Category: Georgia Politics


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 15, 2021

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

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.

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


L.Q.C. Lamar, born near Eatonton, Georgia, was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court on January 18, 1888.

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.

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

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

From GPB News:

“There is no doubt that this virus has impacted all of us beyond what we could ever have imagined,” Kemp said in Thursday’s hour-long address. “Too many families are now missing loved ones — a heartbreaking, devastating loss that I know many Georgians are still grieving today.”

“Yes, we still have challenges ahead: a virus to beat, an economy to rebuild and restore,” he said. “But my fellow Georgians, the state of the state is resilient, and we will endure.”

On a practical level, Kemp said lawmakers need to move on and avoid trying to “assign blame, settle old scores and relive and relitigate 2020,” referring to months that saw many Republicans baselessly attack the state’s election integrity and falsely claim widespread voter fraud cost President Donald Trump’s reelection.

On the economy front, Georgia’s unemployment rate of 5.7% is below the national average, companies have continued to invest into more communities — especially in rural Georgia — and that there would be no budget cuts or tax increases for the next year.

In another surprising note, Kemp said that the state did not actually have to tap into its revenue shortfall reserve “rainy day” fund to cover the cost of state government.

From the Ledger-Enquirer:

The proposed changes to the 2021 state budget featured no new cuts to state agencies or widespread layoffs of state employees. School districts would receive more than $1 billion during the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years to offset previous spending cuts.

Rural Georgia residents and entrepreneurs would get a boost from targeted initiatives to support businesses and expand broadband internet access — a continued priority for Kemp.

Combating rising COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths remains a goal in 2021.

“We will win this fight against COVID-19. …In Georgia, our people are the foundation. Despite incredible loss and unprecedented challenges. Georgia is still standing,” Kemp said. “Our house, built on a sure foundation, survived the storm. This state, while battered, is not broken; a better brighter future is right around the corner.”

The governor credited the CARES Act, conservative state budgeting and the “measured reopening” of Georgia’s economy for staving off additional cuts and keeping the state’s rainy day fund strong. No new taxes would be required. Georgia, Kemp said, finds itself in a position that other states should “envy.”

“Our careful planning and measured approach was rewarded in spades,” Kemp said. “Other states are looking at further cuts to employees and essential services. For aid, they’re now forced to turn to a dysfunctional and distracted Washington D.C.”

Kemp also announced his intention to modify the state’s citizen’s arrest statute following the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in February 2020, saying Arbery was a “victim of a vigilante-style of violence that has no place in our state.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Savannah Morning News:

In a 65-minute State of the State address to a joint session of the state House and Senate, Kemp proposed expanding a tax credit the General Assembly passed last year for Georgia businesses that make personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks and gowns to manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.

“We cannot waste time in bidding wars with other states or foreign adversaries,” the governor said. “No one nation should hold a monopoly on life-saving medicines and medical supplies, and we should bring these critical industries and the jobs that come with them back to America and here to Georgia.”

Along with restoring more than $1.2 billion to Georgia’s public schools to offset massive spending cuts on education the legislature imposed last year, Kemp called for a one-time $1,000 supplement to help Georgia teachers and other school employees reopen schools safely.

“Many of the economic, medical, and other challenges that are facing rural Georgia cannot be fixed with a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach,” Kemp said. “These issues are best addressed through targeted, innovative, public-private solutions that meet the needs of specific communities not just today or tomorrow, but five, 10, or 25 years down the road.”

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

Kemp announced that he wants to use $240 million in federal coronavirus relief, mostly controlled by the state Board of Education, to pay a one-time supplement of $1,000 for every teacher and school employee. Kemp has promised to increase teacher pay by $5,000 during his first term, of which he’s already delivered $3,000.

Kemp has been on the defensive in recent days over the state’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts, with widespread frustration at a lack of availability after Kemp expanded eligibility to anyone 65 or older and a vaccination rate that federal figures rate as the second worst among states. And Democrats have vowed to make him pay on his overall approach to the pandemic, with Georgia recording the third-highest rate of confirmed infections over the last week.

The governor sought to make inroads on other issues that he’s frequently criticized on. He’s seeking money for a partial Medicaid expansion, which could help shield him from Democratic attacks seeking a fuller rollout of health insurance.

“I know that many in this room and those watching are worn out, tired and burdened. It’s a new year, but it all feels the same. There is no doubt that this new normal isn’t really normal and, frankly, it’s not clear when things will return to business as usual,” Kemp said. “But my fellow Georgians, we have the opportunity and responsibility to make strategic decisions now that will impact generations to come.”

Senate Bill 9 by Sen. Lee Anderson (R- ) and others would split the Augusta Judicial Circuit, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Columbia Judicial Circuit would come into existence as soon as July 1 under a bill filed Wednesday by two state senators.

Senate Bill 9, filed by area lawmakers at the request of Columbia County, would create the new single-county Superior Court system. It removes Columbia County from the three-county Augusta Judicial Circuit, which would be left with Richmond and Burke counties.

Filed by state Sens. Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown, and Max Burns, R-Sylvania, the bill creates the new position of Columbia Circuit district attorney, to be appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to serve through Dec. 31, 2022.

In the bill, the three judges who live in Columbia County – identified as James Blanchard, Sheryl Jolly and Wade Padgett – would become the new circuit’s judges, and the longest-serving one the chief judge.

Joe Biden nominated Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for Democratic National Committee Vice Chair for Civic Engagement and Voter Protection, according to 11Alive.

“I’m honored and humbled to be endorsed by @JoeBiden for Vice Chair of the @DNC,” Bottoms tweeted Thursday evening. “I’m ready to build on our party’s progress to make a better future for all Americans.”

“This group of individuals represent the very best of the Democratic Party,” President-elect Joe Biden said in the statement about the list of nominees. “Their stories and long histories of activism and work reflects our party’s values and the diversity that make us so strong. As our country faces multiple crises from systemic racism to the COVID-19 pandemic, working families in America need and deserve real leadership.”

“We need to elect Democrats across our country and up and down the ballot. To do that is going to take tireless leadership, committed to strengthening Democratic infrastructure across our states,” he added. “These leaders are battle-tested and ready for this immense task. I know they will get the job done.”

Initial unemployment claims are rising, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

First-time unemployment claims in Georgia increased by 5,581 last week to 37,039, reflecting a national trend, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

As a result, the state agency paid out more than $223 million to jobless Georgians last week, as benefit checks authorized by a second COVID-19 relief package Congress passed during the holidays continued uninterrupted.

However, the agency is continuing to work on implementing changes to the system required by the new stimulus package. That work has to be completed before those eligible for the 11 weeks of extended payments can receive all of their benefits.

“Our … teams are working around the clock to implement the new guidelines that include complex requirements and programming,” Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said.

Former State Senator John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) was named President of North Georgia Technical College, effective February 1, 2021, according to AccessWDUN.

The State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) approved Commissioner Greg Dozier’s appointment of Wilkinson on Thursday in Atlanta.

“Senator Wilkinson has spent his professional life advancing and advocating for CTAE [Career, Technical and Agricultural Education] here in Georgia,” said Dozier in a statement released by North Georgia Tech. “He is one of Georgia’s leading CTAE experts and we are excited for him to lead North Georgia Technical College as we serve the needs of business and industry in the region and across the state. I know he will continue the lasting legacy left by Dr. Mark Ivester by providing opportunity for every student that comes through the college’s doors.”

“I am truly honored to be chosen to lead North Georgia Technical College,” said Wilkinson. “Technical education is near and dear to my heart as I have seen how it transforms the lives of students. It is my goal to continue in the footsteps left by Dr. Mark Ivester by providing business and industry with a skilled workforce and by helping more students realize their full potential through postsecondary education.”

The Glynn County Board of Elections is looking at their space needs going forward, according to The Brunswick News.

“We’re trying to tee up a space argument not only for the main office and the staff, we’re tapped out … but what are we going to do for (the early voting location on) St. Simons,” said Patricia Featherstone, one of the Glynn County Republican Party’s appointees to the board.

County commission chairman Wayne Neal said the county government is peripherally aware of the need for more space in the board’s office. The county is currently planning an overhaul of Glynn County Juvenile Court facilities in the same building, he said, but the board will be part of that overhaul process and may benefit from reallocation of space.

An early voting location on St. Simons Island is also likely to be an issue in the future. High turnout during recent elections is already pushing the capacity of the voting polling place at Glynn County Fire Station No. 2. Early voting polls must, by law, be located in a government-owned building, which leaves few other options, said Assistant Elections and Registration Supervisor Christina Redden.

Clarke County public schools expect to receive $21 million in federal coronavirus relief funding, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Georgia is moving to accept $2 billion in additional federal coronavirus relief for K-12 schools.

That will include $1.7 billion that will be given to school districts based on their proportion of students from low-income families and $189 million that the state Board of Education will control and can be used on things like internet service for students.

Hall County Commissioners approved upgrades to the county government building, according to AccessWDUN.

Augusta Commissioner Dennis Williams announced he will run for Mayor, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Mayor Hardie Davis’ second consecutive term ends at the end of next year and Augusta’s Consolidation Act limits candidates from serving more than two in a row.

With the state moving nonpartisan elections to May, the election for mayor — and four city commission seats — is just 15th months away.

Augusta has a so-called weak mayor form of government. Final authority on most things, including the city budget, hiring and firing rests with the 10-member commission. The mayor serves as the face of the organization, makes certain appointments and can break a 5-5 commission tie.

Last week Davis suggested the city consider a panel and Augusta legislative delegation to examine changing the structure of the consolidated government, which was formed in 1996. Changes could include increasing the authority of the mayor or administrator or increasing commissioner salaries.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 14, 2021

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

The House and Senate Convene today for Legislative Day 4 of the 2021 Session.

Governor Brian Kemp delivered the State of the State Address this morning. You can watch it on GPB or Facebook.

From the AJC:

For the first time since taking office, however, Kemp didn’t propose a state-funded pay raise for educators when he released his budget proposal. However, the governor said the state would use federal CARES Act money to provide school systems with one-time, $1,000 per teacher and employee supplements that districts could use for bonuses.

The governor’s spending plan for the rest of fiscal 2021, which ends June 30, and fiscal 2022, would backfill more than 60% of what lawmakers cut from basic k-12 school funding in this year’s budget and tack on $573 million in funding next year.

Kemp’s $27.2 billion budget for the upcoming year includes a big increase in basic funding for the University System of Georgia as well, and it would borrow about $400 million for construction and upgrade projects on k-12 school, university and college campuses.

The plan also includes about $70 million to help struggling rural communities, including almost half for a grant program to help them get high-speed internet service this year and next.

Besides education, one of the big drivers of the budget increase next year is health care, with Medicaid — the program that covers the poor and disabled — slated for a $329 million increase. That’s in part because recipients who put off medical treatment and appointments during the pandemic are expected to see their doctors more in 2022.

Kemp’s proposal also includes $76 million for his program to increase health care availability for thousands of low-income Georgians.

Governor Kemp yesterday requested a Major Disaster Declaration for the Georgia Republican Party Tropical Storm Zeta damages, according to AccessWDUN.

The request was based on preliminary damage assessments totaling more than $22 million. The disaster declaration approved by President Donald Trump makes public assistance available for 21 counties in Georgia.

“The declaration will provide resources to help offset the costs of Tropical Storm Zeta,” said Chris Stallings, GEMA/HS Director. “It will be a great help to the communities recovering from this event.”

Public Assistance is available to state and local government entities and qualified not-for-profit organizations in Banks, Carroll, Cherokee, Dawson, Douglas, Fannin, Forsyth, Franklin, Gilmer, Habersham, Hall, Haralson, Heard, Lumpkin, Paulding, Pickens, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union and White Counties. It will provide financial aid for debris removal and repairs to roads, bridges and power infrastructure for up to 75 percent of the cost for the project.

Gwinnett County Public Schools will go all-online next week, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The switch is set to only last from Jan. 19 until Jan. 22. The district had begun the spring semester with both in-person and digital learning on Jan. 7, despite calls from three of its five school board members to do a digital-only start that would have lasted through this weekend.

“As students returned to in-person and digital instruction this semester, we acknowledged the need to monitor the impact the rising COVID numbers within our community might have on our schools,” Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said in a statement. “The reality is that our school system — like our community and the state — is feeling the results of the holidays and winter break.”

“We are experiencing higher numbers of cases, suspected cases, and close contacts among our in-person students and staff. The move to 100% digital learning for the coming week will allow us to effectively serve students while also doing what is best for our students and staff given the current situation.”

Hall County and Gainesville City schools are working to transition back to in-person learning, according to the Gainesville Times.

Hall County Schools will return to an in-person hybrid school schedule beginning Tuesday, Jan. 19, after the school system reported stabilizing COVID-19 numbers and “significantly” decreased student cases, said Superintendent WIll Schofield.

Students who have selected online learning only will continue with their online schooling. The school week will begin Tuesday, Jan. 19, as Monday, Jan. 18, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a school holiday.

The decision to return to an in-person hybrid model will be in effect through Jan. 22, and another update on the district’s plans for future school days, based on the latest COVID-19 data and spread in the community, will come on Jan. 21, the superintendent said.

In Gainesville, Superintendent Jeremy Williams announced a portion of his district’s students will also return to school on Tuesday.

The COVID-19 pandemic is being credited for a downturn in crime in Lowndes County, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The crime rate for the City of Valdosta fell by more than a fifth in 2020 and the police chief says the pandemic had a lot to do with it.

According to the Valdosta Police Department’s internal statistics, crime is down more than 20% for Part One crimes, including violent and property crimes, according to a statement from the city.

Property crimes are usually crimes of opportunity — for example, incidents where an individual sees valuables, such as a phone or purse, left inside cars.

In 2020, burglaries were down by more than 70 cases compared to 2019 numbers.

U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia) announced she will introduce articles of impeachment against Joe Biden once he takes office, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Greene announced on Twitter that on Jan. 21 she will introduce articles of impeachment to remove President-elect Joe Biden from office for “abuse of power.”

Biden is to be inaugurated on Jan. 20.

“I would like to announce on behalf of the American people we have to make sure that our leaders are held accountable,” Greene said during an appearance on Newsmax. “We cannot have a president of the United States that is willing to abuse the power of the office of the presidency and be easily bought off by foreign governments.”

Georgia’s two new United States Senators are likely to be sworn in around January 20th, according to the AJC.

Once the state certifies the results of the Jan. 6 election, Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock can take the oath of office in Washington.

That should happen around the same time as the Jan. 20 inauguration.

Their election pushed the number of Democrats in the Senate to 50; with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris having a tie-breaking votes that pushed the party in the majority. Once Warnock and Ossoff are sworn in, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer will become the majority leader.

The Senate’s first order of business is likely to be the impeachment trial where Trump faces a charge of “incitement of insurrection” tied to the violent and deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The House voted to impeach Trump on Wednesday.

President Trump signed legislation upgrading the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site to the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park, according to the AJC.

Columbia County Democrats gained ground during the runoff elections, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Democrats showed strength in Columbia County in last week’s U.S. Senate runoffs, with support up 40% since the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

Statewide Senate winners Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff carried six of Columbia County’s 49 precincts, all located around the Grovetown area. The increase parallels massive growth at Fort Gordon, of which rapidly-growing Grovetown is the nearest residential area.

The Democratic vote share in Columbia County has grown since 18,887 voters or 29.4% cast ballots for Hillary Clinton in 2016. It was true in the November general election, when 26,236 or 36.3% voted for president-elect Joe Biden and remained so last week.

While turnout dropped from 75% in the general to 66% in the runoffs, Democrats had a slightly higher percentage of votes – 36.7% (26,497 votes) for Ossoff and 36.8% (26,545) for Warnock – in the runoffs.

Denise Mitchell was named Deputy Tax Commissioner for Gwinnett County, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 13, 2021

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 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.

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.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A Forsyth County billboard calls Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “Treasonist RINOs,” according to CBS46.

A big, bright billboard refers to Kemp and Raffensperger as traitors and treasonist RINOs who should be locked up.

CBS46 contacted the billboard company, Revelation, to find out who’s behind the message, but they never responded.

CBS46 reached out to the Governor and Secretary of State. The Secretary of State’s office told me they have no comment. The governor’s office also declined comment.

We also spoke with Patrick Bell, Chairman of the Republican Party in Forsyth County, and he does not know who took out the ad. He did say the party is frustrated with the Governor and Secretary of State, but that they do not agree with the message on the billboard.

Today is Legislative Day Three in the 2021 Georgia General Assembly. The current adjournment resolution is HR 10, and has the legislature in session tomorrow for Day Four and reconvening Monday, January 26th for Day Five.

State Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton) will self-quarantine after a COVID-19 diagnosis, according to the AJC.

The session opened Monday. On Tuesday, Senate Republican Leader Mike Dugan said he tested positive for COVID-19 and was isolating at home.

Meanwhile, House Speaker David Ralston said nearly half of his chamber did not take the coronavirus test as required on Monday.

Ralston chastised a whopping 41% of his 180 members for skipping the test as the chamber convened Tuesday. All Georgia General Assembly members are required to be tested twice a week, and Monday was the first required test.

Dugan’s results came early Tuesday after taking the required COVID-19 test. He said he was also tested Thursday, and those results were negative.

“My symptoms are minor and I plan to follow the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and isolate at home until the virus passes,” he said in a statement on Twitter.

He said he was tested Monday before experiencing any symptoms.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R-Forsyth County) announced Senate Committee Chairs, according to a Press Release.

Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan and the Senate Committee on Assignments announced new standing committee chairs for the first session of the 156th Georgia General Assembly.

“These committee chairs are uniquely qualified to develop real and lasting solutions aimed at building a better Georgia,” said Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan. “The Senate will continue to prioritize diligent committee work and sound public policy, and I look forward to working closely with each one of our chairs, and their committee members, as we work to enact policies that advance both the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians.”

The following members were named to chair standing committees:
Sen. Larry Walker (R – 20) will serve as chair of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.
Sen. Blake Tillery (R – 19) will serve as chair of the Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Matt Brass (R – 28) will serve as chair of the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee.
Sen. Bruce Thompson (R – 14) will serve as chair of the Economic Development and Tourism Committee.
Sen. Chuck Payne (R – 54) will serve as chair of the Education and Youth Committee.
Sen. Max Burns (R – 23) will serve as chair of the Ethics Committee.
Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R – 52) will serve as chair of the Finance Committee.
Sen. Marty Harbin (R – 16) will serve as chair of the Government Oversight Committee.
Sen. Ben Watson (R – 1) will serve as chair of the Health and Human Services Committee.
Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R – 37) will serve as chair of the Higher Education Committee.
Sen. Dean Burke (R – 11) will serve as chair of the Insurance and Labor Committee.
Sen. Donzella James (D – 35) will serve as chair of the Interstate Cooperation Committee.
Sen. Brian Strickland (R – 17) will serve as chair of the Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Tyler Harper (R – 7) will serve as chair of the Natural Resources and the Environment Committee.
Sen. John Albers (R – 56) will serve as chair of the Public Safety Committee.
Sen. John F. Kennedy (R – 18) will serve as chair of the Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee.
Sen. Bill Cowsert (R – 46) will serve as chair of the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.
Sen. Randy Robertson (R – 29) will serve as chair of the Retirement Committee.
Sen. Jeff Mullis (R – 53) will serve as chair of the Rules Committee.
Sen. Greg Dolezal (R – 27) will serve as chair of the Science and Technology Committee.
Sen. Jennifer Jordan (D – 6) will serve as chair of the Special Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Lee Anderson (R – 24) will serve as chair of the State and Local Governmental Operations Committee.
Sen. Ed Harbison (D – 15) will serve as chair of the State Institutions and Property Committee.
Sen. Frank Ginn (R – 47) will serve as chair of the Transportation Committee.
Sen. Lester Jackson (D – 2) will serve as chair of the Urban Affairs Committee.
Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R – 32) will serve as chair of the Veterans, Military, and Homeland Security Committee.

Notably absent from the list of Committee Chairs are Senators Brandon Beach and Burt Jones.

From the Rome News Tribune:

While senators typically keep their committee assignments unless they request a change — Hufstetler sought and was given a seat on the Rules Committee this year — there were a few shake-ups.

Two of the members who launched the most vocal attacks on Georgia’s election security this winter lost their chairs.

Sens. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, and Burt Jones, R-Jackson, were among the four who clamored for a special session to investigate President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud. Sens. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, and Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, also continued the push after being rebuffed by Gov. Brian Kemp and Duncan.

The senators held special committee hearings in early December that featured Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani presenting testimony that had been rejected — or omitted from lawsuits he filed — in courts around the country.

Sen. Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge, was named chair of the Labor Committee. He previously served as vice chair of the Health and Human Services Committee.

Sen. Frank Ginn, R-Danielsville, is the new chair of the Transportation Committee. He had chaired the Economic Development and Tourism Committee.

That seat went to Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, who had chaired the Veterans Committee last session. Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta, got that assignment going forward.

Kirkpatrick’s Ethics Committee gavel went to Sen. Max Burns, R-Sylvania., This is Burns’ first year in the State Senate but he is a former U.S. Representative who served in Congress from 2003 to 2005.

From the Gainesville Times:

The House Committee on Assignments should complete its work this week and announce committee assignments toward the end of the week, House spokeswoman Betsy Theroux said Monday, Jan. 11.

From the AJC:

When the bloodletting was over, state Sens. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta, Matt Brass of Newnan and Burt Jones of Jackson were sapped of their political influence on the second day of the winter session.

Duncan stripped Beach of his chairmanship of the Transportation Committee, while Jones will no longer lead the Insurance and Labor Committee. Neither will serve as even a rank-and-file member on the two panels they once led.

And though state Sen. Matt Brass of Newnan will still be a committee chairman this term, he was shelved to a lesser posting. Instead of serving as chairman of the committee that is set to redraw the political map later this year, he’ll oversee a banking committee.

And state Sen. Greg Dolezal of Cumming will oversee the Science and Technology Committee — the same lower-profile panel that Renee Unterman was shunted to in 2019.

Some insiders call it a “smack down,” others say they got the “McKoon treatment” in honor of former state Sen. Josh McKoon, who lost his Judiciary Committee post after peeving the powers-that-be.

But there’s also a benefit for the outcasts. They are no longer tethered to party leadership and are freer to buck Duncan and other top GOP figures.

Traffic fatalities in Georgia were up significantly for 2020, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Preliminary numbers for 2020 show 1,615 traffic fatalities across the state, which is the highest total since 1,641 fatalities in 2007. Roger Hayes, service director of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Law Enforcement Service Director, expects the number for 2020 to continue to increase as the agency confirms more fatalities.

He said a variety of factors have contributed to the increase.

“Some of those reasons are less law enforcement officers on the road. Many agencies told their officers straight out, ‘do not make traffic stops’,” Hayes said. “I’ve had many agencies, many officers send me pictures, screenshots of a radar or a lidar throughout the year that the offender was driving over 100 miles an hour.”

University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley will retire July 1, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Columbia County Public Schools have a short list of three candidates for the next superintendent, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Glynn County Commissioners released a tentative project list for a proposed 2021 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County and Brunswick commissioners are mostly in agreement on putting the tax on a referendum in March.

The tax would raise an estimated $68.5 million over a three-year period with Glynn County, the city, Jekyll Island Authority and Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission benefitting from the proceeds. Under the proposed split, the county would get $37.5 million; the city, $13.23 million; JWSC, $15 million; and the JIA, $2.75 million.

Glynn County Commission Chairman Wayne Neal said the county will have to drop some projects to get within its budget.

The Glynn County Board of Education approved some spending and will issue bonds under the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST) passed by voters in November, according to The Brunswick News.

Local voters approved Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) IV in November, and the 1 percent sale tax is now being collected. The school board approved the ESPLOST resolution as a potential first step for collecting bonds.

“All that does is allow me to go to the board of elections to let them know that we may go to the Superior Court for a bond validation,” said school board attorney Andrew Lakin. “I have six months from the time that the election was certified in November, which would put me to the end of April to file in Superior Court if you direct me to go out for bonds in the marketplace.”

Scott Spence, superintendent of Glynn County Schools, said he does not intend to go out for bonds, but this resolution is a precautionary measure in case that step is needed.

The school board also unanimously approved using around $179,000 to buy carts for the 6,891 new Chromebooks that were purchased after a board vote in December to make technology more accessible to local students.

Braselton Town Council voted to create a downtown open container district, according to AccessWDUN.

The Braselton Town Council approved the amendment to the Braselton Alcoholic Beverage Ordinance at Monday evening’s voting session. This amendment creates an open container district in downtown Braselton.

In a Thursday afternoon Town Council Work Session, Braselton Town Manager and Clerk Jennifer Scott said businesses participating in the open container district would need to sell clear cups that meet the town’s requirements.

“The purpose of the cup is really two-fold, you know, one, it’s obviously to easily identify if someone brought something from home … but it also educates the public that if they see that cup … they know it’s ok,” said Town Attorney Gregory Jay.

While citizens would be able to drink alcohol outside in the downtown district from approved cups, businesses can still prohibit people from bringing food or drink into their business, according to Jay.

On top of this, each establishment in the district that wants to participate in the open container district would need at least one staff member that has participated in the ServSafe alcohol training program.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 12, 2021

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.

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.

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Welcome to the 2022 Election Cycle. Stacey Abrams has been on television last week and this week. What is the GAGOP doing to prevent a repeat of the Runoff Election Fiasco of 2021?

Governor Brian Kemp swore in Shawn Ellen LaGrua as a Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, according to the Albany Herald.

Shawn Ellen LaGrua was officially sworn in to serve as justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, beginning Jan. 19. Gov. Brian Kemp appointed the Fulton County Superior Court judge to the state’s highest court on Dec. 1, 2020 to the seat vacated by Justice Keith R. Blackwell, who retired in November.

The governor swore her in at his office in the state Capitol. Chief Justice Harold D. Melton was among those in attendance.

LaGrua has served on the Fulton County Superior Court since 2010. Prior to becoming a judge, she was inspector general for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. She also served as solicitor general for DeKalb County and was a prosecutor in the Atlanta, Stone Mountain, and Tallapoosa judicial circuits. In May 2020, Chief Justice Melton appointed LaGrua to chair the Judicial COVID-19 Task Force, which was created to assist courts in conducting remote proceedings and prepare for the eventual restoration of in-person proceedings.

I believe that will open a seat on the Fulton County Superior Court for Gov. Kemp to fill by appointment. Perhaps he’ll appoint someone to the seat who is already serving in office and gain another appointment.

Governor Kemp also yesterday signed Executive Order, renewing the state of emergency relating to unlawful assemblage through February 8, 2021.

Gov. Kemp said he plans to run for reelection next year, according to the AJC.

Kemp said he was planning to run for a second term in 2022, a formal announcement that would likely come later this year. He said he was confident he would defeat a GOP primary challenger, but pointed to the Democratic upset victories in the runoffs as an example of the dangers of dividing the party.

He talked in detail about the strategy behind his selection of Loeffler, a wealthy financial executive, to the open seat – and how a formidable challenge from fellow Republican Doug Collins, a former four-term congressman backed by Trump, scrambled the campaign calculations by forcing Loeffler further to the party’s right flank.

He talked in detail about the strategy behind his selection of Loeffler, a wealthy financial executive, to the open seat – and how a formidable challenge from fellow Republican Doug Collins, a former four-term congressman backed by Trump, scrambled the campaign calculations by forcing Loeffler further to the party’s right flank.

“I plan on running in 2022. I’m not worried about any kind of primary fight. We’ll be victorious. I personally think it’s unnecessary. … I hope at the end of the day people come our way, but if they don’t, we’ll get them back after a potential primary.

“I think when people really start thinking about this and realize what’s at stake here, we’ve seen what a divisive primary does to our chances of winning. You see what we’ve got now in the Senate with (Raphael) Warnock and (Jon) Ossoff. And if you’re a Republican you’re not happy about that …

“Look, that’s not something I can control. What I can control is making sure we have a good session and continuing to do what we tell people we’re going to do. And if we get a primary we’ve got to deal with, we’ll deal with it.”

From the Statesboro Herald:

In a state long dominated by Republicans, Democrats won Georgia’s electoral votes for president in November and two U.S. Senate seats in runoff elections Tuesday, defeating Kemp’s hand-picked Senate appointee. President Donald Trump, furious at Kemp for resisting efforts to overturn Trump’s election loss, vowed to oppose the governor’s reelection next year.

“Gov. Kemp, you’re next. See you in 2022,” the Democratic Governors Association tweeted Wednesday as the upset victories of Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the Georgia Senate races came to light.

“Brian Kemp is the governor of the Titanic,” said Debbie Dooley, president of the Atlanta tea party and a Republican activist. “His governorship hit a big iceberg and it’s going down.”

Dooley said she and other Trump supporters are recruiting candidates to challenge Kemp and other Republican officials deemed disloyal to Trump. Among them: Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who repeatedly refused to back baseless claims that Trump won the election, and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who rejected the president’s pleas to “find” more Trump votes in a recorded phone call that became public.

While Trump and others have named Collins as a potential GOP challenger for Kemp, the former congressman could also run for the Senate seat that Loeffler lost. Warnock will be back on the ballot in 2022 after finishing the final year of Isakson’s term.

Among Democrats, Abrams is being closely watched to see if she will make a second run for governor after losing to Kemp by fewer than 55,000 votes in 2018. She spent the past two years working to register new voters and advocating for expanded access to the ballot in a state that Republicans have controlled for roughly two decades. Abrams has been credited with paving the way for the Democrats’ victories in November and on Tuesday.

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Warren Davis will allow the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission to subpoena records related to the 2018 Gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Stacey Abrams, according to the AJC.

A superior court judge ruled a voting registration group founded by Stacey Abrams should turn over bank records to state ethics investigators who say it advocated for her election as governor in 2018 without registering as a campaign committee or filing disclosures showing how much it raised or spent.

The New Georgia Project is no longer Abrams’ organization, but it is one of several targeted by David Emadi, executive secretary of the state ethics commission, who is looking into whether groups were part of an effort to help the Democratic nominee win the governor’s race in 2018.

Under Georgia law, organizations that collect and spend money to promote candidates and issues are required to register committees with the state and file regular reports disclosing what they raised and spent. They are also not allowed to coordinate their efforts with a candidate.

The ethics commission alleges the New Georgia Project and the New Georgia Project Action Fund solicited contributions and made expenditures to promote several candidates and causes in 2018, including Abrams.

“These expenditures included, but were not limited to, canvassing activities, literature expressly advocating for the election of candidates, and operating field offices where these electioneering activities were coordinated,” according to evidence cited in Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Warren Davis’ order.

Emadi revealed that investigators intend to present evidence the Abrams campaign accepted donations from four groups that exceeded maximum contribution limits for a statewide campaign. Abrams’ attorney has denied the claim, and her campaign manager said the commission has failed to prove any wrongdoing.

The Georgia General Assembly gaveled in for the 2021 Session yesterday. From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:

Eleven new senators and 20 new House members took the oath of office, as the two chambers – still controlled by Republicans following the November elections – elected their leaders for the next two years.

The House overwhelmingly re-elected Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, to head that chamber for the next two years. In his acceptance speech, he condemned last week’s violet assault on the U.S. Capitol building by supporters of President Trump that killed five people, including a Capitol police officer.

“Last week was a dark day in the history of our nation … to see American citizens storming our revered Capitol,” Ralston said. “There is no possible justification for this loss of life, bloodshed and damage. America is better than this.”

Proposals to change Georgia election laws, including tighter voter ID requirements and limits on who can cast mail-in ballots, look to feature prominently in this year’s session after President-elect Biden became the first Democrat to carry Georgia since 1992 and Democrats flipped the state’s two Republican-held U.S. Senate seats last week.

“Our elections must be free, fair, free from fraud, secure and accessible,” Ralston said. “We must always tell our citizens the truth.”

Meanwhile, House members re-elected Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton, speaker pro tempore, the chamber’s No.-2 leadership position. Like Ralston, she has served in House leadership since 2010.

Governor Kemp discussed his legislative priorities with the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp strongly endorsed adding photo ID requirements for absentee ballots on Monday at the start of a legislative session that’s sure to be shaped by a debate over voting laws after epic turnout helped Democrats flip Georgia in the race for president and sweep the Senate runoffs.

In an interview, the Republican said he is “reserving judgment” on a series of proposals that seek to end at-will absentee voting, ban ballot drop boxes and restrict state officials or outside groups from sending out absentee ballot applications.

“It’s a simple way to make sure that type of voting is further secured, and it’s a good first place to start,” Kemp said, adding: “It’s completely reasonable in this day and time, and in light of what’s going on, it would give all voters peace of mind and wouldn’t be restrictive.”

The governor also hinted he could back a push to repeal or adapt the state’s citizen’s arrest law, a more than 150-year-old statute that has come under intense scrutiny after the 2020 death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was shot and killed near Brunswick after three white men followed him.

Kemp said he has the same stance on a renewed push to allow sports betting and other gambling that he struck after taking office: He opposes legalized casino gambling but wouldn’t stand in the way of a constitutional amendment that would let voters decide whether to allow casinos in Georgia.

And he said lawmakers stand ready to quickly pass an amended budget to keep the state government funded in case an outbreak of the coronavirus forces the General Assembly to quickly adjourn — an ever-present risk hanging over the start of the session.

“We’ve got to focus on our priorities. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic,” he said. “My focus is going to be on lives and livelihoods. Now we cannot get distracted from that.”

U.S. Representative Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Gwinnett) signed on as a co-sponsor of Articles of Impeachment against President Trump, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

U.S. Rep. David Cicilline introduced the articles, which includes the charge of “Incitement of Insurrection,” on Monday. If the House votes to pass the Articles of Impeachment, it will make Trump the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.

“The outgoing President of the United States has incited an insurrection and attempted to overthrow the results of a free and fair election,” Bourdeaux said. “If these actions do not qualify as impeachable offenses in the eyes of my colleagues, then I don’t know what would.”

“At such a fragile moment for our country, where the very foundation of our democracy is at stake, political party must come second to doing what is right. I am cosponsoring articles of impeachment to uphold the Oath of Office I took eight days ago to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I urge my colleagues to join me.”

Click here to read the current Articles of Impeachment the House is expected to vote on Wednesday.

Click here for a transcript of President Trump’s speech that is the subject of the Articles of Impeachment.

Click here for the New York Times discussion of why they think Trump incited violence.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Mariah Parker is considering a run against Republican Congressman Jody Hice, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

“I have been considering it for a while,” she said, citing issues like extension of rural broadband and a need for the Democrats “to reclaim our party as the party of family values.”

“I’m excited about what we are able to accomplish at the local level, but the resources at the federal level are the kind of things I can make the necessary policies a reality,” Parker said.

Another motivation for a possible run in 2022, she said, is “Congressman Hice’s behavior over the last several months.”

While the district is heavily Republican, Parker said a candidacy would require expanding the electoral base by reaching out to people and communities that don’t currently vote.

Braselton Mayor Bill Orr announced he will not seek reelection this year, according to AccessWDUN.

Former State Rep. Alex Atwood (R-Glynn County), now serving as Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Administrative Services, spoke to local Republicans, according to The Brunswick News.

His department is in charge of the back end of state government — human resources, vehicle and equipment management, statewide purchases and contracts, selling off surplus equipment, etc.

When the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated working from home, Atwood said administrative services helped other departments by going through the equipment surplus channels to refurbish hundreds of laptops and provide them to other departments so their employees could work from home.

With everyone working from home, the department started focusing on taking its small business development programs online, as well.

Going virtual turned out to be a great move, he said, because it opened up many seminars, courses and resources to small businesses that may not have had much access before. Putting educational material on getting government contracts online increased the number of businesses, particularly small Georgia businesses, bidding on state contracts.

Richmond County Superior Court is slowly working through a backlog of cases caused by COVID-19 measures, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

With jury trials suspended once again in Georgia, closing criminal cases in Richmond County Superior Court has returned to slow motion.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, said Superior Court Judge and former district attorney Daniel J. Craig. With a brand new district attorney on the job, Jared Williams, it will give his office time to work out the most efficient use of time once jury trials resume, Craig said.

At the end of 2020 in Richmond County Superior Court, a total of 2,052 individual felony cases were awaiting trial, according to an analysis by The Augusta Chronicle. Nearly half of those cases have been pending a year or more.

Chatham County Republicans need to appoint a new member to the county board of elections, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“They have to be chosen from inside the party,” [County GOP Chair Don] Hodges said. “We’re accepting resumes from people who have been active in the party to consider candidates. We’ll go through a process to qualify them and then we’ll make the determination who will take the remainder of Debbie’s term.”

Rome City Commissioners elected a Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem from amongst their members, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Craig McDaniel was chosen by his fellow city commissioners Monday night to serve as mayor of Rome for the coming year.

McDaniel’s name was placed into nomination by Commissioner Jamie Doss while Commissioner Sundai Stevenson nominated Commissioner Bill Collins, who held the position in 2019 and 2020.

The vote for McDaniel was 5-4 with Doss, McDaniel and Commissioners Jim Bojo, Mark Cochran and Randy Quick in support.

Stevenson was elected mayor pro-tem. Bojo was nominated for the post by Cochran, but that motion did not get a second.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 11, 2021

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

Georgia passed the dubious milestone of 10,000 new COVID-19 cases in a day, according to the Statesboro Herald.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 6, 2020

Georgia and American History

The first modern circus was held in London on January 9, 1768. The next one kicks off on Monday in the big building downtown with a gold dome.

Thomas Paine published a pamphlet titled, “Common Sense” on January 9, 1776. The pamphlet is considered to have united colonists to the cause of American independence.

Lyman Hall, one of three Georgians who signed the Declaration of Independence, was elected Governor on January 8, 1783.

Samuel Elbert was elected Governor of Georgia for a one-year term on January 6, 1785. Elbert was an early participant in Patriot meetings at Tondee’s Tavern, a Lt. Colonel in the first group of troops raised in Georgia, and a prisoner of war, exchanged for a British General, and eventually promoted to Brigadier General reporting to Gen. George Washington. As Governor, Elbert oversaw the charter of the University of Georgia and afterward, he served briefly as Sheriff of Chatham County.

Georgia voted for George Washington for President on January 7, 1789. Technically, they elected Presidential Electors who would later meet in Augusta and cast their ballots for Washington.

On January 7, 1795, Georgia Governor George Matthews signed the Yazoo Act, passed after four land companies bribed members of the General Assembly to vote for legislation selling more than 35 million acres of land for less than 2 cents per acre.

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.

Herman Talmadge was sworn-in to his second term as Governor of Georgia on January 9, 1951.

Segregated seating on Atlanta buses was held unconstitutional by a federal court on January 9, 1959.

On January 6, 1961, United States District Court Judge William Bootle ordered the University of Georgia to enroll Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter, ending the segregation of UGA.

Holmes and Hunter arrived in Athens to register at the University of Georgia on January 9, 1961.

On January 6, 1988, the United States Postal Service released a stamp commemorating the bicentennial of Georgia’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788.

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.

Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich (R) was re-elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on January 7, 1997. In the election for a second term, nine Republicans voted against the incumbent Speaker.

Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, debuted the iPhone on January 9, 2007.

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

On January 8, 2014, Atlanta Braves pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were announced as incoming members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Columbus, Georgia native Frank Thomas, a long-time Chicago White Sox outfielder.

Six 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.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Election for January 5, 2021

Georgia and American History

On January 5, 1734, the Trustees of Georgia ordered the return of 42 Jewish settlers who had come in 1733, primarily from Portugal, without the knowledge or approval of the Trustees. The Brits who sponsored the Jewish settlers refused and Georgia is home to one of the oldest Jewish settlements in the United States.

On January 5, 1781, traitor Benedict Arnold and 1600 British troops captured Richmond, Virginia.

On January 5, 1978, the British band the Sex Pistols started their American tour at the Great Southeast Music Hall in Atlanta, GA.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Donald Trump rallied the faithful in Dalton last night, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 4, 2021

On January 1, 1751, the law prohibiting slavery in Georgia was repealed after an act passed by the Georgia Trustees the previous year.

On January 2, 1766, some Sons of Liberty marched on the Royal Governor’s Mansion in Savannah to “discuss” the Stamp Act, which required the use of stamped paper for all printing as a means of taxing the colonies. They were met by a pistol-toting Governor Wright.

On January 3, 1766, after passage of the “stamp act,” the Royal Stamp Master arrived at Tybee Island and was taken to the Governor’s Mansion. On that day, Georgia became the first and only colony in which the stamp tax was actually collected.

Georgia became the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution on January 2, 1788.

Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts became the first United States Senator to be censured by the body on January 2, 1811.

Delaware, technically at the time a slave state, rejected a proposal to secede from the United States on January 3, 1861.

The Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln went into effect in eleven Southern states on January 1, 1863, though parts of Virginia and Louisiana were exempt.

Utah was admitted as the 45th state on January 4, 1896.

On January 4, 1965, shortly after the assassination of President Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson delivered the State of the Union and outlined his plan for a “Great Society.”

“He requested ‘doubling the war against poverty this year’ and called for new emphasis on area redevelopment, further efforts at retraining unskilled workers, an improvement in the unemployment compensation system and an extension of the minimum wage floor to two million workers now unprotected by it. … He called for new, improved or bigger programs in attacking physical and mental disease, urban blight, water and air pollution, and crime and delinquency.”

The Great Society legislation included “War on Poverty” programs, many created under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which established jobs and youth volunteer programs as well as Head Start, which provided pre-school education for poor children. Johnson’s social welfare legislation also consisted of the formation of Medicare and Medicaid, which offered health care services for citizens over 65 and low-income citizens, respectively. In addition, the Great Society included the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Voting Rights Act of 1968.

On January 3, 1973, Andrew Young was sworn in as the first African-American Congressman from Georgia since 1871.

The sarcophagus containing the mummy of King Tatankhamen was discovered on January 3, 1925.

On January 4, 1974, President Richard M. Nixon refused to turn over tapes recorded in the Oval Office to the Senate Watergate Committee.

On January 3, 1990, Panamanian General Manuel Antonio Noriega surrendered to American forces in Panama.

Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich was elected Speaker of the House on January 4, 1995, the third Georgian to wield the gavel. This marked the first time in more than forty years that Republicans controlled the House of Representatives.

On January 4, 1999, in DeKalb County, State Court Judge Al Wong became the first Asian-American judge in Georgia and the Southeast.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Donald Trump will rally the faithful today in Dalton, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Democrats’ campaigns announced Wednesday that Biden would campaign Monday in Atlanta with Ossoff and Warnock. Trump already had announced plans to rally Monday evening, just hours before polls open, with the Republican senators in the north Georgia town of Dalton. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, meanwhile, will come to Savannah on Sunday.

Rather than dropping dramatically, early voting for the runoff is only about 20% lower than the early turnout at the same point before the general election, though missed days over Christmas make a direct comparison difficult. Experts who track early voting data say the high turnout, particularly among African American voters, and the continued engagement of younger voters is a good sign for the Democrats.

“These are the numbers that the Democrats need in order to be able to win the election,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who tracks vote counts for the U.S. Elections Project. “It doesn’t mean that they are going to win. It’s just the numbers they would want to see if they are going to win.”

While early voting trends so far seem to favor Democrats, Republicans typically have higher Election Day turnout and they could also make gains in the final days of early in-person or absentee voting, McDonald said. There are also wildcard factors like the weather — though the current Election Day forecast is mild and dry across the state.

Vice President Mike Pence will campaign in Milner today.

Mike Pence Georgia Rally 01042021

Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue will campaign at a Columbus fly-in today, according to an email from the Muscogee County Republican Party.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 30, 2020

James Edward Oglethorpe was born in London, England, on December 22, 1696. He was elected to Parliament, where he worked on prison reform and had the idea of a new colony where “worthy poor” Brits could be sent. In 1732, Oglethorpe was granted a charter to create a colony of Georgia in the new world.

On December 22, 1775, the Continental Congress created the Continental Navy.

On December 25, 1776, Continental forces under General George Washington began crossing the Delaware River and the next day launched a suprise attack on Hessian soldiers at Trenton, New Jersey.


On December 23, 1783, George Washington resigned as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and retired to his home at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony premiered on December 22, 1808 in Vienna, Austria.

The War of 1812 ended on December 24, 1814 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, Belgium by British and American representatives.

A belated Happy Birthday to Columbus, Georgia, founded on December 24, 1827 when Gov. John Forsyth signed legislation incorporating the new town.

Governor George Gilmer signed legislation that prohibited teaching slaves or free African-Americans to read or write on December 22, 1829.

Governor George Gilmer signed legislation appropriating $20,000 to build the Georgia State Insane Asylum in Milledgeville on December 23, 1837.

Georgia Governor George Towns signed a constitutional amendment that removed the requirement that governors own at least 500 acres real estate and other property valued at least $4000 on December 30, 1847. At the time, an amendment to the state constitution had to be passed twice by the General Assembly in subsequent sessions, but did not require voter approval.

Martha Bulloch and Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. were married at Bulloch Hall in Roswell, Georgia on December 22, 1853. Their son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. would later be elected President of the United States.

The Gadsden Purchase, establishing the southern border of the United States with Mexico, was signed on December 30, 1853.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia on December 28, 1856 and moved to Augusta, Georgia with his family a few years later. Wilson would later practice law in Atlanta, marry Ellen Axson of Rome, Georgia, and serve as President of the United States from 1913 to 1921. Recently, Princeton University removed Wilson’s name from campus.

The USS Monitor, the first federal ironclad steamship, sank on December 30, 1862 off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

On December 25, 1868, President Andrew Johnson issued an unconditional pardon of all Confederates.

The Kimball Opera House in Atlanta, a former location of the State Capitol, caught fire on December 27, 1894 and was destroyed.

On December 29, 1896, Georgia Governor William Y. Atkinson signed legislation creating the state Schoolbook Commission.

The American Political Science Association was formed on December 30, 1903, and has been misunderstood ever since.

President Calvin Coolidge lit the first National Christmas Tree on the White House grounds on December 24, 1923.

On December 26, 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt watched a private viewing of Gone With the Wind at the White House.

U.S.S. Atlanta was commissioned on December 24, 1941 at the New York Navy Yard as the lead ship of a new class of Light Cruisers. USS Atlanta (CL-51) was sponsored by Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind.


Eugene Talmadge, who was elected four times as Governor of Georgia, in 1932, 1934, 1940, and 1946, died on December 21, 1946, leading to the Three Governors Controversy.

The first live recording of Led Zeppelin was made at Gonzaga University on December 30, 1968.

Lockheed received the contract to produce 50 C-5B cargo aircraft for the federal government on December 30, 1982.

The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site was created in Plains, Georgia on December 23, 1987.

Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as President of the USSR on December 25, 1991, signalling the end of the Godless Communist regime.

The NAACP Effingham branch will commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation on Friday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

President Abraham Lincoln issued an executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation, which said that as of Jan. 1, 1863, “all slaves in the rebellious states shall be henceforth and forever free.”

It was not until the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified by three-fourths of the states on Dec. 18, 1865, that the abolition of slavery actually took place.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is the last day of in-person early voting for Fulton County, according to the AJC.

Early voting locations in Fulton will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and will not reopen. On election day next Tuesday, voters must go to their assigned precincts to cast a ballot.

Voters have until Thursday in DeKalb and Cobb Counties.

President Donald Trump will lead a rally in Dalton on Monday, January 4, 2021, according to the Rome News Tribune.

President Donald Trump’s appearance in Dalton next Monday will mark the first time a sitting president will have visited Dalton since President George H.W. Bush toured a Shaw Industries facility and held a rally at the airport while campaigning for reelection in August 1992.

Trump carried Whitfield County in November with 69.7% of the vote even while losing the state with 49.25% of the vote to Democrat Joe Biden’s 49.51% of the vote.

Trump is hosting a rally for Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who faces Democrat Jon Ossoff in next Tuesday’s general election runoff, and Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who faces Democrat the Rev. Raphael Warnock in another runoff. The event, set for the Dalton Municipal Airport at 7 p.m., is open to the public.

Other speakers expected are Loeffler, Perdue, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald Jr., a Republican member of the state’s Public Service Commission who is also involved in a runoff, and other Republicans.

“Northwest Georgia and Whitfield County is a strong Republican area,” [Republican State Rep. Kasey] Carpenter said. “But we need to make sure that all those voters come out to vote in the runoff. We want to have a huge turnout to balance out areas where Republicans aren’t as strong.”

While this will be Trump’s first visit to Dalton as president, he is no stranger to the city. He was married to actress, model and Cohutta native Marla Maples from 1993 to 1999, and during their courtship and marriage he reportedly visited Dalton and Whitfield County several times.

Perhaps the most well-known time that Trump came to Whitfield County was in October 1991, when he accompanied Maples when she returned to Northwest Whitfield High School to crown that year’s Homecoming queen.

Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will campaign in Georgia as well, according to the AJC.

Biden is set to campaign in Atlanta on Monday – the day before the Jan. 5 runoffs – for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. That’s the same day that President Donald Trump plans to hold a final rally for Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Dalton.

And Harris will travel to Savannah on Sunday for a campaign stop with the two Democratic contenders, seeking to energize supporters in a coastal area where early voting turnout has lagged.

Voter turnout is lagging in Hall County early voting, according to the Gainesville Times.

Paige Thompson, Hall County elections coordinator, said that 21,438 ballots had been cast at the four polling locations as of Wednesday, Dec. 23.

In comparison, some 25,092 ballots were cast between Oct. 12 and Oct. 20, the first seven days of early voting in the general election, Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said.

Paige Thompson, Hall County elections coordinator, also said that 20,742 absentee ballots had been issued as of Wednesday. The total number of ballots that have been returned and accepted is 11,784, she said.

A comparison of those numbers to ones during the same period in the general election weren’t available Wednesday.

From the AJC:

So far, more than 2.3 million people have voted [statewide], according to an analysis of data from the secretary of state’s office.

After a Christmas break, the number of early votes has resumed a pace close to the presidential election. In the November election about 5 million Georgians voted. Here’s how the early votes break down.

Most voters are voting in-person, but mail voting remains popular. About 797,000 people have cast mail ballots, which is 34% of the early vote. About 450,000 requested mail ballots have not been returned.

About 55% of early voters are white and 32% are Black, which is a slightly higher proportion of Black voters than the overall pool of all registered voters.

Females make up 55% of early voters compared to 44% for males.

Voters 65 and older make up 34% of all early votes, a number that has been steadily dropping as more votes have rolled in.

No fraudulent ballots were identified in an audit of 15,000 absentee ballots in Cobb County, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The audit by GBI law enforcement officers found Cobb County Elections Department had a 99.99% accuracy rate in performing signature verifications.

“Three strikes against the voter fraud claims and they’re out,” Raffensperger said in a statement.

“We conducted a statewide hand recount that reaffirmed the initial tally, and a machine recount at the request of the Trump campaign that also reaffirmed the original tally. This audit disproves the only credible allegations the Trump campaign had against the strength of Georgia’s signature match processes,” he added.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton ordered a suspension of jury trials due to rising COVID-19 statistics, according to the Gainesville Times.

Citing the “rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases,” Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton issued an order Wednesday, Dec. 23, prohibiting all jury trials, which is anticipated to continue until at least February.

Hall County court administrator Jason Stephenson said all January trials will be canceled, though the first two Superior Court trial weeks had already been canceled due to local hospitalizations and advice from District 2 Public Health.

Hall County Chief Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin signed a similar order Wednesday, saying the notice will be published online and in the courthouse.

Melton’s order also reminds courts that in-person proceedings “must be conducted in full compliance with public health guidance.” It is the ninth extension of the original order March 14, which has closed down courts for months, prolonged jury trials and caused backlogs for judges and attorneys.

The new extension runs until 11:59 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8.

United States District Court Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. dismissed the latest lawsuit attempting to overturn the 2020 Georgia General Election, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A federal judge on Monday morning dismissed Atlanta lawyer Lin Wood’s attempt to stop Georgia’s ongoing U.S. Senate runoff elections.

Wood later on Monday filed notice he would take the case to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In this case, filed on Dec. 18 in federal court in Atlanta, Wood contended the procedures that Georgia election officials are using to conduct absentee balloting in the runoff elections violate Georgia’s election laws. Wood also said the Dominion Voting Systems Corp. electronic voting machines that Georgia uses are part of an effort to commit election fraud. And he said the situation is violating his constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. said Wood has no standing to sue and his claims were insufficient for the case to proceed. Batten was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush.

“The fact that the process for voting by absentee ballot is different from voting in-person does not establish an injury in fact,” he said. “Courts have sanctioned the use of distinct voting processes for absentee and in-person ballots, acknowledging that ‘[a]bsentee voting is a fundamentally different process from in-person voting, and is governed by procedures entirely distinct,’” Batten said, citing a prior case.

United States District Court Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, sister of former Democratic candidate for Governor Stacey Abrams, issued a restraining order to prevent election officials to require voters with an address outside Georgia to vote provisional ballots, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The order from U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner lasts eight days, remaining in effect through Georgia’s Jan. 5 runoffs for the U.S. Senate and state Public Service Commission. It follows a lawsuit filed by a nonprofit advocacy group on behalf of a Columbus man working for the U.S. Navy in California, who was among more than 4,000 voters whose residency was challenged by local Republican Alton Russell.

Russell’s challenge was based on a U.S. Postal Service list called the “National Change of Address” or NCOA, which showed those voters had out of state addresses, though they still were registered in Muscogee County. The list is used periodically to clear people from voter registration lists after they’ve moved away , but it also includes people temporarily living elsewhere for work, college or military service.

After meeting privately with its attorneys Tuesday, the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registration voted to file a motion asking the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to issue a stay on Gardner’s restraining order, so that the challenge can continue.

“Here, the challenge to thousands of voters less than a month prior to the runoff elections — after in-person voting had begun in the state — appears to be the type of ‘systematic’ removal prohibited by the [National Voter Registration Act],” the judge wrote, adding Russell’s challenge “does not include the type of individualized information that the Muscogee board would have needed to undertake the individualized inquiry required by the NVRA.”

The judge also found the board’s actions likely violate the First and 14th Amendments by placing an undue burden on the right to vote and risking disenfranchising eligible voters, and that those actions could cause the degree of immediate and irreparable injury that a restraining order is meant to prevent.

From the Augusta Chronicle and Athens Banner Herald:

Appointed by President Obama, Gardner is the sister of Stacey Abrams’, whose organizations filed multiple legal challenges surrounding the 2018 gubernatorial election, which she narrowly lost to Gov. Brian Kemp, and led voter participation drives this year that likely helped Joe Biden win Georgia.

[Georgia Secretary of State Brad] Raffensperger contended Tuesday that Majority Forward was funded by Fair Fight through the Senate Majority PAC, a Democrat-led committee.

“That a judge would rule on a case brought by a group heavily funded by her sister is very concerning,” he said.

He said Georgia law permits voter eligibility challenges and that Gardner undermined the “rule of law” by issuing the injunction.

The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission filed allegations against Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Christian Coomer, according to the AJC.

Georgia’s judicial watchdog agency on Monday filed ethics charges against state Court of Appeals Judge Christian Coomer, alleging he violated the code of judicial conduct and campaign finance and lending laws.

It is believed to be the first time a sitting appellate judge has faced formal ethics charges from the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. Coomer, who once served as state House majority whip, was appointed to the Appeals Court by then-Gov. Nathan Deal in 2018.

In a statement, Dennis Cathey and Doug Chalmers, lawyers representing Coomer, said the judge “strongly denies” the allegations. “The allegations misstate the facts and the law, and they significantly overstep the JQC’s jurisdiction.”

The charges now go before the JQC’s hearing panel, chaired by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney. If the panel finds violations, it can recommend possible discipline to the state Supreme Court, which has the final say.

Previously, the state ethics commission filed separate charges against Coomer, alleging he improperly transferred almost $22,000 from his former state House campaign account to his law firm and personal banking accounts. Under state law, elected officials can only use campaign contributions to run in elections and maintain their office, not for personal expenses unrelated to campaign matters.

When those charges were filed in October, Chalmers, Coomer’s lawyer, said the complaint got “both the facts and the law wrong.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to rule on the application for a Camden Spaceport, according to The Brunswick News.

Camden County launched a bid to establish a spaceport in January 2014, saying the project could create 2,500 jobs and an annual economic impact of more than $200 million.

Nearly seven years have passed since county officials announced those plans. The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to make a decision on a license to operate a spaceport in March, with no further public comment accepted.

Camden County officials have spent more than $9 million on the project and are optimistic it will get FAA approval.

In Bulloch County, women took the reins of both prosecutors’ offices, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Officials, family and friends gathered in front of the south-facing steps of the Bulloch County Courthouse at 1 p.m. Monday for the swearing-in of Daphne Jarriel Totten as the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit’s new district attorney and Catherine Sumner Findley as the county’s new solicitor-general.

Both acknowledged that they are apparently the first women elected as the chief prosecutors for these particular jurisdictions. Both were until recently assistant district attorneys for the circuit under the direction of now-retired District Attorney Richard A. Mallard.

As district attorney, Totten leads an office that also employs 10 assistant district attorneys, four full-time investigators and other personnel, for a total staff of 27 people. The elected district attorney and appointed assistants prosecute cases involving felony charges in the Superior Courts of Bulloch, Effingham, Jenkins and Screven counties.

Findley won the office [of Solicitor General] by first taking the lead in what was originally a three-person race, over Assistant Solicitor Mark A. Lanier, at that time the only solicitor remaining, and another assistant district attorney, Ben Edwards, in the June 9 Republican primary. Findley then won 53.5% of the votes to Lanier’s 46.5% in an Aug. 11 runoff.

Democrat Jared Williams, incoming District Attorney for the Augusta Judicial Circuit said the office will narrow its focus on prosecutions, according ot the Augusta Chronicle.

The incoming district attorney for the Augusta Judicial Circuit intends to follow through on his campaign promises to narrow the focus of prosecutions in the three-county circuit of Burke, Columbia and Richmond.

Jared Williams says he believes the focus should be squarely on violent crime and major drug trafficking cases. He intends to form specialized teams “to combat the crimes that scare us the most.”

Williams captured the top prosecutor’s job with 50.51% of the vote over incumbent Natalie Paine, who led the office for more than three years. His term will begin Jan. 4.

Williams has pledged to use pre-trial diversion, which would withhold prosecution of felony cases with the goal of dismissing charges to help young people get on track without the burden of felony convictions.

By forming prosecuting teams to focus on violent crimes, Williams believes cases can be streamlined and adjudicated sooner.

“I’m tired of people being shot in the street. The focus needs to be on the crimes that keep you up at night,” Williams said.

Criminal records expungement under legislation passed this year becomes available Friday, according to the Albany Herald.

A new law that increases the number of criminal records that can be sealed takes effect Friday. The law, the result of Senate Bill 288, allows certain misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies to qualify for expungement.

More than 4 million Georgia residents had a criminal record in 2016, according to the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO). Georgia is joining 41 other states that have eased record-sealing restrictions.

“It is vital that we continue to reform Georgia’s criminal justice system so that reformation and reintegration is the goal, and not just punishment,” said Corey Burres, GCO’s vice president of communications. “With SB 288, we are making real efforts to help past offenders access opportunities that may not be available to them due to their criminal record.”

The new law allows Georgians to petition the court to have some misdemeanor convictions restricted and sealed four years after completing their sentence if they have no new convictions and pending charges. Sex crimes, family violence and DUI offenses do not qualify for expungement.

Those who have been pardoned for nonviolent felony offenses can apply for expungement, under the law. It also would grant liability protection for employers who hire former felons.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed SB 288 into law after full bipartisan support from the General Assembly.

In Glynn County, Democrats rallied for the Ossoff-Warnock ticket, according to The Brunswick News.

In lieu of cheers, two dozen or so cars at the Glynn County Democratic Party’s drive-in political rally sent up car horn honks instead.

Democrats from far and wide gathered — either in cars or at a respectable distance from one another — in the parking lot of Lanier Plaza on Tuesday as the sun set to hear from current and former party figures in the community.

“I look out and all I see are these masks. I’m so sorry we’ve got to wear these things, but we know what we must do,” said Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey, one of the evening’s speakers. “But we also know there are smiles behind them because we are turning Georgia blue.”

Former U.S. Sen. Wyche Fowler, D-Ga., earned some cheers and honks himself as he urged Democrats to get their friends and families to vote for Democrats in the three runoff races, even if they have to drive them to the polls themselves.

“I can’t imagine them looking people in the eye and saying ‘I voted against your economic interest and your family interest,’” Fowler said.

“I’d never vote for somebody who lived in a gated community and would not receive his neighbors and find out what their concerns are,” Fowler said.

Democrat Nicole Love Hendrickson took the oath of office as Chair of the Gwinnett County Commission, according to AccessWDUN.

She is the first African American to hold the position, according to a Gwinnett County press release.

Hendrickson’s ceremony, as well as the two last week for District 1 Commissioner Kirkland Carden and District 3 Commissioner Jasper Watkins III, was done with COVID-19 precautions in place.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

“I ran to create change, but I would be remiss if I did not reflect on the historical significance of today’s swearing in,” Hendrickson said. “Just 55 years ago, a Black woman could not even vote. Being the first Black Democratic woman to hold this seat is not a responsibility I take lightly. I realize I stand on the shoulders of giants and that my victory represents another step forward in advancing the vision of a country where all people have access to opportunities to succeed.

“Today the proverbial glass ceiling has been shattered again, and for that, I am proud.”

Hendrickson was the last of three swearing in ceremonies for new members of the county commission — all African-American — who will be taking office as 2021 begins. She is also the first Democrat to serve as the leader of the county commission in 36 years.

Before the ceremony, outgoing commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash praised Hendrickson and the background that she has coming into the job.

“The one thing I know about Nicole is that she loves Gwinnett,” Nash said. “She has a big heart for the community and I think that’s a great start … While she has a foundation and knows some things about the county organization, I think she recognizes that she has a lot to learn, and I think that’s a great attribute for an elected official to have. You know, I have 43 years working in local government and I still learn something almost on a daily basis. It’s just such a big area and so broad.”

Augusta Commissioner Francine Scott took the oath of office to represent Super District 9, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

She replaces Commissioner Marion Williams, who concludes his second set of two consecutive terms representing the super district, which spans commission districts 1, 2, 4 and 5. Because of term limits, Williams can’t run again until a later election.

Scott joins new District 1 Commissioner Jordan Johnson and District 3 Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight, each of whom also won August runoffs. McKnight was sworn in last week, and Johnson takes his oath Wednesday.

Dalton Municipal Court has postponed all proceedings scheduled for the January 6 and 13 sessions, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Statesboro City Council will likely consider a revised Food Truck ordinance, according to the Statesboro Herald.

City of Cornelia computer systems were affected by a ransomware attack, according to AccessWDUN.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute spotted the fourth baby Right Whale calf of the season, according to the Savannah Morning News.

While flying their surveys for north Atlantic right whales, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute team spotted a 27-year-old female right whale nicknamed Nauset and her new calf.

Right whales are highly endangered with an estimated 366 individuals remaining. Their only known calving grounds are the waters off Georgia and the east coast of Florida.

Nauset’s calf, her fourth, is also the fourth live baby right whale recorded so far this calving season, which typically extends into the spring. Another newborn right whale calf was found dead in North Carolina. Biologists believe it died during or shortly after birth.

In short, deaths are up and calving is down.

“I’m still optimistic,” [DNR senior biologist Clay] George said. “In the 2000s, we saw how quickly the population can grow if mortality is managed and females have lots of calves. If we can slow ships down in the right places, and remove heavy fishing rope from their habitat, the whales would have a fighting chance.”


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 23, 2020

Wesleyan College in Macon was chartered on December 23, 1836, becoming the first college chartered specifically to grant degrees to women.

On December 22, 1864, General Sherman wrote to President Lincoln,

“I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.”

On December 23, 1864, the Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution specifying that the Senate chamber should be lit by electricity for the next Session. That is the last time the legislature sought enlightenment before passing laws.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

My favorite non-bourbon liquor, Richland Rum, was recognized by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, according to The Brunswick News.

Richland Rum has been named a recipient of the 2020 GLOBE Award in the international trade division.

It’s the fourth consecutive year the company has earned the annual award that highlights companies that entered new international markets during the previous year. Richland Rum was among 17 companies to hear the recognition from the Georgia Dept. of Economic Development.

“Success in global markets takes commitment and hard work” said Gov. Brian Kemp. “Our Georgia made products and services are making a mark around the world. We’re proud to celebrate these companies for their contributions to a thriving Georgia economy through exports.”

“We are very excited to receive this award as it signifies our commitment to reaching a diverse audience around the world,” [Stephen Oakey, the company’s director of marketing/public relations] said. “Richland Rum is the spirit of Georgia, but it is also a global spirit, and one that is meant to be shared.”

Company proprietors Karin and Erik Vonk said the ability to reach more international markets requires time, labor and effort.

“It is remarkable to think that sugarcane grown in Richland, Ga., can become a world class rum that is enjoyed by people in countries thousands of miles away,” they said. “Our commitment to making a high quality, artisan rum with both domestic and international appeal is as consistent as the hearty growth of our sugarcane, and we are thrilled to have been recognized by the GDEcD with a 2020 GLOBE Award.”

More than 1.6 million votes have been cast in the January 5, 2021 Runoff Elections for United States Senate and Georgia Public Service Commission, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The wave of early voting in the Georgia runoff mirrors high turnout ahead of the general election in November. About 1.9 million Georgians had cast ballots at this point in early voting for the presidential election, according to state election officials.

President Trump is said to be considering active opposition to Governor Brian Kemp moving forward, according to The Daily Beast.

“It’s a fait accompli,” said one veteran Trump political adviser.

According to two people who’ve discussed Kemp with the president this month, Trump has largely focused on how Kemp would be “nothing” without him or his endorsement in the 2018 gubernatorial primary. The president has also mentioned that he’s looking forward to fundraising and campaigning against Kemp in Georgia, in the likelihood that a GOP primary challenger emerges.

One of the sources said that Trump had privately compared his desire to see Kemp’s political future ruined to how he wanted to see the political implosion of his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, during an attempted comeback this year in Alabama.

“It is not wise because if you haven’t learned anything from the Senate race this year, you could at least say that having two strong candidates has nearly cost us the seat,” said former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA). “ So I think that Georgia no longer has the luxury of having a divided Republican primary and then going on to win in November.”

In a column outlining his vision of the future of the Trump movement last week, campaign advisor Steve Cortes explicitly called for knocking out Kemp in the 2022 cycle.

“[S]erious candidates must also be equipped to challenge the many squish Republicans who failed our movement in recent weeks,” he wrote, “such as Governor Kemp of Georgia…”

President Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, dropped by the signature verification audit in Cobb County, according to WSB radio.

Mark Meadows, President Trump’s Chief of Staff, arrived at the Marietta site Tuesday afternoon, where the audit is focused on the county’s November absentee ballot envelopes. During the unannounced visit, Meadows only stayed for roughly 20 minutes, and did not speak to Channel 2 Action News nor the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The outlets were the only two onsite to speak with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation about the process.

The limited signature audit takes teams of GBI agents and state election investigators to examine the absentee envelope signatures, which were separated from the actual ballot when they were processed. That ensures a secret ballot, a right that’s cemented in the state constitution. Signatures are matched twice during the ballot count process.

The signatures are compared to public state records, including driving services forms.

“We’re looking for similarities,” said Special Agent in charge Bahan Rich, describing the signature probe. “We’re looking for consistency. Consistency in shapes of letter. We’re looking for slants, if you will, in shapes of letters.”

The audit is the first of its kind in Georgia. At the advice of UGA experts, it works similar to polling, using a 10 percent sample. That means 15,000 envelope signatures are under a review that includes comparing the signatures to state records.

“In this process you can have up to five different individuals looking at the envelopes,” Rich explained. “Those that are designated that still need even more review, then we’ll physically go down to the (office), and look at documents in possession of the Cobb County’s election office, and go from there regarding the particular envelope.”

Allegations against Democrat Raphael Warnock are to the point where the AJC is on the verge of believing the alleged victim, or at least taking her story seriously. From the AJC:

Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock’s ex-wife told Atlanta police officers that her husband was a “great actor” after he denied her claims that he ran over her foot with his car, according to body cam footage of the March 2020 incident that aired late Tuesday on Fox News.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in March that Warnock wasn’t charged with a crime and an officer said in a police report that medical officials didn’t find visible signs of injury in the foot. The Democrat disputed Ouleye Warnock’s allegations, telling the AJC on March 7 that “it didn’t happen.”

Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Ouleye were amid divorce negotiations when the incident occurred and finalized their split about two months later. Ouleye Warnock has declined to be interviewed about the incident and court records indicate the divorce case has been sealed.

In the body cam footage, Ouleye Warnock told the officer that she’s been “very quiet about the way that he is for the sake of my kids and his reputation” surrounding his U.S. Senate bid.

“I’ve tried to keep the way that he acts under wraps for a long time and today he crossed the line,” she said. “So that is what is going on here. And he’s a great actor. He is phenomenal at putting on a really good show.”

“Domestic abuse is a very serious issue, and this new body cam footage is certainly difficult to watch,” Loeffler said. “Georgians deserve answers to these very serious allegations, and his ex-wife’s voice deserves to be heard.”

Independent Keith Higgins was sworn in as District Attorney for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District, which serves Appling, Camden, Glynn, Jeff Davis, and Wayne Counties, according to The Brunswick News.

His first official day as the highest-ranking law enforcement official in the five-county judicial circuit is Jan. 4. The office and its team of attorneys and investigators is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases, advising law enforcement and determining which cases should go to court.

The independent candidate defeated incumbent DA Jackie Johnson in the November election, securing 52.8 percent of the votes in a hotly contested race. Higgins acquired 8,500 signatures, more than double the amount needed, in order to run as an independent for the post.

“I want to thank all the people who worked tirelessly to get me on the ballot and get me elected,” Higgins said. “I want you to know that I still need your help, along with the help of everyone else in this circuit.”

The Georgia Supreme Court will extend the judicial state of emergency, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The state has decided the recent spike in coronavirus infection rates makes it too dangerous to resume trials in January, when such restrictions were to be eased. Muscogee County, part of the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, had hoped to resume operations on Jan. 4, summoning a pool of jurors for criminal trials.

Now those plans will have to be postponed: Jane Hansen, public information officer for the Supreme Court of Georgia, said the chief justice met with the state’s Judicial Council on Tuesday, and decided further to extend a “judicial emergency” declaration suspending jury trials until February.

It will be the 10th time since March that the emergency has been extended.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson (D) and other local elected Democrats want more federal funds for the city, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, along with 10 other Georgia elected leaders from across the state, have asked Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to fight for more COVID-19 relief for local governments.

In a letter sent to Sens. Perdue and Loeffler this week, the officials said the proposed COVID-19 relief package, which is currently awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature, fails to provide vital funds for essential workers in local governments.

With the city’s revenue stemming from four major sources — property taxes, sales tax revenue, hotel/motel tax and franchise fees — Johnson said city and county governments are where the rubber meets the road and he was disappointed that they were left out.

The letter, which was also signed by Jordan Johnson, commissioner-elect of Augusta-Richmond County; Austin Wagner, councilman, City of Smyrna; Nicole Love Hendrickson, commission chair-elect, Gwinnett County; and Jasper Watkins, III, commissioner-elect, Gwinnett County, said any relief packaged passed without local and municipal aid is incomplete and inadequate.

The Chatham County Board of Elections has changed the location of a polling place for the January 5, 2021 Runoff Elections, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham Board of Elections has announced a change to the polling place for Precinct 7-11 in Pooler on Tuesday, just two weeks ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff election.

Voters at this precinct previously cast ballots at First Seventh Day Adventist Church. The poll will be now located at the Marriott Courtyard banquet hall, 419 Pooler Parkway.

The Glynn County Board of Elections rejected a challenge to 262 voters’ qualifications, according to The Brunswick News.

Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island, based his challenge on the voters’ residency. He brought to the board’s attention data produced by Mark Davis, Derek Somerville and a Texas-based organization called True the Vote, he explained.

The residences listed on voter registration records were compared to the U.S. Postal Service’s national change of address database, Jones said. After making a “sincere” effort to filter out military service members and students, he said as many as 262 voters registered in Glynn County have filed change of address forms in other locations, many out of state.

Board members entered a closed session to discuss potential litigation, emerging roughly 45 minutes later to rule that Jones’ evidence did not constitute probable cause to launch an investigation into the 262 voters’ registration information.

Board member Keith Rustin and Chair Patty Gibson did not believe his evidence was convincing enough to undertake the task in the middle of a runoff election. Even if they wanted to, Gibson said the board was bound by a federal law which prevents them from altering voter rolls within 90 days of an election.

The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections rejected a similar challenge, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The original document that targeted 16,024 voters was amended Dec. 18 by local GOP Chairman Gordon Rhoden to challenge 4,943 Clarke voters’ eligibility in the runoff. Rhoden alleged these voters had moved their residency outside the county.

At the advice of Judd Drake, the attorney representing the elections board, a motion to reject the challenge carried without opposition at a Monday meeting, although board member Patricia Till, a Republican Party appointee, abstained.

However, the action by Rhoden appeared to violate voter protections set forth by the National Voting Registration Act, according to Drake.

The Richmond County Board of Elections will hear a challenge to voters’ qualifications, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Jeremy Coghlan says he has a thumb drive with the list of registered voters whose names also appear on the National Change of Address registry with an address outside of Augusta.

The former WBEK owner filed the complaint with Richmond County Board of Elections, which has called a meeting today to discuss it. The 1 p.m. session will be conducted via Zoom and livestreamed.

At least one Georgia county – Muscogee – found probable cause in a similar challenge. The county will go about contacting more than 4,000 voters, whose provisional ballot won’t be counted until they prove their residency, Elections Director Nancy Boren told WTVM.

It’s not clear if Coghlan’s list includes ballots already cast, but the state maintains lists of everyone who votes early. Poll workers check voter IDs at advance voting sites.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Tuesday his office mailed 8,000 warning letters to registered voters who requested an absentee runoff ballot but also moved their mailing address out of the state.

The Lowndes County Board of Elections meets today to address challenges to voters, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Lowndes County Board of Election announced it will convene at 1 p.m., Dec. 23 on a telephone conference call to discuss what it called “the sufficiency of a challenge.”

The call is open to the public as required by Georgia open government and elections laws.

To participate in the call, those interested can dial in at (229) 671-3400 and enter meeting code 990 543 082 to be admitted.

The Whitfield County Courthouse is being gutted and the interior build-out redone, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Sandwiched between the U.S. Senate runoffs in January and the city election in November, with full funding provided by the four-year Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) that voters approved in June, Whitfield County plans to start and finish all the work inside that part of the courthouse built in 1961.

That original building is a three-story, 48,000-square-foot concrete framed structure, Benson said, “meaning it’s got concrete columns and concrete beams set in place with concrete floor decks and a concrete roof deck” that all serve as the structural part of the building. “None of the interior walls carry any load,” he said, “so we can totally demolish or remove all of the interior walls without affecting any structural integrity of the building.”

Suwanee Municipal Court was named Program of the Year by the Georgia Municipal Court Clerks Council for their COVID-19 response, according to AccessWDUN.