we have to, and if we don’t prevail, and it’s something not to our liking, then we’ll appeal.”

Gwinnett County Commissioners are expected to move forward toward a vote to put a referendum on ballots, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

But even though a transit referendum has been expected since the county’s Transit Development Plan was approved last year, such a vote is not officially set to take place — yet.

That is starting to change, however, because the county commissioners are taking their first steps to putting a referendum on the November ballot. They held a required meeting with city leaders this past Tuesday, and now they will hold a key vote on this upcoming Tuesday that will begin the formal process of calling for a referendum.

The vote on this upcoming Tuesday will be on whether they to intend to hold another vote in the spring to actually call for the referendum.

Basically, Tuesday’s decision would be about putting voters and election officials on notice that the commissioners will vote in a few months on whether to put referendum on the general election ballot this fall.

“At our Board of Commissioners meeting, it’s expected that we’ll do an ‘Intent To Call A Referendum,’” County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson said. “And, whatever the commission decides — if it’s in the affirmative, then we’ll start working on those next steps that are part of a legislative process to officially call a referendum for the November ballot.”

The idea that Tuesday’s vote is just a prelude to an another vote on calling for a referendum may sound convoluted but that is a process that state law requires the county to follow before they can actually put the referendum on the November ballot.

Gwinnett County Transportation Director Lewis Cooksey said the earliest that the commissioners could hold an actual vote to call for a referendum would be May because of the requirements under state law.

That means county leaders would have to wait until after the May 21 general primary election.

“The way the law is written, you can’t call it until after all the other elections are held because, once you do call it, it must be up for a vote in the next election,” Cooksey said.

Effingham County public schools opened a daycare center for employees’ children, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Hoping to attract and retain more employees — especially employees with infants and small children in need of childcare — the Effingham County School District opened two daycare centers at opposite ends of the county Jan. 3.

The new daycare centers — STARS (Supports Teachers and Rising Students) early learning centers — are located at Rincon and Guyton elementary schools. The centers are open from 6:30 a.m.–5 p.m

They are open when school is in session plus the 10 in-service days that educators must attend. The school district is using the availability of daycare as a benefit to recruit employees.

“We’ve got our annual job fair coming up in early February and we will make sure that that’s at the forefront of our recruitment process,” Dr. Ford said. “Some people have family members here that they can rely on to help with daycare, but there’s a lot (of people) that don’t have that opportunity and don’t have that luxury, and so this is something that’s pretty special to us.”

All the children — even the babies — will have a curriculum that will prepare them for success in pre-K and beyond, according to Dr. Ford.

“We have a specific curriculum that we use through Bright from the Start,” Dr. Ford explained. “Our teachers are trained. We have teacher leaders. We have site directors. Our teachers will be working very closely with the boys and girls, beginning at 6 weeks old all the way up until 4 years old, so that they can be the most prepared students once they enter pre-K.”

Literacy, even for the babies, is an important element of the program that gets children ready for school and learning.

United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) will hold traveling constituent service events, according to WALB.

Sen. Ossoff announced his Office’s “Constituent Services in Your Community” events for the month of January. Sen. Ossoff’s team will be hosting events in Valdosta, Douglasville, Stockbridge, and Fort Valley.

The constituent services team works to help families cut through red tape and access the benefits they’ve earned, from resolving issues with Social Security and Medicare, to helping families obtain passports and visas, to ensuring servicemembers, veterans, and their families receive their VA and TRICARE benefits, and more.

Sen. Ossoff  says, “I have a hard-working team across the state standing by to help you and your families navigate the Federal bureaucracy, which can often be confusing and difficult to access and navigate. We don’t guarantee results, but we always guarantee effort.”

Annalee Sams was sworn in as Mayor of Dalton, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Annalee Harlan Sams was sworn in as mayor of Dalton Monday night in front of a crowded audience at City Hall.

Council members Tyree Goodlett and Dennis Mock also took the oath of office following their November reelection, with Goodlett sworn in as the mayor pro tem.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Al Tillman announced he will leave office before the year ends, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The first Macon-Bibb County Commission meeting of the year Tuesday was also the last for Commissioner Al Tillman, who announced he will not serve out his last year in office at the end of an agenda that included more than three-quarters of a million dollars in grants to curb crime, reduce court backlogs and plant 455 trees in the urban core.

Due to term limits instituted in consolidation, Tillman and commissioners Elaine Lucas, Virgil Watkins, Jr. and Mallory Jones cannot seek re-election this year. Tillman, a former mayor pro tem, will share more about his personal decision to step down during “Al Tillman’s Chew & Chat Red Carpet Edition” at 3 p.m. Sunday at Macon Mall.

At the conclusion of the meeting, he released a statement through the county’s public affairs office that read in part: “I’m forever grateful to the citizens of District 9, for entrusting me to voice their interests by electing me to office. In District 9, together, we’ve been able to expand Log Cabin (Drive) to increase pedestrian safety; create Filmore Thomas Park, which provides a safe space for children, families and the community to gather for fun; and set the foundation for reigniting the economic flame for Eisenhower corridor by establishing the Eisenhower (Business) Improvement District.”

His resignation was effective immediately. Mayor Miller is expected to appoint someone to finish out the remainder of Tillman’s term, which concludes at the end of the year.

10
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 10, 2024

Swiss Roll (807-5211) is a young female Shepherd & Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Liberty County Animal Services in Hinesville, GA.

Meet Swiss Roll, a young canine full of life and love. Her sweetness is as delightful as her namesake dessert, and her friendly demeanor is infectious. Swiss Roll’s days are filled with playful antics and a generous dose of tail-wagging happiness. Her cheerful spirit is truly inspiring, making every day a joy. Swiss Roll’s affectionate nature makes her the perfect companion for those seeking a loyal friend. She’s eager to share her boundless energy and love with a family that will cherish her. Swiss Roll is more than just a shelter pet; she’s a beacon of unconditional love waiting to light up your life. Adopt Swiss Roll, and bring home a bundle of joy that will fill your days with warmth and happiness.

Skipper (807-5232) is an adult male Basset Hound & Terrier mix who is available for adoption from Liberty County Animal Services in Hinesville, GA.

Meet Skipper, an adult dog with a heart full of love. His sweet nature is endearing, and his playful spirit is infectious. Skipper can be a bit shy at first, but once he warms up, he’s the best friend you could ever ask for. He loves to play fetch, but he’s just as happy snuggling on the couch. Skipper’s perfect day involves a long walk, a good meal, and lots of belly rubs. He is a loyal companion who is eager to please and quick to learn. Adopting Skipper means gaining a friend for life, someone who will always be there to greet you with a wagging tail and unconditional love.

Tootsie (807-5228) is a young female Chocolate Labrador Retriever & Chesapeake Bay Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Liberty County Animal Services in Hinesville, GA.

Meet Tootsie, a young, vibrant soul with a heart full of playfulness and love. Her days are filled with amusing antics that bring laughter to everyone around her. Tootsie’s playful nature is contagious, and she has a knack for turning even the gloomiest of days into a fun-filled adventure. She’s the goofball that keeps everyone in stitches, and the sweet companion who’s always there to lend a comforting presence. Tootsie’s unique blend of fun and affection makes her the perfect addition to any family. Adopt Tootsie, and experience the joy of a love that’s pure, unconditional, and endlessly entertaining.
10
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 10, 2024

On January 10, 1868, the Georgia Equal Rights Association was formed in Augusta.

On January 10, 1870, the Georgia General Assembly convened and seated African-American legislators who had been expelled in 1868.

Eugene Talmadge was sworn-in to his first term as Governor of Georgia on January 10, 1933.

Talmadge fired elected officials who resisted his authority. Others were thrown out of their offices. Literally.

After Julian Bond’s election to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, the chamber voted against seating him ostensibly because he had publicly state his opposition to the war in Vietnam. On January 10, 1967, after the United States Supreme Court held the legislature had denied Bond his right to free speech, he was seated as a member of the State House.

Ten years ago, on January 10, 2014, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution released a poll of the Georgia Governor’s race that showed Nathan Deal with 47 percent to 38 percent for Jason Carter. The nine-point Deal advantage was as close as the AJC polling firm would come all year to correctly predicting the point spread in the General Election.

Governor Nathan Deal was sworn-in as the 82d Governor of Georgia on January 10, 2011 while snow shut down the planned public Inaugural.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

TBD     Canceled – Senate Rules Committee: Upon Adj – 450 CAP
8:00 AM          Canceled – Senate Natural Resources & Envt – 450 CAP
11:00 AM        HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD3) – House Chamber
1:00 PM          CANCELLED – HOUSE PUB SAFETY AND HS – 506 CLOB
1:00 PM          Cancelled- Senate Public Safety – 450 CAP
2:00 PM          HOUSE HEALTH – 403 CAP HYBRID
2:00 PM          HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION – 606 CLOB
2:00 PM          Senate Floor Session (LD 3) – Senate Chamber
2:00 PM          Cancelled- Senate Insurance & Labor – Mezz 1 CAP
2:00 PM          Cancelled- Senate Higher Education – 307 CLOB
3:00 PM          Senate Health & Human Services – 450 CAP
4:00 PM          Senate Finance – Mezz 1 CAP
5:00 PM          Senate State & Local Governmental Operations – 125 CAP

Vice President Kamala Harris said Georgia is at the forefront of voting rights issues, according to the Georgia Recorder.

On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris called on Georgia voting rights advocates and elected officials to continue to fight for expanded access to the ballot box as the election cycle gears up for this November’s presidential election.

Harris’ message was relayed during a roundtable discussion held at The Gathering Spot in Atlanta as the second-in-command to Democratic President Joe Biden was making her 10th trip in Georgia since becoming vice president in January 2021.

Harris on Tuesday labeled Georgia as ground zero in the fight for voting rights while noting the White House has pushed to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that would restore key areas of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 protecting minorities and other disenfranchised voters.

She also cited new policies pushed by the Biden administration, including paid time off for federal employees serving as poll workers and greatly expanding the number of languages translated on a government voting website.

“Yet, we have seen in the state of Georgia, by example, anti-voter laws, laws that have limited drop boxes and made it illegal to even provide food and water to people standing in line for hours,” she said.

U.S Rep. Nikema Williams, chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said that it’s appropriate for Harris to visit a city that is the cradle of the civil rights movement ahead of a pivotal 2024 election when the right to vote and other civil rights are at stake.

“As Donald Trump and extreme MAGA Republicans ramp up their dangerous anti-democracy rhetoric and attacks on voting rights, Georgians are more fired up than ever to stand with Vice President Harris and President Biden this November as they fight to ensure our fundamental freedoms are safe and our democracy is strong,” Williams said.

Senate Bill 172 by State Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) was voted out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee with a “Do Pass” recommendation, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The Regulated Industries & Utilities Committee voted 8-3 to let Georgians bet on sports either online or at remote terminals or “kiosks.”

The state would retain 20% of the gross revenue from most sports bets and 25% from “high-profit” bets including live bets placed during games. The money would go toward various state programs to be spelled out in a separate constitutional amendment.

Senate Bill 172 was available for consideration so early in the 2024 session because it was introduced last year, the first of a two-year legislative term. The Senate tabled it last year, which left it alive to be taken up again this year.

Cowsert said about three dozen states have legalized sports betting since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2018 allowed it to expand beyond a handful of states – including Nevada – where it already was legal.

Cowsert’s bill would establish a seven-member sports betting commission authorized to grant at least six licenses for sports betting operations. He said Atlanta’s pro sports teams, which formed a coalition several years ago to push for sports betting, could potentially set up kiosks in their home stadiums or arenas.

The legislation is what is known in General Assembly parlance as an “enabling” bill, designed to fill in the details of an accompanying constitutional amendment.

“I don’t see anything to fear from a constitutional amendment,” Cowsert said. “It’s the right thing to do. Let the people decide when you’re making a major policy change.”

Sen. Carden Summers, R-Cordele, the committee’s vice chairman, said he will introduce a sports betting constitutional amendment later in the session.

“We’re not going anywhere with it without a (constitutional amendment),” Summers assured his committee colleagues.

Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, also is planning to introduce a constitutional amendment into the Senate that would let voters decide whether to legalize casino gambling and pari-mutuel betting on horse racing in addition to sports betting.

From GPB News:

“There seems to be a good, a lot of push for this from some of our constituents,” [Sen. Cowsert] said. “And I just think it may be time and I certainly wanted us to address the issue this year, list, decide it once and for all, and move on.”

Several bills aiming to legalize sports betting or other types of gambling failed during the 2023 session. One of those bills was Senate Resolution 140, SB 172’s companion bill calling for a constitutional amendment.

Lawmakers will need to draft another proposed constitutional amendment, as SB 172 does not legalize sports betting on its own. A constitutional amendment requires a “yes” vote from two-thirds of the Legislature and approval from Georgia voters.

The current Georgia Constitution prohibits gambling. Last session, former State Supreme Court Justice Harold Melton said that some types sports betting may be allowed without a constitutional amendment. But a bill trying to legalize sports betting failed last year.

The AJC Political Insider reports that Gov. Kemp is slowing the train on tort reform.

We’re told the governor now views his initiative to rewrite the state’s litigation rules as a multiyear effort, meaning that what supporters call “tort reform” isn’t likely to cross the finish line during the 2024 legislative session, which opened Monday.

The decision marks a dramatic turnabout for Kemp, who surprised corporate executives at the Georgia Chamber’s annual meeting in August by vowing to reshape regulations guiding plaintiffs’ litigation.

A few months later, Kemp’s political allies launched a six-figure media campaign that included targeted digital ads warning Georgians of “senseless regulations that drive up insurance prices.” It seemed a sure sign that Kemp would go all out to pass the changes.

So what happened? Key Republicans, business executives and lobbying groups couldn’t get on the same page over a big comprehensive package, several officials said, and there’s little appetite for a piecemeal approach.

 

Governor Brian Kemp’s office released December 2023 state revenues, according to a Press Release.

Atlanta, GA – The State of Georgia’s net tax collections in the month of December totaled nearly $3.05 billion, for a decrease of $159.1 million, or -5 percent, compared to December 2022, when net tax collections approached $3.21 billion for the month. Year-to-date, net tax revenue totaled roughly $16.1 billion, for an increase of $253 million, or 1.6 percent, over the same half-year stretch in FY 2023, an increase that was driven principally by the collection of the state’s motor fuel excise tax that was suspended during the first half of last year. Net of motor fuel tax changes, revenues for the six months ended December 31 were down 2.5 percent from this time a year ago.

The changes within the following tax categories account for December’s overall net tax revenue decrease:

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for December approached $1.39 billion, down from a total of nearly $1.44 billion in fiscal year 2023, for a decrease of $52.2 million or -3.6 percent.

The following notable components within Individual Income Tax combine for the net decrease:

Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) increased by $66.6 million or 114 percent
Income Tax Withholding payments increased by $61.3 million or 4.6 percent over December FY 2023
Individual Income Tax Estimated payments decreased by $23.1 million or -37.9 percent from FY 2023
All other Individual Tax categories, including Tax Return payments, were down a combined $23.8 million

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections for December totaled $1.52 billion, for an increase of $41 million or 2.8 percent over FY 2023. Net Sales and Use Tax increased by $10.6 million or 1.4 percent compared to last year, when net Sales Tax totaled $747 million. The adjusted Sales Tax distribution to local governments totaled $745.4 million for an increase of $15.9 million, while Sales Tax refunds increased by $14.5 million.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections for the month decreased by $136.7 million, or -16.1 percent, compared to last year, when net Corporate Tax revenues totaled $848.8 million in December.

The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the net decrease:

Corporate Income Tax refunds issued (net of voids) were up $13.7 million or 64.7 percent over FY 2023
Corporate Income Tax Estimated payments decreased by $109 million or -19.3 percent from last year
Corporate Income Tax Return payments decreased by $22.2 million or -21.6 percent from December 2022
All other Corporate Tax payments, including S-Corporation payments, were up a combined $8.2 million

Motor Fuel Taxes: Monthly Motor Fuel Tax collections increased by $11.9 million over last year, when Governor Kemp’s Executive Order to suspend the state excise tax was also in effect during the entire month. The suspension of the collection of the motor fuel tax was extended on November 8th and in effect through November 29.

Motor Vehicle – Tag, Title & Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fee collections for the month decreased by $1.8 million or -5.8 percent, while Title ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections increased by $2.8 million or 4.4 percent from FY 2023.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Macon Telegraph:

The negative numbers might be expected to give pause to legislative budget writers, who will begin reviewing Gov. Brian Kemp’s spending recommendations next week. However, the state has built up a whopping $16 billion budget surplus during the last three years that should make current revenue trends of less concern than they would be otherwise.

Kemp will release his budget proposals to the General Assembly later this week.

WTOC spoke to local legislators about their priorities for the Session.

What should Georgia lawmakers do with the state’s nearly $11 billion surplus? It’s a question that could dominate the 2024 legislative session.

“It’s going to be a big issue,” state Sen. Derek Mallow, Georgia – District 2, said.

“Clearly, we need to look at what we’re doing and how we’re spending our money and actually pay the people in the state of Georgia what they’re worth because you cannot expect champagne with Kool-Aid money,” Sen. Mallow said.

After the film industry went on strike last year, some republicans are urging caution when spending surplus money to help make up for any lost investment in the state.

“That is a $4.1 billion direct spend from the film industry. That’s going to show up in our budget. I would prefer that we be cautious with the surplus that we got because there are rainy days coming,” said state Rep. Ron Stephens, Georgia – District 164.

“We do have differences between democrats and republicans in how we want to see this addressed. We all agree that we need affordable housing in Georgia, it’s just going to be a matter of how do we get there,” said state Rep. Anne Allen Westbrook, Georgia – District 163.

The City of Savannah is urging state lawmakers to allow municipalities to waive impact fees for the construction of workforce and affordable housing to keep development costs low.

“I think that’s a very creative way of looking at it and it’s something that could be a good fit for our local community,” Rep. Westbrook said.

 

21-year old C.J. Pearson announced he will run for the District 125 seat in the State House, according to the AJC.

the Augusta-area native announced he will run in the special election to replace state Rep. Barry Fleming, the Harlem Republican who is leaving the House to assume a judgeship.

Pearson burst onto the political scene at the tender age of 12 by making viral, in-your-face videos attacking then-President Barack Obama. His biting rhetoric quickly earned him a place on the Georgia GOP’s radar as a young Black spokesman for a party desperate to attract young voters and minorities.

“The people of my district don’t want to elect just another Republican to this seat; they want to elect a conservative who knows how to fight like the future of our country is on the line. Because it is — make no qualms about it,” Pearson said.

I’m not sure how an Alpharetta candidate mailing address will play in an Augusta-area seat. But then, neither of the other qualified Republican candidates listed an actual complete mailing address.

Former State Rep. Tim Bearden also qualified for the February 13, 2024 Special Election, running for the Senate District 30 seat vacated by former State Sen. Mike Dugan.

Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson announced she will run for the Sixth Congressional District against Rep Lucy McBath, according to the Associated Press via WSAV.

Jerica Richardson, a county commissioner in suburban Atlanta, announced Tuesday that she will challenge U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath in the Democratic primary in May in a new congressional district on the west side of Atlanta.

Richardson, a Cobb County commissioner, had previously said she would run for Congress, but her decision had been uncertain after Georgia state lawmakers radically reconfigured McBath’s current district. McBath jumped to a new 6th Congressional District in Fulton, Cobb, Douglas and Fayette counties in which Richardson will also run.

The new district is majority Black, and Richardson and McBath are both Black. No other candidates have announced they’re running.

Richardson said in a statement Tuesday that she decided to run against McBath after a Georgia judge ruled Monday that Cobb County commissioners could not override lawmakers and redraw their own districts.

The Republican-majority Legislature passed maps that drew Richardson out of her commission district. Commissioners asserted in 2022 that they had home-rule authority to draw their own districts, but a judge rejected that claim. The county has said it will appeal the judge’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.

From the AJC:

Richardson’s decision sets up a potential primary battle against U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, who said last month that she will switch to the 6th Congressional District after Republican legislators drew her out of her suburban seat for the second time in two years.

It was a surprising move by Richardson, a Democrat who previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she wouldn’t run against a Democratic incumbent. But it may have been spurred by a court ruling this week that upheld a GOP-drawn Cobb map that ousted her from her commission seat.

“I certainly know what it means to be drawn out of an office and fight to get it back,” Richardson said.

“This race is about the people of the 6th District,” Richardson said. “I have decided that I’m going to keep surfacing the issues that voters care about because our voters deserve to know we are listening and creating ways to close the gap.”

In the statement, Richardson reconciled her promise not to challenge a Democratic incumbent by saying her campaign was “solely focused on delivering for the constituents of the 6th, many of whom are my current commission constituents.”

“In this campaign,” she said, “I am committed to what I am always committed to — which is the people of this district.”

Bulloch County public schools clarified their “no vape” policy, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Changes to the Bulloch County Schools student code of conduct that took effect Jan. 1, 2024, re-emphasize that electronic smoking devices are prohibited at all times at schools and school activities and create different categories — with potentially different consequences — between vaping devices that contain THC and those that do not.

Possession of a vaping device that contains no THC is now a violation of Rule 42a, while possession or use of a vaping device that does contain THC — tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive compound found in marijuana, or a range of related chemical compounds — is a violation of Rule 42b.

Meanwhile, an addition to a separate rule, Number 34, in the update unanimously adopted by the Bulloch County Board of Education Dec. 14 clarifies that the use or possession of other items containing THC but “not otherwise classified as electronic smoking devices” is also prohibited. In fact, the listing of non-vaping-device items that contain THC in the Level 3 portion of this general rule against “unapproved items” makes using or possessing these items a Level 3 violation, even on a first offense.

These distinctions reflect the fact that some electronic smoking devices being sold in Georgia purportedly contain “THC” compounds at levels legal for adults age 21 and up. During the Board of Education’s Nov. 30 work session, Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson asked School Safety Director Todd Mashburn to explain.

“Most all of these that we’re dealing with now are simply the version of THC that an adult 21 years of age and older can buy at these vape shops,” Mashburn said. “I think it’s Delta 8, Delta 10, maybe some other variants out there they’ve come up with now. It’s not the Delta 9 THC extract from the marijuana plant itself, which is a Schedule I felony for any person to possess.”

“What we have been dealing with is, we’re on the frontier of this,” Superintendent Wilson told board members. “There are not a lot of support services around for THC testing and things of that nature. We’re learning a lot of this now, and this was why it was important that we break this out.”

Columbus City Council approved $5000 raises for some law enforcement personnel, according to WTVM.

Columbus City Council approved the proposal increasing the pay for sworn officers and 9-1-1 dispatchers with the Columbus Police Department.

“Well, back in June, I made a presentation for the council to give all my police officers and my dispatchers a $5,000 pay raise, and we talked about it, we met with the finance director to make sure we had the funds there,” said [Police Chief] Mathis.

The increase eliminates 44 sworn positions for the department budgeted by council, and the total implementation cost is over $2.7 million.

“So, by saying were going to take the money that would have gone to that and spread it over the retention piece. It also allows us to continue to let our revenues grow organically So, that if we get to a point where we can hire officers beyond what we agreed too, you heard council they’re going to find a way to do it,” said Mayor Skip Henderson.

Mathis said he expects the increase in pay to result in several improvements within the department.

“Well, it’s going to make us more competitive as far as pay with local jurisdictions, and secondly, it’s going to improve the quality of life for police officers daily,” he said.

Columbus City Council also approved a lease agreement for Golden Park to bring a minor league baseball team, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Historic Golden Park sits on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in Columbus, Ga. The park has served as the home for several minor league baseball teams, including the Mudcats and the RedStixx. It also hosted the 1996 Olympic Softball games.

Columbus Council voted to OK a lease with Diamond Baseball Holdings to bring a Minor League team back to Golden Park, after about a 90-minute closed meeting.

That means the city will spend up to $50 million in a bond issue to upgrade the 1920s ball park to Minor League standards.

The lease council approved was for 20 years, with the option of five-year renewals.

Mayor Skip Henderson said later Tuesday that the team will be the Double-A Braves, based in Pearl, Mississippi, outside Jackson. His statement was followed by a press release by Diamond Baseball Holdings saying the Atlanta Braves’ Double-A club will continue to play as the Mississippi Braves in Pearl, MS, through the 2024 season.

Seven Georgia school systems will receive a total of nearly $60 million dollars to purchase electric buses, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The Georgia grant is part of $1 billion going to school systems across the country to pay for clean buses. The money comes from the bipartisan infrastructure spending bill Congress passed in 2021.

“This is about converting fleets of diesel-powered school buses into clean energy vehicles for the future,” U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., who was instrumental in getting the school bus funds into the infrastructure bill, said. “This investment demonstrates the power of bipartisan cooperation to deliver tangible results for our communities.”

The Georgia grant will provide 156 new electric buses. The Clayton and DeKalb County school districts will receive 50 buses each, with 25 going to Richmond County Schools, 15 to Bibb County schools, 10 to the Carrollton City School District, and six to Glynn County schools.

In addition, the Marietta school system will receive 15 propane-fueled buses.

Port Wentworth swore in City Council members, according to WTOC.

On Jan. 2 the City of Port Wentworth swore in new council member Shawn Randerwala (District 4), as well as Mark Stephens (District 2) and Mayor Pro Tem Thomas Barbee.

Randerwala, sworn in for his first term, is the first ever elected official in Chatham County of Indian descent. Stephens is sworn in for his second term, and Barbee will serve his third term.

“I am honored to serve as the first Indian American elected official in Chatham County,” said Randerwala. “I have enjoyed my time on the city’s Planning and Zoning Committee as well as the development authority board, and I look forward to continuing to serve the Port Wentworth community.” Randerwala is a local business owner and has lived in Port Wentworth for over 14 years.

Duluth swore in a new Mayor and a new City Council member, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Mayor Greg Whitlock and Councilwoman Shenee Johnson Holloway were sworn in to their respective offices Monday night during the January City Council meeting at Duluth City Hall. Councilman Manfred Graeder was also sworn into another term on the City Council during the meeting.

Whitlock is no stranger to Duluth residents, having served on the City Council for the last 16 years. Meanwhile, Holloway, who has served on the City of Duluth Planning Commission and the City of Duluth Board of Ethics in the past, is filling the Post 5 seat that Whitlock had held on the council.

United States Representative Rich McCormick (R-Duluth) endorsed Steve Gasper for Gwinnett County Board of Education District 3, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick endorsed Steve Gasper in the school board District 3 race last week. Gasper is one of a handful of candidates who have announced plans to run for the seat, which will be open after longtime school board member Mary Kay Murphy announced her plans to retire when her term expires at the end of this year.

“It is with great honor and pride that I extend my endorsement to my friend, Steve Gasper, for his candidacy for the Gwinnett County School Board,” McCormick said in a statement sent out to Gasper supporters. “For many years, I have proudly supported Mary Kay Murphy for her exceptional service and unwavering commitment to our great county. Her retirement marks the end of an era of distinguished leadership. However, it also opens the door to new opportunities and fresh perspectives.

School board seats in Gwinnett County are now nonpartisan races, a change that went into effect in 2022, so the winner will be decided in the nonpartisan elections that will be held in conjunction with the May 21 general primary election.

The other school board seats up for election this year include Districts 1 and 5, which are currently held by Karen Watkins and board Chairwoman Tarece Johnson-Morgan, respectively.

Ludowici Police Chief Robert Parker resigned, according to WTOC.

“Effective today I tendered my resignation to the City of Ludowici. At this time I feel that with my business, my position as County Commission Chairman, and a young family, that I can not devote the time and attention that’s needed to the position of Chief of Police. I came to this conclusion some months back and decided to leave after my retirement was vested at the end of last year. I will be staying on in a consulting role for a month to ease the transition to a new administration. I look forward to continuing to work with the Mayor and council and continuing to serve the citizens of Ludowici in my role as County Commission Chairman.”