On February 8, 1751, the first session of the Georgia Provincial Parliament adjourned, having convened on January 15, 1751.
On February 8, 1955, Gov. Marvin Griffin signed a resolution by the General Assembly calling on Congress to require racial segregation in the military.
On February 8, 1956, the Georgia State House adopted a resolution purporting to hold the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education null and void.
On February 8, 1981, R.E.M. held their first recording session at Bombay Studios in Smyrna, recording “Gardening At Night,” “Radio Free Europe” and “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville,” as well as others.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections
Governor Brian Kemp announced legislation designed to foster the manufacture of medical supplies in Georgia. From a press release:
Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced the roll out of House Bill 304, the Georgia Made Medical Manufacturing Act, carried by Representative Jodi Lott (R – Evans). One of the Kemp Administration’s key initiatives for the 2021 Legislative Session, this bill will incentivize the production of medicines and medical devices in Georgia, limiting the state’s need to compete with other states or foreign nations for critical supplies.
“One of the lessons we learned early on in the pandemic is that we cannot waste time in bidding wars with others for life-saving supplies,” said Governor Kemp. “Last session, we incentivized the production of PPE in the Peach State to alleviate that problem, build up our stockpile, and make it easier to stay in business in the era of COVID-19. HB 304 is a natural next step to that program and will help us build on Georgia’s momentum to become a leader in all sectors of the health care industry. No one state or nation should hold a monopoly on critical medicines and medical supplies, and we should bring these industries and the jobs that come with them back to America and here to Georgia.”
During the 2019-202o Legislative Session, the State of Georgia enacted a PPE Tax Credit to incentivize manufacturers of personal protective equipment, including those existing Georgia manufacturers which did not traditionally manufacture PPE but began doing so in response to COVID-19. The Georgia Made Medical Manufacturing Act is modeled off that legislation, increasing the amount of credit available under the Jobs Tax Credit to incentivize job creation and investment in the medical equipment and pharmaceutical manufacturing industries.
This measure will work to ensure collaboration between the public and private sector in Georgia to cultivate long-term growth and development of the state’s health care ecosystem. Currently, the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s COVID-19 Suppliers Map features more than 350 suppliers of PPE throughout the state. The map is available for viewing here.
Under the Gold Dome Today
9:30 AM HOUSE Judiciary Gunter Subcommittee I – 132 CAP HYBRID
10:00 AM Senate FLOOR SESSION (LD 13); Convene and recess until 1:00 p.m. – Senate Chamber
10:00 AM HOUSE STATE PLANNING AND COMMUNITY AFFAIRS – 406 CLOB
12:00 PM Senate Government Oversight – 450 CAP
Senate Finance– canceled – 450 CAP
1:00 PM Senate FLOOR SESSION (LD 13) – Senate Chamber
1:00 PM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD13) – House Chamber
1:30 PM HOUSE Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Energy Subcommittee – 506 CLOB
2:00 PM Senate Rules Upon Adjournment (Senate) 450 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs General Government Subcommittee – 406 CLOB
2:15 PM Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs – Mezz 1
2:30 PM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY AND HOMELAND SECURITY – 606 CLOB
3:30 PM Senate Judiciary – 307 CLOB
3:30 PM Senate Science and Technology – 450 CAP
3:30 PM HOUSE Judiciary Reeves Subcommittee – 132 CAP
3:30 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs State and Local Governments Subcommittee – 406 CLOB
4:45 PM Senate Education and Youth – 307 CLOB
5:45 PM Senate Ethics – canceled – 307 CLOB
Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton extended the emergency order governing court operations across Georgia, according to the Albany Herald.
Sunday’s order is nearly identical to the last extension order he signed on Jan. 8, and it continues the suspension of jury trials. However, the order signals that jury trials could resume next month, noting that “the surge in COVID-19 cases that led to the suspension of jury trials appears now to be declining. Assuming that conditions generally continue to improve, it is anticipated that the next extension order on March 9 will authorize Superior and State courts, in their discretion, to resume jury trials as local conditions allow,” the order says.
“We have never shut down the courts since this emergency began,” Melton said. “However, because we compel people to come to court, and due to the large numbers of people required for jury trials, early on we suspended jury trials and most grand jury proceedings. Since then, our courts across the state have been hard at work putting in place plans for their resumption in compliance with public health guidance and guidelines by the Judicial COVID-19 Task Force to safeguard the health and safety of all involved.”
The hope now is that the recent decline in the number of cases, along with the rollout of vaccines against the virus, will allow jury trials to resume in March. In a remote emergency meeting last Monday with members of the Georgia Judicial Council, Melton said, “If things continue to show themselves as favorable, barring any setbacks, our hope is to open up jury trials in our March order.” He encouraged judges to act now to prepare.
Georgia’s rules on fillling vacant elected judicial offices is causing some consternation, according to the Augusta Chronicle.
Gov. Brian Kemp – given notice that Augusta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Michael N. Annis was resigning Feb. 1, 2020, and with the March 10 death of Richmond County Civil Court Chief Judge William D. Jennings III – on Monday appointed Jesse Stone and Carletta Sims Brown, respectively, to replace them.
But Kemp made both appointments after Annis’ and Jennings’ last terms in office expired Dec. 31. Kemp and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr had no comment when contacted by The Augusta Chronicle.
“That’s the new dilemma in Georgia: judgeships,” said Mercer University School of Law Dean and former Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox.
The state Supreme Court ruled Blackwell’s election was rightfully removed from the ballot because the governor was empowered to appoint his successor, Cox said. The court ruled that if a judicial office becomes vacant before the term of office ends, the governor is entitled to make the appointment.
The Savannah Morning News looks at what a casino could mean for the area.
Savannah stands as the most marketable because “the intersection of I-95 and I-16 clocks traffic counts second only to Atlanta intersections,” according to [Atlanta developer Richard] Lackey, whose company helped develop The Battery, a mixed-use complex in Cobb County that includes the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park.
Specific Savannah-area sites remain closely guarded secrets. The lawmaker sponsoring the casino gambling legislation, Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) referenced the Interstate 95 corridor in a discussion in December. He specifically mentioned Port Wentworth.
Proposed sites are unlikely to be within the Savannah city limits, as several members of Savannah City Council have voiced opposition to casinos. Pooler, Bloomingdale, Garden City, unincorporated Chatham County and Port Wentworth all abut portions of I-95 or I-16.
Lackey said casino owners/operators have several criteria for a good site location for a casino resort.
“It has to be a minimum of 100 upland acres, close to an exit ramp, and visible from Interstate 95,” Lackey said. “They also want it near a state line.”
The sites should be easily reachable by car for those who live in major population centers, he added.
From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:
A Georgia developer who helped build The Battery, a mixed-use complex in Cobb County that includes the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park, recently released renderings of three proposed casino resorts around the state, injecting tangible details into an issue that has been debated more often in broad generalities.
“It gives a hometown flavor to have somebody in Georgia who would be a frontline player,” said state Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, co-sponsor of a constitutional amendment to legalize casinos in Georgia introduced in the state House of Representatives late last month.
Smyre’s hometown is the site of one of the casinos proposed by Rick Lackey, founder of Atlanta-based City Commercial Real Estate. It would be built along the Chattahoochee River.
Lackey also is eyeing sites along Interstate 85 in Lavonia near the South Carolina line and along I-95 in Midway south of Savannah. Besides casinos, the resorts would include luxury hotels, entertainment venues and retail shopping.
Siting casinos along Georgia’s north-south interstate highways is key to attracting tourists, Lackey said.
“There are people who drive through Georgia on I-75, I-85 or I-95 on their way to Florida,” he said. “At some point, they’re going to stop and get gas, a Chick-fil-A sandwich and go to the bathroom. We don’t have anywhere for them to stop and stay.”
Whether Gwinnett County Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks will continue in that role is under debate, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.
“I’ve never worried about my job,” Wilbanks told the Daily Post. “I give 100% every day and I work at the pleasure of the board. If that’s not what they want, if they get three votes, they can change that.”
As a five-member board, it takes three members voting in favor of an action to enact it. The board is made up of Chairman Everton Blair, of District 4; Vice Chairwoman Karen Watkins, of District 1; District 2 Board Member Steve Knudsen; District 3 Board Member Mary Kay Murphy; and District 5 Board Member Tarece Johnson.
Wilbanks’ contract is up for renewal on June 30, 2022. But the superintendent — who is in his late 70s and will be approaching his 80s when that renewal date arrives — did not say whether he will ask for it to be extended.
The divide over Wilbanks can be illustrated by the fact that there are competing petitions circulating in Gwinnett County.
One petition  calls for Wilbanks to be fired by the school board. The petition, which has 333 signatures and is signed by “The Concerned Stakeholders of Gwinnett County Public Schools,” accuses Wilbanks of having “enabled a racist and ableist school culture that caters to upper middle-class white students.”
The other, which  is being circulated in Republican circles, is designed to rally support for the superintendent. It had 1,724 signatures as of Saturday. It states the GCPS “has been a leader on a multitude of levels in education for the past two decades” under Wilbanks’ leadership.
United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) spoke to Riley Bunch of the CNHI papers about his priorities in the Senate.
Ossoff wants to make good on campaign promises and said he is urging his pandemic-fatigued colleagues to expand their efforts.
The 33-year-old Ossoff told CNHI his top priorities are increasing federal allotments of vaccine doses to states, rushing stimulus checks to Americans and dedicating more dollars to smaller cities and towns that have been previously left behind in bailout efforts.
“We need to move swiftly to pass COVID relief with this Senate majority,” Ossoff said. “And we need to be bold in delivering the level of relief that families and small businesses and local communities need to survive during this crisis.”
“I am working intensively within the Senate, urging inclusion in this COVID relief bill of direct relief for smaller communities like Valdosta, Americus, Thomasville and Milledgeville,” he told CNHI. “So that local mayors, local police departments, local fire departments, local school systems, local health systems are getting the direct federal support they need to keep serving Georgians and save jobs.”
Both Ossoff and Warnock said they continue advocating for $2,000 stimulus checks for Americans — a prominent campaign promise — although Biden favors $1,400.
“We have to make good on the commitment that we made back in December,” Ossoff said. “$600 was never enough, and the commitment was to increase the stimulus to $2,000 and those checks need to be sent in short order.”
From the Macon Telegraph:
[Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Atlanta)] cast a key “yes” vote early Friday morning for a budget resolution that paves the way for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief deal. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer credited Warnock and his Georgia counterpart, Sen. Jon Ossoff, for giving Democrats control of the chamber and allow them to move forward with more COVID-19 aid.
Warnock has been consistent in his support for $2,000 direct payments. The Washington Post reported Thursday that the latest Democratic plans include $1,400 checks to people earning under $50,000 and $2,800 to married couples under $100,000. Warnock said in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer and Telegraph hours before the budget resolution vote that relief is “urgent.”
“First thing we got to do is we’ve got to pass this COVID stimulus package. We cannot delay on this another day,” he said. “People in Georgia are suffering. And many of the people who a year ago were passing out food to others are in soup lines themselves. …We’ve got to support our small cities and towns, and we’ve got to support rural Georgia as well.”
Warnock called efforts by Republicans in the Georgia state House and Senate to impose voting restrictions “anti-Democratic.” Roughly two dozen pieces of voting legislation have been filed in the General Assembly, and a large portion of them are Republican-backed bills aimed at absentee by-mail ballots or absentee voting.
Warnock is co-sponsoring the For the People Act which would expand same-day registration, in-person early vote and no-fault absentee voting. The legislation would also prohibit states from restricting by-mail voting. Warnock has also announced his support of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which could require Georgia to get preclearance from the U.S. Department of Justice before changing its voting laws.
“They’re creating a solution in search of a problem,” he said. “We know that voter fraud is virtually nonexistent in our country. And some people just don’t like the results.”
U.S. Representative Andrew Clyde (R-Athens-ish) has been fined for bypassing metal detectors at the United States Capitol, according to AccessWDUN.
Several national media outlets have reported Clyde, a Republican from Jackson County, and GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas are the first lawmakers to be fined under a new House rule. The rule, adopted Tuesday, imposes a $5,000 fine for a first-time offense and a $10,000 fine for subsequent offenses.
The fines will be deducted directly from each congressman’s salary.
The rule was enacted in response to the Jan. 6 breach at the U.S. Capitol where protesters stormed the building. Six people were killed during the four-hour raid on the Capitol. Dozens of protesters were arrested.
From the Gainesville Times:
Clyde’s office released a transcript of remarks the congressman made on Fox News late Friday night. In the interview, Clyde calls the issue a constitutional one and says he plans to appeal.
“Those metal detectors are there to detain us … and that’s a violation of Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution. … The Constitution says that we cannot be impeded when we go to the floor to vote, and those metal detectors are unconstitutional.”
The House adopted the rule Tuesday on a 216-210 vote. All Republicans voted against it, including Gohmert and Clyde.
The congressmen have the right to appeal to the Ethics Committee within 30 days and could only escape the fine if a majority of that panel agrees.
“I’m going to fight it,” Clyde said on Fox Friday. “I’m going to appeal it, and then I’m going to take them to court, because this is unconstitutional. We’re all set up to do that.”
The Glynn County Board of Education is considering stipends for substitute teachers, according to The Brunswick News.
“With COVID-19, it’s been a challenge to keep all of our classrooms covered with substitutes when people are out, for a myriad of reasons,” said Michele Seals, employment staffing manager for Glynn County Schools, during a school board work session Feb. 4. “But we felt like one way we could definitely recognize those substitutes who are coming on a regular basis — and we have quite a few come on a regular basis — is to provide them with some type of stipend at the end of each semester, of about $250.”
Substitutes who work 50 percent or more of a semester would earn the stipend.
Superintendent Scott Spence said the school system received emails from substitutes asking why they were not included in the districtwide stipend distribution last month for full-time and part-time staff.
“This is our way of rewarding those substitutes we consider priority substitutes who come more often,” he said. “And it’s about 24 (substitutes) that worked more than 50 percent of the time last semester.”
Clarke County public schools will reopen to in-person learning in phases after Valentine’s Day, according to the Athens Banner Herald.
Augusta City Commissioners are weighing a return in in-person meetings, according to the Augusta Chronicle.
“The senate and house are meeting in Atlanta and in Washington. What makes Augusta so different that we can’t go in for three hours one day a week?” said Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight.
With commissioners sitting in front of various backgrounds, from a garage to a tropical island, smoking and eating as they wave their hands to speak, McKnight said some in the community have asked if the group is getting too comfortable.
“They are questioning the decorum, the way it looks. It’s just unprofessional,” she said.
McKnight and two of her colleagues – John Clarke and Sammie Sias – are alone in want[ing] to restart in-person meetings. Last week, the body voted 6-3-1 to reconsider resuming in-person meetings only after reviewing COVID-19 case numbers in 30 days.
JoEllen Smith, a small business owner, wrote an Op-Ed about the importance of local government, in the Savannah Morning News.
One of the few bright spots of 2020 is the extent to which citizens became involved in the political process. Everyone has an opinion, and people even know the names of the latest Supreme Court appointees. Does all that affect your life? Yes, of course it does, and it can be fun to follow politics like competing football teams.
But in terms of day-to-day and month-to-month control over your life, there is nothing quite like local politics. It has the most impact on how you live, with whom you live and what will happen to your surroundings and your wallet.
Most people are aware that these elected bodies have control over zoning issues but would you be surprised to learn that they can even dictate the types of materials used in construction of new homes; grant an “easement or franchise” to a private company over the very public streets you drive; or even sell the street you live on all together[?]
In mid-March, perhaps 11% of the city residents of Richmond Hill will choose one of their leaders granting them this power. You read it right. There is a special election for a vacated seat on the council. If past patterns hold up, only 11% or 12% of voters will even turn out.
Two long-term residents, Les Fussell and Marcus Thompson, are the only two who have qualified to run. Do you know them? Have you talked to them? Do they see life in your city the same way you do?
It’s important folks. Don’t take a chance, pay attention locally as much as you do nationally.
Gainesville set qualifying fees for local offices to be elected in November, according to AccessWDUN.
For the Gainesville City School Board, District 1, currently held by Andy Stewart, and District 4, currently held by Dr. Heather Ramsey, are both open. Stewart and Ramsey both were elected in 2017.
The fees to qualify for the school board seats are $174.60. “This calculation is based on the formula that the state requires us to use, and based on information that was provided by your finance director,” said Denise Jordan, Gainesville city clerk, at this week’s school board work session.
In the city, Wards 1 and 4 are also up for election. Sam Couvillon and George Wangemann, respectively, occupy those seats on city council. The mayor’s post, currently held by Danny Dunagan, will also be on the ballot. Qualifying fees for city council are higher, with council members needing $819 to qualify and the mayor needing $864 to qualify.
In 2014, the mayoral position became an elected post; prior to that, the mayor’s job responsibility rotated among council members. Dunagan is the only person to have been elected to that role. Wangemann, however, has announced he will challenge Dunagan for the mayoral job.
Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz issued an official apology for the city’s role in the demolition of a Linnentown in the 60s to make way for college dorms, according to the Athens Banner Herald.
Once the homes in Linnentown were razed and moved, the University of Georgia built three high-rise dormitories on the property along Baxter Street.
The proclamation by Girtz precedes a discussion by the Athens-Clarke County Commission to consider a more wide-ranging resolution, expected to face a vote at a special-called meeting Feb. 16.
Commissioner Mariah Parker is expected to present the resolution calling for recognition and redress for Linnentown, its descendants and Black communities harmed by the decisions made under a federal program called “urban renewal.”
WeGo, part of the Gainesville transit system, will take area residents to COVID vaccination appointments for a dollar, according to the Gainesville Times.
From Monday, Feb. 8 until March 31, the city is offering WeGo rides to vaccine appointments at a reduced rate of $1 per ride to eight vaccination centers throughout the city. The service normally operates at $3 per ride.
Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center Director Phillippa Moss said she believes the service can be a “game-changer” for a community that has been hit especially hard by the ongoing pandemic.
In some rural areas across the country, people have found COVID-19 vaccinations inaccessible due to long commutes between vaccination centers or limited to no transportation options.
“We are a resource-rich community, and we did not want transportation to be a barrier for people getting the vaccine,” Moss told the Times. “When our staff and I noticed the uptick in cases in our country, we knew we needed to use our resources like WeGo to make a difference during this pandemic.”
WeGo operates a 10-12 person fleet from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and riders must download the app to schedule a pick-up time and destination.
Governor Brian Kemp has raised more than $6 million dollars for his reelection campaign next year, according to the AJC.
Gov. Brian Kemp raised about $1.9 million for his reelection campaign in the past seven months and has about $6.3 million banked as he heads toward a possible rematch with Democrat Stacey Abrams.
Kemp spent about $20 million in 2018 to beat Abrams in a relatively close race. However, former President Donald Trump has promised to back GOP opposition against Kemp in 2022 because the governor was unwilling to help him illegally flip the results of November’s election.
Abrams — who outspent Kemp in 2018 — reported having only $48,000 in her gubernatorial account at the end of 2020. But the voting rights group she founded, Fair Fight, has raised about $100 million since late 2018.
Georgia Secretary of State Bradd Raffensperger told the AJC he will run for reelection.
Raffensperger said he is “absolutely” seeking another term and said he’s confident Georgians will come to understand “what we did is right” when he refused intense pressure from Trump to reverse his defeat.
“We’re following the law,” he said. “And if you want to win, you have to have a vision. You have to run on a platform of what you want to do. And you need to be unified. You can’t eat your own. You can’t backbite.”
Charlie Bailey became the first Democrat to announce a 2022 bid when he launched his campaign in January seeking a rematch against Attorney General Chris Carr after his narrow defeat to the Republican three years ago. He’s trying to get a jump on other rivals, including state Sen. Jen Jordan, who is expected to join the field.
But top Democrats say they’ll benefit from a sense of unity behind Abrams and Warnock that Republicans can’t match.
“We’re going to remove all the doubt that Georgia is a blue state next year,” said Dasheika Ruffin, a veteran Democratic strategist. “They’re going to have to throw the kitchen sink to try to stop Stacey, and it still won’t work. And because of that, the entire ticket will rise.”
Meanwhile, Cobb County Republican Party Chair Jason Shepherd announced he will run for Chairman of the state party. From the AJC:
Georgia GOP chair David Shafer is trying to maintain control of a party apparatus he won in 2019 with a pledge to beef up a “neglected” grassroots in dozens of counties that have no local GOP organizations.
But Shafer is facing growing internal pressure after Georgia voted Democratic for president for the first time since 1992 and Republican incumbents were swept in last month’s Senate runoffs.
Cobb County GOP chair Jason Shepherd on Saturday announced a challenge to Shafer at a grassroots breakfast where he was introduced by former GOP chair Sue Everhart. And other activists could mount a bid for the job before the June vote, including Scott Johnson, a former Cobb GOP chair and state Board of Education member who was runner-up to Shafer in 2019.
Shafer, a former state senator who unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 2018, hasn’t formally announced yet but his allies say he is likely to do so soon.
Shepherd’s platform will center on uniting a divided party that has suffered grievous defeats, even in his own backyard: Cobb has swung increasingly Democratic since Trump’s 2016 election and is now a key cornerstone of the party’s coalition in 2022.