Category: Georgia Politics


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 28, 2023

German scientist Johannes Kepler dated the creation of the universe to April 27, 4977 BC(E).

On April 27, 1773, the British Parliament enacted the Tea Act, granting a monopoly on selling tea to the American colonies.

On April 28, 1776, Colonel Lachlan McIntosh wrote from Savannah to General George Washington.

he concluded his letter with the report that because the South had limited manufacturing capability, the price of needed goods was two or three times higher than in the North, making procurement of clothing and arms for the new recruits difficult.

This last tidbit would prove prescient as lack of manufacturing proved an insuperable problem for the Confederacy. On May 16, 1777, McIntosh dueled against Button Gwinnett, scoring a fatal wound against one of Georgia’s signers of the Declaration of Independence. McIntosh was acquitted at trial but forced to leave Georgia and eventually served under Washington at Valley Forge.

In 1787, McIntosh was a Commissioner representing Georgia in a series of three boundary disputes with South Carolina, two which were resolved on April 28, 1787 with the Convention of Beaufort.

George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States of America in New York City on April 30, 1789. From Washington’s inaugural address:

it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge.

In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either.

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.

On April 30, 1803, negotiators from France and the United States finished discussions of the Louisiana Purchase, which would double the size of the country.

By the middle of the 18th century, France controlled more of the modern United States than any other European power: from New Orleans northeast to the Great Lakes and northwest to modern-day Montana. In 1762, during the French and Indian War, France ceded its America territory west of the Mississippi River to Spain and in 1763 transferred nearly all of its remaining North American holdings to Great Britain. Spain, no longer a dominant European power, did little to develop Louisiana Territory during the next three decades. In 1796, Spain allied itself with France, leading Britain to use its powerful navy to cut off Spain from America.In 1801, Spain signed a secret treaty with France to return Louisiana Territory to France.

Reports of the retrocession caused considerable uneasiness in the United States. Since the late 1780s, Americans had been moving westward into the Ohio and Tennessee River valleys, and these settlers were highly dependent on free access to the Mississippi River and the strategic port of New Orleans. U.S. officials feared that France, resurgent under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte, would soon seek to dominate the Mississippi River and access to the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. envoys agreed to pay $11,250,000 and assumed claims of its citizens against France in the amount of $3,750,000. In exchange, the United States acquired the vast domain of Louisiana Territory, some 828,000 square miles of land. In October, Congress ratified the purchase, and in December 1803 France formally transferred authority over the region to the United States. The acquisition of the Louisiana Territory for the bargain price of less than three cents an acre was Thomas Jefferson’s most notable achievement as president.

Richard B. Russell, Sr. was born on April 27, 1861 near Marietta, Georgia. Russell served in the Georgia House of Representatives, on the Georgia Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and ran for Governor, Congress, and United States Senate. His son, Richard B. Russell, Jr. served in the Georgia State House, including a stint as Speaker, as Governor of Georgia, and in the United States Senate.

On April 30, 1886, former Confederate President Jefferson Davis arrived in LaGrange, Georgia for the unveiling of a monument to Benjamin Hill.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt made his fourth trip to Georgia on April 29, 1926, closing on the purchase of property at Warm Springs, Ga.

Dachau concentration camp was liberated by American troops on April 29, 1945. At least 31,951 inmates died there, more than 30,000 survivors were found on liberation day, and more than 250,000 passed through the camp and its subcamps.

Dobbins Air Force Base was dedicated on April 29, 1950, named for in honor of the late Capt. Charles M. Dobbins and in memory of the other servicemen from Cobb County. Dobbins was shot down over Sicily in 1943 and his family attended the opening of the base.

Hank Aaron hit his first home run in Atlanta against the Houston Astros on April 29, 1966, providing the winning margin as the Braves won 4-3.

Atlanta was selected as the host city for the 1996 Summer Olympics on April 29, 1988.

On April 29, 1993, Barry White guest-starred on The Simpsons. I guess that makes tomorrow “Whacking Day.”

On April 28, 2014, the earliest ever Primary Elections in Georgia began, as in-person early voting started across the state.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former State Representative Jeanette Jamieson has died, according to Access WDUN.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 26, 2023

On April 26, 1866, the Atlanta Ladies’ Memorial Association held a Confederate memorial observance at Oakland Cemetery for the first time.

In 1874, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation designating April 26th of each year as “Confederate Memorial Day,” choosing the day of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender to Union General William T. Sherman at Durham Station, North Carolina. There is no longer a statutorily-recognized Confederate Memorial Day, but it became custom for Governors to issue a proclamation yearly designating April 26th as Confederate Memorial Day or to make it the Monday or Friday closest to the 26th.

On April 26, 1913, 13-year old Mary Phagan was found dead, having been sexually assaulted, in the basement of a pencil factory in Atlanta. Guilt was pinned on the Jewish owner of the factory, Leo Frank. Frank was convicted, but later his sentence was commuted after Governor John Slaton concluded from his own investigation that Frank had been framed. Frank was later hanged by a lynch mob.

On April 26, 1986, the world’s worst nuclear accident occurred at Chernobyl in the Soviet Union.

Thirty-two people died and dozens more suffered radiation burns in the opening days of the crisis, but only after Swedish authorities reported the fallout did Soviet authorities reluctantly admit that an accident had occurred.

On April 27, Soviet authorities began an evacuation of the 30,000 inhabitants of Pripyat. A cover-up was attempted, but on April 28 Swedish radiation monitoring stations, more than 800 miles to the northwest of Chernobyl, reported radiation levels 40 percent higher than normal. Later that day, the Soviet news agency acknowledged that a major nuclear accident had occurred at Chernobyl.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Federal regulations mandating a pay raise for temporary agriculture workers could affect local farms and ultimately prices for consumers, according to 13WMAZ.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 25, 2023

James Oglethorpe won reelection to the British Parliament while in America on April 25, 1734.

The United States declared war on Spain on April 25, 1898.

On April 25, 1996, Georgia Governor Zell Miller signed Senate Bill 519 designating English the official language of Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) is fanning the embers of outrage calling for enhanced security, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has asked county law enforcement to prepare for her impending plans to announce indictments this summer regarding interference in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.

In a letter to Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat, Willis said she plans to announce a charging decision sometime between July 11 to Sept. 1.

“I am providing this letter to bring to your attention the need for heightened security and preparedness in coming months due to this pending announcement,” Willis wrote.

Willis implied, though not referencing a specific event, in the letter to Labat that acts of violence have occurred in the past that go “outside of public expressions of opinion.” Most notably, Trump’s claims of election fraud ultimately resulted in his supporters attacking the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, 2021 as Congress was preparing to certify the results of the 2020 election.

“Open-source intelligence indicated the announcement of decisions in this case may provoke a significant public reaction,” she said.

The letter, Willis said, was intended to provide sufficient time for the sheriff’s office to coordinate with local, state and federal agencies to ensure law enforcement is ready to protect the public when her charging decisions are announced.

From Atlanta News First via WTOC:

Willis addressed the letter to Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat, in which she wrote, “I will be announcing charging decisions resulting from this investigation during Fulton County Superior Court’s fourth term of court, which will begin on July 11, 2023, and conclude on September 1, 2023. Please accept this correspondence as notice to allow you sufficient time to prepare the Sheriff’s Office and coordinate with local, state, and federal agencies to ensure that our law enforcement community is ready to protect the public.”

Last year, Willis opened a criminal investigation “into attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election.” Willis continues alleging Trump attempted to interfere in Georgia’s election, a contest that saw Joe Biden become the first Democrat to win Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992.

Metro Atlanta defense attorney Joshua Schiffer said the letter implies that Willis plans to bring charges against Trump.

“If this was going to be indictments against lesser-known individuals, I don’t think she would go about the consumption of public resources by announcing this,” Schiffer said. “It wouldn’t be as newsworthy. There’s not going to be throngs of people in the streets over local Georgia politicians or even some of the cabinet or other high advisors to the former president.”

Cumberland Island’s horses have filed a lawsuit against the federal government, according to The Brunswick News.

The horses on Cumberland Island have been named plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

Athens lawyer Hal Wright filed the lawsuit in the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division after notifying the National Park Service of his intent to sue if nothing was done to manage the horses on the barrier island.

Wright asked park service officials to start providing medical care, food and water for the estimated 140 to 170 horses on Cumberland. The horses are in poor health because of a limited food supply and the park service’s policy not to interfere with the horses.

“The horses of Cumberland’s life expectancy is believed to be but eight to nine years, well below that of a domestic horse, which is expected to live between 25 to 30 years,” Wright argues. “This discrepancy is due to the harsh and inhumane living conditions these horses must endure.”

The Georgia Equine Rescue League and the Georgia Horse Council are plaintiffs in the case, along with Will Harlan, a senior scientist and southeast director at the Center for Biological Diversity, and Carol Ruckdeschel, a longtime Cumberland Island resident and biologist.

Defendants in the case are Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, as well as Mark Foust, director of the National Park Service South Atlantic-Gulf region. Also named as defendants are Gary Ingram, superintendent of Cumberland Island National Seashore, Mark Williams, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and Tyler Harper Black, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

The solution proposed in the lawsuit is for the park service and state to “take all steps necessary to assess the health and well-being of the horse herd on Cumberland Island and provide the needed additional water, food, and care.”

Liberal groups are suing Georgia over the ban on providing food and drink to voters in line, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle.

Groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia are seeking a preliminary injunction as part of a broader lawsuit that challenges changes to state election law Gov. Brian Kemp and Republican legislative leaders pushed through the General Assembly along party lines.

Senate Bill 202 requires voters seeking to cast absentee ballots to show a photo ID, a provision that already applied to in-person voting. The law also limits the number of absentee ballot drop boxes and prohibits non-poll workers from handing out food and drinks within 150 feet of voters standing in line.

“There can be no reason for denying food or water to people in long polling lines, other than trying to prevent them from exercising their freedom to vote,” said Poy Winichakul, senior staff attorney for voting rights with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “These barriers to voting must be removed so all Georgians can have a voice to advocate for their communities in the crucial 2024 elections.”

“Our clients used to be able to offer a bottle of water or a snack to voters waiting in long lines at the polls,” added Rahul Garabadu, senior voting rights staff attorney at the ACLU of Georgia. “We’re now asking the court to strike down the unlawful provisions of the ban so that our clients can provide crucial support to voters across our state.”

The bill’s supporters justified banning non-poll workers from handing out food and drinks to voters in line at polling locations as a way to prevent campaign volunteers from seeking to influence voters within an area that is legally off limits to campaigning.

Governor Brian Kemp held a bill-signing in Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

During his visit on Monday to Augusta’s downtown municipal building, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed HB 230, creating a special sales tax to fund an arena rebuilding project contingent on voters approving it in a fall election.

“That facility, well over four decades old, helps bring major events, tourism, economic development opportunities to the city and the surrounding area,” Kemp said. ”It is a valued asset to this region and it will be the people’s right to decide how to best take care of it.”

The bill asks voters to support a sales tax of up to 0.5% for up to five years for the purpose of funding “coliseum capital outlay projects and project costs” and not to exceed the project’s guaranteed maximum price.

If approved, the tax would only fund up to the amount needed to finance the project. The bill does not allow the tax to be renewed under any circumstances and limits the principal amount of general obligation bonds issued to up to $250 million.

While he was in Augusta, Kemp also signed HB 128 and SB 213. The House bill looks to support minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses by streamlining and expanding access to state certifications during the procurement process. The state Senate bill allows property owners to replace old or damaged manufactured homes with new ones without restriction from local governments.

Augusta will likely vote on two referenda in November, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

In this past week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has signed new legislation calling on Augusta voters to determine if the mayor should get an equal vote to city commissioners and to approve a special sales tax to fund a new James Brown Arena.

Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Travis Doss confirmed that the earliest date for these votes is during the Nov. 7 election. There are only two dates available to propose a question on the ballot and the last one was in March. Both issues will be listed on the ballot with voters choosing “Yes” or “No” on the respective topics.

Senate Bill 231 calls for the mayoral vote. Currently, Augusta’s mayor is only allowed to break ties. Mayor Garnett Johnson detailed in February that he would not seek to be a voting member of committees and this is not a power grab.

House Bill 230 calls for the arena tax vote. The bill asks voters to support a sales tax of up to 0.5% for up to five years for the purpose of funding “coliseum capital outlay projects and project costs” and not to exceed the project’s guaranteed maximum price. If approved, the tax would only fund up to the amount needed to finance the project. The bill does not allow the tax to be renewed under any circumstances and limits the principal amount of general obligation bonds issued to up to $250 million.

Dying Georgians may soon be able to purchase medical cannabis oil more than eight years after Governor Nathan Deal signed the “Haleigh’s Hope” legislation, according to WABE.

Two in-state producers are expected to have product available by this summer, if not earlier.

The next major step for the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission is to grant dispensing licenses for the two current in-state producers of low-THC oil. Those would be used to open up to 12 stores across the state.

Those two producers are Botanical Sciences, which has a facility in Southeast Georgia in Glenville, and Trulieve Georgia, which has a South Georgia facility in Adel.

Commission Executive Director Andrew Turnage explains how they expect the two current producers to use the data.

“When they apply to the commission for their dispensing license, we’ve asked them to articulate how they’re going to serve the patient population in the area that they choose,” he said. “So we really wanted them to get access to that data so that they can show us how their plan is going to reach patients in the area that they chose.”

Four Atlanta counties have between 1,000 to 3,000 registered patients each. Those are Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett. The next tier of counties have 500 to 1,000 patients each and include Cherokee, Clayton, Forsyth, Henry and Spalding.

Overall, there are about 27,000 Georgia patients on the low-THC oil registry. Turnage expects that number to grow.

“On the commission’s part, our expectation is to see that number, really to grow very close to 100,000,” he said. “That’s what we anticipate. That’s just based on similar states with registries that started at similar size with medical-only programs somewhat like Georgia’s, you know, it’s our expectation that it could grow beyond that, but that’s what we anticipate in I think the timeframe for that will happen within 12 to 18 months.”

To get on the low-THC oil registry, a doctor has to confirm your eligibility based on a list of conditions written into law including severe ALS, autism, MS and Parkinson’s.

State legislators will begin to review the efficacy of tax breaks, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Athens Banner Herald.

The chairmen of the two legislative committees responsible for tax policy will co-chair an upcoming review of all of Georgia’s tax credits.

The initiative, announced last month, is intended to make sure the various tax credits on the books in Georgia aimed at boosting economic development and job creation are giving taxpayers a good return on that investment.

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who presides over the state Senate, announced Monday he is appointing Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, to co-chair the review. House Speaker Jon Burns named House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, to serve as the other co-chair.

Other appointees announced Monday include Sens. John Albers, R–Roswell; Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming; Bill Cowsert, R-Athens; and Michael “Doc” Rhett, D- Marietta; state Reps. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City; Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton; Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta; and Bruce Williamson, R-Monroe. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, will serve as an ex-officio member.

“My appointees are experts on tax policy and have been implementing and analyzing tax policy supporting economic development and Georgia’s ranking as the number one state in which to do business for over a decade,” Jones said Monday.

“I have called on some of the House’s most experienced leaders on tax policy to work on this important review,” Burns added. “I know they will work on behalf of all Georgians to support job growth and maintain a fair, competitive tax structure.”

From the AJC:

In the Senate, some leaders say they’d like to use any savings to further reduce income taxes on Georgians.

But Blackmon said lawmakers need to be careful not to eliminate incentives for businesses to create jobs.

The House and Senate passed legislation in 2021 that was a first step toward greater accountability: allowing the chairmen of the tax-writing committees to request reviews of a limited number of tax breaks each year.

Liquor stores are coming to Tifton, according to WALB.

Tift County’s dry county days will soon be over for its county seat.

Four new liquor stores are headed to Tifton. Leaving some for and against it since the city decided to allow liquor stores over a year ago. The liquor stores are expected to open this summer. And some Tifton residents said it’ll save them money on gas.

Former Chatham County Assistant District Attorney Skye Musson is asking a court to sanction District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones in a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination by the DA’s office, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Musson is requesting for her counsel fees and costs to be covered by Jones.

According to Musson’s motion, “Defendant Jones violated this Court’s order to appear on April 11, 2023, citing a ‘conflict’ of her own creation and invention after she failed to properly manage her concurrent obligations to this case and as a trial attorney in a criminal matter in Superior Court.”

Based on court records, Musson attempted to depose Jones multiple times since December 2022. From Feb. 15 through March 31, 2023, Musson asked Jones for her deposition five times, and Jones never offered a single date. On March 28, Jones requested rescheduling her deposition to April 11.

After Brunswick City Commission ordered a 65-day closure of homeless shelter The Well, a “pop-up” homeless shelter has opened, according to The Brunswick News.

Organizers of a homeless shelter that opened in a vacant Brunswick church building over the weekend after The Well closed have until 3 p.m. today to get the building up to code and permitted for use.

The Brunswick City Commission voted Wednesday to impose a 65-day closure on The Well after it became a target of the ire of some residents and business owners following five violent incidents police have attributed to homeless individuals since Feb. 27.

Small said the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act protects his right to use the church through his ministry and allows him to open the church to homeless people seeking shelter.

“We’re going to help them eat,” Small told Jones. “We’re going to help them wash and maybe go to the bathroom inside instead of in someone’s backyard.”

Small said it is his duty as a Christian and a pastor to help people in their time of need. He also said it is in the city’s best interest to provide shelter for people who don’t have it.

“It is much more desirable to have them someplace rather than to have them wandering,” Small said. “It is less reasonable to put them out.”

Jones said the issue was with how the building is being used and what the city ordinances say about needing the proper inspection and permitting.

Jones first said the options were to allow inspectors inside to sign off on the building and approve it for occupancy or to vacate the building and allow code enforcement to post it as uninhabitable. Jones said he is a Christian too and that he respects what Small is trying to do.

“Unfortunately today I am the enforcer of the city’s ordinances, which would include loitering and camping,” Jones said.

The City Commission passed a new ordinance Wednesday requiring homeless shelters, day shelters or service providers to get a conditional use permit approved by the commission. Those permits must be reviewed by the city’s Planning and Appeals Commission first and are subject to a public hearing. The ordinance lays out other restrictions on camping and loitering at shelters.

At a city commission meeting earlier in April, Mayor Cosby Johnson said the police department was taking a zero-tolerance policy toward enforcing the city’s ordinances.

Brunswick’s proposed FY 2024 budget is 7.5% higher than the current year, according to The Brunswick News.

In total, the city’s budget is tentatively set at $24.3 million, City Manager Regina McDuffie told Brunswick’s finance committee on Monday. Just over $4.1 million of that is remaining ARPA funding. Minus the ARPA funding, the budget is $20.2 million, a 7.48% increase over this fiscal year’s $18.7 million budget.

Property taxes are expected to account for $5.4 million of the city’s revenue in the next fiscal year; sales tax, $9 million; and other taxes, $3.8 million. Other taxes include the insurance premium tax and a franchise tax on utilities, McDuffie explained.

Valdosta City Council named Richard Hardy as sole finalist for City Manager, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

As city manager for Valdosta, Hardy will oversee the city’s 10 departments, 600-plus employees and the city budget. Hardy has been with the City of Valdosta since 2014, first serving as the director of public works before being named deputy city manager of operations in late 2020.

As deputy city manager of operations, he led the public works and utilities departments, including 17 divisions.

“I am ecstatic to serve the citizens as city manager. My vision is to collaborate and strengthen community relationships,” Hardy said in a statement. “I am honored to have the support and trust of the mayor and council who saw fit to select me as the sole finalist.”

Johns Creek Mayor John Bradberry will deliver a “State of the City” address this Thursday at 7 PM, according to the AJC.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 24, 2023

The Library of Congress was founded on April 24, 1800 and is the largest library in the world today.

Jack Kingston was born on April 24, 1955. He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1984 and served four terms and in 1992 was elected to the United States Congress.

“Georgia On My Mind” became the official state song on April 24, 1979, when Governor George Busbee signed legislation designating it.

On April 24, 1980, an attempt to rescue 52 Americans held hostage in Iran failed.

With the Iran Hostage Crisis stretching into its sixth month and all diplomatic appeals to the Iranian government ending in failure, President Jimmy Carter ordered the military mission as a last ditch attempt to save the hostages. During the operation, three of eight helicopters failed, crippling the crucial airborne plans. The mission was then canceled at the staging area in Iran, but during the withdrawal one of the retreating helicopters collided with one of six C-130 transport planes, killing eight service members and injuring five. The next day, a somber Jimmy Carter gave a press conference in which he took full responsibility for the tragedy. The hostages were not released for another 270 days.

IBM introduced the Personal Computer Model 5150 on April 24, 1981, though some authorities date the introduction to April 12. It sported an Intel 8088 processor at 4.77 Mhz, a whopping 16k of RAM, which was expandable to 256k, and a clicky keyboard. The initial price tag was $1565, equivalent to more than $4000 today.

On April 24, 1982, Jane Fonda released her first workout video.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp will sign legislation in Augusta today, according to WRDW.

He’ll join state and local leaders at a bill-signing ceremony for legislation his staff says will support Georgia’s economy and workforce.

The governor will sign House Bill 128, which will streamline certifications for minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses and increase access to state procurement opportunities.

He’ll also sign Senate Bill 213, which involves zoning procedures for some homes, and House Bill 230, which involves special-purpose, local-option sales taxes for consolidated governments.

Kemp will be joined by first lady Marty Kemp, Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, Augusta Mayor Garnett Johnson and members of the General Assembly, among others.

The ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. in the Linda Beazley Room of the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building, 535 Telfair St.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

Gov. Brian Kemp will be at Augusta’s downtown municipal building Monday afternoon to sign off on House Bill 230, according to a press release from Kemp’s office.

This legislation would potentially create a new special sales tax that would fund the new arena and its new connector to Bell Auditorium.

However, Augustans would first have to vote for this tax similar to what they did with the failed property tax proposal in 2021.

If approved, the bill will create a sales tax of up to 0.5% for up to five years and would only fund up to the amount needed to finance the project. The bill does not allow the tax to be renewed under any circumstances and limits the principal amount of general obligation bonds issued to up to $250 million.

Governor Kemp last week signed local legislation that give the Mayor of Augusta a vote on City Council issues, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

At the moment the mayor can only vote to break a tie between Augusta commissioners.

The bill was introduced by Sens. Max Burns, R-Sylvania, and Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown. It passed the Senate by a vote of 32-22 and the House by a vote of 99-70.

“If approved by the voters, the bill would update the charter to allow the Augusta-Richmond commission to be a functioning governing body,” Burns said prior to the Senate vote.

But the bill was not without controversy, and Sen. Harold Jones II, D-Augusta, spoke against it.

“There’s just a split in the community, in the commission on whether we should have a vote, shouldn’t have a vote,” he said. “It’s not even an ideological split, it’s not even a racial split … it basically puts myself and (Burns) in a bad position.”

Gov. Kemp also signed a measure designed to preserve Georgia farmland, according to the Georgia Recorder via the Albany Herald.

The measure creates a fund and a process for providing a financial incentive to farmers who volunteer to permanently place their agricultural land in a conservation easement. Doing so would restrict the landowner’s right to develop the property in the future.

“In less than a generation, we’ve lost 20% of our farmland in the state of Georgia. This bill seeks to address that,” the bill’s sponsor, Cogdell Republican Sen. Russ Goodman, who is a blueberry farmer in south Georgia and chair of the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, said.

“You see this beautiful farmland out there, and it’s just gotten prohibitive for a lot of small farmers to not be tempted to develop – sell their land for apartment complexes, commercial – and this just really keeps a great balance,” Rep. Robert Dickey, a Musella Republican and peach farmer who chairs the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, said. “It’s a great volunteer program.”

Kemp traveled to Bainbridge in southwest Georgia this week to sign this bill and another creating the Agricultural Commodity Commission for Citrus Fruits, which represents a burgeoning crop in Georgia. Both measures sailed through the Legislature this year with bipartisan support.

“We are also investing in our rural communities by creating a fund that will provide matching grants to protect the land of farming families from development and preserve our state’s No.1 industry,” Kemp said of the conservation program.

The bill directs the department to prioritize proposals that “protect agricultural lands susceptible to development, subdivision, and fragmentation.”

“The strategic conservation of our precious farmlands must remain a priority for our ever-growing state,” Katherine Moore, president of the Georgia Conservancy, said.

About 11 million people now live in Georgia. That growth has pushed people out into once rural areas of the state and created a tension that drove lawmakers to pass a controversial “freedom to farm” law last year, meant to shield agricultural producers from nuisance lawsuits.

The legislation in question was Senate Bill 220 by Sen. Russell Goodman (R-Cogdell).

More on efforts to drive sane people out of the First District Georgia Republican Party, from the Savannah Morning News.

In the hours prior to the meeting, CCRP member Sara Lain-Moneymaker vowed to introduce a resolution that would bar LGBTQ people from holding membership in the CCRP, based on religious grounds.  She said she’d make the motion from the floor.

Chatham County’s Statehouse Legislative Delegation Chairman Ron Stephens, who has served as the representative for House District 164 since 1997, said this is a critical moment for Republicans.

With a presidential election next year, he says the GOP should be vying to win over voters from the middle of the aisle, those who may not agree with 100% of the platform, and the focus on hot-button social issues isn’t the way to draw in that crowd.

“We want to be a big tent, but right now, it’s about as big as an umbrella on a Pina Colada. It’s pretty tiny,” Stephens said. “And that’s part of our problem. These fringe folks come in here and want to exclude folks who think like us. If you’re pro-tax reduction, if you’re pro-less government, great. But all of these other social issues, we need to stay away from.”

Lain-Moneymaker believes the presidential election in 2020 was stolen, and as of 2022, she was a member of the newly established Southeast Georgia Republican Assembly, a local group founded on that belief.

Governor Kemp will join me in opting-out of the Georgia Republican Party Convention this year, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp won’t address the Georgia GOP convention this summer, highlighting a deepening rift between the state’s top elected official and a party apparatus that has shifted further to the right after Donald Trump’s defeat.

Kemp turned down the chance to speak to party delegates at the June meeting in Columbus, his aides said, and will instead continue to build his own organization to energize conservative voters and elect GOP officials.

“The governor is going to remain focused on making sure we replicate our successes last November and win at the ballot box in 2024 and 2026,” said Cody Hall, a senior Kemp adviser.

Kemp’s decision was no surprise, given his ongoing efforts to distance himself from a state party that many of his allies see as moribund and ineffective.

But it still marks a turnabout for a governor who was closely tied to the state party and was greeted with cheers at the 2019 convention as he delivered a fiery defense of the state’s new anti-abortion law.

Kemp, meanwhile, is the undisputed leader of state Republicans, with approval ratings that have reached new highs and a platform urging party leaders to put Trump in the rearview mirror.

But Kemp has a tool none of his predecessors had at their disposal. He signed a law creating a “leadership committee,” a fundraising vehicle that can tap unlimited contributions. Through his committee and campaign, he raised $71 million for his reelection bid.

Kemp is expanding the committee’s mission by hiring veteran staffers to lead the organization, setting up a parallel fundraising and voter turnout structure to compete with the Georgia GOP.

More from the AJC on the Clown Conventions:

A far-right Republican who waged a failed campaign for governor with the slogan “Jesus, Guns and Babies” and a promise to “stand up to the Luciferian Cabal” was elected this weekend to chair a key GOP district.

As more mainstream Republicans abandon the state GOP apparatus or are sidelined by its leaders, once-fringe activists are taking control of the party’s key functions. And the results of this weekend’s district-level GOP meetings put that trend on display.

In the 2nd District, which spans parts of southwest Georgia, a group of “independent conservatives who want honest Republicans elected” engineered a takeover, said Jeff Jolly, the Grady County GOP chair. He made clear the district’s focus in an interview.

“We don’t trust the voting system. We’re trying to go back to paper ballots,” said Jolly. “That’s going to be our top priority.”

Activists in the 11th District also considered a resolution that condemned Georgia’s election process as an “illegal, unverifiable voting system” and demanded a switch to hand-marked paper ballots.

The organization is no longer a dominant force in Republican politics. Kemp and other officials have steadfastly avoided the state party, and a law he signed creating “leadership committees” that can raise unlimited funds enables him to circumvent the Georgia GOP and create his own infrastructure. Many rank-and-file elected officials and conservative advocates ignore the party altogether.

Jason Shepherd is a former Cobb GOP chair who has been involved in the state party for three decades. But he’s now washed his hands of the organization.

“I don’t recognize the GOP anymore,” he said, “and I’ve decided it’s time to devote my energies to better purposes, like actually helping elect Republican candidates.”

I began skipping GAGOP Convntions in 2019, after my idiot County GOP Chair took my money and failed to fill out the paperwork for most of the County’s Delegates and Alternates, disenfranchising myself. So, I kept my hotel reservation in Savannah and had a much better time than if I’d attended the circus convention.

United States Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock (D-Atlanta) visited Wilkinson County for an auspicious occasion, according to 13WMAZ.

They’ll join community leaders for the groundbreaking of the first public sewer system in Wilkinson County.

Ossoff and Warnock say they secured $6.3 million dollars in last year’s government funding package to help the city of McIntyre and Wilkinson County build the system.

The senators say Wilkinson County has worked to finance a sewer system for more than three decades.

Ossoff and Warnock are expected to speak more on the government resources coming to Wilkinson County Monday at 11:30 a.m. at the McIntyre City Hall on Railroad Street.

Athens reopened the Murmur trestle that appeared on the cover of REM’s first studio album, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Freaknik on the Beach Orange Crush has become too big for Tybee Island, according to WSAV.

In a press release, Tybee Island’s mayor estimates as many as 40,000 to 50,000 people visited the island over the weekend.

“This year’s event was admittedly too large and chaotic,” Mayor Shirley Sessions said. “But at the end of the day, Tybee Island is fortunate that no lives were lost and no property destroyed.”

At least 10 people were treated for overdoses on Saturday alone. Chatham County Police tells WSAV’s Investigative Unit it rushed two and a half cases of Narcan to the island on Saturday. Law enforcement sources tell Lead Investigative Reporter Brett Buffington two of those overdoses were during a large beach gathering near the pier.

As of Sunday morning, Chatham EMS said it had responded to two shooting calls and 11 car crashes. A day before traffic crashes made traveling to Tybee Island almost impossible, prompting an order from Georgia’s governor to add additional troopers to patrol along Highway 80.

Video from the beach party Sunday captured cars burning out in the Hotel Tybee parking lot, first responders searching through crowds and people “twerking” atop tables at the Tybee Island pier.

Even with the estimate of as many as 50,000 people, Tybee Island, in a press release, says the event was staffed by only 53 first responders, including 40 police officers and 13 fire-rescue personnel.

From the Savannah Morning News:

Orange Crush Festival, the popular event billed as a beach bash for HBCU students across the South, returned to Tybee Island in full force after its relocation to Jacksonville Beach, Florida, two years ago. In its absence, the tradition of the festival that started in 1988 and tales about previous Orange Crushes grew, drawing unprecedented numbers to the barrier island.

For many who decided to attend Orange Crush, it was their first time attending what flyers hailed “the biggest HBCU beach bash to hit the East Coast.”

However, the large gathering has drawn somewhat of an unfavorable reputation, in part to it being Tybee’s largest unpermitted event. The event has operated without a permit since 1991 when Savannah State University severed ties with the festival after witnessing a dozen arrests, a stabbing and a drowning.

The high volume of people caused traffic accidents, road rage, crowding, and complaints around drug and alcohol abuse, noise, illegal parking and litter, according to a press release from the City of Tybee.

Before Sunday morning service, Rev. Jerry Ragan, pastor at Saint Michael’s Catholic Church, discovered that the prayer angel in the church’s memorial garden, located just steps off the Butler sidewalk had been destroyed, the foot of the monument the only thing still intact.

During the event, the City of Tybee Island was covered by 40 sworn law enforcement officers, eight code enforcement officers, 23 public works employees, 13 fire-rescue personnel and seven parking enforcement employees.

In a Facebook post Saturday night, State Rep. Jesse Petrea said that Gov. Brian Kemp also personally ordered additional Georgia State Patrol troopers to Highway 80 to ensure traffic laws were obeyed. According to Petrea, GSP was not asked to assist Tybee in the event.

Darien held its annual blessing of the shrimping fleet, according to The Brunswick News.

Every boat in Darien’s annual Blessing of the Fleet Sunday got a blessing from a clergyman Sunday, but they also got a huge welcome from the crowd on the U.S. 17 bridge, the waterfront and the pleasure boats in the Darien River.

Each boat received a sprinkling of holy water under the clear sky and likely the most pleasant temperature in years.

Before the first prayer for good fortune and safety on the seas, Father Matthew representing the Catholic church pronounced a benediction.

“Bless you going out and coming in. God be with you at home and on the water,’’ he prayed.

Savannah has seen an increase in anti-Semitism, according to WSAV.

Anti-semitism incidents have been on the rise. In fact, we’ve seen the highest level of incidents since the 1970s—that’s according to Anti-Defamation League.

Anti-semitic incidents rose nearly 40% in 2022. That rise in violence against the Jewish community is what started the Savannah Jewish Federation to create its first-ever Jewish community security program.

Zeph Baker, who ran three times for Mayor of Columbus, was arrested on warrants from Cobb County, according to WTVM.

The Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant Saturday morning, April 22, at 12:45 a.m. for Zephaniah Dwayne Baker. Baker had active warrants issued by Cobb County Sheriff’s Office for the following:

Felony – Kidnapping
Felony – Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Crime
Felony – Aggravated Assault Disfigure
Misdemeanor – Battery (Family Violence Act)
Misdemeanor – Cruelty to Children, Third Degree

Baker was transported to the Muscogee County Jail without incident where he is waiting to be transported back to Cobb County.

Baker has run for political offices in Columbus at least six times dating to 2008 that include:

2008 – Ran for State Representative against then Rep. Calvin Smyre, Dist. 132
2010 – Mayor – lost to Teresa Tomlinson
2014 – Rematch between Baker & Tomlinson | Baker drops out of mayoral race
2014 – Launches City Council bid against Pop Barnes
2018 – Mayor – lost to Skip Henderson
2022 – State Rep. lost to Teddy Reese, Dist. 140 | Lost to Reese

I kind of like this bulleted-text format, since this is from a television station story, not something originally for print.

From the Ledger-Enquirer:

The Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office announced on its Facebook page Saturday that its Drug, Gang and Fugitive Unit, along with U.S. Marshals, executed a search warrant for Zephaniah Dwayne Baker that day at 12:45 a.m.

Macon-Bibb County continues its attempted crackdown on blighted properties, according to 13WMAZ.

“Some of these properties that I’ll take you to, there might be 50, or 100, or 150 or more tires,” Ricketson said.

That was the case in an east Macon yard which had hundreds of tires piled up. Ricketson said our cameras were allowed on the property because the house is abandoned.

“When you start hoarding junk or debris on the exterior of your house, out in your yard, it affects property values. It affects crime. It affects blight in your area,” he said.

“We have a form, we put all the laws that are involved in hoarder type properties to abate it. That way, when we take our cases to court, we are fully prepared,” Ricketson said.

He says if you do get a code violation, you don’t necessarily need to address the whole issue in the 30 day period. They just ask that you’re making some progress and can demonstrate that to your code enforcement officer.

Colquitt County will hold a scrap tire amnesty event, according to WALB.

From June 16-17 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., citizens within Colquitt County and its municipalities will be able to bring scrap tires to the Recycling Facility on 245 23rd Street N.E.

Only passenger, tractor-trailer or front and rear tractor scrap tires will be accepted.

Heavy equipment tires and skidder tires will not be accepted. Scrap tires from retail tire dealers or commercial scrap tire generators will be not accepted.

Bulloch County and the City of Statesboro are slowing their decision on relocating a polling place, according to the Statesboro Herald.

After hearing from Lawton Sack, who is the newest member of the Bulloch County Board of Elections and Registration and also chair of the county Republican Party, Statesboro City Council by a 3-2 vote Tuesday evening postponed its decision on a proposal to relocate the Statesboro One city voting place to Luetta Moore Park.

This follows a Bulloch County Schools staff notification to county election officials after last November’s election that the William James Educational Complex — home to the Board of Education central offices as well as the Transitions Learning Center alternative school and other classroom programs — would no longer be available for use as a voting site because of concerns for student safety.

After publishing notices in the Statesboro Herald on March 30 and April 6 of a proposal to move the Statesboro One city polling place to the community building at Luetta Moore Park on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, city officials held a public hearing as part of the Tuesday evening, April 18, City Council meeting.

He said he was there to “ask for the City Council to do the same,” by tabling a decision for one month.

The city’s decision would have more immediate effect, since 2023, being odd-numbered, is a municipal election year, with three council seats up for election Nov. 7. But no regular county, state or federal elections are scheduled until 2024.

Still, Sack said the county board wants to work with the city to find “a joint location” for the voting place.

“We have no desire for the city to vote in one location and the county to vote in another,” he said.

The idea is to avoid confusing voters by keeping one voting place for both the city precinct and the county precinct previously served by the old school gym, he said.

Georgia Lottery CEO Gretchen Corbin will speak at the Berry College Commencement on May 6, 2023, according to the Rome News Tribune.

As CEO and president of the lottery, Corbin’s business goal is to fulfill the corporation’s mission to maximize revenues for HOPE and Pre-K, ensuring that Georgia’s students continue to have access to these important educational programs.

Currently the Georgia Lottery provides $1.47 billion to the state of Georgia each year for Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship Program and Georgia’s Pre-K Program. Since inception in 1993, the Georgia Lottery has returned more than $26.5 billion to the state of Georgia for education.

Prior to her role at the Georgia Lottery, Corbin served as Commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia, the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, and as Deputy Commissioner of Global Commerce and other roles at the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Corbin has been named the last nine years as one of Georgia Trend magazine’s 100 Most Influential Georgians, she was named one of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Top 20 Women Who Mean Business, and she is one of James magazine’s Most Influential Georgians for the last three years.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 21, 2023

According to tradition, on April 21, 753 B.C., Rome was founded. The one in Italy, not the one in Floyd County.

William Shakespeare was born April 23, 1564 and died April 23, 1616.

On April 21, 1732, King George II signed the royal charter creating the colony of Georgia. The King’s signature did not make the charter effective as several additional steps were required.

On April 21, 1789, John Adams was sworn in as the first Vice President of the United States.

On April 20, 1861, Robert E. Lee resigned his commission as a Colonel in the United States Army.

On April 22, 1891, Asa Candler bought the recipe for Coca-Cola for $2300 and eventually turned its marketing from a “brain tonic” into a plain old tasty beverage.

Lucius D. Clay was born in Marietta, Georgia on April 23, 1898, the son of Georgia U.S. Senator Alexander Stephens Clay, who served in the Senate from 1896 until his death in 1910. Clay graduated West Point in 1915 and eventually rose to serve as Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Deputy for Military Government. During the Berlin Airlift, Clay helped keep Allied-occupied West Berlin supplied with food for almost a year after Soviet forces blockaded all land routes into the city.

On April 21, 1904, Ty Cobb made his debut in professional baseball for the Augusta (Georgia) Tourists in the South Atlantic League in center field; Cobb hit an inside-the-field home run and a double.

Manfred von Richthofen, known as “The Red Baron,” was killed in action on April 21, 1918, shot by either an Australian gunner or a Canadian. At the time of his death, Richthofen has shot down 80 aircraft in aerial combat.

Adolf Hitler admitted defeat in World War II on April 22, 1945.

Hank Aaron his his first home run in major league baseball on April 23, 1954, playing for the Milwaukee Braves against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Atlanta Braves won their first home game in Atlanta Stadium on April 22, 1966. The Braves beat the New York Mets 8-4. It’s interesting to look back at how the Braves landed in Atlanta.

During his 1961 campaign for mayor of Atlanta, Ivan Allen, Jr. promised to build a sports facility to attract a Major League Baseball team. After winning office, Allen chose a 47-acre plot in the Washington–Rawson neighborhood for the building site, citing its proximity to the Georgia State Capitol, downtown businesses and major highways. Allen, along with Atlanta Journal sports editor Furman Bisher, attempted to persuade Charlie Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics, to move his team to Atlanta. Finley was receptive and began discussing stadium design plans with Allen. The deal, however, ended in July 1963 when the American League did not approve the move.

In 1964, Mayor Allen announced that an unidentified team had given him a verbal commitment to move to Atlanta, provided a stadium was in place by 1966. Soon afterward, the prospective team was revealed to be the Milwaukee Braves, who announced in October that they intended to move to Atlanta for the 1965 season. However, court battles kept the Braves in Milwaukee for one last season.

A verbal commitment by an unnamed team brought the Braves here.

The Blues Brothers made their worldwide debut on Saturday Night Live on April 22, 1978. Two prominent Georgia musicians, Ray Charles (born Albany) and James Brown (died Atlanta) would co-star in The Blues Brothers movie.

On April 20, 1982, the Atlanta Braves set a major league record, winning the first twelve games of the regular season.

Former President Jimmy Carter was appointed Distinguished Professor at Emory University on April 21, 1982. Carter holds an annual Town Hall in which he takes questions from students.

On April 20, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation authorizing a $165 billion dollar bailout for Social Security, saying,

“This bill demonstrates for all time our nation’s ironclad commitment to Social Security. It assures the elderly that America will always keep the promises made in troubled times a half a century ago. It assures those who are still working that they, too, have a pact with the future. From this day forward, they have one pledge that they will get their fair share of benefits when they retire.”

New Coke was announced on April 23, 1985.

On April 21, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Israel. From the press statement released that day,

The MOA reiterates for the public record our long-standing relationship of strategic cooperation with Israel. Strategic cooperation can only succeed when there are shared interests, including the commitment to building peace and stability in the region. It reflects the enduring U.S. commitment to Israel’s security. That commitment will never flag. The U.S. commitment to peace will also not flag. The President knows that a strong Israel is necessary if peace is to be possible. He also knows that Israel can never be truly secure without peace.

On April 20, 1992, Governor Zell Miller signed legislation naming Pogo ‘Possum the official state possum of Georgia.

Former President Richard Nixon died on April 22, 1994.

On April 20, 1999, two students entered Columbine High School in Colorado and killed twelve student and one teacher, and wounded 23 others before shooting themselves.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Brunswick Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Stephen Scarlett ordered the release of Spaceport Camden records by the Camden County government, according to The Brunswick News.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 19, 2023

On April 19, 1775, British troops entered Lexington, Massachusetts, encountering 77 armed Minute Men.

British Major John Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, the “shot heard around the world” was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead or dying and 10 others were wounded. Only one British soldier was injured, but the American Revolution had begun.

Two hours later, another confrontation between the British and American patriots took place in Concord, Massachusetts.

On April 19, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln ordered the blockade of ports in “Rebellious States.”

Whereas an insurrection against the Government of the United States has broken out in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, and the laws of the United States for the collection of the revenue can not be effectually executed therein conformably to that provision of the Constitution which requires duties to be uniform throughout the United States; and


Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, with a view to the same purposes before mentioned and to the protection of the public peace and the lives and property of quiet and orderly citizens pursuing their lawful occupations until Congress shall have assembled and deliberated on the said unlawful proceedings or until the same shall have ceased, have further deemed it advisable to set on foot a blockade of the ports within the States aforesaid, in pursuance of the laws of the United States and of the law of nations in such case provided. For this purpose a competent force will be posted so as to prevent entrance and exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid.

On the same day, the first blood of the civil war was shed in Baltimore as rioters protested against federal troops. Four soldiers and twelve civilians died.

On April 19, 1995, Governor Zell Miller signed legislation declaring the peanut the Official State Crop.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Mableton voters elected Michael Owens as the new city’s first Mayor, according to the AJC.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 18, 2023

On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere and William Dawes mounted up on horseback to warn of British troops on their way to confiscate American arms and to warn patriots Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who the British sought to capture.

By 1775, tensions between the American colonies and the British government had approached the breaking point, especially in Massachusetts, where Patriot leaders formed a shadow revolutionary government and trained militias to prepare for armed conflict with the British troops occupying Boston. In the spring of 1775, General Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, received instructions from Great Britain to seize all stores of weapons and gunpowder accessible to the American insurgents. On April 18, he ordered British troops to march against Concord and Lexington.

The Boston Patriots had been preparing for such a British military action for some time, and, upon learning of the British plan, Revere and Dawes set off across the Massachusetts countryside. They took separate routes in case one of them was captured….

About 5 a.m. on April 19, 700 British troops under Major John Pitcairn arrived at the town to find a 77-man-strong colonial militia under Captain John Parker waiting for them on Lexington’s common green. Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation, the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, the “shot heard around the world” was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead and 10 others were wounded; only one British soldier was injured. The American Revolution had begun.

President William H. Taft learned on April 18, 1912 of the death of his military aide, Major Archibald Butts of Augusta, Georgia on RMS Titanic.

The honeybee was recognized as the official state insect of Georgia on April 18, 1975.

Thousands of Chinese students protested against their government on April 18, 1989.

By early 1989, peaceful protests against the government began in some of China’s largest cities. The biggest protest was held on April 18 in the capital city of Beijing. Marching through Tiananmen Square in the center of the city, thousands of students carried banners, chanted slogans, and sang songs calling for a more democratic political atmosphere.

On April 18, 2006, Governor Sonny Perdue signed legislation establishing February 6 of each year as “Ronald Reagan Day” in Georgia and celebrating the date of President Reagan’s birth.

April 18, 2014 was the deadliest day on Mount Everest as sixteen local guides died.

The avalanche, which occurred around 6:30 a.m., swept over the Sherpas in a notoriously treacherous area of Everest known as the Khumbu Icefall, at approximately 19,000 feet. At the time, the Sherpas had been hauling loads of gear for commercial expedition groups.

The disaster, in which no foreigners were killed, reopened debates about the dangerous risks undertaken by Sherpas for their typically affluent clients (in addition to lugging most of the supplies for an expedition, Sherpas are responsible for such tasks as setting lines of fixed ropes and ladders for climbers), as well as the over-commercialization of Everest, where human traffic jams during the spring mountaineering season and massive amounts of litter have become common.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

House Bill 520, the continuing mental health reform legislation died in the Senate, according to 13WMAZ.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 17, 2023

On April 17, 1944, a fifteen-year old Martin Luther King, Jr., a junior at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, traveled to Dublin, Georgia to give a speech in a contest sponsored by the local black Elks club. During the bus ride to Dublin, King and his teacher had to give up their seats to white riders and stand for much of the ride. King won the contest, delivering his oration, “The Negro and the Constitution.”

On April 17, 1950, the United States Supreme Court dismissed South v. Peters, a complaint against Georgia’s County Unit System of elections.

Each county is allotted a number of unit votes, ranging from six for the eight most populous counties, to two for most of the counties. The candidate who receives the highest popular vote in the county is awarded the appropriate number of unit votes. Appellants, residents of the most populous county in the State, contend that their votes and those of all other voters in that county have on the average but one-tenth the weight of those in the other counties. Urging that this amounts to an unconstitutional discrimination against them, appellants brought this suit to restrain adherence to the statute in the forthcoming Democratic Party primary for United States Senator, Governor and other state offices. The court below dismissed appellants’ petition. We affirm.

On April 17, 1964, the Ford Mustang debuted at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. The world has been a better, if somewhat louder, place ever since.

Also present at the 1964 World’s Fair was the Coca-Cola Pavilion, which included a 610-bell electric carillon that would later be installed at Stone Mountain Park in Georgia, where it can be heard most days.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Mableton voters will elect a Mayor and City Council members from Districts Districts 2, 3, 4, and 5 in runoff elections tomorrow.

Clayton County voters will elect a new Sheriff. From the Clayton News Daily:

In the five-candidate field, the top two candidates were Interim Sheriff Levon Allen and Clarence Cox. Allen received the most votes but did not get more than 50%, sending the election to a runoff between Allen and Cox.

Allen snagged 7,712 votes (46.96%) while Clarence Cox received 4,706 votes (28.6%).

Governor Brian Kemp spoke to the Republican National Committee, according to the AJC.

“Not a single swing voter in a single swing state will vote for our nominee if they choose to talk about the 2020 election being stolen,” Kemp said at the Republican National Committee’s meeting in Nashville.

“To voters trying to pay their rent, make their car payment or put their kids through college, 2020 is ancient history,” he said, adding that voters want to know the GOP’s vision for the future and “couldn’t care less about anyone’s sour grapes.”

He framed the ongoing criminal inquiries of Trump in Atlanta, New York and Washington as a “distraction that could cost us dearly next year if we allow it” by shifting attention from voter concerns about the economy, public safety and other pressing issues.

“We lost winnable races in swing districts and states that will be crucial to our success next year if we want to win back the White House,” said Kemp, who said the electoral backlash went beyond infighting over “unproven claims of election fraud” or frustration with the establishment.

Republican candidates who talked about “more freedom, better schools, lower taxes, less government and safer streets” had winning messages, he said. “In the other places where the Democrats pulled out unexpected wins, in my opinion, Republicans got distracted.”

Kemp added: “Voters wanted to hear about what Republicans were doing to help them fight through 40-year high inflation – not months and months of debate over whether the 2020 election was stolen.”

While Kemp didn’t endorse any rival to Trump – he has said he’s keeping an “open mind” ahead of 2024 – he challenged Republicans to seek out a presidential nominee who gives voters a “reason to like us” and has a vision for the future rather than a focus on the past.

“And third, we have to be able to win a general election,” the governor added. “Because we can’t score points if we don’t have the ball.”

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s office announced that state tax revenues in March 2023 were down three percentage points against March 2022. From the Press Release:

The State of Georgia’s net tax collections for March totaled almost $2.68 billion, for a decrease of nearly $83 million or -3 percent, compared to March 2022, when net tax collections totaled $2.76 billion. Year-to-date, net tax collections totaled nearly $23.61 billion, for an increase of roughly $1.09 billion or 4.8 percent, compared to last year, when net tax revenues totaled $22.52 billion at the end of the third quarter.

The changes within the following tax categories help further explain March’s overall net tax revenue decrease:

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections fell by $400.1 million, or -25.2 percent, to a total of nearly $1.19 billion compared to last year when Income Tax collections totaled roughly $1.59 billion.

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

• Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were up $392.9 million, or 121.9 percent
• Individual Withholding payments increased by $93.9 million, or 6 percent, compared to last fiscal year
• Individual Income Tax Non-Resident Return payments were down $70.9 million, or -49.6 percent, from FY 2022
• All other Individual Tax categories, including Return payments, were down a combined $30.2 million

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections for March totaled roughly $1.34 billion, for an increase of $76.5 million or 6 percent, over FY 2022. Net Sales and Use Tax increased by nearly $24.2 million or 3.8 percent, compared to March 2022, when net sales tax totaled $636.2 million. The adjusted Sales Tax distribution to local governments totaled $668.5 million, for an increase of $40.3 million or 6.4 percent, compared to FY 2022. Lastly, Sales Tax refunds increased by $12.1 million or 324.2 percent, compared to March 2022.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections totaled $497.7 million, for an increase of $292.8 million or 142.9 percent over last year, when Corporate Tax collections totaled $204.9 million in March.

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

• Corporate Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were up $42.8 million, or 972 percent
• Corporate Income Tax Return payments increased by $230.7 million, or 530.4 percent, over last year
• All other Corporate Tax types, including S-Corp and Estimated payments, were up a combined $104.9 million

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections increased by $1.4 million, or 0.9 percent, over March FY 2022.

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees decreased by $4.1 million, or -10.5 percent, while Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections increased by $3.6 million, or 5.9 percent, compared to last year, when TAVT totaled almost $60.6 million for the month.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:

Despite the slight decrease, net tax collections are still up for Fiscal 2023. So far this fiscal year, Georgia has collected $23.61 billion, just over $1 billion — or 4.8% — more than the same period last year.

The decrease in March tax revenues appears to be driven mostly by a drop in individual income tax collections.

The state’s chief economist, Jeffery Dorfman, earlier this year told the Georgia General Assembly that state tax revenues are likely to drop sharply this year because last year’s huge increase in capital gains tax payments is unlikely to be repeated.

Georgians may continue fishing (and boating) in all navigable waters, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The General Assembly passed a bill on the last night of the 2023 session late last month that secures the public’s right to fish “even where private title … originates from a valid grant.”

No one was questioning what was thought to be a long-established public right in Georgia until a property owner along Yellow Jacket Shoals, a small portion of the Flint River, asserted its exclusive right to control fishing from the bank on its side of the river to the center of the stream and banned public fishing there.

After Four Chimneys LLLP sued the state alleging failure to enforce the ban, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources signed an agreement March 27 consenting to the ban.

By the time wildlife enthusiasts and environmental protection groups found out about the agreement the following day, they had just one day to bring it to the attention of Gov. Brian Kemp and legislative leaders. The General Assembly was due to adjourn for the year on March 29.

“Anyone in the state could assert a claim like that,” he said. “We could have seen this popping up all over the state. … To see 1.2 million anglers in the state potentially disenfranchised didn’t seem equitable.”

But supporters of guaranteeing public fishing rights in Georgia faced a logistical challenge. The annual Crossover Day deadline for bills to pass at least one legislative chamber, which fell on March 6, was weeks in the rearview mirror.

Without related legislation to fall back on, they chose to take an unrelated bill and substitute the fishing rights legislation, leaving only the original bill number intact. That was accomplished by the House Rules Committee as Sine Die moved from afternoon into evening, with the permission of Sen. Josh McLaurin, D-Sandy Springs, the original bill’s sponsor.

The final product — Senate Bill 115 — narrowly cleared the House 93-75, just two votes more than were required to constitute a majority in the 180-seat chamber. It then passed the Senate 50-4 literally in the last seconds before the adjournment gavel came down and started on its way to Kemp’s desk for his signature.

While the fishing rights bill should take care of the issue for now, the House also unanimously passed a resolution during the last day of the session forming a study committee to examine the extent of the public’s right to fish in Georgia’s freshwater rivers and streams, including inconsistencies or conflicts in state law between that public right and private property rights.

“I expect during the interim (between the 2023 and 2024 legislative sessions), we’ll be taking a deeper dive and seeing if this legislation needs to be fine-tuned,” Worley said. “(The bill) was a really good step. But more work needs to be done.”

Speaking of navigable waters, a federal judge in North Dakota has ruled against the United States EPA in the “waters of the United States” litigation, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Statesboro Herald.

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of 24 states about the definition of the term “waters of the United States,” or WOTUS, under the federal Clean Water Act. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr helped lead the lawsuit.

The definition of WOTUS is important because it determines to which waterways federal environmental protections apply.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency finalized the new definition last month. It includes many tributaries and streams as well as “adjacent wetlands,” or wetlands close to other waters regulated by the Clean Water Act.

In the case of Georgia, tributaries would include the Tallulah River, Sweetwater Creek, and Peachtree Creek. Adjacent wetlands would include portions of the Chickasawhatchee Swamp in Southwest Georgia and Peters Bay near Lakeland in South Georgia.

That definition has been challenged by the attorneys general of 24 states who contend these water bodies should fall solely under the purview of state regulation. They want the new WOTUS definition declared invalid.

This week, District Judge Daniel Hovland agreed with the states’ request for a preliminary injunction, temporarily preventing the federal government from applying the new definition while litigation is underway.

“The twenty-four States in this case have persuasively shown that the new 2023 Rule poses a threat to their sovereign rights and amounts to irreparable harm,” Hovland wrote.

“The States involved in this litigation will expend unrecoverable resources complying with a rule unlikely to withstand judicial scrutiny,” added Hovland, who was nominated for his federal judgeship by then-President George W. Bush.

The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) is considering recommending a pay boost for caregivers, according to the Georgia Recorder via the Rome News Tribune.

The state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities is wrapping up a review of what it pays its service providers, who employ workers known as direct-support professionals.

An earlier version of the study’s conclusions received pushback from providers and advocates when it initially settled on $15.18 for these workers. That was nearly a $5-per-hour increase from today’s $10.63, but short of what providers said they need to compete in an age when retailers and fast-food restaurants are offering similar pay.

The study is just the first of a two-phase process since the review alone does not increase provider rates.

It is up to Gov. Brian Kemp and lawmakers to decide whether to move forward with the recommendations and fund them in the state budget. State Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, chairs the House budget subcommittee that draws up the agency’s budget.

It would cost about $107 million annually to follow the study’s lead, representing a 44% increase. The federal government will also match the state with more than $200 million in new funding.

The state Department of Community Health must also formally request approval from the federal government. It’s a time-consuming process that likely would not result in more money in workers’ paychecks until sometime next year.

Lawmakers signaled this session that they intend to act on the study’s findings and keep the process moving along. House budget writers added – and the Senate kept – language but no funding in next year’s budget to that effect: “Begin implementation of the 2022-2023 provider rate study pending approval by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).”

“This line item does not direct us to adopt the rates or to make use of them. (It’s) simply to begin the implementation process,” Chris Hamilton, chief financial officer at DBHDD, told the agency’s board Thursday during a budget presentation. “And again, any one of these items is subject to change since the bill has not yet been signed.”

“Nothing is final until the governor’s pen is stroked on that,” DBHDD Commissioner Kevin Tanner said to board members.

Georgia will receive nearly $300 million in federal funding from the Federal Transit Administration, with 2/3ds of it slated for Metro Atlanta, according to Atlanta News First via WALB.

The state will receive $287,252,242. The funding will help public transit agencies around the state fund upgrades, design and implement new routes and provide service to seniors and users with disabilities. The Federal Transit Administration says nearly 28,000,000 million nationwide are “transit-dependent.”

The Atlanta metro area will receive $199,000,000 of the funding.

“This funding will open more doors to Americans than ever before,” said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez. “Transit formula funding provides a lifeline for communities, and this record level of support will help create jobs, provide mobility to more people and address the climate crisis.”

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Ovita Thornton faces DUI charges, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Athens-Clarke police charged Thornton, 71, with DUI and failing to yield following a mishap that occurred at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday at North Lumpkin and Doughterty streets.

In February, Thornton was charged with DUI following a wreck on West Hancock Avenue, where police said she crashed into a utility pole.

Thornton, who represents District 9, told the Athens Banner-Herald on Friday that she was not under the influence of alcohol.

The case is unusual in that the incident report shows the responding officer engaged Thornton in a conversation and did not detect any alcohol on her or in her vehicle. He then left the scene only to return shortly afterward due to an order by a supervising officer, whereupon a sobriety test was administered and she was arrested.

“He said I failed the tests. I’m 71 years old. I cannot stand on one leg. I can’t walk heel to toe and count to 1,000 without swaying,” she said. “He didn’t explain to me I could have said I have mobility problems. He told me what to do and he demonstrated it for me and I tried to do it.”

“There’s no way in the world I thought this was going to be a DUI. I volunteered to do a breathalyzer. I volunteered to do a urine test. I volunteered to do a blood test. But according to another police officer, even though I volunteered to do those, because I failed the sobriety tests, I was going to jail for DUI.”

Warner Robins is considering putting a “Brunch Bill” referendum on ballots, according to 13WMAZ.

In 2018, the state of Georgia passed the brunch bill, allowing individual cities and counties to vote on whether or not restaurants can serve alcohol starting at 11 a.m. on Sunday instead of 12:30 p.m.

Counties like Macon-Bibb and Baldwin County approved the brunch bill in 2019. In Houston county, only Perry and Centerville have passed the bill.

Now, the city of Warner Robins wants to bring the choice to voters. Council will vote on adding an ordinance that would add the question to the ballot on November 7.

It would only effect restaurants, or hotels. Grocery stores and retail establishments would still not be permitted to sell before 12:30 p.m.

Before council votes on whether to add the bill to the November ballot, they will hold a public hearing for folks to share their opinion the bill.

Hall County Commissioners voted to accept an intergovernmental agreement with the Port Authority to cover costs of developing an inland port, according to AccessWDUN.

The agreement will allow the Georgia Ports Authority to provide Hall County with $4.8 million needed to fund the construction of roadways leading up to the inland port. In exchange, Hall County will be required to begin several projects associated with the port’s completion.

The inland port plans to work together with Norfolk Southern Railway Company, Hall County, Gainesville and the Georgia Ports Authority. Since all of the planned uses for the $4.8 million have more to do with facility benefits, and less with the actual operation of the port, the GPA has deemed this project as viable in the “spirit of cooperation,” according to the agreement.

The Inland Port is a 104-acre project that plans to link the Port of Savannah to Hall County and Gainesville, providing what officials say will be a major boost to the Northeast Georgia economy. The railroad route will offset a 600-mile truck roundtrip and decongest Georgia highways, according to the GPA.

The Georgia Department of Corrections will temporarily close Jimmy Autry State Prison in Mitchell County for repairs, according to the Albany Herald.

All of the inmates at the facility will be moved to other prisons during that time, Mitchell County Commission Chairman Hayward, who was notified of the closing on Friday morning, said. The DOC had concerns about potential contamination of the air conditioning system.

The medium-security prison with a capacity of 1,698 inmates was opened in 1993 and renovated in 1998, according to the DOC’s website. It is located on Mount Zion Church Road near Pelham.

“The only thing I know is (from) talking with the Department of Corrections,” he said. “They’re talking about closing it for a year to 18 months. They’re putting in new air conditioning, plumbing, just remodeling the entire facility.”

The DOC proposed closing the facility in 2020 to cut the agency’s budget.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 14, 2023

The Trustees of the Georgia colony learned on April 17, 1737 that Spain had 4000 soliders and two warships in Havana, Cuba and was planning on invading Georgia or South Carolina. Thus began the rivalry between then-Spanish occupied Florida and Georgia. Floridians would have to wait until after the 1873 invention of blue jeans by Levi Strauss to develop their modern uniform of jean shorts.

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 in what is now Albemarle County, Virginia. Jefferson served as Governor of Virginia, United States Secretary of State, delegate to the Second Continental Congress, and Third President of the United States. Jefferson is credited with writing the first draft of the Declaration of Independence.

The first American society advocating for abolition of slavery was founded on April 14, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Benjamin Franklin would later serve as President of the organization.

On April 15, 1776, the Georgia Provincial Congress issued “Rules and Regulations,” which would serve as an interim state Constitution until the Constitution of 1777 was adopted.

On April 15, 1783, the United States Congress ratified a preliminary peace treaty with Great Britain, which was signed in November 1782.

George Washington, recently elected President, left his Mount Vernon home on April 16, 1789 for his inauguration in New York.

“I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity; and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express.”

On April 13, 1861, Union forces surrendered Fort Sumter after 33 hours of bombardment by Confederates.

On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln as the President attended a showing of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater, seven blocks from the White House; Lincoln survived nine hours before dying the next day.

On April 16, 1865, Columbus, Georgia fell to Union forces. The Battle of Columbus is widely considered to be the last battle of the Civil War. Though it is not unanimously held to be, a 1935 Act of the Georgia General Assembly declared it the war’s last battle.

RMS Titanic hit an iceberg just before midnight on April 14, 1912. Among those losing their lives was Major Archibald Butt of Augusta, Georgia, who had served as a military aide to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

“Captain Smith and Major Archibald Butt, military aide to the President of the United States, were among the coolest men on board. A number of steerage passengers were yelling and screaming and fighting to get to the boats. Officers drew guns and told them that if they moved towards the boats they would be shot dead. Major Butt had a gun in his hand and covered the men who tried to get to the boats. The following story of his bravery was told by Mrs. Henry B. Harris, wife of the theatrical manager: ‘The world should rise in praise of Major Butt. That man’s conduct will remain in my memory forever. The American army is honored by him and the way he taught some of the other men how to behave when women and children were suffering that awful mental fear of death. Major Butt was near me and I noticed everything that he did.”

“When the order to man the boats came, the captain whispered something to Major Butt. The two of them had become friends. The major immediately became as one in supreme command. You would have thought he was at a White House reception. A dozen or more women became hysterical all at once, as something connected with a life-boat went wrong. Major Butt stepped over to them and said: ‘Really, you must not act like that; we are all going to see you through this thing.’”

“He helped the sailors rearrange the rope or chain that had gone wrong and lifted some of the women in with a touch of gallantry. Not only was there a complete lack of any fear in his manner, but there was the action of an aristocrat. ‘When the time came he was a man to be feared. In one of the earlier boats fifty women, it seemed, were about to be lowered, when a man, suddenly panic-stricken, ran to the stern of it. Major Butt shot one arm out, caught him by the back of the neck and jerked him backward like a pillow. His head cracked against a rail and he was stunned. ‘Sorry,’ said Major Butt, ‘women will be attended to first or I’ll break every damned bone in your body.’”

“The boats were lowered one by one, and as I stood by, my husband said to me, ‘Thank God, for Archie Butt.’ Perhaps Major Butt heard it, for he turned his face towards us for a second and smiled.”

RMS Titanic sunk at 2:20 AM on April 15,1912.

Hall of Famer Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians threw his first no-hitter on April 16, 1940 against the Chicago White Sox in Comiskey Park.

Jackie Robinson, born in Cairo, Georgia, became the first African-American professional baseball player in the Major Leagues on April 15, 1947, playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Boston Braves. Robinson scored the winning run in that game.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” on April 16, 1965. On April 16, 2006, a new, larger portrait of Dr. King was unveiled in the Georgia State Capitol.

The Atlanta Ladies Memorial Association was formed on April 15, 1966 to assist and honor Confederate veterans. One of its most well-known projects was the “Lion of the Confederacy” memorial in Oakland Cemetery.

Kennesaw Junior College became a senior college on April 14, 1976 by vote of the Georgia Board of Regents.

By this time, enrollment had tripled from an initial student count of 1,014 in the fall of 1966 to 3,098 in the fall of 1975. Numerous local leaders were involved in the fight for four-year status, but the two politicians playing the most pivotal roles were state Representatives Joe Mack Wilson and Al Burruss of Marietta. In time the memories of both would be honored by having buildings named for them on the Kennesaw campus

A U.S. Postage stamp bearing Georgia’s state bird and state flower was issued as part of a series including all 50 states on April 14, 1982, with first day ceremonies held in Washington and each state.

On April 15, 1989, Chinese students and intellectuals in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, mourned the death of Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaoban, considered a liberal reformer.

On April 14, 2010, a signature by Button Gwinnett, one of Georgia’s three signers of the Declaration of Independence sold at auction for $722,500 at an auction by Sotheby’s. About 50 examples of his signature are known to exist and six have been auctioned since 1974.

Happy birthday to former Atlanta Braves David Justice and Greg Maddux, who were both born on this date in 1966.

Thirty-four years ago this month “Say Anything” was released, marking the directorial debut of Cameron Crowe, who wrote “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and later directed “Singles.”

John Cusack, four years past playing a college freshman in The Sure Thing, plays graduating high school senior Lloyd Dobler. Ione Skye, three years after her debut in the very dark drama River’s Edge, plays the brilliant and shy Diane Court. And John Mahoney, four years before he found sitcom immortality as Frasier Crane’s father Martin, plays Diane’s adoring and deeply flawed father, Jim. Writer and first-time director Cameron Crowe was best-known at the time for the screenplay for Fast Times at Ridgemont High — which is fondly remembered now as the launching pad for many respectable careers, but which Roger Ebert had called “a failure of taste, tone and nerve.”

DeForest Kelley, born in Atlanta and known for playing Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Star Trek series, was inducted into the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame on April 15, 1992.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The world’s largest peanut (statue) will return to its perch in Ashburn, Georgia after suffering hurricane damage in 2018, according to the Albany Herald.

If you drive through this small southwest Georgia community just 40 miles from Albany today, it isn’t much different than it was when I was a teenager in the ’80s. The one glaring difference is that now, after regular business hours, except for people passing through the “main drag” is pretty quiet.

And there was another stop just off the normal route …”the peanut.” The Big Peanut could be seen from Interstate 75 but was surprisingly private. Back then, there were lots of trees around it, so it was the ideal spot to park and drink a beer or make out. I don’t think any of us knew (or cared about) the history of the peanut. We just thought it was a cool place to be.

Erected in 1975, the peanut and its base stood 20 feet tall, a fitting tribute to the importance of the crop to Turner County’s economy and to its farmers. It was dedicated to the memory of Nora Lawrence, a beloved journalist who was editor and co-publisher of Ashburn’s local newspaper.

In 1998, the fiberglass legume was named the state of Georgia’s official peanut monument. Twice it was the answer to “Jeopardy!” clues, and it got worldwide attention in 2014 when Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher took a selfie in front of the big nut and posted it on Instagram. No doubt about it … the peanut was a hit with locals and travelers alike.

Fast forward to 2018. Hurricane Michael made its way north from the Gulf of Mexico and hit this area hard. And like so many homes and businesses in Michael’s path, the peanut was a casualty of the terrible storm. Of course, there were more important things to do in the hurricane’s aftermath than fix a statue, so the broken peanut was stored away.

The dream of rebuilding the structure took a positive turn in the summer of 2022, when Ashley Miller, the executive director of the Ashburn/Turner County Chamber of Commerce, met state Sen. Carden Summers. Summers asked Miller what he could do for Turner County, and she said, “We’d love to fix our peanut.”

Summers spoke with Gov. Brian Kemp, and Ashburn soon received an appropriation of $55,000 from the Department of Agriculture. In addition, Ag Georgia Farm Credit donated $10,000, and The Turner County Young Farmer’s Association raised another $11,000 for the project.

Mableton voters go to the polls on Tuesday in runoff elections, according to the AJC.

Aaron Carman — the mayoral candidate backed by the group that advocated against cityhood and later pushed to be de-annexed from the city — received the majority of the votes with about 36%. He will face Michael Owens, who received just over 30%, in the mayoral runoff.

None of the candidates for Districts 2, 3, 4 or 5 received more than 50% of the vote, so those races will also head to runoff elections.

Facing off in the District 2 runoff will be Monica DeLancy and Dami Oladapo. In District 3, residents will vote for Keisha Jeffcoat or Yashica Marshall.

Patricia Auch, the candidate sponsored by the de-annexation group, will face Cassandra Brown in the District 4 runoff. District 5′s race will include TJ Ferguson and Cheryl Davis.

Governor Brian Kemp signed a number of pieces of legislation in Savannah, according to a Press Release:

Governor Brian P. Kemp today signed several education bills into law in Savannah, including the Safe Schools Act (HB 147), SB 211HB 538HB 440, and SB 45.

A key part of the governor’s legislative agenda this year, the Safe Schools Act (HB 147) builds on his commitment to keeping Georgia’s students, teachers, and school personnel safe. The legislation modernizes school safety protocols by equipping teachers with skills to protect students. It also establishes a voluntary School Safety and Anti-gang Endorsement for teachers to help them spot and prevent gang activity and recruitment in classrooms.

In addition to the Safe Schools Act, Governor Kemp signed several other important bills into law, including SB 211, which establishes the Georgia Council on Literacy; HB 538, which provides for evidence-based literacy instruction and for the assessment of student needs and literacy levels; HB 440; which authorizes public and private schools to stock a supply of undesignated ready-to-use glucagon; and SB 45, which allows parents to submit seizure action plans to their child’s school and requires the Department of Education to develop and implement training guidelines and model seizure action plans for use by public schools and school systems.

“I am honored to sign these important bills into law to make our schools both safer and more successful,” said Governor Kemp. “These bills will help improve literacy in our state and ensure our schools have the resources they need to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for both students and teachers. As governor, and as a father of three daughters, I want to make sure every Georgia student can take part in the unprecedented opportunity here in the Peach State.”

Governor Kemp would like to express his sincere thanks to Senate President Pro Tem John Kennedy, Majority Leader Steve Gooch, Sen. Billy Hickman, Rep. Bethany Ballard and others who helped to secure the caucus priority literacy legislation, and Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, Rep. Will Wade, Sen. Mike Hodges, Rep. Matt Dubnik, Rep. Chris Erwin, Rep. Bill Hitchens, and Rep. David Wilkerson for their work getting the Safe Schools Act passed. Their dedication has helped to make our schools safer and our communities stronger.

From the Associated Press via the Statesboro Herald:

Gov. Brian Kemp signed new laws Thursday that will require Georgia schools to perform annual drills for responding to campus shooters early in the school year and to perform literacy assessments for younger students three times per year to see if they can read at grade level.

The school safety bill, House Bill 147, was one of the Republican governor’s legislative priorities for the beginning of his second term. It mandates that all Georgia public schools conduct an active shooter drill involving teachers and students by Oct. 1 each year. Students would be required to participate unless local districts allow parents to opt their children out.

“We continue to put the safety of our students and educators first in the state of Georgia,” Kemp told the school superintendents. He said his safety bill “modernizes school safety protocols and equips those who work in our schools with the skills they need and want to protect our students in the classroom.”

At Kemp’s urging, lawmakers earlier set aside $115 million to make school safety grants worth $50,000 available to every K-12 school in the state.

Depending on what test is being administered, there are different estimates of how many Georgia students read on grade level. The state’s own test had nearly 63% of students score below grade level on the English Language Arts test, although state education officials note a different figure shows 64% of third graders are reading proficiently. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, a nationwide test that allows for comparisons between states, found only 32% of Georgia fourth graders were proficient in reading in 2022.

“That’s a problem because third grade marks that transition where you stop learning to read and you have to start reading to learn to go further in your education,” said state Rep. Bethany Ballard, a Republican from Warner Robins who sponsored the House literacy bill. “It’s that make-or-break turning point year.”

From WSAV in Savannah:

Two health-related bills were signed: HB 440, and SB 45. The first allows both public and private schools to stock a supply of undesignated ready-to-use glucagon for diabetic students. SB 45 allows parents to submit action plans to treat their students for epilepsy or a seizure disorder.

The bill signing took place at the Marriott Savannah Riverfront after Kemp delivered remarks at the Georgia School Superintendents Association Spring Bootstraps Conference.

Governor Kemp also signed Senate Bill 42, which increases penalties for some businesses if they fail to post required public information on human trafficking, according to Access WDUN.

The new law allows authorities to fine noncompliant businesses between $500 and $5000 for multiple offenses.

A press release from the Governor’s Office notes that Governor Kemp believes, “human trafficking is a reprehensible crime that has no place in our state or our country,” and that, “by signing SB 42 into law, we are once again sending a message that we will not rest until we have secured justice for victims and removed this evil from our communities.”

State First Lady Marty Kemp added that, “human trafficking is a heinous crime that preys on the vulnerable and robs individuals of their freedom,” and said that she is,”thankful for the Georgia General Assembly’s overwhelming and bipartisan support for this important piece of legislation and the tireless work of my fellow GRACE Commission members.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service:

The new law increases the penalty for business owners who fail to post notices that explain how victims of human trafficking can reach national and state hotlines to get help.

“This common-sense measure imposes minimum fines for failing to post required notices by public entrances, where they will be easily seen by the public, and in restrooms where victims of trafficking may be able to see the notice while away from their trafficker,” Marty Kemp said at a bill signing ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion.

“It may not sound like much, but the reality is this simple step could save lives if the notice reaches the right person. This is especially critical in busy areas where traffickers often hide in plain sight.”

Business owners who fail to post the notices in both English and Spanish can be fined $500 to $1,000 for a first conviction and from $1,000 to $5,000 for a second conviction. The law allows business owners up to 30 days to post the notices after being notified by law enforcement that they are in violation of the law.

Georgia law requires the notices to be posted in certain types of businesses, including truck stops, bars, adult entertainment businesses, hospitals, airports, rail and bus stations, hotels, and government buildings.

State Sen. Mike Hodges, R-Brunswick, sponsored the bill and it was carried in the House of Representatives by Rep. Will Wade, R-Dawsonville. Both served as floor leaders for Kemp during the 2023 legislative session and attended the bill signing along with other GOP legislators.

United States Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Extreme NWGA) held a Town Hall in her district, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“The biggest one is our debt,” Greene said. “We are $31 trillion in debt. That’s an amount of money that none of us can comprehend. None of us even know what $31 trillion would look like.”

“Great schools like LaFayette High School need to be a place where kids can be kids,” Greene said. “Kids can get a good education — not be brainwashed, not be confused to believe things about other people and themselves. I’m telling you right now: our biggest battle is not the debt, it’s to protect our children from this great lie that is being told to them — because this lie is so destructive.”

“This gender-affirming care is a medical industry that should not exist for kids,” Greene said.

After about an hour, Greene answered all the questions in the fish bowl. Before she exited the stage to Van Halen’s “Jump,” Greene thanked God that Georgia isn’t like New York City.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 12, 2023

On April 11, 1768, Benjamin Franklin was named Georgia’s agent “to represent, solicit, and transact the affairs of this province in Great Britain.” Arguably, this makes Benjamin Franklin the first American lobbyist. This is what his lobbyist badge looked like:

Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, was exiled to Elba Island in the Mediterranean, on April 11, 1814

On April 11, 1853, John Archibald Campbell was appointed Justice of the United States Supreme Court by President Franklin Pierce. After graduating from the University of Georgia at 14, he attended West Point, where his fellow cadets included Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. After the beginning of the Civil War, Campbell resigned from the Court and was appointed Assistant Secretary of War for the Confederacy by Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

On April 12, 1861, Confederates in Charleston, SC opened fire on Federal-held Fort Sumter opening the Civil War.

During the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched more than 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort. On April 13, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. Two days later, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to quell the Southern “insurrection.”

Confederate troops surrendered Fort Pulaski, on Cockspur Island off Savannah, on April 11, 1862. Part of the construction of Fort Pulaski was overseen by a young Second Lieutenant in the United States Army named Robert E. Lee.

“The General” Locomotive was hijacked at Big Shanty (now Kennesaw), Georgia on April 12, 1862, leading to “The Great Locomotive Chase.” The locomotive is now housed in the Southern Museum in Kennesaw.

The American Third Army liberated Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany on April 11, 1945. Among the survivors of Buchenwald was Elie Wiesel; in 1986, Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia.

On April 12, 1961, Russian Commienaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to go to outer space and the first to orbit earth.

The triumph of the Soviet space program in putting the first man into space was a great blow to the United States, which had scheduled its first space flight for May 1961. Moreover, Gagarin had orbited Earth, a feat that eluded the U.S. space program until February 1962, when astronaut John Glenn made three orbits in Friendship 7.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama on April 12, 1963; while there he would write his famed, “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

The Braves played their first home game in Atlanta on April 12, 1966.

Apollo 13 was launched on April 11, 1970.

The craft was launched on April 11, 1970, at 13:13 CST from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the Service Module (SM) upon which the Command Module (CM) depended. Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and the critical need tojury-rig the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to Earth on April 17.

On April 11, 1977, President Jimmy Carter hosted the Easter Egg Roll on the lawn of the White House. In the finest tradition of Georgia Democrats, Carter added a circus to the event.

The Space Shuttle Columbia became the first reusable orbital vehicle when it launched on April 12, 1981.

Congratulations to the following winners of the Masters Tournament who donned the green jacket on April 11: Seve Ballesteros (2d – 1983), Jack Nicklaus (2d in 1965; 3d in 1966), Ray Floyd (1976), Nick Faldo (1996), Jose Maria Olazabal (2d – 1999), Phil Mickelson (1st -2004; 3d – 2010), and Claude Harmon (1948), the first Georgian to win the Masters.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Some Georgia Democrats held a press conference to support two Tennessee state representatives who were expelled from the State House, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, both Democrat Black men, participated in a gun control demonstration with thousands of constituents on the House floor days prior with Rep. Gloria Johnson, a white woman and Democrat, the Tennessean reports.

The Republican-dominated legislature, made up of 73 Republicans and 26 Democrats, voted April 6 to expel Jones and Pearson, but Johnson survived a vote to keep her seat.

“The very notion of expelling duly elected representatives for bringing the demands of their constituents to the floor is disenfranchising the voters who elected them,” said Grayson Sen. Nikki Merritt of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus during an April 7 press conference. “Two Black members were singled out, and allowing the one white member to remain is the continued suppression of Black voices when it comes to critical issues.”

Michelle Au, a Johns Creek Democrat, said the maneuver by the Tennessee legislature was part of efforts of Republicans nationwide to address gun violence and reform.

“What problem have you solved? Whose interests are you serving? Is anyone safer by what you’ve done,” she said.

Freshman Democrat Omari Crawford, a Decatur representative, opined that while punishment is rarely fair or equitable when it comes to minorities, the actions by the Tennessee legislature were unconstitutional.

He referenced a 1966 Supreme Court decision involving former Georgia representative Julian Bond, who actively spoke out against the Vietnam War and criticized the federal government.

“What the Supreme Court held is that a function of the First Amendment and a representative government requires that legislators be given the widest latitude to express their views on issues of policy, and debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide open,” Crawford, an assistant county attorney for DeKalb County, said. “As legislators, we have an obligation to take positions on controversial political questions so that our constituents can be fully informed by everything that’s happening in our House.”

UPDATE: Tennessee Rep. Justin Jones was reappointed back into his seat late in the afternoon April 10 by the Nashville Metropolitan Council in his district, as permitted by the state’s Constitution.

Savannah and Chatham County are discussing whether to put a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation (T-SPLOST) on the November ballot, according to the Savannah Morning News.

In the 2022 midterm elections, Chatham County voters opted against a 1% Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST). The margin was narrow – 1,385 votes – and the referendum was held amidst a squabble over another penny sales tax, the Local Option Sales Tax, a dispute that frustrated many voters.

With LOST now settled and lower-turnout municipal elections ahead this year, there are rumblings of another TSPLOST try led by Chatham Chairman Chester Ellis.

With the population boom and expanded infrastructure needs expected to accompany the Hyundai plant, Ellis says he intends to put TSPLOST back in front of voters this fall. The tax’s approval is something he says is imperative for West Chatham residents, whether they live in Pooler, Bloomingdale, Port Wentworth or Savannah Highlands.

But Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, who was a vocal proponent of TSPLOST in 2022, says this time around he’s “reading the room.” He says he won’t support a second take on TSPLOST, which aligns with the views of his opponent in this year’s mayoral race, Kesha Gibson-Carter, who last year spearheaded an anti-TSPLOST campaign.

“I just think that November, for us, is just too soon,” Johnson said. “And the city has elections going on at that time. We have other priorities at that time, and so I’m not inclined to support it.”