Category: Georgia Politics

14
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 14, 2020

Happy Birthday to the French, who today celebrate the 225th anniversary of Bastille Day, 14 July 1798, when citizens stormed the Bastille, a prison in Paris.

On July 14, 1798, the Alien and Sedition Act became federal law.

The first three acts took aim at the rights of immigrants. The period of residency required before immigrants could apply for citizenship was extended from five to 14 years, and the president gained the power to detain and deport those he deemed enemies. President Adams never took advantage of his newfound ability to deny rights to immigrants. However, the fourth act, the Sedition Act, was put into practice and became a black mark on the nation’s reputation. In direct violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech, the Sedition Act permitted the prosecution of individuals who voiced or printed what the government deemed to be malicious remarks about the president or government of the United States. Fourteen Republicans, mainly journalists, were prosecuted, and some imprisoned, under the act.

On July 14, 1864, General Sherman issued Special Field Order 35, outlining the plan for the Battle of Atlanta.

On July 14, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination for President at the Democratic National Convention.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp has renewed the Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency and calling up national guard troops to Atlanta, according to WSB-TV.

The order will now expire July 27, according to Monday’s order.

“To ensure public safety & prevent violence, I have renewed the State of Emergency authorizing as many as 1,000 Georgia Guard for active duty. They will protest state property to allow state police to patrol our streets, especially in City of Atlanta,” the governor tweeted Monday evening.

Kemp originally signed the state of emergency on July 6 after a violent Fourth of July weekend in Atlanta. Thirty-one people were shot in 11 incidents between July 3 and July 5. Five people, including an 8-year-old girl, died.

Facing conflicting guidance from Governor Kemp and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms, the Georgia Restaurant Assocations says it will follow Kemp’s guidance to keep restaurants open, according to WSB-TV.Continue Reading..

13
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 13, 2020

On July 13, 1787, Congress enacted the Northwest Ordinance, in which states ceded some claims to the west, and a process was set up for admitting new states.

On July 13, 1865, James Johnson as provisional Governor of Georgia, issued a proclamation freeing slaves and calling an election in October of that year to elect delegates to a state Consitutional Convention. Johnson had previously opposed Georgia’s secession and after the war was appointed Governor by President Andrew Johnson.

Savannah, Georgia-born John C. Fremont, who was the first Presidential nominee of the Republican Party in 1856, died in New York City on July 13, 1890.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Brooke Siskin, Democratic candidate for the Ninth Congressional District, has been arrested, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Brooke Siskin was booked into the jail Thursday on a contempt of court charge for allegedly not surrendering guns she owned. Siskin had been ordered to surrender the weapons and ammunition after a 12-Month Family Violence Protective Order was issued in March. News reports have indicated the protective order was related to her divorce from her ex-husband.

Siskin was ordered by Judge Deborah Fluker to spend the weekend in the jail and will have to appear at a hearing at the Gwinnett County Detention Center Monday morning.

From the Gainesville Times:

This is Siskin’s second arrest this year. She was charged in March after an incident at a Gwinnett bank.

Siskin was the top vote getter in the June Democratic primary, with Pandy second.

Today is the last day to register to vote in the August 11 runoff election, according to the AJC.

There are runoff elections in 94 of Georgia’s 159 counties next month. Races include contests for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Georgia General Assembly or local offices.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recently extended the voter registration deadline for state and local primary runoff elections. The previous registration deadline for state and local runoffs was May 11.

U.S. District Court Judge Eleanor Ross changed Georgia election laws to reduce the number of signatures required for third-party candidates to earn a place on the ballot, according to the AJC.

U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross on Thursday ordered the secretary of state’s office to accept 30% fewer signatures from Libertarian Party, Green Party and other third-party candidates.

The ruling provides an accommodation to candidates who couldn’t go door-to-door collecting signatures because of social distancing requirements, especially during the period when Gov. Brian Kemp ordered Georgians to shelter in place.

“No one can debate that conditions throughout the state, country and world are anything but normal,” Ross wrote. “Because of the ongoing pandemic and the subsequent restrictions on social interactions, plaintiffs could not, and in many ways still cannot, gather signatures in the same safe and reasonable manner as they could during more typical times.”

The secretary of state’s office in May had proposed the 30% reduction in signatures for third-party candidates.

“While it was not something the secretary had the legal authority to do on his own, we think it’s a fair result,” said Walter Jones, a spokesman for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “We are taking steps to notify federal and state third-party and independent candidates, as well as notifying counties so that they can notify local candidates.”

Enforcement of marijuana possession laws may be harder under legislation passed to regulate the now-legal hemp industry, according to the AJC.

Police can’t tell the difference between illegal marijuana and legal hemp plants, and law enforcement officials said testing small amounts of green leafy substances is more trouble than it’s worth.

“Marijuana remains illegal in Georgia. That hasn’t changed,” said Pete Skandalakis, executive director for the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia. “The problem law enforcement will face now is when there’s less than an ounce, there’s no field test that will let you distinguish between hemp and marijuana.”

Under the bill, transportation of hemp plants without appropriate paperwork could result in misdemeanor charges, with penalties of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

But in practice, prosecutors aren’t going to be able to make a strong case unless they can prove that a substance is illegal marijuana, Skandalakis said. And the GBI crime lab will only test for the THC content of felony amounts, over 1 ounce. Field tests can show if a substance contains THC, but those tests don’t differentiate between hemp and marijuana, which usually contains at least 15% THC.

Georgia State Rep. Matt Barton (R-Calhoun) was hospitalized after a seizure, according to the Martinsville Bulletin.

House Speaker David Ralston said Friday that the condition of Republican state Rep. Matt Barton of Calhoun was improving.

Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, said doctors were trying to determine the cause of Barton’s illness. The first-term House member operates a medical transport and fell ill while at Redmond Regional Medical Center in Rome. The Calhoun Times reports Barton has a blood infection.

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs has published a map of broadband availability, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Of the more than 507,000 homes and businesses lacking access to reliable broadband service at speeds of 25/3 megabits per second (mpbs), nearly 70% of these locations are in rural parts of Georgia.

According to the map, there are 148,279 locations served in Chatham County and 1,375 are underserved for a total of 1%; In Bryan County there are 16,996 locations served and 560 underserved for a total of 3%; In Effingham County there are 24,956 locations with 1,650 underserved for a total of 6% and in Liberty County there are 27,292 served locations and 2,466 are underserved for a total of 8%.

The map provides data on where high-speed internet service is available, it doesn’t indicate where residents are subscribing to those internet services. That information is held by the private providers.

According to information released earlier this month by Gov. Brian Kemp, the map is based on location-specific data, which is a more accurate reflection of which Georgia households have high-speed internet available via wireline, such as fiber optic cable. Previously, the only indication of Georgians’ ability to access a broadband connection was FCC’s map, which aggregates data at the Census Block.

The Georgia State House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee will hear testimony on the citizen’s arrest law, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

As the legislature wrapped up its 2020 session late last month, [Speaker David] Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said legislation introduced by state Rep. Carl Gilliard, D-Garden City, aimed at eliminating citizen’s arrests in Georgia was worth serious consideration.

But the speaker said lawmakers didn’t have time during the final rush toward adjournment to go beyond the hate crimes bill the legislature passed during the final week of this year’s session. He promised to hold hearings on other criminal justice reform proposals in order to craft legislation for the General Assembly to take up during the 2021 session starting in January.

During a news conference to call attention to his bill, Gilliard said the citizen’s arrest law is outdated and gives untrained civilians a reason to perpetrate violence in the name of law enforcement.

“We need to understand that citizen’s arrest is dangerous more often than not,” Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, said at the time.

Camden County Superior Court is working to relieve backlogs caused by the pandemic, according to The Brunswick News.

Rome City Commission may consider requiring masks, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Mayor Bill Collins is scheduled to lead a discussion on the possibility of mandating face coverings in public within the city limits.

At a joint meeting with the Floyd County Commission last week, Collins and at least some of the city commissioners indicated they could support a mask mandate. While Gov. Brian Kemp has barred municipalities from enacting stricter coronavirus restrictions than the state, cities including Atlanta, Savannah and Athens have passed ordinances requiring masks.

There is, however, no action item for masks on the agenda released Friday.

Votes are scheduled on several committee recommendations regarding city monuments and the statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest that stands in Myrtle Hill Cemetery.

The Community Development Services Committee unanimously recommended the city ask the state for permission to move the Forrest statue to the new Fort Norton Park on Jackson Hill.

The Gwinnett County Clerk of Courts is closing to the public after an employee tested positive for COVID, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“It has come to our attention that a staff member tested positive for COVID-19,” [Deputy Clerk of Courts Tiana] Garner said in the email. “Several staff members are awaiting test results. As a result, we will close our offices at GJAC immediately and remained closed for 14 days with a presumed reopening date of July 27, 2020. We may reopen sooner subject to employee test results.”

Although the clerk’s office is closing its GJAC location, its satellite office at the Gwinnett County Jail is expected to remain open. The office will also continue to accept documents from judges and attorneys via efileGA, Garner said in the email.

Tybee Island City Council passed a resolution calling for specific actions on diversity, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The resolution commits Tybee to a few things.

The city will place a “comprehensive historic display” at Lazaretto Creek and at the site of the civil rights movement-era wade-in protests, when Tybee’s beaches were white only.

A section of the city’s website will be dedicated to the history of Tybee’s “racial, ethnic and religious past.”

Additionally, a third-party group will conduct an annual review of the city’s arrest and sentencing data, as well as the Tybee Island Police Department’s use of force, and the results will be made publicly available on the city’s website.

All city employees will be required to take diversity training under the resolution.

Murray County Public Schools may furlough employees for four days in the coming school year, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The fiscal year started July 1.

“I think four [furlough days] is a reasonable number, and it doesn’t impact days of instruction,” [Superintendent Steve] Loughridge said, noting that 85% of the system’s budget is salary and benefits for staff. “It won’t be popular, but I think people will understand.”

“Revenues are sorely lacking, but we can’t do anything about that,” he said. School systems around Georgia had to absorb a 10% cut in funding from the state, which cost Murray County Schools roughly $4 million, and the system saw a decrease in equalization funding of roughly $1 million from fiscal year 2020.

Dalton Public Schools, which adopted a budget with two furlough days for staff for fiscal year 2021, received its highest-ever amount in equalization funding, $3.7 million, which is roughly “$1.3 million to the good” over the previous year, according to Theresa Perry, the system’s chief financial officer. “We are below the state average in property value per child, so that’s part of why we get more in equalization funding.”

Whitfield County Schools, which opted against any furlough days in fiscal year 2021, picked up an additional $1.3 million in equalization funding from the state, which was “a pleasant surprise,” according to Kelly Coon, the system’s chief financial officer. The equalization formula considers average property wealth per student in school systems, as well as the number of students and property tax rates.

Harris County public schools are offering three options for fall: traditional in-person; digital/online; and homeschooling, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Clarke County public schools are considering pushing back their reopening date, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Clarke County schools may delay the beginning of the school year until mid-August or after Labor Day Sept. 7.

Clarke County School District Chief Academic Officer Brannon Gaskins told school board members administrators may soon ask the school board to approve a new start date as COVID-19 infections grow in Athens and the rest of the state.

Columbus State University had its highest ever summer enrollment though classes were all online, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

S0me Mercer University students are expressing anxiety over returning to campus via an online petition, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Dougherty County Commission will take its meetings back online as COVID numbers rise again, according to the Albany Herald.

The county also has canceled for now it’s planned move to Phase 2 of re-opening due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. It had been scheduled to bring more workers back to their office on July 6.

Five commissioners and an audience of about 20 attended the July 6 commission meeting. After that meeting, Commissioner Anthony Jones said he did not feel comfortable and would not be returning to live meetings under current conditions.

“This is because we’ve seen — not a surge — but there’s been an uptick of COVID in Dougherty County,” County Administrator Michael McCoy said of moving meetings back to the virtual format and delaying the implementation of the second phase of re-opening. “Not that they (commissioners) felt uncomfortable, they just wanted to go back to virtual for now. We thought it was best to go back to virtual meetings.”

A construction firm started by (now) Congressman Rick Allen (R-Augusta) received a federal PPP loan, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Elected to the House in 2014, Allen has said the company he founded at age 25 is no longer under his control. His communications director, Andrea Porwoll, had a similar message Friday.

“Years before being sworn into office, Congressman Allen relinquished majority stake of the company and he and his wife no longer hold decision-making authority,” Prowl said.

Consensus appears to be forming in Gwinnett County to relocate a Confederate memorial, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Both District Attorney Danny Porter, a Republican, and his Democratic Party opponent in this year’s election, Patsy Austin-Gatson, called for the monument to be removed from the grounds of the Gwinnett County Historic Courthouse during a protest rally on the square Sunday. So too did state Reps. Shelly Hutchinson and Gregg Kennard, Gwinnett school board member Everton Blair, soon-to-be-school board member-elect Tarece Johnson and Democratic Party county commission District 1 candidate Kirkland Carden.

Even the chairman of the Gwinnett County Historic Restoration and Preservation Board, Aaron Ragans, and board member Marlene Taylor-Crawford called for the monument’s removal.

One of the most interesting twists is that both candidates for district attorney who will appear on the ballot in the November election are calling for the memorial’s removal.

Porter is believed to be the first Republican elected official in Gwinnett to publicly call for the monument’s removal.

10
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 10, 2020

John Percival, an Irish Member of Parliament who served as a Georgia Trustee, was born on July 12, 1733.

In the British House of Commons, Percival served on the committee on jails with a young member named James Oglethorpe, who shared his idea about a new colony in North America for the deserving poor. Percival, like Oglethorpe became a Georgia Trustee, and during Georgia’s first decade, with Oglethorpe in America, Percival worked harder than anyone to champion Georgia’s cause and secure its future.

On July 11, 1782, British colonists including British Royal Governor Sir James Wright, fled Georgia.

Wright had been the only colonial governor and Georgia the only colony to successfully implement the Stamp Act in 1765. As revolutionary fervor grew elsewhere in the colonies, Georgia remained the most loyal colony, declining to send delegates to the Continental Congress in 1774.

Congress ordered the creation of the United States Marine Corps on July 11, 1798, after the Corps was inactive for a period following the Revolutionary War. From 1799 to 1921, Marine Corps Day was observed on July 11, but is now celebrated on November 10, the date of it’s Revolutionary War establishment.

On July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey. Burr was the sitting Vice President of the United States and Hamilton a former Secretary of the Treasury.

After he shot Hamilton, Aaron Burr quickly fled the nation’s capitol, making his way to St. Simons Island, Georgia, spending a month as a guest of Pierce Butler at Hampton Plantation.

Burr was a fugitive, but his killing Hamilton in a duel held a certain justifiable reasoning since dueling was not illegal, though morally questionable, to be sure. According to H. S. Parmet and M. B. Hecht in their Aaron Burr: Portrait of an Ambitious Man, after the duel, he immediately completed, by mid-August, plans which he had already initiated, to go to St. Simons, “an island off the coast of Georgia, one mile below the town of Darien.”

Jonathan Daniels’ “Ordeal of Ambition” handles the situation this way: “With Samuel Swartwout and a slave named Peter (‘the most intelligent and best disposed black I have ever known’), Burr secretly embarked for Georgia. There on St. Simons Island at the Hampton Plantation of his friend, rich former Senator Pierce Butler, he found refuge…” As Georgia Historian Bernice McCullar, author of “Georgia” puts it, Burr was “fleeing the ghost of Alexander Hamilton” when he arrived on the Georgia island.

“Major Pierce Butler,” she relates, “had fought in the British army and remained in America after the war.” He had married a South Carolina heiress, Miss Polly Middleton, and acquired two Georgia Coastal plantations, which he ran like a general storming after the troops. In fact, he was so strict that none of his slaves could associate with any of the others. He also required anyone who visited his plantations to give his or her name at the gate. With this tight security, Burr should have felt safe..

Actually, Butler’s invitation to visit the island fitted the escapee’s plans nicely. Not only was the Hamilton affair a bother, but also Burr needed to get away from a lady by the name of Celeste; however, the real reason, aside from being near his daughter, who was also in the South, was the nearness of the Floridas. No real purpose is given why the Vice-President wanted to spend “five or six weeks on this hazardous and arduous undertaking.”

Daniels underscores that from this St. Simons point Burr could “make any forays into Florida he wished to make. He traveled under the name ‘Roswell King.” After his Florida odyssey, he planned to meet his South Carolina son-in-law “at any healthy point.”

Parts of the Hampton Plantation survive in the form of tabby ruins on St Simons.

Tabby Hampton Plantation TMR_0549 copy

Tabby Hampton Plantation TMR_0524 copy

A house in St. Marys, Georgia bears a plaque stating that Aaron Burr visited there in 1804.Continue Reading..

9
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 9, 2020

On July 9, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read aloud to General George Washington’s troops at the parade grounds in Manhattan.

President Zachary Taylor died of cholera on July 9, 1850 and was succeeded in office by Millard Fillmore.

On July 9, 1864, Confederate troops retreated across the Chattahoochee River from Cobb County into Fulton County. Upriver, Sherman’s troops had already crossed and moved toward Atlanta.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Albany City Commissioners may consider repealing the 2010 “saggy pants” ordinance, according to the Albany Herald.

The Albany City Commission, in November 2010, passed an ordinance that prohibited the wearing of pants or skirts three inches below the hips, imposing a $25 fine for an initial offense and up to $250 for subsequent offenses.

This week, Albany City Commissioner Demetrius Young requested that the commission take another look at the ordinance and vote on repealing the prohibition later this month.

Commissioner B.J. Fletcher also suggested in February that it might be time to re-examine the issue.

“Saggy pants laws criminalize the clothing wear and choices of young black men,” Young said during a Tuesday telephone interview. “In terms of these things, we see that (they) disproportionately affect black people — in crack cocaine sentencing vs. powder cocaine, saggy pants ordinances here and around the country.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an Executive Order requiring mask use in public, according to AccessWDUN.Continue Reading..

8
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 8, 2020

On July 8, 1776, the bell now known as the Liberty Bell rang in the tower of the Pennsylvania State House, now called Independence Hall, to announce the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Rung to call the Pennsylvania Assembly together and to summon people for special announcements and events, it was also rung on important occasions, such as King George III’s 1761 ascension to the British throne and, in 1765, to call the people together to discuss Parliament’s controversial Stamp Act. With the outbreak of the American Revolution in April 1775, the bell was rung to announce the battles of Lexington and Concord. Its most famous tolling, however, was on July 8, 1776, when it summoned Philadelphia citizens for the first reading of the Declaration of Independence.

The Liberty Bell inscription includes a reference to Leviticus 25:10, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

The first of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops, under Major General Schofield, crossed the Chattahoochee River between Powers Ferry and Johnson Ferry on July 8, 1864.

Former United States Senator from Texas Phil Gramm (R) was born on July 8, 1942 in Columbus, Georgia, where his father was stationed at Fort Benning.

On July 8, 1975, President Gerald Ford announced his candidacy for President in the 1976 elections.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says Georgia National Guard troops aren’t needed after a weekend of stunning levels of gun violence. From Fox5Atlanta:

Kemp declared a state of emergency on Monday and authorized the activation of up to 1,000 Guard troops after a weekend of gun violence in Atlanta left five people dead, including an 8-year-old girl.

But Bottoms said Kemp issued his order without asking if the city needed extra help. The city had already been coordinating with the Georgia State Patrol, and “at no time was it mentioned that anyone felt there was a need for the National Guard to come in,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, called Kemp’s decision reckless. Critics of such mobilizations have said that deploying military troops on otherwise calm city streets could provoke more violence.

“His choice to deploy National Guard troops for today’s selfish purpose is outrageous and will endanger lives,” she said in a statement.

When asked about a surge in violence in the city, the mayor said she thinks people are anxious and frustrated about the coronavirus pandemic and high-profile cases of police brutality.

“I think it’s just a perfect storm of distress in America,” said the mayor, who learned Monday that she, her husband, and one of their four children have tested positive for COVID-19.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance requiring face masks in public, according to the Athens Banner Herald.Continue Reading..

7
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 7, 2020

On July 7, 1742, General James Oglethorpe was victorious over the Spanish at the Battle of Bloody Marsh and the Battle of Gully Hole Creek; a week later Gov. Montiano would call off the invasion of Georgia from Florida, leaving Georgia to develop as a British colony.

Sliced bread was invented on July 7, 1928 at the Chillicothe Baking Company in Chillicothe, Missouri.

On July 7, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act.

The first female cadets enrolled at West Point on July 7, 1976.

Sandra Day O’Connor was nominated to the United States Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan on July 7, 1981.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order 07.06.20.01, declaring a State of Emergency in Georgia through Monday, July 13, 2020 at 11:59 PM, and calling up 1000 Georgia National Guard troops to State Active Duty.

From the Press Release:

Following weeks of dramatically increased violent crime and property destruction in the City of Atlanta, the July Fourth weekend saw over thirty Georgians wounded by gunfire, including five confirmed dead. Today Governor Kemp issued Executive Order 07.06.20.01, which declares a State of Emergency across Georgia and authorizes the activation of as many as 1,000 Georgia National Guard troops.

“Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” said Governor Kemp. “This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city. I have declared a State of Emergency and called up the Georgia Guard because the safety of our citizens comes first. This measure will allow troops to protect state property and dispatch state law enforcement officers to patrol our streets. Enough with the tough talk. We must protect the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians.”

The Georgia Guard will provide support at state buildings, including the Georgia State Capitol, Georgia Department of Public Safety Headquarters, and Governor’s Mansion. This aid will allow state law enforcement personnel to increase patrols on roadways and throughout communities, especially those in the City of Atlanta.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Forsyth County News:

The order authorizes Georgia National Guard troops to help quell any unruly protests and for state and local law enforcement “to do all things necessary to maintain peace and good order.”

Kemp’s state-of-emergency order levelled criticism at Atlanta officials, saying they had “failed to quell” recent acts of violence and property damage in the city.

His order also notes between 60 and 100 people “armed with rocks, spray paint and fireworks” vandalized the Public Safety headquarters early Sunday and tried to set it on fire.

“Criminals are now victimizing Georgians to inflict chaos, cause fear among residents and thwart law enforcement,” the order says. “This ongoing threat to public safety will not be tolerated.”

Democratic Party of Georgia Chair Nikema Williams issued a press release:Continue Reading..

6
Jul

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

On July 6, 1775, Congress issued the “Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms” addressed to King George III, stating that they preferred to “to die free men rather than live as slaves.” The document was written by John Dickinson after a draft by Thomas Jefferson.

The Republican Party was formally organized on July 6, 1854.

The party was born of hostility to slavery.

In February [1854] a gathering in Ripon, Wisconsin, resolved to form a new party and a local lawyer named Alvan E. Bovay suggested the name Republican for its echoes of Thomas Jefferson. In Michigan there were meetings in Kalamazoo, Jackson and Detroit, and after the Act had passed in May, the new party was formally founded in Jackson in July. A leading figure was Austin Blair, a Free Soiler lawyer who was prosecuting attorney of Jackson County. He helped to draft the new party’s platform, was elected to the state senate in Republican colours that year and would become governor of Michigan in 1860.

On July 6, 1885, Louis Pasteur successfully tested a rabies vaccine on a human subject.

Happy Birthday to George W. Bush, who turns 74 today.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Atlanta descended into lawless gun violence over the weekend. From the AJC:

Ninety-three people were shot in Atlanta during the four-week period of May 31 to June 27, up drastically from 46 in the same period last year, the latest complete data available. And fourteen people died of homicide in that span, compared to six during the same time frame in 2019.

Those shot have included a 10-year-old boy who survived, an 18-year-old who may have been selling water on the street in Midtown when he was killed, and an 80-year-old man who died as the unintended target of a drive-by in his home.

The numbers are still climbing.

“There seems to be withdrawal by police,” said Russell Covey, Georgia State University criminal law professor. “The lack of a police presence may create something of a vacuum of authority.”

Asked last week about the situation, Atlanta police officer Jason Segura, president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers’ local chapter, said police are indeed pulling back. The violence spike can likely be attributed to officers taking a less proactive approach to preventing crime, he said.

“Officers are afraid to do their job,” Segura said last week.

Governor Brian Kemp suggested the state may take action if local officials don’t, according to WSB-TV.

In a tweet Sunday night, Kemp says, “While we stand ready to assist local leaders in restoring peace & maintaining order, we won’t hesitate to take action without them.”

Kemp called the shootings “unacceptable.”

“This recent trend of lawlessness is outrageous & unacceptable,” Kemp tweeted.

Kemp urged that people need to feel safe from crime.

“Georgians, including those in uniform, need to be protected from crime & violence,” Kemp tweeted.

The Georgia Department of Public Safety headquarters in Atlanta was damaged by “protesters,” according to the AJC.

Between 60 and 100 people wearing dark clothing approached the DPS building on United Avenue about 1 a.m., Georgia State Patrol said in a statement. The building serves as the headquarters for GSP and houses several other state agencies.

The GSP statement referred to the group as protesters and said many of them were wearing masks.

“The group caused extensive damage to several windows along the front of the building,” GSP said. A public safety vehicle that was parked outside the headquarters was damaged, and the building itself was “spray painted heavily in several places,” the statement said.

“Peaceful” armed protesters made an appearance at Stone Mountain , according to the AJC.

Authorities said the event was peaceful. However, the participants, masked, clad head to toe in black, bearing weapons and marching from downtown Stone Mountain to the park, prompted a stir on social media.

John Bankhead, spokesperson for the Stone Mountain Park Police Department, said the marchers began with a rally in near downtown Stone Mountain and then decided to march on the park. While the majority of them were African American, a minority were of other races. Not every person was armed, but most were masked.

Bankhead said the group did not have a permit to march but that police decided not to stop the group.

“We’re aware there are certain sensitivities over what the park represents,” Bankhead said. “We felt it was better to let them give their speeches and leave. It was peaceful.”

“They were actually a very friendly group,” Bankhead said. “Very pleasant. I spoke to some of them.”

Georgia’s open carry laws allow those with gun permits to visibly carry firearms into most public settings, though with some restrictions. This wasn’t the first time armed protesters held a rally in the park. In 2016, a group known as “three percenters,” a loose network of white men who also see themselves as a militia, were involved in pro-Confederate flag rallies at the park.

United States Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) spoke to the Gwinnett Daily Post about potential federal measures on COVID-19.

Loeffler said that extension [of the the Paycheck Protection Program] means Georgia small businesses affected by the pandemic have until Aug. 8 to apply for the coronavirus relief funding and, if they get the money, continue paying employees.“I think we’re going to wait and see,” Loeffler said. “There’s about $130 billion left in the PPP program and, in Georgia, we’ve been able to deliver $14 billion to employers, to businesses to help keep their doors open.

“What we need to look at is who needs to get the relief that hasn’t received it, and how can we continue to refine the program. I have kept an open dialogue with (U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin) and (U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell) about the designs of the programs and I supported legislation that ensured nonprofits such as churches and YMCAs can get access to it while limiting the ability of organizations like Planned Parenthood to access it.”

“There remains significant funding left in the CARES Act to make sure that our hospitals (and) our health agencies — our public health agencies — are funded, but also getting that relief to families and employers,” Loeffler said. “So, I’ve been really focused on the case work that we’ve done across the state to connect Georgians to that relief, but then also working with the governor to figure out what the needs are on the ground.”

“The left is pushing this dangerous effort to defund the police, and I have been working hard to support law enforcement,” Loeffler said. “I have introduced legislation that would cause municipalities and states to lose federal funding dollars if they, like New York City did (Tuesday) night, actively move to defund the police without a budgetary reason.”

More about former State Rep. Mark Burkhalter‘s appointment as Ambassador to Norway from the AJC Political Insider.

Terry Coleman, a Democrat who was briefly the state House speaker, told InsiderAdvantage that he’s “never seen anything from him but concern and compassion for all our fellow Georgians” from Burkhalter.

The outlet also reported that Fulton County Commission chair Robb Pitts, a Black Democrat, wrote a letter in support of the Alpharetta Republican.

The Chatham County Board of Health is moving the location for free COVID testing, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Bulloch County schools may start classes again online only beginning August 17, according to the Statesboro Herald.

“August 17th is the date that we’re using right now so we can have time for teachers and staff to return, as normal, during preplanning, to start preparing for what we can do to re-engage students, even if it’s online or virtually, so that we can move forward,” Wilson said during Thursday’s 9 a.m. session. “We all know this,” he continued, as 488 people logged in to listen during the livestreaming. “Our students need to be re-engaged in their learning. They need to be re-engaged socially and emotionally. We need to get back to school, somehow.”

“Our intent is to start virtually … with an option for parents to return their students to a traditional setting, a face-to-face setting, as soon as possible,” he said. “Now what that ‘as soon as possible’ means is yet to be determined. Under the state guidance, that would mean when we move out of substantial spread back to the minimal to moderate spread category.”

Right now, the plan is to start school for students learning from home, with the main part of each class provided using one of two virtual learning platforms.

Both of these platforms provide recorded lessons by teachers hired by the companies that operate the platforms, not Bulloch County Schools teachers.

But local teachers will provide supplemental instruction, working with students who need help and providing enrichment activities to those ready to learn more, much as they do in small-group breakout sessions in traditional classrooms, Wilson said.

For the supplemental instruction, and for lessons that local teachers may develop for all of their students, the school system will use Google Classroom and no longer a mix of Zoom and Google Classroom as was done for last spring’s voluntary online classwork.

Effingham County families are considering online or in-person options for fall schooling, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“Students won’t sit in front of a computer all day,” [Assistant Superintendent Travis] Nesmith said, but a full day’s work will be required. “The rigor will mirror face-to-face instruction,” the school system said on its web page.

Some teaching will be synchronous, with students seeing teachers live and some will be asynchronous, with students watching a recording of a teacher. Some work will be done offline, without using a computer at all.

Virtual students must have an adult to help them. “Courses will require a significant commitment by parents/guardians to help facilitate virtual learning,” the district said on its website. “Students must have a responsible adult who serves as the point of contact for the virtual classroom teacher(s).”

Among the issues the planners must take into consideration is being able to quickly increase virtual learning to include all the students in the school system, should the coronavirus take a nasty turn.

Dalton City Council canceled its in-person meeting this week after a staffer tested positive, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Glynn County and City of Brunswick are considering when to reopen in-person meetings, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County Commission’s first in-person meeting isn’t a surefire thing, however.

“We are keeping track of (COVID-19) case numbers, and it is subject to change,” Glynn County Commission Chairman Mike Browning said last week. “We’re only making this decision to go back because we felt like it was the thing to do to serve the public.”

While the Brunswick City Commission had been seriously considering holding its July 15 meeting in-person as well, the recent leaps in COVID-19 cases has Mayor Cornell Harvey thinking it would not be the best idea.

The city continue with virtual meeting and look at holding regular meetings again in August.

Both the city and county have been meeting on virtual platforms for the better part of the last four months.

3
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 3, 2020

On July 5, 1737, James Oglethorpe sailed from England to Georgia with a warship and troop transports carrying a regiment to be stationed at St. Simons Island.

On July 5, 1742, Spanish forces based in Florida sailed past Fort St. Simon, bypassing English forces there. That night, Oglethorpe’s troops left Fort St Simon and fell back to Fort Frederica.

Fort Frederica National National Monument on St. Simons Island

Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island

On July 4, 1776, the United States declared its independence from Great Britain.

On July 2, 1826, representatives from Georgia and Alabama met to begin surveying the border between the two.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826.

Union cavalry under Gen. Kenner Garrard reached Roswell, Georgia on July 5, 1864, setting the town alight.

On July 4, 1868, the Georgia General Assembly convened for the first time after passage of the Constitution of 1868 with a legislature comprising 186 members, of whom 36 were African-American.

On July 3, 1889, the Georgia General Assembly held its last session at the Kimball Opera House, located at the corner of Marietta and Forsyth Streets in downtown Atlanta before moving into a new Georgia State Capitol. On July 4, 1889, the Georgia State Capitol was dedicated, then housing all three branches of the state government.

Happy birthday to Idaho, which became a state on July 3, 1890.

On July 3, 1913, the Georgia state Senate tabled a motion to allow the Georgia Women’s Suffrage Association to address the chamber.

On July 3, 1970, the Atlanta Pop Festival was held in Byron, Georgia.

Among the artists playing at Byron were the Allman Brothers Band and Jimi Hendrix.

The Clash played their first live show on July 4, 1976 at The Black Swan in Sheffield, England.

Back to the Future was released on July 3, 1985.

On July 3, 1986, President Ronald Reagan reopened the Statue of Liberty after a two-year restoration.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A federal judge has ordered Georgia to hold a special election for District Attorney, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

A federal judge has ordered Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to schedule an election for district attorney in the Western Judicial Circuit, composed of Clarke and Oconee counties.

The election had been canceled after Gov. Brian Kemp declined to appoint a replacement for retiring Western Circuit DA Ken Mauldin by a certain date.

U.S. Northern Circuit District Court Judge Mark Cohen on Wednesday held that a 2018 Georgia law allowing Kemp to derail the election process violates the state constitution.

“Nothing in this Court’s preliminary injunction order will prevent the Governor from exercising his right to appoint a person to fill the vacancy created by Mauldin’s resignation, and the Court finds no harm to the Governor if his appointee must run for office in 2020 to maintain his or her seat,” Cohen wrote.

Raffensperger now must conduct a special election for the post Nov. 3. The judge gave the parties in the lawsuit two weeks to prepare a proposed consent order setting procedures for the special election.

From the Daily Report:

The case mirrors an ongoing legal battle over Raffensperger’s decision to cancel a scheduled election for Georgia Supreme Court Justice Keith Blackwell’s seat. Blackwell submitted his resignation last February rather than face reelection this year, but with a proviso that he will remain on the bench until Nov. 11.

Former U.S. Rep. John Barrow, an Athens lawyer, and Atlanta attorney Beth Beskin were prevented from qualifying to run for Blackwell’s seat. Both unsuccessfully sought court orders that would have compelled Raffensperger to reinstate the election after the governor’s staff informed him Kemp intended to appoint Blackwell’s replacement.

Although the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled against Barrow and Beskin, a separate federal suit brought by several Georgia voters is pending in front of Senior Judge Orinda Evans. Barrow is an intervenor in that case.

At issue is a provision in the state Constitution that permits a judge appointed by the governor to fill a vacancy that occurs within six months of a general election to serve until the next election. But Cohen said in his order the state Constitution has no similar provision for district attorneys.

Cohen was dismissive of Raffensperger’s claim that the Georgia Supreme Court intended for the six-month provision to apply to all judicial offices, including district attorney.

From Patch.com:

Gonzalez, in a victory gathering held virtually on Zoom on Thursday evening, began her campaign by asking those gathered to help her get elected.

Brian Patterson, who, like Gonzalez, had been campaigning for the District Attorney race when Kemp effectively terminated the race in early May, said on Thursday he will launch his campaign again on Friday.

United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams joined Governor Brian Kemp for part of the “Wear a Mask” tour yesterday, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that the new coronavirus (COVID-19) has hit American hard, “especially our older folks.”

“But I want you to understand that we are in the different place than we were even a few weeks ago and certainly a few months ago,” Adams said Thursday outside Hamilton Medical Center. “The average age of folks getting COVID-19 just a few months ago was near 60. The average age now is 35. It is important for that group to understand that you are at risk for hospitalization. But you also are at risk for spreading it to someone you love and care about. But I don’t want this to be all about the bad. We are in a much better place than were we were. We have more supplies. We know more about the virus and how to keep people safe.”

“The power to slow this virus lies in the hands of the people of Georgia. Literally,” Adams said. “I want you to understand my surgeon general’s prescription for staying safe as we head into this holiday weekend. No. 1, know your risks. It’s important to know that people with high blood pressure, with diabetes, with obesity are at higher risk for this disease. No. 2, know your circumstances. Are you going to be going to a place that’s outside or inside? Are you going to be going to a place where it’s hard to social distance? No. 3, know how to keep yourself safe. … Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly. Hand sanitizer is great if you are not able to wash your hands. … Maintain a safe distance from others where possible, and it if isn’t possible, please, wear a mask.”

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Wearing a face mask is a way Americans can fight for freedom, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams at the end of a visit to the Gwinnett County Health Department in Lawrenceville on Thursday night.

“One of the most important things that you can do is wearing a face covering, or a mask to prevent the spread of the disease,” Adams said. “Wearing a face covering, or a mask, is not a restriction of your freedom. As a matter of fact, it is an instrument of freedom because we know if we have less spread of the disease in the community, more places will be open, more places will stay open.”

“If we don’t wear face coverings, we will lose freedom because more places will have to close.”

“It is important to know that if you are a person of color, then you are at a higher risk of complications from COVID, based on the statistics that we have,” Adams said. “Blacks are hospitalized at five times the rate of whites for COVID. Hispanics are hospitalized at three times the rate, Native-Americans are hospitalized at four times the rate.”

From the Augusta Chronicle:

While Kemp has said wearing masks is the ticket to resuming college football in the fall, Adams had another take.

“This is the way to get us to the Masters,” he said.

On Monday, Kemp extended the state’s public health state of emergency and ban on gatherings of 50 or more to Aug. 11.

State Commissioner of Public Health Kathleen Toomey said during the news conference that the mindset must shift to “it’s cool to wear a mask.” Wearing a mask doesn’t make one a “sissy,” she said.

Toomey also said Georgians should answer the phone when caller ID says public health is calling.

Metro Augusta hospitals are prepared for the COVID surge, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

A surge in new coronavirus cases in Georgia and South Carolina so far has not inundated local health care providers with critically ill patients.

Metro Augusta’s largest health system, University Hospital, reported as of Thursday that 23 of its 68 COVID-19 intensive care unit beds are open.

AU Medical Center, the city’s second largest hospital, said 12 of its 52 COVID-19 ICU beds were occupied. Doctors Hospital reported two COVID-19 patients in its ICU.

A University Hospital spokeswoman said six of the 44 patients who tested COVID-positive on Thursday were in their COVID ICU wing at the hospital’s Summerville campus, the former Trinity Hospital of Augusta.

“We do have the capability to create more ICU beds quickly by transitioning pods in the (emergency department) and rooms at Summerville,” she said in a statement. “Fortunately, we are able to care for many more positive patients outside the ICU in intermediate units now with new treatment information.”

Herman Cain, who ran for President as a Republican in 2012, is receiving treatments for COVID-19, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Mr. Cain did not require a respirator, and he is awake and alert,” according to the statement released Thursday.

Cain, as a co-chair of Black Voices for Trump, was one of the surrogates at President Donald Trump’s June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“We honestly have no idea where he contracted it. I realize people will speculate about the Tulsa rally, but Herman did a lot of traveling the past week, including to Arizona where cases are spiking. I don’t think there’s any way to trace this to the one specific contact that caused him to be infected. We’ll never know,” Dan Calabrese, who has been editor of HermanCain.com since 2012, said Thursday in a post on Cain’s website.

Former State Rep. and one-time House Speaker Mark Burkhalter is under fire by Democrats who seek to stop his appointment as Ambassador to Norway, according to the Washington Post.

President Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Norway is facing demands that he abandon his pursuit of the diplomatic post following the unearthing of a 1994 court filing indicating his involvement in the production of a racist campaign flier against an African American politician in Georgia.

According to the filing, Mark Burkhalter helped create a flier that distorted and exaggerated the features of Gordon Joyner, a candidate for county commissioner in north-central Georgia. Joyner was pictured with some features darkened, a large Afro, enlarged eyebrows and a warped eye.

Burkhalter became a target of the lawsuit during his role as campaign chairman for Mitch Skandalakis, then-chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. The signed apology says the flier “contained a distorted photograph of you and inaccurate statements regarding you and attributed to you.”

Burkhalter approved of the flier’s release, authorized payment for some of the printing costs and directed that the flier be attributed to a fake Political Action Committee with a fake P.O. Box address, according to court filings citing his and other depositions.

From CNN:

In a letter sent Thursday to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Sen. Robert Menendez said that Mark Burkhalter “failed to disclose his involvement in a lawsuit and ethics investigation related to his role in the production of a racist campaign flyer.”

Burkhalter was nominated as top envoy to Norway in May. He served in the Georgia General Assembly for 18 years, where he served as speaker of the House and speaker pro tempore.

“Defendants mailed the cards bearing the false pictures captioned ‘Gordon Joyner’ primarily to white voters residing in the northern part of Fulton County, for the purpose of instilling and inciting racial fears and prejudices on the part of those voters,” the lawsuit said.

Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Meng Lim has been arrested on allegations of domestic abuse, according to NewsChannel9.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) says they arrested a Superior Court Judge Thursday, charging him with misdemeanor battery against his wife.

Judge Meng Lim was charged under the Georgia Family Violence Act. He is the Chief Superior Court Judge of the Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit in the Seventh Superior Court District of Georgia.

The GBI says the investigation is closed and submitted to the Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

The State Bar of Georgia says Meng Lim was sworn in on January 15, 2015, the state’s first-ever Asian American Superior Court Judge. He is in his second term as the Chief Superior Court Judge.

The Tallapoosa Circuit serves Haralson and Polk Counties.

Democrat Raphael Warnock raised almost $3 million dollars during the latest disclosure period in his race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Kelly Loeffler, according to the AJC.

Democrat Raphael Warnock will report raising more than $2.85 million over the last three months in his campaign to oust U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a growing warchest he’ll use to try to edge out rivals in the November special election.

Warnock, the pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, has now collected at least $4.3 million since entering the race against Loeffler in January. The contest is a 21-candidate special election in November with no party primary to hash out nominees.

Recent polls show Warnock in a tight race with both Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, her most formidable Republican challenger. Several have also shown Lieberman within striking distance.

Warnock turned heads in April when he out-raised Collins and Loeffler in the first quarter. Both Republicans have yet to report their latest figures, though Loeffler is expected to add another $5 million to the $10 million she’s pumped into her campaign.

Legalized gambling failed passage in the Georgia General Aseembly again, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Proponents blamed state Senate Republican leaders for blocking both a constitutional amendment asking Georgia voters to decide whether to legalize casinos, horse racing and sports betting and separate legislation embracing sports betting. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, the Senate’s presiding officer, and leaders in the Senate Republican Caucus made it clear on the session’s opening day in January that legalized gambling would not be a priority for them.

“We had support in the [Georgia] House,” said Billy Linville, spokesman for a coalition of Atlanta’s pro sports teams that banded together to push the sports betting bill. “We’ve got more work to do with Senate leadership.”

But it wasn’t just external opposition that sank the legalized gambling legislation. Advocates for the standalone sports betting measure and those favoring the constitutional amendment putting casinos, horse racing and sports betting on the statewide ballot got in each other’s way, said Georgia Rep. Alan Powell, chairman of the House Regulated Industries Committee and a key supporter of the constitutional amendment.

“You had such a mixed bag of folks involved in this … the Atlanta sports teams, the casino interests,” said Powell, R-Hartwell. “They were working at diametrically different purposes.”

Powell’s committee approved [a proposed] constitutional amendment following a presentation by Rep. Ron Stephens, perennially the driving force behind efforts to get casino gambling on the ballot in Georgia.

“I don’t understand how we can sit up in Atlanta and tell folks they’re not allowed to vote for themselves,” Stephens, R-Savannah, said last week. “It’s 50,000 permanent jobs, $1 billion in new revenue, no tax incentives and local control. That’s four things that are hard to vote against.”

A state lawsuit is seeking a Special Election for Athens-Clarke County Commission District 6, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Jesse Houle found himself headed for a seat on the Athens-Clarke County Commission last month after his opponent, incumbent Jerry NeSmith, died in an accidental fall three days before the election. Now, Houle’s a defendant in a lawsuit over the election, along with the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections.

But NeSmith’s votes must be considered null and void, Athens-Clarke County Attorney Judd Drake concluded after studying applicable state and federal law.

The plaintiffs include NeSmith’s widow, Farol NeSmith; Gordon Rhoden, the chairman of the Clarke County Republican party; and Athens-Clarke County Planning Commission member Jim Scanlon.

Voiding votes for NeSmith deprives them of their “fundamental constitutional right to vote and to have their votes counted,” according to the complaint filed by Athens lawyer David Ellison.

They are asking a judge to rule that NeSmith’s votes be counted, that he be declared the winner of the June 9 election, and to order a special election for a four-year term beginning in January.

In the Democratic primary election for Gwinnett County Commission chair, the second-place finisher is supporting the first-place finisher, according to the AJC.

[Nicole Love] Hendrickson finished the five-candidate race just shy of 50% of the vote. But Thursday, after a recount put him into the second-place position by 13 votes, Lee Thompson, Jr. said he would suspend his campaign and ask Democrats to support Hendrickson instead.

“Rather than spend six more weeks working against each other, I want us to unite in support of Nicole’s campaign and begin working toward making her the first Democratic candidate to be elected Gwinnett County Commission Chair in over thirty-five years,” Thompson wrote in a lengthy Facebook post announcing that he would not compete in the Aug. 11 runoff.

Hendrickson will face Republican David Post in November.

Henry County Commissioners are canceling in-person board meetings after some staff members tested positive, according to the AJC.

Officials with the south metro Atlanta community on Wednesday released a vague statement that one or more people had contracted COVID-19, but did not offer further details. The leaders said they were notifying employees exposed to the workers who tested positive and instructing them to quarantine if they also have the virus.

“We are suspending in-person board meetings until we can assure the safety of county staff and the public attending meetings,” County Manager Cheri Hobson-Matthews said. “Henry County will remain vigilant in monitoring the situation and will take rapid steps to protect the health and safety of employees and citizens.”

Duluth is canceling several planned public events through October because of COVID concerns, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

 

Valdosta City Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Cason discussed options for reopening in the fall, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Cason said, based on plans as of Wednesday, employees would each be given one cloth face mask to wear. School employees would be required to wear masks except when teachers are teaching. Masks would be required when teachers have one-on-one discussions with students.

While he will strongly suggest parents have their children wear masks, Cason said it will not be a requirement.

“A dress code is hard enough to enforce,” Cason said. “So if a kid showed up without a mask, do we send those kids home? We can’t suspend them all or send them to ISS (in-school suspension).”

Thursday, Valdosta City Schools released two options for parents to select for returning to school: traditional and virtual.

The traditional model would include all of the mentioned safety measures. If the school were to shut down again, assigned Chromebooks would be used for at-home digital days. Parents need to fill out a form to state if their child will need transportation.

The virtual model will allow students to checkout a Chromebook and complete all work at home. The model requires a parent or other adult serve as a learning coach that facilitates and supports the student. An online commitment will be required. Elementary would have a one-year commitment and all other grades would have a one-semester commitment with an opportunity to withdraw in December.

Choices must be submitted to Valdosta City Schools, either online or in person, by July 16.

Whitfield County schools will announce later this month how they will reopen, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Thunderbolt City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Kimberly Chappell-Stevens has died, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“Kimberly will be fondly remembered for her fierce dedication and loyalty, willingness to listen, warm smile and kind heart,” states the eulogy [posted on the city website]. “She will be missed dearly by all.”

2
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 2, 2020

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution by Richard Henry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) calling for independence from Britain. The delegations of twelve colonies voted in favor, while New York’s abstained, not knowing how their constituents would wish them to vote.

On July 2, 1826, representatives from Georgia and Alabama met to begin surveying the border between the two.

On July 2, 1861, Georgia voters approved a new state Constitution, which had been adopted by the state’s Secession Convention.

July 2, 1863 saw day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg, with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia attacking Meade’s Army of the Potomac.

On July 2, 1898, the first pot of delicious Brunswick Stew was made in Brunswick, Georgia. I think I’ll celebrate with a bowl for lunch today.

Construction of USS Augusta, a cruiser, began on July 2, 1928, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

She would be completed and launched in February 1930, “sponsored” by Evelyn McDaniel, of Augusta, who would later become the wife of a Superior Court judge.

Augusta saw service in the Pacific and later became a command ship during Operation Overlord and the D-Day invasion. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman traveled aboard her during wartime treaty endeavors, and the latter would publicly announce the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima from his office aboard the ship.

USS Augusta was built at Newport News Shipbuilding, where my father worked when I was a child, and where we occasionally attended christenings and lauches.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1864. Major provisions included outlawing discriminatory application of voting laws, prohibiting racial discrimination in public accomodations, allowing the Attorney General to join lawsuits against states operating segregated public schools, and prohibiting discrimination by state and local governments or agencies receiving federal funds.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a witness to Johnson’s signature, standing behind the President in the Oval Office. Johnson presented King with one of the 72 pens used in signing the legislation.

Occasionally, pens from the Civil Rights Act signing come onto the collectors’ market. A collection of 50 pens used to sign legislation by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson went across the block in November 2013. This pen went unsold.

For what it’s worth, I count 30 pens laid out for the signing of House Bill 426, the hate crimes bill, last Friday. IMG_3727

IMG_3732

As a student of Dr. Merle Black in the political science department at Emory, we began our study of Southern politics from the premise that race relations and the legacy of racial discrimination shaped Southern politics. One book we read every year was The Longest Debate: A Legislative History of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which belongs on the bookshelf of any serious student of American politics, political history, and legislative process.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp toured Georgia yesterday promoting mask-wearing, according to The Covington News.

“We shouldn’t need a mask mandate for people to do the right thing,” Kemp said at a press conference Wednesday.

Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state’s public health commissioner, joined Kemp on his “Wear A Mask” tour this week. She continued to promote the state’s ongoing contract-tracing initiative, which is designed to help locate and shut down outbreaks within Georgia.

“We’re concerned about the upticks,” Toomey said, “but we can work together to stop this.”

“Thankfully, [hospitalizations] are not going up exponentially,” Kemp said. “It’s worrisome but not alarming at this point. And we don’t want it to get alarming.”

“The whole mask issue right now, in my opinion, is being over-politicized,” Kemp said. “And that’s not what we should be doing.”

Continue Reading..

1
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 1, 2020

The Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia on July 1, 1776 to debate a resolution by Richard Henry Lee that the colonies declare their independence of Britain.

The first U.S. Postage stamps were issued on July 1, 1847 in New York City.

The Battle of Gettysburg began on July 1, 1863. July 2, 1863 saw day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg, with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia attacking Meade’s Army of the Potomac.

Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders charged San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War on July 1, 1898.

Coca-Cola marketed its current formula for the first time on July 1, 1916.

On July 1, 1956, a new Georgia flag bearing the state seal and a version of the Confederate Battle Flag became effective after being adopted by the Georgia General Assembly in the 1956 Session.

The current Georgia Constitution became effective on July 1, 1983 after its approval in a referendum during the November 1982 General Election.

Georgia native Clarence Thomas was nominated to the United States Supreme Court by President George H.W. Bush on July 1, 1991.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The text of Governor Kemp’s speech:

“Six months ago, we gathered under this Gold Dome to kick off the 2020 Legislative Session. Excitement was high, and the expectations were even higher. Little did we know, the unthinkable was right around the corner. COVID-19 put our plans and progress on pause as it spread across the world, threatening the lives of Georgians far and wide. In its wake, this deadly virus spurred an economic recession, impacting every industry in every corner of our great state.”

“To be honest, today is bittersweet. Yes, this budget reflects our values as a state. It funds core services and protects the vital mission of our state agencies. This budget prioritizes education, healthcare, and public safety. It puts people over politics and helps ensure a safer, stronger tomorrow for all Georgians. But this budget speaks to some of the hard choices made by state leaders to streamline and innovate. While we were able to avoid draconian cuts, getting this budget to balance was hard. These are challenging times, and the budget reflects that reality.”

“While much has changed over the last several months, my priorities as Georgia’s governor have remained the same. With the closing of schools, Georgia families have a renewed appreciation for our teachers, counselors, specialists, and staff. These men and women are unsung heroes, and we appreciate their efforts during the pandemic to adapt, educate, and inspire students in every part of our state. To keep Georgia moving in the right direction and minimize the long-term impact of COVID-19 on our classrooms, this budget fully funds enrollment growth and training for public school education. It recognizes a 7.8% increase in enrollment at state charter schools, and this budget provides $55 million in additional lottery funds for the HOPE Scholarship to meet projected demand. With 53% of the 2021 budget dedicated to education, we continue to put students first.”

“The pandemic has targeted the most vulnerable populations in our state, highlighting the healthcare disparities that exist. Now, more than ever, we see that access to quality, affordable healthcare – in every zip code – is essential and lifesaving. This budget fully funds projected growth in Medicaid and Peach Care, which is nearly $270 million. It also includes $19 million in new funding to offer six months of postpartum Medicaid coverage for Georgia mothers, effective upon approval by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. These big investments with help us enhance health outcomes. This budget will ensure a healthier tomorrow for all Georgians.”

“Finally, we know that Georgia’s potential as a state is directly tied to public safety. Our future hinges on the safety and security of our citizens. During this healthcare crisis, we have seen law enforcement officers play a vital role in the fight against COVID-19. Moving forward, we must continue to support efforts to crack down on sex trafficking, dismantle street gangs, protect communities from violence, and pursue justice. We must stand with law enforcement now – just like they stood with us during our most difficult days. In this budget, we have included resources to expand the GBI Gang Task Force, fund a 50-person trooper school, and support personal services and operating expenses for motor carrier officers in the Ports Corridor. These public safety dollars will pay huge dividends as we emerge from this healthcare and economic crisis. We will keep our neighborhoods, communities, and families safe and secure.”

“The fundamentals of our economy remain strong, and I have incredible confidence in job creators across all sectors. As these men and women lead Georgia’s economic revival, we will do our part to leverage opportunities for economic stimulus through our capital spending programs. This budget includes a $1.1 billion bond package that will spur growth and opportunity through numerous construction activities. $340 million of the total package is for major repairs and renovations of state-owned facilities and transportation infrastructure. There’s $70 million in bond funds for the expansion of the convention center at the Savannah-Georgia Convention Center Authority, $12 million in bond funds for facility repairs and improvements at the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, and $115 million in bond funds for the repair, replacement, and renovation of roads and bridges statewide through the Georgia Department of Transportation. This bond package will Georgia regain its competitive advantage. We will not let coronavirus undermine our progress.”

“The legislature has but one constitutional requirement, and that’s to pass a balanced budget. I want to commend Chairman England, Chairman Tillery, their colleagues, and staff for working so hard to fulfill their duty, even during these unprecedented times. I also want to pause and thank Georgia’s 82nd Governor, Nathan Deal, for his bold leadership and conservative planning. Thanks to the resources that he allocated to the Rainy-Day Fund, we are able to balance the budget without furloughs to state employees. We are grateful for his wisdom and service. Finally, I want to thank President Trump, Vice President Pence, and our congressional delegation for securing funds for Georgia through the CARES Act. These resources will help state and local governments minimize the impact of COVID-19 on those we are honored to serve.”

“In the fight against coronavirus, we are seeing encouraging signs. The case fatality rate continues to decline as testing nears one million. Our hospitals have surge capacity, and thanks to GEMA, we are providing PPE to people and places that need it most. On the economic side, we are seeing positive momentum. Businesses are slowly – and safely – reopening, and several companies have announced relocation projects and expansions in the Peach State. But look, we’re not out of the woods yet. There’s still more work to be done to protect the lives – and livelihoods – of all Georgians. We have to remain vigilant in the days ahead. We have to hunker down and keep choppin’. I am confident that if we continue to work together, we will see better days. I know that we can build a safer, stronger, healthier, and more prosperous Georgia for generations to come. Again, thank you to Chairman England, Chairman Tillery, and those who are gathered here today. May God bless you and the great state of Georgia!”

From the AJC:

A day before the start of the new fiscal year, Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday signed a $26 billion budget that cuts $2.2 billion in spending amid an uncertain financial future for the state.

“To be honest, today is bittersweet,” Kemp said before signing the spending plan. “Yes, this budget reflects our values of this state. This budget emphasizes education, health care and public safety.”

Despite the cuts lawmakers made in passing the spending plan last week, the budget Kemp signed was a good bit better than state officials expected a month ago.

The recession brought on by the pandemic — which produced record unemployment and closed thousands of businesses — has meant a huge drop in tax collections for governments. But unlike cities, counties and school districts, the state doesn’t collect property taxes — relying heavily on income and sales taxes that can plummet quickly when the economy tanks.

Kemp noted that 53% of the budget will go to education. Lottery-funded programs, such as the HOPE scholarship and pre-kindergarten classes for 4-year-olds, were not reduced.

Kemp began the year with about $2.8 billion in the state’s “rainy day” reserve. However, he allocated $100 million to fight the pandemic in March. With what was used to fill holes in state spending during the final three months of fiscal 2020 and the allocation for fiscal 2021, nearly half of the reserve will be gone by this time next year.

That’s not unusual. The state went through its reserve quickly during the Great Recession — which started to hit the government’s coffers in 2008 and lasted for several years.

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

Legislative Democrats, most of whom voted against the budget, took majority Republicans to task for not allowing revenue raising proposals – including a tobacco tax increase and legislation reining in state tax credits – to reach the floor of either the House or Senate for a vote.

Kemp was flanked throughout Tuesday’s signing ceremony by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, and his Senate counterpart, Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia.

The governor bumped fists with both men after signing the budget, which takes effect on Wednesday.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:

Rusk Roam, the state Department of Education’s chief financial officer, noted the budget cuts were tough but not quite as dire as initially expected. He added the state will be able to fully fund $726 million for financially struggling schools.

Local school districts will be left to determine how to swallow cuts for their schools in terms of whether to furlough teachers or reduce the number of classroom days for the 2020-21 school year.

Teacher salaries will not change despite the budget cuts, officials said Tuesday.

School funding has been propped up by roughly $457 million in funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Georgia’s Department of Education will spend more on online teaching in the new fiscal year, according to the AJC.

Georgia will spend up to $1.2 million to hire online teachers for an expected swell in enrollment in the state’s virtual school offerings this fall, while adding several million for temporary expansions of internet access.

With COVID-19 affecting schools across the state, enrollment in the Georgia Virtual School has already risen 30% and officials think it could go much higher, overwhelming the 250 teachers. The state-run school provides supplemental courses for middle school and high school students, whether they are enrolled in a public school, a private one or are schooling at home.

The board also approved using $4 million in Georgia’s allotment of federal CARES Act COVID-19 relief funding to pay for internet connectivity devices. Most of it, $3 million, will be added to what the state has dubbed its “Wi-Fi Ranger” program, which outfits school buses with internet hotspots. The buses park in neighborhoods, giving students nearby a way to get online. The remaining $1 million will go to libraries to acquire and distribute personal internet hotspots to students.

Governor Kemp also signed House Bill 987 by State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) to provide additional protections to seniors in assisted living, according to the AJC.

Under the new law, administrators of assisted living and large personal care homes for the first time will be required to pass a test and be licensed. Memory care units will now have to be certified. Nurses will be required in assisted living and memory care, and overall staffing and training requirements will increase. Homes will also have to prove they have the financial means to operate before they get a license and will have to disclose any financial problems that come up after they open.

In addition, those caught breaking the rules will now face bigger fines. Under the old law, the typical penalty for the worst violations was $601. Now, the state must impose a fine of at least $5,000 for a violation which causes a resident to be seriously harmed or to die.

Most of the new law relates to assisted living communities and personal care homes of 25 beds or more, but a section on COVID-19 also applies to the state’s nursing homes, and it will require testing, planning and preparedness for a pandemic

“This bill addresses an urgent need, that was brought to my attention, to dramatically reform our standards for elder care in Georgia,” Cooper said at the Capitol on Tuesday. “I am proud of the work we have done and thank Gov. Kemp for signing this measure into law.”

Gwinnett County hosts an August 11 runoff election for the Democratic nomination for County Commission Chair, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Nearly a month after the June 9 primary election, Democrats in Gwinnett County finally learned on Tuesday what their runoff matchup for county commission chairman will be.

A recount that wrapped up Tuesday showed Lee Thompson edged out Curt Thompson for a chance to face Nicole Love Hendrickson in the Aug. 11 Democratic Party runoff for the commission chairman’s race. Lee Thompson had been ahead of Curt Thompson after the initial count, but only 20 votes separated them.

While the recount confirmed the two Thompsons were in the right order following the original count, Lee Thompson’s lead shrank from 20 votes to just 13 votes.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson has ordered the use of masks in public spaces, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson issued an emergency order Tuesday mandating the wearing of face masks when out in public spaces and inside commercial establishments within the city limits. The mandate begins at 8 a.m. on Wednesday and runs until further notice.

“Frankly, and honestly, I do not believe we have any other choice,” Johnson said during his weekly briefing Tuesday morning at City Hall recapping the recent increase in COVID-19 cases across the county.

In addition to face coverings required in public spaces, they must also be worn in commercial establishments, including restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores and pharmacies in the city of Savannah. Face coverings are not required in religious establishments, although they are encouraged, Johnson said.

Face coverings are not required for those under the age of 10, any person who is unable to safely wear face covering due to age or an underlying health condition, or anyone who is unable to remove the mask covering without assistance.

From the Ledger-Enquirer:

Everyone in the popular coastal city will be required to wear a face covering in public places and can face a civil infraction that comes with a fine of up to $500 if they don’t, Mayor Van Johnson announced in a media briefing.

From the AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp didn’t rule out taking legal action to block Savannah’s new mask mandate but said Wednesday that Georgians shouldn’t need a legal requirement to wear face coverings to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“I wouldn’t be able to speak about any state action, because I haven’t had time to really discuss the matter,” Kemp said at the launch of a statewide flyaround tour. “But regardless of any legal action that may or may not happen, you shouldn’t need a mask mandate for people to do the right thing.”

But it sets up a potential legal showdown with Kemp, a Republican who signed a statewide order that said Georgians are “strongly encouraged” but not required to use masks. Kemp has said he believes a requirement to don face coverings is a “bridge too far” and instead prefers a softer approach.

His order was designed to prevent local governments from enacting more stringent or lenient rules, and it has infuriated some mayors and county commissioners who argued it was too lenient or too draconian since an early version took effect in April.

Athens-Carke County is also considering a mask ordinance, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The Athens-Clarke County Commission is set to vote on an ordinance requiring face coverings, still under development, at its monthly meeting Tuesday, July 7.

“Members of the Athens-Clarke County Commission are very eager to have an ordinance in place,” said Mayor Kelly Girtz. “I expect there to be vote on Tuesday.”

The Bulloch County Department of Health said COVID-19 is in “substantial spread” in the county, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Media reports from other parts of Georgia suggest that community spread determinations for school opening decisions may be based on the number of new cases per capita in a 14-day period, rather than the cumulative total. But at this point, Bulloch would also far surpass that mark.

Bulloch County public schools are hosting two online forums on reopening schools, according to the Statesboro Herald.

As of last Thursday evening, the Board of Education tabled a motion from two of its members to delay the start of the 2020-21 school year from the long-planned Aug. 3 first day of classes to Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day. Another board then member suggested an unspecified shorter delay, and Monday night’s media release mentioned a possible two-week, rather than a full month’s, postponement.

“The plan is for all students to resume school using the school district’s virtual learning program,” states the release provided by Hayley Greene, the school system’s public relations director. “It is possible that we will experience a delayed start (potentially August 17) to allow schools time to prepare for this delivery method.”

[O]n Friday, Bulloch County Public Safety and Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn revealed that the Georgia Department of Public Health had placed Bulloch County in the category of “substantial spread” of the coronavirus, the “red” zone. The school system’s plans already called for keeping buildings closed and providing distance-learning for all students if the concern was raised to that level.

“When Bulloch County is reclassified to a lower spread category, the school district will allow students (those who choose to do so) to return to a traditional, face-to-face school setting,” Greene wrote in Monday’s release announcing the forums.

Richmond County Schools announced reopening plans, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The school system sent out surveys to families and staff to get their input on what should be done for the start of the school year. The results showed 35.15 percent of families wanted online learning and 34.54 percent wanted face-to-face learning. Nearly half of the staff asked for a blended learning model.

As a result, the school system is offering parents a choice:

– A blended/hybrid model in which students take in-person classes Monday through Thursday and have Friday reserved for remote learning.

– A completely virtual learning model.

Parents can register students for online classes starting Wednesday on the Richmond County School System’s website under the ‘Students’ tab by clicking ‘Online Academy.’ The deadline for registration is July 20.

Oconee County Schools will also offer choices in how to return to school, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Oconee County students can attend in-person classes when school starts again August 5, or students can instead choose to stay at home for online learning under a reopening plan the school district announced Tuesday.

At school, “social distancing will occur when possible.”

Staff will be required to wear masks “when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” while students will be “encouraged” to wear masks, except when they’re riding a school bus where masks will be required. The school district in the meantime is asking families to complete a non-binding survey on their transportation and instructional preferences. On July 7, the school district will ask them to commit to in-person or virtual instruction.

Some students and faculty at UGA are concerned with the lack of a mask mandate, according to the Red and Black.

UGA students and faculty have raised concerns about the lack of a mandatory rule. The university is spending around $300,000 to provide two cloth face masks for every student, faculty and staff member, but some say without a requirement to wear one on campus, it isn’t enough.

Frick and other UGA faculty members compiled a spreadsheet of public universities’ mask policies, including institutions that are UGA’s “comparator and aspirational peers,” according to UGA’s Office of Institutional Research. The University of Florida and University of Virginia are among those requiring students, faculty and staff wear face masks in indoor areas on campus.

UGA students have taken to social media to express support for a mandatory mask requirement. A Change.org petition asking the USG Board of Regents, which is in charge of the university system, to implement a mask rule has garnered more than 3,000 signatures as of Wednesday.

An online petition is urging a mask requirement and other specific distancing measures for Fulton County schools when they return to classrooms, according to Patch.com.

As Fulton County reopens schools for students, masks are NOT required and enforced in students. Crowded hallways and tight classrooms do NOT ALLOW for social distancing.

The Rome Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Officeis reopening after a temporary closure due to a positive COVID test on staff, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Lee County sales tax receipts were unexpectedly up, according to the Albany Herald.

“We got the numbers last Friday, and I was shocked,” Lee Commission Chairman Billy Mathis said. “The numbers we got Friday were for last month. The month of the shutdowns. The T-SPLOST revenues In Lee County have averaged around $200,000 a month. Last month they were $352,860. Our SPLOST revenue averages around $300,000 a month, and last month it was $423,656.

“This is interesting news. Everybody has been a little scared about what was going to happen with sales tax revenue with the virus situation. I told our staff last month, ‘The next three months are going to be very interesting. A couple of things affected this, I think. The biggest is the internet sales tax bill kicked in in April. A lot of people stayed home, bought groceries, went to the local liquor store, the home improvement store. These numbers are incredible. I would have never guessed we would have this. I was shocked at how good the numbers were. I was worried they might have gone the other way.”

Georgia DOT will minimize construction-related traffic disruptions for the July 4 weekend, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

To alleviate Fourth of July weekend traffic congestion, the Georgia Department of Transportation is suspending construction-related lane closures on interstate highways and limiting lane closures on state routes that directly serve major tourist and recreation centers from noon Thursday through 10 p.m. Sunday.

“As people head to holiday festivities or vacation destinations on this long weekend, we expect heavier than normal traffic,” said John Hancock, DOT state construction engineer. “By restricting lane closures, we hope drivers will encounter fewer delays and less stress.”

Although Georgia welcome centers are not currently open, rest area and welcome center restrooms are open and regularly deep cleaned. However, from time to time a rest area facility may be closed temporarily for service. When stopping in public spaces, be cognizant of social distancing and public health guidelines, as well as act courteously to fellow travelers.

Embattled Bloomingdale Mayor Ben Rozier says he plans to stay in office despite City Council calling for his resignation, according to the Savannah Morning News.