Category: Georgia Politics

5
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 5, 2021

On August 5, 1774, Royal Governor James Wright issued a proclamation banning assemblies to protest British policy.

President Abraham Lincoln imposed the first federal income tax on August 5, 1861 at the rate of 3 percent on all income over $800 per year.

On August 5, 1910, Gov. Joseph Brown signed legislation outlawing betting on election outcomes.

The caravan transporting 43 ounces of gold from Dahlonega to the State Capitol to be used in gilding the dome arrived in Roswell/Sandy Springs area on August 5, 1958. At the current price of $1461.80 per ounce, that would be worth $62,857.40.

President Ronald Reagan began the process of firing all striking Air Traffic Controllers on August 5, 1981.

Divers raised the turret of USS Monitor near Cape Hatteras on August 5, 2002.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Echols County public schools will delay school reopening due to staffing shortages, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.Continue Reading..

4
Aug

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

On August 4, 1753, George Washington became a Master Mason at the Masonic Lodge No. 4 in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

On August 4, 1944, Anne Frank, her family, and two others were found by Nazis in a sealed area in an Amsterdam warehouse. They were sent first to a concentration camp in Holland, then most were sent to Auschwitz. Anne and her sister Margot died from Typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March of 1945.

On August 4, 1958, a wagon train left Dahlonega, headed to Atlanta to pay tribute to the mighty General Assembly deliver 43 ounces of gold to be used to coat the dome of the State Capitol.

On August 4, 1993, Nolan Ryan, the greatest pitcher in major league baseball history, hit Chicago White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura, and Ventura charged the mound.

 

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger released an updated absentee ballot request form, according to the AJC.

Georgia election officials released a new absentee ballot request form Tuesday that requires voters to submit a driver’s license number or other ID, a change mandated by the state’s voting law.

The updated absentee application, created by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office, also adds a warning that voters face imprisonment or fines up to $100,000 if they provide false information.

The ID requirements for remote voting are part of Georgia’s voting law enacted after last year’s presidential election, when Democrat Joe Biden defeated Republican Donald Trump by about 12,000 votes.

The absentee request form includes boxes for voters to fill in their nine-digit driver’s license or state ID numbers. For voters who lack those forms of ID, they would have to provide a copy of a different identification document.

All registered Georgia voters are eligible to vote absentee without having to provide an excuse. Georgia has required photo ID for in-person voting since 2008.

Georgia’s new absentee ballot request form is available on the elections section of the secretary of state’s website at https://sos.ga.gov/.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) issued a new moratorium on evictions, according to the Associated Press via WTOC.

The ban announced Tuesday could help keep millions in their homes as the coronavirus’ delta variant has spread and states have been slow to release federal rental aid. It would temporarily halt evictions in counties with “substantial and high levels” of virus transmissions and would cover areas where 90% of the U.S. population lives.

The announcement was a reversal for the Biden administration, which allowed an earlier moratorium to lapse over the weekend after saying a Supreme Court ruling prevented an extension. That ripped open a dramatic split between the White House and progressive Democrats who insisted the administration do more to prevent some 3.6 million Americans from losing their homes during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster,” Biden said. “But there are several key scholars who think that it may and it’s worth the effort.”

The CDC put the initial eviction ban in place as part of the COVID-19 response when jobs shifted and many workers lost income. The ban was intended to hold back the spread of the virus among people put out on the streets and into shelters, but it also penalized landlords who lost income as a result.

From the AJC:

Right now, about one of every five renters in Georgia is behind on rent payments, according to a survey by the Census Bureau. The pandemic triggered the loss of tens of millions of jobs around the country, and many of them have not returned or have come back with limited hours.

The eviction ban is meant to keep people off the streets and out of homeless shelters and other crowded housing conditions during the public health crisis.

In DeKalb County, 145 writs of eviction were already scheduled to be executed when Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson signed an emergency order Friday that creates a local ban on evictions for another 60 days. Roughly 1,650 more are pending with the marshal’s office there. DeKalb officials say a cyberattack earlier this year dramatically slowed distribution of federal rental assistance.

If the Census Bureau survey paints an accurate picture, more than 400,000 households in metro Atlanta are behind on rent. But no one expects the number of actual evictions to even come close to that. Many tenants strike last-minute deals with landlords, borrow money for rent or raise funds in other ways.

According to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, racial minorities and women have been disproportionately affected by evictions during the pandemic.

In DeKalb, CEO Michael Thurmond acknowledged that Judge Jackson’s local moratorium would “increase the financial burden and stress on landlords, especially our mom-and-pop owners.” But he said he planned to propose at Tuesday’s county commission meeting that DeKalb’s Tenant-Landlord Assistance Coalition be allowed to pay 100% of all past-due rent up to 12 months and to increase future rent payments to three months.

From the AJC Political Insider:

It temporarily halts evictions in counties with “substantial and high levels” of COVID-19 transmissions; 90% of the U.S. population lives in such areas.

The new threshold means that evictions are banned in most of the state, including all of metro and exurban Atlanta. The new order expires Oct. 3, giving Congress more time to hash out a new rule.

Food stamp use increased during the pandemic, according to the AJC.

The number of households receiving food stamp assistance has held steady for the past year after ballooning by 40% in the first six months after the COVID-19 pandemic hit Georgia.

At the same time, fewer Georgians are receiving welfare benefits this year than last, a downward trend that’s existed for more than a decade as government officials sought to reduce the rolls.

Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office had already begun evictions, according to WTVM.

Muscogee County deputies are busy carrying out evictions just days after the federal eviction moratorium ended.

The Muscogee County Sherriff’s Office says they have had 58 evictions in the last two weeks. With rental assistance hard to come by, there could be a wave of more evictions in the coming weeks and months.

Sgt. Clinton Powell says they already have numerous evictions scheduled to carry out now that the federal eviction moratorium is ending.

Governor Brian Kemp is under pressure to ban local school system mask mandates, according to the AJC.

State Sen. Burt Jones, who is expected to run for lieutenant governor, urged Kemp to call a special legislative session to prohibit mask mandates in school districts and “let Georgia parents – not government bureaucrats – decide what is best for their children.”

Jones outlined his position in a letter to Kemp that argued the government should give parents flexibility to make decisions for their children and “not issuing across the board mandates that will inevitably do more harm than good.”

“The wellbeing of our children – and their short and long-term development and education – are squarely at risk by requiring them to wear a mask for the upcoming school year,” wrote Jones. “It is a decision that could have a generational effect on hundreds of thousands of young Georgians.”

“I trust the local school systems with local control,” the governor said recently. “Our school superintendents have been dealing with this issue for 15 months. They dealt with it all last year. They know how to deal with Covid in their classrooms. I trust them to do that.”

The Kemp Administration is also under pressure from the Biden Administration over federal healthcare waivers, according to the AJC.

Tensions are near a breaking point between the White House and Gov. Brian Kemp over Kemp’s plan to block Georgians’ access to the Affordable Care Act’s federal health insurance shopping website, healthcare.gov.

In a letter last week, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told Kemp health aides that Georgia has until August 29 to answer questions that CMS has raised about the plan. Otherwise, it wrote, Georgia will be in violation of the state-federal partnership that underlies the proposal.

In such a case, the letter said, the feds can re-evaluate the “waiver” proposal without the state’s input. If they find the proposal no longer meets the guidelines to qualify as a waiver, they “will take appropriate action.”

With the July 30 letter, Kemp now is in a standoff with Washington, possibly headed to court, over both of his most sweeping health care initiatives. Earlier this summer, the state had to delay rollout of its limited Medicaid expansion after that waiver request also met with skepticism from the Biden administration.

Governor Kemp’s Office directed state agencies to avoid spending increases the next two years, according to the Center Square.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has instructed state agencies to maintain current spending levels over the next two years.

State agencies must submit their budget requests ahead of the January legislative session, when lawmakers will review the current fiscal year spending plan and construct a budget for next year.

Two budgets are passed through the General Assembly every legislative session. Lawmakers must review and approve spending for the remainder of the current fiscal year, also known as the Amended Fiscal Year (AFY) budget, and approve the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Kelly Farr, Kemp’s budget director, has told agency leaders not to increase spending in their amended fiscal year 2022 and fiscal year 2023 budget requests.

The directive comes as state legislative leaders have vowed to spend more money to combat crime and support mental health services. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, announced a plan last month to spend $75 million on additional personnel and resources for law enforcement and mental health services. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said creating a $250 million tax credit for law enforcement donations was the “cornerstone” of his legislative agenda in 2022.

Georgia’s economy is operating at 95% of where it was at the onset of the pandemic, according to Moody’s Analytics and CNN Business’ Back-to-Normal Index.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms lauded other mayors who are implementing mask mandates, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms gave a shoutout to Athens leadership in a Tuesday press conference about the number of rising COVID-19 cases in Atlanta, among other issues.

“I can say there are mayors throughout the state who are leading, you’ve got Van Johnson in Savannah, Hardie Davis in Augusta, you’ve got Kelly Girtz Athens. So there are many of us who are on the same page, but it’s unfortunate that there’s a lack of leadership at the highest level in our state,” said Bottoms.

The acknowledgment comes hours before Athens commissioners are set to vote on several COVID-19 protections, including an indoor mask mandate and a vaccine requirement for Athens-Clarke County employees.

If the mask mandate passes, Athens will join Atlanta and Savannah as some of the first Georgia cities to re-implement its mask mandate as cases of COVID-19 in Georgia surge due to the Delta variant.

Georgia legislators will begin looking at applications for federal COVID relief funds, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Statesboro Herald.

Starting Aug. 1, the state will be accepting applications for $4.8 billion in federal funding earmarked for Georgia in the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill Congress passed in March. The state will get the money in two installments of $2.4 billion each, one this year and one in 2022.

Three committees of state lawmakers and high-level leaders of executive branch agencies will begin meeting in September to sift through the requests and allocate the money in mid-October.

It promises to be a daunting task, said Georgia House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, who will sit on all three committees.

“We may have literally thousands of applications to look at,” said England, R-Auburn.

The committees will have some help. The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget (OPB) will review each funding application to make sure it complies with guidelines set by the U.S. Treasury Department, England said.

“The guidelines are out there,” he said. “OPB has a special website set up for [applicants] to look at.”

“Broadband and water and sewer are the only infrastructure [projects] specifically authorized in the federal legislation without strings attached,” said Clint Mueller, legislative director for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG).

The legislative redistricting meeting set for Augusta had its date changed, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The hearing was recently re-scheduled for Aug. 30, after Hurricane Elsa cancelled the first date. The new date, according to a press release from the House of Representatives, is Wednesday, Aug. 11 from 5-7 p.m. It is still going to be held at the Savannah Rapids Pavilion in Martinez.

“The hearing was indeed rescheduled to August 11,” wrote Kaleb McMichen, director of communications for House Speaker David Ralston, in an email. “I don’t have anything on the reason for rescheduling.”

Bibb County Commissioners voted to pay incentives for vaccinated employees, according to 13WMAZ.

Tuesday night’s vote means a full-time employee who is already fully-vaccinated or gets vaccinated by the end of September will get $500. Part-time employees will get $250.

Mayor Lester Miller says it’s all coming from American Rescue Plan funding, and it’s money well-spent. In the end, he says it could save the county some extra cash in the long run.

“This is one small step we’re taking so that we don’t have a government shutdown,” Miller said.

Miller says that’s because county data shows the pandemic cost them $5.2 million with $2 million of that going toward healthcare costs alone.

“Those are real numbers. We are a self-insured government with our health insurance plan, and this is what we pay out-of-pocket,” Miller said.

Some Houston County parents are asking for a mask mandate in county schools, according to 13WMAZ.

Caly Hess, who has two kids, says she’s disappointed with the district.

“Forcing all of these children in person into an unsafe environment in a hotspot where it is known, scientifically-proven this thing is killing people and more and more kids are getting sick,” said Hess.

She has one high-schooler who’s attending school in person. She decided to keep her preschooler home — he’s not getting schooling at the moment.

“We can’t risk him going into the preschool getting sick and being asymptomatic and bringing it to our grandparents. We just can’t,” said Hess.

Statewide candidates from Savannah have challenges, according to the Savannah Morning News.

While there’s plenty of regional politicking to go around in Georgia, most successful runs for statewide posts come from candidates with strong support in the Atlanta area.

Politics can be complicated, but this part is simple: if you want to get elected, you have to campaign where most of the voters are. And for candidates running in Georgia, that means campaigning in Atlanta.

For candidates from other parts of the state, including Savannah, that means fighting an exhausting uphill battle for months on end.

So far, a few Savannah candidates have chosen to contend in the 2022 midterms. Jeanne Seaver is running for Lt. Governor. Buddy Carter said he would run for Senate in 2022 if former UGA football standout Herschel Walker doesn’t run. State Sen. Lester Jackson is running for Labor Commissioner.

“You’ve got to have money, because with all the people in Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth Counties, you’re never going to make it to all of them. You can’t shake enough hands. You can’t attend enough churches or go to enough barbecues to shake every hand that’s there,” [former Congressman Jack] Kingston said. “So you’ve got to have the money for advertising… You have to be able to raise money, and there again, you’ve got to have a good donor base from politics or from business or from wherever you come from.”

“People south of I-16, they like to meet you. They like to know you. They like to be one or two people away from you: ‘My brother-in-law knows a woman who goes to church with the candidate,’ that sort of thing,” Kingston said. “But in metro Atlanta, that’s not what gets them. It’s gonna be that 30-second sound bite.”

United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) is supporting legislation designed to increase rooftop solar, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Henry Herald.

The RAISE the Roof Act (Revamping Appropriate Incentives for Solar Energy) would expand solar tax credits to cover roof repairs and replacements necessary to accommodate solar panels. It also would help property owners pay for integrated solar roofing systems, a cutting-edge technology that involves making solar panels a part of the roof rather than using brackets to attach them.

“This bill will make it more affordable for all Americans to install rooftop solar panels, saving them money on their electric bills and boosting renewable energy production nationwide,” Ossoff said. “I will continue leading Senate efforts to scale up renewable energy production.”

The rooftop solar bill follows legislation Ossoff introduced in June providing tax credits to U.S. manufacturers of solar panels. Both bills enjoy widespread support across the solar energy industry.

Augusta Mayoral candidate Brian Marcus will continue his campaign after being arrested, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Candidate Brian Marcus said the July 19 gas station altercation that landed him in jail stemmed from a store clerk overcharging him.

“It’s all from them not allowing me to get gas. I couldn’t go anywhere. I was on ‘E.’ I needed money or gas,” Marcus said Tuesday.

“I paid for the gas and I put it on my cash app card, $12, and when I got to the pump to pump my gas, the lady switched it,” he said. “She switched it to midgrade on purpose to make me pay more money.”

According to a Richmond County incident report, the clerk told police Marcus had paid for his gas, went outside to pump the gas and came back inside accusing them of selecting the wrong grade of fuel and demanding a refund. The clerk told Marcus they can’t select the fuel type.

He called police after the clerks refused to give him a refund.

According to the incident report, Marcus became “belligerent” with the employees, yelling and stating “they don’t know who his family is and that they are in the mob.”

Bibb County is on pace to see a record number of homicides this year, according to 13WMAZ.

In 2020, Macon set a modern day record for homicides with 50, and so far in 2021, the county is on pace to meet or surpass that total.

This year, 40 people have been victims of homicide, including a pair of vehicular homicides as well as the death of a pregnant woman whose unborn child also died.

Augusta Commissioners voted to draft an amendment to the smoking ordinance to allow cigar bars, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Commissioner Jordan Johnson, who asked for the amendment, said the vote to draft it does not mean the return of smoking sections or smoky venues to Augusta.

To open a cigar bar, an applicant would have to pay a fee and install signs identifying it as such, Planning Director Rob Sherman said.

“It will be a standalone business, with at least 20% of gross annual revenue from the sale of cigars.”

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners are considering where to set up a homeless camp, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

After voting to approve a government-sanctioned homeless encampment, Athens-Clarke County commissioners are scheduled to decide Tuesday where the encampment will be located.

Along with the site selection vote, commissioners will also vote on allocating $250,000 from the government’s general fund to pay for site improvements and an additional $50,000 to fund a strategic plan on homeless services.

That $300,000 will not be all it takes to run the site. Commissioners will not vote Tuesday on total site funding, but a document from ACC.gov notes initial costs could run from $1 million to $1.5 million.

The estimated annual costs to operate the shelter range from $728,000 to $1,147,000, factoring in security costs, staffing, maintenance and more. The cost for annual social services, including food and health service, was not estimated.

Dalton City Council set municipal elections for November 2, 2021, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Floyd County tax collections under the 2017 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) are running ahead of projections, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Collection of the 2017 special purpose, local option sales tax is slated to run through the end of March 2024 and was budgeted to total $63.8 million. As of the end of July, SPLOST collections totaled $38.3 million, about $9.5 million ahead of budget.

The July amount alone was about half a million dollars ahead of projections, Floyd County Finance Director Susie Gass told members of the Rome Floyd County Joint Services Committee on Tuesday.

“Hopefully we will continue to do well,” Gass said. “We’ve had a (previous) SPLOST that was under-collected and so I think we all have that in the back of our mind. But so far we’re looking good.”

The Glynn County Emergency Management Agency interim director announced he will resign in a month, according to The Brunswick News.

3
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 3, 2021

Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain on August 3, 1492.
16th Amendment

On August 3, 1910, Georgia became the ninth state to ratify the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which allows Congress to levy a tax without apportioning it among the states.

Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as President on August 3, 1923 after Warren Harding died in office.

On August 3, 1982, Michael Hardwick was arrested, setting in motion the prosecution that would eventually lead to the United States Supreme Court in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick.

The World of Coca-Cola opened on August 3, 1990 between Underground Atlanta and the Georgia State Capitol.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Kemp and a Democratic state senator disagree on how to move Georgia’s vaccination numbers up, according to Fox5Atlanta.Continue Reading..

2
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 2, 2021

Georgia delegates Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton signed the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776.

On August 2, 1983, the United States House of Representatives voted to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a federal holiday on the third monday in January.

On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait.

President Barack Obama visited Georgia on August 2, 2010 – his first trip to Atlanta and second to Georgia after his election in November 2008. The occasion of his 2010 trip, like his trip to Atlanta yesterday, was to deliver a speech to the Disabled American Veterans Conference at the Hyatt Regency. From his 2010 speech:

As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.  Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31st, 2010, America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing — as promised and on schedule….

As agreed to with the Iraqi government, we will maintain a transitional force until we remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of next year.

At the same time, every American who has ever worn the uniform must also know this: Your country is going to take care of you when you come home. Our nation’s commitment to our veterans, to you and your families, is a sacred trust. And to me and my administration, upholding that trust is a moral obligation. It’s not just politics.

That’s why I’ve charged Secretary Shinseki with building a 21st century VA.  And that includes one of the largest percentage increases to the VA budget in the past 30 years. We are going to cut this deficit that we’ve got, and I’ve proposed a freeze on discretionary domestic spending. But what I have not frozen is the spending we need to keep our military strong, our country safe and our veterans secure. So we’re going to keep on making historic commitments to our veterans.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp became the first Georgia candidate to setup a new style committee for unlimited fundraising, according to the AJC.Continue Reading..

30
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 30, 2021

July 30th could be celebrated as the birthday of democracy in America, as the Virginia House of Burgesses became the first legislative body in the New World on July 30, 1619.

Its first law, which, like all of its laws, would have to be approved by the London Company, required tobacco to be sold for at least three shillings per pound. Other laws passed during its first six-day session included prohibitions against gambling, drunkenness, and idleness, and a measure that made Sabbath observance mandatory.

On July 31, 1777, the Marquis de LaFayette was commissioned a Major General in the Continental Army, serving without pay.

The cornerstone for the first United States Mint was laid in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 31, 1792, becoming the first building constructed by the federal government under the Constitution.

Former President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded President Lincoln upon his assassination and oversaw much of the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, died of a stroke in Tennessee on July 31, 1875.

August 1 was a big day for Benjamin Mays – he was born on August 1, 1895 and became President of Morehouse College on August 1, 1936.

On July 31, 1906, a bill to place a Constitutional Amendment on the November election for voters to decide whether to create an intermediate-level Georgia Court of Appeals was approved by the Georgia General Assembly.

On July 30, 1931, Georgia Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr. signed legislation merging Milton and Fulton Counties if voters in each county approved a referendum. Fulton had earlier merged with Campbell County, to the south.

PT-109, commanded by LTJG John F. Kennedy was sunk on August 1, 1943.

Actor Laurence Fishburn was born in Augusta, Georgia on July 30, 1961.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed legislation creating Medicare, for seniors, and Medicaid for some low-income people on July 30, 1965.

On August 1, 1982, Hank Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

On July 31, 1987, “The Lost Boys” was released. From the New York Times:

“The Lost Boys” is to horror movies what “Late Night With David Letterman” is to television; it laughs at the form it embraces, adds a rock-and-roll soundtrack and, if you share its serious-satiric attitude, manages to be very funny.

Nolan Ryan, the greatest pitcher in major league baseball history, won his 300th career game on July 31, 1990. During eight innings, Ryan threw 146 pitches, while today, many pitchers are pulled at around the 100-pitch count.

“In the old days throwing that many pitches was a normal game,” said Nolan Ryan, who tossed a record seven no-hitters and is the all-time leader in strikeouts, fifth in innings pitched.

Ryan, currently the Rangers’ team president, is an outspoken detractor of the recent trend toward monitoring pitch counts. In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Ryan expressed his belief that today’s pitchers are “pampered” and that there is no reason why today’s pitchers cannot pitch as much as he and his colleagues did back in the day. As a result, Ryan is pushing his team’s pitchers to throw deeper into games and extend their arms further, emphasizing conditioning over what some would call coddling.

As Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux told SI: “This generation of players has become a creature of the pitch count. Their ceiling has been lowered. It’s up to us to jack it back up.”

Although I think that time he whipped Robin Ventura should count as a win.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former Georgia Public Service Commissioner Doug Everett (R-Albany) has died, according to the Albany Herald.Continue Reading..

29
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 29, 2021

Vincent Van Gogh died of a gunshot wound on July 29, 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise, France

President Franklin D. Roosevelt made his eighth visit to Warm Springs, Georgia on July 29, 1927.

Congress passed legislation establishing the National Aeronautic and Space Admininistration (NASA) on July 29, 1958.

The Doors’ “Light My Fire” became their first #1 hit on July 29, 1967.

Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer on July 29, 1981.

Carl Lewis won his fourth consecutive gold medal in the long jump at the Atlanta Olympics on July 29, 1996.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The AJC Political Insider points to suggestions that a Texas Special Runoff Election demonstrating that Donald Trump is losing his grip on GOP Primary voters.

It’s a question that’s resurfaced after a string of Trump setbacks this week. Jack Ellzey, a Republican state lawmaker, stunned Trump-backed Republican candidate Susan Wright to win a U.S. House special election in Texas Tuesday. The race was to fill the seat of Wright’s late husband, U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, who died earlier this year of COVID-19.

But the GOP candidates running against Trump-favored candidates next year are placing a bet that his grip on the state party will wane by then. They point to Ellzey’s Texas victory as the latest example of the overblown influence of a Trump endorsement.

It’s no small question for Georgia Republicans, who continues to captivate the former president. He’s turned Gov. Brian Kemp into a favorite punching bag; denigrated state Sen. Butch Miller, a top GOP candidate for lieutenant governor; and endorsed U.S. Rep. Jody Hice’s bid to unseat Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

From the New York Times:

State Representative Jake Ellzey, who narrowly missed capturing the Republican nomination for the seat in 2018, defeated Susan Wright, whose husband, Ron Wright, died in February about two weeks after testing positive for the coronavirus. Mr. Ellzey obtained 53.3 percent of the vote and will join the second-largest congressional delegation — 23 Republicans and 13 Democrats — in the U.S. House behind California.

In May, both candidates had captured far below the 50 percent majority needed to avoid a runoff in a 23-way contest for the state’s Sixth Congressional District, which represents three counties just south of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan region.

In the end, the runoff election, which drew far fewer voters than the primary, was less about two ideologically similar candidates and more about how much sway former President Donald J. Trump would have in getting people to cast ballots for Ms. Wright, whom he endorsed before the primary.

In a duel of former Republican leaders, Rick Perry, the state’s former governor and a cabinet member of Mr. Trump’s administration, threw his weight behind Mr. Ellzey, who like Mr. Perry is a former military pilot. After the result of Tuesday’s election was clear, Gov. Greg Abbott praised Mr. Ellzey.

The contest between Ms. Wright and Mr. Ellzey, who overtook a Democratic candidate by 347 votes to secure a slot in the runoff, disappointed Democrats, who had hoped to tap a reservoir of shifting demographics and Hispanic and African American growth in a district where Mr. Trump won by only three percentage points in November.

So, the NYT got an important fact wrong: it was not a Primary Election, it was a Special Runoff Election, in which any registered voters were eligble.

Note also that Democratic candidates took 36% of votes cast in the earlier Special Election.

This district narrowly went for President Trump by 51-48 in November 2020.

I think a far more likely scenario than President Trump losing influence among Republicans is that Ellzey won by (a) outraising and outspending Ms. Wright; (b) had endorsements from Congressman Dan Crenshaw and former Governor Rick Perry that helped offset Trump’s endorsement of Wright; and (c) probably got more Democratic votes in the runoff, enough to constitute his margin of victory, precisely because he was not Trump-endorsed.

Governor Brian Kemp and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr issued statements on the federal government’s lawsuit over Georgia’s new voting laws.

“The Department of Justice attorneys would make great Hollywood screenplay writers,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “Their ‘lawsuit’ is loaded with partisan talking points and outright falsehoods because it is political propaganda aimed at justifying their unconstitutional federal takeover of elections across the country. SB 202 provisions like requiring voter ID on absentee ballots, securing drop boxes around the clock, and expanding weekend voting opportunities are commonsense reforms that ensure Georgia elections are secure, accessible, and fair. Instead of weaponizing the Department of Justice against election integrity measures, this administration should focus on reigning in inflation, reducing violent crime, and securing our southern border.”

“This is not a legitimate lawsuit from the Department of Justice, it’s a campaign flier,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “Biden’s Department of Justice is waging a shameless political attack on Georgia’s constitutional authority to regulate its elections. Georgia’s election system is equally accessible to all voters, and we will continue to vigorously defend the commonsense provisions of Georgia’s Election Integrity Act against these baseless, partisan attacks.”

From the Georgia Recorder:

The Republican Carr filed the motion to throw out the Northern District of Georgia case on Wednesday, saying that the federal prosecutors have not proven that the new provisions on absentee ballot drop boxes, voter ID, and others are unconstitutional. Carr’s brief says the federal complaint is “political posturing rather than a serious legal challenge.”

The primary basis of the federal prosecutors’ claim is that the intent behind the new rules, including fewer absentee drop boxes than were available in 2020 and a shortened timeline for requesting ballots, are discriminatory. Carr’s motion on Wednesday disputes that Senate Bill 202 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits discrimination based on race, color or language.

“Even if intent had any relevance under Section 2, the complaint fails to allege facts showing discriminatory intent because it fails to allege an act or statement from any Georgia legislator suggesting such an attack behind SB 202,” Carr says in the filing.

Carr also says Georgia’s new rule that reduces the window for voters to cast out-of-precinct ballots is supported by the July 1 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that rejected a suit challenging Arizona’s similar policy.

Carr also argues that while the Justice Department is suing to invalidate Georgia’s new law, the Justice Department has been “noticeably silent” about similar election laws in Delaware, New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, and Wisconsin.

Republican state senators are seeking a performance review of the Fulton County elections office, according to the AJC.

A letter obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows two dozen state senators support a performance review of Fulton elections chief Richard Barron. The letter was written Tuesday, the very same day a front-page AJC story examined the prospect of a takeover of elections in Fulton, home to a tenth of all Georgians.

As written into Senate Bill 202, the State Election Board can replace a county’s election board following a performance review/audit/investigation. Then, a temporary superintendent would enjoy full managerial authority of how the county counts votes and staffs polling places.

A performance review begins upon request of at least two state representatives and two state senators from the county.

With more than enough senators, the letter addresses the representatives needed: “We have every reason to believe that the requisite number of Fulton’s House delegation will respond likewise, thereby triggering the performance review.”

Two representatives confirmed to the AJC on Wednesday that they would join the effort.

Fulton Commission Chairman Robb Pitts said a takeover is really a GOP attempt to wrest control of the U.S. Senate from Democrats and retain the governorship in 2022, with eyes toward 2024.

Governor Kemp said yesterday that Georgia will not impose mask mandates, according to Fox5Atlanta.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said in a series of tweets the state will not impose any lockdowns or mask mandates statewide. The tweets come a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its mask guidelines for fully vaccinated people in public and everyone in K-12 schools.

“Georgia will not lock down or impose statewide mask mandates,” Kemp wrote. “As the first state in the country to reopen over a year ago, we’ve proven that Georgians know how to come together and protect themselves and their loved ones.”

“The data is clear. Thanks to efforts initiated under the Trump Administration, we have a medical miracle in multiple vaccines that protect from the virus and save lives. Nearly all new COVID hospitalizations in Georgia are among the unvaccinated,” Kemp wrote.

“My family, myself, and other state leaders have all rolled up their sleeves and gotten their shot. I encourage all Georgians who have concerns or questions to talk to a medical provider and get vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Kemp continues.

“Georgians know the risks and they know these safe, effective vaccines are our greatest tool to defeat COVID-19,” Kemp concluded.

From the Savannah Morning News:

The governor added that the “biggest obstacle to getting more people vaccinated” came from “mixed messages” in Washington D.C. and “those with partisan agendas.”

From the AJC:

That hasn’t stopped a growing number of local officials from taking their own steps to curb the spread of the disease. Late Wednesday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ordered that masks should be worn in all indoor public spaces, including private businesses.

According to CDC data, all but about a dozen of Georgia’s 159 counties meet the threshold for substantial or high community transmission. The only counties that don’t meet CDC’s threshold for recommended mask use are: Butts, Clay, Gilmer, Glascock, Jefferson, Lanier, Macon, Oglethorpe, Towns, Upson and Wilcox.

Georgia’s seven-day rolling average of probable and confirmed coronavirus cases is at its highest point since March 5 and more than eight times higher than it was before the July 4th holiday, according to state data. Meanwhile, the pace of vaccinations has slowed, hovering at 40% fully vaccinated statewide.

From News4Jax:

However, Kemp’s stance matters little to some school districts. Additional districts continued to announce Wednesday that they will require students and employees to wear masks, with the share of Georgia public school students covered by mask mandates now above 30%, according to Associated Press calculations.

The number of hospitalized patients also continued to spike. The number of confirmed COVID-19 patients statewide rose to to 1,674 on Wednesday from 1,501 on Tuesday. More than 10% of all patients now hospitalized in Georgia for any reason have COVID-19.

Rural hospital regions around Waycross and Dublin have seen more than twentyfold increases in the number of COVID-19 patients since July 5.

At least 15 school districts statewide have announced new mask mandates or reaffirmed existing ones. Camden County announced Monday it would require face coverings for all students, teachers and staff when school opens Monday. Gwinnett, the state’s largest district, announced its policy change Tuesday. The 30,000-student Muscogee County district becoming the latest to do so on Wednesday.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson said he is unlikely to reinstate a mask mandate, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Henderson previously said a mask mandate could return to the city if the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations rose above 65 and the two-week case rate approached 200 cases per 100,000 people.

But when contacted by the Ledger-Enquirer Wednesday, Henderson said the availability of the COVID vaccine raises his threshold for reinstating a mask mandate.

“It’s kind of hard to give you a fair metric,” Henderson told the Ledger-Enquirer. “This is such a fluid situation, just like it was last year and it’s even more so this year.”

“Listen, we know it’s a personal choice and respect that,” Henderson said. “But I would respectfully ask all those individuals to check with your doctor. If there’s a medical reason they can’t take it, just wear a mask and be very conscious of how close you are to other people.”

“We still have in government buildings, a requirement to wear masks,” Henderson said. “And that’s out of respect for our employees and to try to keep people safe who are here because they have to be here — like jury duty or to redo a car tag.”

“If you’re concerned, check with credible sources,” Henderson said. “I would urge (residents) to not believe everything on social media because there’s some pretty interesting stuff out there that doesn’t really parallel the reports that we get from more of the scientific locations.”

Chatahoochee County Schools announced they will require mask use in all facilities, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The United States House of Representatives has returned to requiring masks, according to CNN via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

House lawmakers and their staff will be required to wear face coverings while in the House chamber, except when members are being recognized and speaking on the floor.

Lawmakers will not be allowed to enter the House chamber without a mask and those who fail to wear a mask in the House chamber will be subject to fines.

Face coverings are also required for meetings in an “enclosed” House “controlled space.”

The masks rules in the House — and across the country — have become a political flashpoint and already the House’s top Republican, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, pushed back on Tuesday’s directive, in a sign of potential further clashes.

When asked Wednesday about McCarthy’s criticism of the reinstatement of the mask mandate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “He’s such a moron.”

Georgia Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) campaigned for Lieutenant Governor in Columbus, according to WTVM.

Georgia State Senator Butch Miller is hoping to become the state’s next lieutenant governor. Current Lieutenant Governor and fellow Republican Geoff Duncan announced earlier this year he will not be running in 2022. Miller’s campaign reports he raised more than $2 million in the first five weeks of his campaign.

“We have built a great success story in Georgia on conservative principles, conservative values, and conservative legislation and we will continue that. We are the number one place to do business. We’re the number one place to raise a family and Georgia is on the right track and let’s keep it on that track,” Sen. Butch Miller proclaimed.

Senator Miller says it’s important to start making visits across the state early on because they will lose about four months of campaigning during the redistricting process and when the senate is in session from January through March.

Georgia state legislators held a redistricting committee meeting in Columbus, according to WTVM.

Columbus residents had the chance to have their voices heard about Georgia’s redistricting process during a joint town hall meeting with state leaders Wednesday evening. The drawing of electoral lines happens once every 10 years following the U.S. Census.

Georgia’s General Assembly held one of 11 joint reapportionment and redistricting hearings in at the Cunningham Center Wednesday evening.

“I would like to see all of Muscogee County in one congressional district,” Columbus-Muscogee County Republican Chair Alton Russell said.

Transparency is a common theme voters brought up Wednesday. Several voters say they’d like to see more meetings like this one offered at different times and on Saturdays. They also say they’d like these meetings to continue throughout the redistricting process once the 2020 Census data is released.

Governor Brian Kemp announced $2 million in funding from the Governor’s Emergency Fund for crime-fighting, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

“In April of this year, I asked Colonel Chris Wright and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to develop and execute a plan to tackle crime and reckless street racing across the metro-Atlanta region,” Kemp said.

“Colonel Wright made a request of additional funds – up to $2 million – for the department to bring additional personnel onto the Crime Suppression Unit in order to strengthen their ongoing efforts. I have agreed to Colonel Wright’s request.”

In May, the governor committed $5 million from the emergency fund to fighting crime.

The $2 million he’s freeing up now is not part of that $5 million package, which was allocated for the fiscal year that ended June 30, Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said. However, not all of the earlier money had been spent when fiscal 2021 ended, Hall said.

“This additional funding is necessary to keep the streets of Atlanta safe and protect residents and visitors alike,” [Georgia State House Speaker David Ralston] said. “Our state law enforcement personnel are working around the clock to bring criminals to justice, and I greatly appreciate their work on behalf of all Georgians.”

The Georgia Department of Education has created a new office for rural education, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The Office of Rural Education and Innovation will be headed by Bronwyn Ragan-Martin, a veteran education leader who served most recently as superintendent of the Early County School System and president of the Georgia School Superintendents Association.

“It is a top priority of my administration to strengthen and bring greater opportunities and economic prosperity to rural Georgia,” Gov. Brian Kemp said Wednesday.

“The Georgia Department of Education’s new Office of Rural Education and Innovation will support those efforts to renew and revitalize rural Georgia and ensure our state remains the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”

“Our rural schools and districts face unique challenges and resource gaps – and many of those challenges have only intensified due to the pandemic,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods added.

The new office will be supported with federal coronavirus relief funds and work to address educational needs in rural Georgia including connectivity, teacher retention and recruitment, resources and funding, and educator development.

Savannah-Chatham County Public School System has changed the schedule for some schools, citing a shortage of bus drivers, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Grantville City Council approved the purchase of solar power for municipal needs, according to the Newnan Times Herald.

“The Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia has entered into a power purchase contract to receive 80 megawatts of solar power,” said City Manager Al Grieshaber. “They have asked members of MEAG, of which we are one, whether or not we have interest in adding solar power, a carbon neutral emission, to our energy source. We requested 750 kilowatts of solar power.”

The power purchase contract is a 20-year agreement, Grieshaber said, with the price fixed at $25.91 per megawatt.

Albany City Commission rejected a proposed moratorium on new alcohol licenses, according to the Albany Herald.

Snellville retains the same property tax millage rate as the six previous years, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic, the city did see new tax revenue growth of $31.29 million over last year, city officials said. Just four years ago, new growth was on $8.6 million.

Because the proposed levy is slightly higher than the Rollback Millage Rate, the city had to hold three public hearings. Citizens did not speak at any hearing.

Dalton City Council member Gary Crews announced he will run for reelection, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Jalen Johnson announced he will run for Albany Commission District 2, currently held by Matt Fuller, who has not announced whether he will seek reelection, according to the Albany Herald.

Coastal Senior Living of St. Marys, the only Medicaid-accepting senior home in Camden County announced it will close, according to The Brunswick News.

The eviction letter, sent July 26 to residents at Coastal Senior Living of St. Marys, blamed “ongoing staffing and operational problems” for the decision to close the facility.

“Please know this decision was not made lightly and is disheartening to our entire team. Staffing shortages and operational challenges have been a global crisis this past year and Coastal Senior Living has done everything to prevent this from happening. Our team will assist in your relocation,” according to the letter sent to residents earlier this week.The eviction letter, sent July 26 to residents at Coastal Senior Living of St. Marys, blamed “ongoing staffing and operational problems” for the decision to close the facility.

“Please know this decision was not made lightly and is disheartening to our entire team. Staffing shortages and operational challenges have been a global crisis this past year and Coastal Senior Living has done everything to prevent this from happening. Our team will assist in your relocation,” according to the letter sent to residents earlier this week.

28
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 28, 2021

On July 28, 1868, United States Secretary of State William Seward proclaimed that the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution had been ratified and was now part of the Constitution. The first section of the 14th Amendment often forms the basis for litigation and reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Georgia initially rejected the 14th Amendment in 1866, later ratifying it on July 21, 1868 as a condition for readmission.

On July 28, 1978, Animal House was released, instantly becoming one of the greatest films of all time. In case you’ve never seen the film, there is a tiny little bit of adult language in the following clip.

On July 28, 1994, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating “The General” locomotive, which was stolen in 1862 during the Great Locomotive Chase. Today, The General may be viewed at The Southern Museum in Kennesaw.

On July 28, 2016, Hillary Clinton became the first female Presidential nominee for a major party.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former U.S. Attorney BJay Pak has been cleared by the U.S. Justice Department to speak to Congress on some matters that took place during his service, according to the AJC.Continue Reading..

27
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 27, 2021

On July 27, 1974, the United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee approved the first impeachment article against President Richard M. Nixon.

The first such impeachment recommendation in more than a century, it charge[d] President Nixon with unlawful activities that formed a “course of conduct or plan” to obstruct the investigation of the Watergate break-in and to cover up other unlawful activities.

The vote was 27 to 11, with 6 of the committee’s 17 Republicans joining all 21 Democrats in voting to send the article to the House.

The majority included three conservative Southern Democrats and three conservative Republicans.

A bomb exploded at a free concert in Centennial Park in Atlanta on July 27, 1996.

Police were warned of the bombing in advance, but the bomb exploded before the anonymous caller said it would, leading authorities to suspect that the law enforcement officers who descended on the park were indirectly targeted.

Within a few days, Richard Jewell, a security guard at the concert, was charged with the crime. However, evidence against him was dubious at best, and in October he was fully cleared of all responsibility in the bombing.

Former Georgia Governor Zell Miller took the oath of office as United States Senator on July 27, 2000. Miller would go on to win a special election for the remainder of the term in November 2000.

On July 27, 2014, former Braves manager Bobby Cox and pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with former White Sox player Frank Thomas, who was born in Columbus, Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson announced the city will again require masks, according to the Savannah Morning News.Continue Reading..

26
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 26, 2021

On July 26, 1775, the United States Postal Service was created by the Second Continental Congress, may God have mercy on their souls. Benjamin Franklin served as the first Postmaster.

On July 26, 1908, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was founded.

On July 26, 1947, President Harry Truman signed the National Security Act, structuring the military-intelligence industrial complex for many years to come.

The National Security Act had three main parts.

First, it streamlined and unified the nation’s military establishment by bringing together the Navy Department and War Department and establishing the Department of the Air Force all under a new Department of Defense. The DoD would facilitate control and utilization of the nation’s growing military.

Second, the act established the National Security Council (NSC). Based in the White House, the NSC was supposed to serve as a coordinating agency, sifting through the increasing flow of diplomatic and intelligence information in order to provide the president with brief but detailed reports.

Finally, the act set up the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA replaced the Central Intelligence Group, which had been established in 1946 to coordinate the intelligence-gathering activities of the various military branches and the Department of State. The CIA, however, was to be much more–it was a separate agency, designed not only to gather intelligence but also to carry out covert operations in foreign nations.

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush (41) signed the Americans with Disabilities Act.

On July 26, 2015, former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first pitcher inducted who had undergone Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow.

Smoltz won the 1996 Cy Young award and reached the playoffs 14 times with Atlanta. The Braves won five pennants and the 1995 World Series with Smoltz on the roster. He’s the first pitcher to win more than 200 games and save at least 150 games. He’s also the first player inducted with Tommy John surgery on his resume.

Smoltz understood his debt to John.

“I’m a miracle. I’m a medical miracle,” Smoltz said. “I never took one day for granted.”

Smoltz also heaped praise on former manager Bobby Cox and teammates Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, who were inducted a year ago, and delivered a message to parents of the players of tomorrow as the number of Tommy John surgeries continues to escalate.

“Understand that this is not normal to have a surgery at 14 or 15 years old,” Smoltz said to warm applause. “Baseball is not a year-round sport. They’re competing too hard, too early. That’s why we’re having these problems.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Stacey Abrams model for organizing voter drives is moving to the national scene, according to the AJC.Continue Reading..

23
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 23, 2021

On July 24, 1778, Georgia ratified the Articles of Confederation.

Georgia’s John Walton was present on July 9, 1778, and signed the document then. Georgia’s other two delegates – Edward Telfair and Edward Langworthy – did not sign until July 24, 1778, which is the date most often used for Georgia’s ratification of the Articles.

An interesting sidenote is that John Walton‘s brother, George Walton, signed the Declaration of Independence on Georgia’s behalf.

On July 23, 1864, Union and Confederate forces in and around Atlanta gathered the dead and worked to save the wounded. Union artillery began bombarding Atlanta. On July 23, 2014, Republicans did the same in the aftermath of the Primary Runoff Elections the previous day. Democratic artillery advertising would soon fill the air.

Former President Ulysses S. Grant died on July 23, 1885.

The Cleveland Metropolitan Park District was established on July 23, 1917 and currently has a set of beautiful parks winding through the city.

At 12:51 EDT tomorrow, we mark the safe return from the moon of Apollo 11 on July 24, 1969.

On July 25, 1972, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

On July 25, 1974, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of United States v. Nixon that executive privilege did not allow the White House to refuse to turn over audio recordings that had been subpoenaed by a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

The number one song in America on July 23, 1982 was “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor, from the Rocky III soundtrack.

John Smoltz started his first game as a major league pitcher on July 23, 1988, as the Braves took a win over the New York Mets.

On July 24, 2000, former Georgia Governor Zell Miller was appointed to the United States Senate to serve in the seat vacated on the death of Senator Paul Coverdell.

A graveyard with more than 600 unmarked grave sits on the site of the former Georgia State Prison Farm in Milledgeville, according to the AJC.

The site is the final resting place for more than 600 anonymous souls who died at that prison, both from executions and more natural causes. The prison closed in 1937 and was demolished three years ago. Much of the prison land has been turned into a park for Baldwin County, including soccer fields. There are also plans for an aquatic park.

[Edwin C.] Atkins is asking the state to cut a trail to the cemetery, allowing the public and descendants of the dead to access the land and to help them in their mission to upgrade the grounds.

Atkins and Smith brought Rep. [Rick] Williams [R-Milledgeville] on their tour of the graveyard to get some political juice in their effort to get the Georgia Department of Corrections to allow them to more properly tend the graves. They come out to cut the grass and have been trying to identify graves, but they are officially trespassing.

Atkins bent down to check a rusted Georgia license plate used to mark a grave. The prison started manufacturing car tags in 1930 and used them to identify the dead. No name, just a number in death. Most of the license plates are long gone, so identifying who lies underneath remains almost impossible. Some graves have rusty iron bars as a marking. “If you trip, look down and you’ll find a metal stub,” Smith said.

“I think it’s a sin to let those prisoners rot forgotten in the woods,” Atkins said. “It’s morally unconscionable that you’re not memorializing dead prisoners. Because they were Black, because they were criminals they were thrown in the woods.”

There are almost certainly white bodies moldering there too, but they are almost certainly a minority. According to his great-grandfather’s typed records noting each execution, Atkins said 118 of the 144 (or 82%) of those electrocuted were Black.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States Representative Hank Johnson (D-DeKalb) was arrested outside the U.S. Capitol during a protest, according to CNN via the Albany Herald.

Johnson can be seen in the video with his hands restrained behind his back while still participating in a chant with other protesters yelling, “Whose streets? Our streets. Whose House? Our House.” He is one of 10 people whom the Capitol Police arrested for “unlawfully demonstrating” outside the Hart Senate Office Building and charged with crowding, obstructing or incommoding.

“Today, Congressman Hank Johnson was arrested along with a group of black male voting rights activists protesting against Senate inaction on voting rights legislation and filibuster reform,” Johnson’s office said in a statement to CNN.

The protest, the statement said, was also in response to restrictive voting laws across the country “that target students, the elderly and people of color. In the spirit of his dear friend and mentor — the late Congressman John Lewis — Rep. Johnson was getting in ‘good trouble’ fighting for and protecting civil and voting rights for all Americans.”

Johnson is the second lawmaker to be arrested in as many weeks while protesting for voting rights. Rep. Joyce Beatty, the Democratic chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, was arrested on July 15 by Capitol Police after participating in a voting rights protest that culminated in a march inside the Senate Hart Office Building atrium.

Suspended Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck was convicted by a jury, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

A jury convicted Georgia’s suspended insurance commissioner of all 37 counts of fraud and money laundering against him on Thursday afternoon to cap a two-week federal trial, swiftly the guilty verdicts after the day’s closing arguments.

The suspended commissioner, Jim Beck, was convicted of charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and tax fraud by jurors in the federal courtroom in Atlanta. Beck had been indicted months after taking office in 2019.

Prosecutors had presented evidence at trial that Beck orchestrated a scheme to embezzle more than $2 million from the Georgia Underwriting Association. Beck had managed the state-chartered private insurer of last resort for years before he took office.

Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 8. The judge ordered Beck confined to his home in Carrollton, west of Atlanta, while awaiting sentencing save for outings for court appearances and to receive medical care.

From the AJC:

Under state law, Beck was automatically removed from office upon conviction. Gov. Brian Kemp has appointed John King to run the office and the Republican is seeking a full term in 2022.

Beck asked Kemp to suspend him when he was indicted, but continued drawing a $195,000 yearly salary. State lawmakers this year proposed a constitutional amendment to stop the pay of officials who are suspended from office while facing criminal charges. Voters will decide the amendment in 2022.

Prosecutors and Beck’s lawyers declined comment immediately after the verdict. Current GUA General Manager Joe Cregan said Thursday that insurers had paid GUA $2.5 million earlier this year for amounts Beck stole. He said GUA is still investigating to see if Beck took more money.

Some Bibb county residents protested an appearance by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, according to 13WMAZ.

Thursday, some members of Bibb County’s Republican party held up signs to protest the Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

They’re unhappy that Raffensperger failed to overturn the state’s election results that showed Joe Biden as the winner here.

[Diane] Vann said, “He was responsible for saying nothing was wrong, nothing could be done with those machines and obviously, not telling the truth. I’m here.”

This week, [Bibb County GOP Chair David] Sumrall and local Republicans issued a news release from accusing election officials of switching 12,000 Bibb County votes from Trump to Biden on the night of November 4th.

Sumrall said, “Thousands of absentee ballots came in. I was a poll worker. Yes, I was present, but we couldn’t see anything!”

Georgia State House Republicans today meet in a retreat and will elect a new Majority Whip, according to the AJC.

The House GOP retreat kicks off today with speeches by party luminaries, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Veteran strategist Karl Rove will address the crowd Saturday, perhaps with his famous whiteboard. State party leaders will also pep up the 80 or so GOP lawmakers in attendance.

But we’re most closely watching what’s shaping up to be a key test of House Speaker David Ralston’s grip on the speaker’s gavel. It involves a vote scheduled mid-morning to replace state Rep. Trey Kelley after he stepped down as Majority Whip as he fights charges stemming from a 2019 fatal accident.

The contest to replace him as the fourth-ranking member of the chamber pits Ralston ally Matt Hatchett against Barry Fleming, an attorney with designs on running for speaker one day himself. Some House Republicans view it as a proxy fight over Ralston’s leadership.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance hit a level not seen since before the pandemic, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

Jobless Georgians filed 12,605 initial claims last week, down 1,870 from the previous week and the lowest weekly total since the coronavirus pandemic struck Georgia in March of last year.

The state Department of Labor has paid out almost $22.9 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits since March 21, 2020, more than during the last decade combined prior to the pandemic.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R-Forsyth County) proposed a tax credit for donations to support law enforcement, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan called on the General Assembly Thursday to create a $250 million state tax credit aimed at reducing crime statewide.

The Law Enforcement Strategic Support (LESS Crime) Act will be the cornerstone of Duncan’s 2022 legislative agenda.

“It should be no surprise that every state leader is concerned with the exponential rise in crime in Georgia, especially in our capital city,” Duncan said Thursday. “Rising crime is affecting individuals, businesses and Georgia families.”

“Combating this problem will not be accomplished by one solution alone. … Big problems call for big solutions.”

The tax credit Duncan envisions would be modeled after the Rural Hospital Tax Credit Georgia lawmakers created in 2016 to help the state’s most financially stressed rural hospitals.

The new tax credit legislation would let Georgians write a check directly to their local law enforcement agency and receive a 100% dollar-for-dollar state income tax credit. The credit would be capped at $5,000 per individual taxpayer, $10,000 per married couple, or in the case of a business, at 75% of a company’s tax liability.

Athens-Clarke County’s Police Crisis Intervention Unit is being studied by other departments, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The Police Crisis Intervention Unit had its seeding in 2017 following a federal grant that helped train officers to better respond to such calls. Five years later, the program has caught the attention of other agencies across the state.

“I think our model seems to work well. Athens-Clarke County has been on the forefront of this before it became popular,” McFarland said about recent nationwide efforts to reform some facets of police work.

The pair in recent months have shared the unit’s inner workings with agencies in the cities of Brookhaven, Gainesville, Savannah, Forsyth, Moultrie, Augusta, Conyers and counties like McDuffie and Muscogee, among others, [Athens-Clarke police officer Robie] Cochran said.

When emergency calls come in to the 911 Center, Cochran explained the responding officer assesses the situation in terms of safety. This officer can judge if it appears to be a mental health crisis.

Besides responding to calls, the pair is also involved in training at the police department. Athens-Clarke officers are the best-trained group in the state when it comes to crisis de-escalation, according to McFarland. All officers are required to undergo 40 hours of such training, she said.

Augusta-Richmond County will pay $15 per hour to county employees, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

A minimum $15 hourly wage and bonuses for Augusta-Richmond County personnel will arrive sooner rather than later with funds from the American Rescue Plan.

The increases, as well as designated funding for commission districts and the mayor’s office were among eligible spending items presented to commissioners Wednesday by City Administrator Odie Donald.

Augusta and its several institutions are set to receive nearly $1 billion in federal pandemic aid. It’s often called a “once in a generation” opportunity, but Donald said numerous requirements accompany the funding that governments must address in full to spend the funds.

The large total includes the $82.3 million going to Augusta-Richmond County, $112 million to Richmond County schools, $447 million in forgivable Payroll Protection Act loans, $13 million in rental assistance, $3.5 million for homelessness, $2.5 million for Paine College and $4.4 million for Augusta Regional Airport, according to a handout. Augusta University and Augusta Technical College also have received millions.

Rincon will us 60-year old mechanical voting machines instead of Effingham County’s electronic voting machines, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The City of Rincon had the opportunity to use Effingham County’s electronic machines for their upcoming municipal election in November but opted instead to use their 60-year-old mechanical voting machines.

Using the county’s voting machines and having its elections and registration office run the city’s election came at a cost of about $12,000 versus the approximate $3,000 for the city to run its own election.

“The county can enter into intergovernmental agreements to have the county elections board run the cities elections,” said Effingham County manager Tim Callanan. “We offered Rincon, as well as Springfield and Guyton, that if you want us to run the elections, we will enter into an agreement where our elections and registration office will run them for a fee.”

“Rincon has about 7,900 registered voters. We used the same figure per registered voter for all three cities. There are 1,827 registered voters in Guyton and 1,791 in Springfield. It costs the county about $6.15 per registered voter to run a countywide election. We were going to split the cost 75%-25% with the Rincon paying $1.50 per voter for a cost of about $12,000, and the county picking up about $4.65,”  Callanan added.

“The machines we use are called Shoup machines. They’ve probably been around since the 1940s,” [Rincon city clerk Dulcia] King said. “You flip the lever and the curtain closes. Once you finish voting you push the bar back and the curtain opens and it counts your vote. My understanding is that the machines once belonged to the county and once they switched over to electronic machines we got theirs. These machines are only used with municipal elections. The last time Rincon had an election and used these machines was 2019. On presidential elections, the county handles the voting.”

Savannah hired Jay Melder as City Manager, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Melder’s appointment came with a unanimous 9-0 vote from council after a nearly four-hour meeting on Thursday. The mayor and aldermen will vote on the terms of his contract at the next council meeting following the completion of a background check.

“We congratulate Mr. Melder and we thank council in particular for your diligent and very hard work during this entire process,” Mayor Van Johnson said.

Acting City Manager Michael Brown will step down at the end of next week after nearly nine months in the role. Brown assumed the role last fall after another city manager brought in on a temporary basis, Pat Monahan, stepped down. Monahan came on as acting city manager following Rob Hernandez resignation in 2019.

 

 

Atlanta Public Schools will require masks when school returns, according to FoxNews.

Atlanta Public Schools will require students and staff to wear face masks this coming year after Gov. Brian Kemp declared the state would not have mask mandates for children.

“We’re not going to have a mask mandate for our kids,” Kemp said in May. “Our teachers have had the ability to get vaccinated. It certainly doesn’t keep anyone from wearing a mask.”

His executive order on the matter, however, fell short of outright banning such mandates in schools.

School officials said the rise of the delta variant coupled with students under the age of 12 not being eligible to receive a COVID vaccine motivated them to enforce mask wearing.

Atlanta isn’t alone in the new requirement and joins DeKalb and Clayton counties in requiring masks for their students and school staff.

Lowndes County Board of Education approved a return to school plan that makes masks optional, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Lowndes County Board of Education approved the plan at its July 19 meeting. The plan includes cleaning/hygiene, learning options, daily COVID-19 screenings and face coverings.

While face coverings are optional — and if worn, they should cover both the nose and mouth — the learning option will not be. Students return to traditional, face-to-face instruction this school year.

Because of this, according to the plan, the school system will implement “more intensive” COVID-19 prevention strategies and enhanced social distancing will be encouraged for staff and students.

Dalton Public Schools will place cameras in some classrooms as a pilot program, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

“We’re testing the water,” said Superintendent Tim Scott. “We’re only asking for teachers who want to do this, (so) no one has to do it.”

“There are a lot of ways to use them,” Stuart Davis, Dalton Public Schools’ director of technology and telecommunications, informed the Dalton Board of Education members during a Monday work session at Dalton Junior High School. “If we try it this year, and it doesn’t work, we won’t use them” anymore.

“Teachers are in control of everything from the instruction side” with the Kloud-12 OneDevice cameras, Davis said. Teachers can, for example, teach a lesson in one room of a school, with that content delivered to another room or even another school, allowing them to “double up on instruction.”

The cameras are used by teachers in many school systems for professional development, Scott said. Teachers watch themselves to improve, or teachers watch other teachers for possible tips.

The cameras could also be used by administrators for teacher observations, and teachers may want to record a particular day or lesson to show administrators, Davis said. This is “no different than videotaping a football or baseball practice, then going back to watch it.”

There’s also a “security” function available with the cameras, which could be helpful “if something happens” in a classroom, he said. “We could go back and watch what is captured by the camera.”

The Muscogee County Sheriff’s Department held a job fair, according to WTVM.