Category: Georgia Politics


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading..


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The text of Governor Kemp’s speech:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the AJC:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Ledger-Enquirer:

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

From the AJC:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– A completely virtual learning model.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 30, 2020

On June 30, 1665, England’s King Charles signed a royal charter for Carolina, defining its southern border and also claiming all land in what is now Georgia.

On June 30, 1775, the Continental Congress passed the Articles of War, laying out complaints against Britain’s Parliament.

“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

Today could well be called Intermodal Transportation History Day in Georgia. The first four-lane highway in Georgia was announced on June 30, 1937 from Atlanta to Marietta. The first C5 air flight took place from Dobbins in Marietta on June 30, 1968 and MARTA rail service began on June 30, 1979.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell first went on sale on June 30, 1936; on June 30, 1986, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating Margaret Mitchell.

Superman made his first appearance in Action Comics #1 on June 30, 1938.

Ohio became the 39th state to ratify the 26th Amendment on June 30, 1971, lowering the voting age to 18.

Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing was released on June 30, 1989. Lee was born in Atlanta and graduated from Morehouse College.

The Augusta boyhood home of former President Woodrow Wilson has no changes planned to address modern criticisms, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

On Saturday, Princeton University trustees decided to remove Wilson’s name from its public policy school, citing his “racist thinking and policies.”

Wilson’s ideology makes him “an inappropriate namesake for a school or college whose scholars, students and alumni must stand firmly against racism in all its forms,” Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber said in the statement.

Wilson was born in 1856 and moved in 1858 with his family to Augusta, where he lived during the Civil War and Reconstruction until the family relocated in 1870, Montgomery said.

Known early as a progressive and champion of workers’ rights, Wilson oversaw the re-segregation of the federal workforce and made no effort to prevent states from segregating or removing African Americans from federal jobs altogether, according to a Historic Augusta biography.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Trump campaign is reserving TV time in Georgia, according to CNBC.

President Donald Trump’s campaign, facing a growing disadvantage in polls, has started reserving spots for a television ad blitz set to run in several swing states during the final months of the race.

The ad buy, worth more than $90 million, comes as some in the Trump campaign see warning signs in multiple key states, including Michigan, Georgia and North Carolina, according to people familiar with the matter.

The development also follows news that the Trump campaign reserving ad space in Georgia, a traditionally reliable state for Republican presidential candidates. A recent Fox News poll had Biden ahead of Trump there by two points.

Some on the campaign are convinced that the president faces hurdles even in Georgia and North Carolina, these people said.

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday issued Executive Orders renewing the Public Health State of Emergency (E.O. and ordering social distancing, encouraging mask use, and limiting allowable gatherings (E.O. Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 29, 2020

On June 29, 1565, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sailed from Cadiz, Spain to invade Florida.

Johan De Kalb was born on June 29, 1721 in Germany. In 1777, De Kalb joined the Marquis de Lafayette in supporting the Americans against British forces, dying in Camden, South Carolina in 1780. In 1822, the Georgia General Assembly created DeKalb County.

On June 29, 1767, the British Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, levying a tax on glass, paint, oil, lead, paper, and tea in order to raise funds from the colonies.

The United States Supreme Court released its 5-4 opinion in Furman v. Georgia on June 29, 1972, holding that the death penalty violated the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

On June 29, 1993, Governor Zell Miller bought the first ticket in the Georgia Lottery.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

HB 426 Hate Crimes Signed

Governor Brian Kemp on Friday signed House Bill 426, hate crime legislation. From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Under legislation Kemp signed Friday, prison time could be meted out for those who terrorize or physically harm others based on their race, color, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, sex, gender, or whether they have a physical or mental disability.

The added penalties would be tacked onto charges for felony crimes and certain misdemeanors like assault or theft. The most severe offenses could add up to two years extra behind bars, plus fines.

At a signing ceremony Friday afternoon, Kemp said the bill’s passage came as a “silver lining” at a time of social unrest and fears over coronavirus in Georgia. It would not solve all the state’s lingering problems with racism but marked “a powerful step forward,” he said.

“Today as we sign this bill into law, we also reaffirm our desire to put progress ahead of politics,” Kemp said. “We must do our part to ensure that our state is a place where all people, no matter their skin color, can live, work and prosper.”

Governor Kemp also toured a COVID-19 testing site in Gwinnett County on Friday, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gov. Brian Kemp acknowledged that Georgia is seeing an increase in cases of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus as he toured a testing site in Lilburn on Friday, but he resisted calling for new restrictions or measures to contain the disease.

“We’re seeing an uptick in cases and we continue to monitor that literally hourly,” Kemp told reporters on Friday. “I’ve done three or four hospital CEO calls in the last two days. We’re going to continue doing that the rest of the week to make sure we’re staying up-to-speed on what’s happening in the real world like we’re doing today at (this) testing location.”

He also said mandating the state’s residents wear face masks in public, a move some other states have been taking with their residents, is not something he’s looking at doing right now.

“Look, I have said, (and) I’m trying to demonstrate myself, that it is a good idea if you’re going to be going out to public places where you’re going to be around people for an extended period of time, or be around people in a close environment, it’s a good idea to wear a mask,” Kemp said.

“Mandating that is a bridge too far for me right now. We have to have the public buy-in. Over the last several months, the public has done that.”

Governor Kemp said he doesn’t plan any additional restrictions as COVID rates appear to rise, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The Republican governor said during a news conference Friday, after touring a drive-through testing site, that “we’re not letting our guard down. We’ve got to continue to fight hard every day, continue to jump on the hot spots, and that’s what we’re seeing a lot of in the state right now.”

Kemp cited a nursing home issue in Troop County, tied “mainly to workers in the flooring industry” and a flare-up among farm workers in south Georgia. He said he’s not considering requiring people to wear masks in public or imposing any other new restrictions, saying the ones in place are sufficient.

The state’s largest school system, Gwinnett County, announced Thursday that parents should choose at-home or remote instruction by July 10 for classes resuming Aug. 5. People will be able to change their decision after the first quarter of the school year, and the 180,000-student system could reconsider the arrangement after December.

The Georgia General Assembly approved an FY 21 budget, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Georgia lawmakers agreed Friday to a budget that promises sharp cuts but is supposed to avoid unpaid employee furloughs and layoffs in one of the closing acts of the 2020 session of the General Assembly.

The final vote by the House on the $25.9 billion budget passed 104-62, with Democrats again arguing Republicans were overly focused on cuts and weren’t doing enough to maintain or raise tax revenue for needed programs.

House Bill 793 went to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature with fewer than five days before the 2021 budget year begins Wednesday.

“In light of the drastic downturn in the economy and the drastic downturn in the revenues, I think we’ve got a much better budget than anybody thought we’d have, you know, a month and a half ago,” the Republican Kemp told reporters Friday.

A tax credit for manufacturers of some COVID-19 equipment passed the legislature, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Georgia businesses making personal protective equipment like gloves, masks, gowns and hand sanitizer will be eligible for a new tax credit under legislation that passed the General Assembly Friday.

The credit was touted by Gov. Brian Kemp as a show of support for businesses that have switched their operations over to producing important protective supplies since March amid the coronavirus pandemic.

House Bill 846 also includes changes to an existing state tax-credit program benefitting job creators that will let companies use their pre-coronavirus employment numbers to qualify for the credit.

Chatham County Board of Elections is preparing for the August 11 runoff elections, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The races in the runoff are entirely on the Democratic ballot, including the race for U.S. House District 1, Georgia State House District 163, coroner and Chatham County Commission Districts 2 and 5.

The two Democratic Chatham County Commission races resulted in results so narrow, a recount has been called. In District 2, second and third place were separated by a mere eight votes.

“We’ve already been working on it for over a week. So we’re already in the midst of this Aug. 11 runoff,” [Board of Elections Chairman Tom] Mahoney said. “It’s not something in the future for us. It’s something that we’ve already been working on implementing. And we just don’t have a lot of time.”

“It’s gonna be difficult, this challenge. I think that this is gonna be another opportunity to see the systems and touch the systems and get better acquainted with the systems ahead of the November election, where there’ll be huge turnout, but we don’t have a lot of time to prepare for this August 11 runoff,” Mahoney added.

“We had a huge voter turnout. People were able to vote, more than the last primary. They were able to do that on a new system in a pandemic. And all those votes were counted and are being recounted now,” Mahoney said. “And, you know, that’s a success. And the point is, is it’s a success due to the tireless efforts of hundreds of election workers and our staff and the Secretary of State’s office.”

The Habersham County Board of Elections found 19 ballots stuck in scanner bins and will recount votes, according to AccessWDUN.

The board met for more than five hours Saturday afternoon, hand counting each batch of ballots cast from each advance voting location in each bin from early voting in office, Habersham North and Habersham South.

Because of discrepancies from Election Day scanners, after arriving at a total number of advance ballots cast, the board traveled to the Habersham County Courthouse, where those units are stored.

As Elections Supervisor Laurel Ellison checked the bin inside each scanner, she located 19 ballots that were not included in the District 4 recount.

Ellison stressed those ballots were counted on Election Day, but not in the recount earlier in the week.

Georgia’s lawyers in water litigation against Florida are asking the U.S. Suprement Cout to deny relief to the jean-shorts state, according to the Gainesville Times.

“After more than six years of litigation, it is now clear that Florida’s case was built on rhetoric and not on facts,” Georgia’s lawyers stated in a document Friday, June 26.

The filing is in response to Florida asking the court in April to reject a Dec. 11 report by a special master who recommended that justices not grant Florida’s request for an equitable apportioning of waters in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, or the ACF Basin.

[Special Master U.S. Circuit Judge Paul J.] Kelly said in his 81-page report, “The evidence has shown that Georgia’s water use is reasonable, and the evidence has not shown that the benefits of apportionment would substantially outweigh the potential harms.”

The Supreme Court will now decide whether to accept Kelly’s recommendation as the water battle is sure to linger into a fourth decade, as other lawsuits dating to 1990 have come and gone.

Glynn County Commissioners are threatening to sue the state in order to suppress the right of citizens of the county to vote over the constitutionality of legislation recently passed, according to the Brunswick News.

“In our opinion, it’s unconstitutional,” said Glynn County Commission Chairman Mike Browning. “If (Gov. Brian Kemp) does sign it, we would mount a defense in court on those grounds.”

Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, told The News the process of allowing voters to decide the future of the county police department required three bills, all of which the General Assembly approved the last two weeks it was in session.

County officials have argued the bill violates the state Constitution’s home rule statute and the Constitutional power granted to counties to create police departments.

While the county supports the right of citizens to vote on important issues, Browning said citizens should not vote on every issue. The representative form of government the county operates under requires that some decisions be handled by elected officials.

“To think that the entire voting population can and should vote on everything that comes up, it just doesn’t work that way,” Browning said.

Chatham County Commissioners adopted an FY 2021 budget, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Because of the ongoing economic turbulence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Chatham’s new budget calls for cost-cutting measures — including a hiring freeze and a pause in most new capital-improvement expenditures — in what County Manager Lee Smith characterized as a “cautious approach for the next fiscal year.” The county’s FY 2021 spans from July 1, 2020, to June 30.

Totaling just over $205 million, Chatham’s FY 2021 General Fund Management and Operations budget was passed without increasing the previous year’s millage rate of 11.543, although for this budget item county officials declined to apply the rollback rate applicable under Georgia state law as an option for local governments to adjust property taxes to account for inflation.

Following requests from several commissioners, the county’s $40.5 million FY 2021 Special Service District (SSD) budget — applicable only to residents of the county’s unincorporated areas to fund the Chatham County Police Department, public works and other services typically provided by municipalities — did include a millage-rate rollback from 4.911 to 4.801.

The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce held a virtual fly-in with their Congressional delegation, according to the Albany Herald.

The local delegation had virtual meetings with U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop of Albany and Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton, along with Georgia Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. During the call with Perdue, the Albany Area Chamber partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to recognize the senator’s receipt of the U.S. Chamber’s Spirit of Enterprise Award, given in recognition of his support for pro-growth policies in the second session of the 115th Congress.

A key priority of the Albany Area Chamber is supporting the mission and capabilities of Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany and its major tenant, Headquarters Marine Corps Logistics Command. The fly-in’s meeting with U.S. Marine Corps leadership at the Pentagon, which included Lt. Gen. Charles Chiarotti, deputy commandant of Marine Corps Installations and Logistics, allowed for discussion of key areas including utilization of 5G technology aboard the installation to support the modernization of the industrial base and enhance mission-readiness capabilities such as talent development; 3D printing and micro manufacturing; and advanced weapons systems maintenance, storage and sustainment.

Gwinnett County Solicitor General Brian Whiteside (D) is jumping on the latest bandwagon and asking county commissioners to remove a Confederate monunment, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Statesboro City Hall is temporarily closed to the public after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners declined to defund the county police in the FY 21 budget, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Brunswick may consider zoning changes to allow a village of tiny houses to provide transitional housing for some homeless veterans, according to the Brunswick News.

Dalton City Council is considering adding CBD to their drug ban for employees, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

[L]ow THC isn’t no THC, said City of Dalton Human Resources Director Greg Batts. Use of such oils could potentially trigger a positive results in drug tests. He noted that marijuana remains illegal under federal and state law.

“But if an employee tests positive on a drug screen (for marijuana), he could say ‘Oh, that’s my CBD oil.’ And we would have no way to differentiate,” Batts said.

Batts suggested to the City Council at their Thursday Finance Committee meeting that they add CBD oil to the list of banned substances under its drug policy.

“Would this mean we can’t hire them?” asked Mayor David Pennington.

“You can hire them as long as they don’t test positive for THC,” Batts said.

Batts said that under federal law drivers can lose their commercial driver’s license if they test positive for THC whether that positive test is the result of marijuana use or CBD oil use.

But council member Annalee Harlan said she was concerned that city policy allows people to use painkillers and drugs such as Xanax that are used to treat anxiety disorders and depression if they are prescribed by a doctor but might not allow them to use CBD oil that is prescribed.

Bloomingdale Mayor Ben Rozier is embattled but still in office after Facebook posts, according to the Savannah Morning News.

For the second weekend in a row, a small group of demonstrators gathered Saturday in front of Bloomingdale City Hall demanding the resignation of Mayor Ben Rozier, whose controversial June 16 Facebook comments about “privilege” prompted widespread backlash and national media attention.

In the incident’s aftermath, on June 18 the entire Bloomingdale City Council officially requested Rozier to “tender his resignation immediately.” While this request was posted on Bloomingdale’s municipal website, as of Saturday evening, that site still recognizes Rozier as the city’s mayor.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 26, 2020


On June 28, 1742, Spanish forces based in Florida invaded Georgia.

On June 28, 1776, Thomas Jefferson’s second draft of the Declaration of Independence was presented to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

On June 27, 1864, Sherman’s Union forces attacked General Johnston’s Confederates at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.

One year later, the Military Department of Georgia was created to oversee Reconstruction in the state.

On June 28, 1887, John Pemberton patented Coca-Cola Syrup and Extract.

Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia on June 28, 1914, sparking the First World War.

On June 26, 1918, the Georgia General Assembly ratified the Eighteenth Amendment, which outlawed the production, sale, and transportation of alcohol. Governor Hugh Dorsey did not sign it for nearly a week, but the United States Secretary of State considers an Amendment ratified when the state legislature has voted on final passage.

The Gone with the Wind scene that includes the line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” was filmed on June 27, 1939, along with an alternate that used the line, “Frankly, my dear, I just don’t care.”

On June 26, 1945, the United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco.

The Berlin Airlift began on June 26, 1948 after the Soviet Union had blockaded West Berlin, which was occupied by the United States, Great Britain, and France.

The first production Corvette was assembled on June 28, 1953 in Flint, Michigan.

The first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was released in the UK on June 26, 1997.

Gone with the Wind was re-released on June 26, 1998.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Two State House members squared off in the House gallery, according to the AJC.

Georgia State Patrol officers in the building were summoned to the fourth floor to defuse the confrontation between Democratic state Rep. Erica Thomas and Republican state Rep. David Clark, though several witnesses said they weren’t necessary.

It was triggered by a Facebook post by Clark that said he was in “utter shock” over remarks on social media by another Democratic lawmaker.

Someone responded to Clark’s post with a meme depicting the garage pull rope formed as a noose that was found in NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s garage this weekend.

Thomas said in an interview that she and another colleague demanded that Clark delete the comment after they saw it, and that she was upset when he told her he would “look into it” rather than committing to erasing the remark.

The Suwanee Republican said in a statement that his initial online remarks were a reaction to a “terrible post” by another lawmaker, state Rep. Park Cannon, that he felt compared the police to the Ku Klux Klan.

“I expressed my disapproval of the post online and Rep. Thomas approached me while visibly angry. She came at me in a very aggressive manner, making me think she wanted to hit me,” he said. “Another House member got in her way and the situation then de-escalated.”

Clark’s post condemned Cannon, D-Atlanta, for using the hashtag “#KlanAtTheCapitol” below a picture of Georgia State Patrol officers stationed outside the House chambers earlier this week.

Governor Kemp joined Speaker Ralston and Lieutenant Governor Duncan in calling on Congress to pass COVID relief legislation, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Duncan, and Speaker David Ralston expressed their support of the passage of an economic relief package for businesses in the wake of COVID-19.

It includes a tax credit to incentivize personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers, including those existing Georgia manufacturers which did not traditionally manufacture PPE but began doing so in response to COVID-19. It would allow also businesses which are currently part of the Quality Jobs Tax Credit program to use their 2019 or 2020 job creation numbers to continue in the program in 2020 or 2021, ensuring that existing businesses affected by COVID-19 have flexibility as they create jobs in the state. Both measures were offered as a substitute to House Bill 846 in the Senate Rules Committee.

“Throughout our fight with COVID-19, Georgia businesses have faced a changing landscape forcing them to scale back operations and send hardworking Georgians home from work as they struggled to meet payroll,” said Governor Kemp. “Meanwhile, countless manufacturers – large and small – across Georgia have stepped up to produce critical supplies and ensure that our state remains prepared to protect frontline healthcare workers and our most vulnerable populations. We could not be more grateful for their support.”

“As we look to the future, it is incumbent upon us as state leaders to protect job creators in the state and ensure that Georgia stands ready to respond to future public health crises with a supply of PPE that can be deployed at a moment’s notice. This legislative package will shore up those efforts, ensuring that those in the Georgia businesses who have adapted to meet these challenges head on know that we have their back. I encourage members in both chambers to adopt these measures swiftly to secure a safe, healthy, and prosperous future for Georgia,” said Kemp.

“Businesses across our state have worked quickly and diligently to respond to the COVID crisis,” said Lt. Governor Duncan. “While many companies were able to work from home, our manufacturers worked day and night to provide essential supplies to those on the front line of this pandemic. Georgia is the best state to do business because of the resiliency of our businesses, large and small, who constantly evolve during times of crisis. I am grateful for the leadership of Governor Kemp and look forward to working with Speaker Ralston to get this economic relief package across the finish line.”

“Georgia is a state that rises to meet challenges, and the coronavirus pandemic is no exception,” said Speaker David Ralston. “Private businesses have adapted to meet the needs of their workforces and customers throughout this crisis. As we look ahead, we need to ensure our regulatory and tax policies support Georgia businesses as they get our economy growing again. I am proud to join Governor Kemp and Lt. Governor Duncan in calling for this economic relief package and will work with my colleagues in the General Assembly to pass it quickly.”

Throughout Georgia’s response to COVID-19, the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) has headlined efforts to support businesses, identify companies which can restructure operations to produce PPE, and coordinate with those who already are. The Georgia Suppliers Interactive Map and List, compiled by GDEcD, includes more than 260 Georgia companies providing needed protective supplies along with an interactive map displaying business location and a tool to sort supplies by category.

“These measures present a clear message to those in the business community who have gone above and beyond to protect Georgia’s families and frontline heroes and keep our workforce on the payroll that they have a home in Georgia,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “Incentivizing PPE production and safeguarding businesses which have taken a hit from the pandemic will ensure that Georgia’s future is bright as we continue creating jobs and keeping the state prepared to face future public health challenges.”

Governor Kemp announced the preparation of an 80-bed COVID facility in middle Georgia, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Kemp announced that the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency is preparing the 80-bed facility at the National Guard Youth Challenge Academy. The facility will be staged by medical personnel from PAE Staffing, which Georgia has used to staff a similar alternate care facility at the Georgia World Congress Center.

“The preparation of this smaller facility allows us to provide medical care to low-acuity patients at a location that is more centrally located for many medical facilities throughout Georgia,” Kemp said in a release. “We continue monitoring the virus data to enable us to ‘right size’ the resources and response so we can ensure every COVID-19 patient gets the care they need.”

The equipment from the Georgia World Congress Center that isn’t moved to the new facility will be warehoused in Forsyth at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center.

“Preparing this facility provides an additional safety net by ensuring adequate bed space for medical facilities and our nursing homes,” GEMA/HS Director Homer Bryson said in a release. “We want to utilize the resources that the state has already brought on line to address the medical needs of Georgia.”

LaGrange is site of a COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

LaGrange has been ranked as one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the nation, according to a data recently published by the New York Times.

LaGrange was listed by the Times as No. 2 in the nation for new deaths relative to its population and No. 4 in the nation for new cases relative to its population out of all metro areas in the U.S.

Over the past two weeks, LaGrange has had 682 new cases of coronavirus. When scaled to LaGrange’s population, that number comes out to 9.74 new cases per 1,000 persons, indicating a high prevalence of the coronavirus among the city’s population. The Times reports that the curve of new cases in LaGrange is still growing.

The Troup County Sheriff’s Office announced in a press release Tuesday the results from a mass test of its inmates and staff conducted on June 19. Out of the 316 inmates tested, 71 of them tested positive for the coronavirus — roughly a 22% positive rate. This calculation does not include the 21 inmates who refused to be tested.

CDC Director Robert Redfield said actual infection rates for COVID-19 were likely 10 times higher than the current tally, and that the pandemic is not yet over, according to the AJC.

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday said his agency now believes that, for every American who tested positive for COVID-19 this spring, there were another 10 whose cases went undiagnosed.

On a call with reporters, CDC Director Robert Redfield said between 5% and 8% of Americans are believed to have been infected with COVID-19, which means the vast majority of the population is still vulnerable to the virus.

“This pandemic is not over,” he said.

The estimate is based on recent blood samples, collected from lab tests from across the U.S., that contained antibodies for the virus, according to Redfield.

In Georgia, that could mean as many as 710,000 people have suffered from the virus. The state Department of Public Health has, so far, confirmed 71,000 COVID-19 cases in Georgia.

“We’re not talking about a second wave right now,” he said. “We’re still in the first wave.”

The General Assembly meets today in the last day of this legislative session and will adjourn Sine Die. From the AJC:

It was the scuttlebutt in the halls of the Capitol throughout Thursday: Well-connected lobbyists were making a late push for legislation that would let Georgia voters decide whether to legalize casinos, horse racing and sports betting.

Skeptics see it as unlikely. Supporters in the House believe they have the two-thirds majority needed for passage, but the tally in the Senate is murkier.

When House Speaker David Ralston calls a measure a “job killer,” it seems assured of a one-way ticket to the scrap heap. But the Senate is set to vote on House Bill 1035 anyways.

As it stands now, the measure would cut all tax breaks on the books 10% to match the 10% cut lawmakers are making in state spending because of the coronavirus pandemic recession.

The Senate adopted a measure earlier this week, House Bill 167, that would limit legal liability for companies unless they engage in “gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct or intentional infliction of harm.”

It’s pending in the House, where it’s no sure thing. Democrats, unions and other critics argue the measure would take away one of the most effective tools frontline workers have for fighting unsafe business practices. Gross negligence cases are extremely difficult to prove, they say.

The Georgia Senate passed an FY 21 budget calling for $25.9 billion dollars in state spending, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle.

The budget, which cleared the Senate 40-13 on the next-to-last day of the 2020 legislative session, would reduce state spending by $2.2 billion. That’s substantially less than the legislature’s appropriations committees had been contemplating earlier in the budget review process.

The smaller reduction would allow lawmakers to cancel all furlough days for teachers and state employees and restore some of the painful reductions that had been slated for behavioral and public health, public safety, agriculture, rural hospitals and child welfare services.

The six-member joint House-Senate conference committee that negotiated the budget deal Thursday took advantage of a more optimistic revenue forecast Gov. Brian Kemp released recently after receiving a smaller-than-anticipated decline in tax receipts resulting from the coronavirus-driven recession.

Legislative budget writers also drew down $250 million from the state’s general fund reserves and $50 million from Georgia’s share of the national tobacco settlement to help offset some of the impact of the cuts.

From the AJC:

State House and Senate leaders agreed Thursday on a final budget for the upcoming fiscal year that cuts $950 million in basic k-12 school funding but doesn’t force state agencies or the University System of Georgia to furlough staffers.

They also lessened some of the cuts to mental health and substance abuse programs, an area particularly hard hit by earlier budget plans.

House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, said Gov. Brian Kemp’s recent estimate – which showed the revenue drop wouldn’t be quite as bad as earlier expected – allowed budget writers to keep from having to ask employees to take days off without pay.

The pandemic brought record unemployment, and thousands of businesses either closed or still struggle to remain open. That, in turn, has sent state tax collections — mostly for income and sales taxes — plummeting.

Senate Bill 375 passed the State House with new regulations and fees for vaping products, according to AccessWDUN.

The House voted 123-33 to pass Senate Bill 375, sending it back to the Senate for more debate.

The bill would regulate and tax vaping products in the same way that tobacco products are taxed and regulated. Rep. Bonnie Rich, a Suwanee Republican who was pushing for the move, says estimates show the state will collect $11 million to $19 million a year in taxes on vaping products.

A Senate committee has proposed raising Georgia’s tax on cigarettes from 37 cents a pack to $1.35 a pack in a separate measure. Georgia’s current tax is the third-lowest among states. The federal government charges an additional $1.01 in taxes on each pack of 20 cigarettes. The full Senate hasn’t considered that plan, with the General Assembly scheduled to end its yearly session on Friday.

House Bill 879 achieved final passage and would allow home delivery of alcohol and , according to AccessWDUN.

The state House gave final approval to legislation Thursday allowing packaged goods retailers to make home deliveries of beer, wine and liquor. House members approved of the bill 114-45.

Under the bill, only alcohol in “unbroken packages” could be sold via delivery. Buyers would have to set up an account with the store, pay in advance of the delivery and present an ID to be scanned or otherwise verified at their door.

“It’s actually a safer and more documented process to make a purchase through delivery than it is at the counter in any retailer,” said Rep. Brett Harrell, a Republican from Snellville who sponsored the bill.

The state Senate passed the proposal by a vote of 42-9 on Tuesday, after making several changes to the House bill, including allowing for the delivery of liquor. A previous version from the House only allowed for delivery of beer and wine.

From the AJC:

Not everyone likes the bill.

While some liquor store owners told senators they wanted to be included in the delivery business, Stony McGill, a lobbyist for the Georgia Alcohol Dealers Association, said the 500 small stores he represents would be at a disadvantage because they are not set up with websites and a delivery system.

Harrell’s original bill excluded liquor stores from being able to deliver liquor to customers, but Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, added them to the measure Monday, saying local retailers need help.

“As usual, we have concerns about the expansion of the sale of alcohol,” said Michael Griffin, a lobbyist for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, told a Senate panel last week. “Accessibility equals sales, sales equal consumption. The more you consume there is the potential there for problems.”

Past-due mortgages are rising in Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The latest CoreLogic Loan Performance Insights Report for March 2020 showed 0.3% of Augusta-Aiken homes are in the foreclosure process, one-tenth lower than the 0.4% national average.

But the Irvine, Calif.-based data firm said 5.1% of area homes are 30 days or more behind, which is 1.5 percentage points above the 3.6% national average. Its data also showed that mortgages in “serious delinquency” – 90 or more days past due – were 1.7%, or five-tenths of a point higher than the national average.

Initial unemployment claims continued trending downward, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Initial unemployment claims in Georgia fell again last week as the jobless rate declined throughout the state.

Out-of-work Georgians filed 125,725 first-time unemployment claims last week, down 6,272 from the previous week, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell in all of Georgia’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and regions. Statewide, joblessness in May declined to 9.7%.

“These positive indicators are promising for Georgia’s job market,” state Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said. “I believe we are beginning to stabilize our economy, allowing Georgians to again focus on employment and spending.”

The Hall County Board of Elections Chair wants more training from the state ahead of the next round of elections, according to AccessWDUN.

Dr. Tom Smiley spoke to AccessWDUN Thursday morning just after issuing a memorandum to the Hall County Commission, praising the local elections staff, while at the same time criticizing the Secretary of State’s Office for making their jobs more difficult this month.

“To be frank with you, I wasn’t real pleased with the support that we got from the Secretary of State during this whole run up to the election process,” Smiley said. “I don’t believe that the training was adequate…they were so late in getting us information, getting us support, and then to turn around and infer that all the problems were basically the local authorities’ problems, I thought was unfair.”

Smiley said he thinks coordination of the August runoff won’t be a problem, but he wants the state to conduct some additional training for local workers prior to the November election.

“I really would like for them to give a lot of attention to training some of these local bodies,” Smiley said.

“Secretary Raffensperger was incorrect and misguided in stating that local elections staffs are responsible for training local personnel. It is the Secretary of State’s office tasked with training the trainers; a task that, in my observation, the Secretary of State’s office did poorly.” [said the memo.]

“Specifically, our local effort to prepare our election staff and poll workers was hampered by slow action and decision making by the office of the Secretary of State months before the run up to the election.” [said the memo.]

The Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections complains that inadequate funding will , according to the Macon Telegraph.

“We requested over a million dollars and we got $950,000,” board chairman Mike Kaplan said during Tuesday evening’s board meeting.

“This budget makes us look like we don’t know what we’re doing and that’s not fair,” [Board Administrative Assistant] Maynard told board members. “The county has not discussed anything with us. We have not gotten an explanation.”

Maynard listed a number of spending categories where expenses have risen, such as salaries because more poll workers are needed with the new voting machines and the increase in absentee ballots due to COVID-19.

Elections supervisor Jeanetta Watson said the county could recoup $10,000 from a grant through the Help America Vote Act. About $3,000 of the $4,110 spent on personal protective equipment could be paid for through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES Act, she said.

A grant also was available for two secure absentee ballot drop boxes the board wanted to purchase for a total of $4,246.

“The county dropped the ball and missed the deadline for getting that grant,” Watson said.

Candidate qualifying for a vacant seat on the Varnell City Council will run from July 27-29, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Savannah-Chatham County public schools continue working on back-to-school plans for the fall, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Prior to entering the school building for Tuesday’s media event, each person’s temperature was checked with a forehead scanner. School resource officers asked each person basic health questions about COVID-19 symptoms and possible exposure. Everyone wore a face mask.

“One thing that we’re learning very quickly is that the 6-feet distance is going to be a challenge. We do know that we see it in our own experiences in the community that some people just did not know what 6 feet is,” Levett said.

“We know that our young people are resilient. It’s usually the adults who have the challenges with these things, so we’ll be working with staff, parents, and students in hopes of opening on time.”

Classrooms will look different. Schools might utilize areas such as the cafeteria as additional learning space. “We won’t be able to have our typical 20 to 25 students in one classroom,” Levett explained.

Flowery Branch City Council adopted an FY 21 budget and property tax millage rate, according to the Gainesville Times.

The city’s proposed tax rate is staying the same at 3.264 mills, with 1 mill equal to $1 per $1,000 in assessed property value. Under that formula, a $250,000 home would be taxed at $326.40.

That means a hike for residents with rising property assessments. The tax bill would remain the same for homeowners who saw no change in home values.

Bulloch County Commissioners have received two proposals for an existing Confederate memorial, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Bulloch County commissioners and staff have received a proposal from the Willow Hill Heritage & Renaissance Center for a contextualizing sign for the Confederate soldier memorial at the courthouse and a counterproposal from local Sons of Confederate Veterans leader Mike Mull.

A Georgia law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019 prohibits local governments from removing or altering war memorials on public land, including but not limited to Civil War monuments. A 2017 Bulloch County policy revision – not actually a law – prohibits adding permanent monuments or signs on the courthouse grounds unless the commissioners decide that these are “deemed necessary” for the courthouse’s official functioning.

The wording of the proposed contextual marker was made public during the largest of several local demonstrations following recent nationally publicized killings of black Americans by police and vigilantes. But the Marker and Monument Committee, formed as part of the Willow Hill Center’s Commemoration of 400 years of African-American History, 1619-2019, had started planning for such a marker more than a year ago.

About two weeks ago, Mull, current commander of Ogeechee Rifles Camp 941, Sons of Confederate Veterans and a past acting state division commander, met Bulloch County Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson and gave him a counterproposal.

The wording from the Willow Hill group was based closely on that of a marker placed last September beside a Confederate monument in DeKalb County. The monument in Decatur was removed last week under a judge’s order based on the DeKalb government’s claim that it posed a danger to public safety.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners approved moving a Confederate monument, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The removal is part of a $500,000 pedestrian crossing project that also includes closing off College Square, the block of College Avenue between Broad and Clayton Streets, into a pedestrian alleyway.

The stretch of asphalt will become an outdoor dining and drinking area for a six-month trial period while workers reconfigure pedestrian crossing routes and patterns at the busy College Avenue-Broad Street intersection, where tens of thousands of pedestrians cross the streets during normal times when the University of Georgia is in session.

Under a $450,000 plan Athens-Clarke administrators and engineers prepared last week, the 19th-century obelisk bearing the names of Clarke County men who died on the side of the Confederacy will be moved to land off Macon Highway near the site of Clarke County’s only battle during the war, a small skirmish near Barber Creek and the Oconee County border.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 25, 2020


On June 25, 1788, the Commonwealth of Virginia became the tenth state to vote for ratification of the United States Constitution by a vote of 89 to 79. A committee was appointed to be chaired by George Wythe to draft a proposed Bill of Rights.

On June 25, 1868, the United States Congress provisionally readmitted Georgia to the Union following the Civil War with the requirements that they ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and never deprive any citizens of voting rights.

On June 25, 1876, Indians under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse defeated the U.S. Army 7th Cavalry under Lt. Colonel George Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

On June 25, 1888, the Republican National Convention nominated Benjamin Harrison for President of the United States; Harrison’s grandfather was WIlliam Henry Harrison, ninth President of the United States.

On June 25, 1990, the United States Supreme Court released its opinion in Georgia v. South Carolina, a boundary dispute. From Wikipedia:

A… 1922 Supreme Court decision, also called Georgia v. South Carolina, 257 U. S. 516, also held that all islands in the river belong to Georgia, but that the border should be in the middle of the river between the two shores, with the border half way between any island and the South Carolina shore.

Since the 1922 case, a number of new islands were created in the river between the city of Savannah and the ocean, due to the deposit of dredging spoilage or the natural deposit of sediments. In some cases, the new islands were on the South Carolina side of the previously drawn boundary, and Georgia claimed that once a new island emerged, the border should be moved to the midpoint between the new island and the South Carolina shore of the river. In some cases, the state of South Carolina had been collecting property tax from the land owners and policing the land in question for a number of years.

When an island causes the border to leave the middle of the river, it raises the question as to how the border line should return to the middle of the river at each end of the island. South Carolina advocated a right angle bend at each tip of the island, while Georgia advocated a “triequidistant” method which kept the border an equal distance between the two shores and the tip of the island (resulting in a smooth curve).

Richmond Hill‘s statue of Robert E. Lee will not be removed for now, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee will remain in the J.F. Gregory Park in Richmond Hill only because Georgia state law prohibits the relocation of war monuments, according to the statement released Tuesday by the city.

Mayor Russ Carpenter said Wednesday that city council is working to build a committee of African Americans and historians. He wants citizens involved in discussing the statue’s future.

A contextual marker might be added to the Lee statue, but there was no word on what that marker will include.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday did an update on COVID-19.

From WABE:

“We cannot grow complacent. This virus is deadly and remains a threat to our great state,” he said. “Let’s stay vigilant in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Kemp said people should consider wearing masks and should practice social distancing.

Numbers released Wednesday show that the number of people hospitalized with coronavirus infections rose to 1,124. That’s the highest number since May 12 and a 44% increase since the number of hospitalized people bottomed out on June 7.

From 11Alive:

He said there have been nearly 840,000 tests performed across the state at 150 testing sites. This includes 100 percent of nursing home patients – those who are at most risk.

The governor added that Georgia’s rate for COVID-19 positive tests is at 8 percent, down from 13 percent on June 1.

He encouraged residents to stay vigilant in order to stop the spread of the virus.

“Wear a mask, practice social distancing and continue to follow guidance from public health officials.”


Kemp’s remarks came as Democrats in the legislature asked whether Kemp would extend his emergency powers and the state’s public universities continue to announce plans to resume in-person instruction.

The Democrats asked Kemp to make clear what additional orders he may issue after lawmakers adjourn on Friday.

“We want to return to normal state governmental operations as soon as possible,” Sen. Steve Henson of Stone Mountain and Rep. Bob Trammell of Luthersville, the Democratic leaders in each chamber, said in a statement. “Leaving the legislative session without addressing the status of the Governor’s emergency powers would be irresponsible.”

Kemp’s office didn’t immediately respond to the Democrats’ statement.

Morehouse School of Medicine announced a partnership with the feds to address COVID in minority communities.

The Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta will partner with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fight COVID-19 among racial and ethnic minority groups.

The agency announced a $40 million award to the historically-Black school Tuesday.

It will fund a three-year program to help some of those hardest hit by the pandemic by better connecting minority communities with information about COVID-19 and how to get treated for it.

“This specific award is to have Morehouse lead a consortium of organizations to really focus on the specific educational, testing, and linkage to care needs of underserved minorities and some of those also in the rural population,” said Adm. Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary of Health for HHS, as he testified before a Congressional committee Tuesday.

“Underlying social determinants of health and disparate burdens of chronic medical conditions are contributing to worse COVID-19-related outcomes in minority and socially vulnerable communities, and this partnership with Morehouse School of Medicine is essential to improving our overall response,” Adm. Giroir said in a release.

Muscogee County reported its largest 24-hour increase in COVID-19 cases, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Muscogee County reported 128 new coronavirus cases Tuesday — the largest 24-hour increase since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data analyzed by the Ledger-Enquirer.

Tuesday’s increase is more than double the previous high of 60 new cases reported on June 9. As of June 23, 1,341 coronavirus cases and 39 COVID-19 related deaths have been confirmed in Muscogee County.

From the AJC:

As reported cases of the coronavirus continue to surge in Georgia, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis shows adults under 30 make up the fastest growing group of new infections.

The spike in cases overall and among people aged 18 to 29 in Georgia mirrors other Southern states, including in Florida, which have also begun reopening their economies. Adults under 30 now make up Georgia’s largest cohort of cases.

People 18 to 29 made up about 29% of the new cases so far in June, up from 21% in May and 13% in April, the AJC analysis shows. New cases among older adults have declined, public health experts said, reflecting stepped up efforts to protect vulnerable populations.

GPB News reports that overdoses are suspected to have risen during the pandemic.

Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state commissioner of the Department of Public Health, outlined the rise in suspected drug overdoses in a June 19 memo. She said the agency was alerting its “partners to be vigilant about any unusual drug overdose activity” and that the department “needs your help to determine if an increase in drug overdoses is truly occurring.”

“Over the past several weeks, our syndromic surveillance system has picked up increasing drug-overdose involved Emergency Department visits throughout Georgia,” Toomey said.

The increase of suspected overdoses comes as lawmakers are considering drastic budget cuts due to the pandemic crippling the state’s economy. Advocates of addiction recovery say now is not the time to gut mental and behavioral health services.

“People get services which keep them out of jail, out of hospital emergency rooms, while working and paying taxes,” [Georgia Council on Substance Abuse spokesman Jeff] Breedlove said. “Eliminating these transformational recovery community organizations will wreak havoc in towns and cities across Georgia.”

The Office of National Drug Control Policy’s Overdose Data Mapping Application Program showed a 16.6% increase in suspected overdose submissions from January to April this year as compared to the same period in 2019, according to a May 13 ODMAP report. The nationwide and state data suggest the pandemic spurred increased drug use and overdose.

The Chatham County Board of Elections is recounting votes in the Commission District 2 Democratic Primary with only 8 votes separating second and third places, according to the Savannah Morning News.

According to Chatham County’s complete Democratic primary election results issued on June 19, Clinton Edminster emerged as the top vote getter with a turnout of 36.68% (2,099 votes), while Tony B. Riley bested Michael J. Hamilton, Sr. by eight votes — Riley’s total was 31.73% (1,816 votes) while Hamilton garnered 31.59% (1,808 votes).

With no candidate earning a majority vote share in the race to represent District 2, which primarily encompasses central Savannah, the two best-performing Democrats will conclude the primary in Georgia’s runoff elections, scheduled for August 11.

On Wednesday afternoon, Hamilton stated in an e-mail that he requested the recount. Chatham Board of Elections Assistant Supervisor Lynn Trabue confirmed that this recount was launched on Wednesday morning, but could not provide further details about the procedure.

A grand jury indicted Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. in the Ahmaud Arbery killing, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

“This is another positive step, another great step for finding justice for Ahmaud, for finding justice for this family and the community beyond,” [Prosecutor Joyette] Holmes said at a news conference outside the Glynn County courthouse in Brunswick that was streamed online by news outlets.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case after the video surfaced. The state attorney general appointed Holmes, who’s the district attorney in Cobb County near Atlanta, to prosecute after the local district attorney recused herself because Greg McMichael had worked for her — and two other outside prosecutors also stepped aside.

In addition to malice murder and felony murder charges, the McMichaels and Bryan each are charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

Even if Gov. Brian Kemp signs the state hate crimes legislation passed this week, it couldn’t be applied retroactively to this case, Holmes told reporters. The U.S. Department of Justice has said it’s assessing whether federal hate crimes charges are appropriate.

The State House and Senate appear to disagree over raising tobacco taxes, according to the AJC.

A key House panel on Wednesday approved a 7% excise tax on vaping devices and products but didn’t take up an increase in cigarette taxes.

House Ways & Means Chairman Brett Harrell, R-Snellville, indicated that adding a cigarette tax hike to the vaping bill – Senate Bill 375 – would doom its chances.

The Senate Finance Committee last week approved raising the cigarette tax rate from 37 cents per pack to $1.35.

State officials said earlier this year that the tax and licensing fees would raise between $9.6 million and $14.5 million in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins next Wednesday.

The cigarette tax increase approved by the Senate committee would raise more than $400 million a year.

Senate Bill 416 will cut legislators’ pay by 10 percent and passed the State House, according to AccessWDUN.

After a lengthy debate, the House voted 106-51 in favor of Senate Bill 416, sending it back to the Senate for consideration of House changes.

The bill would cut lawmakers’ yearly salary of more than $17,350 by 10% in the budget year beginning July 1. Lawmakers would still get their full daily expense pay. Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan’s pay of nearly $92,000 a year would be cut by 14%, a cut he has volunteered for.

The Senate on Tuesday approved an 11% cut for lawmakers in a different bill.

“As elected officials, this is an important step, an important message,” said Rep. Houston Gaines, a Republican from Athens who introduced the bill.

Senate Bill 463 has been amended to prevent a future mailing of absentee ballot applications, according to the Gainesville Times.

Senate Bill 463 proposes several changes to Georgia election law, including giving county election officials leeway in deciding how many voting machines they’ll need for certain elections. It was amended Wednesday morning in the House Governmental Affairs Committee to include language that would block Raffensperger’s office as well as counties from proactively mailing out absentee ballot applications.

Raffensperger pushed back in a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying that “By a wide margin, voters on both sides of the political spectrum agree that sending absentee applications to all active voters was the safest and best thing our office could do to protect our voters at the peak of COVID-19. Some seem to be saying that our office should have ignored the wave of absentee voting that was clearly coming.”

Republican Rep. Shaw Blackmon, chairman of the committee, said the change is meant to help county election officials avoid being flooded with absentee ballot applications, as happened in some counties before the June 9 primary.

“There’s no attempt in any way to remove the ability to request or vote in this particular manner,” Blackmon said. “It just is a capacity issue.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:

The House Governmental Affairs Committee tacked the proposal onto a measure, Senate Bill 463, that aims to curb wait times at polling places by splitting up large precincts into smaller ones and establishing less restrictive rules for signatures to match what is shown on a voter’s ID card.

The bill was also amended Wednesday to allow poll workers to work in precincts outside the county in which they live and raise the age for moving elderly voters to the front of the line at polling places from 70 to 75 years old.

An amendment to Senate Bill 463 brought in the House committee would prevent elections officials from sending out “unsolicited absentee ballot applications.”

From the AJC:

“This does not in any way prevent anyone from asking for an absentee ballot or voting absentee,” said House Governmental Affairs Chairman Shaw Blackmon, a Republican from Bonaire. “All this says is that we’re not going to flood … this with unsolicited absentee ballots so that we actually create some problems for our counties.”

Voters would have to download an absentee ballot request form and return it to their county election offices, or they could apply through an absentee ballot request website that Raffensperger is creating. The committee also passed a requirement in the bill to create that absentee ballot website.

Senate Bill 408 will allow the continuation of some unemployment benefits and passed both chambers, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

Amid the pandemic, those who qualified for unemployment benefits were granted leeway to collect payments for up to 26 weeks instead of the usual 14 weeks, and enjoyed a boost in the allowance rate that let them keep up to $300 per week in wages earned – instead of the usual $50 – on top of their benefits.

Those expanded benefits are set to expire once Gov. Brian Kemp ends the state’s public health emergency, which currently runs through June.

“Those provisions are temporary and they will end,” Jeffrey Babcock, the labor department’s legal services manager, told state lawmakers last week.

But language added to the bill by Strickland, R-McDonough, would let the state labor commissioner keep those expanded benefits largely in place, depending on the state’s jobless rate.

“The purpose of this bill is to get some more permanence to that,” Babcock said.

The number of weeks would increase incrementally from 14 weeks when the state’s jobless rate is 4.5% up to 26 weeks when the jobless rate is 10% or higher. The labor commissioner would also have authority to set the weekly deductible threshold at between $50 and $300.

House Bill 987 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) will add protections for some senior living patients and passed the Senate, according to the AJC.

The House unanimously signed off on the Senate’s version of the bill, which added requirements for handling COVID-19 to the bill’s reforms of the senior care industry.

“I am so proud of Georgia’s House and Senate for making the necessary changes to ensure the safety of our seniors who choose to live in assisted living facilities,” said Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, the lead sponsor of the bill.

Kemp has said he strongly supports the legislation, which will bring dramatic changes to the state’s assisted living communities and large personal care homes. Memory care units would have to get certified and have more staff, directors would have to be licensed and homes that break the rules would face higher fines. Assisted living homes would be required to have nurse staffing. Homes would also have to disclose financial problems to residents and families.

Plus, senior care homes must plan for a pandemic, have a short-term supply of personal protective gear, test residents and staff and notify residents and families of an outbreak.

Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke is accepting applications to restrict conviction records from employment searches, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Georgia law provides for the restriction of certain criminal history records for non-criminal justice purposes, such as employment, when approved by a prosecuting attorney, according to Cooke’s office. Eligible individuals include people whose cases were disposed of without a conviction, who successfully completed a pre-trial intervention or diversion program or who were convicted of certain misdemeanors under age 21.

“Eligible individuals can now submit applications from the convenience of a computer or smartphone, and without a fee,” Cooke announced in May. “I believe in second chances, and this service will give many people opportunities that were previously out of reach.”

Senate Bill 288 would allow the removal of minor offenses from criminal record checks, and passed the state Senate, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The measure by Sen. Tonya Anderson, D-Lithonia, aims to give people with first-time misdemeanor and non-violent felony convictions in Georgia the ability to petition superior courts to have those records shielded from public view.

Senate Bill 288 cleared the state Senate by a unanimous vote Wednesday afternoon after gaining passage in the House earlier in the day. It now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.

“This bill is intended to give people a second chance, have their records restricted and position them for reemployment, for housing and to go back to school,” Anderson said from the Senate floor Wednesday.

If signed into law, Anderson’s bill would require qualified ex-offenders to wait until four years after completing their sentences before filing a petition. They would have to keep a clean record during that time.

The Judicial Nomination Commission sent a short list to Governor Kemp for the remainder of the term of office of the late Richmond County Chief Magistrate Judge William D. Jennings III, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Dalton and Whitfield County are studying efficiencies in providing fire services but disagree over whether they’re interested in considering consolidation, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Brunswick City Commissioners passed an FY21 budget with 7.5% less spending, according to The Brunswick News.

Albany City Commissioners passed a $289 million dollar FY 21 budget, according to the Albany Herald.

Richmond County public schools adopted a tentative budget including five furlough days, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Early College Program will also be discontinued due to House Bill 444, also known as the ‘Dual Enrollment Act,’ which reduced state funding and limited the number of hours a student can dual enroll to 30.

“Prior to House Bill 444, it was unlimited…that’s why we had the Early College Program to help facilitate that,” Jacobs said. “When they reduced that to 30 hours as the max that students can take, having a separate early college program is just not a sustainable model anymore.”

Nevertheless, students will still be able to take dual enrollment courses.

In addition, Quality Basic Education funding has been cut by 14 percent, which equates to $24,538,485. However, Jacobs said because the district received $10 million in CARES Act funding, it comes out to more of a $14 million cut.

Clarke County public schools will require masks when school reopens in the fall, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Clarke County schools will require students, teachers and other school workers to wear face coverings when classes begin in August.

Anyone entering a school building will also be required to take a temperature check, the school district announced in a recent update of its plans for reopening after this spring’s closure because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Like most other school districts, Clarke has not settled on a final plan as the pandemic continues with the number of cases and hospitalizations on the rise again statewide.

Buford City Schools will provide Chromebooks to all students, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“In March, when our schools had to abruptly close, we became keenly aware of the digital divide within our district,” Downs said. “In response to this need, our Curriculum and Technology Departments quickly expedited a plan to provide devices for each K-12 student in the fall. With the next several months being so uncertain, this helps ensure all students have equitable access for their education.”

The Chromebooks are expected to be distributed to students at the beginning of the school year. School system officials saying that the chances of spreading viruses to each will be reduced because they will not be sharing computers.

While the rules school systems are putting in place will allow middle and high school students to carry their computers between school and their homes, elementary school students will have to leave their Chromebooks in their classrooms, according to the district.

School system officials said the “1:1 initiative” is being partially funded with money from the CARES Act Relief Fund to ensure it’s feasible before the school year begins.

Clayton County public schools will return in fall on an alternating schedule, according to the Clayton News-Daily.

Students will be divided into two groups — A and B. Group A students will attend classes in their school buildings on Monday and Wednesday. Those in Group B will attend school on Tuesday and Thursday. All students will participate in virtual learning days on Fridays.

The Floyd County Public Defender’s Office is temporarily shut after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Rome News Tribune.


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


On June 24, 1497, John Cabot first sighted North America, claiming it for the British Crown.

On June 24, 1795, the United States Senate voted to ratify Jay’s Treaty between the UK and United States. The terms of the treaty required an appropriation from the U.S. House of Representatives to implement it, and Congressional opponents tried to defeat the appropriation, which was approved by a 51-48 margin on April 30, 1796. Click here for more background on the treaty and controversy.

On June 24, 1853, President Franklin Pierce signed the Gadsden Purchase, acquiring what it now southern Arizona and New Mexico from Mexico.

General Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River toward Pennsylvania on June 24, 1863.

John R. Lynch was the first African-American elected Chairman of the Republican National Convention on June 24, 1884; Lynch was nominated by Theodore Roosevelt.

Woodrow Wilson married Ellen Louise Axson of Rome, Georgia in Savannah on June 24, 1885.

On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blockaded West Berlin from all road, rail, and barge traffic.

Following World War II, Germany was divided into occupation zones. The United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and, eventually, France, were given specific zones to occupy in which they were to accept the surrender of Nazi forces and restore order. The Soviet Union occupied most of eastern Germany, while the other Allied nations occupied western Germany. The German capital of Berlin was similarly divided into four zones of occupation.

The United States response came just two days after the Soviets began their blockade. A massive airlift of supplies into West Berlin was undertaken in what was to become one of the greatest logistical efforts in history. For the Soviets, the escapade quickly became a diplomatic embarrassment. Russia looked like an international bully that was trying to starve men, women, and children into submission. And the successful American airlift merely served to accentuate the technological superiority of the United States over the Soviet Union. On May 12, 1949, the Soviets officially ended the blockade.

General Lucius D. Clay of Marietta, Georgia was military Governor of occupied Germany at that time.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show was released in West Germany on June 24, 1977. It’s astounding.

Rickey Henderson made his major league debut with the Oakland A’s on June 24, 1979, stealing his first base.

On June 24, 1982, the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution was defeated, having garnered the ratification of thirty-five states, three shy of the requisite Constitutional Majority.

Hopes for ratification before the deadline next Wednesday were dashed this week when the amendment was rejected by the Illinois House and the Florida Senate, two states in which supporters felt they had a fighting chance.

Had Illinois and Florida ratified the amendment, there was at least some chance that either Oklahoma or North Carolina would have provided the final needed vote.

Prospects were far slimmer in the other nonratifying states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

Phyllis Schlafly, a leader of a group called Stop-ERA, hailed the defeat of the amendment tonight, saying: ”They realized E.R.A. is dead and I think that that is an admission they have lost the battle. My feeling is that E.R.A. will take its place with the prohibition and the child labor amendments as ones which did not have enough support of the American people to be in the Constitution.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections



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Governor Brian Kemp agreed earlier this week to allow appropriators to spend up to $250 million dollars from the state’s rainy day fund in the FY 21 budget, according to Fox28 in Savannah.

Kemp agreed to tap the state’s piggy bank Monday as he set a new revenue estimate for the 2021 budget year. The Republican governor cut the ceiling for spending state-collected revenue from $28.1 billion to $25.9 billion.

Kemp’s new estimate of $2.2 billion less in state funds is actually an improvement over earlier outlooks. It will equal a 10% funding cut for state agencies, K-12 schools, universities and colleges. That’s down from earlier forecasts of as much as 14% reductions.

From the Gainesville Times:

The state-federal Medicaid program will be fully funded, thanks to another $50 million in tobacco money that Kemp allotted Monday, plus increased federal aid because of the pandemic, but Georgia is on track for reduced capacity to treat substance abuse and mental health problems.

The state could spend $1 billion of the $2.7 billion rainy day fund to close the budget gap for the year ending June 30. Some money will come back when Georgia collects state income taxes in July after delaying them from April. That money is supposed to be placed into the current budget, reducing the deficit.

Kemp wrote that he was dipping further into the savings account “to mitigate the impact of this revenue decline on operations of state government and our local education authorities.”

House and Senate lawmakers are in final talks over a budget, needing to reach an agreement before the legislative session ends Friday.

From the Georgia Recorder:

The Republican-led effort [to raise the tobacco tax] would raise the state’s current 37-cent per pack rate up to $1.35, which rivals what Florida charges its smokers. People would pay $1.25 per fluid milliliter or cubic centimeter for vapor products, which are not taxed today.

Alternative nicotine products, such as pouches or dissolvable strips, would be taxed at 10% of wholesale cost, treating them the same as loose and smokeless tobacco. The bill, though, also lowers the tax on cigars, taking it from 23% of wholesale cost to 12%.

“Every time a pack of cigarettes are bought it results in all of us paying $5 in health costs we subsidize with our income taxes,” Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, a Rome Republican, tweeted after his Finance Committee backed the bill Friday. “98 cent increase is very reasonable. Quit making taxpayers pay for other’s choices.”

The sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Randy Robertson, a Cataula Republican, said he proposed raising the tax rate last spring – a year before the pandemic dampened state revenues. He and others argue that taxpayers are subsidizing smokers’ habits, equating the tax to a user fee.

“We’re basically asking somebody to help pay their health care premium,” Robertson said, referring to the cost to the state’s Medicaid program for treating cigarette-related diseases.

The House Governmental Affairs Committee heard from the Secretary of State about this month’s election debacle, according to the AJC.

Raffensperger, a Republican, responded that election officials need to add voting locations, improve hands-on training and encourage early voting. He said he’s reaching out to community groups such as Rotary Clubs, Boy Scouts and sororities to ask whether they can host precincts.

“You need larger polling locations or you need more polling locations,” Raffensperger said. “The most important thing obviously is training, training and retraining, and having more technicians in there.”

Raffensperger said he plans to put a tech support expert in every voting location in November after poll workers struggled to set up voter check-in tablets, touchscreens and printers for the primary. Georgia’s $104 million voting system prints out paper ballots for the first time after 18 years of the state’s reliance on electronic voting.

State Rep. Darlene Taylor, a Republican from Thomasville, said county election officials need to take responsibility for accommodating their voters.

“I feel like we’re pointing fingers everywhere,” Taylor said. “These are things that need to be done at the county level. This goes back on our local folks to get it done.”

But election officials acknowledged Tuesday that they’ll face similar difficulties again if the coronavirus doesn’t subside before the presidential election, when 5 million voters are expected — more than double the 2.2 million turnout in the primary.

The Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 426, hate crimes legislation, and sent it to Gov. Kemp for his signature or veto, according to WTOC.

The bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 47-6 and a House vote of 127-38, stiffens penalties and sentences when a defendant is convicted of a hate crime, meaning the victim was chosen specifically because of their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.

If the hate crime a defendant is convicted of is a misdemeanor, they will receive a prison sentence of at least six months, but no more than one year and a fine of no more than $5,000.

If the hate crime a defendant is convicted of is a felony, they will receive a prison sentence of at least two years and a fine of no more than $5,000.

It also requires law enforcement officers to submit a report on any case they investigate in which they believe a hate crime to have taken place. This data will then be used for statistical purposes.

From the Dalton Daily Citizen News:

The legislation extends protections to people who are targeted on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, or physical or mental disability. It gives judges the ability to enhance criminal penalties for people convicted of a felony or one of a list of misdemeanors and was found to be motivated by hate.

The bill is now on its way to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk whose office said in a statement: “Governor Kemp commends the General Assembly’s bipartisan work and will sign House Bill 426 pending legal review.”

Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, led the longtime efforts to get the legislation passed — before videos of hate-crimes and police brutality shook the country into nationwide protests and spurred calls for action from the government.

“I’ve been in the House for 46 years and I’ve seen a lot, and I’ve had a lot of moments in my career but today is the finest,” said an emotional Smyre, who co-sponsored the bill along with Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

The price Republicans exacted for moving that legislation forward was simultaneous passage of a separate bill that would mandate penalties for crimes targeting police and other first responders.

The action comes after Senate Republicans had added police as a protected class to the hate crimes legislation last week in committee, but then later moved those protections to a separate bill in a deal between the parties.

Democrats on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly against House Bill 838, which includes the increased protections for first responders. The hate crimes legislation, House Bill 426, had bipartisan support, though some conservatives voted against it.

Ralston told reporters that he had “rejected” the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote along party lines to add police and emergency personnel and that he “communicated” that to Senate leaders.

“Frankly that disturbed me because I thought it was extremely important that this be a bipartisan bill,” Ralston said. “You don’t pass a hate crimes bill, which is a piece of legislation with this kind of historic nature and consequence, along party lines.”

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Rep. Chuck Efstration, who sponsored the legislation, reflected on the historic nature of the bill, which if signed by Gov. Brian Kemp would make Georgia no longer one of four states in the U.S. that does not have a hate-crimes law on the books.

“[This bill will] send a strong message that there’s no place for hate in Georgia,” said Efstration, R-Dacula.

“There are very few times that members of this legislative body get called upon at a defining moment in our history,” said [House Speaker David] Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “But this is a defining moment in Georgia.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The General Assembly passed legislation Tuesday aimed at protecting police and other first responders from bias-motivated crimes, marking a compromise between state lawmakers over who should be included in legislation outlawing hate crimes.

The measure, House Bill 838, was overhauled late Monday night to propose punishments for those who commit bias-motivated intimidation against first responders including police officers, firefighters and medics.

That intimidation would have to be motivated because of the victim’s “actual or perceived employment as a first responder,” and would have to involve serious physical injury or property damage.

Senate Bill 435 by State Sen. Brian Strickland (R-Henry County) passed and would allow former sex trafficking victims to petition to vacate convictions for crimes committed while a trafficking victim, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The House unanimously passed The Debbie Vance Act, named for a survivor of human trafficking. Like others who have emerged on the other side of human trafficking, she faced obstacles to moving on with her life, said Georgia Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, who presented the bill on the House floor.

“Victims of human trafficking often come out with criminal arrests and convictions … that can prevent these victims from getting a job, housing and education,” Rich said.

The legislation, which originated in the Senate, is part of a package of human trafficking bills Gov. Brian Kemp has made a priority of his administration for this year’s General Assembly session.

House Bill 1094 was amended in the Senate to include a 10% pay cut for legislators, according to AccessWDUN.

Senators voted 43-3 on Tuesday to pass House Bill 1094, sending it back to the House for more debate.

As now written, the bill would cut lawmakers’ yearly salary of more than $17,350 by 11% in the budget year beginning July 1. Lawmakers would still get their full daily expense pay. Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan’s pay of nearly $92,000 a year would be cut by 14%.

“It is making a statement that we’re all in this together,” said state Sen. Jeff Mullis, a Chickamauga Republican who earlier presented a bill to study raising salaries.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, a Vidalia Republican, has said that House budget negotiators have agreed, in general, to cut spending in their chamber. Representatives have yet to take a vote on a direct pay cut to themselves, though. Lawmakers are expected to wrap up talks on spending nearly $26 billion in state revenue by Friday.

House Bill 879 by State Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) passed out of the State Senate and sets the table for home delivery of alcohol, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The Georgia Senate passed legislation Tuesday allowing restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses licensed to sell alcohol to make home deliveries of beer and wine in Georgia.

Senate passage of House Bill 879, sponsored by Rep. Brett Harrell, comes after many Georgians clamored for alcohol deliveries amid recent stay-at-home orders prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

It cleared the Senate by a 49-9 vote and now heads back to the state House of Representatives.

Liquor stores would also be allowed to make deliveries after Senate lawmakers pushed through an amendment to the bill late Tuesday permitting them to do so. Backers of that change said letting liquor stores join the delivery bunch would help many mom-and-pop businesses keep afloat.

From the AJC:

Kathy Kuzava, a longtime lobbyist for the grocery store industry, said some of the retailers she represents saw an increase in delivery sales of more than 100% during April.

“This is becoming more important to our retailers,” she told a Senate committee last week. In passing the bill, she told lawmakers: “You are making a lot of customers and retailers happy in this state. Your constituents will be very happy.”

Karen Bremer, the CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association, asked lawmakers to make sure her businesses would be allowed to continue delivering.

“Fifteen weeks ago I represented an industry that was the second-largest private employer in the state,” she said. “We were on track to do $25 billion in revenue this year and employed 500,000 people.”

Bremer put losses since the March onset of the pandemic at $4.8 billion statewide, and she said 300,000 employees have been laid off.

Under the delivery bill, beer or wine couldn’t just be left on the front porch like Amazon deliveries. The delivery person would have to check IDs to make sure the buyer is old enough to purchase alcohol.

House Bill 167, gutted, stuffed, and retitled the “Georgia Pandemic Business ProtectionAct,” would protect businesses that followed directives related to COVID-19, according to the Cherokee Tribune and Ledger News.

House Bill 167 would block lawsuits from being filed unless businesses or hospitals willfully disregarded social distancing and sanitizing rules put in place by Gov. Brian Kemp.

It would apply to lawsuits brought by people who contracted coronavirus on a broad range of properties including hospitals, government offices, businesses and sports facilities.

The liability protections are designed to give businesses and hospitals relief from worries that they will be hammered by litigation as coronavirus infections continue and Georgia businesses reopen amid relaxed social distancing rules, said Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon.

“We can provide them some stability and, very importantly, provide them predictability,” said Kennedy, who brought the changes that added liability protections to the bill.

The bill passed by a nearly party-line vote in the Senate and now heads to the state House of Representatives.

The Bulloch County Board of Education is considering how to restart in-person school in Augusta, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The state plan recommends three tiers of steps based on the level of community spread of the coronavirus, to be determined by state and local health officials.

At this point, the intent of Wilson and the board is to start face-to-face classes Aug. 3 as originally scheduled, while also offering an online, at-home learning option for sixth grade through 12th grade, he said in a phone interview Tuesday. At least that is the plan if the “community spread” determination is in the green, “Low or No Spread,” or yellow, “Minimal or Moderate Spread” columns.

“What we got into with the board on that is we do plan to go back to school,” Wilson said. “Our plan is to start school back on August 3rd as scheduled, you know, face-to-face school … and we would follow the state’s guidance to do so.”

The University of Georgia will begin in-person classes August 20 and end the semester at Fall Break, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The final exams slated for Dec. 11-17 also remain as originally scheduled, but “it is essential that faculty plan for final exams being online,” according to UGA’s “Initial Guidelines for Fall Semester Instruction” sent to faculty and staff Tuesday.

Although in-person classes won’t be held between Thanksgiving and finals, the university anticipates many students will return to Athens or remain during the break, so the campus will stay open until the end of the semester with regular services such as housing, dining and campus transit.

Former State Senator Curt Thompson has asked for a recount of ballots in the Gwinnett County Commission Chair race in which he missed making the runoff by 20 votes, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Due to the incredibly small 20 vote margin (out of more than 100,000 votes cast) in the race for county commission chair, my campaign is eligible to request a recount under Georgia law, and has opted to do so,” Curt Thompson said in an email to supporters on Tuesday.

“Gwinnett County experienced record voter turnout for the June 9th Primary election, and with that record turnout came a number of problems with voting in-person and via absentee by mail,” Thompson said. “I have long been a champion of protecting voting rights and ensuring all of our elections are conducted in a free and fair manner. We must recognize these problems and address them to protect our democracy for current and future generations.”

“Regardless of the outcome of the recount related to my race, I am confident that this recount is an opportunity to examine issues with voting in this county, and ensure that both the August runoff and November general election are run more smoothly and that voters have a better experience.”

The winner of the Democratic primary runoff will face Republican David Post in November.

Jefferson City Council revised the alcohol ordinance to allow micro-breweries and taverns among other changes, according to AccessWDUN.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 23, 2020

On June 23, 903 AD, the Icelandic Parliament, the Althing or Althingi, was established and is the world’s oldest.

In honor of the Icelandic Parliament, here’s the greatest Icelandic band ever, the Sugarcubes, playing at Auburn in 1988.

Off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, British Commodore Sir Peter Parker spent June 23, 1776 preparing to land the next day, charged with supporting loyalists to the British crown.

On June 23, 1819, Texas declared its independence from Spain.

On June 23, 1862, General Robert E. Lee met with his commanders in preparation for what would be known as the Seven Days’ Battles.

On June 23, 1865, Georgia-born Cherokee Stand Watie became the last Confederate general to surrender.

On June 23, 1888, Frederick Douglass became the first African-American nominated for President, receiving one vote from Kentucky at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

Former Atlanta mayor Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. died on June 23, 2003.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections


Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is being vetted as a potential Vice Presidential candidate, according to the AJC.

Bottoms is one of a handful of potential picks undergoing vetting from Biden’s campaign, which has reached out to several Bottoms associates, according to multiple people in the state Democratic Party.

Backgrounding vice presidential candidates is highly confidential, requiring extensive financial disclosures and lengthy interviews. The party sources asked The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for anonymity because they are not authorized to talk about the process.

No Georgia Democrat has played a more prominent role promoting Biden’s campaign than Bottoms, a first-term mayor who endorsed him in July, campaigned for him in Iowa before, and worked on his behalf in spin rooms after Democrat debates.

“I want Vice President Biden to choose the person who he thinks will help him best beat Donald Trump in November, and so if it’s me, I would be honored,” Bottoms told National Public Radio in April. “But if it’s a green martian that helps him get over the finish line, then I think that’s who he needs to go with.”

“She brings the gender, racial, regional and generational balance to the ticket,” said Tharon Johnson, a long-time Bottoms adviser. “The Biden campaign has to look at it through a non-traditional lens to not just appeal to the base but also to disaffected college-educated women. And she can do that.”


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Governor Brian Kemp‘s office has released new revenue estimates, according to the AJC.

Kemp’s new revenue estimate comes as state lawmakers are racing to pass a spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The General Assembly concludes its 2020 session — delayed by the coronavirus pandemic — on Friday.

Based on Kemp’s earlier estimates, the Georgia Senate last week approved a budget that cut about $2.6 billion in spending — including more than $1 billion for k-12 schools.

Kemp is still projecting that the state will see a dramatic economic impact from the coronavirus recession, but his latest estimate calls for a $2.2 billion decline in revenue next year, with the budget propped up by $250 million from the state reserve.

The governor recommended dropping the reduction to basic school funding by $53 million and having university and technical colleges take a 10% cut instead of 11%, as they’d expected. The same is true for the rest of state government.

To keep Georgia moving in the right direction and minimize the long-term impact of COVID-19 on our classrooms, I strongly recommend that we continue to prioritize public school education and find ways to support our educators as they continue to serve in communities throughout Georgia,” Kemp said.

“We must remember that Georgia’s future hinges on the safety and security of our citizens,” he said. “During this health care crisis, we have seen law enforcement officers play a vital role in the fight against COVID-19. We must stand with law enforcement now — just like they stood with us during the pandemic.”

Hate crimes legislation currently in the State Senate has been revised, according to the AJC.

The Georgia Senate reversed course on hate-crimes legislation Monday, removing special protections for police officers that Republicans inserted last week in a move that infuriated backers of the bill.

State Sen. Bill Cowsert, the Athens Republican who authored the change last week, announced the reversal during a Senate Rules Committee hearing late Monday.

“We’re very hopeful that the House will be satisfied that these are changes that have brought bipartisan support and did not in any way undermine the initial purposes,” he said.

Cowsert’s amendments also changed the sentencing guidelines for someone who is convicted of a hate crime. If his version of the bill passes, someone convicted of a hate crime would face an additional six to 12 months for a misdemeanor or at least two years for a felony. They would also face a fine of up to $5,000.

Instead, protections for police and other first responders were amended into House Bill 838. Under that legislation, anyone who is found guilty of targeting a first responder — defined as a firefighter, police officer or paramedic — could face between one and five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

“We’re equally committed to passing meaningful hate-crime law and also to protecting law enforcement from unnecessary harassment, intimidation, threats and physical injury by citizens,” Cowsert said.

Both bills will be debated on the Senate floor on Tuesday. If approved, both would have to be approved by the House later this week before they could become law.

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

First responders were removed as a protected class from the bill by the Senate Rules Committee after lawmakers said they struck a deal between parties.

“We’ve had ongoing discussions with the minority party for the large part of two days and within our own Republican caucus and we’ve reached a compromise that I think everybody will be pleased with,” said Sen. Bill Cowsert of Athens, who introduced the change.

“I believe we’ll be recommending the bill to our caucus,” Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, a Democrat from Stone Mountain, said during the committee meeting Monday after first responders were removed.

“I don’t want for a second to convey that I would support this as is on the floor by not opposing it here in this committee,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, a Republican from Carrollton. “I do have some questions and concerns about it.”

The Georgia House Regulated Industries Committee recommended passage of legislation setting a statewide gambling referendum, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle.

A proposal asking Georgia voters whether to legalize casinos, horse racing and sports betting in the Peach State is back on the table in the General Assembly.

The House Regulated Industries Committee approved a resolution Monday calling for a statewide referendum on all three forms of legalized gambling. The same panel approved a gambling vote in March, but it failed to reach the House floor for a vote before lawmakers took a three-month break to discourage the spread of coronavirus.

While that seemed to doom the measure for this year, it’s back up for debate during the final week of the 2020 legislative session because supporters inserted it into another proposed constitutional amendment identical to legislation that already had gained final passage.

“Whether you’re for or against the bill, allow the people to vote,” Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, a leading supporter of legalized gambling, told committee members Monday.

The state needs a boost to its economy, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced businesses across Georgia to close their doors, he said.

From the AJC:

Members of the House Regulated Industries Committee voted 13-3 to approve the measure, now Senate Resolution 841. The panel passed a similar resolution in March, but it failed to make it to the floor for a vote.

If passed, the new SR 841 would ask voters in November whether the Georgia Constitution should be amended to allow parimutuel betting, casino gambling and sports betting. If voters approve the amendment, each county would have to hold a local referendum to see whether residents wanted to allow gambling in their community.

According to the proposed legislation, the Georgia Lottery and casinos would run sports betting. Money generated by sports betting through the Georgia Lottery would be dedicated to the HOPE scholarship.

Revenue from non-lottery run sports betting, casinos and horse racing would go to three different pots.

Initial proceeds would go to a new emergency fund until it reached the equivalent of 10% of the state’s budget. Stephens called that fund a “lock box” that would complement the state’s rainy day account.

Remaining proceeds would be split evenly between the state’s general fund and an “opportunity fund,” defined as needs-based money that would help families pay for pre-kindergarten and post-secondary education.

Other gambling legislation advanced in the State Senate, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Savannah Morning News.

Legislation to permit sports betting in Georgia made a comeback Friday in the state Senate as lawmakers scramble to drum up new revenues to plug the state’s coronavirus-ravaged budget.

A measure by Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, that would legalize sports betting and hand management responsibilities to the Georgia Lottery Corporation was tacked onto a separate bill dealing with traffic tickets.

It would allow online betting platforms like FanDuel and Draft Kings to operate legally, so long as they secure licenses from the lottery. People who are 21-years and older in Georgia could place bets.

Revenues from sports betting, which Jones pegged at a “conservative estimate” of $60 million annually, would go to fund Georgia’s HOPE scholarships for state university students and preschool programs.

“This right here, the online betting program, is I think an answer to adding significant revenue dollars to a system [that] moving down the road will continue to need more dollars,” Jones said Friday. “And you’re taking an activity that is currently going on right now.”

It passed out of the Senate Special Judiciary Committee in a vote early Friday morning and now heads to the full Senate. The committee, chaired by Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, is composed entirely of Democratic lawmakers.

A physician group is supporting a tobacco tax hike, according to Fox 31.

A bill that has been voted on several times in the past years, but never went through, was approved by the Senate Finance Committee on Friday.

The tax increase on cigarettes would go from just $0.37 a pack to $1.35.

If passed, doctors are saying the increase could help the medical field tremendously and call it a “win-win” for Georgians.

The Patient-Centered Physician’s Coalition of Georgia released the following statement on the topic:

“With our state budget under so much stress due to revenue loss because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with so many cuts proposed that will impact people across Georgia, raising taxes on cigarettes and vaping products is a win-win. The majority of Georgians, not just those of us in healthcare, know it.”

Senate Bill 504, authorizing a referendum on eliminating the Glynn County Police Department, passed the House and heads to Gov. Kemp’s desk, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The legislation would move the duties of the eliminated police department to the authority of the county sheriff’s office. In Georgia counties with two law enforcement agencies, the police department enforces laws within a specific municipality or region while the sheriff’s office enforces laws throughout the county and oversees the jail.

The shooting death of [Ahmaud] Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, sparked criticism of the Glynn County Police Department’s actions in both that case and past cases.

From The Brunswick News:

Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island, sponsored the bill plus another related to the future of the police department.

“The two questions on it are ‘Would the people recommend to abolish the Glynn County Police Department and consolidate its resources under the Glynn County Sheriff’s [Office]?’ or ‘Would they retain the Glynn County Police Department while making the necessary reforms and resolve all issues identified by the Glynn County grand jury?’” Hogan told fellow lawmakers.

Georgia House lawmakers will vote today on whether a similar but binding referendum will also appear on the ballot. The bill, SB 509, was unanimously approved by the House Rules Committee on Monday.

House Bill 244 governing utility pole attachment fees passed the Senate, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

In an 31-22 vote Monday, the Senate OK’d a bill that would mandate the Public Service Commission make the decision on the rate EMCs can charge for pole attachments beginning July 1.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon, said because of the costly prices, cable companies cannot afford to expand internet to rural areas that host EMC poles.

“If it wasn’t clear that so much of our state needs broadband before COVID-19, I hope it’s clear to you now,” Kennedy said. “Did anybody envision before January of this year the value of telemedicine to our citizens, of what it can do when the only access some of our folks have to a physician is to get online? But if you can’t get online, you don’t have it.”

Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said a change in rates would decrease EMC revenues drastically, and since EMCs are nonprofit cooperatives owned by residents, they should not be treated the same as private companies that make a much larger profit.

“We’ve never regulated the internet in the United States and we’re moving in that direction,” he said.

“This bill is not a silver bullet to take care of and solve all of broadband problems in Georgia,” Kennedy said. “It is not the panacea to make sure that rural Georgia gets fiber.”

House Bill 847 to license hemp producers, passed the State Senate, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

House Bill 847 requires anyone cultivating, transporting or selling hemp to hold a license just like for other agricultural products. Anyone caught with hemp who does not have a proper license would face the same penalties as for marijuana possession in Georgia.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Corbett, R-Lake Park, follows passage last year of a measure that legalized the growing, processing and transport of hemp. It cleared the state Senate on Monday by a 34-13 vote with several Democratic lawmakers voting against it.

The hemp measure now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.

Corbett’s bill aims to clear up concerns over expensive testing of hemp during traffic stops by requiring official paperwork rather than forcing law enforcement agencies to test for THC, the chemical that produces a high that legally must be below a .3% content amount.

From the AJC:

The legislation would require hemp farmers and processors to obtain licenses, allow hemp sales to out-of-state businesses and raise the annual processing fee to $50,000 a year, up from a $10,000 fee set last year. The fee for growing hemp would remain at $50 per acre, up to a $5,000 maximum.

“This is going to be a phenomenal industry for our state. This is a way to get it off the ground,” said Sen. Tyler Harper, a Republican from Ocilla.

House Bill 791 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) passed the State Senate and will allow pharmacists to fill some prescriptions with 90 day supplies in case of a state emergency or hurricane, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle.

House Bill 791, sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, would allow health-care insurers to waive the “refill too soon” rules if the governor has issued an emergency declaration or the National Weather Service has sent out a hurricane warning.

Waiving those rules would allow pharmacists to dispense up to 90 days-worth of maintenance medications for patients with chronic illnesses who reside in areas where an emergency has been declared or a hurricane warning issued.

Pharmacists would still be allowed to withhold refilling a prescription if it involves a controlled substance, is an initial refill or if a doctor has specified that the medication should not be refilled.

The measure passed unanimously out of the Senate on Monday. It heads back to the House for final passage.

House Bill 1114 on maternal mortality, was amended in the Senate before passage and heads back across the rotunda, according to the AJC.

Georgia senators unanimously approved a bill Monday designed to cut back on the state’s stubbornly high maternal mortality rate.

The measure, which senators cleared 48-0, would extend Medicaid for low-income mothers from two to six months following the birth of a child. And it would give the Georgia Department of Community Health the authority to seek a federal waiver to do so if necessary.

But the effort is largely a symbolic one for now. The budget crunch created by the coronavirus means that the Legislature will need to find the funding for it later.

“Although our budget crisis is affecting all our programs, this bill moves us in a better direction to cover our new moms and babies during a vulnerable period in their lives,” said state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta, the bill’s sponsor. “This should pay dividends for the state in years to come.”

Lori Myles, a candidate for Augusta Commission District Three, filed a complaint against the Richmond County Board of Elections alleging civil rights violations, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

A runoff election in Columbus City Council District 4 may be canceled after one candidates withdraws, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Whitfield County Commissioners delayed a decision on 3% pay raises for county employees, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Springfield may raise property taxes 30% after COVID-19 hit their revenue base, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Rome City Commission will rebate some alcohol license fees paid during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Rome News Tribune.

COVID-19 hospitalizations rose broadly, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The number of people hospitalized in Georgia because of COVID-19 rose to 1,000 Monday, erasing a month’s worth of progress and showing that an accompanying increase in confirmed infections is leading to serious illness.

Coronavirus infections have been rising throughout June and are now at the highest level since the pandemic began. Georgia has averaged 1,073 infections reported daily over the last seven days, according to figures kept by The Associated Press. Since Friday, the average has been higher than the previous peak of 857 set on April 13.

Almost 66,000 Georgians have now been infected since the start of the outbreak, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported, and 2,648 people have died statewide.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said Monday he’s so alarmed by the rapid increase in infections that he wants to require people to wear masks in public places. He asked the city’s attorney to begin drawing up an emergency order to make face coverings mandatory.

From the Savannah Morning News:

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson called an emergency city council meeting Monday to update both council members and the public with the latest information.

Johnson said the daily double-digit increases the area is currently seeing are concerning.

Dr. Lawton Davis, director of the Coastal Health District, told council members an increase had been expected following the Memorial Day crowds and other public gatherings.

“We are seeing that increase,” Davis said. “The daily average of cases is higher than it’s ever been.”

Johnson asked City Attorney Bates Lovett to research issuing an emergency directive from the mayor that would require face coverings in public.

Lovett said despite Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive orders taking local control away on COVID-19 regulations, he thinks the city can proceed.

“I believe you have the authority to do that,” Lovett said.

From GPB News:

Most of the cases in Georgia were reported in and around the metro Atlanta area, but experts said rural communities where people live and work in crowded conditions were most at risk.

Emory University and the Georgia Department of Public Health found the highest per capita rates are showing up in rural parts of the state among agricultural workers, such as poultry processors and migrant crop pickers.

Jodie Guest, an epidemiologist with Emory University, said 25% of those working in poultry plants are testing positive, and other agriculture workers — like those picking crops in South Georgia — are being hit much harder at rates of 70% and higher.

“Staggering rates of positivity in some really high-risk populations,” Guest said.

Safety Fire Commissioner John King previously said while touring parts of Hall County, which is home to a large portion of Georgia’s poultry industry, that these workers are crucial to the economy.

“If those workers don’t go to work, America goes hungry,” King said. “They’re truly essential members of our of our economy and of our society.”

COVID-19 is also causing problems for water systems, as used masks, wipes, and gloves clog filters, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The City of Thomasville announced plans for reopening city facilities, according to the Albany Herald.



Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 22, 2020


On June 22, 1633, Galileo Galilei recanted his published theory that stated the sun was the center of the world and the earth was not.

Georgia’s Trustees voted on June 22, 1737 to seek bids for building churches at Savannah and Frederica.

Georgia Whigs voted on June 22, 1775 to join a boycott against British goods. That same day, the Continental Congress approved the issuance of $2 million in debt-backed currency.

The donut was invented on June 22, 1847.

The Battle of Kolb’s Farm was fought near Marietta, Georgia on June 22, 1864.

The United States Department of Justice was established on June 22, 1870.

Judson Lyons, the first black lawyer in Georgia, died on June 22, 1924, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

On June 22, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill.

On June 22, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon signed a law extending the 26th Amendment Right to Vote at age 18 to all federal, state, and local elections.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections






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Mail-in ballots increased Democratic turnout earlier this month, according to GPB News.

“This was a big, big turnout and one thing that is really striking here is Democratic turnout, exceeded the Republican turnout,” Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz said.

The primary set a record in Georgia with more than 2.1 million votes cast, and Democrats exceeded Republicans by more than 182,000 votes, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Democrats were particularly active in Georgia’s sixth and seventh congressional districts north of Atlanta, where Republicans are not as strong as they used to be, Abramowitz said.

“I think they [Republicans] have to really worry about these suburban Atlanta districts,” he said.

“The decision by the Secretary of State to mail every registered voter in the state an application for an absentee ballot was crucial,” Abramowitz said.

“Let’s say Biden wins Georgia, which would be close, and Democrats do well in the House and Senate elections, I think you’re going see that carry over into state legislative races,” Abramowitz said.

In fact, 14 State House seats could be vulnerable, according to an analysis by University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock.

He compared turnout in State House districts currently held by Republicans. He found these districts in Georgia’s suburbs attracted more Democrats than Republicans for the primary.

“You can’t look at these differences in turnout rates and say, ‘Well, this means that these 14 districts are all going to flip over to the Democrats.’ Indeed, it’d be amazing if they did, but at a minimum, it should send shivers down the spine of the Republicans in those districts.”

Georgia experienced its highest single day increase in COVID-19 cases, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Georgia reported 63,809 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,642 related deaths, according to the Saturday update Georgia Department of Public Health.

That’s an additional 1,800 cases, up from 62,009 cases and 2,636 deaths Friday.

The second-largest spike – an increase of 1740 cases – occurred over two months ago on April 17, according to The Valdosta Daily Times COVID-19 database.

Chatham County Board of Elections has certified the results of the June 9 elections, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Election officials have cited a large number of absentee ballots as one reason for the delay in getting the results in order.

“We had more people vote by absentee ballot than voted in person,” Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges said.

Early voting totals were 5,503 and 24,971 cast ballots in person on election day. There were 31,500 absentee ballots, Bridges said.

Bridges said the turnout doubled compared to the usual primary.

From the Athens Banner Herald:

The Clarke County Board of Elections has certified the results of the June 9 party primary and nonpartisan elections Thursday, but with reservations.

A partial recount Wednesday had confirmed what members of a nonpartisan vote review panel had noted Tuesday and Wednesday as elections workers fed absentee ballots into an optical scanner recording the votes: the machine did not always see and record votes that were obvious to human eyes.

Those were typically when people indicated their vote with a check mark rather than filling in the small circle the scanner reads.

The board learned that Oconee County had also done a recount Wednesday, and that Oconee got the OK from state officials to change the parameters on their optical scanner for the recount. Clarke officials believed they could not change the scanner settings for the recount after consulting a state elections supervisor.

From the Macon Telegraph:

The Bibb County results were initially delayed due to quarantined absentee ballots, but were further delayed because of issues with combining two databases to create the final vote count.

Lester Miller and Cliffard Whitby will face each other in a runoff for Macon-Bibb County mayor Aug. 11 because neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote. The Bibb County Commissioner District 5 and District 7 races will feature runoffs as well.

Voters can apply for an absentee ballot for the runoff election on Aug. 11. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is Aug. 7, which will also be the last day of early voting. Early voting begins July 20.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

The Gwinnett Board of Elections and Registration voted to certify the results of the primary election Friday afternoon. County elections officials spent more than a week count[ing] absentee-by-mail ballots.

There was also a discrepancy that appeared in the results Wednesday night when vote total from precincts appeared to decrease. County spokeswoman Heather Sawyer said the issue was the results of an issue that arose during the scanning of emergency ballots that had been cast June 9, but not scanned in until Wednesday.

“On Thursday morning, those discrepancies were located and corrected during the standard review of reports conducted in order to confirm that the number of uploaded memory cards matches the number of downloaded memory cards,” Sawyer said. “The unofficial results once again included accurate counts.”

The Georgia General Assembly met in legislative Session on Saturday.

The State House passed legislation to allow a Glynn County referendum to eliminate the police department, according to The Brunswick News.

The bill, which will would allow voters to decide whether to make the sheriff’s office the exclusive law enforcer in unincorporated Glynn, passed the House on Friday 152-3. Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island, was one of three votes cast against it.

The referendum will appear on the November ballot in Glynn County if passed by the Senate and signed by the governor.

Sen. Ligon, R-White Oak, predicted Saturday the bill will pass in the Senate.

“Obviously you never know about these things, (but) I do believe it will have a good chance at passage,” Ligon said.

“I believe it’s the right thing to do, to let the people decide this,” he said.

Jones, opposed to the legislation all along, spoke against the bill on the House floor Friday. He said it violated the Home Rule provisions of the Georgia Constitution, a statement agreed upon by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.

“The list of Glynn County elected officials supporting this bill is a very, very short list – the two bill sponsors and that’s it,” [Rep. Jones] said. “No other elected officials who is elected solely by Glynn County citizens to represent Glynn County citizens support this bill.”

In addition to Jones, opponents include the Glynn County and Brunswick commissions, as well as the local chapter of the NAACP.

From the AJC:

There are several county police departments in Georgia, including in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties. In counties where there are two agencies, the county police handle the enforcement of state and local laws while the sheriff’s office manages the jail.

The Georgia Senate passed an FY 2021 budget cutting more than $2.6 billion dollars of spending, according to the AJC.

The Georgia Senate passed a state budget on a party-line vote Friday that cuts $2.6 billion in spending during the upcoming year.

That means in fiscal 2021 — which begins July 1 — $1 billion less would be sent to local districts to fund k-12 schools. Millions of dollars would also be cut from a host of health care programs, forcing staff furloughs in the agency that for the past three months has been fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

The Senate voted 34-15 to pass the budget, setting up negotiations with the House over a spending plan that must be approved in the next few days. The Republican majority backed the measure while Democrats opposed it, saying the General Assembly should be raising more revenue by increasing the state’s tobacco tax to the national average.

Because lawmakers expect less revenue, they face cutting funding for everything from k-12 schools and universities to the Georgia State Patrol, food safety inspections, highway construction, mental health and substance abuse programs, and county health departments.

The Senate Finance Committee recommended passage of legislation raising the tobacco tax, according to the AJC.

Taxes on cigarettes would go from 37 cents per pack to $1.35 under a measure passed by a key Georgia Senate committee Friday.

The Senate Finance Committee approved an amended bill sponsored by Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, to raise cigarette taxes.

Lawmakers said the state spends about $650 million a year to treat patients who are on taxpayer-funded heath programs for tobacco-related illnesses.

Raising the rate to $1.35 a pack would still put Georgia below the national average of about $1.80. Currently, Georgia has among the lowest tobacco tax rates in the country.

Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, a member of the committee, said the state’s low tobacco taxes amount to a subsidy for smokers because the cost of treating their illnesses is far higher than the taxes currently brought in.

“With this extra money, we could be doing things like helping fill the gaps for special needs waivers and education and things we are most passionate about,” Albers said.

Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, another member of the committee, said he generally doesn’t support increasing taxes.

“I don’t see addressing the cigarette tax as increasing taxes,” he said. “What I see it as is eliminating the subsidization that is already out there.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle:

“I’m not a tax increaser, particularly during this [economic] climate we’re in,” House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said earlier this week.

Ralston also is skeptical about another effort by Hufstetler’s committee to free up more tax revenue. The Senate Finance panel passed a bill Thursday that would eliminate a series of tax breaks the state offers to lure businesses to Georgia.

The speaker argued that getting rid of such tax incentives would put a damper on economic development efforts that create jobs.

“This is not a good time to be killing jobs,” he said. We need to be about the business of growing jobs back.”

House Bill 987 by State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) to add protections for senior living residents, passed the Senate, according to the AJC.

“House Bill 987 is the right policy move in our state to make certain that families… can rest a little easier at night, knowing these facilities can offer the care that is expected and deserved for our seniors,” [State Senator Brian] Strickland said.

Under the legislation, for the first time memory care units at assisted living and personal care homes would have to be certified. The bill also adds new staffing and training requirements. Directors who run assisted living communities and large personal care homes would have to be licensed, and assisted living communities would have to have nurses on staff. Operators would have to disclose financial problems, and those that break the rules or harm residents would face higher fines.

Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, the lead sponsor of the bill, said she will push the House to agree to the Senate’s version so the bill can move as quickly as possible to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk. Kemp has said he supports the bill.

Cooper called the bill “a major step forward” that would make Georgia a leader, especially when it comes to requirements for memory care units. She said the Senate’s additions related to COVID-19 are needed “to correct some serious problems that this pandemic brought to light in both assisted living and nursing homes.”

House Bill 426 hate crimes legislation by State Rep Chuck Efstration passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee after being amended to protect first responders, according to the AJC.

Five Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to include first responders — defined as police officers, medics and firefighters — in a bill that originally was introduced to protect people who are targeted due to characteristics such as race, gender or sexual orientation.

“There are wives of police officers who’ve been quoted in the newspaper telling their husbands, ‘Do not bring your police cruiser home and park it in our driveway, because we are afraid,’ ” said Sen. Bill Cowsert, the Athens Republican who authored the change.

The panel’s three Democrats voted against the bill.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chuck Efstration, a Dacula Republican, called the addition of law enforcement to his measure a “poison pill.”

“This is not about support for law enforcement,” Efstration said after the vote. “This is about the legislative process being utilized by the state Senate in order to take a bipartisan measure and cause division (by bringing) about a provision with the purpose of causing Democratic opposition to the bill.”

The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association is accusing Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard of politicizing charges against Atlanta police officers, according to AccessWDUN.

The letter, which is signed by Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard, claims that the investigation and charges brought against Atlanta police officers Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan were in the interest of politics.

“The Fulton County District Attorney is in the political fight of his life, and as part of his ongoing campaign strategy has chosen to hastily investigate and charge the two Atlanta police officers involved in the tragic death of Rayshard Brooks,” the letter reads.

Following the June 9 General Primary Election, Howard is heading to a runoff this fall for reelection as Fulton County District Attorney. The letter from the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association claims the warrants Howard brought against the Rolfe and Brosnan were made to secure more votes for reelection.

“Howard has trampled on the rights of Officer Garrett Rolfe and Officer Devin Brosnan and has further allowed this tragic incident to be more about his re-election than justice for the officers involved, the Atlanta Police Department and the citizens of our state,” the letter states.

Gun violence in Statesboro has increased during the pandemic, according to the Statesboro Herald.

In seven weeks, from May 1 through Wednesday of this week, 11 shooting incidents, including three homicides resulting in murder charges and other crimes in which people were wounded or shot at, occurred in Statesboro.

“Is this unique to Statesboro, or is this something that you see trending across the country?” Mayor Jonathan McCollar asked Broadhead after seeing the list Tuesday.

“Mayor, that’s a great question,” he answered. “I do see it trending all across the country. I have friends in law enforcement in a number of cities across America, and all of them are seeing this exact same uptick in violence.

“I think that what we are seeing is a psychological issue related to the anxiety of the pandemic, the restrictions that were in place I think people were trying to rebel against in some cases, and then obviously the Minneapolis murder that has really kind of lit the country on fire and we’re seeing a lot of angst and anxiety over that,” Broadhead said. “That, I just think, is manifesting itself in outward acts of frustration and violence.”

Ironically, earlier this spring during Georgia’s COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, local law enforcement agencies reported a downturn in crime, especially property crimes.

But May and June 2020 have been the most violent two months in Statesboro since Broadhead arrived as chief three years ago, he confirmed Friday.

Athens-Clarke County is considering police reform as part of the budget process, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

[District 3 Commissioner Melissa] Link proposed creating a “public safety and community building task force” to study and recommend changes in policing.

The plan sets goals of putting funds in social programs intended to reduce violent and nonviolent crime by 50 percent or more over five years; reducing the need for armed response by law enforcement; eliminating “disparities in criminal justice response based on race or ethnicity;” immediately eliminating ” militarization of our police department through equipment acquisition and training protocols;” and an immediate changes in use-of-force policies.

Commissioners did not vote on the proposal or the budget — the commission is scheduled to vote on the budget June 25, six days before it will go into effect on July 1.

Albany is considering a study of healthcare costs as an economic development factor, according to the Albany Herald.

Mayor Bo Dorough broached the subject during Tuesday’s commission meeting, painting the issue as one that impacts economic development. Dorough, who has in the past been a critic of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, said that he has spoken to authorities who say a study could be conducted for about $250,000.

“I think we should work with the Dougherty County Board of Commissioners, school board and even the hospital authority,” he said.

“It is my understanding health care costs are higher in Albany than anywhere in the Southeastern United States,” he said. “I think that is a deterrent to attracting industry. If we want to improve the quality of life, we need the ability to attract industry.”

In a statement, Phoebe Putney Health System President and CEO Scott Steiner said that the hospital system is focused on the economy of the region.

“As a major, comprehensive, regional health care system, we are proud to offer the kind of quality, cutting-edge specialty care that helps encourage major corporations such as P&G, Webstaurant and Georgia Pacific to continue to create jobs in Albany,” he said. “We appreciate the mayor’s desire to do everything possible to encourage and advance economic development in Albany.

“It is unfortunate the mayor’s claims during Tuesday’s City Commission were made based on largely discredited and completely unfounded rumors from many years ago. We are focused on the present and how we can provide the best care for all members of our community — today and in the future.”

Dalton and Varnell will hold fireworks displays for Independence Day, while Murray County moved its fireworks to October 16, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Dougherty County courts and libraries are reopening with social distancing and precautions, according to the Albany Herald.

The Hall County Government Center also reopens today, according to AccessWDUN.

A couple of Democratic candidates are calling for the removal of Gwinnett County’s memorial to Confederate dead, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 19, 2020

On June 20, 1732, the signing of the Georgia Charter was completed by the British government. The University of Georgia has the oldest known American copy of the Charter.

Georgia’s Royal Colony Seal was approved on June 21, 1754.

Georgia Colony Seal

On June 20, 1782, Congress adopted the Great Seal of the United States. Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, was responsible for the final design presented to Congress. The design approved by Congress was a written description without any sketches.

The Constitution of the United States of America was ratified on June 21, 1788, when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify.

On September 17, 1787, after three months of debate moderated by convention president George Washington, the new U.S. constitution, which created a strong federal government with an intricate system of checks and balances, was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the convention. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states.

Beginning on December 7, five states–Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut–ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In February 1788, a compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. In June, Virginia ratified the Constitution, followed by New York in July.

On June 20, 1819, the SS Savannah entered the port at Liverpool, England, marking the first transatlantic crossing by a steam-powered ship, having sailed out of Savannah on May 20th.

The Georgia Whig Party held its first convention on June 19, 1843 in Milledgeville and elected ten delegates to the 1844 National Convention.

The first Republican National Convention, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ended on June 19, 1856.

The Republicans, who called for the abolition of slavery in all U.S. territories, rapidly gained supporters in the North, and in 1856 their first presidential candidate, John Fremont, won 11 of the 16 Northern states. By 1860, the majority of Southern states were publicly threatening secession if a Republican won the presidency.

The Civil War firmly identified the Republican Party as the official party of the victorious North. After the war, the Republican-dominated Congress forced a radical Reconstruction policy on the South, which saw the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, abolishing slavery and granting voting rights to African American men in the South. By 1876, the Republican Party had lost control of the South, but it continued to dominate the presidency, with a few intermissions, until the ascendance of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.

On June 19, 1864, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston retreated from Pine Mountain and Lost Mountain toward Marietta. Click here to watch a two-minute video by Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Atlanta History Center about this week in Georgia in 1864.

General Robert E. Lee moved on Union forces under General Ulysses S. Grant at Petersburg, Virginia on June 20, 1864.

On the same day, USS Kearsarge sank CSS Alabama off the coast of Cherbourg, France in one of the most-celebrated naval battles of the Civil War.

Under its captain, Raphael Semmes, the Alabama prowled the world for three years, capturing U.S. commercial ships. It sailed around the globe, usually working out of the West Indies, but taking prizes and bungling Union shipping in the Caribbean, off Newfoundland, and around the coast of South America. In January 1863, Semmes sunk a Union warship, the Hatteras, after luring it out of Galveston, Texas.

During its career, the Alabama captured 66 ships and was hunted by more than 20 Federal warships.

Shortly after the battle between CSS Alabama and USS Kearsarge, Edouard Manet painted the scene from newspaper accounts. The painting hangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where I viewed it late last year. Another painting of Kearsarge is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

A lynch mob including members of the KKK killed three young civil rights activists who were trying to register African-Americans to vote near Meridian, Mississippi on June 21, 1964.

When Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, a young black man, were coming back from a trip to Philadelphia, Mississippi, deputy sheriff Cecil Price, who was also a Klan member, pulled them over for speeding. He then held them in custody while other KKK members prepared for their murder. Eventually released, the three activists were later chased down in their car and cornered in a secluded spot in the woods where they were shot and then buried in graves that had been prepared in advance.

When news of their disappearance got out, the FBI converged on Mississippi to investigate. With the help of an informant, agents learned about the Klan’s involvement and found the bodies. Since Mississippi refused to prosecute the assailants in state court, the federal government charged 18 men with conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney.

Jaws was released on June 20, 1975.

John W. Hinckley, Jr. was acquitted of attempted murder of President Ronald Reagan and others in the Presidential party by reason on insanity on June 21, 1982.

Voters in Sandy Springs approved the new city’s incorporation on June 21, 2005.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections


8:00 AM Senate Natural Resources & Environment 307 CLOB

8:00 AM Senate Special Judiciary 310 CLOB




8:45 AM Senate Agricuture & Consumer Affairs 310 CLOB


10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 34) House Chamber

TBD Senate Rules upon Adjournment 450 CAP

1:00 PM Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities 450 CAP


2:15 PM Senate Finance 450 CAP


3:00 PM Senate Judiciary 307 CLOB

The Georgia State House Committee on Governmental Affairs began hearing testimony on last week’s election, according to the AJC.

“This election was a complete catastrophe,” said [Jacoria] Borders, whom Fulton County had hired just the day before to work at the short-staffed William Walker Recreation Center precinct. “We were totally unprepared and did the best we could.”

Election observers from Savannah said at their precinct, voting computers weren’t ready when polls were supposed to open, and the first ballot wasn’t cast until an hour later, after 8 a.m. on election day.

Voters weren’t allowed to cast backup paper ballots, and some of them left without participating in the election, said Joanna Shepherd, an election observer at a Salvation Army voting location.

“They didn’t seem to understand how to plug things in,” Shepherd said. “Things were clearly going wrong,” with few touchscreens operating and voter access cards often failing to pull up ballots.

Michelle Chaffee, a poll observer in Greene County, said election workers offered paper ballots to voters when check-in tablets didn’t work as polls opened. Some fed-up voters left and came back later.

“When those voters did return, the scanner wouldn’t accept their ballots, so they were issued provisional ballots,” Chaffee said.

Danielle Wynn, a poll observer in Rome, said poll workers told at least 20 voters to try to vote at a different precinct.

Governor Brian Kemp and State Superintendent of Schools Richard Woods announced the state will seek a waiver of some federal testing requirements, according to The Brunswick News.

“Given the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic and the resulting state budget reductions, it would be counterproductive to continue with high-stakes testing for the 2020-2021 school year,” Kemp and Woods said in a joint statement. “In anticipation of a return to in-person instruction this fall, we believe schools’ focus should be on remediation, growth and the safety of students. Every dollar spent on high-stakes testing would be a dollar taken away from the classroom.”

Georgia was one of the first states to suspend standardized testing at the end of last school year when the pandemic forced the system to shut down. The state later received approval from the U.S. Department of Education to cancel all remaining standardized tests for that school year.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we have urged common sense regarding compliance in Georgia’s public schools and a focus before anything else on the health, safety, and well-being of students, families, and school staff,” they said in the joint statement.

From the Ledger-Enquirer:

“We are continuing to pursue Senate Bill 367,” they said, “which aims to get Georgia’s state testing requirements in line with the federal minimum and maximize time for instruction.”

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced that unemployment has fallen into the single digits, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Unemployment in Georgia stood at 9.7% for the month of May, down 2.9% from April’s jobless rate of 12.6%.

“I think we are going to continue to see big drops in the unemployment rate as Georgia continues to open back up,” state Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said. “We have to remember that the recent unemployment was not caused by an economic catalyst, but instead by a medical emergency. Those jobs are still out there for the most part.”

“The decrease in regular weekly claims is indicative of a recovering workforce who are now ready to return to work,” Butler said. “We predict a continual decrease in these weekly claims as businesses return to pre-COVID conditions and Georgians increase their spending habits.”

Gainesville area hospitality industry unemployment, however, was as high as 73%, according to the Gainesville Times.

“That was a devastating impact to our workforce in the community,” Stacey Dickson, Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau president, said Wednesday, June 17, during a tourism webinar sponsored by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

In comparison, the overall unemployment rate in Hall was 10.6% in April, an all-time high, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

Hall’s jobless numbers in May will be released later this month.

“The good news is that, as businesses have been able to reopen, (the jobless) figure is more in the 25% range, so we are definitely rebounding,” Dickson said. “And hopefully, our businesses and our patrons will respect the guidelines that have been set forth … in order to be able to stay open.

United States Senator David Perdue is seeking addition COVID relief funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, according to the Albany Herald.

“Many HBCUs continue to struggle to meet current and prospective needs,” the senators wrote. “Broadband access remains a major hurdle for far too many students and schools, particularly in rural areas. We must help to equip HBCUs with the technological infrastructure necessary to weather this storm and maintain their growing momentum.”

“In addition, Congress should seek to identify opportunities to ensure that HBCUs have a seat at the table as we seek to better understand COVID-19 and other biomedical challenges, along with their varied impacts. As we transition into discussions on how best to assist in and accelerate the economic recovery, we urge you to consider diverse avenues of support for HBCUs and MSIs.”

Georgia Democratic legislators support a package of bills aimed at reforming policing, including repeal of citizens’ arrest, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

House Bill 1203 would remove language from state law that allows private citizens to arrest someone who commits a crime in their presence or within their “immediate knowledge.”

It would also do away with language allowing a private citizen to make an arrest “upon reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion” that someone committed a felony crime and is trying to escape.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Carl Gilliard, is among more than a dozen bills filed since Monday when the legislative session resumed that focus on court and policing reforms.

They include measures to repeal the state’s stand-your-ground law, prohibit police officers from racial profiling and ban no-knock search warrants.

The Georgia Senate Finance Committee is looking at eliminating some tax breaks, according to the AJC.

The Georgia Senate Finance Committee on Thursday approved legislation eliminating or reducing a laundry list of tax breaks in hopes of saving about $200 million. They did so without hearing any testimony from the dozens of lobbyists who got those tax breaks approved in the first place.

The original list to get trimmed included one that exempts manufacturers from paying sales taxes on energy they use in production, and another that spares air carriers such as Delta Air Lines from paying a sales tax on jet fuel.

Manufacturers told senators that eliminating the exemption could be a job killer, and it was removed from the hit list. As was the jet-fuel tax break for airlines, who have hired top Capitol lobbyists for years to push for it and keep it.

“We obviously have a tough budget this year,” said Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome.

Hufstetler said if schools, law enforcement and health care programs are taking cuts, businesses benefiting from tax breaks should, too.

House Bill 888, passed by both chambers and awaiting the Governor’s signature, aims to prevent surprise medical bills, according to the Gainesville Times.

The bill received support from all of Hall County’s delegation in both chambers of the General Assembly.

If a patient goes to an in-network health care facility, they would be charged the in-network fee, even if their provider was out-of-network with their insurer. The insurer and provider would work out the difference, and the bill outlines an arbitration process through the Georgia Insurance Commissioner’s office.

For nonemergency services, like a regular checkup, patients would be given 48 hours notice before treatment if they have scheduled with an out-of-network provider. Patients could then decide to change their plans or pay extra.

[Sponsor State Rep. Lee] Hawkins said the goal of the bill is alleviating the burden of medical costs on families and preventing bankruptcies stemming from health care expenses.

“I truly feel like this is going to be so good for patients,” Hawkins said. “It will take a load off families that already are stressed with trying to make ends meet, and with this pandemic and everything else going on, I think it’s a really good accomplishment that our legislature has made here to help people in this state.”

Senate changes to House Bill 545, called the “Right to Farm Act,” passed the Senate and head back across the capitol, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

The bill, which originated in the Georgia House of Representatives last year, passed the Senate 29-21. Because of changes senators made to the measure, it must return to the House before gaining final passage.

The legislation would make it more difficult for property owners living in areas zoned for agricultural use to file nuisance lawsuits against nearby farms generating offensive noise, dust, smells or sludge runoff.

Supporters argued the original Right to Farm Act the General Assembly enacted during the 1980s contains ambiguities that expose farmers to costly lawsuits that could be avoided by a clearer statute.

“Georgia has a booming agricultural economy that makes a $75 billion (annual economic) impact on our state,” said Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, chairman of the Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee. “But people are not going to be able to continue to farm and invest millions of dollars in equipment if they don’t understand what they can and can’t do.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard hate crimes legislation passed by the State House last year, according to the AJC.

“The Georgia Anti-Hate Crimes Act was carefully crafted in the House of Representatives to address an issue we have in our state,” said state Rep. Chuck Efstration, a Dacula Republican who sponsored the legislation. “This is not a criminalization of thought or speech. What this is, is allowing the state to classify particularly heinous offenses.”

The Georgia House in March 2019 approved House Bill 426, which would give sentencing guidelines for anyone convicted of targeting a victim based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, said the hearing was meant to gather information that can be compiled into legislation the Senate can support. Asked whether he thought the legislation would pass this year, he replied: “There’s a chance.”

House Bill 823 by State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) would ban commercial drivers licenses for anyone convited of human trafficking offenses, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gaines, R-Athens, said in March the bill would go a long way toward reversing Georgia’s status as a state with one of the highest rates of human trafficking in the nation.

Sen. John Albers echoed that sentiment from the Senate floor Thursday, noting it makes sense to take driver’s licenses away from those who use vehicles for human trafficking.

“The punishment certainly will fit the crime,” said Albers, R-Roswell.

Passing the bill is a win for Gov. Brian Kemp, who made legislation targeting human trafficking a top priority for his administration and allies in the 2020 legislative session.

A separate measure on human trafficking, Senate Bill 435, is now winding through the state House. It passed out of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee on Thursday and now heads to the House floor.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Brian Strickland, would let victims petition the court to vacate convictions for crimes committed while they were being trafficked.

Congressional candidate Marjorie Green in the 14th district is under fire from elected officials in her own party, according to the New York Times.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, captured more than 40 percent of the vote in a crowded primary for the 14th Congressional District in Georgia on June 9 and has a strong chance of winning a House seat this fall.

Ms. Greene, a businesswoman, was criticized for remarks she made in Facebook videos uncovered by Politico, which said the videos appeared to have been recorded between late 2017 and early 2019.

“These comments are appalling and Leader McCarthy has no tolerance for them,” said Drew Florio, a spokesman for Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader.

“The comments made by Ms. Greene are disgusting and don’t reflect the values of equality and decency that make our country great,” said Representative Steve Scalise, the House Republican whip.

From the AJC:

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, took back his endorsement of Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District race.

Greene posted a lengthy statement on social media accusing news reporters of bias and fellow Republicans of being spineless. Georgia Reps. Doug Collins, Drew Ferguson, Buddy Carter and Austin Scott were among the incumbents who criticized her past statements, and they were joined by House Republian Whip Steve Scalise and former Congresswoman Karen Handel.

“No one intimidates me,” Greene wrote on Twitter. “Not the Democrats, Not George Soros, not the Fake News Media, and not the DC Swamp.”

From the Washington Post:

Republican leaders must do more than denounce Greene. They must actively support her opponent. That means the Chamber of Commerce PAC, the Club for Growth, the National Republican Congressional Committee and whomever else can be summoned to fight bigotry within conservative ranks must spend what it takes. Her victory would tarnish the entire GOP ticket from the top down. Only her defeat will suffice.

My political analysis is that attacks by out-of-state Congressional leaders, and even Georgia congressmen, probably helps Greene win her Primary Runoff Election. All she needs now to assure her victory in August is an endorsement of her opponent by the very groups mentioned in the Washington Post editorial.

Lake Lanier attractions Margaritaville and Legacy Lodge have reopened with new safety procedures, according to the Gainesville Times.

Statesboro City Council debated increased funding for either the Boys & Girls Club or the police, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Bloomingdale Mayor Ben Rozier has been asked for his resignation by City Council after a Facebook post, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Augusta Utilities will lift a moratorium on disconnections in July, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Dawsonville City Council approved an FY21 budget, according to the Dawson County News.

A Confederate memorial in Decatur was removed, according to AccessWDUN.

The city asked a Georgia judge last week to order the removal of the monument, which was often vandalized and marked by graffiti, saying it had become a threat to public safety.

DeKalb County Judge Clarence Seeliger agreed, and ordered the 30-foot (9-meter) obelisk in Decatur Square to be removed by midnight June 26 and placed in storage indefinitely. His order came hours before a white Atlanta police officer fatally shot another black man, 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks, in the back, sparking renewed protests in Georgia’s capital region.