Category: Georgia Politics


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

Charles Wesley, hymnist, and brother of Methodist founder John Wesley, died on March 29, 1788 in London, England. Charles Wesley served as Secretary to James Oglethorpe and as a Chaplain at Fort Frederica on St Simons Island. This past Sunday, his hymns were played in churches across the globe, including Christ the Lord Is Risen Today and Rejoice, the Lord Is King.

On March 29, 1865, Federal troops under General Ulysses S. Grant began the Appomattox campaign.

On March 29, 1937, Georgia Governor E.D. Rivers signed legislation imposing the first state tax on distilled spirits in Georgia.

If made in another state and imported into Georgia, distilled spirits were taxed at 80 cents per gallon and alcohol at $1.60 per gallon – or at fractional amounts for smaller containers. If made in Georgia, distilled spirits were taxed at 40 cents per gallon and alcohol at 80 cents per gallon.

Note: GeorgiaInfo says Governor Talmadge signed the legislation, but Talmadge left office in January 1937. It was Gov. Rivers who signed the bill.

On March 29, 1973, the last American troops left Vietnam, ending United States engagement in the war.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp toured parts of Newnan and Coweta County that were struck by hurricanes, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Gov. Brian Kemp was given a tour of Newnan High School where he witnessed the results of the devastating tornado, which was only the 10th F4 tornado to hit Georgia since 1950 and the first in 10 years.

The path of the storm was reportedly 6 miles long and one-half mile wide.

“As someone who’s responded to several storms in this state, this is different from anything I’ve ever seen,” he said. “This is total destruction. … and our thoughts and prayers are with this community.”

“We’ve been resilient this last year through COVID and were looking forward to getting back to normal, in-person learning,” Kemp said. “This has been upended once again, but I have great hope and optimism for the people here today.”

Gen. John F. King, Georgia Insurance Commissioner, echoed Kemp’s sentiments, citing that “after every disaster, fraud follows.”

“We have to be mindful of those coming in to do work and make sure no one gets revictimized,” King said. “Make sure those doing work around your house are qualified. If you face any challenges, please call our office.”

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

“We are going to do everything in our power with the state resources that we have to help this community rebuild,” Kemp said. “But I have great hope and optimism that they (residents) will pull their bootstraps up and we will be there to help them rebuild and continue on.”

Kemp was joined by Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency Director Chris Stallings, Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner General John King, Congressman Drew Ferguson, and local officials.

A temporary shelter has been opened at Evans Middle School for anyone who was displaced due to the storm damage.

From the AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp and other Georgia officials surveyed the damage in tornado-ravaged Coweta County on Saturday and urged people against allowing scam artists from repairing their homes or businesses.

“They’re like locusts and we need to make sure that our community is protected and understand not to allow somebody who’s not authorized or qualified to do work on properties,” state Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner John King told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Unqualified contractors often attempt to pressure property owners into signing contracts and demanding immediate deposits. King said it’s a constant problem after such storms. Officials projected there will be about 10,000 insurance claims in Coweta County alone.

Kemp signed an emergency order late Friday, granting additional state resources to the area. The severe storms rolled through North Georgia late Thursday into Friday, and one person died while others were injured.

On Tuesday, Governor Kemp will help make an announcement at Wild Adventures in Valdosta, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Gov. Brian Kemp is scheduled to visit the park for its anniversary and to introduce a new, undisclosed attraction. Kent Buescher, who founded Wild Adventures, is also expected to attend.

While the park has remained tight-lipped about many of the things coming to the park, a few announcements have been made.

Gov Brian Kemp 03302021 Valdosta

Governor Kemp will also host a meet and greet in Valdosta tomorrow at 1:oo PM.

[Note: that “Paid for” disclaimer on the graphic above doesn’t refer to its publication here. We didn’t receive anything for posting it.]

Kemp SB202 tweet

Under the Gold Dome Today

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD39) – House Chamber
1:00 PM Senate Rules – 450 CAP


HB 509 – Insurance; require certain insurers to make at least one reasonably priced comprehensive major medical health insurance policy available (I&L-17th) Gaines-117th

HB 714 – Georgia Civil Practice Act; revise and provide for new requirements (Substitute)(I&L-18th) Kelley-16th

HB 307 – Georgia Telehealth Act; revise (Substitute)(H&HS-32nd) Cooper-43rd

HB 635 – Courts; each judge of the superior court, state court, and probate court and each magistrate shall have authority to perform any lawful judicial act; provide (Substitute)(JUDY-17th) Leverett-33rd

HB 539 – Medical Practice Act of the State of Georgia; institutional licenses; revise provisions (Substitute)(H&HS-11th) Cooper-43rd

HB 371 – Evidence; certain proceedings may be conducted by video conference; provide (Substitute)(JUDY-53rd) Gunter-8th

HB 67 – State government; public property; extend automatic repeals of certain provisions (Substitute) (Rules-46th) (Substitute)(H ED) Martin-49th

HB 355 – Georgia Carbon Sequestration Registry; inclusion of building products in construction; provisions (NR&E-7th) Wiedower-119th

HB 411 – Prosecuting Attorneys Oversight Commission; create (Substitute)(JUDY-29th) Gullett-19th

HB 605 – Health; provide for authorized electronic monitoring in long-term care facilities (Substitute)(H&HS-18th) Cooper-43rd

HB 290 – Hospitals and nursing homes; policy during a declared public health emergency that limits patients’ abilities to be visited by designated family members and friends; provisions (Substitute)(H&HS-19th) Setzler-35th

HB 282 – Ad valorem tax; qualified timberland property; add a definition (Substitute)(FIN-52nd) Meeks-178th

HB 458 – Georgia Composite Medical Board; require certain training relating to sexual misconduct for members (Substitute)(H&HS-32nd) Cooper-43rd

HB 134 – State government; meetings relating to cybersecurity contracting and planning from open meeting requirements; exclude (S&T-50th) Anderson-10th

HB 619 – Heritage trust program; sale of Patrick’s Fishing Paradise to a private entity; authorize (Substitute)(GvtO-7th) Houston-170th

HB 575 – Ad valorem tax; authorize on premises processing and marketing of agricultural products as a qualifying conservation use (Substitute)(FIN-18th) Dickey-140th

SR 281 – Senate Study Committee on Violence Against Health Care Workers; create (RULES-49th)

HB 218 – Crimes and offenses; weapons carry license reciprocity in this state; expand (Substitute) (Rules-50th) (Substitute)(PUB SAF) Ballinger-23rd

HB 94 – Crimes and offenses; provide for the crime of theft by possession of stolen mail (Substitute)(JUDY-18th) Rich-97th

HB 174 – Motor vehicles; federal regulations regarding safe operation of motor carriers and commercial motor vehicles; update reference date (TRANS-25th) Wiedower-119th

HB 495 – Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board; revise duties (PUB SAF-29th) Crowe-110th

HB 534 – Crimes and offenses; promoting illegal drag racing and laying drags; provide for offense (JUDY-10th) Bonner-72nd

HB 562 – Criminal procedure; add DFCS case managers to people for whom arrest warrants may be issued only by certain judicial officers (Substitute)(JUDY-17th) Carpenter-4th

HB 676 – Georgia Farmers’ Market and Produce Terminal Development Authority Act; enact (Substitute)(AG&CA-20th) Houston-170th

HR 143 – Property; granting of non-exclusive easements;authorize (Substitute)(SI&P-28th) Greene-151st

HR 142 – Property; conveyance of certain state owned property; authorize (Substitute)(SI&P-28th) Greene-151st

HR 130 – Board of Community Affairs; approving transfer of Forsyth County from Georgia Mountains Regional Commission to Atlanta Regional Commission; ratify action (Substitute)(GvtO-27th) McDonald-26th

HB 653 – Georgia Pharmacy Practice Act; pharmacy care; revise definition (H&HS-52nd) Jasperse-11th

HB 409 – Judicial Legal Defense Fund Commission; establish (Substitute)(GvtO-50th) Gunter-8th

HB 43 – Motor vehicles; require registration application forms to include optional information regarding certain conditions which may interfere with a registrant’s ability to communicate (Substitute)(PUB SAF-14th) Cantrell-22nd

HB 128 – Health; prohibit providers from discriminating against potential organ transplant recipients due solely to the physical or mental disability of the potential recipient (H&HS-45th) Williams-145th

HB 152 – Postsecondary education; exemption applicable to certain institutions operating on military installations or bases; revise provisions (H ED-54th) Wiedower-119th

HB 165 – Motor vehicles; use of mounts on windshields for the support of wireless telecommunications devices and stand-alone electronic devices under certain circumstances; allow (TRANS-29th) Barr-103rd

HB 466 – Motor vehicles; number of required hours in the intervention component of DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Programs; reduce (Substitute)(PUB SAF-29th) Powell-32nd

HB 470 – Property; no plans are required when units are not designated by physical structures; provide (JUDY-28th) Washburn-141st

HB 617 – Postsecondary education; student athletes may receive compensation for use of name, image, or likeness; provide (H ED-46th) Martin-49th

HB 273 – Distilled spirits; initiate a referendum election for the authorization of the issuance of licenses; provide additional method(Substitute) (Rules-28th)(Substitute)(RI&U) Ballinger-23rd

HB 179 – Special license plates; support breast cancer related programs; amend logo design (PUB SAF-3rd) Camp-131st

HB 194 – Criminal procedure; term of probation shall follow mandatory term of imprisonment for persons convicted of a sexual offense; clarify(Substitute)(JUDY-50th) Sainz-180th

HB 231 – Crimes and offenses; victims of stalking; expand applicability of protective orders (Substitute)(JUDY-17th) Gaines-117th

HB 241 – Insurance; revise meaning of property insurance; change parameters under which certain contracts or agreements may be (I&L-29th) Gambill-15th

HB 246 – Motor vehicles; issuance of replacement licenses and permits; increase fee (PUB SAF-56th) Watson-172nd

HB 254 – Insurance; Commissioner’s enforcement authority with regard to adjusters; increase (Substitute)(I&L-29th) Lumsden-12th

HB 255 – Sexual Assault Reform Act of 2021; enact (PUB SAF-56th) Holcomb-81st

HB 287 – Education; tobacco and vapor products in course of instruction regarding alcohol and drugs; include (Substitute)(ED&Y-32nd) Rich-97th

HB 328 – Public utilities; one-time right of way permit fee and reduce annual right of way use fees; establish (RI&U-51st) Momtahan-17th

HB 317 – Excise tax; revise definition of innkeeper to include marketplace facilitators; provisions(Substitute) (Rules-49th)(Substitute)(FIN) Stephens-164th

HB 334 – Superior courts; clerks; notaries public; provisions (Substitute)(JUDY-19th) Gullett-19th

HB 338 – Motor vehicles; issuance of veterans’ driver’s licenses; revise qualifications (VM&HS-3rd) DeLoach-167th

HB 369 – Physicians; job description submission to Georgia Composite Medical Board; provisions (Substitute)(H&HS-20th) Powell-32nd

HB 306 – Corporations, partnership, and associations; corporations may hold shareholders’ meetings by means of remote communication; provide(Substitute)(JUDY-50th) Gunter-8th

HB 32 – Income tax; credit for teacher recruitment and retention program; provide (Substitute)(FIN-25th) Belton-112th

HB 443 – Torts; transfer of structured settlement payment rights; provide new requirements (Substitute)(JUDY-4th) Leverett-33rd

HB 454 – Insurance; certain coverage requirements concerning providers that become out-of-network during a plan year; provide(Substitute) (Rules-49th)(Substitute)(I&L) Newton-123rd

HB 449 – Georgia Utility Facility Protection Act; revise (Substitute)(RI&U-37th) Smith-133rd

HB 479 – Criminal procedure; revise certain arrest powers; provisions (JUDY-46th) Reeves-34th

HB 548 – Social services; reasonable access to records concerning reports of child abuse to the Administrative Office of the Courts; provide (JUDY-50th) Dempsey-13th

HB 591 – Mental health; marriage and family therapists to perform certain acts which physicians and others are authorized to perform; authorize (Substitute)(JUDY-32nd) Hogan-179th

HB 532 – Labor, Department of; employment security; changecertain provisions (I&L-16th) Werkheiser-157th

HB 117 – Low THC Oil Patient Registry; ulcerative colitis as a condition for which low THC oil may be used for treatment; add (Substitute)(H&HS-29th) Wilensky-79th

HB 517 – Education; calculation of minimum revenue obligations for scholarships and tuition grants; provide for the inclusion of earned interest (Substitute)(FIN-54th) Carson-46th

HB 480 – Property; creation, declaration and priority of liens for labor, services, or materials performed or furnished by registered interior designers; provide (RI&U-24th) Washburn-141st

HB 477 – Income tax; applications for credit for qualified donations of real property; extend sunset date(Substitute) (Rules-52nd)(Substitute)(FIN) Watson-172nd

HB 587 – Georgia Economic Renewal Act of 2021; enact (Substitute)(FIN-18th) Williamson-115th


Modified Open Rule

SB 100 – State Government; this state shall observe standard time year round; provide (Substitute)(SP&CA-Cantrell-22nd) Watson-1st

Modified Structured Rule

SB 59 – Education; additional QBE funding for each full-time equivalent student within a local charter school; provide (Substitute)(Ed-Jones-25th) Albers-56th

SB 78 – Invasion of Privacy; prohibition on electronically transmitting or posting nude or sexually explicit photographs or videos for purposes of harassing the depicted person; revise (Substitute)(JudyNC-Smith-18th) Jones II-22nd

SB 105 – State-Wide Probation System; conditions and procedures under which probation may be terminated early; revise (JudyNC-Smith-18th) Strickland-17th

SB 117 – Department of Human Services; offenses of improper sexual contact by employee or agent in the first and second degrees; revise (Substitute)(JudyNC-Gaines-117th) Miller-49th

SB 156 – Labor and Industrial Relations; appointment, oath, bond, power, duties, and authority of a chief labor officer; provide (Substitute)(I&L-Kirby-114th) Harbin-16th

SB 198 – Department of Public Safety; subsistence and per diem allowances; receipt of badge and duty weapon upon retirement; provide (PS&HS-Lumsden-12th) Harper-7th

SB 220 – “The Georgia Civics Renewal Act”; enact (Substitute)(Ed-Gambill-15th) Payne-54th (Rules Committee Substitute LC 49 0551S)

SB 225 – License Plates; individuals who served in the armed forces for an ally of the United States during active military combat; provide a veteran’s license plate (Substitute)(MotV-Hitchens-161st) Harbison-15th

SB 236 – Alcoholic Beverages; food service establishments to sell mixed drinks for off-premises consumption in approved containers under certain conditions; allow (RegI-Carpenter-4th) Brass-28th

SB 260 – Soil Amendments; exclude from regulation (Substitute)(A&CA-Corbett-174th) Harper-7th

The Rome News Tribune notes that the House Rules Committee is likely to add to the calendar for today’s session.Continue Reading..


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

On March 26, 1734, the British House of Commons voted for spending £10,000 to subsidize the Georgia colony, down from £26,000 the previous year.

The British Parliament enacted The Coercive Acts on March 28, 1774.

The Coercive Acts were a series of four acts established by the British government. The aim of the legislation was to restore order in Massachusetts and punish Bostonians for their Tea Party, in which members of the revolutionary-minded Sons of Liberty boarded three British tea ships in Boston Harbor and dumped 342 crates of tea—nearly $1 million worth in today’s money—into the water to protest the Tea Act.

Passed in response to the Americans’ disobedience, the Coercive Acts included:

The Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until damages from the Boston Tea Party were paid.

The Massachusetts Government Act, which restricted Massachusetts; democratic town meetings and turned the governor’s council into an appointed body.

The Administration of Justice Act, which made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in Massachusetts.

The Quartering Act, which required colonists to house and quarter British troops on demand, including in their private homes as a last resort.

Thomas Jefferson was elected as a Virginia delegate to the Second Continental Congress on March 27, 1775.

Colonel James Fannin, a Georgia native and Colonel in the Texas Regular Army and more than 300 other members of the Georgia battalion were executed on March 27, 1836 after surrendering to Santa Anna’s Mexican Army. Fannin County, Georgia is named after Col Fannin.

On March 27, 1912, the first Japanese cherry trees were planted on the northern bank of the Potomac River near the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.

On March 26, 1920, This Side of Paradise, the debut novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald was published. The author was 23 years old.

On March 27, 1941, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed legislation outlawing the handling of venomous snakes in such a way as to endanger another person or to encourage another person to handle a snake in such a way as to endanger them. The legislation resulted from a six-year old handling a venomous snake during a church service in Adel, Georgia, during which she was bitten and died. Under that act you could still handle snakes yourself as long as you didn’t endanger someone else.

On March 27, 1947, Governor Melvin Thompson signed legislation that made Georgia a “Right to Work State,” meaning that employees cannot generally be forced to join a union or pay dues in order to take a job. On the same day, gambling on sporting events was outlawed by another bill signed by Gov. Thompson.

Governor Ernest Vandiver signed legislation on March 28, 1961 authorizing the construction of monuments to Georgians killed in battle at the Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields.

Identical 15 1/2-foot-tall monuments of Georgia blue granite were sculpted by Harry Sellers of Marietta Memorials. At the top of the shaft is the word “GEORGIA” over the state seal. Lower on the shaft is the inscription, “Georgia Confederate Soldiers, We sleep here in obedience; When duty called, we came; When Countdry called, we died.”

Georgia’s first “Sunshine Law” requiring open meetings of most state boards and commissions, was signed by Governor Jimmy Carter on March 28, 1972.

A nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania overheated on March 28, 1979 and within days radiation levels had risen in a four county area. It was the most serious accident in commercial nuclear history in the United States.

On March 26, 1982, a groundbreaking ceremony was held in Washington, DC for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; the design approved a couple weeks earlier was by 21-year old Yale architecture student Maya Lin.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections


10:00 AM Senate Rules – 450 CAP
11:30 AM Senate Legislative Services – 450 CAP

Gov Kemp Tweet Sign SB202

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday signed Senate Bill 202, the broad omnibus election reform bill, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The bitter battles over election legislation spurred by the 2020 election came to fruition on Thursday when lawmakers voted in favor of passing Senate Bill 202 which outlines nearly 100 pages of new voting rules. Changes opponents say would harm and disenfranchise voters.

The measure passed along a party-line vote in both the House and Senate.

Gov. Brian Kemp moved swiftly to sign the bill not long after it passed which he called a step “toward ensuring our elections are secure, accessible and fair.”

“After the November election last year, I knew like, so many of you, that significant reforms to our state elections were needed,” he said. “There’s no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled, and those problems, understandably led to the crisis of confidence.”

“The bill greatly expands accessibility of voters in Georgia and greatly improves the process of administration of elections, while at the same time providing more accountability to ensure the integrity of the vote is properly preserved,” said Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, who led voting bills in the House.

From the Associated Press via the Savannah Morning News:

Among highlights, the bill would require a photo ID in order to vote absentee by mail, after more than 1.3 million Georgia voters used that option during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also would cut the time period people have to request an absentee ballot and limit where ballot drop boxes can be placed and when they can be accessed.

Republican Rep. Jan Jones said the provisions cutting the time people have to request an absentee ballot are meant to “increase the likelihood of a voter’s vote being cast successfully,” after concerns were raised in 2020 about mail ballots not being received by counties in time to be counted.

The bill would replace the elected secretary of state as the chair of the state election board with a new appointee of the legislature after Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger rebuffed Trump’s attempts to overturn Georgia’s election results. It would also allow the board to remove and replace county election officials deemed to be underperforming.

The bill also reduces the timeframe in which runoff elections are held, including the amount of early voting for runoffs. And it would bar outside groups from handing out food or water to people standing in line to vote.

During the rally, Bishop Reginald Jackson of the African Methodist Episcopal Church called for a boycott of Coca-Cola Co. products.

Jackson, who leads more than 400 churches across Georgia, said the Atlanta-based soft drink company had failed to live up to the commitments it made last year to support the Black Lives Matter movement by not forcefully opposing the voting bills being pushed by Republicans.

“We took them at his word,” he said of Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey. “Now, when they try to pass this racist legislation, we can’t get him to say anything.”

Jackson said boycotts were also possible against other large Atlanta companies, such as Delta Air Lines and Home Depot.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Macon Telegraph:

The bill also dropped a prior effort by Republican state lawmakers to shrink early voting on Sundays in Georgia. It instead would require two Saturdays of early voting and give counties the option to hold poll hours on two Sundays.

Among the bill’s most contentious changes to survive final passage is a requirement that registered Georgia voters provide the number on their driver’s license or state ID card to request and cast absentee ballots. If they do not have those ID forms, voters instead would have to send in a copy of their passport, employee ID card, utility bill or bank statement.

“Our goal is to ensure election integrity and to restore or confirm confidence in the election process,” [State Senator Max] Burns [R-Sylvania] said from the Senate floor shortly before the bill’s passage.

Speaking from the House floor Thursday, Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, who has spearheaded the push for election changes in the House, framed the bill as an expansion of voter access and tighter oversight of local election officials as he presented the bill before the vote.

“The bill greatly expands accessibility of voters in Georgia and greatly improves the process of administration of elections, while at the same time providing more accountability to ensure the integrity that the vote is properly preserved,” said Fleming, who chairs the House Special Committee on Election Integrity.

Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, the legislature’s longest-serving member, said earlier this week Democrats will continue to oppose the bills even with some concessions such as ditching the repeal on no-excuse absentee voting and more weekend poll hours.

“As state legislators, our aim is to ensure that all voters, particularly voters of color, have full, meaningful and non-burdensome access to the one fundamental right, and that is the preservation of all other rights, and that is the right to vote,” Smyre said.

From 13WMAZ in Macon:

The law gives the State Elections Board powers such as letting them replace local election officials.

It will also give the State Board the ability to take over local elections boards if the state determines they’re underperforming.

Rep. Barry Fleming said on the House floor Thursday that the state intervention would mirror the oversight for school systems.

“If there’s a school system that’s about to lose their accreditation and their kids can’t even get into college with the diplomas from that school system, there’s provision in our law where after due process, changes can be made to get those school systems back on track. It’s a temporary fix, so to speak,” Fleming said.

Under the law, county commissioners or a certain number of state legislators could request a performance review of local election officials. The State Election Board could also create an independent performance review board.

According to the law, the State Board of Elections can suspend up to four local election board superintendents at a time. The law says the state would temporarily replace the local superintendent with a single appointee to run county elections.

Mayor Pro Tem Seth Clark proposed a resolution in Macon-Bibb County’s commission on Tuesday, asking the local delegation to strip that portion of the bill and also asking the Governor to veto the bill. An amended version passed committee 7 to 2.

State Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) was arrested after banging on the doors to the Governor’s office, according to the Associated Press via the Valdosta Daily Times.

Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon, who is Black, was arrested by Capitol police amid a protest after knocking on the door of the governor’s office during his remarks.

Video captured by a bystander shows Cannon, who is handcuffed with her arms behind her back, being forcibly removed from the Capitol by two officers, one on each arm. She says “where are you taking me?” and “stop” as she is taken from the building.

Cannon was charged with felony obstruction of law enforcement, punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison, and with disrupting a session of the General Assembly. She was being held at the Fulton County jail, said an email from a Georgia State Patrol spokesperson, Lieut. W. Mark Riley.

From the AJC:

The officers forcibly removed Cannon, a Democrat from Atlanta, dragging her through the Capitol and pushing her into a police car. She was charged with obstruction of law enforcement and disrupting General Assembly sessions, according to the Georgia State Patrol and released on bond late Thursday.

“She was advised that she was disturbing what was going on inside and if she did not stop, she would be placed under arrest,” said GSP spokesman Lt. W. Mark Riley. “Rep. Cannon refused to stop knocking on the door.”

Court documents show she was charged with “knowingly and intentionally” knocking on the governor’s door during a bill signing and stomping on Officer L.T. Langford’s foot three times “during the apprehension and as she was being escorted out of the property.”

“The accused continued kicking on LT Langford with her heels,” according to the arrest warrant.

The Georgia Constitution says legislators are “free from arrest during sessions of the General Assembly” except for charges of treason, felonies or breach of the peace.

During a 2018 special legislative session, then-state Sen. Nikema Williams was arrested during a protest urging officials to tally all absentee and provisional ballots before declaring Republican Brian Kemp the winner in a close election for governor.

From the AP via AccessWDUN:

Democrats and voting rights groups say the law will disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color. It is one of a wave of GOP-backed election bills introduced in states around the country after former President Donald Trump stoked false claims that fraud led to his 2020 election defeat.

President Joe Biden called such GOP efforts “un-American” and “sick” during a news conference Thursday. And a group of voter mobilization groups filed a lawsuit late Thursday in federal court in Atlanta challenging the new law.

The Republican changes to voting law in Georgia follows record-breaking turnout that led to Democratic victories in the presidential contest and two U.S. Senate runoffs in the once reliably red state.

“The Republican voters I know find this despicable, Republican voters, the folks outside this White House. I’m not talking about the elected officials. I’m talking about voters.” Biden said.

From the Washington Post:

The new law imposes new identification requirements for those casting ballots by mail; curtails the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots; allows electors to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters and requires counties to hold hearings on such challenges within 10 days; makes it a crime for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters standing in line; blocks the use of mobile voting vans, as Fulton County did last year after purchasing two vehicles at a cost of more than $700,000; and prevents local governments from directly accepting grants from the private sector.

“Contrary to the hyper-partisan rhetoric you may have heard inside and outside this gold dome, the facts are that this new law will expand voting access in the Peach State,” the governor added, noting that every county in Georgia will now have expanded early voting on the weekends.

President Biden on Thursday blasted efforts by Republican-led state legislatures across the country to restrict voting rights, saying he was worried about “how un-American this whole initiative is.”

“This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle,” Biden said, emphasizing he would do “everything in my power” to pass legislation to protect voting rights.

From the New York Times:

The governor, who is up for re-election in 2022 and was heavily criticized by Donald J. Trump after the election for not abetting the former president’s effort to subvert the outcome, detailed his own history as a secretary of state fighting for stronger voter identification laws, which Democrats have denounced as having an outsize impact on communities of color. Mr. Kemp said that protests against the bill were pure politics.

“I fought these partisan activists tooth and nail for over 10 years to keep our elections secure, accessible and fair,” Mr. Kemp said.

From Newsweek:

Abrams said that she expected Senate Bill 202 to be quickly passed and signed to “avoid actual analysis” and “public awareness” that it “hurts voters of color, increases taxes on struggling families & steals power from local governments” in a tweet hours before the bill became law.

“In my 11 years in the legislature, I never saw a bill approved at such speed. This wasn’t efficiency. Republicans want to hide their shameful actions from public scrutiny. Instead, they will see sunlight and legal action,” Abrams added on Twitter after Kemp signed the bill. “Now more than ever, we need federal action to protect voting rights as we continue to fight against these blatantly unconstitutional efforts that are nothing less than Jim Crow 2.0.”

House Bill 146 by State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) would make some state employees and teachers eligible for paid family leave and passed the Senate in amended form, according to the Associated Press via the Statesboro Herald.

The Senate voted 52-0 for House Bill 146 on Thursday. Because the Senate made changes, the bill goes back to the House. If the House agrees, the bill will go to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature or veto. If the House disagrees, the Senate and House must work out differences.

Nearly 250,000 employees of state agencies, universities and K-12 schools would be eligible for the leave after the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.

Both mothers and fathers could use the leave. An employee would qualify after six months of continuous employment with a government agency, college or school.

The measure does not cover leave to care for sick family members or for personal medical problems. It also doesn’t cover private employers.

Georgia State House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) said the legislature will look at recent crime issues in the City of Atlanta, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, on Thursday called for a General Assembly panel to study Atlanta’s crime problem over the summer and decide whether “state intervention may be necessary.”

“In the past I have resisted calls for state oversight of a city’s operations,” Ralston said at a news conference. “But this pandemic of lawlessness has now reached crisis proportions.”

Ralston informed Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of the legislature’s intentions in a letter sent Thursday. Bottoms’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ralston’s announcement comes in the wake of mass shootings at three metro-Atlanta spas that left eight people dead earlier this month. Those murders are on top of a total of 24 people killed in homicides so far this year in Atlanta through March 13, up 41% from the same time last year.

Atlanta saw 157 murders in 2020, marking a steep increase from previous years. Assaults and auto thefts are also on the rise, contributing to a crime situation in Atlanta that Ralston said the city “doesn’t seem to be able to bring under control.”

From the Associated Press via the Rome News Tribune:

“Atlanta has a crime problem, and it doesn’t seem to be able to bring it under control,” Ralston told reporters. “Sadly, the facts paint a chilling reality. Not only is crime on the rise in every corner of this city, but we are losing the fight against crime.”

The speaker, a Republican from Blue Ridge, said he would brief Gov. Brian Kemp on his plans later Thursday. A spokesperson for Kemp didn’t immediately respond as to whether the Republican governor favors any possible intervention.

Ralston said Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee Chairman J. Collins, a Villa Rica Republican, would lead the effort.

Aggravated assaults, which can include nonfatal shootings, have also risen significantly, although not as sharply as homicides. Although Ralston also deplored break-ins in his remarks, burglary and auto break-ins are down in recent months, although auto theft is up.

“We’ve got an outstanding Georgia State Patrol here in the state,” he said. “You know we may have to talk about resources, I mean, there’s any number of forms that this could take.”

Republican Attorney General Chris Carr said he would support the House study, blaming gang activity for “unchecked violent crime” and a lack of support for police for problems in recruiting and retaining officers.

The Georgia Department of Labor says that unemployment claims are at their lowest level since March 2020, according to 13WMAZ.

From the AJC:

Georgia’s economy in February added jobs and cut unemployment, but at such a sluggish pace that it would take more than a year to reach pre-pandemic employment levels, state officials said Thursday.

“We should be able to get back to a pre-pandemic unemployment rate by the end of the year,” said Heather Boushey, a member of President Joe Biden’s Council of Economic Advisors, in a conference call with Georgia reporters last week.

Georgia added just 1,700 jobs last month after losing jobs in January, the Department of Labor said Thursday. The unemployment rate dipped from 5.1% in January to 4.8%, which is less than half the jobless rate during the massive layoffs following the pandemic-triggered shutdowns last spring.

The state in February had 213,600 fewer jobs than a year earlier, the last month before the pandemic. But since May, Georgia has added back 392,800 jobs, according to Mark Butler, the state’s labor commissioner.

“As Georgians return to the workforce and businesses continue to hire, we can look forward to steady economic growth across the state,” he said.

United States Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Extreme Northwest GA) held a town hall meeting in Chatsworth, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, entered the Cloer Barn in Chatsworth Wednesday night to raucous cheers and a standing ovation from a crowd of about 80. Some two hours later, Greene ended the event to an equally enthusiastic standing ovation from the near-capacity crowd.

“The southern border is in crisis,” said Greene, who blasted President Joe Biden for the surge in people, especially minors, crossing the border. Some 13,000 minors who crossed the border unaccompanied by an adult are now in custody, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Greene touted the Protect America First Act, a bill she has introduced that she said would impose a four-year moratorium on all immigration, make it easier to deport illegal aliens, complete the “big, beautiful” wall along the Mexican border started by former President Donald Trump and name it after Trump.

Comments from several audience members indicated that, four months later, they still haven’t come to terms with Trump’s loss to Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Biden won by 81.3 million votes and 306 votes in the Electoral College to Trump’s 74.2 million votes and 232 electoral votes. Greene received several questions about Dominion Voting Systems voting machines, which were used in 28 states including Georgia.

Rep. Greene also has agreed not to block critics on her Twitter account, according to the Associated Press via the Rome News Tribune.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and a Los Angeles-based political action committee have reached a settlement that bars the Georgia Republican from blocking anyone from her public Twitter account or other social media while she’s in office.

Greene was acidly critical of the settlement in a tweet.

“Because of this PAC’s frivolous lawsuit against me, I’m not allowed to block people that threaten my life and my children’s lives every single day on social media,” she tweeted. “And they are bragging about donating the money to organizations that want to take away my guns, so I couldn’t defend myself and my children, when people show up to murder us.”

MeidasTouch sued Greene in February, contending that she violated its First Amendment rights by blocking it from one of her Twitter accounts after the PAC posted critical comments.

Although it wasn’t her formal congressional Twitter account, MeidasTouch said Greene uses it as a “de facto” official account, sharing her positions and doing fundraising drives. The postings generate thousands of replies, according to the lawsuit, which calls it “a kind of virtual town hall in which Greene and her aides use the tweet function to communicate news and information … and members of the public use the reply function to respond.”

State Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia) was elected to the Georgia DOT Board and announced he will resign, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

In a news release, Morris simultaneously announced his retirement from the state House, where he’d served since 1998. He was unopposed for reelection last year.

Morris was elected by the 25 house members from the 12th Congressional District, which includes Augusta but runs as far south as Douglas, Ga. A term on the board lasts five years.

Grantham, a former Augusta Commissioner who stepped down from the transportation board to serve on the Georgia Ports Authority, said he was not pleased with area legislators favoring the transportation board candidate from outside the Augusta area.

“Augusta being the population center that it is and the one that passed TIA, to select one from another part of the district, I did not support that,” he said.

The State Transportation Board oversees GDOT and names the department’s commissioner, designates which roads are part of the state highway system, approves long-range plans and leases and oversees administration of construction contracts.

It’s not clear whether Morris made his resignation effective immediately, after the end of the Session, or some other date.

Richmond County Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick announced he will run for Mayor of Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Kendrick joins the only other announced mayoral candidate, Augusta Commissioner Dennis Williams, in pursuit of the seat held by Mayor Hardie Davis for six years.

Augusta mayors are limited to two consecutive terms, and the opening is scheduled to appear on the May 24, 2022, ballot. Mid-year elections are held because the state of Georgia moved nonpartisan elections of consolidated governments from November to mid-year. Newly-elected officials wait six months or more until their terms start.

Fulton County says clearing the court system of a COVID-19 backlog will cost $60 million dollars, according to the AJC.

Fulton’s courts will face a backlog of roughly 10,000 criminal cases and an unknown amount of civil cases — a logjam that dwarfs other Metro Atlanta counties.

Those who lead the judicial system in Georgia’s most-populated county are currently creating a plan, but Fulton County Manager Dick Anderson said the best estimate is that it will take 36 months and cost at least $60 million to solve the problem.

The money will come from the $200 million recently sent to Fulton in federal stimulus funds to address the coronavirus pandemic.

That $60 million will be split among prosecutors, public defenders, the sheriff’s office, judges, the chief clerk and other agencies that make criminal justice run, said Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Christopher Brasher. He said he thinks the entire system will need 250 total additional staff to expedite the cases.

Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis said her next step is giving the Fulton County Commission a budget. Willis said she’s going to need 30 to 35 more attorneys (at a median salary of $80,000 per year) along with 15 investigators and 15 legal assistants. Then she said she’ll need 25 offices, which will mean putting cubicles in filing rooms. She hopes bench trials, conducted without a jury, will help clear the pile-up.

Willis estimates her backlog operation alone will require $15 million a year — on the low end.

The district attorney for Gwinnett County, which like Fulton boasts roughly 1 million residents, said they have a buildup of 700 criminal cases.

Harris County public schools have vaccinated more than 200 employees in special clinics, according to WTVM.

The Harris County School District partnered with the West Central Health District to administer the vaccines. Pamela Kirkland with the health district says she hopes this helps build confidence in schools moving forward.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 25, 2021

Charmaine Coastal Pet Rescue Savannah

Charmaine is a 10-month old female American Bulldog and Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah, GA.

Charmaine is super sweet! She lives for pets and kisses and will just sit down to best absorb your attention and love.

Addison2 Coastal Pet Rescue Savannah

Addison (above and below) is a year-old female American Bulldog mix who is available for adoption from Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah, GA.

Addison is a young, sweet, laid-back girl, with lots of personality. She is house trained and crate trained. She can be a bit dominant towards other dogs, and would be best as an only dog. She may do well with only males.

The late Mrs. GaPundit would have called Addison an American Couch Hound.

Addison Coastal Pet Rescue Savannah

Clover Coastal Pet Rescue Savannah

Clover is a 2-year old female American Bulldog mix who is available for adoption from Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 25, 2021

The British Parliament closed the Port of Boston on March 25, 1774, passing the Boston Port Act in retaliation for the destruction of $1 million worth of tea in the Boston Tea Party.

Flannery O’Connor was born on March 25, 1925 in Savannah, Georgia. She would come to be recognized as one of the greatest American fiction writers. O’Connor graduated from the Georgia State College for Women, now called Georgia College and State University. She returned to Milledgeville in 1951, living at the family farm, called Andalusia, until her death at age 39 in 1964.

At GCSU, the Flannery O’Connor Room is located in the GC Museum, the Flannery O’Connor Collection includes manuscripts, and the College includes a program in Flannery O’Connor Studies.

O’Connor died of Lupus, which also killed her father.

Horton Smith won the first Masters tournament on March 25, 1934.

On March 25, 1937, Governor E.D. Rivers signed legislation creating the Georgia Department of Labor; in 1945, the Commissioner of Labor was upgraded from statutory office to Constitutional.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – Legislative Day 38


TBD Senate Rules Upon Adjournment (LD 38) – 450 CAP
7:00 AM Senate Natural Resources- canceled – 125 CAP
7:30 AM Senate Special Judiciary – canceled – 307 CLOB
8:00 AM Senate Regulated Industries – 450 CAP
8:00 AM Senate Ethics- canceled – 307 CLOB
8:00 AM Senate Insurance and Labor – canceled – 310 CLOB
8:00 AM Senate Higher Education- canceled – 450 CAP
8:30 AM HOUSE Ways and Means Public Finance and Policy Sub – 406 CLOB
10:00 AM Senate Floor Session (LD 38) – Senate Chamber
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD38) – House Chamber
1:00 PM Senate Public Safety – canceled – Mezz 1
2:15 PM Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs – canceled – Mezz 1
2:15 PM Senate Transportation – 450 CAP
3:30 PM Senate Regulated Industries – 450 CAP
4:45 PM Senate Government Oversight- canceled – 450 CAP


HB 567 – Newborn Screening and Genetics Advisory Committee; create(Substitute)(H&HS-11th) Cooper-43rd

HB 346 – Jarom’s Act; enact (Substitute)(H&HS-7th) LaRiccia-169thHB 146Public officers and employees; paid parental leave for eligible state employees and eligible local board of education employees; provide(Substitute)(I&L-49th) Gaines-117th

HB 44 – State government;Georgia shall observe daylight savings time year round; provide (Substitute)(GvtO-1st) Cantrell-22nd

HB 286 – Local government; restrict ability of county governing authorities to reduce funding for county police departments (Substitute)(PUB SAF-29th) Gaines-117th

HR 183 – Congress; pass Recovering America’s Wildlife Act; urge (NR&E-7th) Knight-130th

HB 173 – Retirement and pensions; eligible large retirement system’s assets that may be invested in alternative investments; increase percentage (RET-52nd) Benton-31st

HB 34 – Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact Act; enact (H&HS-34th) Belton-112th

HB 141 – Criminal procedure; requirements for awards made from Georgia Crime Victims Emergency Fund to medical service providers; provide(Substitute) (Rules-53rd) (Substitute)(H&HS-1st) Gaines-117th

HR 24 – Lucci, Dominic Brian; compensate (APPROP-1st) Mallow-163rd

HR 25 – Jones, Mark Jason; compensate (APPROP-1st) Mallow-163rd

HR 26 – Gardiner, Kenneth Eric; compensate (APPROP-1st) Mallow-163rd

HB 631 – Georgia Crime Information Center; develop a system to collect information on an individual’s ability to communicate with law enforcement or emergency responders; provisions (Substitute)(PUB SAF-56th) Cheokas-138th

HB 611 – State government; definition of small business; change (Substitute)(FIN-14th) Cheokas-138th

HR 282 – Sydnie Grace Jones Memorial Intersection; dedicate (TRANS-51st) Gunter-8th

HB 68 – Professions and businesses; certain military certifications; extend time to qualify (Substitute)(VM&HS-14th) Clark-147th

HB 98 – State government; conditions for meetings and public hearings to be held by teleconference in emergency conditions; provide (Substitute)(S&T-27th) Lumsden-12th

HB 205 – Insurance; framework for regulating the offering or issuance of travel insurance; provide (I&L-28th) Williams-148th

HB 268 – The Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact Act; enact (H&HS-1st) Werkheiser-157th

HB 353 – Motor vehicles; clarify what constitutes an obstruction for purposes of exceptions to when a vehicle is to drive on the right side of roadway (PUB SAF-56th) Jones-25th

HB 354 – State Board of Cemeterians and Funeral Service; report suspected unlawful activity to the sheriff’s office and the Attorney General; require (Substitute)(SJUDY-23rd) Williams-145th

HB 363 – Crimes and offenses; protection of elder persons; revise definitions (JUDY-17th) LaHood-175th

HR 119 – Senator Johnny Isakson Bridge; Chatham County; dedicate (TRANS-53rd) Ralston-7th

HB 370 – Health; term limits for members of joint hospital authorities; provide (H&HS-32nd) Jones-47th

HB 453 – Special license plates; certified, volunteer, and retired firefighters; provide standards for proof of eligibility (PUB SAF-56th) McDonald-26th

HB 459 – Local government; prohibit annexations of county operated airport property (SLGO(G)-56th) Martin-49th

HB 465 – Local government; imposing civil penalties upon an alarm systems contractor for a false alarm that occurs through no fault of alarm systems contractor; prohibit (Substitute) (Rules-53rd) (GvtO-29th) Gullett-19th

HB 553 – State government; participation in hearings by electronic communications; provide (Substitute)(JUDY-50th) Gunter-8th


Modified Structured Rule

SB 28 – Juvenile Code and Domestic Relations; provisions relating to the protection of children; strengthen, clarify and update (Substitute)(JuvJ-Reeves-34th) Hatchett-50th

SB 75 – Termination of Residential Lease; victims of stalking; provide (Judy-Gaines-117th) Jackson-41st

SB 95 – State Government; conditions for meetings and public hearings to be held by teleconference in emergency conditions; provide (Substitute)(GAff-Lumsden-12th) Ginn-47th (Rules Committee Substitute LC 47 1062S)

SB 165 – Motor Vehicles; autonomous vehicles from certain vehicle equipment requirements; exempt (Substitute)(MotV-Hogan-179th) Gooch-51st (AM 43 0198)

SB 193 – Ad Valorem Taxation of Property; requiring that mobile homes procure and display decals; grant counties the option (GAff-Cameron-1st) Mullis-53rd

SB 202 – Elections and Primaries; persons or entities that mail absentee ballot applications shall mail such applications only to eligible registered electors; provide (Substitute)(SCEI-Fleming-121st) Burns-23rd(Rules Committee Substitute LC 28 0339S)

SB 218 – Vacation of Office; suspension of compensation for certain public officers who are suspended because of indictment for a felony; provide (Judy-Efstration-104th) Walker III-20th (Rules Committee Substitute LC 28 0335S)

SB 234 – “Georgia Uniform Mediation Act”; enact (Judy-Leverett-33rd) Kennedy-18th

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday visited the state’s mass vaccination site in Columbus, according to WTVM.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 24, 2020

On March 24, 1824, the Marquis de LaFayette visited Augusta Georgia.

On this date in 1825, LaFayette, a beloved French hero of the American Revolution, stopped in Augusta on his nationwide tour, and thousands turned out to greet him.

Storekeepers displayed all sorts of LaFayette gear – hats, portraits, souvenirs. An arch was constructed over Broad Street. A platform big enough to hold 600 diners was put up in front of the courthouse on Greene Street.

Governor E.D. Rivers signed a resolution on March 24, 1939, calling for the return of “General” locomotive made famous in the Great Train Chase from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Georgia. It currently resides in The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia. The other locomotive involved in the chase, The Texas, is displayed at the Atlanta Center.

Elvis Presley was inducted into the United States Army on March 24, 1958.

On March 24, 1970, Gov. Lester Maddox signed legislation naming the Largemouth Bass the Official State Fish.

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections


Patricia Murphy of the AJC has a great piece about how the Lincoln Project targeted Georgia Senator John Albers (R-Roswell) with lies.

Albers’ dismissal followed a series of now-deleted tweets from the Lincoln Project obtained by The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, which tagged more than a dozen of his firm’s largest clients, including Starbucks, USAA, Walmart, and FedEx.

“These companies currently use @tabor_attorneys, helping pay @johnalbers salary while he sponsors bills to suppress and strip votes away from millions of black Georgians.”

The next tweet pointed to Albers’ co-sponsorship of Senate Bill 62, “a bill meant to suppress black votes & institute a new Jim Crow.”

Unlike Fleming, Albers walked out of the vote on his chamber’s most draconian elections bill, Senate Bill 241, which would have ended no-excuse absentee voting in Georgia.

Instead, SB 62 would require that each ballot be printed with the name of its precinct. It passed the Senate 37 to 15 with the votes of four Democrats. One of those Democrats was Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, a progressive you could sooner imagine resigning her seat than supporting a measure that resulted in a Jim Crow-era law.

Calls flooded into Fisher Phillips, including from the firm’s clients, and Albers was gone by the next day.

Then the threats against his family began.

“It happened in a matter of 24 hours, all based on a radical group that told a lie,” Albers said in an interview in his office.

The Lincoln Project is already under fire for its own unsavory behavior. When I asked if the group knew what SB 62 deals with when they called it racist, a spokesman said they only took down the Tweets about Albers “because they didn’t go far enough.”

“I think you’re going to have people who have a lot of talents, and a lot of opportunity to make a real difference and serve who will just shy away from it.” Albers said.

Note: the Lincoln Project (or someone later transcribing their tweet) also appears to have targeted sloppily, targeting “@tabor_attorneys” when the law firm they were looking for tweets as “@labor_attorneys.”

Senate Resolution 134 by Sen. Larry Walker, III passed the State House and would place a Constitutional Amendment on the 2022 ballot, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Georgians are poised to decide whether statewide elected officials who have been suspended amid felony charges for abusing their office should continue to draw a paycheck while awaiting trial.

The state House of Representatives gave final approval Tuesday for a constitutional amendment that would put to voters whether to bar pay for officials facing felony charges like Georgia’s governor, secretary of state and insurance commissioner.

It passed unanimously in the House on Monday after clearing the state Senate earlier this month by a nearly unanimous vote, with Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, voting against. The question will be on the ballot in 2022 if Gov. Brian Kemp signs the amendment.

One minor quibble: I don’t believe the Governor must sign legislation proposing a Constitutional Amendment because Article X, paragraph V of the Georgia Constitution states:

Veto not permitted. The Governor shall not have the right to veto any proposal by the General Assembly or by a convention to amend this Constitution or to provide a new Constitution.

I am also concerned with what might appear to be a state action to deprive someone of their pay after being indicted, not convicted.

It’s not just a Due Process concern, but a concern over separation of powers.

Could a rogue prosecutor force an elected member of the Executive Branch out of office by indicting them as if they were a ham sandwich?

Under the Gold Dome Today – Committee Work Day


8:00 AM Senate Judiciary – 307 CLOB
9:00 AM Senate Natural Resources and the Environment – 310 CLOB
10:00 AM Senate Education & Youth – 450 CAP
12:00 PM Senate Government Oversight – 450 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Finance – 450 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Insurance and Labor – 310 CLOB
2:00 PM Senate Regulated Industries- canceled – 450 CAP
2:00 PM Senate Georgia DOT Board Election for 12th CD – Senate Chamber
2:00 PM Senate Rules – 450 CAP
3:00 PM Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs – 307 CLOB
3:30 PM Senate State Institutions and Property – 125 CAP
4:00 PM Senate Economic Development and Tourism – Mezz 1
4:00 PM Senate Health and Human Services – 450 CAP

Governor Brian Kemp announced yesterday that beginning on Thursday, all adults in Georgia will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

All Georgians age 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting this Thursday, March 25, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Tuesday.

The long-awaited expansion comes as Georgia is set to receive another boost in the weekly shipment of vaccines, largely due to the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine that increased the state’s allotment this week to 450,000 doses, according to the governor.

Speaking at a news conference, Kemp said Georgia expects to gain another bump in vaccine doses next week from the federal government – though he was not sure yet how much more the state will receive.

Still, state officials continue to see “vaccine hesitancy” in rural areas, particularly parts of Georgia south of the Columbus-Macon-Augusta line.

From CBS46:

The state of Georgia has been criticized for a low percentage of the general population who have been vaccinated. Georgia ranks near the bottom among states in the percentage of its adult population that has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to numbers from the CDC. This comes as other states, like West Virginia, opened up vaccine distribution to everyone over the age of 16 on Monday.

Governor Kemp disputes the CDC’s numbers saying the state has 250,000 doses injected that have not yet been updated on the CDC’s official count. The state will also get a big boost when Mercedes-Benz Stadium opens up as a FEMA mass vaccination site. Kemp is expected to tour the facility Tuesday.

From the Dalton Daily Citizen News:

Due to uneven demand between rural and metro areas, Kemp said, about 70% of this week’s vaccine allotment went to north Georgia and metro Atlanta areas where demand is the highest. Doses will continue to be distributed based on demand.

But Kemp warned Georgians the new mass eligibility will no doubt make vaccine appointments harder to come by in densely populated areas.

“We are expanding eligibility to make sure we continue to keep the demand as high as we can,” Kemp said. “Even though it may take a little bit longer in the metro area because of that demand.”

“I just want to encourage everybody to get the vaccine. There’s no doubt that we’re seeing this across the country, but especially in the South, we’re seeing vaccine hesitancy that is concerning,” he said. “People should not be hesitant. This is a medical miracle. It’s safe. It’s effective.”

“There’s going to be a point also where we’re not going to wait around anymore,” he said. “We want to make it available, but we can’t hold others back because of people’s vaccine hesitancy.”

The most important legislative meeting today will be the Joint House and Senate Appropriations Conference Committe, which meets to hammer-out differences between the two versions of the state budget. From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune:

The Georgia Senate unanimously passed Gov. Brian Kemp’s $27.2 billion fiscal 2022 budget Tuesday, setting the stage for negotiations with the state House of Representatives on a final version of the spending plan.

With state tax revenues coming in stronger than expected despite the pandemic, the budget would restore 60% of the “austerity” cuts to Georgia public schools the legislature made at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak last year.

Thanks to the American Rescue Plan Congress passed earlier this month, Georgia schools soon will receive $4.2 billion in federal funds, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery told his Senate colleagues.

“That more than wipes out any reductions we’ve made during the pandemic,” said Tillery, R-Vidalia. “Our school systems are going to more than adequately be made whole.”

A joint House-Senate conference committee will work out the two chambers’ differences on the budget and hammer out a final spending plan to present next week during the last days of this year’s legislative session.

Election reform legislation nears the finish line in both chambers, according to the AJC.

The Senate Ethics Committee voted along party lines to advance House Bill 531, which could soon receive a vote in the full Senate. A House committee passed a different election overhaul bill [SB 202] on Monday, and lawmakers will have to negotiate final versions of bills before this year’s legislative session ends March 31.

The bill would also limit ballot drop boxes, an innovation in the 2020 election cycle that allowed voters to deliver their absentee ballots rather than have to rely on the U.S. Postal Service to return them by election day. Drop boxes would only be allowed inside advance polling places during the hours that they’re opening.

In addition, the bill would expand early voting by requiring polling on two Saturdays during the three-week early voting period. Legislators also voted to allow county election offices to have the option of opening for early voting on two Sundays, a decision that came after protests over reducing voting opportunities especially for Black voters who go to the polls after church.

The legislation also would create a hotline to report voting allegations to the attorney general’s office, allow the State Election Board to take over county election boards it deems problematic, and require disclaimers on absentee ballot application forms mailed by nonprofit groups.

The Senate bill is narrower than the House elections measure that cleared its committee Monday.

The House version, Senate Bill 202, also would set a deadline to request absentee ballots 11 days before election day, disqualify provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct, ban free food given to voters waiting in line, and require runoffs four weeks after election day instead of nine weeks.

House Bill 218 by State Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Cherokee County) addresses gun rights, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The proposal’s provisions include requiring Georgia to recognize other states’ concealed weapons permits, and buttressing gun rights during declarations of emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.

A third part would require government to sell guns collected by law enforcement agencies. The bill also would ease the process of getting a carry permit.

It still must pass on the Senate floor before having the differences between the two chambers’ versions resolved.

The timing of any gun rights bill’s passage – right after the deadly spa shootings – would appear at least awkward.

The first part of HB Bill 218 would expand Georgia’s recognition of gun carry permits from other states.

The gun bill would also allow a person from one county to get a carry permit from another.

That would pertain to probate courts, whose judges have said that such licenses have soared to unprecedented levels. HB 218 would also allow applications be accepted via mail or online.

General Assembly Democrats have introduce legislation in the wake of the Atlanta shootings, according to AccessWDUN.

The proposals would require a five-day waiting period for gun purchases, establish a statewide translation system for 911 calls and create enhanced training for law enforcement emphasizing outreach in other languages. Democrats say they’re responding to news reports that suggest people who couldn’t speak fluent English had trouble communicating with responding officers, as well as reports that the suspect bought a gun the morning of the shootings.

The bills have little chance of passing this year because they’re too late for procedural deadlines and only days remain in a legislative session set to end March 31. Also, any proposals that limit gun sales are likely to face staunch opposition in the Republican-controlled legislature.

[Democratic State Rep. Sam] Park acknowledged that the bill was unlikely to pass in Georgia, where Republicans control the General Assembly and the governorship. But he said that gun control will “without a doubt” be an issue in the 2022 statewide election, when all those offices will be on the ballot.

Hall County’s Parental Accountability Court celebrates ten years of service, according to the Gainesville Times.

A Hall County court program focusing on helping parents pay child support has reached both a 10th anniversary and a $1 million milestone in money collected in its cases.

The Parental Accountability Court is one of several accountability court programs offered through Hall County Treatment Services. Other accountability courts include Drug Court, DUI Court and Veterans Court. These programs look for alternatives to incarceration to tackle issues, such as substance use and mental health, for participants.

Defense attorney Jason Burruss said the clients he has recommended to the program are people who come in for a consultation and are in arrears for a considerable amount.

“Going to jail doesn’t help anybody out,” Burruss said. “When they go into (Parental Accountability Court), it gives them an opportunity to be put on a payment plan and to be held accountable on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.”

Hall County Treatment Services Director Jessi Emmett said the program started under Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver’s direction. The genesis of the program, like many of the other accountability court programs, started because of the “revolving door” in the court system, with judges seeing the same people again and again facing possible contempt of court and jail time for not meeting their child support obligations.

A lot of innovation is born in Georgia’s local court systems involving alternative accountability courts and alternative sentencing, and it’s one of the great success of Georgia government in this century.

Dougherty County plans to resume Grand Jury proceedings Thursday, according to the Albany Herald.

Now the Dougherty County court system is looking to oil up the machine and begin the process of resolving the backlog, beginning this week with the selection of a grand jury and presentation of criminal cases. Trials could be scheduled by the beginning of April.

“The grand jury is a very important part of the process,” Dougherty County District Attorney Gred Edwards said.

The second grand jury since March 2020 is set to hear criminal cases beginning on Thursday. During the proceedings, prosecutors will present cases and grand jurors will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to issue indictments.

The last criminal trials were held in March 2020, and the only grand jury hearings held since the pandemic struck occurred in December.

Flowery Branch City Council members will attend a retreat on Friday, according to AccessWDUN.

Athens-Clarke County police are deploying speed cameras in school zones, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

But until April 21, police will only issue warnings to the registered owners of vehicles violating the speed limit.

Glynn County public schools are considering how to address arts education changes due to COVID, according to The Brunswick News.

“I need some help with how we’re managing the arts — art and band and chorus in particular,” said school board member Mike Hulsey during this month’s regular meeting. “I continue to get emails and texts from teachers and from parents alike about how band members are going outside in the heat and the bugs and this, that and the other and can’t sing, can’t play.”

School principals are asked to submit to the district a plan for all kinds of events, activities and programs that pose risk of spreading COVID-19. Those plans are reviewed by district leaders and often by local health district staff before approved for implementation.

“But we have done everything else for indoor sports. We’ve had pageants. We’ve done a lot of different things that I’ve seen on Facebook,” Hulsey said. “… I don’t understand what needs to happen. Somebody help me understand, so I can help them understand what they need to do to make sure we can sing in classes and we can play band instruments in classes.”

School Board Chairman Marcus Edgy added that he expects school leaders to do their best to at least submit a plan.

“Even if it’s something very restrictive,” he said. “It means they’re showing an effort, and that way the parents at least see that everyone’s trying to work together.”

Scott Spence, superintendent, said the district is ready to work with all schools to put these plans in place.

“If someone wants to do it and they take the effort and take the time to do a plan that will work and work with Dr. Whitehead, they can do it,” he said. “But it takes a little bit of effort and a little bit of energy to get it done,” Spence said.

 2022 Cycle

Republican Jeanne Seaver announced several weeks ago that she is running for Lieutenant Governor. From Connect Savannah:

“Georgians deserve representatives who put the interest of the people first and push partisan politics to the back burner,” Seaver stated, citing her being “disheartened with the failed leadership in the Lieutenant Governor’s office” as a primary motivation to run for the seat currently held by Republican Geoff Duncan.

An outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump, Seaver leads the Savannah-based Stand Up, Lead or Shut Up organization of “patriots that love America and all the freedoms it has to offer,” according to the organization’s website.

“I understand the needs of Georgians and promise to work with the leaders of Georgia to increase everyone’s opportunities for success,” Seaver stated.

Republican David Belle Isle announced he will run again for Secretary of State, according to the Chattanoogan.

David Belle Isle, an attorney, former mayor of Alpharetta, and runner-up in the previous Republican Primary for Secretary of State, has announced his intention to challenge Brad Raffensperger in the 2022 Primary Election.

“I am running for Secretary of State to clean up the mess, secure the mail-in ballot, and restore voter confidence,” said Mr. Belle Isle. “In the recent elections, we witnessed voter suppression on a massive scale, triggered by voter uncertainty and made worse by the Secretary’s poor decisions, carelessness, and failure to lead. In the Senate runoff, thousands of Georgia voters chose to stay home rather than condone a process that appeared uninterested in the difference between valid votes and invalid votes. Mr. Raffensperger single-handedly bargained away our election integrity and skewered the credibility of our mail-in ballots. Then, he looked us in the eye and told us that the 2020 election was the safest, most secure election in our history. It was not, and it’s time to hold the Secretary of State accountable.”

Mr. Belle Isle points to the Compromise Settlement Agreement signed by Mr. Raffensperger and Stacy Abrams as the biggest obstacle to voter confidence and election integrity in Georgia.

He said, “The Compromise makes it very difficult for counties to reject invalid mail-in ballots, which likely resulted in thousands of invalid ballots being fully counted. The integrity of our State depends on the integrity of our elections. As Georgia’s next Secretary of State, I will reject the Compromise Settlement Agreement and work to better secure the mail-in ballot process. I will work to clean up the voter rolls and call for a true independent audit of Dominion. Most importantly, I will put fresh eyes on our entire election system, from top to bottom, with the goal of delivering to the people of Georgia fair and provable elections.”


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 23, 202

Patrick Henry addressed the Virginia Convention in Richmond on March 23, 1775, stating, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

On March 23, 1861, the Georgia Secession Convention adopted a new state Constitution to be submitted to a referendum of the voters on the first Tuesday in July and then adjourned.

On March 23, 1972, in the case of Gooding v. Wilson, the United States Supreme Court held that a Georgia statute, OCGA § 26-6303, which provided: “Any person who shall, without provocation, use to or of another, and in his presence . . . opprobrious words or abusive language, tending to cause a breach of the peace . . . shall be guilty of a misdemeanor,” was unconstitutionally vague and violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

On March 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan called for the development of an anti-missile system that would come to be known as the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – Legislative Day 37


TBD Senate Rules upon Adjournment – 450 CAP
8:00 AM Senate Veterans, Military and Homeland Security – 450 CAP
8:00 AM Senate Ethics – 307 CLOB
8:30 AM Senate Science and Technology – 310 CLOB
10:00 AM Senate Floor Session (LD 37) – Senate Chamber
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD37) – House Chamber
1:00 PM Senate Higher Education – 450 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Insurance and Labor – Mezz 1
2:15 PM Senate Health and Human Services – 450 CAP
2:15 PM Senate Public Safety – Mezz 1
3:30 PM Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities – 450 CAP
4:45 PM Senate Finance – Mezz 1


SR 201 – SK Innovation; recognize (RULES-49th)

HB 81 – General appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2021 -June 30, 2022(Substitute)(APPROP-19th) Ralston-7th

HB 451 – Ad valorem tax; property; fair market value applicable to inventor; provisions (Substitute)(FIN-53rd) Lumsden-12th

SR 190 – Congress; allow individuals to retain the right to use their image and likeness and shield them from copyright infringement; urge (RULES-28th)

HB 395 – The Professional Counselors Licensure Compact Act; enact(H&HS-52nd) Belton-112th

HB 154 – Domestic relations; protection of children; strengthen, clarify, and update provisions (Substitute)(JUDY-50th) Reeves-34th

HB 168 – Penal institutions; certain information within inmate files of the Department of Corrections shall not be classified as confidential state secrets when requested by the district attorney; provide(PUB SAF-1st) Petrea-166th

HB 210 – Motor vehicles; recording of odometer readings upon certificates of title; exempt certain vehicles(TRANS-25th) Corbett-174th


Modified Structured Rule

SB 33 – Torts; cause of action against perpetrators for victims of human trafficking; provide (Judy-Bonner-72nd) Dixon-45th

SB 86 – “Fair Business Practices Act of 1975”; requirements for solicitations of services for corporate filings required by the Secretary of State; provide (Substitute)(Judy-Efstration-104th) Walker III-20th

SB 119 – Permit Required for Burning Woods, Lands, and Marshes or Other Flammable Vegetation; except certain yard waste from permitting (NR&E-McDonald-26th) Harper-7th

SB 144 – HousingAuthorities; ability of city housing authorities to operate outside municipal boundaries without authorization; limit (GAff-Ehrhart-36th) Tippins-37th

SB 187 – HOPE Scholarship; procedure for students with disability as defined by the American with Disabilities Act to apply for a waiver; establish (HEd-Wiedower-119th) Tippins-37th

SB 238 – Code OfGeorgia; enactment of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated; revise provisions (Substitute)(CR-Efstration-104th) Strickland-17th

SR 134 – Public Officers; suspension of compensation; felony; provide -CA (Judy-Efstration-104th) Walker III-20th

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday signed several pieces of legislation, including an income tax cut, according to 11Alive.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 22, 2021

King George III approved of the passage of the Stamp Act legislation on March 22, 1765 designed to pay for some of the costs the UK incurred in protecting the colonies, but it would lead to the movement that culminated in the American Revolution.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Beer and Wine Revenue Act on March 22, 1933, allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages, and later that year, the federal Prohibition was ended.

The first Masters golf tournament began on March 22, 1934 in Augusta, Georgia.

The state prohibition on all alcoholic beverages ended on March 22, 1935 with Governor Eugene Talmadge’s signature of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act.

The United States Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment on March 22, 1972; it would fail to garner enough state ratifications.

The Georgia Historical Society is placing a marker t0 honor Amanda Dickson, an early African-American female millionaire from Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

[O]n May 21, the Georgia Historical Society is scheduled to place a marker in front of the downtown Augusta house to honor Dickson’s life and memory.

Dickson was born in 1849 to prominent Hancock County plantation owner David Dickson and a 13-year-old slave. Legally a slave owned by her white grandmother, the biracial child was reared in her father’s household. There, she learned to read and write, play piano and practice the social graces of white Southern affluence.

“Amanda’s story is very unique, but it also speaks to how complicated race relations have always been in this country,” said Corey Rogers, resident historian at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History. “When you look at her life story and the things she went through, it sort of speaks to how multilayered and complicated things could get during that time period and even to this day.”

When her father died in 1885, his will bequeathed most of his estate to her, valued then at about $400,000 but in today’s dollars it would be between $8 million and $10 million.

Outraged at the bequest, dozens of relatives from across the nation came forward to contest the will. In 1887, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the will, making Amanda Dickson – by varying newspaper accounts – the richest Black woman in Georgia, the South, the United States or the world.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – Legislative Day 36


8:00 AM Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs – canceled – 450 CAP
8:00 AM Senate Finance – canceled – Mezz 1
9:00 AM Senate Rules – 450 CAP
9:15 AM Senate Ethics – 310 CLOB
9:15 AM Senate Judiciary – 307 CLOB
10:30 AM Senate Appropriations – 341 CAP
10:30 AM Senate Education and Youth – 307 CLOB
10:30 AM Senate Government Oversight – canceled – 450 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Floor Session (LD 36) – Senate Chamber
1:00 PM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD36) – House Chamber


Modified Structured Rule

SB 9 – Courts; the Columbia Judicial Circuit and to be composed of Columbia County; create a new judicial circuit for the State of Georgia (Substitute)(Judy-Newton-123rd) Anderson-24th

SB 32 – Public Disclosure; certain personal records of state and federal employees; exempt (Substitute)(Judy-Gullett-19th) Brass-28th

SB 114 – Professions and Businesses; grounds for refusing to grant or revoking a license; revise (RegI-Momtahan-17th) Robertson-29th

SB 145 – Distilled Spirits; initiating a referendum election for the authorization of the issuance of licenses for the package sale of distilled spirits; modify the petition requirements (RegI-Ballinger-23rd) Brass-28th

SB 159 – Elementary and Secondary Education; provision relating to student transportation; revise (Substitute)(Ed-Barr-103rd) Gooch-51st

SB 185 – Revenue and Taxation; all questions of law decided by a court; matters from state board of equalization and refunds and appeals be decided without deference; require (Judy-Jones-25th) Hatchett-50th

SB 219 – Alcoholic Beverages; regulation of the manufacture, distribution, and sale of malt beverages; provide (RegI-Powell-32nd) Ginn-47th

SB 247 – Agricultural Commodity Commissions; public hearings with online public comment opportunities; replace (A&CA-Meeks-178th) Anderson-24th

Structured Rule

HB 745 – Washington County; Board of Education; provide nonpartisan elections for members (IGC-Jackson-128th)

Governor Brian Kemp will sign House Bill 593 today, cutting Georgia’s income tax by an estimated $140 million dollars, according to 11Alive.

House Bill [593] specifically raises the state’s standard deduction for individual filers by $800 to $5,400 and by couples filing jointly by $1,100 to $7,100.

“The Tax Relief Act of 2021 cuts taxes on Georgians and allows them to keep more of their hard-earned money,” said Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee. “This measure follows the tax cuts that the House passed in 2018 and 2020 in demonstrating our commitment to keeping the tax burden on Georgians as low as possible.”

The Georgia House unanimously passed the measure without opposition while the Senate passed the bill 35-15.

Federal stimulus aide to state and local government may complicate budget issues, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle:

Legislative Democrats and advocates for low-income Georgians say the state should spend its windfall from the latest federal COVID-19 relief bill on making a full economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

But Republican leaders say it’s too soon to commit money the state doesn’t have.

“We got a promise, but we ain’t seen a check yet,” said state Rep. Terry England, R-Auburn, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “Until you get the cash in the bank, you don’t get too far ahead in thinking what to do with it.”

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Joe Biden on March 11 includes $350 billion in aid to state and local governments affected by the pandemic. Georgia is due to receive $8.1 billion, with $4.7 billion going to the state and the rest to cities and counties.

“No one really knows what the rules are yet for this money,” he said. “Let’s wait and see what the rules are before we start making decisions.”

The Gainesville Times looks at how much stimmie local governments are likely to receive.

A pot of federal funds will soon be handed down to Hall County municipalities, which will use the next few years to identify what pandemic-affected sectors will benefit from the incoming cash flow.

Under the American Rescue Plan, a total of $350 billion in assistance is on its way to states, counties, cities and tribal governments to help recoup losses and bounce back from downturns suffered in the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to estimates published on March 8 by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Georgia is slated to receive $8.3 billion of it.

The bill would cover economic and governmental damages that Hall County suffered like a ransomware attack in the fall and a yearlong downturn for local industries still experiencing revenue loss.

Hall County, the 10th-largest county in Georgia, will receive an estimated $39.6 million in federal funds from the plan.

Under the American Rescue Plan, all local governments will receive funding directly from the U.S. Treasury. In the CARES Act, the Treasury directly provided funds to counties and municipalities with a population size of 500,000 plus.

Additionally, states under the CARES Act were allowed to determine how to allocate funding to local governments; in the latest plan, each local government’s funding amount is based on population data from the most recent Census.

FEMA will also distribute federal aid to families who incurred funeral expenses due to COVID-19, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

State Reps. Penny Houston, R-Nashville, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Economic Development, and Gerald Greene, R-Cuthbert, chair of the House State Properties Committee, have announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide financial resources for families who incurred funeral expenses for a loved one who has died as a result of COVID-19 last year.

“South Georgia has experienced first-hand the devastation and loss of life under the grips of this pandemic,” Houston said in a joint news release with Greene. “Already faced with incredible loss, Georgia families must also deal with the financial burden from burying their loved ones, and this federal assistance will surely be a blessing for south Georgia families during this difficult time.”

Governor Kemp is also expected to sign today House Bill 114 by State Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Cobb County), according to WJCL.

It will increase the annual tax incentive for adopting a foster child from $2,000, to $6,000.

Parents would receive the $6,000 for five years before it goes back down to $2,000 per year until the child turns 18.

Georgia native Hans von Spakovsky, a former Federal Election Commissioner and now Senior Legal Fellow with the Heritage Foundation, writes in the Augusta Chronicle about Georgia’s legislative election reforms.

With the recent passage by the Georgia House of Representatives of House Bill 531, the state has made a good start on amending its election rules to reform the system and fix the many security vulnerabilities that currently exist – vulnerabilities that fueled the controversy over election results in Georgia in 2020.

Legislators have proposed several amendments to the state’s election code relating to primaries and elections. Among them: revisions to how absentee ballots and early voting are handled. Considering some of the problematic voting procedures utilized in Georgia during the 2020 presidential election, this bill is certainly a step in the right direction.

One of the most-needed reforms in House Bill 531 is adding an identification requirement to absentee ballots. Georgia has had a model voter ID statute for more than a decade that requires a government-issued photo ID to vote in person – and the state provides a free ID to anyone who lacks one.

Another important provision is one banning private funding of election officials and election officers, something that happened in the 2020 election. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg contributed $350 million to an organization that distributed those funds to local boards of elections nationwide, including in Georgia. These were supposedly “nonpartisan” grants, but an analysis by the Capital Research Center showed that the grants were targeted “to known Democratic districts to turn out its base in battleground states.”

There are many other changes to Georgia law in the House bill on other issues such as early voting and poll watchers, which are intended to directly address challenges seen across the country in the 2020 presidential election. The bill is a big first step in the right direction to protect both access and security, which should be the key objectives of any state’s election process.

United States Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Atlanta) has criticized GOP-led election reforms at the state level and GOP elected officials at the federal level, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“I think it’s unfortunate that some politicians have looked at the results and, rather than changing their message, they’re busy trying to change the rules,” the Democrat said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Warnock was referring to a key committee in the Georgia Legislature, which began work this week on a massive new voting bill that would give the state broad powers over local election officials, set limits on weekend early voting and add voter ID requirements for absentee ballots.

“Voting rights has traditionally has been bipartisan. The last time we reauthorized the 1965 Voting Rights Act, George W. Bush was president, and it passed the United States Senate 98-0,” Warnock said.

He added: “I think the onus is on my colleagues to explain why they’re not supporting voting rights. Voting rights is not just one issue alongside other issues. It is fundamental. It is foundational. It is who we say we are as an American people. It’s the covenant we have with one another. One person, one vote. We’ve got to do everything we can to pass voting rights.”

Warnock captured his seat in a special election and will be on the ballot again in 2022.

Senate Bill 202 by state Senator Max Burns, (R-Sylvania) transplant surgery by State House committee, would change runoff elections in Georgia dramatically, according to the AJC.

Runoffs would be held four weeks after an initial election, cutting short the state’s current nine-week wait.

Military and overseas voters would use instant-runoff ballots, in which they would pick their second-choice candidates upfront, rather than having to vote again in a runoff.

And special elections would be preceded by partisan primary elections, eliminating the kind of 20-candidate contests that included Republican Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock in November.

Taken together, these proposals would make it more likely that the leading candidate in general elections would prevail in runoffs.

The new voting methods for runoffs and special elections are included within a 94-page measure, Senate Bill 202, that could receive a committee vote as soon as Monday. The far-reaching legislation also would require more ID for absentee voting, set earlier absentee ballot request deadlines, limit drop boxes and disqualify provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct.

Georgia is the only state in the nation that mandates runoffs after general elections, which led to the U.S. Senate runoffs on Jan. 5. State law requires that candidates receive a majority of votes to win. Most other states declare a winner based on whichever candidate earned the most votes on election night, even if they fall short of the 50% mark.

Before this year, Republicans had won every statewide runoff since 1992, when Republican Paul Coverdell defeated Democratic U.S. Sen. Wyche Fowler.

House Bill 150 could prevent Savannah from favoring some energy sources over others in adopting building codes, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Case in point: the Savannah City Council. This eight-member board last year unanimously passed Savannah’s 100% clean energy resolution, which says all electricity consumed in the city of Savannah will be generated from renewable energy by 2035, and all other energy needs will be generated from renewable energy by 2050.

House Bill 150 would prevent local governments in Georgia from adopting building codes based on the source of energy they use. The legislation also would apply to state agencies. The bill made its way through the house and is now being considered by the senate.

“It really limits the municipalities on energy choices,” Savannah Alderman Nick Palumbo said. “We are a home rule state, where local government knows best. And we’re advocating to make sure that it stays that way so that your city has a choice in their energy choices. And House Bill 150 would take away that right. It would preempt municipalities from being able to make those energy choices and force you to take energy, like coal or natural gas that maybe residents don’t want into the future.”

Alex Muir of One Hundred Miles recalled that Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Athens, said before voting for the bill that “we’re all in favor of local control until locals get out of control.”

Both Muir and Palumbo said the chairman of the Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities, Republican Bill Cowsert of Athens, discounted the impact cities would have on global warming even if they did decrease their carbon footprints.

“(Cowsert) said, ‘you can’t change the problem on your own as one little community,’” Muir told a Facebook Live rally against the bill that Palumbo organized Wednesday. “And that’s a direct quote, which I find pretty interesting, because he’s representing an area where they passed a 100% renewable resolution.”

“And he went on to say one city isn’t going to change the temperature of the earth by one centimeter. I’m going to go ahead and ignore the fact that he doesn’t seem to understand we measure temperature in degrees and not centimeters. Because what I think is really important here for all of us to be focusing on is that he’s belittling the impact that his constituents and the rest of us in Georgia can have in addressing an issue that we care about.”

HB 150 is part of a multi-state strategy to pre-empt clean energy measures in cities. As the Natural Resources Defense Council reported in January, the fossil fuel industry backed bills proposed in 14 states this year:

U.S. Representative Jody Hice (R-Monroe) will challenge Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, according to the AJC.

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice announced a primary challenge on Monday to unseat Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and the four-term Republican is expected to land the endorsement of former President Donald Trump in his bid to become the state’s top elections official.

“Free and fair elections are the foundation of our country,” said Hice in a statement. “What Brad Raffensperger did was create cracks in the integrity of our elections, which I wholeheartedly believe individuals took advantage of in 2020.”

The development, first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, set off a scramble in state GOP circles. Several candidates quickly lined up to run for Hice’s conservative northeast Georgia district, while another Republican challenger to Raffensperger cemented plans to enter the race.

The congressman confirmed last week he’s seriously considering running for the statewide post, adding that he has met with Trump and that the former president is “supportive” of his potential candidacy. Hice said then he’ll soon announce a decision, which would mean giving up a prominent post if Republicans flip control of the House next year.

State Rep. Houston Gaines, an Athens Republican, said last week he’s “humbled by the outpouring of support and encouragement” and is weighing a bid if the seat becomes open. And on Sunday, state Sen. Bill Cowsert of Athens said he is also “seriously considering” a campaign for the seat and that he’ll make a decision shortly if Hice runs.

Other potential candidates include Mike Collins, a trucking executive who was runner-up to Hice in the 2014 runoff, and state Rep. Jodi Lott of Evans.

Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Democrat-turned-Republican who is popular in the pro-Trump crowd, has long been rumored to run for secretary of state and is said to be weighing his options. He visited Trump earlier this month in Florida and said he’d soon detail his political future.

Columbus Recorders Court will end a program that discounts fines and fees for traffic offenses, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Time is running out for those with Columbus traffic tickets to get a 50% discount on their fines and court fees while the COVID-19 pandemic suspends traffic court hearings.

The offer approved last year has been extended to April 2, with traffic court set to resume April 5, said Clautretta Williams, the chief clerk of Columbus Recorder’s Court.

The discount does not apply to all traffic offenses, as some fines are set by law and can’t be altered. Among those are violations related to distracted driving, seat belts and child-restraint seats.

Read more here:

Whitfield County will announce next week early voting dates and times for an April 13 runoff election for County Commission District 3, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Early voting will begin “soon” in an April 13 runoff for a special election to fill the District 3 seat on the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, according to county Chief Registrar Mary Hammontree.

Shane Day, global sales director for Tiarco Chemical in Dalton, and John Thomas, a realtor and former member of the Whitfield County Board of Education, finished first and second respectively in a five-person race to fill the unexpired term of the late Roger Crossen on Tuesday. Day received 467 votes (29.37%) and Thomas 430 votes (27.04%). Because no one received more than 50% of the vote, state law calls for a runoff.

Hammontree said the law says early voting should start “as soon as possible.” She said the county elections office must first complete the logic and accuracy testing of voting machines before she can set a date. That testing will start Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the elections office in the county courthouse, 205 N. Selvidge St., Dalton, and continue until completed. Hammontree said the testing typically takes two or three days.


Guyton City Manager Bill Sawyer resigned for medical reasons, according to the Savannah Morning News.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 19, 2021

Lyman Hall was elected to the Continental Congress on March 21, 1775 from St. John’s Parish; the next year he would sign the Declaration of Independence as a representative from Georgia.

On February 19, 1807, Aaron Burr was arrested in the Mississippi Territory, in what is now Alabama. Burr had served as Vice President during the first term of President Thomas Jefferson, leaving the administration after the 1804 election; later Jefferson issued a warrant accusing Burr of treason. Burr spent part of his time on the lam in Georgia.

March 20, 1854 saw a meeting in Ripon, Wisconsin that is generally considered the founding of the Republican Party.

[F]ormer members of the Whig Party meet to establish a new party to oppose the spread of slavery into the western territories. The Whig Party, which was formed in 1834 to oppose the “tyranny” of President Andrew Jackson, had shown itself incapable of coping with the national crisis over slavery.

The Civil War firmly identified the Republican Party as the party of the victorious North, and after the war the Republican-dominated Congress forced a “Radical Reconstruction” policy on the South, which saw the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution and the granting of equal rights to all Southern citizens. By 1876, the Republican Party had lost control of the South, but it continued to dominate the presidency until the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.

The Georgia State Capitol was completed on March 20, 1889. Ron Daniels, the Poet Laureate of GaPundit, has written an ode to the Gold Dome:

Well I guess it was back in eighteen eighty nine,
When a couple of boys in Dahlonega went down in a mine,
And found it was slap full of gold.
Then these folks in Atlanta wanted to keep growing,
So they told the legislature the Capitol had to be going,
And so those politicos said “Good Bye Milledgeville! Our attorneys will be in touch.”
Now the Capitol had been moved before,
Savannah, Louisville, and more,
They’d even moved it down to Macon on an overloaded poultry wagon.
Atlanta sure wanted to lend the State a hand,
Giving the legislature plenty of land,
Hammers started swingin’ and, boy howdy, they sure were buildin’.
The architect of this here building was feeling bold,
Covering the building’s dome all in beautiful gold,
Leaving the gold mine empty, and leaving someone with the shaft.
Well, Governor Gordon was slap full of delight,
When his eyes did recognize that impressive sight,
On March 20, 1889, a completed Capitol building.
He grabbed the keys and a few words he spoke,
The words he uttered were no joke,
“Boys when you’re hot, you’re hot! Now thanks a lot.”

On March 19, 1916, the first American military air combat mission began in support of an incursion into Mexico under President Woodrow Wilson.

On March 21, 1941, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed legislation establishing the Eastern Standard Time Zone as the only Time Zone in Georgia. Prior to that, Georgia observed two different time zones.

On March 20, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation authorizing a referendum to amend the Georgia Constitution and make the Public Service Commission a Constitutional agency.

On March 19, 1947, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in Thompson v. Talmadge on the “Three Governors Affair.” The Court held that the Georgia General Assembly lacked authority to elect Herman Talmadge as Governor, and that because of the death of Eugene Talmadge before he took office, no successor to Gov. Ellis Arnall was in place until the newly-elected Lt. Governor Melvin Johnson was sworn in and became Governor, succeeding Arnall.

On March 20, 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson notified Alabama Governor George Wallace that Alabama National Guard troops would be called up to maintain order during a third march from Selma to Montgomery. Within five months, the Voting Rights Act would be passed by Congress.

On March 21, 1965, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. led more than 3000 protesters in a march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery.

On March 20, 1970, Governor Lester Maddox signed legislation designating the Brown Thrasher the official state bird, and the Bobwhite Quail the official state game bird.

On March 21, 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

On March 20, 1982, this song was #1 on the Billboard charts:

Pixies released Surfer Rosa on March 21, 1988.

Former Georgia Governor and United States Senator Herman Talmadge died on March 21, 2002.

On March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush announced the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in order to depose Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and eliminate the country’s ability to produce weapons of mass destruction.

March 19, 2014 was “Bo Callaway Day” in Georgia and flags flew at half-staff in honor of the late Georgia Congressman and former Secretary of the Army.

“Few individuals throughout our history can match the legacy that Bo Callaway left on Georgia politics,” Deal said. “Bo blazed a trail that led to the dramatic growth of the Georgia GOP, which went from virtually nonexistent when he ran for governor to holding every statewide elected office today. Bo stood up for what he believed in even when the odds and the political system were stacked against him. Georgians are all the better for it. Sandra and I send our deepest sympathies to the Callaway family.”

March 19, 2014 was also the first time I wrote about the lack of an “Official State Dog of Georgia.”

Happy birthday to Georgia-born actress Holly Hunter (March 20, 1958, Conyers) and film director/actor Spike Lee (March 20, 1957, Atlanta).

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will be in Georgia today, according to the AJC.

Rather than headlining a political rally highlighting the sweeping aid measure, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will speak with Asian American advocates to condemn racist violence in the wake of the shooting deaths of eight people, six who were women of Asian descent, at spas in the metro area.

The two will also visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at around 2 p.m. to receive an update from health and medical experts, and discuss state and federal legislation on elections with Stacey Abrams, the founder of the voting rights group Fair Fight.

Biden is set to visit the CDC around 2 p.m., followed by a 3:30 p.m. meeting with community leaders at Emory University and 4:40 p.m. remarks at the school. An evening drive-in rally, initially set to be held at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville, has been scrapped.

They will arrive and depart via Dobbins Air Reserve Base and PDK airport. I imagine the trip from Dobbins to PDK will be by helicopter. Sounds like a great time to eat a burger at Downwind today, if it were still open.

House Resolution 264 sets the schedule for the rest of the Session.

Monday, March 22 . . . . . . . . .convene for legislative day 36
Tuesday, March 23 . . . . . . . . .convene for legislative day 37
Wednesday, March 24 . . . . . .committee work day
Thursday, March 25 . . . . . . . .convene for legislative day 38
Friday, March 26 . . . . . . . . . . committee work day

Monday, March 29 . . . . . . . . .convene for legislative day 39
Tuesday, March 30 . . . . . . . . .committee work day
Wednesday, March 31 . . . . . . convene for legislative day 40 (SINE DIE)

Governor Brian Kemp ordered flags on state buildings and properties to fly at half-staff in honor of those who died in the spa shootings.

Governor Kemp yesterday toured Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, according to the Henry Herald.

Gov. Brian Kemp and a select group of race fans got a sneak peek Thursday afternoon as to how Atlanta Motor Speedway will host its spring race while protecting attendees against the coronavirus.

This year everything will be contactless, from tickets to paying for food and souvenirs. Lines have been reconfigured and floor stickers will help keep fans 6 feet apart. Handwashing and sanitizer stations have been placed throughout the concourse. Fans will be required to wear a face mask when entering, exiting and in high-traffic areas. They can be removed once ticket holders are seated.

“We’ve built a race plan we know will help keep fans and their families safe,” said AMS General Manager Brandon Hutchison. “We’re glad to have our race back with fans.”

Kemp, who said he’s a longtime NASCAR fan, said he was appreciative that AMS has been able to make the race safe for fans.

“This is what we have to do to protect lives and livelihoods,” Kemp said. He added fans deserve the vacation and relaxation time.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education voted 3-2 along party lines to fire Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The county’s school board members began the process of replacing Wilbanks on Thursday by exercising a clause in his contract that allows it to terminate his employment with at least 90 days notice. Wilbanks’ contract was set to expire in June 2022, and he had already announced that he will not seek an extension on that contract.

Wilbanks’ last day will be July 31.

“In light of the addition of new members to the Board and my decision not to seek another contract, this vote is not surprising,” Wilbanks said in a statement. “While I was prepared to fulfill my contract through June of 2022, recent discussions with the school board made it clear that would not be the case.”

The vote to fire Wilbanks was a 3-2 vote with the three Democrats on the board supporting Wilbanks’ firing while the two Republicans on the board voted against it. Board Chairman Everton Blair, Vice Chairwoman Karen Watkins and board member Tarece Johnson voted to fire Wilbanks, while board members Steve Knudsen and Mary Kay Murphy voted against it.

“I have been a board member for every year of Mr. Wilbanks’ leadership,” Murphy said as she offered her dissent. “During that time, I have known Mr. Wilbanks to be … honest, honorable, humble, hard-working and a visionary leader respected by senators, governors, representatives, business leaders, educators, grateful families and community members.”

“This is a detrimental change without a thorough and transparent search for Mr. Wilbanks’ replacement and a detailed transition plan. It is counter to the world class way the Gwinnett County Public Schools system has operated over the last 25 years under his leadership.”

From the AJC:

“This decision to make this motion was not taken lightly by any of us,” said Watkins, the board’s vice chair, who made the motion. “We are committed to serving the needs of all our students. … I hope our community can embrace different leadership, new leadership that can build upon our past success created by our current superintendent, Mr. Wilbanks.”

Wilbanks, 78, took the reins of Georgia’s largest and most diverse school system 25 years ago. He is the longest-serving superintendent in the country of a large school district.

Blair, who became board chair two months ago, did not publicly explain his position before voting for the buyout. After the meeting, he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution it was a good time to build on the school district’s successes while investing more in areas that need improvement.

“We’re going to attract some really powerful candidates, so stay tuned,” he said.

This is disgraceful and sacrifices the children of Gwinnett – particularly the ones whose parents can’t afford to move or send them to private schools – for political correctness. This will have an impact for generations of Georgians.

In other “sky is falling” news, the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission warns they may have to raise fees after voters rejected the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on Tuesday, according to The Brunswick News.

Turnout was small, but the opposition to Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax 2021 got its point across Tuesday by voting down the proposal 53.54 percent to 46.46 percent.

That leaves the four local government agencies that stood to benefit from the one percent sales tax — which was expected to generate $68.5 million over three years — holding the bag. One of those is the JWSC, which was slated to receive $15 million from the penny tax.

Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch is optimistic that county government will not have to raise taxes in coming years, according to the Statesboro Herald.

“Definitely not this year,” he reiterated in an email Thursday. “I don’t foresee it in 2022 or 2023, but you never know what comes up. We could have an unfunded state or federal mandate. There could be demands by county constitutional officers…, demands for service by citizens…, other unexpected events.”

The City of Augusta is moving forward with plans to demolish an old jail, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

House Bill 593, the Tax Relief Act of 2021 by State Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) passed the Senate and heads to Governor Kemp for his signature or veto, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle.

The tax-cut bill, sponsored by Georgia Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, would let Georgians pay less income tax starting July 1 amid a rebound of the state economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, following up on a previous reduction passed in 2019 that lowered the state’s income-tax rate from 6% to 5.75%.

Republican lawmakers had planned to reduce the income-tax rate further last year to 5.5% but paused that move last March as the pandemic took hold, shuttering Georgia businesses and hammering state revenues for months through the summer.

Blackmon, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, framed his tax-cut proposal as a more “modest and measured” cut than what was pitched last year, allowing Georgians “to keep their hard-earned money.”

Blackmon’s bill passed by a 35-15 vote in the Senate nearly along party lines, with Democratic Sen. Jen Jordan of Atlanta voting in favor. It passed unanimously in the House and now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.

Critics said passing a tax break now could cause the state to lose out on millions of federal dollars set to arrive in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package Congress passed last week, owing to a provision barring states from lowering taxes while using the emergency aid money.

Amid Democratic opposition, top state Republicans including Kemp and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, have slammed the federal aid package over the penalties for states that seek to cut taxes, as well as the funding formula for Georgia’s share of the relief.

I want to note that Rep. Blackmon won his seat in a 2015 runoff election against Larry Walker, III. Walker would later win a Senate special election, and was the Senate co-sponsor of the Tax Relief Act. Former election rivals working together to cut taxes for all Georgians represents the best of what we see in politics, and I’m thankful for both these gentlemen, and for all who put aside rivalries or disagreements to do good things.

House Bill 114 by State Rep. Bert Reeves is also headed to Gov. Kemp for signature, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

The tax-credit bill, sponsored by Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, would boost the annual tax credit for new foster parents from $2,000 to $6,000 annually for the first five years after adoption, then drop back to $2,000 per year. The credit would end when the foster child turns 18.

Sen. Bo Hatchett, who carried Reeves’ bill in the Senate and is one of the governor’s floor leaders, said the credit increase aims to encourage more adoptions in Georgia.

“This bill saves the state money, and at the same time this bill offers much-needed support to those families who open their hearts and their homes to children,” Hatchett, R-Cornelia, said from the Senate floor on Thursday.

The number of Georgia children in foster care has declined over the past three years but remains high, according to state Division of Family and Children Services data. The state currently has about 11,200 children in foster care, down from 15,000 in March 2018.

Kemp has made foster care a legislative priority for his administration, along with cracking down on human trafficking and gang activities.

Senate Bill 34 by Senator Clint Dixon (R-Buford) aims to reduce human trafficking and passed the House, headed to the Governor’s office, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

The Georgia House of Representatives unanimously passed Senate Bill 34, which would allow victims of human trafficking to petition to change their name without public disclosure.

The bill, introduced by freshman Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, one of Kemp’s Senate floor leaders, passed unanimously in that chamber last month.

The legislation builds on the work of the GRACE Commission, a task force focusing on human trafficking chaired by Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp, state Rep. Josh Bonner, R-Fayetteville, who carried the bill in the House, told his colleagues Thursday.

Senate Bill 221 is a cynical money grab heroic strike for freedom by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia) and passed the House, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

The state House of Representatives passed the bill 96-69, with lawmakers voting along party lines. Since the Senate approved the measure late last month, it now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature.

The legislation would create eight so-called “leadership committees” headed by the governor, lieutenant governor and their general election opponents – plus the majority and minority caucus leaders in the Georgia House and Senate. The committees would collect campaign donations ahead of statewide and legislative elections.

“It gives our caucuses the ability to function like the parties do now,” said House Majority Whip Trey Kelley, R-Cedartown, who carried Senate Bill 221 in the House.

House Majority Leader Jon Burns, R-Newington, said the bill would treat Democrats and Republicans the same.

“This bill impacts both parties equally,” he said. “It’s an equal opportunity bill.”

But Democrats said the bill would open the door to political fundraising during General Assembly sessions, a practice that is currently prohibited by state law to discourage lobbyists from seeking to influence votes on pending legislation.

I’d argue the sematics of that article on one little point: the legislation does not create anything, but it allows leadership committees to be created and to raise and spend money.

Former Watkinsville Mayor Bob Smith has spoken out now about why he resigned abruptly, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Smith left City Hall soon after his unexpected announcement. He presented a letter to the council declaring he has “essentially been shut out of all decisions regarding the day-to-day management of Watkinsville.”

“Government of the people, by the people and for the people does not exist in Watkinsville,” Smith wrote in ​​​​​a statement on Facebook.

[Mayor Pro Tem Brian] Brodrick posted on Facebook that he expects a special election in June or July to chose a mayor to serve until the general election in November.

Smith said in his resignation letter that there is no need for a mayor. He noted that prior to him taking office and after his election in 2019, the city council created a city manager position to take over the responsibilities that once belonged to the mayor.

“The mayor has virtually no authority to meet with people desiring property changes, negotiate transactions or give any input whatsoever on the business of Watkinsville government,” Smith wrote in his letter.

Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Wirtz writes about lessons from the pandemic in the Athens Banner Herald.

Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 18, 2021

On March 18, 1766, the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, which required American colonists to purchase a stamp for every legal or printed document they obtained.  Revenue would be used to support the British army in America.

The Stamp Act led Patrick Henry to denounce King George III, the British Monarch at the time of the passage of the Stamp Act and the ensuing Revolutionary War; Henry’s later “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech to the Virginia Assembly at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, listed by Time magazine as one of the top ten speeches of all time. Henry later opposed adoption of the Constitution, arguing it was incomplete without a Bill of Rights; after the Bill of Rights was adopted, Henry was satisfied.

On March 18, 1939, the State of Georgia ratified the Bill of Rights, which were proposed 150 years earlier in 1789. Georgia initially declined to ratify the Bill of Rights arguing that the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution were unnecessary. Governor E.D. Rivers signed the joint resolution six days later, but under federal court decisions the ratification is marked as of the date the second house of the state legislature adopts the legislation (assuming a bi-cameral state legislature).

On March 18, 1942, the United States government, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, created the War Relocation Authority to “Take all people of Japanese descent into custody, surround them with troops, prevent them from buying land, and return them to their former homes at the close of the war.” More than 120,000 Japanese Americans, many of them citizens of the United States were moved from the west coast into concentration camps in the western United States.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, composed entirely of Japanese Americans, many of whose families were interned at the camps, became the most-decorated unit of World War II, with members being awarded 4,667 medals, awards, and citations, including 1 Medal of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 560 Silver Stars; eventually 21 members of the 442nd would be awarded the Medal of Honor. The late United States Senator Daniel Inouye, a member of the 442nd from 1941 to 1947, was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton for actions during WWII. First elected to the United States Senate in 1962, Inouye became President Pro Tem in 2010.

On March 18, 1947, Herman Talmadge surrendered the Governor’s office, ending the “Three Governors Affair.” Earlier this year, the General Assembly honored the late Governor Melvin Thompson, who was elected the first Lieutenant Governor of Georgia and became Governor at the conclusion of the Three Governors Affair.

On March 18, 1955, the Georgia Educators Association endorsed “equal but separate” schools for the races.

On March 18, 1961, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Gray v. Sanders, which arose from Georgia. Three politically-important results come from the case.

First, the Court held that state regulation of the Democratic Primary made the primary election a state action, not merely that of a private organization; thus, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies.

Second, the Equal Protection Clause requires that every vote be given equal weight in electing officials, often stated as the “one person, one vote” rule. In Georgia at that time, each County had between two and six “county unit votes”. As a result,

“One unit vote in Echols County represented 938 residents, whereas one unit vote in Fulton County represented 92,721 residents. Thus, one resident in Echols County had an influence in the nomination of candidates equivalent to 99 residents of Fulton County.”

Third, because the County Unit System gave the votes of some Georgians greater weight than that of others, it violated the Equal Protection Clause. The “one person, one vote” rule is one benchmark of redistricting.

On March 18, 1976, Governor George Busbee signed legislation recognizing the following official state symbols:

Staurolite – Official Mineral of Georgia
Shark’s Tooth – Official Fossil of Georgia
Clear Quartz – Official Gem of Georgia
Purple Quartz (Amethyst) – Official Gem of Georgia

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Donald Trump is encouraging Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 17, 2021

On March 17, 1762, the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in New York City by Irish serving in the British army; the date commemorates the death of St. Patrick in 461. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah, Georgia was held in 1813.

On March 17, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed legislation granting African-Americans the same rights as whites for contracts, suits, inheritance, property, and punishments for violation of the law.

On March 17, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed a joint resolution of the state legislature to place a plaque on the wall of the Georgia Capitol commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the founding of Georgia.

On March 17, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation creating a commission to revise the 1877 Constitution of Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome – Legislative Day 35

8:00 AM Senate Ethics – 307 CLOB
10:00 AM Senate Floor Session – Senate Chamber
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD34) – House Chamber
Noonish Senate Rules Upon Adjournment – 450 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Health and Human Services – 450 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Natural Resources and Environment – 307 CLOB
1:00 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Public Finance and Policy Sub – 403 CAP
1:00 PM CANCELLED – HOUSE Ways and Means Sales Tax Sub – 403 CAP
1:30 PM CANCELLED – HOUSE Ways and Means Tax Revision Special Sub – 403 CAP
1:30 PM HOUSE Energy, Utilities and Telecoms Facility Safety Special Sub – 515 CLOB
1:45 PM CANCELLED – HOUSE Ways and Means Ad Valorem Tax Sub – 403 CAP
2:00 PM CANCELLED – HOUSE Ways and Means Income Tax Sub – 403 CAP
2:15 PM Senate Education and Youth – 307 CLOB
2:15 PM Senate Retirement – 450 CAP
3:30 PM Senate Economic Development and Tourism – 307 CLOB
3:30 PM Senate Finance – 450 CAP
3:30 PM HOUSE Motor Vehicles Driver Safety and Services Sub – 515 CLOB
3:30 PM HOUSE Creative Arts and Entertainment Music and Live Performances Sub – 406 CLOB
4:45 PM Senate Judiciary – 307 CLOB


HB 208 – State holidays; second Wednesday of February of each year as National Swearing-in Day in Georgia; provide (VM&HS-53rd) Cheokas-138th

HB 63 – Alternative ad valorem tax; motor vehicles; revise definition of fair market value (FIN-51st) Blackmon-146th

HB 112 – Torts; provide certain immunities from liability claims regarding COVID-19; extend applicability for one year (JUDY-17th) Kelley-16th

HB 169 – Motor vehicles; commercial driver’s license; provide requirements for issuance (PUB SAF-56th) Corbett-174th

HB 207 – Motor vehicles; electronic submission of certain documentation required of manufacturers, distributors, dealers, secondary metals recyclers, used motor vehicle parts dealers, and scrap metal processors by the Department of Revenue; provide (Substitute)(PUB SAF-56th) Corbett-174th

HB 497 – Code Revision Commission; revise, modernize and correct errors or omissions (JUDY-17th) Efstration-104th

HB 693 – Motor vehicles; operation of farm tractors on interstate highways; prohibit (AG&CA-24th) Meeks-178th


Modified Structured Rule

SB 43 – “Noncovered Eye Care Services Act”; enact (Substitute)(Ins-Gambill-15th) Brass-28th

SB 88 – Education; Georgia Teacher of the Year shall be invited to serve as advisor ex officio to the State Board of Education; provide (Ed-LaRiccia-169th) Goodman-8th

SB 140 – Flag, Seal, and Other Symbols; placement of a monument in honor of the Honorable Zell Bryan Miller upon the capitol grounds of the state capitol building; provide (SProp-Ralston-7th) Mullis-53rd

SB 182 – Counties and Municipal Corporations; “fence detection system”; define the term; counties, consolidated governments, and municipalities regulate or prohibit such system; limit the ability (GAff-Gullett-19th) Robertson-29th

Structured Rule

HB 703 – Bleckley County; probate judge; provide nonpartisan elections (IGC-Mathis-144th)HB 704Bleckley County; Magistrate Court chief judge; provide nonpartisan elections (IGC-Mathis-144th)

The Washington Post made news with a correction to its earlier story about then-President Donald Trump’s phone call to an investigator in the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. From WaPo:

On Jan. 9, The Post reported that then-President Donald Trump, in a call with Georgia’s lead elections investigator, Frances Watson, had instructed her to “find the fraud.” He mentioned that she could become a “national hero,” reported the newspaper.

In both cases, the quotes were wrong, as The Post has acknowledged in a correction to the story. “Trump did not tell the investigator to ‘find the fraud’ or say she would be ‘a national hero’ if she did so. Instead, Trump urged the investigator to scrutinize ballots in Fulton County, Ga., asserting she would find ‘dishonesty’ there. He also told her that she had ‘the most important job in the country right now,’” reads the correction, in part.

On the recording, there was no “find the fraud.” But there was this: “If you can get to Fulton, you are going to find things that are going to be unbelievable — the dishonesty,” said Trump.

There was no “national hero.” But there was this: “When the right answer comes out, you’ll be praised. … People will say, ‘Great.’ Because that’s what it’s about — that ability to check and to make it right,” Trump told Watson.

The Post’s account of the call rested on one source — “an individual familiar with the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the conversation.” Though that source wasn’t identified in the Jan. 9 story, The Post did identify her in its follow-up based on the Wall Street Journal scoop: “The Washington Post reported on the substance of Trump’s Dec. 23 call in January, describing him saying that Watson should ‘find the fraud’ and that she would be a ‘national hero,’ based on an account from Jordan Fuchs, the deputy secretary of state, whom Watson briefed on his comments.”

In an interview with the Erik Wemple Blog, Fuchs said, “I believe the story accurately reflected the investigator’s interpretation of the call. The only mistake here was in the direct quotes, and they should have been more of a summary.” Fuchs said that The Post disclosed her role in the story with her permission, and that she’d gotten the debriefing from the investigator — a direct report of hers — “shortly” after the call from Trump concluded.

“I think it’s pretty absurd for anybody to suggest that the president wasn’t urging the investigator to ‘find the fraud,’” Fuchs added, “These are quotes that [Watson] told me at the time.”

From National Review:

There is, of course, a crucial difference between a president instructing an investigator to “find the fraud” so she can become “a national hero” and a president telling an investigator he believes she will find fraud if she looks. To contend that Trump was “misquoted” or that the quotes were “misattributed” is to critically understate the dishonesty in the original story. Indeed, it is fair to say that the quotes were fabricated by someone, not misattributed, and then they were published by every major news outlet in the country as a verified fact. Even the Post’s headline for its follow-up — “Recording reveals details of Trump call to Georgia’s chief elections investigator” — intimates that the tape merely helps in updating the initial reporting rather than completely decimating it.

The single anonymous source used for the story seems to be Jordan Fuchs, the deputy secretary of state, whose office was under pressure from the president at time. Fuchs still claims that the story accurately portrayed the spirit of the conversation that was relayed to him, maybe by Watson. The tape tells a different story.

The only reason we know any of this, incidentally, is because a recording of the conversation was found in Watson’s trash folder on her device while responding to a public-records request. (Does it not seem peculiar that a state official would throw out an audio recording of the president allegedly berating her to overturn an election? It seems like the kind of audio one saves.) How many stories with this kind of flimsy or dishonest sourcing exist but will never be debunked?

From the AJC:

Georgia elections officials said their description of a much-scrutinized phone call between Donald Trump and a top investigator wasn’t meant to be presented as a “word-for-word transcript” after a recording of the call revealed the former president was misquoted.

Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday that the office’s initial report about the conversation between Trump and Frances Watson, the chief investigator, relied on Watson’s recollection.

Here’s the full statement from Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs:

“The Secretary of State’s Office’s first report about its investigator’s phone conversation with President Trump relied on the investigator’s recollection. Information about the content of the call was never presented as a word-for-word transcript. After hearing the tape, it’s clear that her recollection accurately portrayed the president’s assertions that there was fraud to uncover and that she would receive praise for doing so.”

The bigger problem is that this undermines the credibility of everyone in the Secretary of State’s Office at a time when it is most important that they be unimpeachable. Expect this story to dominate for a while.