Category: Georgia Politics

26
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 26, 2022

The Supreme Court of Georgia held its first meeting on January 26, 1846 at Talbotton, Georgia.

John Sammons Bell was born on January 26, 1914 in Macon, Georgia. He would go on to serve as Chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, as a Judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals, and as chief judge of the appellate court. He is today best known as the designer of the state flag featuring the Confederate battle flag, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1956.

On January 26, 2001 a new state flag, first designed by Atlanta architect Cecil Alexander, passed out of committee in the General Assembly by a 4-3 vote and would be voted on later that week. Click here to view the floor debate from 2001.

The Georgia Historical Society reopened its Savannah Research Center after a $5 million dollar renovation, according to the Albany Herald.

The GHS Research Center houses the institution’s library and archives and is home to the oldest collection of Georgia history materials in the nation — 5 million manuscripts, documents, photographs, rare books, and artifacts. It is used by more than 60,000 researchers each year, ranging from professional historians to teachers and documentary film makers such as the History Channel, Georgia Public Broadcasting and the BBC.

The GHS Research Center consists of three adjoining buildings constructed over three centuries of Georgia history — Hodgson Hall (1876), the Abrahams Archival Annex (1970), and the new archival wing (2021).

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

TBD – Senate Rules upon Adjournment – 450 CAP

8:00 AM – HOUSE Appropriations Public Safety Subcommittee – 132 CAP HYBRID

8:00 AM – HOUSE Education Appropriations Subcommittee – 506 CLOB HYBRID

8:00 AM – HOUSE Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee – 341 CAP HYBRID

9:00 AM – HOUSE RULES COMMITTEE – 341 CAP

10:00 AM – HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 7) – House Chamber

10:00 AM – Senate Floor Session – Senate Chamber

1:00 PM – HOUSE Health Appropriations Subcommittee – 506 CLOB HYBRID

1:00 PM – HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION COMMITTEE – VIRTUAL 1

1:00 PM – HOUSE General Government Appropriations Subcommittee – 415 CLOB

1:00 PM – Senate Health and Human Services Committee – 450 CAP

2:00 PM – HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE  – 406 CLOB HYBRID

2:00 PM – Senate Retirement Committee – 310 CLOB

2:00 PM – Senate Education and Youth Committee – 307 CLOB

3:00 PM – HOUSE JUDICIARY NON-CIVIL COMMITTEE – 132 CAP HYBRID

3:00 PM – HOUSE INDUSTRY AND LABOR COMMITTEE – 506 CLOB HYBRID

3:00 PM – Senate Finance Committee – 450 CAP

3:30 PM – HOUSE Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care  – 406 CLOB HYBRID

3:30 PM – HOUSE STATE PROPERTIES – 403 CAP

Senate Resolution 382 is the new Adjournment Resolution setting the schedule of legislative days.Continue Reading..

25
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 25, 2022

Emory Window 628

On January 25, 1915, a charter was issued in DeKalb County Superior Court to Emory University.

On January 25, 1943, Georgia Gov. Ellis Arnall signed legislation eliminating the governor as an ex officio member of the State Board of Education, State Board of Regents, Department of Public Safety, and State Housing Authority, as part of a proposal to reduce the Governor’s power over education.

On January 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy held the first live televised press conference.

Restoration of the Cockspur Lighthouse off Tybee Island is complete, according to WTOC.

National Park Service crews began work in May.

The old paint was doing more harm than good, and they replaced the doors and windows after someone broke in.

You may notice it may not be as white as it has been in the past, but it’s a more natural look, showing off the Savannah Gray Brick.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM – HOUSE SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT – 506 CLOB HYBRID

10:00 AM – HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 6) – House Chamber

10:00 AM – Senate Floor Session – Senate Chamber

1:00 PM –  HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE – 506 CLOB HYBRID

1:00 PM – Senate Insurance and Labor Committee – Mezz 1

1:00 PM – Senate Higher Education Committee – 450 CAP

1:30 PM – HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE – 132 CAP HYBRID

2:00 PM – HOUSE Judiciary Non-Civil Smith Subcommittee – 506 CLOB HYBRID

2:00 PM – HOUSE HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES COMMITTEE – 606 CLOB HYBRID

2:00 PM – HOUSE RETIREMENT COMMITTEE – 406 CLOB HYBRID

3:00 PM – HOUSE Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee – 341 CAP HYBRID

3:00 PM – HOUSE ENERGY, UTILITIES & TELECOMMUNICATIONS – 403 CAP HYBRID

4:00 PM – HOUSE General Government Appropriations Subcommittee – 406 CLOB HYBRID

Fulton County Superior Court Judges voted to impanel a special grand jury at the request of Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis (D), according to the AJC.Continue Reading..

24
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 24, 2021

Jekyll Island

On January 24, 1915, the first transcontinental telephone call was placed from Jekyll Island, Georgia.

January 24, 1933 saw the first sales tax in Georgia proposed to fund schools and aid for farmers.

On January 24, 1960, Martin Luther King, Jr. became co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, sharing the pulpit with his father.

On January 24, 1987, some 12,000 to 20,000 civil rights protesters marched in Forsyth County, a week after a smaller protest. From the New York Times reporting:

CUMMING, Ga., Jan. 24— This small town in Forsyth County was overwhelmed today by civil rights marchers, members of the Ku Klux Klan and their sympathizers and an army of National Guardsmen and law-enforcement officers who kept the opposing groups separated.

Guarded by what a spokesman for the Governor’s office called ”the greatest show of force the state has ever marshalled,” a crowd of marchers estimated at 12,000 to 20,000 funneled slowly into Cumming, where a week earlier counterdemonstrators, throwing stones and bottles, disrupted an interracial ”walk for brotherhood” prompted by the all-white county’s racist legacy.

As the marchers headed into Cumming, which has a little more than 2,000 people, they found waiting for them, behind a stern-faced force of 2,300 guardsmen and police officers, a group of hundreds if not thousands of white, mainly young, rural men and women, repeatedly shouting, “N[*****], go home!”

Whatever the final figure, the march was one of the largest civil rights demonstrations since a 1965 rally that followed a march from Selma, Ala. to Montgomery. The rally, led by Dr. King, drew 25,000 people.

Seriously, read the Times report.

On January 24, 2001, the Georgia House of Representatives approved legislation changing the state flag to the Barnes design with the state seal on a blue background and a banner depicting five previous flags that flew over Georgia.

2001GeorgiaFlag

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM – Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee – 307 CLOB

9:00 AM – HOUSE RULES COMMITTEE – 341 CAP

10:00 AM – HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 5) – House Chamber

1:00 PM –HOUSE Right of Way Governance EUT subcommittee – 606 CLOB HYBRID

2:00 PM – HOUSE Governmental Affairs General Government Subcommittee – 506 CLOB HYBRID

2:00 PM – Senate Judiciary Committee – 307 CLOB

3:00 PM – HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE – 506 CLOB HYBRID

3:00 PM – Senate Education and Youth Committee – 307 CLOB

3:30 PM – HOUSE General Government Appropriations Subcommittee – 406 CLOB HYBRID

The State of Georgia has sued the federal government, challenging the Biden Administration’s  reconsideration of the state’s Medicaid waiver that was approved by the previous administration, according to a Press Release.Continue Reading..

21
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 21, 2022

On January 22, 1733, James Oglethorpe arrived at Yamacraw Bluff, where the colony of Georgia would be founded.

On January 23, 1775, the Georgia Commons House elected three delegates to the Second Continental Congress.

Lieutenant William T. Sherman was ordered to Georgia for the first time in his military career on January 21, 1844.

On January 22, 1861, following the passage of Georgia’s Secession Resolution, six delegates, including both from Gwinnett County, signed a statement protesting the decision to secede. On January 23, 1861, Georgia’s members of the United States House of Representatives resigned following passage of the Secession Ordinance; her Senators had resigned earlier. The next day, the secession convention in Milledgeville elected ten delegates to a conference of Southern states in Montgomery, Alabama.

On January 22, 1866, Georgia Governor Charles Jenkins signed a resolution by the legislature asking for federal troops to be removed from Georgia.

On January 23, 1923, Georgia ratified the Twentieth Amendment to the US Constitution, which ended Presidential terms on January 20th following an election and those of Congress to January 3d.

On January 22, 1959, Atlanta buses were integrated after a federal court decision.

United States Senator and former Georgia House Speaker and Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr. died on January 21, 1971.

On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court issued its 7-2 decision in the case known as Roe v. Wade.

On January 23, 1973, President Richard M. Nixon announced that terms had been reached to settle the Vietnam War, a document known as the “Paris Peace Accords.”

On January 21, 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardoned draft resistors from the Vietnam War era and urged Americans to conserve energy.

On January 21, 1978, the Bee Gees Saturday Night Live album hit #1 on the sales charts, where it would stay for 24 weeks.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

RIP Dick Williams, long-time Atlanta Journalist.

Chief Medical Officers of six Georgia hospital systems pled with the public to help reduce the load of COVID cases, according to the AJC.

Top doctors at six of metro Atlanta’s largest hospital groups made extraordinary pleas on Thursday for Georgians to get vaccinated and take steps to reduce coronavirus infections to ensure emergency rooms and hospitals can care for people most in need.

In an hourlong briefing, the hospital leaders spoke of overflowing emergency rooms, dying patients, and devastated ICU nurses spread too thin. They said they are grappling with a combination of factors, including a high volume of patients, staff shortages and difficulty getting COVID-19 therapeutics. It’s all resulting in them having to ration care for only the sickest of patients.

“After two years of this pandemic people are tired of hearing the word COVID,” said Dr. Supriya Mannepalli, medical director for infectious diseases at Northeast Georgia Health System. All eligible Georgians should get vaccinated, boosted and continue to wear masks indoors and avoid large crowds and follow public health guidelines if exposed, she said.

The doctors asked the public to be patient. ERs are jammed, staff are exhausted and the reverberations from this latest wave could last for weeks. But noticeably absent was any request for state intervention or new mandates or coronavirus restrictions. Gov. Brian Kemp has resisted new restrictions, instead calling for people to take personal responsibility while fighting vaccine and mask mandates along with other Republican governors.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) has asked the Fulton Superior Court to impanel a special grand jury to investigate former President Donald Trump’s phone call about Georgia’s 2020 elections, according to the Associated Press via the Valdosta Daily Times.Continue Reading..

20
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 20, 2022

On January 20, 1788, the First African Baptist Church was established in Savannah, Georgia, one of the first black churches in the United States.

John Marshall was nominated as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States by President John Adams on January 20, 1801.

On January 20, 1920, DeForest Kelley was born in Atlanta and he grew up in Conyers. Kelley sang in the choir of his father’s church and appeared on WSB radio; he graduated from Decatur Boys High School and served in the United States Navy. Kelley became famous as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in the original Star Trek series.

On January 20, 1928, Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Warm Springs, Georgia for the tenth time, staying through February 11th. During the visit, he spoke to the Chamber of Commerce of Americus and Sumter County, telling them

“In Georgia the movement towards the cities is growing by leaps and bounds and this means the abandonment of the farms or those farms that are not suited to the uses of agriculture. It means that we will have vacant lands but these can and should be used in growing timber.”

January 20th became Inaugural Day in 1937; when the date falls on a Sunday, a private inauguration of the President is held, with a public ceremony the following day. The Twentieth Amendment moved inauguration day from March 4 to January 20. Imagine six additional weeks of a lame duck President.

Roosevelt was sworn-in to a fourth term as President on January 20, 1945 and died in Warm Springs on April 12, 1945.

On January 20, 1939, Paul D. Coverdell was born in Des Moines, Iowa. Coverdell was one of the key figures in the development of the Georgia Republican Party.

On January 20, 1977, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as the 39th President of the United States.

On January 20, 1981, Ronald Wilson Reagan was inaugurated 40th President of the United States.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today: 8:30 AM – JOINT APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE – 341 CAP HYBRID

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday released January’s state tax revenue numbers.

The State of Georgia’s net tax collections in December totaled $2.98 billion, for an increase of $582.9 million, or 24.3 percent, compared to December 2020 when net tax collections totaled $2.40 billion. Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled $14.85 billion, for an increase of $2.28 billion, or 18.1 percent, over FY 2021 after six months.

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

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for December increased by $297.1 million, or 23.9 percent, compared to December 2020 when net Individual Tax revenues totaled $1.24 billion.

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

• Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) decreased by $13.4 million or -24.6 percent
• Individual Withholding payments increased by $202.6 million, or 17.1 percent, compared to last year
• Individual Income Tax Non-Resident Return payments increased $52.7 million, or 169.7 percent, over last year
• All other Individual Tax categories, including Estimated Return payments, were up a combined $28.4 million

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections totaled $1.37 billion, for an increase of $243.4 million, or 21.6 percent, over last year’s total of nearly $1.13 billion. Net Sales and Use Tax for the month increased by roughly $120.2 million, or 20.9 percent, compared to last year, when net Sales Tax revenue totaled $574.5 million. The adjusted Sales Tax distribution to local governments totaled $670.4 million, for an increase of $120.9 million, or 22 percent, over FY 2021. Lastly, Sales Tax refunds increased by $2.2 million, or 48.2 percent compared to FY 2021.

Corporate Income Tax: Net Corporate Income Tax collections increased by $125.5 million, or 44.7 percent, up from FY 2021 when net Corporate Tax revenues totaled $280.9 million in December.

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

• Corporate Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) decreased by $5.1 million or -21.4 percent
• Corporate Income Tax Estimated Return payments were up $82.8 million, or 33.9 percent, over last year
• All other Corporate Tax payments, including Corporate Return payments, were up a combined $37.6 million

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections for the month increased by $17 million, or 11.4 percent, over last year’s December total of $149.1 million.

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fee collections for December increased by $2.1 million, or 6.5 percent, compared to FY 2021 when Motor Vehicle fees totaled $32.3 million. Title ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections increased by roughly $7 million, or 13.7 percent, compared to last year’s total of $51.2 million.

Former United States Senator David Perdue wants a special election police unit, according to FoxNews.

“What happened in 2020 should never happen again,” Perdue said on Thursday morning as he announced his proposal to create a law enforcement unit that would investigate election crimes and fraud in Georgia and would have the authority to make arrests.

The former senator took aim at Kemp in explaining why the proposed election law enforcement unit is needed.

“When Georgians had legitimate questions about the November election, Kemp refused to investigate or fix problems before the January runoff,” Perdue charged in a statement to Fox News. “Leave it to a 20-year career politician like Kemp to sit on his hands when we needed him most. He failed us, and Georgians lost confidence that their vote would count.”

Perdue emphasized that “the purpose of this law enforcement unit is to give Georgians confidence that only legal votes will be counted, and that anyone who tries to interfere with our elections will be arrested and prosecuted.”

And he described his call for elections to be independently audited before they are certified as “a commonsense step to safeguard our election integrity and ensure transparency and accountability in our system. When I’m Governor, we’ll have the safest and securest elections in the country.”

Cody Hall, a senior adviser with the Kemp allied Georgians First Leadership Committee, fired back, charging that “David Perdue is repeatedly lying to the people of Georgia – without facts or evidence.”

“By proposing this unit, Perdue is finally admitting what state law and the Georgia constitution have made abundantly clear: the Governor has no legal authority regarding the oversight, investigation, or administration of elections in our state,” Hall emphasized.

From the AJC:

Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said the proposal amounted to an admission from Perdue that “his entire campaign is a lie.“

“His proposal recognizes that governors have no legal authority in the oversight, administration, or investigation of elections under current state law and constitution,” he said.

The idea of a separate law enforcement unit devoted to investigating elections would go far beyond a proposal by House Speaker David Ralston that would allow the Georgia Bureau of Investigations to probe allegations of fraud.

Ralston recently said if the GBI had taken the lead on investigations rather than the secretary of state’s office, there might not be so many questions about the validity of the election.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R-ish) announced the state will transition to a new voter registration system ahead of the 2024 elections. From 11Alive via 13WMAZ:

Raffensperger said the system – the Georgia Registered Voter Information System, or GRVIS – would be online by March.
The secretary’s office clarified that the system was a back-end, data management system and would not affect how voters individually register to vote.

“Nothing about the registration or voting processes changes from the voter perspective,” a statement said.

Raffensperger said that the software and data servicing company Salesforce would provide the “baseline architecture” for the “backbone” of the new system, and that the state would be partnering with a technology consulting firm, MTX Group, in implementing the new system.

“This new system is more advanced, more secure, and more user-friendly and will give our election directors and my office new tools to better manage our election efforts,” the secretary said.

From WALB via WTVM:

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is partnering with Salesforce to build the new system. Raffensperger said the new voter registration system will be built on the “highest security servers with faster processing power and the most up-to-date secure technology.”

“Since day one, I have taken action to secure the vote in Georgia,” Raffensperger said. “This partnership with Salesforce and MTX Group will help ensure Georgia’s voting system is secure, reliable, efficient for years to come.”

“The new system, called the Georgia Registered Voter Information System, will sit on secure, Salesforce servers using cloud technology services authorized by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) at the highest level of security. FedRAMP was introduced in 2011 and ensures standards of security for the use of cloud services across the federal government. FedRAMP ensures that private sector partners are using top-tier secure technology for any cloud storage services provided to the federal government,” Raffensperger’s office said in a release.

Raffensperger said county and local elections officials around the state have already been introduced to the new system and will be trained on it in the coming weeks and months. Following training, the new system will be launched statewide.

From WSAV:

“This system has a lot higher capability so we know that lines will be much shorter,” he said. ” And I think the average voter will see something that’s more responsive, they’ll get more timely information.”

“Security is the key to truly assuring that all voters and all candidates know and understand that the winner is the winner and the the loser simply came up short,” said Raffensperger.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

The state’s current system is nearly a decade old, and was blamed for slowdowns during the first few days of early in-person voting in the 2020 primary elections, when the system could not access data fast enough to handle a large volume of voters.

“This new system is more advanced, more secure, and more user friendly and will give our election directors and my office new tools to better manage our election efforts,” Raffensperger said.

Officials say the new system will cost less than $5 million, with funding split between leftover bond funds the state borrowed to buy new voting machines and federal money.

More than a dozen county election directors appeared with Raffensperger to back the change. Douglas County’s Milton Kidd said the change would be a challenge, but expressed confidence that “Douglas County will be ready.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams said that the federal election bill could be passed, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

Abrams was noticeably absent from Biden’s visit last week to Atlanta, where he called for an end to the filibuster to pass voting legislation. An aide blamed a scheduling conflict, and in a statement released after Biden spoke, Abrams said she welcomed his commitment to changing the filibuster for voting bills.

On Wednesday, Abrams said she was a “proud Democrat, and President Joe Biden is my president.” She took questions from the media at the headquarters of the Georgia AFL-CIO union, which announced that it was endorsing her campaign for Georgia governor

“I believe legislation can be passed because I know that we’ve done it before,” she said.

“But we also have to remember that civil rights and voting rights took a long time,” she added.

The Lincoln County Board of Elections chose to make no changes to early voting, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Lincoln County Board of Elections chose not to decide Wednesday whether to close all but one polling place after opponents from across the state gathered hundreds of signatures for a petition and attracted national media attention.

Freeman said the board’s action impacts voters of all colors and persuasions across the rural county, and noted the struggles many endured to secure the right to vote.

“We are not going backward, but we will show you, we will teach you, we will walk you through the process of what it takes to go forward,” she said. “This is not a legacy that we want our children and our grandchildren to have to fight this fight again.”

Under state law, if at least 20% of voters in an affected precinct register their opposition, the board is prohibited from taking the action. According to the Secretary of State, Lincoln County has over 6,000 registered voters spread across seven precincts.

The Savannah Morning News looks at upcoming election contests from state-level to local.

Longtime Rep. Buddy Carter doesn’t have any conservative opponents for the primary yet, but the Democratic nominees are lining up.

Joyce Marie Griggs, the Democratic nominee Carter ran against in 2020, is running again. p

Savannah Lawyer Wade Herring, spurred to run after Carter’s vote to not certify the 2020 presidential election, has out-fundraised all of Carter’s previous Democratic opponents since he announced his run last year.

A third Democrat has joined the race as well: Richmond Hill resident Michelle Munroe, a retired Army veteran and former CEO of Winn Army Community Hospital.

Former State Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) will challenge U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-I-285), according to the AJC.

Vincent Fort, once the second-ranking Democrat in the state Senate, said Thursday he was challenging Scott because the district needs someone “who is present and progressive.”

“It needs someone who believes in Democratic ideals, and someone who doesn’t vote like a south Georgia Republican,” Fort added. “It needs someone who believes in Medicare for All and doesn’t side with the big banks and predatory lenders.”

He entered the race days after Politico published a lengthy report that questioned whether Scott, 76, is fit to lead the powerful House Agriculture Committee. Scott, who was first elected in 2002, described himself in the report as “strong and vibrant as a roaring lion.”

Scott has carved out a moderate record in the U.S. House. He’s a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, and he’s broken party lines to support George W. Bush’s tax cuts and back Republican-led foreign policy efforts. He also endorsed then-Sen. Johnny Isakson’s reelection bid in 2016.

By contrast, Fort has embraced his party’s left wing. He earned the backing of Sanders, a democratic socialist, during his mayoral bid by calling for the decriminalization of marijuana, free tuition at Atlanta city colleges and other left-leaning initiatives.

Savannah and Chatham County are in disagreement over a potential Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to the Savannah Morning News.

The question of whether the county will collect $420 million in penny sales tax to fund transportation infrastructure improvements is murky after a contentious municipal meeting flared tensions between Chatham County and City of Savannah officials Wednesday morning.

“Don’t come for Chatham County,” Chatham County Chairman Chester Ellis told Savannah City Manager Jay Melder, adding, “at some time down the line, y’all need to get on the page with the rest of us.”

The conflict came after Ellis posed the reality that if Savannah opts out of the referendum, then a majority of the sales tax dollars wouldn’t be shared with the rest of the county, since the majority of spending occurs in Savannah city limits. The City of Savannah wants to be a part of the sales tax revenue stream, but needs more time to gather public input and pass a city council resolution.

The referendum in question is TSPLOST, the special local option sales tax referendum. It is a tax revenue source Georgia municipalities can use to fund public capital improvement projects, from arenas and bridges to school buildings. The county is looking to raise $420 million for transportation-related improvements over the next several years, with projects coming to fruition in the long-term.

From WTOC:

County and municipal leaders, along with the business and development community had been on the same page that a referendum in May was the way to go.

But Monday morning, the president and CEO of the Savannah Economic Development Authority said that changed when David Perdue decided to run for governor, creating a high-profile GOP contest during the May primary – a development he thinks could result in TSPLOST being voted down.

“And that’s a county-wide election that’s going to drive out a lot of conservative voters in Savannah. And last time I checked that block does not like tax increases,” Savannah Economic Development Authority President/CEO Trip Tollison said.

While saying he’s flexible and willing to look at moving the referendum to November, County Chairman Chester Ellis says his concern is the November ballot might be too full for a TSPLOST vote to get voters’ attention.

“Folks who work with the voter folks can tell you, a lot of times a referendum and stuff at the bottom don’t even get checked, don’t even get looked at, cause folks get tired or trying to decide up top what’s going on,” Ellis said.

The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office will receive a state grant to pay for de-escalation training, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

County commissioners agreed on Tuesday to accept a $196,770 state grant, on behalf of the Gwinnett Sheriff’s Office, from the Governor’s Office and Criminal Justice Coordinating Council for the training.

There is no requirement for the county to provide matching funds to obtain the grant.

“The grant provides funding to enhance training in the areas of use-of-force (and) de-escalation, including funding for related equipment and supplies,” Chief Deputy Cleo Atwater told commissioners.

Brunswick City Commissioners pushed off a vote on a proposed short term rental ordinance, according to The Brunswick News.

Bunswick city commissioners deferred a vote on a short-term rental ordinance until the Feb. 16 meeting to give new city officials and the public more time to understand how it could affect the city.

[City Attorney Brian] Corry said he used short-term rental ordinances from Atlanta, Savannah and Glynn County as templates for the city ordinance.

Commissioner Felicia Harris expressed concerns about the growing number of short-term rentals in the city and the impacts they could have on the city’s housing stock and neighborhoods.

“Short-term renters may not care about neighborhood relationships,” she said. “We’re trying to build housing stock. We want long-term residents to help build the city in a positive manner.”

Talbot County Probate & Magistrate Judge Sherrell Terry was found dead at home, age 45, according to WTVM.

She was elected in 2020 and followed in the footsteps of her father and predecessor, former Judge John R. Terry. She was the first female probate judge in Talbot County.

Officials say no foul play is suspected.

19
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 19, 2022

Robert E. Lee was born on January 19, 1807 at his family home, Stratford Hall, Virginia.

Delegates to the Secession Convention in Milledgeville voted 208-89 in favor of seceding from the United States on January 19, 1861.

On January 19, 1871, Savannah, Georgia became the first city to recognize Robert E. Lee’s Birthday as a public holiday.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

State Senator Burt Jones is on television with the above ad, according to the AJC.

Under the Gold Dome Today

Joint Budget Hearings, 9 AM in 341 CAP, Hybrid.

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order #01.18.22.01, renewing the State of Emergency for Continued COVID-19 Economic Recovery.Continue Reading..

18
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 18, 2022

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

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.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today: Joint Appropriations Committee Meeting , 9AM in Room 341-CAP (hybrid). From the AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp raised a few eyebrows at the Capitol last week when he proposed a $3 billion increase in spending over the current state budget.

His $30.2 billion plan includes pay raises and bonuses for teachers, school staff and state employees, a refund for income tax payers, $600 million for new prisons, and hundreds of millions more for health care and mental health programs.

Kemp will speak to a joint meeting of the House and Senate Appropriations committees. He’ll be followed by his chief economist, who will give legislators an outlook on the state’s economy, which will have to be strong over the next 18 months to pay for the record spending.

That will be followed by nearly three-dozen state agency leaders who will explain what it all means and how they will spend the money.

Over the next few months the budget committees will decide which of Kemp’s proposals get a green light and make it into the budget, and they also will likely add a few of their own.

Governor Brian Kemp spoke about President Biden’s visit to Atlanta touting election legislation, according to FoxNews.Continue Reading..

14
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 14, 2022

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

democrat-donkey-cartoon

 

On January 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.

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

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

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

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

Click here for the full text of Governor Kemp’s State of the State.

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday delivered his State of the State address. From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Gov. Brian Kemp’s State of the State address touted what he called “unprecedented success,” despite unforeseen challenges of the pandemic.

In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia remained open for business, bringing record levels of jobs and investment, he said.

“We now have the opportunity to build a safer, stronger Georgia for all who call the Peach State home,” Kemp said.

“I also look forward to working with the House and Senate to pass, and sign, a parental bill of rights in our education system and other pieces of legislation that I strongly support to ensure fairness in school sports and address obscene materials online and in our school libraries,” Kemp said.

Democrats said the controversy in many states over critical race theory is not an issue, though Republicans have called the concept divisive.

“We have a made-up issue that’s been manufactured to support cultural war and distract persons in our state from the real issues students and teachers face with budget shortfalls,” said Democrat Sen. Harold Jones II during the Democrat press conference. “It’s remarkable that made-up issue would come first, when we fail to give teachers the support they need and threaten to punish them for teaching accurate facts about American history. We’re pushing good educators out of the profession.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle:

In his fourth and final State of the State address of a four-year term, Kemp told a joint session of the Georgia House and Senate education, health care and public safety will top his agenda as he seeks reelection.

“It invests historic levels of resources in our students and educators,” the governor said toward the end of a 26-minute speech. “It reduces the cost of health insurance for Georgia families [and] recruits 1,300 new nurses and doctors into communities where they’re needed most.”

Kemp also announced his fiscal 2022 mid-year budget will include $425 million to fully fund the K-12 school funding formula, doing away with “austerity” cuts that have plagued Georgia school systems for most of the last two decades.

On health care, Kemp asked for $1 million for the University System of Georgia to expand nursing programs to support up to 500 students a year for five years and funds for the Technical College System of Georgia to add up to 700 nursing students.

“Physicians and nurses are in short supply across the country, but especially in rural Georgia,” he said.

From the Associated Press via Statesboro Herald:

Kemp aims to show voters what he can deliver, hoping to use the legislative session to elevate his standing. His proposals, laid out in the speech and in recent days, include bombarding teachers, public schools, universities and their employees and state employees with more money. Kemp also wants to provide $1.6 billion of state income tax rebates, but didn’t mention that in his speech.

“I have fought hard to live up to the commitments I made on the campaign trail and ultimately do the right thing, even when no one was watching,” Kemp said.

The governor appealed to conservative voters by saying he wants to end the requirement for permits to carry concealed weapons, protect students from ideologies, ban transgender girls from playing school sports, create a parents’ bill of rights, and remove obscene materials from school libraries and online resources.

Kemp’s agenda also includes anti-crime initiatives including creating an anti-gang task force in Attorney General Chris Carr’s office to complement the one established by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Kemp said state assistance is needed because “in too many jurisdictions across our state, soft-on-crime local governments and prosecutors have been unwilling to join our fight to rid their communities of these criminal networks.”

Democrats have targeted Kemp on COVID-19, saying he has mishandled the pandemic. Kemp on Thursday again defended his choice for an early business reopening and minimal restrictions afterward, citing low unemployment and new industrial announcements.

“Georgia is on the move because we chose freedom over government shutdowns,” said Kemp, who also has backed lawsuits against federal vaccine mandates. “We trusted our citizens to be part of the solution — instead of part of the problem.”

From the AJC:

“Hardworking Georgians in our schools — the school staff, administrators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and teachers — all do a terrific job keeping our kids safe and investing in their futures,” Kemp said in his address to lawmakers.

“To support their heroic efforts day in and day out,” he said, “I believe we as state leaders must continue to do everything we can to ensure they have the resources necessary to fulfill their mission and prepare the next generation of leaders for successful lives and careers.”

Lawmakers had cut k-12 and college funding in mid-2020 when they feared a pandemic recession. Kemp’s plan would restore that lost funding in the budget, costing about $650 million a year.

“We are pleased that Gov. Kemp continues to keep public education at the forefront of his agenda,” said Lisa Morgan, a kindergarten teacher and president of the Georgia Association of Educators. “We applaud his efforts in fulfilling his promise of a salary increase, including added bonuses, as well as fully funding the QBE formula for the coming school year. We hope and expect the General Assembly will approve his budget priorities.”

From WTOC:

During Kemp’s speech, he talked about his promise in 2018 to raise teacher pay in Georgia by $5,000. To date, teachers have received a $3,000 raise. Kemp announced that his Fiscal year 2023 budget proposal will include the money for the other $2,000 that was promised.

He also announced that the amended Fiscal Year 2022 budget will recommend a one-time pay supplement of $2,000 for full-time, state-funded instructional staff, school support staff, and school administration and a $1,000 supplement for school bus drivers, nurses, nutrition workers and part-time employees.

Kemp also announced the budget for this year will include an initial $1 million to be used for the expansion of the University of Georgia’s nursing program. His proposal will also include $.5 million for 136 residency slots and $1 million for Mercer University to use to address rural physician shortages.

Next, Kemp announced his budget proposal will include nearly $28 million to allocate a 10% provider rate increase for all foster parents, relative caregivers, child caring institutions and child placing agencies.

From 13WMAZ:

[Governor Kemp] announced plans to give $1 million to Mercer University to help them fight the doctor shortage in rural Georgia.

Governor Kemp says his proposed budget is all part of his effort to keep the state’s economy strong as we fight through the pandemic. The money is supposed to help Mercer’s School of Medicine continue providing doctors and clinics in some of the state’s most-underserved areas.

According to a WalletHub report, the Peach State ranks 35th in the nation for access to health care. There’s one primary care physician for every 1,500 Georgians, but on the county level, it’s worse. County Health Rankings data from 2018 shows there is one primary care physician for every 740 people in Macon-Bibb County. In Putnam County, it’s 1 to 2,730 people.

“Rural communities deserve the same quality of care as urban areas,” Doctor Jean Sumner, Dean of Mercer’s School of Medicine, said. Sumner says they will use the $1 million effectively.

“We want to be the best money the state ever spent on trying to change our state,” Sumner said. “We want them to feel every dollar that comes this way is used to make our state a healthier state in the areas that have the most need.”

Also from 13WMAZ:

Governor Brian Kemp is allocating $900,000 to Middle Georgia State University’s Dublin’s campus to help the college to graduate more nurses and address the state’s critical nursing shortage.

Dr. Tara Underwood, the Dean of the School of Health and Natural Sciences, explains the need for state-of-the-art technology, simulation labs being high on the list.

“Our health science students in particular, to practice on mannequins and practice various situations they will encounter in the hospital or various healthcare settings,” said Underwood.

Altogether, the state has funded $5.7 million  in improvements to Middle Georgia State University’s nursing program in Dublin. They expect to complete their expansion there this summer 2022.

Georgia Democrats had a wish list, according to WRDW.

Democratic state Sen. Harold Jones said the governor instead should have discussed funding to support schoolchildren who live in poverty.

The Democrats said Kemp should use the budget surplus for Medicaid and raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in addition to helping state employees.

House Minority leader Dr. James Beverly said the governor is more concerned about getting guns in the hands of people than vaccines in the arms of Georgia’s residents. He also said constitutional carry — the governor’s plan to allow people to carry guns without having a permit — is 100% political and 0% public safety.

Mercedes-Benz stadium will host a COVID-testing mega-site, according to the AJC.

Georgia Department of Public Health announced Thursday that the site will be hosted at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The stadium was home to a massive site supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that administered 300,000 doses the first half of last year.

The drive-up site will be located at the Home Depot Backyard, 1 Backyard Way.

This new operation will be open every day except Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily until further notice. These PCR tests are free to all Georgians, but insurance will be billed if available.

State officials last week announced two more mega-sites in the metro area: one at Jim Miller Park (Gate 1) at 1295 Al Bishop Drive in Marietta and another at 2994 Turner Hill Road in Stonecrest.

The State House Governmental Affairs Special Subcommittee on Cityhood, chaired by Rep. Victor Anderson (R-Cornelia) voted to recommend passage of a bill allowing the creation of a City of East Cobb, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The legislation, sponsored by Republican state Reps. Matt Dollar and Sharon Cooper, both of whom represent east Cobb, calls for a city of about 55,000 centered around the Johnson Ferry corridor. It would stretch from the Chattahoochee River on the south to Shallowford Road on the north and from the Fulton County line on the east to Old Canton Road on the west.

A study conducted last year by the Fiscal Research Center at Georgia State University found the proposed city to be financially feasible.

The city would be governed by a six-member council with three at-large posts and three district seats, all elected citywide. The six would elect a mayor from among themselves.

House Bill 841, which Dollar and Cooper introduced last year, is the second legislative effort at forming a city in East Cobb. A 2019 bill was abandoned due to lack of public support, Dollar said.

Democrats captured control of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners in the November 2020 elections, while east Cobb is heavily Republican.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R-Forsyth County) assigned Senate legislation allowing a City of Buckhead City to the Democratic-majority Urban Affairs Committee, according to the AJC.

Duncan’s move on Thursday effectively bottled up the legislation sponsored by Republican state Sen. Brandon Beach, though it’s far from scuttled. A similar House measure is pending, and the provision that allows for a cityhood referendum could be tacked onto other legislation.

The fate of the legislation will now be up to the Senate Urban Affairs Committee, which is composed entirely of Democrats, including several who are outspoken critics of the cityhood effort. State Sen. Lester Jackson, who chairs the committee, said the panel would be “transparent and fair” with the proposal.

“The details matter here. The financing issues. The education issues. The governance issues. These are all issues that must be fixed before — and not after — a referendum is passed,” Duncan said in a recent interview. “My hope is that we’re able to figure out a way to help all of Atlanta significantly cut crime.”

The Republican-backed bill, if passed by both chambers and signed by the governor, would allow a November ballot referendum in which Buckhead residents would vote on whether to leave Atlanta and form a new city.

The DeKalb County Board of Elections voted for a new Elections Director, according to the AJC.

The local elections board voted unanimously Thursday to hire Keisha Smith — who currently leads the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority — to the prominent position. She is expected to start work on Feb. 14.

“[Smith’s] dynamic vision for the department, her clear approach to leadership and extensive background in navigating high-profile professional environments, coupled with her enthusiasm for this position, gave us the collective confidence that she was the candidate best suited to lead DeKalb into a bright future,” elections board chair Dele Lowman Smith, who is not related to the new hire, said in a news release.

The elections board began its search for a new director in October, about two weeks after the resignation of former department head Erica Hamilton had been finalized. Hamilton, who was heavily criticized by local leaders during the 2020 election season, had been on an “extended leave of absence” since the previous month.

Doraville City Council voted to limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, according to the AJC.

Doraville councilmembers passed an ordinance Wednesday to allow up to two dispensaries to open in the city, which can sell medical cannabis, including THC oil, edibles and other products. The vote wasn’t unanimous, with Councilman Andy Yeoman criticizing the policy as overly restrictive and unnecessary.

“I’m disappointed in this. I feel like I’m in Dalton tonight, not in Doraville,” he said, comparing the more conservative-leaning north Georgia city to his left-leaning home.

The rest of the council felt the ordinance, which also lifted a temporary moratorium on medical cannabis dispensaries in Doraville, was a necessary precaution. While no current business in the city sells these products, the city attorney previously said he’s heard there is interest in the metro Atlanta market.

State law dictates that only 30 medical marijuana dispensaries can open in Georgia. Recreational marijuana, which is illegal in Georgia, typically has a much higher proportion of THC than medicinal cannabis. State law also requires THC products to be prescribed by a doctor and filled by a pharmacist.

Georgia allows for the manufacturing and dispensing of oils with a THC content up to 5%. While there’s a statewide commission over licensing, it’s up to local governments to dictate zoning restrictions.

State Senator Burt Jones (R-Jackson) unveiled a massive warchest for his campaign for Lieutenant Governor, according to the AJC.

Republican Burt Jones will report about $3.4 million in cash on hand for his campaign for lieutenant governor.

It’s a formidable warchest for a contender in a down-ticket race, and the GOP state senator is set to use the money to amplify his endorsement from Donald Trump.

Jones, an executive at the petroleum firm owned by his family, will report amassing $3.75 million since he entered the race. He pumped about $2 million of his own cash into the contest and collected another $1.75 million from donors.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan isn’t seeking a second term. Jones is squaring off against Senate GOP leader Butch Miller, also a prodigious fundraiser, for the party’s nomination. Republican activist Jeanne Seaver is in the race as well.

The United States Supreme Court struck down the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for large employers, according to the Associated Press via AcccessWDUN.

At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S. The court’s orders Thursday came during a spike in coronavirus cases caused by the omicron variant.

The court’s conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected and OSHA had estimated that the rule would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months.

“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the conservatives wrote in an unsigned opinion.

From WSAV:

“This afternoon, the Supreme Court affirmed what we all know to be true: Joe Biden has no right to force federal government mandates on private businesses,” tweeted Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.

The governor said he’s proud to have taken part in legal action against the Biden administration.

“I’ll keep fighting to ensure hardworking Georgians are not forced to choose between their livelihood and a vaccine,” Kemp added.

Congressman Buddy Carter, who represents Georgia’s 1st district, said it appears the federal government has “a blind spot” when it comes to health care workers [speaking of the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers that the Court left intact].

“At a minimum, this will negatively impact the workforce in our healthcare community, which is already struggling due to a worker shortage,” said Attorney General Chris Carr of Georgia. “We look forward to continuing our fight against the unlawful vaccine mandates for federal contractors and the Head Start program.”

United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) is co-sponsoring legislation to prevent members of Congress and their families from trading stocks, according to CNN via the Albany Herald.

Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia introduced a bill this week with fellow Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona called the Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act, which would require lawmakers, their spouses and dependent children to place their stock portfolios into blind trusts. If passed, the legislation would not allow lawmakers to use inside information to trade stocks and make money.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri introduced a very similar bill Wednesday called the Banning Insider Trading in Congress Act, which would also ban lawmakers from trading stocks while in office.

There are some key differences between the two proposals: Ossoff’s legislation would apply the ban to any dependent children in addition to the spouses, while Hawley’s bill would not. Also, Ossoff’s legislation would have the congressional Ethics Committee oversee the issue, while Hawley’s bill would have the Government Accountability Office audit.

And probably the biggest difference: Ossoff’s legislation would fine the lawmakers from their salaries if they broke the law, while Hawley’s would require lawmakers in the wrong to return their profits to the American people through the Treasury Department.

The Georgia Senate Ethics Committee voted to recommend passage of legislation to amend the state Constitution to prohibit non-citizen voting, according to the Associated Press via the Statesboro Herald.

The Senate Ethics Committee voted 7-2 on Thursday to advance Senate Resolution 363. It moves to the full Senate for more debate. A constitutional amendment needs a two-thirds vote in each chamber to advance to a ballot referendum, meaning unified Democrats could kill the measure.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller of Gainesville and other supporters argue the current constitutional provisions that say all citizens of Georgia shall be entitled to vote needs to be clarified to reflect state law that says only citizens of the United States and residents of Georgia can vote.

“It sends a clear message that in Georgia, the right to vote is sacred, and citizenship matters,” Miller said.

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has been campaigning in favor of the change. Sam Teasley, of Raffensperger’s office, said the state should “move to this level of clarity” and predicted “there would be broad bipartisan support of a measure to make it clear that only citizens should be voting in elections.”

Whitfield County Commissioners voted to pay bonuses to deputy coroners, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The members of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 Tuesday to use federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) money to provide two $1,000 bonuses each to three deputy coroners.

“We considered them the last responders when, unfortunately, someone passed away from COVID(-19),” said Board Chairman Jevin Jensen. “They must deal with challenging situations and possible infections just like first responders do when going into victims’ homes.”

The commissioners voted in December to give firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and 911 dispatchers a $2,500 bonus in December and another $2,500 bonus in February.

“The deputy coroners are part time,” said Jensen. “This is why their bonus is smaller than full-time firefighters and sheriff’s deputies.”

Department heads, such as the fire chief, and constitutional officers, such as the coroner and the sheriff, did not receive a bonus.

Delta Air Lines, the Metro area’s second-largest employer, said nearly 11% of its workforce has been sidelined by COVID, according to Fox5Atlanta.

Delta Air Lines said Thursday that 8,000 employees — or nearly 11% of its workforce — have contacted COVID-19 over the last four weeks, a factor that has contributed to thousands of canceled flights since the holidays.

The airline lost $408 million in the final quarter of 2021, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 surge fueled by the highly-transmissible omicron variant and severe winter weather. Delta predicted that it will suffer one more quarterly loss before travel picks up in the spring and summer.

“I don’t think we’re going to see a pickup in bookings or travel during January and probably the first part of February,” CEO Ed Bastian. “It’s always the weakest part of the year, and it’s going to be that much weaker because of omicron. We need confidence in travel returning once the virus recedes.”

Both storms and crew calling out sick forced airlines to cancel or delay thousands of flights over the busy holiday travel season, including airlines like Delta, United and JetBlue. Delta alone had to drop more than 2,200 flights since Dec. 24.

The Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office has invested in equipment, supplies, and training to prevent the spread of COVID in the jail, according to WTVM.

Thunderbolt adopted a short-term rental ordinance that includes a $700 permit fee, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Town of Thunderbolt has updated their recently implemented short-term vacation rental (STVR) regulations, adding a $700 registration fee. Recertification for an existing STVR will cost $580 thereafter.

The fees were approved by the town council at Wednesday’s meeting by a 4-0 vote, with members Edward Drohan and Bethany Skipper recusing.

City manager Robert Milie explained that the fee was “not intended to make money” but to ensure the existing tax base, or its permanent residents, aren’t incurring costs from the STVR business.

Thunderbolt Town Council passed their first ordinance regulating STVRs in December, which set a limit of 70 rentals allowed in the city. The cap is the estimated number of existing rentals out of a total of 1,316 housing units in the city.

Valdosta City Schools are closed today due to COVID, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

“Positive COVID cases are on the rise across the country and in our community,” the statement said. “We have seen a large increase in COVID exposures and are experiencing higher than normal absenteeism rates in our faculty, staff and students.”

“We will close all Valdosta City Schools Friday, Jan. 14, through Tuesday, Jan. 18. Schools will reopen on Wednesday, Jan. 19.”

The school system noted it was already scheduled to be closed Monday, Jan. 17, in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Long County Schools are closed today due to COVID, according to WTOC.

The Long County School System will be closed Friday, Jan. 14 due to a critical staff shortage caused by COVID-19, according to a news release from the school system.

The district is set to reopen Tuesday after undergoing a deep clean. Superintendent David Edwards says the district made the decision after not having enough staff available for classes, and some parents say they’re concerned about the rest of the school year.

Superintendent David Edwards says the school district is missing about 25 percent of its staff due to COVID, leaving about 40 staff vacancies for the day, even when trying to fill in with substitutes.

“It’s just to a critical point where we’re missing staff from teachers to cafeteria staff to transportation,” said Edwards.

The portraits of President and First Lady Obama are at the High Museum in Atlanta now, according to the Albany Herald.

But the exhibition is more than two paintings in a large room. The High Museum tells the stories of the Black artists who captured the Obamas in a way the world had never seen before.

Georgia native and Clark-Atlanta University alumni Amy Sherald is the face behind the iconic six-foot-tall painting of Michelle Obama, which captures the former first lady in a flowing colorful dress reminiscent of the quilts of Gee’s Bend. Her skin, notably painted in gray-scale, is not only a response to early portraits of African Americans but also reminds viewers of the absence of Black people in the history of large-scale photography. Sherald’s approach is to challenge her viewer to look beyond the superficial differences of race.

Barack Obama’s seven-foot-tall portrait, portrayed by Los Angeles native Kehinde Wiley, shows the president sitting before a lush green backdrop with distinct flowers appearing throughout the painting. But, as the exhibition shows, the artwork is more than meets the eye.

For Wiley, the portrait tells a story. The jasmine flower references Hawai’i, where the former president was born. The African blue lilies; a tribute to Obama’s father who was from Kenya. Vibrant chrysanthemums are on full display as the official flower of Chicago, the meeting place of Michelle and Barack and the city where his political career took flight.

13
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 13, 2022

Betty Spaghetty is a senior female Hound mix who is available for adoption from Renegade Paws Rescue in Savannah, GA.

Betty is a 9yr old sweet and gentle girl that is housebroken, crate trained, walks well on a leash, and is good with cats, dogs, and kids. Her favorite thing is to be outside taking a leisurely walk and enjoying nature. Miss Spaghetty may be a senior gal, but she still has plenty of love left to give and can’t wait to live out her days in a forever home.Would love a calmer household where she enjoys the slower pace and access to either a fenced yard and/or frequent leisurely walks because this senior lady loves the outdoors!

Betty White is a female Chihuahua mix who is available for adoption from Hootie’s Haven Animal Rescue Inc. in Cedartown, GA.

Betty Lou is a senior female Basset Hound who is available for adoption from Basset Hound Rescue of Georgia in Fayetteville, GA.

Betty Lou is a tri-colored girl who is 8-9 years old. She was picked up as a stray. Betty Lou had malignant cancer removed from her leg, but she still limps. She is also fighting kidney disease. Her foster family is taking wonderful care of Betty Lou.

13
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 13, 2022

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

COVID has become the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers, according to WTVM.

According to the National Law Enforcement Fund, COVID was the leading cause of death among law enforcement.

301 officers have died across the United States from COVID. Muscogee County Sheriff Greg Countryman says they have seen this first hand.

Countryman says since the inception of COVID-19, 97 of their deputies have tested positive for COVID and two have died. He was brought to tears as he remembered Sergeants Bobby Williams and Sherman Peebles.

“We have families that are suffering because they don’t have their husbands or their loved ones at home with them that when they die in the line of duty from these COVID related deaths that there is no other way that we can see justice. There’s no victim besides the family that there is no person that we can go and arrest for us to even seek and to have a little justice in this,” said Countryman.

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM – HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE – 606 CLOB HYBRID

8:00 AM – Senate Ethics Committee – 307 CLOB

10:00 AM – HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 3) – House Chamber

10:00 AM – Senate Floor Session (LD 3) – Senate Chamber

Governor Brian Kemp spoke to the Georgia Chamber’s “Eggs and Issues” breakfast yesterday. From a press release:

On his administration’s plan to provide a $250 refund to single tax filers and $500 to those filing jointly:

“At the state-level, that success has meant record revenues, and as Governor, I believe we should continue to fund our priorities as a state – education, healthcare, and public safety… but also be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

“Last fiscal year, because we kept Georgia open and fought alongside you all in this room to keep businesses and communities afloat, the state collected a record budget surplus. I believe that when government takes in more money than it needs, surplus funds should be sent back to the hardworking men and women who keep our state moving forward.

“Because that is your money. Not the governments.

“That is why my Amended FY22 budget proposal authorizes the Department of Revenue to provide $1.6 billion in refunds to every taxpayer in Georgia. Under my plan, every citizen filing their income taxes this April will receive a refund credit ranging from $250 for single filers to $500 for joint filers. As Georgians seek to recover from the economic impact of a global pandemic, we as state leaders should do everything we can to empower families to keep more of their money in their own wallets.”

On fulfilling his commitment to exempting military retirement income from state income tax:

“These men and women deserve more than our words of appreciation, even though we have many to give. They deserve action that shows our gratitude. One of the key points of my platform has been to enact a retirement-income exclusion for retired military.

“And thanks to the hard work of leaders under the Gold Dome these last few years – work that put our state in a position to invest in our citizens – I’m proud to announce that my team will introduce legislation this session to make this tax exclusion a reality for Georgia’s retired military!”

On raising HOPE Scholarship award rates to at least 90% in all public post-secondary education institutions:

“Additionally, we know the HOPE scholarship and grant programs have helped millions of Georgians afford their post-secondary educations, and as tuition has increased at some institutions, the program must keep pace.

“My budget proposal allocates an additional $25 million to fund growth in scholarship and grant needs and ensure that HOPE programs cover at least 90% of tuition at all Georgia public higher education institutions. For eight straight years, Georgia’s economy has been unmatched across the country and it’s our responsibility to develop a workforce that furthers that success.

“By cutting costs for students and their families, we can achieve that goal.”

From 11Alive:

He’s been on a roll recently, penning a letter encouraging a $5,000 pay bump and other benefits for state employees and pushing for a new law that would loosen the state’s handgun requirements in just the last week.

From WSB-TV:

State Democrats didn’t think much of the governor’s proposal. They believe the money could be put to much better use helping secure health insurance for Georgians who need it.

“I think it’s another misguided initiative from the Governor,” said House Minority Leader State Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon. “It’s misguided because there are 500,000 Georgians right now who don’t have health insurance. We can cover the coverage cap right now with that money. When part of that money can be used to expand health care and to make sure that people who lost their job through no fault of their own are now put in the deal flow.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Kemp said the record $3.7 billion budget surplus the state posted at the end of the last fiscal year in June resulted from Georgia’s ability to recover quickly from the recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. While some states shut down businesses during the pandemic’s early months, Kemp chose to keep Georgia’s economy open.

“We chose hope over fear, freedom over lockdowns,” he said. “As a result, our state led the nation in economic recovery.”

Kemp also announced plans to reverse the budget cuts to higher education the state imposed during the Great Recession of the late 2000s and early 2010s.
He said he will ask the General Assembly for $262 million to remove “institutional” fees the University System of Georgia slapped on students during that economic downturn and $25 million to increase the HOPE Scholarship program’s coverage to at least 90% of tuition costs at the state’s public colleges and universities.

The mandatory institutional fees, which were not earmarked for specific purposes such as athletics, have been a major source of complaints by students and their parents. The lottery-funded HOPE program, which used to provide full tuition coverage for eligible students, was reduced in 2011 because growing student enrollment was failing to keep pace with HOPE revenues.

Also during the Eggs and Issues breakfast, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan pitched his proposal for a $250 million state tax credit to raise money to support law enforcement.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said he will introduce a comprehensive bill aimed at improving mental health services in Georgia by, among other things, providing parity to mental health-care workers.

“For too long, our state has ranked among the worst in the nation for delivering mental-heath services,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “That is a distinction that’s going to change.”

Governor Kemp also appointed two new members of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, according to the AJC.

Kemp named longtime businessmen Richard “Tim” Evans and Jim Syfan to the powerful 19-member board, replacing Kessel D. Stelling, Jr. and Philip A. Wilheit, Sr., whose seven-year terms expired this month.

The governor last year backed former two-term Gov. Sonny Perdue for chancellor. Two people close to Kemp said the Republican’s chances for the coveted post are still alive.

The incoming regents are prominent business leaders. Evans founded Evans General Contractors in 2001, leading the company as president and chief executive officer until January 2021. He now serves as its board chairman.

Syfan and his sons founded Turbo Logistics, Inc. in 1984, which was sold in 2006. Syfan has been involved in several economic development organizations in Hall County. Kemp appointed Syfan in 2020 to serve as a member of the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority.

“For many years as strong business leaders, Tim Evans and Jim Syfan have worked hard to make their communities and our state better,” Kemp said in a statement.

“With decades of experience, they are eminently qualified for these posts, and I am honored to name them to the Board of Regents to serve our top-ranked university system.”

Governor Kemp ruled out changes to Georgia’s election laws this year, according to the AJC.

Asked about proposals to ban ballot drop boxes, Kemp said he doesn’t want to overhaul “the best elections integrity act in the country.”

“You need to speak individually to those legislators. I think the action we took on drop boxes to make them available is the right thing to do for Georgians, but it also needs to be a secure process,” he said. “And I think that’s what the General Assembly has done.”

We hear he’s planning to wear a red-and-black UGA tie. After all, there’s no flag for excessive celebration after the football season is over, especially when the state’s flagship university wins the national championship.

Speaking of the State of the State:

Gov. Brian Kemp will deliver a State of the State address on Thursday to outline his election-year agenda ahead of a challenging battle for a second term.

Democrat Stacey Abrams swears she didn’t snub President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. From the AJC:

Stacey Abrams’ campaign slammed the “false rumors” about her decision to skip President Joe Biden’s voting rights event in Atlanta and called on anonymous operatives to stop spreading inaccuracies about the Georgia Democrat.

“Stacey did not presume she would receive an invitation, nor did she or any member of our team ask for her to have a speaking spot at an event she could not attend,” Bringman said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Her decision triggered speculation in Washington – and attacks from Republicans in Georgia – that she was avoiding the president’s souring approval ratings.

But that narrative hasn’t reflected her strategy. She has closely aligned herself with Biden, campaigned to be his running-mate and launched her bid with a promise to back the president’s agenda.

“I’m running to be the governor of Georgia and anyone willing to invest in Georgia and improve our infrastructure and keep our voters safe is welcome to come work with us,” she said in a recent interview of her plans to ally herself with Biden throughout the campaign.

The AJC reviewed correspondence between the White House and the Abrams campaign that showed there was never a request or an inquiry about a speaking slot, nor were there any conditions on attending.

The emails, which redacted personal information, also show Abrams was given rough details of the event on Jan. 9 and never confirmed she would attend.

A scheduling conflict also apparently affected the Committee hearing on Buckhead Cityhood, according to the AJC.

The delegation heard from stakeholders who outlined their arguments against the secession movement, including questions they still have about the specifics of the cityhood proponents’ plans.

There was no one from the Buckhead City Committee at the virtual meeting to answer those questions. Rep. Betsy Holland, who represents a Buckhead district and chairs the Atlanta House delegation, said committee CEO Bill White was invited to speak during the meeting, but said he had a scheduling conflict. The delegation asked for a time that would fit his schedule, but didn’t hear back, Holland said.

“We all regret that Bill White deemed it not necessary for him to participate in this process,” state Sen. Nan Orrock said. “It would’ve been a very valuable opportunity for an exchange.”

Sam Lenaeus, the president of the pro-cityhood group, attended the virtual meeting but did not speak. He said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that “the joint delegation is free to meet whenever it wants to talk about whatever it wants. We offered to send a representative to answer questions from members, but they said no.”

UGA Terry School of Business Dean Ben Ayers spoke about Georgia’s economy, according to The Brunswick News.

He said the business climate in the state remains positive, with a 95% employment rate for the business school’s graduates.

Georgia’s economic outlook for 2022 is positive, with steady growth forecast throughout the year. Ayers predicted growth of 4.3%.

The private sector, which he said has “an abundance of unfilled jobs,” is expected to be the main strength of the economy.

State and local governments will also grow and the housing boom will continue, he said.

As for risks that could slow down the recovery, supply side problems, a shortage of workers, transportation bottlenecks, inflation and a possible stock market correction or debt crisis are all concerns.

The state has a 3.2% unemployment rate, below the 4.1% national rate. Consumer spending is expected to increase by 4.5% and personal income growth is expected to rise 1.9%, he said.

Will the Georgia State Capitol see thawing relations with the local beverage company? From an AJC article several days ago:

When House Speaker David Ralston wielded a Pepsi in Coca-Cola country during the closing hours of the last legislative session, he seemed to signal an impending war with corporate powers in Georgia over the state’s new voting law.

Ralston and other top GOP leaders were infuriated in April that Coke and Delta had joined the chorus of critics who blasted the state’s election rewrite. Back then, he suggested there would be payback: “You don’t feed a dog that bites your hand.”

Now, though, it seems that the rift has been healed.

“Redemption is always possible,” Ralston said Thursday. “There has been discussion over the last year and I think some people may now see the error in their ways.”

He added: “They just did what I asked them to do. I said, ‘Go read the damn bill. I’m not even going to argue with you. Read the bill.’”

This could go further in improving the relationship.

And is it correct to call them the National Champions for 2021 or 2022?

Two candidates for Augusta Mayor lead the pack in fundraising, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

In their first required report, Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick has raised $75,581 and business owner Garnett Johnson reported $127,600 – $125,000 of it his own funds – to drum up support over the next few months.

The other 10 mayoral candidates reported little or no campaign cash. Only one, former Commissioner Marion Williams, has enough on hand to cover the $1,950 qualifying fee, while retired educator Lori Myles and race newcomer Christopher Leggett haven’t filed the required reports.

Johnson, who founded a successful office supply and equipment business, listed a $125,000 loan to himself on the report. His largest individual contribution was from company official Michael Dunbar.

The Valdosta Board of Education cast two tie votes on adopting a mask mandate, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Following the second 4-4 vote to reinstate masks, resulting in a dead motion, the mask mandate reinstatement was tabled until the next board meeting.

The Glynn County Board of Education voted to remove the option of mask mandates from COVID-19 procedures, according to The Brunswick News.

Murray County schools are going online temporarily due to COVID, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Last week, the school system had 57 student cases of COVID-19 and 21 staff cases, which is about 3% of the school system’s total staff and “less than 1% of students,” Loughridge said. However, “we’re higher this week, by quite a bit.”

As of Wednesday, there were 57 new student cases of COVID-19 since last Friday, and 21 new cases of COVID-19 among staff members, according to the school system.

Consequently, the school system is using distance learning for middle and high schools Thursday and for all schools Friday, according to Derichia Lynch, executive assistant to the superintendent.

Whitfield County public schools are seeing a dramatic increase in COVID numbers, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The number of COVID-19 cases among Whitfield County Schools students and staff is “like an avalanche right now,” said Deputy Superintendent Karey Williams.

It’s “been a big” surge since the school system returned from holiday break last week, and “we’re using support staff” to cover openings in buildings, as finding substitutes has been a challenge, but “we’re hanging in there,” Williams said. Central office personnel have also been going to buildings “to keep things up and running,” as it’s “all hands on deck.”

For the week that concluded Dec. 17, which was the final week before Christmas break, Whitfield County Schools reported five student cases of COVID-19 and the same number of staff cases. Those figures jumped to 41 for staff and 131 for students for the week that ended Friday.

The surge of cases among staff members fueled by the highly-transmissible omicron variant has stressed a school system that was already operating short of needed personnel in areas like School Nutrition and bus drivers, Williams said.

Johnson County schools, citing staff shortages, go online on Friday, according to 13WMAZ.

Sumter County schools are closed today and tomorrow due to COVID, according to WTVM.

Evans County schools canceled classes for the rest of this week, according to WSAV.

Lee County public schools will enforce a mask mandate, according to WALB.

Starting Wednesday, Jan. 12, all students are required to wear a mask in schools. The mandate will be in effect until Jan. 25.

The school system also said they are struggling to keep schools open facing a shortage of bus drivers and substitute teachers.

WALB has a list of school closures and procedural changes due to COVID.

Turner County Schools

On Jan. 12, the school system went to 100% virtual instruction.

“With the spread of this new variant, it’s very contagious. We’re a small school district. We’ve had an issue at our high school and elementary, really district-wide with both students and teachers. So we made the decision to go virtual for a week or two to help slow the spread and to keep everyone safe. Safety and security is our highest priority,” said Dr. LaShonda Flanders, assistant superintendent for Turner County Schools.

Savannah City Manager Jay Melder spoke to the Savannah Downtown Business Association about the city’s priorities, according to WTOC.

Melder spoke about the newly created and city funded Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, explaining what the program’s director will be focusing on.

“The person that will and the work engaged is really about being there and engaging with folks who are most at-risk of using a gun, and those most at-risk of being a victim of gun violence.”

Another Savannah budget priority some in the room were more curious about was the city’s involvement with the creation of affordable housing, which is an issue that directly affects the downtown workforce.

“I think you’re going to see, on the more subsidy end, some ground breakings here pretty soon on the west side, hopefully to extend opportunities for deeply affordable housing, and kind of a cross section of our homelessness work as well.”

Melder followed up by saying money set aside in the affordable housing fund will allow the City to work with developers to help make affordable housing part of the framework for private development projects.

Murray County Sole Commissioner Greg Hogan expects to return to work after being sidelined by a December stroke, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Congratulations and condolences to LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton and his three city council colleagues, who took the oath for another term, according to WTVM.