Category: Georgia Politics


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 28, 2019

Lt. Colonel George Washington fought French and Indian scouts on May 28, 1754, beginning the Seven Years War.

On May 28, 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, requiring all Native Americans to relocate west of the Mississippi River.

The Battle of Dallas, Georgia began on May 28, 1864. Click here to watch Week 7 of the Georgia Public Broadcasting/Atlanta History Center series on the Civil War in Georgia.

Happy Birthday to Gladys Knight, born in Atlanta on May 28, 1944.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early Voting begins today in a June 18 Special Election for Flowery Branch City Council, according to the Gainesville Times.

Ed Asbridge, Missy Brooks and Chip McCallum are seeking the Post 2 seat vacated in December by Mary Jones, who died May 2.

The winner will serve out Jones’ term, which ends Dec. 31.

It may be a short stint, unless the new council member seeks the four-year term beginning Jan. 1 in the Nov. 5 election. But it shouldn’t be a slow one.

The DeKalb County Courthouse has been evacuated and closed due to a suspicious package, according to the AJC.

Governor Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr announced the formation of a new unit to prosecute human trafficking, according to a press release.

“One victim of human trafficking in the state of Georgia is one too many,” said Governor Kemp. “Marty and I are dedicated to ending this horrific crime which is why we worked with members of the General Assembly to prioritize funding for the creation of this unit. Starting January 1, Attorney General Carr will have the resources he needs to crack down on this industry and make sure that buyers and traffickers know Georgia is a hostile environment for those who seek to abuse our children.”

“Today, we take a large step forward in the fight to end human trafficking in the State of Georgia,” said First Lady Marty Kemp. “The GRACE Commission members and I are excited to partner with the new Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit to stop the bad actors fueling this terrible industry and protect our state’s most vulnerable.”

The Human Trafficking Unit will be comprised of the following positions:
• Senior Prosecutor
• Junior Prosecutor
• Criminal Investigator
• Crime Analyst
• Victim Advocate
• Administrative Assistant

“We are excited to build this Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit with dedicated staff who will work every day to protect our state’s most vulnerable and put buyers and traffickers behind bars,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “These resources are critically important, and we are grateful to Governor and First Lady Kemp and the Georgia General Assembly for making our unit a priority in the FY 2020 budget.”

“Human trafficking is a vile trade which we will not tolerate in Georgia,” said Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). “The General Assembly is committed to supporting the work to eradicate this criminal enterprise, and I thank Governor Kemp and the First Lady as well as Attorney General Carr for their unwavering resolve to end human trafficking in our state.”

The unit will be housed within the Attorney General’s Prosecution Division, working closely with local, state and federal law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases.

United States Secretary of Agriculture (and former Georgia Governor) Sonny Perdue writes about the proposed US-Mexico-Canada trade deal and the effects it will have on agriculture, in an op-ed published in the Ledger-Enquirer.

The University of Georgia recently published a study claiming the new United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement would cost some Georgia vegetable and fruit growers revenue and jobs. The sensational assertions are flat wrong. As a proud UGA alumnus, I’m here to tell you USMCA is good for Georgia’s farmers and all American agriculture.

Chapter by chapter, verse by verse, USMCA improves virtually every component of NAFTA and Georgia’s agriculture industry stands to gain significantly. It’s important to note we didn’t get all the improvements we wanted for seasonal fruits and vegetables. While we were hopeful we could make progress in the renewed NAFTA, USMCA isn’t a step backward. The UGA study assumed we lost ground, but the facts are it wasn’t ground we had to begin with. Since the inception of NAFTA more than 20 years ago, agricultural trade between our three countries has boomed. U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico increased by about 300% and our imports increased by almost 500%, benefiting producers and consumers on both sides of our borders.

The premise for UGA’s study is USMCA will not protect Georgia farmers from cheap Mexican fruits and vegetables. Because of that, the researchers came up with imagined scenarios in which they say a set of fruit and vegetable farmers would be vulnerable to competition. They neglect to mention farmers already face such competition under NAFTA. And they overlook the ways the Administration is fighting for a level playing field in the seasonal fruit and vegetable market.

USMCA benefits Georgia’s entire agricultural industry. By ensuring better market access and solidifying commitments to fair and science-based trade rules with our top trading partners, USMCA is a big win. For the first time, trading rules specifically address agricultural biotechnology to support innovation and reduce trade-distorting policies. Poultry producers have new access to Canada for chicken and eggs, and expanded access for turkey. Corn growers maintain duty-free access to Mexico, which is the top market for U.S. corn. USMCA updates rules of origin for processed fruits to ensure preferences benefit U.S. producers.

Savannah Pro-Abortion Protestors gathered last week, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“I have one message for Governor Kemp: We’ll see you in court,” said Staci Fox, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Southeast. “The people of this state stood up and spoke out against this draconian legislation and our lawmakers chose not to listen. Now we are mobilizing and we are coming for their seats. They will be held accountable for playing politics with women’s health.”

In Savannah, it raised questions and sparked confusion of what’s legal and what’s not.

“Our call centers have been inundated with calls,” said Barbara Ann Luttrell, PPSE spokeswoman. “People are worried that abortion is illegal. The most important thing we want people to know that abortions are legal. They can receive care.”

On Tuesday, dozens of protesters marched from Johnson Square to Chippewa Square in opposition of the band as one of hundreds across the country protesting of recent restrictive abortion bills signed into law by multiple states in the past weeks.

Atlanta Pro-Abortion Protestors gathered at the Capitol on Saturday, according to the AJC.

The crowd assembled on Washington Street SW shortly after noon to start the mile march to CNN Center, chanting, “My body, my choice.”

Organized under the name #DoBetterGA, the gathering wanted to bring attention to House Bill 481, which was signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Brian Kemp. The changes take effect in January but face a certain court challenge before then; Liliana Bakhtiari, speaking on behalf of Planned Parenthood Southeast, promised it.

“Kemp, we have a message for you,” Bakhtiari said. “You will be seeing us in court soon.”

The crowd, carrying signs and chanting pro-abortion rights slogans, filled Washington Street in front of the Capitol . But it all started with a group of college-aged activists and “20 or 30” messages to friends, said Molly Weston, a 19-year-old from Atlanta and one of the event’s co-organizers.

Speakers at the event came from other pro-abortion rights activist groups including Georgia’s chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Southeast and Black Votes Matter. Many of those who spoke emphasized that the abortion law and similar legislation does not only impact women, but the population at large.

Old White Guy Former Vice President Joe Biden will campaign for President in Georgia next month, according to the AJC.

Atlanta is going to feel a bit like Iowa on June 6.

Three presidential candidates were already set to visit the city that day for a fundraiser with Stacey Abrams.

Now former Vice President Joe Biden just revealed plans to trek to Atlanta on June 5 for an event – details have not yet been released – and stick around for a midday fundraiser the next day.

His visit coincides with the June 6 fundraiser that will bring U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke to the city for a joint event with Abrams, who is still considering whether to run for president.

In Houston County, a 17-year old is charged with murder in alleged gang violence, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Jaqwelvyn Smith, 17, was taken into police custody shortly after the 9:41 p.m. shooting April 21 at the intersection of Poole and Hamlin streets in Byron after the victim identified him as the shooter, said Sgt. Melanie Bickford, who is over investigations for Byron police.

Smith was originally charged with aggravated assault. New warrants will likely be handed down by end of day Wednesday.

Smith was a known as member of Piru, a sect of the Bloods gang, while there was no evidence to suggest Merion was in any gang, Bickford said.

Byron has been experiencing a rise in gang activity in that area over the last two years, Bickford said.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter announced his office will expand their anti-gang task force, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

On Friday, Porter announced the expansion, saying the drug task force has “successfully prosecuted large drug-cartel cases in Gwinnett County for years” but “will now bring the expertise of its members to bear on criminal street gangs as well.”

The unit will now be called the Drug and Gang Task Force.

“Although law enforcement in Gwinnett County has always worked together to fight the gang problem, by formally organizing my office’s Task Force to handle complex gang cases and by my office obtaining the latest technology to provide to law enforcement, I believe that we can improve the effectiveness of our effort overall,” Porter said. “This will also make it easier for us to work with other Formulytics users and with state and federal agencies.”

Formulytics is a specific gang case management system Porter received through a grant, he said. The district attorney has also made its use available to local law enforcement.

“Gangs have had a presence in Gwinnett County for several years, and Porter is answering the complaints of the Gwinnett citizens that actually live with the threat of gangs in their neighborhoods and schools,” said Lisa Jones, one of Porter’s chief assistant district attorneys. “Early responses to things that are seemingly innocuous like graffiti and petty theft hopefully prevent the egregious escalation to violence. Such escalation has been evidenced by a recent rash of shootings allegedly connected to gang-retaliation matters.”

“Disturbingly, gang culture seems to have permeated our society, and we have seen a rise in ‘hybrid gangs,’ gangs that are localized in our neighborhoods and schools,” Jones said. “They might even have no formal allegiance to traditional, national gangs, but adopt their colors and signs. Some members of hybrid gangs will change their gang allegiance simply because of where they live or work.”

“An increased focus on gangs will also necessarily involve the education and participation of the public,” the DA’s office said. “Materials and training are planned so that gang activity can be recognized by parents, school officials, churches and mentors.”

Savannah City Manager Rob Hernandez is out on medical leave, and Patrick Monahan is acting city manager, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools have released the first draft of their 2020 budget, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The fiscal year 2020 Budget Process document used for the May 15 public hearing assumed a 4% growth in the tax digest, Savannah-Chatham County Budget Director Paige Cooley said. “We’re projecting a $7 million increase in fiscal year ’20 as opposed to this year,” she said.

The $7 million increase also is stated in the Preliminary Budget, but the percentage increase it uses from the current fiscal year is 2.7%, not 4% as described in the Budget Process document, which is available from the agenda posted on Local tax revenue is expected to generate $276.5 million of the general fund, which Cooley described as the day-to-day fund for the district. It does not include much local tax revenue from the 1% Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) collected at the register.

The administration’s Budget Process document provides a breakout of an overall Savannah-Chatham County public schools budget of $607.7 million, with the general fund accounting for $447.1 million. Capital projects account for $77.0 million, special revenue like Title I and School Food Service revenue represents $68.1 million, a debt service fund is estimated at $11.7 million and an internal service fund at $3.8 million.

“Two areas I just want to point out are components of Gov. Kemp’s budget recommendation, and this proposed budget includes a $3,000 certificated staff salary increase for all certificated staff and a 2% pay raise for all classified employees,” Cooley said.

Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods and Governor’s Office of Student Achievement Executive Director Joy Hawkins are held a listening session, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Their two-hour listening session Tuesday morning at the First District Regional Educational Service Agency headquarters in Brooklet was the 13th of 16 such sessions, one in each RESA region. About 50 people, including superintendents of most of the 19 public school systems that First District RESA serves, filled the room. Woods reported seeing similar levels of interest and participation from local superintendents and support staff in other regions.

“Of course, school safety is one of the topics that keep coming up,” Woods said after the meeting. “They’re looking at teacher raises, teacher recruitment and retention. Dual enrollment, the QBE formula and assessment and accountability are probably some of the major topics that we consistently hear across the state.”

“Some of the other barriers that they’re commenting on are redundancies that have occurred between our agency and the DOE, and that’s an easy fix,” Hawkins said. “To have two masters doesn’t make any sense, so we’re working with the DOE to figure out what should be with GOSA and what DOE should take on so that school systems are not confused about who they report to and whose goals they aspire to.”

“The message from our superintendents was we want to be held accountable for what we’re doing, but they’ve got two different mechanisms right now and they measure different things,” Smith said. “We’d like to see them get one single accountability measure and leave it the same for some time.”

Muscogee County School Superintendent Virginia Korcha spoke about proposed changes to school times, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Tabitha Ponder Beckford of Moultrie announced she will run for an open seat on the Georgia Court of Appeals being vacated by Judge Sara Doyles, according to the Albany Herald.

Glynn County Tax Commissioner Jeff Chapman will soon complete an expansion of their physical offices, according to The Brunswick News.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced that commercial and recreational shrimp season will open at 8 AM on Wednesday, and oyster season closes Saturday, according to The Brunswick News.

“The data collected through DNR’s Ecological Monitoring Trawl Survey show that Georgia shrimp numbers are in great shape this year and are higher than average at the moment,” B.J. Hilton, a DNR marine biologist, said in a statement. “We feel the numbers and count size are where they need to be to open the fishery in Georgia’s state waters.

“The water temperature is well above what last year’s averages, which allowed inland waters to warm faster and speed up the growth and development of the shrimp in estuaries. In turn, the shrimp migrated to sounds and beaches earlier than normal to spawn.”

The closing of wild oyster harvesting is to reduce the chances of people contracting illnesses from Vibrio parahaemolyticus, instances of which increase in filter-feeding shellfish as waters warm.

“This closure ensures that Georgia meets the requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program to protect public health by implementing a Vp control plan,” Dominic Guadagnoli, shellfish fishery manager for the DNR Coastal Resources Division, said in a statement. “We expect this closure to have little adverse impact on recreational and commercial oyster harvesters, since most individuals refrain from eating freshly harvested wild oysters during the summer months when the combination of spawning and warm water makes oysters less desirable as seafood.”

I’d like a fried platter, please.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 24, 2019

John Hancock was elected President of the Second Continental Congress on May 24, 1775.

The Constitutional Convention of 1787 convened at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787.

With George Washington presiding, the Constitutional Convention formally convenes on this day in 1787. The convention faced a daunting task: the peaceful overthrow of the new American government as it had been defined by the Article of Confederation.

The process began with the proposal of James Madison’s Virginia Plan. Madison had dedicated the winter of 1787 to the study of confederacies throughout history and arrived in Philadelphia with a wealth of knowledge and an idea for a new American government. It featured a bicameral legislature, with representation in both houses apportioned to states based upon population; this was seen immediately as giving more power to large states, like Virginia. The two houses would in turn elect the executive and the judiciary and would possess veto power over the state legislatures.

William Patterson soon countered with a plan more attractive to the new nation’s smaller states. It too bore the imprint of America’s British experience. Under the New Jersey Plan, as it became known, each state would have a single vote in Congress as it had been under the Articles of Confederation, to even out power between large and small states.

Alexander Hamilton then put forward to the delegates a third plan, a perfect copy of the British Constitution including an upper house and legislature that would serve on good behavior.

Confronted by three counter-revolutionary options, the representatives of Connecticut finally came up with a workable compromise: a government with an upper house made up of equal numbers of delegates from each state and a lower house with proportional representation based upon population. This idea formed the basis of the new U.S. Constitution, which became the law of the land in 1789.

On May 27, 1813, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to John Adams to let Adams know of the death of a mutual friend.

Georgia Militia under General John Floyd began rounding up Cherokee Indians on May 26, 1838.

General Robert E. Lee wrote a letter dated May 26, 1861 to Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown asking the state to send any weapons available for Georgia volunteers who arrived in Virginia unarmed.

On May 27, 1863, Chief Justice Roger Taney, sitting as a federal district court judge, issued a decision in Ex parte Merryman, which challenged President Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of the right of habeas corpus. Lincoln ignored the ruling.

The Battle of New Hope Church was fought near Dallas, Georgia May 25-26, 1864 between Confederates under General Joseph E. Johnston and Federal troops under General William T. Sherman.

Monday is the 155th Anniversary of the Battle of Pickett’s Mill in Paulding County, Georgia, where Sherman’s forces attacked Johnston’s Confederates on May 27, 1864. Among the combatants on the Union side was Ambrose Bierce, who would later write The Crime at Pickett’s Mill.

On May 27, 1864, the Federal Army, having been stopped in its advance on Atlanta two days earlier by the Battle of New Hope Church, attempted to outflank the Confederate position. Some 14,000 Federal troops were selected for the task, and General Howard was given command. After a five-hour march, Howard’s force reached the vicinity of Pickett’s Mill and prepared to attack. Waiting were 10,000 Confederate troops under the command of General Cleburne.

The Federal assault began at 5 p.m. and continued into the night. Daybreak found the Confederates still in possession of the field. The Federals had lost 1,600 men compared to the Confederate loss of 500. The Confederate victory resulted in a one-week delay of the Federal advance on Atlanta.

Here are some photos of the battlefield and links to additional material.

On May 25, 1907, an equine statue of John B. Gordon was unveiled on the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol.

President Calvin Coolidge signed the “Comprehensive Immigration Act” on May 26, 1924.

Many Americans saw the enormous influx of largely unskilled, uneducated immigrants during the early 1900s as causing unfair competition for jobs and land. Under the new law, immigration remained open to those with a college education and/or special skills, but entry was denied to Mexicans, and disproportionately to Eastern and Southern Europeans and Japanese. At the same time, the legislation allowed for more immigration from Northern European nations such as Britain, Ireland and Scandinavian countries. A quota was set that limited immigration to two percent of any given nation’s residents already in the U.S. as of 1890, a provision designed to maintain America’s largely Northern European racial composition. In 1927, the “two percent rule” was eliminated and a cap of 150,000 total immigrants annually was established.

The law particularly angered Japan, which in 1907 had forged with U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt a “Gentlemen’s Agreement,” which included more liberal immigration quotas for Japan. By 1924, strong U.S. agricultural and labor interests–particularly from California, which had already passed its own exclusionary laws against Japanese immigrants–favored the more restrictive legislation signed by Coolidge. The Japanese government viewed the American law as an insult, and protested by declaring May 26 a national day of humiliation in Japan.

Fort Frederica National Monument was established on St Simons Island, Georgia on May 26, 1936.

On May 27, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said the United States was in an unlimited national emergency and laid out conditions under which Germany’s expansionism would constitute an attack on the United States. There are those who believe that Roosevelt suspended the right of habeas corpus with Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps.

May 26, 1949 was named Clay Day in Marietta, Georgia in honor of General Lucius Clay, who spoke at the courthouse square.

Then-Lt. Governor Marvin Griffin announced his candidacy for Governor on May 24, 1954.

May 26, 1949 was named Clay Day in Marietta, Georgia in honor of General Lucius Clay, who spoke at the courthouse square.

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia held on May 25, 1962 that the Georgia General Assembly was malapportioned and ordered the reapportionment of the State House and Senate.

On May 27, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter blasted the “Stop Carter” movement in a speech in Cincinnati.

Star Wars opened on May 25, 1977.

John Smoltz tied the record for most strikeouts by a Braves pitcher, throwing 15 Ks against Montreal Expos on May 24, 1992.

Actor Christopher Reeves was thrown from his horse in an equestrian competition in Culpepper, Virginia on May 27, 1995, becoming quadraplegic.

Happy Birthday to Bob Dylan, who was born on this day in 1941.

Three years ago today, the 2016 General Primary and Nonpartisan General Election was held in Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston met with the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The powerful Blue Ridge lawmaker said he also plans to continue to use legislative leave for fundraisers, which is a practice that has drawn criticism from some as Ralston faces scrutiny for his use of a century-old law.

“That’s part of my job,” Ralston said at a meeting this week with members of the Dalton Daily Citizen-News. “My members expect me to do that, and I don’t think that that’s an inappropriate activity. It’s part of being the speaker. They view me as someone who can help them raise money.”

Ending the practice, he said, would “unilaterally disarm our party in the House of Representatives” to the benefit of the state Democratic Party.

A civil rights activist was removed from a meeting of Valdosta City Council, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Civil rights activist Floyd Rose was escorted out of a city council meeting at Valdosta City Hall Thursday evening.

Rose came to the meeting to once again ask the city to change the name of Forrest Street to Barack Obama Boulevard.

After a contentious back and forth with Mayor John Gayle during the council meeting, Rose exceeded the three minutes of time given to each person to speak during the public commenting portion of city meetings.

The mayor asked Rose to yield the floor, but when he ignored the request, police escorted the 80-year-old man out of the council chambers. He left peacefully and will not face any charges, Valdosta Police Chief Leslie Manahan said.

Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman will not run for reelection, but will run for Chair of the Chatham County Commission, according to the Savannah Daily News.

“After careful consideration and the full support of my family, I have decided that I will be running for the position of Chatham County Commission chairman in 2020,” he said. “I will continue to work hard to serve Tybee until my term expires at the end of 2019. I want to thank all the voters for giving me the opportunity to serve this community. It has truly been an honor and privilege to serve as the city’s mayor. This is the greatest little town in America, and I will miss this job.”

“I think it’s important — especially if you live in an area that can be hit by hurricanes — to make sure that you as a chief executive of part of the government communicates with the citizens. And we’ve done that on Tybee, and I’d like to be able to expand that to the rest of the county. And I think it’s important for governments not to work in silos and isolation but to collaborate with one another. I think that the county could do a better job of working with all stakeholders — school systems, city of Savannah, other municipalities, universities.”

Buelterman was first elected mayor of Tybee Island in 2006.

In addition to the mayoral seat, three Tybee Island City Council seats are up for election.

Perry City Council tentatively set a September 17, 2019 date for a special election for a new Mayor, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The City Council decided the date, Sept. 17, will be the date for the mayoral election, they decided at Monday’s work session, said Palmer Communications Manager Ellen Palmer.

Council can’t formally approve the date until after Mayor Jimmy Faircloth’s service officially ends May 31, Palmer said. The date for the election is set to be approved at the June 4 meeting.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 23, 2019

Serial bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were shot to death near Sailes, Louisiana by a group of LA and Texas state police on May 23, 1934.

On May 23, 1954, the NAACP petitioned the Fulton County Board of Education to desegregate after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Virginia Caucus on May 23, 1976, gaining 24 delegates. On May 25, 1976, Carter won the Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky Primary Elections for President.

On May 23, 1990, the NFL announced that Atlanta would host the 1994 Super Bowl.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Kemp‘s Georgians First Commission visited Valdosta, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Representatives of Gov. Brian Kemp’s Georgians First Commission stopped by Valdosta this week to hear from local business leaders about what can be done to improve small businesses in South Georgia.

Scott Hilton, director of implementation for Georgians First Commission, gave a presentation showing the importance of small businesses. The Kemp administration has tasked the commission with reviewing regulations and modifying procedures to streamline government, remove inefficiencies and cut red tape.

“The reason the governor wants us to get out and about across the state is to hear from as many folks as possible and to really listen to those questions, concerns, ideas that you have that could make our state better,” Hilton said. “What runs this state is small business.”

During the presentation, business and government leaders brought up concerns regarding college students leaving the community immediately after high school, poor access to capital for minority-owned businesses and a lack of good employees for businesses to pull from.

University of Georgia economists criticized a proposed new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

University of Georgia economists say the Trump administration’s proposed trade agreement with Canada and Mexico could be disastrous for south Georgia fruit and vegetable growers and some rural Georgia counties.

In a few counties, losses “will likely reach economic damage rarely seen since the Great Depression,” according to the policy brief by Jeffrey Dorfman, Julian Worley and Sharon Kane of the UGA Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

The proposed U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement between the three countries that took effect in 1994.

Bacon County could see a 22.9 percent drop in county income over time, while Clinch County could see a 40.3 percent drop and Echols County 46 percent, according to the UGA economists.

Other counties could see income drops from 2 to 5 percent, “equivalent to what is commonly experienced during an economic recession. Those include Appling (4.5 percent income loss), Brooks County (3.7 percent), Decatur (2.8 percent) and Colquitt counties (2 percent).

“While this is damaging to our growers, it’s devastating to a lot of these rural counties,” Hall said.

State House Speaker David Ralston continued his tour of local newspapers with state legislators who support him, speaking with the Dalton Daily Citizen.

[State Rep. Steve] Tarvin was one of a number of lawmakers from northwest Georgia who accompanied Ralston on Tuesday for a meeting with staff members of the Daily Citizen-News, and all said they support the speaker and say the allegations against him are false.State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, who chairs the powerful Senate Rules Committee, said he continues to back the speaker.

“He broke no law, and he’s a great leader,” Mullis said.

Mullis said the public tends to assume that the General Assembly is made up of attorneys but in reality, there are only eight among the Senate’s 56 members.

He noted that the Senate’s lawyer-legislators supported a measure earlier this year that tightened up Georgia’s legislative leave law, even though the changes also affect them. That bill, which was sponsored by attorneys in both chambers, cleared the Senate with a unanimous vote and the House by an overwhelming majority and was signed into law earlier this month by Kemp.

“I think we all agreed that lawyers have a different perspective with their job and usually they lose money by being in the General Assembly because they’re paid by the hour,” Mullis said.

In Savannah, protesters marched in opposition to the “heartbeat bill,” according to the Savannah Morning News.

Protesters marched from Johnson Square to Chippewa Square on Tuesday to protest the Georgia’s ‘heartbeat’ law, which was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp on May 7. The march was one of hundreds across the country in protest of recent restrictive abortion bills signed into law by multiple states in the past weeks.

Planned Parenthood will begin digital advertising against Republican United States Senators in states including Georgia, according to RollCall.

Planned Parenthood is working in states like Georgia, Missouri, Alabama and Ohio, and building on a digital ad campaign that will begin airing next week targeting vulnerable U.S. senators running next year.

“This is only the beginning. Planned Parenthood is going to harness this energy with all of our partners here to lead the charge to fight back,” said [Planned Parenthood President Leana] Wen. “We are mobilizing our activities in our top targeted states and laying these extreme bills at the feet of governors, state legislators and other anti-abortion politicians.”

“With regard to the states in 2020, I think we’re going to see a lot of gains in Georgia, Ohio for sure. We’ll pick up a couple seats in Missouri, I’ll anticipate,” she said.

Stacey Matthews writes critically of Stacey Abrams’s claims to have won the 2018 Gubernatorial election.

Since her defeat back in November, Abrams has repeatedly undermined the election process in the state of Georgia to much fanfare, applause, amens, nods and winks from the same media and pundit classes who roundly excoriated presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016 for not committing to accepting the election results if he wasn’t declared the winner.

Abrams isn’t the only one saying her election was “stolen.” Other Democrats — in addition to O’Rourke — who have said this in so many words include Sen. Cory Booker (NJ), who is also a presidential candidate, Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH), and Hillary Clinton.

“If she had a fair election, she already would have won,” Clinton said about a week after the election last year. “Stacey Abrams should be governor, leading that state right now,” Clinton would later assert in a March speech in Selma, Alabama.

“Trump’s refusal to concede the election if he loses proves he is a petty man uninterested in our national stability,” said the Democratic minority leader of Georgia’s House of Representatives.

That Democrat was Stacey Abrams.

Michael Barone also takes issues with claims by Abrams in the Washington Examiner.

The “big lie” is back in style. Wikipedia tells us that the term was invented by Adolf Hitler to describe what other did — though he was the biggest liar of all. “The broad masses of a nation,” he wrote in Mein Kampf, “more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie.”

Exhibit A: The increasingly common claims that Democrats Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum “won” last fall’s elections for governor in Georgia and Florida. Actually, both of them lost by 50%-49% margins.

Abrams admits this, but insists that “so many people were disenfranchised and disengaged … that I feel comfortable now saying, ‘I won.’” “Without voter suppression,” presidential candidate Kamala Harris told the Detroit NAACP, “Stacey Abrams would be the governor of Georgia, Andrew Gillum is the governor of Florida.”

This is nonsense. Voter turnout was up 54% in Georgia and 38% in Florida over 2014 levels. And the “voter suppression” that people are complaining about was standard procedure, required by longstanding federal and state laws.

From Atlanta to Adelaide, from the Steele dossier to the Brexit opponents, the big lie is being deployed in the service of delegitimizing the results of elections. But as one observer said, refusing to “respect the results” of an election is “threatening our democracy.” That was Hillary Clinton, tweeting on Oct. 21, 2016.

Savannah is considering restrictions on new convenience stores that sell alcohol and coin-operated gaming machines, according to the Savannah Morning News.

If approved, no new convenience stores that sell alcohol will be allowed in the Alcohol Density Overlay District. In addition, businesses throughout the city with gaming machines will face new restrictions.

City staff is recommending revisions to the Alcohol Density Overlay District ordinance to limit any new convenience stores that sell alcohol in the overlay district area. Council will discuss the plans at its regular meeting June 6.

“Residents didn’t want any more,” [Savannah director of planning and urban design Bridget] Lidy said, referring to convenience stores. “The residents are passionate about it.”

The intent behind not allowing any new convenience stores that sell alcohol through the Alcohol Density Overlay District is to “curtail or prevent littering, loitering, aggressive panhandling, noise and increased traffic,” according to the ordinance. It’s also noted that the problems in areas of dense alcohol sales can contribute to lower property values and quality of life for residents.

Highlights of the changes for coin-operated amusement machines include requiring an annual city registration for any business with machines, an annual business tax certificate, fines, signage, and inspections.

Judge Martha Christian heard arguments in a lawsuit against Hall County, the board of commissioners and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, according to the AJC.

Wednesday marked the second major hearing in the lawsuit first filed in January 2017, which the attorneys said originally involved about 70 current employees and about 30 that retired after July 1, 2008. The majority are first responders. Roughly 100 people gathered in the Hall County courtroom Wednesday, many being active and former county employees.

“The bait and switch is, ‘Hey, you’re going to make a lot more money under the defined contribution plan. But, of course, you’re not going to be using our money.’ You’re going to be using your own, and only if you can afford to contribute to the defined contribution plan,” Buckley said.

The change regarding the county pension plan happened in 1998, when the plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Kramer claimed the county “froze plaintiffs’ accrued pension benefits and failed to make the required annual employer contributions to plaintiffs’ individual retirement accounts.”

The result, according to the plaintiffs, is much reduced pension payouts and employees delaying retirement, afraid they won’t be able to afford it.

Two parks on Lake Lanier will remain closed this weekend, according to the Gainesville Times.

West Bank Park and Sawnee Campground in Cumming will be closed over Memorial Day weekend, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

West Bank Park has been closed due to heavy rains and floods earlier this spring. Its reopening date has not been announced yet.

Sawnee Campground has been closed due to limited staffing and volunteers. The campground will reopen June 13.

In Gwinnett County, opponents of a proposed waster transfer station near Tribble Mill Park will hold a public meeting, according to the AJC.

The community meeting will be held from 7 until 8 p.m. at Graystone Church-Ozora, which is located at 1551 Ozora Road in unincorporated Loganville. Opponents of the proposed station are planning to discuss what the rezoning request for the transfer station means and how they can go about fighting it.

Gwinnett County Planning Commission Chairman Chuck Warbington said the residents’ opposition to the proposal has not gone unheard.

“Substantial community opposition has already voiced many concerns to me related to this case,” he said. “The planning commission will ensure public input is considered as we complete our due diligence regarding this case.”

The applicants pushing the proposal, Darron Britt and Buddy Ray Johnson, want to rezone the 51.62-acre property on the 800 block of Ozora Road from residential to industrial. The site is large enough that it is considered a development of regional impact and therefore must be reviewed by the Atlanta Regional Commission as well as county planning staff.

A McIntosh County grand jury has delayed proceedings against McIntosh County Clerk of Court Rebecca McFerrin, according to The Brunswick News.

Grand jury action on allegations that suspended McIntosh County Clerk of Court Rebecca McFerrin violated her oath of office has been delayed pending resolution of a petition to remove her from office, District Attorney Tom Durden said.

“We are working toward a resolution,’’ Durden said Wednesday, the day the grand jury met and handed up a number of criminal indictments.

The Northwest Georgia Housing Authority finds too few landlords willing to accept Section 8 vouchers, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Northwest Georgia Housing Authority Executive Director Sandra Hudson told her board that HUD wants a 95% lease rate for housing vouchers allocated to the agency.

The authority is running at an 85% rate as of the end of April.

A lot of the problem involves the lack of landlords who want to participate in the program, Hudson said. The Heritage Pointe Apartments on Redmond Circle are no longer accepting Section 8 vouchers and a number of people who had been living there with federal assistance have had to be relocated.

Attorney Stewart Duggan told the authority a ruling in a Texas case had ruled in favor of landlords, supporting their argument that they were not violating the terms of fair housing laws by not participating in the program.

Parking decks and public attitudes about them are key to downtown parking in Rome, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Mayor Bill Collins said he’s hearing complaints that “people don’t want their wives parking in a deck.” A number of others who spoke at the City Commission meeting Monday echoed his sentiments.

However, Becky Smyth, the Downtown Development parking services manager, said there’s been a concerted effort to address those concerns since the parking plan was adopted in May 2018.

The long-range plan is to convert the on-street spaces downtown to short-term paid slots and encourage the use of the parking decks by making those spaces free.

Lula Mayor Jim Grier is hoping to jump-start a small business group to promote the city’s employers, according to the Gainesville Times.

Noticing the increase of small businesses in Lula, Grier decided that now was the time to promote their growth.

He has seen other merchant associations — like the Gainesville Business Coalition — conduct joint marketing efforts among its members to promote special events in their downtown areas. Grier has also witnessed these groups identify community needs and support charities.

The mayor will launch a networking event at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 12 at Lula’s City Hall to catalyze the development of the merchant association. Grier encourages small Lula business owners to attend.

He hopes that the networking event will inspire a natural leader to spearhead the merchant association and recruit members. So far, Grier said several small business owners have expressed interest in forming the group.

“This would really promote the downtown area of Lula as well as the rest of the community,” he said. “We want to make sure everybody that’s a small business owner has a chance to be at the meeting and get involved.”

Habersham County Commission Chairman Stacy Hall came under fire, according to AccessWDUN.

Cornelia attorney Douglas McDonald openly called for the resignation of Habersham County Commission Chairman Stacy Hall during Monday night’s commission meeting.

“Before the commission moves to adopt the meeting’s agenda, I would like to raise a point of order for the record,” Hall said. “During the May 14 called meeting of the Habersham County Commission, the commission entered executive session with the Hospital Authority for the purpose of discussing property acquisition/disposal, per Official Code of Georgia …”

“At the conclusion of the executive session, there was a vote to come out of executive session and a vote on an affidavit certifying that the purpose of the executive session and the discussion within executive session was indeed lawful,” Hall said. “Immediately after the vote on the affidavit, there was a motion, followed by a second, then a full vote to adjourn the full meeting.”

“What should have happened but did not was to open the doors to the meeting room following the conclusion of the executive session and allow anyone still waiting to enter the open session part of the meeting to re-enter,” Hall said. “This was a procedural error by the Chair, and I personally apologize. The minutes will reflect that there was no discussion, no comment, nor any further agenda item considered once the executive session was adjourned.

“Sir, since you have admitted violating the criminal laws of Georgia, since you have admitted that you violated the civil laws of Georgia in regards to the Georgia Open Meetings law, I call upon you to resign your position as county commissioner; that you acknowledge to the governor of Georgia, that you acknowledge to the attorney general of Georgia and to any other law enforcement agencies, including the district attorney of Habersham County, that you have violated the criminal laws of Georgia, the Georgia Sunshine law and the Georgia Open Meetings law; and that you go on and voluntarily pay a $1,000 fine, which is the fine for the criminal violation, and up to $1,000 that a superior court judge can order you to pay for admission of violating the law on May 14 ….” [said McDonald.]

Statesboro City Council voted to annex 33.35 acres at the request of the owner, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Woodstock City Council is considering a partial rollback of property tax rates, according to the Tribune Ledger News.

Woodstock City Council members are considering a partial rollback in the property tax rate for its 2020 budget, which may mean a small tax savings for some property owners.

With the partial rollback, the proposed millage rate is 6.57 mills, down from 6.72 mills.

The city council held a first reading Monday and will have a second reading and vote to adopt the budget June 10.

The city projects a 6-percent increase in the net property tax digest, before appeals and exemptions. With more tax money due to higher property values, the city can “roll back” the rate to end up with the same or more revenue. Later this year the tax digest will be finalized and the city council will officially confirm the millage rate in August.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 22, 2019

On May 22, 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner with his cane. Brooks used the cane as the result of injury sustained in a previous duel, and found Sumner at his desk in the Senate Chamber. In the course of a two-day Senate speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would have nullified the Missouri Compromise on the expansion of slavery, Sumner had criticized three legislators, including a cousin of Rep. Brooks, Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina.

On May 22, 1819, the steamship Savannah left the port of Savannah for Liverpool, England. After 29 days, it became the first steamship to cross the Atlantic. On May 22, 1944, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the voyage of the Savannah.

On May 22, 1932, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the commencement address for Oglethorpe University at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp will tour a local film studio, according to the AJC.

On the day he initially planned a trip to Hollywood to court film executives, Gov. Brian Kemp will instead privately tour Georgia studios and try to calm nervous industry officials wary of a growing backlash over the anti-abortion “heartbeat” law he signed.

The Republican plans a closed-door visit to a studio in metro Atlanta Wednesday to speak with executives and students in the film industry, rather than a roundtable discussion or other public event.

Georgia film boosters worry the pushback could threaten the state’s perch as one of the leading locations for movie and TV productions, thanks to a tax break that allows film companies to earn tax credits for up to 30 percent of what they spend here.

The industry has become so influential in state politics that even the fiercest fiscal conservatives see the tax credits as untouchable. That includes Kemp, who said during the campaign he would review every tax incentive – but leave the film breaks alone.

Former DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton has been indicted by a federal grand jury, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

According to the indictment, Barnes Sutton demanded monthly payments of $500 in 2014 from a contractor whose company had received a sizeable contract from the DeKalb County Commission in connection with construction of a wastewater treatment plant. She was serving at the time as chairman of the DeKalb board’s subcommittee on Finance, Audit and Budget and a member of the subcommittee on Public Works and Infrastructure.

The demand later was increased to $1,000 a month. The contractor made two $500 payments before the FBI stepped in and disrupted the scheme, the indictment alleges.

Barnes Sutton lost a bid for re-election in a runoff in 2016.

A federal lawsuit over Georgia voting will move forward, according to the Gainesville Times.

A lawsuit challenging Georgia’s outdated voting machines and seeking statewide use of hand-marked paper ballots can move forward, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

State lawyers had asked U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg to dismiss the lawsuit.

Totenberg wrote in her order rejecting that request that the state’s arguments “completely ignore the reality faced by election officials across the country underscored by Plaintiffs’ allegations that electronic voting systems are under unceasing attack.”

Among other arguments, lawyers for the state said the lawsuit was no longer valid because a new law provides specifications for a new voting system that state officials say will be implemented in time for the 2020 election cycle.

But Totenberg had said during a hearing last month that she didn’t think the claims were irrelevant given that the current machines are still in use for numerous special and municipal elections scheduled this year.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioners adopted a new ordinance on marijuana possession, according to the Macon Telegraph.

An ordinance that eliminates jail time for misdemeanor marijuana possession and sets the fine at $75 was adopted by Macon-Bibb County Commissioners late Tuesday.

The ordinance, which applies to amounts less than one ounce, passed with a 5-4 vote after weeks of public opinion and discussion.

Commissioners Al Tillman, Virgil Watkins, Elaine Lucas, Bert Bivins and Larry Schlesinger voted for the ordinance while Scotty Shepherd, Joe Allen, Valerie Wynn and Mallory Jones opposed it.

“In doing the research and talking to so many people, this is probably the first municipality that you had the sheriff’s office, the district attorney’s office, the solicitor general’s office, to not come out and fight us tooth and nail on this,” Tillman said.

The maximum penalty under state law for a misdemeanor marijuana possession is still one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The new ordinance allows deputies to hand out lesser penalties with no jail time.

The AJC reports that four Metro Atlanta district attorneys will not prosecute women who receive abortions under the hearbeat law.

Several district attorneys in metro Atlanta are taking strong stances on Georgia’s new “heartbeat” abortion law, saying Friday that they would not prosecute women for getting an abortion.

“As District Attorney with charging discretion, I will not prosecute individuals pursuant to HB 481 given its ambiguity and constitutional concerns,” DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston said in a statement. “As a woman and mother, I am concerned about the passage and attempted passage of laws such as this one in Georgia, Alabama, and other states.”

In Cobb County, Acting DA John Melvin took a similar approach. He interpreted the law to suggest that a woman would not be committing murder if she received an abortion. He said women could “absolutely not” be prosecuted under the unlawful abortion statute.

Fulton County DA Paul Howard “has no intention of ever prosecuting a woman under this new law,” a spokesman said, adding that he would not prosecute abortion providers either.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, one of the four cited by the AJC, also spoke to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

In a statement, Porter said his decision is not based in political belief; rather, he doesn’t believe the law allows for women to be prosecuted.

“I believe that under the current law, it is not possible to prosecute a woman who has an abortion, even if it is self-induced, for either murder or unlawful abortion,” Porter said. “Therefore, as a matter of law as opposed to politics, this office will not be prosecuting any women under the new law as long as I’m District Attorney.”

“Here, unlawful abortion more specifically describes the conduct and therefore must be applied instead of murder,” Porter said. “(But) Georgia case law makes it clear that no woman can be prosecuted for unlawful abortion, therefore no prosecution (for either) can legally be brought.”

“I started here in 1981 and we have never had such a case in Gwinnett County,” Porter said. “The undecided question in the law is whether the unborn child can be a victim of a crime independent or in conjunction with the mother. Until the courts rule otherwise, I believe that there are possible scenarios where the unborn child could be the victim of a theft or an assault independent of the mother.”

Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke joined in the chorus, according to 13WMAZ.

Cooke says he won’t prosecute women, or doctor’s for exercising their constitutional right.

Houston Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Hartwig sent a statement to 13WMAZ that says, “My duty is to enforce the laws of the State of Georgia. It would be inappropriate to say that I would not enforce a law (or entire class of laws) enacted by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. Cases are always fact specific, and no two are the same. As with all other criminal cases, each case referred to the Houston DA’s office charging a violation of this new law will be individually reviewed for prosecutorial merit.”

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway extended the county’s participation in the federal 287(g) program for a year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

On Tuesday, the sheriff announced the renewal, which came as a surprise to some. While Conway had previously said he was going to renew his cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when the program’s current, three-year term expired in June, the Tuesday announcement was not anticipated.

“The 287(g) program is an effective tool that helps reduce crime and save money,” Conway said Tuesday. “I see the continued benefits of having this program in our county and will continue to support it as long as I’m in office.”

The program, which the longtime sheriff first brought to the county in November 2009, is a partnership between state or local law enforcement and ICE that allows local jurisdictions to receive delegated authority for immigration enforcement.

Chatham County has reaped increased revenue from weapons carry permits, according to the Savannah Morning News.

 The third quarter county financial report shows revenues from the permits are $35,000 over budget from Jan. 1 to March 31 of this year. Revenues are up $87,382 over the same time period from last year.

Chief Clerk of Probate Court Wendy Williamson said the increases are from the court becoming a “one-stop” shop for those filing for the permits.

“The public (in 2017) had to travel to a designated offsite location to pay for fingerprints,” Williamson said.

In July of 2018 the court added staff and installed a fingerprint scanner which allows the entire permitting process to be done onsite. The court processed 4,325 applications in 2018.

A federal district judge ruled that Savannah’s license requirements for tour guides violate the First Amendment, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia’s oldest city violated the free-speech rights of tour guides by requiring them to pass a written history test and get a license, a federal judge said in a ruling that’s largely symbolic since the licensing law was scrapped years ago.

The ruling Monday by U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr. came more than four years after tour guides in Savannah sued City Hall over the 1978 licensing ordinance. The tour guides argued city officials were violating their First Amendment rights by deciding who was qualified to tell visitors about Savannah’s history and architecture.

Savannah officials at first defended the ordinance as necessary to protect the city’s nearly $3 billion tourism economy. But the city council ended up repealing the licensing requirement in October 2015 while the lawsuit was still pending.

Gainesville City Council voted to raise hotel-motel taxes and impact fees, according to the Gainesville Times.

Gainesville City Council also approved a resolution allowing the city and the Hall County Development Authority to use eminent domain to develop a business park, according to AccessWDUN.

Richmond County Board of Education unveiled its FY 2020 budget at the first of two public meetings, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The total budget amounts to $273,528,895 and is funded by a combination of taxes and grants from the state. Top expenditures for the district include salaries, at 61 percent of total spending, and benefits at 26 percent.

Included in the proposed budget are salary adjustments that include improving clerical pay, a 4 percent increase in school nutrition salaries, a $3,000 increase for certified staff, an increase in nurses pay and a 2 percent increase for all other staff.

Bus drivers will receive a 2 percent pay increase from the state, and there will be an increase in fine arts supplements.

The proposed budget also includes possible future considerations, such as improving the financial efficiency STAR Rating, which is currently at 2.5 out of five. The rating is determined by the College and Career Ready Performance Index and the district’s expenditures divided by enrollment.

Dougherty County Republican Party Chairman Tracy Taylor will run for Mayor of Albany, according to the Albany Herald.

“I was at the state (Republican) convention in Savannah over the weekend, and so many people from across the state wanted to talk to me about crime in Albany,” Taylor, a Waycross firefighter, said. “There was a lot of conversation about how we can address crime in our community, and many of the folks at the convention said this may be the year that the voters decide they need a conservative who’s tough on crime.”

Taylor ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Dougherty County Commission in 2013 before leaving the Democratic Party for the GOP. He was defeated in 2018 by Democrat CaMia Hopson in the general election in his quest to gain the House District 153 seat previously held by Darrell Ealum but has since been named the chairman of the county Republican Party.

“With all this recent criminal activity, we have to do something,” he said. “That’s priority No. 1. Next on my list is bringing industry to our area. We have jobs here, but we need careers. We need to bring careers back to this community.”

Mayor Dorothy Hubbard told The Albany Herald a few weeks back that she plans to seek a third term in the mayor’s office. Announced challengers for the seat include Omar Salaam, Henry Mathis, Quincy Smith and now Taylor.

Two Glynn County Superior Court Judges made their case for more room for the Juvenile Court, according to The Brunswick News.

Superior Court judges Stephen Scarlett and Stephen Kelley laid out their issues with the courthouse and recommended a course of action to address them at the Glynn County Commission’s Tuesday work session.

“I want to lay some background here. The (county commission) is considering (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) 2020. We have not made a firm decision whether we go forward with SPLOST 2020 and a list of projects,” said commission chairman Mike Browning. “All we’re talking about today is a potential project for that list, which would be a new courthouse addition. The reason we’re talking it is because it would come at significant cost. We do not know what that cost is.”

“I will make it clear, we are not in a crisis but we are stressed,” Scarlett said. “… Any court or court office or clerk’s office at the courthouse will tell you they’re in great need of space.”

In 2013, the county commission conducted a study to determine how much space the courts would need in the coming years. The study noted the existing courthouse was around 75,000 square feet, but the courts needed 108,000 at least, he said.

Security is also an issue at the courthouse that could put both judges and courthouse workers in harm’s way, he said.

“(Glynn County) Sheriff (Neal) Jump and his staff do a tremendous job, but the courthouse was designed and engineered to 1980 standards. … There are inherent design issues,” Scarlett said.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources staff reviewed regulatory changes from new legislation for the department’s Board, according to The Brunswick News.

Under the current law, people on live-aboard boats can only stay in Georgia estuarine waters for only 90 days in any one calendar year, unless they apply for and get an extension from the DNR commissioner. H.B. 201 eliminates that provision from the law.

Andrews said the goal of the legislation and the resulting regulations are to encourage people on live-aboard vessels to stop and stay in Georgia instead of passing through on their way to destinations in South Carolina or Florida.

“We do want to encourage live-aboards that we know are here and want to come here to take advantage of these appointments,” Andrews said.

H.B. 201 moves oversight of live-aboard vessels from the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act and puts it under Official Code of Georgia Title 52, which governs waters of the state, ports and watercraft. Operators of live-aboard vessels are prohibited from dumping stored human waste into the state’s estuaries, but instead will have to pump out at designated facilities, and keep records indicating when and where those pumpouts took place.

In other new regulations, the enabling legislation for the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act allows that to go into effect as of July 1. DNR Grants Unit Supervisor Taylor Brown explained that for each yearly grant cycle, there will be two application periods in order to winnow the field.

At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, board Chairman Bodine Sinyard thanked state Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island, for the work he did during the past session regarding bills favored by DNR.

“I don’t know if you understand how much work Don gets done for the state of Georgia, particularly relative to our agency, DNR,” Sinyard said. “He has single-handedly worked all throughout the session and helped carry our Shore Protection Act (reform bill) — he was the leader behind the scenes, in front of the scenes. Our live-aboard act, he was all over that. And as you know, we have been working very hard — particularly our coastal folks — on our oyster farming bill.”

Sinyard said Hogan was also a key ally in the push to get H.B. 501, the oyster mariculture bill, through the legislature. He also welcomed and thanked Woody Woodside for his decades of service to the state and to the coast.

Floyd County was rejected for a federal grant to lengthen the runways Richard B. Russell Regional Airport, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The 2013 special purpose, local option sales tax package contains $5.7 million for the project but the low bid last fall was nearly $3 million higher. Officials had been hoping to get a piece of the $779.5 million just awarded nationwide for airport improvements.

Fallback plans are to break the project down into smaller jobs and call for bids again. Burkhalter said he, County Manager Jamie McCord and Airport Manager John Carroll would be meeting with engineers next week to start drawing up the documents.

“We’ll bid it out in pieces. It will probably be the earthwork, grading and drainage in one; the paving and striping in another; and the electrical, lighting and things like that in a third,” Burkhalter said.

Nearly ten percent of Norcross residents live in extended stay hotels, according to a study cited by the Gwinnett Daily Post.

LiveNorcross spent recent months looking into the city’s extended stay motel population to study the challenges that exist to affordable housing in Norcross. LiveNorcross was established a year and a half ago through a partnership with the state to address issues facing the city’s homeless population.

Those results were unveiled at the Norcross Cultural Arts Center on Tuesday night.

A big takeaway from the extended stay motel survey is that nine of the 14 motels in the city are primarily being used by customers as long-term housing. The survey estimated that between 8% and 12% of Norcross’ residents live in extended stay motels.

That estimate is based on the survey determining 1,294 extended stay motel rooms in the city being used for long-term housing and counting it against the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimate that more than 16,000 people live in the city.

Hope you didn’t miss this if you were in Savannah this weekend: People magazine named Zunzi’s Conquistador the best sandwich in Georgia.

This week readers of People magazine are discovering what a lot of Savannahians already know, if you want the best sandwich in the state, head to Zunzi’s at 108 E. York St.

Recently the magazine teamed up with The Infatuation, an online restaurant guide to choose the best sandwich in each state and Washington D.C, and Zunzi’s Conquistador, made with baked chicken, their signature Sh*t Yeah Sauce and Zunzi’s dressing, took top honors for Georgia.

The People magazine honor does indeed add to a big list for Smith and his team who are gearing up to celebrate the one year anniversary of their Atlanta location, the 15-year anniversary of the Savannah location and exploring franchise opportunities.

Smith said he refined the original location in preparation for expansions, including the new Atlanta location at 1971 Howell Mill Rd.

The restaurant and the Conquistador are no stranger to ‘best of’ accolades having racked up numerous mentions from Buzzfeed, The Travel Channel, Country Living magazine and many others. This week as a thank you to their fans, bringing in a copy of People magazine and posting a picture of the sandwich on social media will score you a free Conquistador.

“We’re honored to be named best sandwich in Georgia. Winning any best sandwich award is extremely subjective and if someone has to win, we’re happy it’s us,” Smith said.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 21, 2019

Georgia Colonists signed the Treaty of Savannah with the Lower Creeks on May 21, 1733.

George Washington left Georgia on May 21, 1791, crossing a bridge over the Savannah River at Augusta.

American Charles Lindbergh landed at Paris on May 21, 1927 in The Spirit of St. Louis, completing both the first nonstop transatlantic flight and the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris.

On May 21, 1942, German authorities removed 4300 Polish Jews from Chelm to an extermination camp at Sobibor and killed them by poison gas. The Sobibor camp’s five gas chambers would kill 250,000 Jews during 1942 and 1943.

On May 21, 2011, Herman Cain announced his candidacy for President of the United States at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, and I photographed it.

During the next ten months, when someone talks about whomever is leading the latest polls, remember that six months after announcing his Presidential campaign, Herman Cain was leading the polls. Less than one month later, Cain was out of the race.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Hollywood Resistance to Georgia’s “Heartbeat Bill” has snagged a couple of A-list producers, according to

Filmmaker Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer have joined the list of Hollywood stars who say they will boycott Georgia after the state’s governor signed the controversial “heartbeat bill” into law.

Howard and Grazer, who run Imagine Entertainment, told The Hollywood Reporter in an exclusive statement that although they are continuing with their plans to film the movie “Hillbilly Elegy” in Georgia next month, they will boycott the state as a production center if the law goes into effect in January.

“We see Governor Kemp’s bill as a direct attack on women’s rights, and we will be making a donation to the (American Civil Liberties Union) to support their battle against this oppressive legislation,” the statement read.

Filmmakers J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele released a joint statement stating they’d stand “shoulder to shoulder with the women of Georgia” as their new show “Lovecraft Country” begins shooting in the state. They promised to donate 100% of their episodic fees to the ACLU of Georgia and Fair Fight Georgia, an election reform organization.

State Rep. Renitta Shannon (D-Decatur) called the visible Georgia State Police presence in the Capitol during the last Session “fascism,” according to the Saporta Report.

Shannon said she’s seen a change in the Capitol in the last year or so.

Earlier, there might have been one or two officers in, say, a committee room where there were a lot of people, she said. But now, she said there are more officers, and it’s when there are discussions on things like raising the minimum wage, voting rights, and reproductive rights.

That is, more officers any time the public is upset about bills the GOP is trying to pass, Shannon said.

“The public needs to understand that this is fascism in their House,” Shannon said. “What is happening is that the people that you have elected to represent you are basically now saying, ‘Thank you for your vote. But after you’ve elected me, I don’t want to hear what you have to say.’”

She said Republicans are using the police as a shield to make sure they don’t have to talk to constituents.

The Washington Examiner covered the Georgia Republican Party State Convention.

Support for Trump was unquestionable, and colorful, as more than 1,500 delegates to the Georgia Republican Party gathered last week for an annual convention in this port city and tourist mecca. Around every corner of the Savannah Convention Center, confident activists decked out in MAGA hats and other Trump merchandise raved about the booming economy and other administration accomplishments in between photographs with life-size, cardboard cutouts of the president in his signature, thumbs-up pose.

But in conversations with the Washington Examiner, veteran GOP activists were sober about the challenges confronting Trump in Georgia absent a significant investment in resources. Reliably red since the mid-1990s, the state is in transition, spurred by Democratic gains in the Atlanta suburbs that are partly a byproduct of a rejection of the president. Republicans, chastened by last year’s razor-thin gubernatorial contest, say this evolution might have reached a tipping point.

“In 2012, I was an activist that went to Ohio the last week of the election because that was critical. Georgia was safe in that presidential election,” said Scott Johnson, who lost his bid for chairman of the state Republican Party. “In 2020, people will be coming to Georgia to help us out. We can’t take for granted anymore that Georgia is safely in the Republican column.”

“There is a real sense of urgency that I got from it,” Elaine James, an alternate delegate to the state GOP convention, said after exiting the seminar. “In our past, because we have so many victories, we got lax.”

In 2016, Trump garnered just 50.8% of the vote in Georgia, lower than any Republican nominee this century. That close margin was attributed to Trump’s struggles in the suburbs — an issue that snowballed in the midterm elections and helped the Democrats flip 40 GOP-held seats and win control of the House of Representatives.

“In 2018, in the suburbs of Atlanta, the Democrats had a presidential-level turnout,” said David Shafer, the newly minted chairman of the Georgia GOP. “Some of the issues that you saw in 2018 will be resolved when we’re running a presidential-level turnout operation.”

Governor Democrat Stacey Abrams racked up some more frequent flyer miles for a speech in Santa Rosa, California, according to The Press Democrat.

Stacey Abrams came to the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts to talk about voter suppression, abortion rights and her new book, “Lead From the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change.” But she couldn’t avoid talking about the biggest event of the weekend.

I didn’t realize I was running against a cartoon villain,” she said to a packed theater.

And she still hasn’t conceded the race.

“A concession, you’re saying everything is fine,” she told the audience. “How can you fix something if you don’t acknowledge it’s broken?”

The long-term solution to pushing back against what she calls “forced pregnancy” laws, she said, is to defeat Republicans at the ballot box, both by pushing back against voter-suppression strategies and by organizing people that didn’t vote in 2016.

Asked by an audience member about her plans for the future, Abrams remained coy.

“I’m going to run for something,” she said. “I’m not sure what something is.”

Actual Governor Brian Kemp is meeting with State School Superintendent Richard Woods to discuss dismantling Common Core, according to the AJC.

The governor said Monday he’s meeting with schools Superintendent Richard Woods to discuss ways to do away with Common Core – the voluntary set of reading, writing and math standards – and “letting our teachers teach.”

It’s not clear what action Kemp will take, and he was vague on specifics. But his aides said he likely does not have the authority to act unilaterally, as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did when he signed an executive order to end his state’s use of the standards.

Kemp will have the support of the state’s top education official. Woods said he is “incredibly encouraged” by the push to eliminate what remains of Common Core in Georgia, adding that earlier attempts to scale back the program didn’t go far enough.

“My administration has been able to halt the spread of Common Core to other subject areas, such as science and social studies,” Woods said, “but this decisive action at the governor’s level is what’s needed to fully eliminate Common Core in our state, an action that will be of great benefit to our students.”

John Long writes in The New Republic that election victory no longer requires swing voters.

Just exactly who are these swing voters? That question usually goes unexamined in great detail, but the underlying assumptions are threefold: 1) swing voters are people who vote for candidates of both parties; 2) they mostly live in the suburbs; 3) they are white. Also, it’s generally understood that it’s Democrats, and not so much Republicans, that must work diligently to win over this fickle slice of the electorate—which, if these voters aren’t partisan, shouldn’t really be the case.

But the fact is, the swing-voter character should have been written out of our election dramas years ago. Like “Rockefeller Republicans” or “Yellow Dog Democrats,” “swing voter” is a persona from a political landscape that simply no longer exists.

Moving to the suburbs, the supposed home of the swing voter, not to mention all kinds of micro-trendy constituents Democrats have been told to court, such as “Soccer Moms” and “Security Moms.” It turns out that suburbs are no longer particularly politically “independent.” They are now, in fact, mostly Democratic. Designing a strategy to appeal to voters who are maybe moderate, but honestly, mainly marginalized Republicans in areas that now have a plurality of Democrats, seems like a good way to depress Democratic turnout.

In 2016, over 4 million Democrats who voted in 2012 for Barack Obama didn’t show up at the polls to pull the lever for Clinton. It’s not that they voted for someone else; they simply didn’t vote at all. And as a reminder, Trump won three states by a total of 76,000 votes. The reasons for this are many, but the lesson is clear. Rather than obsess about winning back the voters that switched from Obama to Trump, Democrats should instead focus on inspiring those Obama voters who stayed home, who are “mostly young and nonwhite” and “share the progressive policy priorities of Democrats,” argued Sean McElwee, Jesse H. Rhodes, Brian F. Schaffner, and Bernard L. Fraga in the New York Times. Based on their careful analysis of the data, they advise Democrats to forget about those swing voters and figure out “why a campaign [Hillary’s] that sought to energize young voters of color failed to do so.” Here’s hoping the 2020 Democratic nominee gets the message.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say that black women are much more likely to die of breast cancer, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Treatment advances have improved breast cancer survival rates among all U.S. women, but the disparity between white and black women has grown: Black women such as Mahone are 40% more likely to die from the disease than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No region has as many high-disparity states clustered together as the South. Louisiana and Mississippi have the highest racial disparities in breast cancer mortality. In both of those states, the excess death rate among black women is more than 60%, according to the American Cancer Society. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee all have excess death rates over 40%.

Even though black and white women have similar mammogram screening rates and black women have a lower overall incidence of breast cancer, black women are more likely to die from the disease. In explaining the disparity, one oncologist described a “perfect storm” of scientific and social forces.

One of them is that researchers haven’t developed advanced treatments for a series of aggressive tumors – known as triple-negative breast cancer – that black women are more likely to get. Another is that recent advancements in cancer therapies for other kinds of tumors have yet to be fully proven in minorities, in part because of the lack of diversity in those clinical trials.

And black women have described feeling cast aside by a health system of doctors, nurses and support groups that rarely look like them; and face further obstacles outside labs and hospitals – including lack of access to jobs, transit and health insurance. This marginalization of black women is especially prevalent in the South.


State Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge) continues pushing mandatory recess after Gov. Kemp vetoed legislation this year, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

This year marked Rep. Demetrius Douglas’ third attempt to convince his colleagues that requiring recess for the state’s youngest students is a key strategy for curbing childhood obesity.

The Stockbridge Democrat’s full-court press paid off, with both chambers and members of both parties overwhelmingly backing the measure earlier this year.

“This is part of a child’s education. Recess is nearly as important as academics,” said Jeff Mullis, the bill’s other sponsor; Mullis is a Republican from Chickamauga who chairs the powerful Senate Rules Committee.

“While I support expanded recess opportunities for Georgia’s students, I am a firm believer in local control, especially in education,” Kemp wrote in his veto message.

Douglas said the issue is important enough for lawmakers not to leave it up to locals to decide whether to provide recess. He said he plans to meet with Kemp to figure out a path forward.

“If everybody keeps sounding the alarm, sooner or later pressure breaks pipes,” Douglas said. “I’m a firm believer if you’re doing what’s right, right will always stand no matter what.”

Smyrna City Council voted to table a vote on legislation banning the Devil’s Death Scooters e-scooters, according to the AJC.

The Council unanimously voted to table the proposal until its June 17 meeting. City leaders were considering adding language to its ordinance that would ban the storage and use of the electronic scooters and electronic bikes in Smyrna.

Mayor Max Bacon said “we got some additional information” that the city would like to review before moving forward on the proposal. No discussion or public comment was held on the agenda item.

The proposed ordinance would make it illegal to provide the use of dockless devices in the city, leave them standing or lying in the right-of-way or on public property and to ride them in the city.

Any e-scooters or e-bicycles found on public property or right-of-way would be impounded in the Police Department’s Property and Evidence Unit. The city would notify the owners of the devices and fine those companies for the costs associated with the recovery of the device.

Last week, the city of Atlanta recorded its first e-scooter-related death last week when a rider coming out of a parking lot of the West Lake station just after midnight May 17 was hit by a red Cadillac SUV traveling south on West Lake Avenue.

Whitfield County Commissioners are considering placing a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the May 19, 2020 ballot, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

In a work session Monday, members of the county Board of Commissioners made plans for a future SPLOST, and while they took no votes, there seemed to be a strong consensus to hold the vote during the May 19, 2020, general primary.

“That gives us about a year, so we have a lot of work to do,” said board Chairman Lynn Laughter.

A SPLOST is a 1 percent sales tax on most goods bought in the county. It can only fund projects and items; a SPLOST can’t pay for general operations.

The current four-year SPLOST expires on June 30 and is projected to collect $64 million. That SPLOST funded a new emergency radio system for first responders, new firetrucks for both the Dalton and Whitfield fire departments, and Dalton’s Haig Mill Lake Park, among other projects.

In a March special election, voters rejected a six-year, $100 million SPLOST that would have begun July 1.

Dalton Utilities may want some of the SPLOST money to fund sewer expansion, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

At their work session Monday, Whitfield County commissioners had not yet seen the utility’s proposal but they discussed the general possibility of funding sewer expansion from a future SPLOST.

Board Chairman Lynn Laughter said she could support “strategic” sewer expansion that could boost economic development or affordable housing. But Commissioner Roger Crossen said he is concerned that where sewer has already been extended into the county — such as the line running across the northern part of the county from Tunnel Hill to Coahulla Creek High School — few private homeowners or businesses have hooked up to the line.

Statesboro City Council will meet twice today, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Among other things, Statesboro City Council is slated to adopt the city’s fiscal year 2020 budget and schedule of fees, to consider annexing a 33-acre tract  and to appoint a one-month interim city manager at Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. regular meeting.

But first, the council will hold a 3:30 p.m. called work session – also open to the public – to hear a presentation by Dr. Jermaine Durham, director of the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing. The initiative works through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and also involves the University of Georgia.

Gainesville Public Schools will use state funding for raises while lowering property taxes, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Gainesville City Schools Board of Education on Monday, May 20, tentatively adopted a $75.3 million budget for the 2020 fiscal year, which begins July 1, while setting its property tax rate at its lowest mark in more than 20 years.

The board will host two public meetings next month before casting a final vote June 17 on the proposed budget and a millage rate of 6.612.

That figure is a full rollback of the tax rate, down from 6.85, to account for increases in revenue from property tax reassessments.

The proposed budget is up more than $3 million from the current year, with most of the additional expenditures coming out of state funds to support salary increases for about 650 certified teachers.

Muscogee County Board of Elections will enact a number of changes to its website to comply with state law, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

After being in violation of Georgia open meetings laws for an undetermined amount of time, the Columbus Consolidated Government board in charge of conducting elections and tallying citizens’ votes made changes to comply with the law, after an investigation by the Ledger-Enquirer.

The director blamed the violation on an oversight and recent changes to the board’s city-run website.

Earlier this month the L-E learned the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registration had not published the location, date and time of the regularly scheduled meetings on its web page as required by state law for at least the past year.

She said the department also was made aware that some older campaign disclosures had been taken off the page due to space limitations.

“As soon as we receive candidate and campaign information we send it to ethics at the state, but then we also post it here locally,” she said. “We called (the webmaster) and said ‘hey look, people are calling us for those all the time. Why did we take them off?’ We need them out there for at least the five year retention period that were required to keep them. So we’re making little tweaks as we’re going along.”

Hall County Commissioners will consider a moratorium on permitting hookah lounges so the staff has time to write regulations, according to the Gainesville Times.

Rome City Commissioners voted to change downtown parking rules, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Commissioners voted 5 to 2 on an amendment that extends the on-street parking limit to three hours a day from two hours a day. Also, enforcement will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. instead of to 8 p.m.

The rest of the plan, including the License Plate Recognition Technology, will remain in effect and vehicles must be parked with their tags facing toward the street. The LPR reader also collects information such as who’s parking downtown, when and for how long, which will be used to tweak the plan in the future.

The move followed testimony during the board’s caucus and regular meeting from downtown business owners – most of them concerned about losing customers.

The Rome City Commission also voted to issue $23.3 million dollars worth of bonds for construction of a Rome City Schools College and Career Academy, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The bonds are backed by proceeds from the education local option sales tax that went into effect April 1. Superintendent Lou Byars said they’re projected to net more than $30 million over the five-year collection period.

Rome and Floyd County will partner with local utlities to upgrade a natural gas pipeline, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“Energy is the life-blood of any community as far as jobs go,” Batson said. The pipeline will extend for approximately nine miles from Coosawattee Avenue out to the paper mill.

The pipeline is being funded thanks to a major contribution from the Georgia Public Service Commission’s Universal Service Fund, along with money from Atlanta Gas Light and International Paper

Atlanta Gas Light will contribute $11.7 million to the project, which is recoverable through the normal rate-making process. International Paper will contribute $1.5 million, financed over ten years. The Universal Service Fund will contribute approximately $9.1 million, which when taxes and financing fees are added will come to approximately $10.6 million.

Public Service Commission Vice Chairman Tim Echols said the PSC is constantly thinking about economic development and looking for ways to make communities more resilient and more sustainable.

Read more here:
Read more here:

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 20, 2019

Georgia’s trustees asked Britain to repeal the law against importing slaves to the colonies on May 17, 1749.

On May 17, 1769, George Washington introduced resolutions in the Virginia House of Burgesses, drafted by George Mason, criticizing Britain’s “taxation without representation” policies toward the colonies.

Button Gwinnett died on May 19, 1777 of a gunshot wound received in a duel with Lachlan McIntosh.

George Washington continued his tour of Georgia on May 17, 1791, staying overnight in Waynesboro; on May 18 he arrived in Augusta. George Washington departed Waynesboro, Georgia on May 18, 1791, headed to Augusta. On May 19-20, 1791, George Washington spent his second and third days in Augusta, where he visited Richmond Academy.

Georgia ratified the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which governs voting for President and Vice President on May 19, 1804.

General Winfield Scott issued an order on the removal of Cherokee people from Georgia on May 17, 1838.

Abraham Lincoln was nominated for President by the Republican National Convention on May 18, 1860.

On May 17, 1864, Sherman and Johnston engaged in the Battle of Adairsville, Georgia.

The Battle of Spotsylvania ended on May 19, 1864. In Georgia, the Affair at Cassville occurred on May 19, 1864.

Blue jeans with copper rivets were patented by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis on May 20, 1873.

The United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in Plessy v. Ferguson on May 18, 1896.

The U.S. Supreme Court rule[d] seven to one that a Louisiana law providing for “equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races” on its railroad cars is constitutional. The high court held that as long as equal accommodations were provided, segregation was not discrimination and thus did not deprive African Americans of equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

On May 20, 1916, more than 20,000 visited Stone Mountain for the dedication ceremony to mark the beginning of a Confederate memorial on the north face.

On May 19, 1933, the Atlanta City Council voted to allow beer sales in the city.

The United States Supreme Court released its unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education on May 17, 1954, overturning Plessy v. Ferguson.

The historic decision, which brought an end to federal tolerance of racial segregation, specifically dealt with Linda Brown, a young African American girl who had been denied admission to her local elementary school in Topeka, Kansas, because of the color of her skin.

On May 19, 1977, “Smokey and the Bandit” was released.

On May 20, 1995, the section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was closed to automotive traffic.

The 400th episode of The Simpsons aired on May 20, 2007.

President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College on May 19, 2013.

Five years ago today, Georgia voters went to the polls in the earliest Primary elections in modern history. In the Republican Primary, 605,355 ballots were cast in the Senate contest, while the Democratic Primary for Senate saw 328,710 ballots.

NS Savannah, the first civilian nuclear-powered ship, will be decommissioned, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The N.S. Savannah, the world’s first nuclear-powered merchant ship, which is docked at Canton Marine Terminal, Pier 13, in Baltimore, will be decommissioned in the coming years, federal officials say.

First proposed in 1955 as part of President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” initiative, the Savannah was designed to be a combination cargo and passenger ship. It was christened in 1959. It had 30 air-conditioned staterooms, each with its own bath. It looked more like a sleek luxury cruise liner than the bulky cargo ships of the day.

Savannahians got a first look at the new type of ship Aug. 22, 1962. The shiny new Nuclear Ship Savannah arrived in its namesake city to the cheers of thousands of spectators, gathered along the riverfront or sailing alongside in their own boats.

The decommissioning — a ship’s formal retirement — will remove the rest of the N.S. Savannah’s nuclear systems and allow the U.S. Maritime Administration, also known as MARAD, to terminate the ship’s license. The process is expected to take more than a year and be completed between October 2023 and September 2024.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck (R-Carrollton) was suspended from office by Executive Order issued by Governor Brian Kemp.

From WSB-TV:

The move came shortly after Beck sent a letter to Kemp, saying he was going to voluntarily suspend himself from office after he was indicted in an alleged $2 million fraud scheme.

Right now, the state of Georgia has no insurance commissioner. Since the position is an elected office, it’s up to Kemp to appoint an acting commissioner for the duration of Beck’s suspension.

From the AJC:

Beck announced late last week that he was voluntarily taking a suspension. The insurance department said that in his absence, Drew Lane, the chief deputy commissioner, would perform the duties of commissioner as outlined under state law.

The agency said Beck, who took office in January, voluntarily suspended himself. An executive order from Gov. Brian Kemp said that Beck asked to be suspended and that the governor ordered an immediate suspension.

In a letter to Kemp, Beck maintained his innocence.

“As you know, under our federal and state constitutions, I am presumed to be innocent until and unless convicted by a court of law,” the letter said. “I am, in fact, innocent of these charges. In the circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to resign as commissioner of insurance.”

“Nonetheless, I recognize the importance of having a commissioner of insurance who is able fully to devote all of his time carrying out the duties of managing the Department of Insurance and serving the citizens of Georgia. In the coming months, it will unfortunately be necessary for me to spend a significant amount of my time defending myself against these false charges. Preparing for that trial will be a significant distraction from my public duties.”

Georgia law says that in the event of a vacancy in the office of the commissioner, ‘’the chief deputy shall perform all the duties of the commissioner.’’ But a possible complication could arise with Lane taking over the commissioner’s duties because he has his own connection to GUA. He served as the organization’s staff attorney before he was named to his state post in January.

The insurance department said it anticipates that the governor will soon appoint an acting commissioner who will serve until the case against Beck is resolved.

Governor Kemp addressed the Georgia Republican Party State Convention in Savannah on Saturday, according to the AJC.

Speaking at the Georgia Republican convention, Kemp nodded to the growing fallout from Hollywood celebrities and some production firms who have called for boycotts of Georgia after he signed the “heartbeat” law that seeks to ban most abortions.

“I understand that some folks don’t like this new law. I’m fine with that,” he said. “We’re elected to do what’s right – and standing up for precious life is always the right thing to do.”

Kemp added: “We are the party of freedom and opportunity. We value and protect innocent life — even though that makes C-list celebrities squawk.”

Kemp said his administration will ensure “our guns are not up for grabs here” and said he would press Congress to provide aid for farmers devastated by the October hurricane “even if I have to get in my pickup truck and drive to D.C. and get it myself – and yes, I just said that.”

“We fought every liberal activist in the country – and we won,” said Kemp. “And I’ll say it again for the folks in the back of the room: we won. But make no mistake, we cannot rest on our laurels. We have to double down and do it again.”

“I still believe our best days are ahead in this great state,” he said. “Folks, this is a battleground state in 2020. And it’s time to hunker down and fight. The left is angry, they’re radical and they’re ridiculous.”

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan spoke at Savannah Classical Academy on Friday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan visited Savannah Classical Academy Friday, a charter school within the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, to speak to elementary students and their parents at an end-of-year ceremony, where he encouraged them to keep working hard.

Duncan named Savannah Classical’s director Barry Lollis to the Georgia Department of Education’s Charter Advisory Committee in Februrary and the school’s governing board elevated him to director of the school in late March when the state Board of Education approved the school’s five-year charter renewal. Lollis, who previously worked for Savannah-Chatham County public schools and also for a charter system in Georgia, had worked as director of curriculum and instruction at Savannah Classical and took over as interim director after Savannah Classical’s founding school director Benjamin Payne resigned last year.

“I think it’s important for local school systems to be able to partner in a way that works with an organization like this that is obviously producing results, obviously helping kids and families in unique situations achieve what ultimately we should all care about and that’s the education of the child, not the growth of the system, not the protection of a pressing way of doing something but the absolute center around the child and educational outcome.”

“You have all done such an amazing job here,” he said. He told students he learned two lessons as a baseball player at Georgia Tech and as a professional ball player. “One was to work hard. I learned the harder I worked, the better opportunities I got. Hard work does pay off,” he said.

“The second thing I learned was how to chase a dream. Chasing a dream is a lot of fun,” Duncan said.

Former Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer was elected Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party on Saturday in Savannah, according to the AJC.

A former executive director of the state GOP, Shafer is well-known to many of the activists long before his run for the state’s No. 2 job. And his campaign pledge was focused on beefing up a “neglected” grassroots in dozens of counties that have no local GOP organizations.

“I believe our Republican Party is in trouble,” he said. “The last election we found ourselves on the defensive for the first time in a decade.”

Shafer will inherit a fractious, but powerful, party that was stabilized by Watson after he was elected in 2017. Back then, the party was mired in a costly racial discrimination lawsuit, facing fundraising troubles and struggling with poor ties with elected officials.

Shafer said he would reverse that trend [of suburban losses] by reviving more confrontational tactics that Republicans used when they were in the minority decades ago.

“We need to go back on the offensive,” he said.

As has happened in previous years, most delegates fled the building after balloting was finished, and before resolutions could be taken up.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Shafer is not the only person with Gwinnett ties who was elected to a leadership position within the state GOP on Saturday, however. Peachtree Corners resident B.J. Van Gundy was elected assistant secretary. He is a former leader of the Gwinnett GOP, a 2016 Republican National Convention delegate and former vice-chairman of the state GOP.

Other statewide officers elected Saturday include Carolyn Fisher as first vice-chairman, Brant Frost as second vice-chairman, Michael Welsh as secretary, Joseph Brannan as treasurer and Vikki Castiglio as assistant treasurer.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston spoke to The Brunswick News.

“I tell members sometimes, you have to kind of filter what you hear, and the voices that are the loudest may not really be representative of your district,” Ralston said. “I tell people, I’ve got a lot of political activist types in my district, and they run candidates against me in the primary the last three primary seasons. They’re kind of loud and vocal, but I try to keep this in my mind — I represent not only them, but I represent the family that is struggling to make a living.

“Husband may be a builder, wife may teach school, trying to keep their bills paid, helping their kids with homework at night, going to Little League games, going to church on Sunday. But they don’t have time to go to political meetings because they’re busy, and those are the people I try to think about when I’m making decisions, and not just those who live on the internet, pounding away on Facebook and all that kind of thing.”

“They’re going to vote on who will keep their taxes low, who will be committed to making education better, who is committed to creating a good climate for jobs to come here,” Ralston said. “So, I don’t think they’re going to vote on some issue like this. I tell people that the only people you hear that from are the same people that you hear from the negativity about. It’s kind of like, if a fireman gets called to a house fire, you can either put it out or you can keep throwing gas on it. And if you throw gas on it, you can say, ‘This is going to burn the whole town down.’ So you put the fire out.”

Independent Democrat Socialist Bernie Sanders spoke in Augusta on Saturday, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders brought a message of restoring power to the American people and away from the “one percent” in a rally in Augusta on Saturday.

The independent senator from Vermont, the first major presidential candidate to appear in Augusta in many years, spoke for about 40 minutes in the 93-degree heat at Jessye Norman Amphitheater. The amphitheater, which seats 1,800 people, appeared about three-quarters full. The campaign said it had tallied 1,576 attendees.

“Here in the beautiful state of Georgia, we intend to win the Democratic primary here and after we win the Democratic primary, we damn well intend to defeat and defeat badly the worst president in the history of the United States,” he said.

“And I know that Gov. Abrams agrees with me,” he added in a reference to Democrat Stacey Abrams’ close loss to Republican Brian Kemp in last year’s race for governor.

Mercer University will open a four-year medical school in Columbus, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Mercer University School of Medicine will expand its two-year Columbus program into a full-fledged campus. It is scheduled to open in August 2021.

Mercer expects to eventually increase that number to 240 students in the downtown Columbus campus it will construct at a location officials declined to mention Friday because the real estate deal hasn’t closed. But people at Mercer and in Columbus involved with the project told the Ledger-Enquirer that the site will be what’s known as the Rothschild Building, a former Synovus call center at on 11th Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues.

Friday’s announcement in the lobby of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce was the culmination of an eight-year effort that launched this $25 million project through a public-private partnership.

“Today is a very vivid demonstration of the good that can come when local communities and institutions and our state government identify a problem and say we’re going to come together and solve this,” Mercer President Bill Underwood told the crowd.

Emory will expand its healthcare facilities significantly in Brookhaven and elsewhere, according to the AJC.

The biggest project is Emory at Executive Park. Emory wants to build a $1 billion medical complex in Brookhaven that would include a hospital, hotel, apartments and miles of walking trails and paths. It could take 15 years, Emory says. Emory filed rezoning paperwork earlier this month and has organized a community meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.

In Midtown, Emory is building a a tower for its Winship Cancer Institute. The master planning process may not conclude until early 2020.

The Albany Herald looks at the city’s proposed $288.3 million dollar FY 2020 budget.

Candidates for Mayor of Macon-Bibb County are preparing for 2020, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Former Macon Mayor C. Jack Ellis, County Commissioners Elaine Lucas and Virgil Watkins, and former educator Stanley Stewart have either decided on or are considering a run for mayor next year.

Already in the mix are County Commissioner Larry Schlesinger, Bibb County school board President Lester Miller, Verbin Weaver, an officer with the Macon-Bibb County Democratic Party, and entrepreneur Chatavia Callaway.

Those four have already filed paperwork with the Bibb County election’s office that allows them to raise money for their mayoral campaigns. The election will be held in May 2020.

The Macon-Bibb mayor is limited to two consecutive terms under the consolidation charter. Commissioners can run for three terms in a row.

A foster family shortage is affecting Georgia children, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

In Georgia, there are 13,873 children in foster care — and that number is increasing. In every county, the number of children needing foster care easily outpaces the number of available foster homes, according to the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.

Gail Finley, Division of Family and Children Services director for Lowndes County, said putting kids in a foster care unit is a last resort. They try multiple measures before having to put them in care.

“Anything we can do that would be less traumatizing to the kids, we’re going to do that,” she said. “When you have stronger families, you have a stronger Georgia. We want to keep them at home without compromising safety.”

The Glynn County Commission will consider expanding the courthouse, according to The Brunswick News.

“It’s on [the agenda] because the judges have been telling us they have pretty much run out of space,” said commission Chairman Mike Browning. “We’ve had some talks with them, a couple of them anyhow, to find out exactly what that means and to paint a picture. Do they need more courtrooms, office space, just so we know how we can help them.”

The commission is already working on a list of project to propose for a 2020 SPLOST, Browning said. Right now, they don’t have much to go on as far as courthouse expansion is concerned so establishing what the judges need and when they need it is the first step.

A study conducted five years ago, which Browning called the Heery study, determined the county may need to spend as much as $40 million to accommodate the space needs of the court system, he said.

What the commission wants to determine is how best to meet the space needs — an expansion of current facilities, a new building or rearranging the current building.

The Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Juvenile Court, serving Bulloch, Effingham, Jenkins, and Screven Counties, will begin hearing cases July 1, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Melissa M. Calhoun, an attorney from Effingham County, and Donald O. Sheppard III, an attorney from Screven County, are preparing to begin service July 1 as the judges of the new Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Juvenile Court.

With the creation of this court, the Ogeechee Circuit ceases to be the only one of Georgia’s 49 judicial circuits without separate juvenile court judges. Until now, the three elected Superior Court judges have divided up the juvenile cases from Bulloch, Effingham, Screven and Jenkins counties.

Each of the two Juvenile Court judges will work part-time, officially. They can also continue in private practice as attorneys except that they cannot handle any cases that would go before the Juvenile Court or otherwise conflict with their service as judges.

Rome City Commission will vote on whether to issue bonds to create a new College and Career Academy within the city school system, according to the Rome News Tribune.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 16, 2019

Button Gwinnett v Lachlan McIntosh

Button Gwinnett and Lachlan McIntosh met outside Savannah on May 16, 1777 and fought a duel; Gwinnett was mortally wounded.

Gwinnett returned to Georgia immediately after signing the [Declaration of Independence] to find city Whig Lachlan McIntosh commanding Georgia’s nascent military efforts. Determined to take control of Georgia politics, Gwinnett became speaker of the legislature, guided the Georgia Constitution of 1777 into existence and took over as governor when Archibald Bulloch died suddenly in office.

Gwinnett then wanted to lead an expedition to secure Georgia’s border with Florida. A dispute between McIntosh and Gwinnett over who would command the effort ultimately led to their duel and Gwinnett’s death.

A Constitutional Convention met on May 16, 1795 in the capital of Louisville to amend the Georgia Constitution of 1789

The United States Senate voted to acquit President Andrew Johnson of 11 Articles of Impeachment passed by the House of Representatives on May 16, 1868.

The North Georgia Electric Company was incorporated on May 16, 1901 to build a hydroelectric dam on the Chattahoochee River near Gainesville; in 1916, it would be bought by the company that today is known as Georgia Power.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is National Barbecue Day. What’s your favorite in Georgia?

United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is taking the lead of liberal intellectual heavyweights like Alyssa Milano in targeting Georgia over the heartbeat bill, according to the AJC.

Gillibrand, a U.S. senator from New York, is among a string of White House hopefuls who have criticized House Bill 481, which seeks to outlaw most abortions as soon as six weeks.

It is Gillibrand’s first visit to Georgia since announcing her candidacy, and she joins a growing group of presidential contenders to trek to the state this year. Most other top contenders have visited, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is set to hold a town hall in Augusta this weekend.

Governor Brian Kemp wrote Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck asking him to resign, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Your indictment severely undermines your ability to fulfill your official obligations to the people of Georgia,’’ Kemp said in a letter to Beck dated Wednesday.

“Now, as insurance commissioner, you hold significant legal authority – including appointment powers – over GUA and its governing board,’’ Kemp wrote.

“In light of this connection and the possibility of new revelations, it would be highly inappropriate for you to continue to hold public office,’’ the letter continued. “I ask that you do what is right for our state and step down immediately.’’

Beck surrendered to authorities Wednesday, WAGA reported. He then made his first appearance in federal court, pleading not guilty to the charges.

The AJC reported that under the relevant state law, if Beck does not resign or ask to be suspended, Kemp can act after a 14-day waiting period if he determines the charges relate to the performance of Beck’s duties as commissioner. If the governor decides that they do — and his Wednesday letter suggests he has already made such a determination — he then would appoint a three-person commission to look into the charges against Beck.

The commission has 14 days to make a determination. If it finds that the charges relate to Beck’s duties, the governor must suspend Beck and name a temporary replacement.

Democrat Governor Stacey Abrams spoke out against boycotting Georgia, according to The Hill.

“I respect the call for a boycott on Georgia, but I do not believe it is the most effective, strategic choice for change,” the Democratic rising star tweeted. “However, I know the perpetrators of #HB481 — most of them men — will not be moved by protest. In fact, they want the ability to demonize the film industry while profiting from its presence.”

Former Georgia governor candidate Stacey Abrams (D) is speaking out against calls for an entertainment industry boycott of the state over its new abortion legislation.

Despite her disapproval of Georgia’s strict new “heartbeat” abortion ban, Abrams said Wednesday that a boycott is not “the most effective, strategic choice for change.”

“I respect the call for a boycott on Georgia, but I do not believe it is the most effective, strategic choice for change,” the Democratic rising star tweeted. “However, I know the perpetrators of #HB481 — most of them men — will not be moved by protest. In fact, they want the ability to demonize the film industry while profiting from its presence.”

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Abrams acknowledged the film industry and its roots in Georgia, adding that while a boycott from these companies could have an effect, “it will not have the effect of actually stopping the laws.”

“We have to recognize that Georgia is the only state that is such a deep part of the film industry that also has the type of draconian leadership that would seek to strip a woman’s autonomy in this way,” she said. “That puts us in a unique position to fight back — not only against the legislation here but the legislation around the country — and to fund the defeat of these politicians and their horrible behavior by using the resources available through the entertainment industry.”

Stacey Abrams published her latest romantic fiction editorial in the New York Times.

Nearly half of donations to President Trump’s reelection came from women, according to The New York Post.

More than 45 percent of the itemized individual contributions to Trump’s campaign for the first three months of the year came from women, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group that tracks money in US contests.

Woman accounted for nearly $1.5 million in Trump contributions. The president collected almost $1.8 million from male donors, bringing the total to more than $3.2 million.

Individual donations were a small portion of the president’s total fundraising haul for the first quarter. He raised $30.3 million from January to March, FEC fillings show.

Among the Democratic candidates, only two raised a higher percentage of their donations from women: New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and California Sen. Kamala Harris.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler (R) announced that April’s unemployment numbers are down, according to AccessWDUN.

The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) issued April numbers Thursday morning.

Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped to 3.6% in April. Georgia’s rate fell to 3.8%, a drop of .1 percentage points. A year ago, Georgia’s unemployment rate sat at 4.2%, according to Butler.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s job total fell by 14,900 in April. The total was 4.59 million jobs.

Even with the monthly loss, Butler said, Georgia was still up nearly 70,000 jobs when compared to last April.

“The annual numbers continue to be strong,” Butler said. “While April numbers were somewhat down, the long-term numbers all trend in the right directions.”

Macon is considering naming streets after members of the Allman Brothers Band, according to the Macon Telegraph.

There’s an effort underway to recognize four members of the legendary band near the Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House. Two other bandmates — Berry Oakley and Duane Allman — already have a stretch of road or bridge designated after them in the same area where the other four founding members could get a similar distinction.

The Big House museum is spearheading the push to recognize the band’s drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson, guitarist Dickey Betts and singer-songwriter Gregg Allman.

“We’re not trying to rename anything or take anybody’s name away,” he said. “What we’re trying to do in proximity with Duane Allman Boulevard, the Berry Oakley bridge and the Big House, we’re trying to find other ways to designate or lay signage to reflect on their contributions.”

The Georgia Allman Brothers Band Association backs the idea, said former president Greg Potter and current president Laraine Potter.

Hall County received the received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for the third year in a row, according to the Gainesville Times.

The City of Cave Spring named the council chamber after late member Mike Ragland, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Jimmy Williams announced he will run for Oconee County Probate Court Judge, according to the Oconee Enterprise.

After a career in law enforcement, Williams is running for Oconee County Probate Court judge. He will be running against Oconee Courthouse Security Supervisor Lt. George Roberts and Athens-Clarke County Police Department Deputy Chief Mike Hunsinger. The incumbent judge, David Anglin, has not yet announced plans to run.

As a nonpartisan race, the outcome will be decided in the May 19, 2020 general primary, or a runoff election the following month.

One of the roles of the Probate Court is to determine adult guardianships and conservatorships. Williams said his work with Project Lifesaver, a program advocated by the Pilot Club that provides location transmitters to adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Just last week, Williams and Cpt. James Hale were instructors at a Pilot Club meeting.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 15, 2019

On May 15, 1791, George Washington left Augusta for Savannah.

On May 15, 1800, President John Adams ordered all 125 employees of the federal government to begin packing to move the capital from Philadelphia to Washington, DC.


American artist Jasper Johns was born May 15, 1930 in Augusta, Georgia.

Carl Sanders was born on May 15, 1925 in Augusta, Georgia. He served in the United States Air Force, Georgia House of Representatives and State Senate, where he was President Pro Tem. In 1962, Sanders won the Democratic Primary for Governor, defeating former Governor Marvin Griffin, and in November was the first Governor of Georgia elected by popular vote after the County Unit System was abolished.

Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz was born on May 15, 1967 in Lansing, Michigan. Smoltz pitched a complete game shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the seventh game of the National League Championship Series in 1991, sending the Braves to their first World Series since moving to Atlanta in 1966. Smoltz was chosen for the All Star team eight times and won the Cy Young award in 1996.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Gwinnett County Commission Chair Charlotte Nash (R) will not run for reelection in 2020, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Nash became chairwoman after winning a special election in 2011 to replace former Chairman Charles Bannister. She was reelected in 2012 and 2016.

“I have mixed emotions as I announce that I have decided that I will not seek re-election,” Nash said in an email to the Daily Post. “I believe that it is time for me to focus on my family and to follow through on a promise I made to my husband that we will enjoy retirement together.”

“For four decades, I have enjoyed the opportunity to serve, in one role or another, the place I have called home all my life. I know that I have been fortunate in that,” Nash said. “To all those who have supported and helped me along the way, I say thank you.

Nash’s decision to not run for re-election leaves the field to replace her wide open. So far, only former state Sen. Curt Thompson, a Democrat, has announced plans to run for commission chairman in 2020.

From the AJC:

“While Chairman Nash’s leadership of the county will be most remembered in restoring the trust with the citizens of Gwinnett in the wake of elected officials’ misgivings,” said Lawrenceville City Manager Chuck Warbington, “her impact on Gwinnett goes much deeper.”

Warbington, a conservative who has often been pointed to as a potential Nash successor, credited her with ensuring Gwinnett’s continued financial stability.

Said Republican District 1 Commissioner Jace Brooks, who has also considered running for chairman: “She is one of the smartest county leaders in this state, and I have learned an immense amount serving with her.”

[Nash] has openly suggested another transit referendum could be called in the near future, irking Gwinnett Republicans in the legislature.

Democrats have dominated recent county elections, with a growing number of voters showing a willingness to vote for candidates with a “D” next to their name.

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck was indicted on 38 federal charges, according to the AJC.

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck was accused Tuesday by a federal grand jury of stealing more than $2 million from his former employer.

The 38-count indictment charges Beck, an ex-insurance lobbyist and long-time leader of the Georgia Christian Coalition, with fraud and money laundering in an elaborate scheme to defraud the Georgia Underwriting Association. With the stolen cash, the Republican allegedly paid his credit card bills and taxes — and even funded the 2018 campaign that landed him in office.

Beck’s, whose lawyers said he denies the charges, is expected to surrender to U.S. Marshals on Wednesday in downtown Atlanta, said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.

Pak said the crimes took place between February 2013 and August 2018, when he left the Georgia Underwriting Association in the middle of the campaign for insurance commissioner. The prosecutor said the allegations don’t relate to Beck’s current job.

“However,” Pak went on, “holding a powerful position does not shield you from the (consequences) of your past criminal activity.”

Governor Brian Kemp will postpone a trip to Los Angeles for a time it’s less hot – literally and figuratively, according to the AJC.

Abortion rights activists had threatened to protest the May 22 event, and Georgia film executives were worried that tepid turnout and no-shows from studio chiefs could do lasting damage to the state’s movie-making business.

Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said that the trip would now take place in the fall, and that the governor plans to soon tour Georgia film production firms and meet with employees to show support for the industry.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) will sit for a Facebook Live interview with the Augusta Chronicle.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston will be in Augusta on Thursday for a Facebook Live interview with The Augusta Chronicle’s editorial board.

The Republican from Blue Ridge, Ga., has served as speaker since 2010. The position, held by a member of the majority party, oversees nearly all aspects of the House of Representatives, including committee assignments and scheduling of debates and votes.

The Chronicle will broadcast the interview with Ralston starting at 9 a.m. Thursday and invites readers to watch on Facebook and submit questions for Ralston, although time and relevance will limit the number used.

Click here for the Chronicle’s Facebook page.

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway announced a memorandum of agreement with the Army to help soldiers seeking work, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

On Tuesday, Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway signed a memorandum of agreement with the Army’s Partnership for Youth Success, or PaYS, program, a “strategic partnership” between the Army and corporations, companies and public sector agencies that guarantees soldiers a job interview after completing reserve training or their first term of service.

While the Army has signed MOAs with employers in many different job sectors across the nation through the program, the public safety profession is especially fitting for those with a military background, Lt. Col. Fredrick Parker, commander of the Army’s Atlanta Recruiting Battalion, said at Tuesday’s signing ceremony.

The sheriff’s office currently has a similar agreement with the Marine Corps, Jones said; every year, deputies travel to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where they spend several days recruiting and helping marines complete the first phase of the hiring process.

Macon residents came out to a public hearing about decriminalizing marijuana possession, according to the Macon Telegraph.

About 40 people came out Tuesday for a public hearing on a proposed ordinance that would give Macon-Bibb County sheriff’s deputies the option of handing out a $75 citation if a person is caught with less than an ounce of marijuana, instead of stiffer penalties.

The majority of people who spoke were in favor of the new ordinance. There also were representatives from organizations such as Reform Georgia and the local chapters of the National Action Network and NAACP.

Backers of the proposal say they want to minimize damage caused if someone is forced to pay a large fine, spend time in jail or deal with probation because of a small amount of pot.

Several people spoke about how young black people are disproportionately charged with marijuana possession.

The Macon Telegraph looks at 4 major issues in the 2020 proposed budget.

Banks County designated Bobby Blackwell as senior magistrate judge, according to AccessWDUN.

A proposed transit system for Statesboro will require federal and local funding, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The University System Board of Regents approved the renaming of a recreational facility, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

When football announcers tell us where the University of Georgia’s football team is playing in its Sept. 7 home opener, they’ll be saying “Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium.”

The state Board of Regents made it official Tuesday.

In a vote with no suspense, the board gave its formal approval to naming the field in honor of former UGA football coach and athletic director Vince Dooley.

“I’m pleased that the board approved it,” said UGA President Jere Morehead, who attended the meeting with UGA Vice President for Government Relations Toby Carr.

Columbus Council voted to remove the director of the Columbus Civic Center, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Columbus Council voted at 12:15 [Tuesday] to allow City Manager Isaiah Hugley to remove Jon Dorman from his position as the director of the Columbus Civic Center.

Dorman was appointed to the position by the city manager after a unanimous vote of council Jan. 24, 2017. Starting with an annual salary $90,233, he replaced former director Ross Horner.

The Albany City Commission will consider a $288.3 million dollar FY 2020 budget, according to the Albany Herald.

“This budget includes new initiatives that will allow us to dress up our front door, to make improvements in our cemeteries, to put our very successful wellness program in a permanent location, and provide updated and renovated facilities for our hardest-working employees in Public Works,” the city manager said.

Before getting into the specifics of the FY 2020 spending plan, Subadan mentioned some of the positives from the current fiscal year. She noted storm recovery work, completion of Phase I of the city’s road improvement plan, work on the connector trail that will allow access from downtown to the Albany-to-Sasser rail trail, transit improvements, ongoing work on a passenger bridge at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, a new automated parking system at the airport and the implementation of an LED lighting program.

Brown went over some of the details of the spending plan, pointing out to commissioners that this is the fifth year that the city can expect to roll back its millage rate.

“There will be around a 2.6% rollback over that period,” Brown said. “That shows fiscal responsibility on the city’s part.”

Brown also said that, primarily because of the T-SPLOST referendum approved by voters, the city will have an additional $13.7 million in revenue during the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Dougherty County Commissioners opened a new Government Center in downtown Albany, according to the Albany Herald.

Sea level sensors have been installed across Chatham County, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The goal is to provide emergency managers and area residents with real time measures of rising water at bridges, creeks and backyard docks around the county. It’s a need that Hurricanes Matthew and Irma made evident.

“The pitch I made after Matthew and Irma is we have this one tide gauge at Fort Pulaski,” [Georgia Tech Senior Research Scientist Russ] Clark said at a session about the project at the Chatham County Hurricane Conference earlier that same day. “It told us one perspective. Just like everyone else, I was hitting reload on my web browser as fast as I could during each of those storms. Still today if you look at graphs from Pulaski it says the peak water level was the same for both storms. Even that Matthew was higher. In reality, most of the county saw more significant flooding from Irma because of the wind and the direction the storm approached. Why do we only have one vantage point, wouldn’t it be great to see in real time the impact all over the county?”

A settlement announcement is expected in the civil case against former Chatham County Probate Court Chief Clerk Kim Birge, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Attorneys in the civil case against former Chatham County Probate Court Chief Clerk Kim Birge on Tuesday apparently reached a settlement with a formal announcement expected when court resumes on Wednesday.

Visiting Senior State Court Judge Orin Douglass from Brunswick on Tuesday sent Chatham County State Court jurors home after hearing testimony from a number of victims and a Chatham County internal auditor with explanations that court officials had to work out some matters.

Attorneys were expected to put the settlement on the record before Douglass Wednesday, ending the case.

The Shellfish and Mariculture Advisory Panel will be appointed after Governor Kemp signed legislation creating it, according to The Brunswick News.

One of the frequently discussed issues with House Bill 501, in the last session of the General Assembly, was the possible existence of a citizen advisory panel regarding oyster mariculture. Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed H.B. 501 into law, which legalizes methods of oyster mariculture in the state.

The Shellfish and Mariculture Advisory Panel, as it’s named, will have 11-15 members and operate similarly to already-existing panels like those on shrimp, blue crab and finfish. The panel will be a subgroup of the state Marine Fisheries Advisory Council.

The shellfish panel is to include, “a maximum of four Department of Agriculture-certified shellfish dealers and four CRD- permitted master shellfish harvesters; a minimum of two recreational shellfish harvesters or coastal county residents; one non-DNR scientist experienced with shellfish science and affiliated with an academic institution in Georgia; one Georgia Department of Agriculture food safety officer; and one related business owner such as a restauranteur.”


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 14, 2019

Delegates to the Constitutional Convention began assembling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 14, 1787, the designated starting day. Because a large number of delegates had not arrived the opening of the Convention was moved to May 25.

On May 14, 1791, George Washington addressed the Grand Lodge of Georgia Masons in Savannah.

On May 14, 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left St. Louis, Missouri to explore the Northwest United States from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.

One hundred fifty years ago today, on May 14, 2014, the VMI Corps of Cadets marched 15 miles and camped overnight at Mt. Tabor, near New Market, Virginia. The next day they would march into history.

On the same day, the Battle of Resaca was fully engaged in Northwest Georgia.

On Saturday, May 14, the fighting at Resaca escalated into a full-scale battle. Beginning at dawn, Union forces engaged the Confederates along the entire four-mile front. In the early afternoon Schofield’s Army of the Ohio attacked the sharply angled center of the Confederate line. The assault was badly managed and disorganized, in part because one of Schofield’s division commanders was drunk. As the Union attack unraveled and became a fiasco, Johnston launched a counterattack on Sherman’s left flank. The counterattack collapsed, however, in the face of a determined stand by a Union artillery battery. In the evening Union forces pushed forward and seized the high ground west of Resaca, which placed the bridges leading south from the town within artillery range and threatened Johnston’s line of retreat.The following day Sherman renewed his assault on the Confederate center.

Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Atlanta History Center’s original production “37 Weeks that Changed Georgia” chronicles the Battle of Resaca in this week’s episode.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former President Jimmy Carter fell and broke his hip, according to the New York Times.

Former President Jimmy Carter underwent surgery for a broken hip on Monday after falling at his home in Plains, Ga., his office said.

Mr. Carter, 94, the longest-living president in American history, was recovering from the operation at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus, Ga., with his wife, Rosalynn, at his side, the office said in a statement.

From the Macon Telegraph:

President Jimmy Carter fell at his Plains, Georgia home Monday morning while preparing for a turkey hunt, according to a release from The Carter Center.

The release said Carter’s main concern is he hasn’t reached his limit on turkeys with the season coming to a close May 15.

He is hopeful the state will allow him to roll over the unused limit to next season.

Augusta Democrats will welcome Independent Democrat Socialist Bernie Sanders this weekend, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Sanders will hold the town hall at 5 p.m. Saturday at the 400-seat Kroc Center Theater, 1833 Broad St., as part of a five-stop weekend Southern tour.

The campaign said the tour will highlight how his policies “meet the urgent needs of communities across the South,” such as restoration of voting rights, reforming K-12 education, environmental racism and eradicating poverty. The stops will include rallies in Asheville and Charlotte in North Carolina, and Birmingham, Ala., and an environmental justice town hall in Denmark, S.C., where officials used an unapproved pool cleaner to purify drinking water for 10 years.

Jordan Johnson, the chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party, said Sanders’ choice of Augusta for the town hall was “smart” because it is a Democratic stronghold.

Governor Brian Kemp vetoed House Resolution 51, addressing a dispute over the border between Tennessee and Georgia, according to the Times Free Press.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp vetoed a resolution to create a boundary line committee Friday, one of 15 legislative measures he axed this year prior to Sunday’s deadline. Kemp argued the committee’s success was unlikely. Case in point? Lawmakers on the other side of the dispute aren’t at the negotiating table.

“Purportedly, the Commission would confer with counterpart commissions in North Carolina and in Tennessee on boundary line disputes,” Kemp said in a statement. “At this time, however, North Carolina and Tennessee have not created boundary line dispute commissions.”

State Rep. Marc Morris, R-Cumming, argued Georgia should have access to the Tennessee River because in 1818 a surveyor drew the boundary between the states a mile farther south than Congress dictated. The mistake cut off Georgia’s access.

Morris’ resolution called for an eight-person committee from Georgia to negotiate with lawmakers in Tennessee and North Carolina. If those states didn’t come to the table, the resolution asked the committee to create a list of recommendations.

From the AJC:

Many surveyors and historians agree the line is technically flawed – as are other state boundaries around the nation. But such issues are usually left alone because borders have been in place so long that “correcting” them would be disruptive, to say the least.

Georgia supporters of the legislation insist they don’t want to annex the 51-mile stretch of misplaced land (and the 30,000 residents who live there). Instead, they’re aiming for a slice of the Nickajack Lake, opening the door to a costly new pipeline that could help quench Atlanta’s thirst.

United States Senator David Perdue is not worried about a Hollywood boycott of Georgia, according to the Albany Herald.

Perdue said that he’s not concerned about the prospect of production companies leaving the state. He said that Georgia’s business outlook was strong and cited a recent study that said “Georgia is rated for the sixth year in the row as the best state in the country in which to do business.” The trade publication Site Selection gave Georgia that designation again in November.

A big reason for the state’s economic success was due to the fact that “Georgia does more traditional movie production than any other state including California,” Perdue added.

Perdue is unmoved by the threat. “It’s ironic that several of these companies that are threatening to boycott have yet to do business in Georgia,” he said. “It just shows that rhetoric is more important than reality.”

“Life is precious and we’re called to protect it at any stage, as long as it’s there.” he said during the Fox interview. “This is not a radical right or a liberal left issue here in Georgia. It’s a moral issue and I think the people of Georgia have spoken.”

Congressman Buddy Carter met with the Golden Isles Republican Women, according to The Brunswick News.

“Climate change is real. The climate has been changing since day one,” Carter said. “We’ve seen it through history, we know the climate is changing. There was a time back in the 70s when it was getting colder, and we were afraid we were going to have more freezing of areas. Now we’ve got just the opposite.”

Recently appointed to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Committee on Climate Change, Carter said he takes the issue seriously.

“I represent the entire coast of Georgia, 100 miles of pristine coastline. I’ve lived here all my life, it’s where I intend to live the rest of my life,” Carter said. “I love this coast, and I’m never going to do anything to harm this coast. I believe that we need to make sure we’ve got a representative on this committee for our coast, that’s why I volunteered for it.”

While he said he believed the government needs to take some action in response to climate change, he distanced himself from the Green New Deal, a Democratic proposal aimed at addressing the issue along with a number of others.

“It is the craziest thing I have ever seen. I read that 14 pages and laughed the whole way through,” Carter said. “I take climate change seriously. I don’t mean to be making light of it, I do take it seriously. I think we need to adapt, we need to mitigate and we need innovation.”

Perry Mayor Jimmy Faircloth resigned suddenly last week, according to 13WMAZ.

The mayor of Perry is stepping down at the end of this month.

Jimmy Faircloth sent a letter to the city Friday morning saying he’s leaving City Hall at the end of May.

His letter does not give a reason, and when 13WMAZ reached Faircloth by phone, he cited work and personal obligations saying, “It’s time.”

Faircloth has been mayor for 9.5 years and Mayor Pro-Tem Randall Walker will step in until the city elects a replacement.

The Grovetown City Council removed an agenda item from consideration that would make the Mayor full time, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The item was pulled from Monday night’s regular city council meeting agenda because Mayor Gary Jones said he felt he did not have enough support from city council members.

“The community as a whole was supportive even though there were some who were against it,” Jones said. “The council questioned if we were moving into it a little too fast. We need to slow down and take a better look.”

If approved, the mayor’s salary would have been $65,000 as Jan 1. The mayor currently is part-time and makes $10,200 per year.

Former Chatham County Clerk of Courts Kim Birge is accused of stealing more than $1 million dollars, according to the Savannah Morning News.

An attorney for 11 victims of former Chatham County Probate Court Clerk Kim Birge on Monday told jurors that his clients lost more than $409,000 to her theft while she traveled and gambled with the proceeds and she drove Corvettes.

Those sums were among the $1 million Birge stole from the court over an eight-year period from children who had lost their parents, the elderly or physically injured or mentally handicapped, attorney Brent Savage told a Chatham County State Court jury empaneled to hear the civil case.

But attorney Walter Ballew, who represents Birge, told the jurors that people who knew Birge were “shocked by her conduct” which he blamed on opioid and gambling addictions that spun out of control.

Birge, 64, was not in court. She remains incarcerated in a federal prison in West Virginia where she is serving a six-year term after pleading guilty in federal court on July 31, 2015, to stealing $232,000 from the Probate Court as part of a scheme in which the government said she stole more than $750,000 over a three-year period.

The Clarke County Board of Education will elect a new Board President from their members and also choose a new member, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The board has set a Thursday meeting to elect a new president to replace Jared Bybee, who is resigning his seat as his wife, University of Georgia law professor Mehrsa Baradaran, takes a new job at the University of California-Irvine.

Once that’s done, they’ll begin the longer process of replacing Bybee on the board, which requires that the board advertise for candidates from Bybee’s District 4, then pick one from among them.

It’s rare for the board to replace a member, but picking Bybee’s replacement will be the second occurrence for the board this year. The board picked Frances Berry in February to replace ailing District 2 board member Vernon Payne.

Chatham County is compiling a wish list of projects for funding in a potential renewal of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham County staff members are currently updating the proposed list of county projects to include as part of the 1 percent sales tax referendum on ballots for voters Nov. 5.

The county draft proposal includes $216 million in projects for drainage, transportation, parks and recreation, and infrastructure. Projects were selected from staff input and the recreational master plan.

The county’s municipalities presented their requests for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax projects at the May 6 commission meeting. If approved by voters, it will be SPLOST VII.

Chatham officials predict the sales tax will raise $400 million over a six-year period, starting in October 2020.

Whitfield County Commissioners approved a list of improvements for the county jail, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Floyd County Commissioners will consider changes to the employee retirement plan, according to the Rome News Tribune.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 13, 2019

On May 13, 1607, English settlers founded the first permanent English settlement in America, at Jamestown on the James River. This led to the first English-language politics in America:

Dispatched from England by the London Company, the colonists had sailed across the Atlantic aboard the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery. Upon landing at Jamestown, the first colonial council was held by seven settlers whose names had been chosen and placed in a sealed box by King James I. The council, which included Captain John Smith, an English adventurer, chose Edward Wingfield as its first president.

Lyman Hall arrived in Philadelphia as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress on May 13, 1775.

On May 13, 1798, a Constitutional Convention adopted the Georgia Constitution of 1798.

The Mexican War began on May 13, 1846.

Georgia Whigs, led by Governor George Crawford, Alexander Stephens, and Robert Toombs, criticized the war for raising divisive questions about slavery in the territories. Georgia Democrats, led by Howell Cobb and Herschel Johnson, staunchly supported the war and states’ rights afterward. Because Whigs, nationally, appeared to be antislavery, Georgia Whigs lost the governorship in 1847. The Compromise of 1850 temporarily settled the slavery question in the territories, but the moderating influence of Georgia’s Whigs dissolved in the heated rhetoric of states’ rights in the 1850s. The next war would find Americans fighting Americans.

The first fighting at Resaca, Georgia took place on May 13, 1864 and Union forces marched into Dalton.

On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

On May 13, 2005, the Pentagon Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommended the closing of Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Fort Gillem in Forest Park, the Naval Air Station in Marietta, and the Naval Supply Corps School in Athens.

The Brunswick News looks at the 1777 duel between Lachlan McIntosh and Button Gwinnett.

Both McIntosh and Gwinnett took similar paths to that fateful day on May 16, 1777. Lachlan McIntosh was born in Scotland in 1725, the son of John Mohr McIntosh. The elder McIntosh brought his family to the newly established Georgia Colony in 1736 as the leader of a hardy bunch of Scotts settlers. They established the settlement that would become Darien in the area that today carries the family name, McIntosh County.

A Georgia delegate to the Continental Congress in the summer of 1776, Gwinnett’s signature sits first on the left of signers to this nation’s Declaration of Independence. By 1777, the man for whom the county in metropolitan Atlanta is named was serving in Georgia’s state legislature. He succeeded Archibald Bulloch as president of Georgia’s general assembly after Bulloch’s death.

Standing 12 paces apart, the two leveled their pistols, each at the other. No quick-draw stuff. Each staring down a barrel, the two men fired simultaneously. Gwinnett took a bullet to the thigh; McIntosh also was shot in the leg. McIntosh’s wound eventually mended; Gwinnett lived but three more days.

Gwinnett’s Whig party allies brought murder charges against McIntosh. He was acquitted.

Fearing further reprisals against the young Continental officer, Gen. George Washington himself reassigned McIntosh to the main army. There he endured the bitter winter of ’77-78 at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, supervising North Carolina troops.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp signed a copy of the state budget in Camilla, according to the Albany Herald.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed the state’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget on Friday. Joined by lawmakers, law enforcement officials, educators, and local leaders in Camilla, Kemp’s signature of the balanced budget caps a historic first legislative session.

“This budget demonstrates our priorities as a state, reflects our core values, and signals the bright future ahead for all Georgians,” Kemp said at the signing ceremony. “For the second year in a row, our state fully-funded public education. With the support of the General Assembly, this budget delivers a well-deserved — and long overdue — educator pay raise of $3,000, the largest in state history.

“I am confident these bold investments will enhance educational outcomes and yield huge dividends for our students and our state in the future.”

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said the budget addresses priorities established by the General Assembly.

“Eleven million Georgians expect our policies to enhance education, economic development, and health care,” he said. “The FY 2020 budget – which passed the Georgia Senate unanimously – recognizes those priorities by fully funding our K-12 education system, raising educator pay, promoting innovative approaches to technological learning, advancing health care reform measures and funding programs which prepare our state for long-term success.

Governor Kemp vetoed legislation that would have required recess time for some students, according to Georgia Health News.

Kemp vetoed House Bill 83 on Friday along with several other bills. In his veto message, the governor said the recess requirement “would impose unreasonable burdens on educational leaders without meaningful justification.’’

“While I support expanded recess opportunities for Georgia’s students, I am a firm believer in local control, especially in education,’’ Kemp stated. He said House Bill 83 would dramatically restrict this local control, stripping long-held authority from school boards.

Rep. Demetrius Douglas, a former Georgia Bulldog linebacker and currently a Henry County high school football coach, was lead sponsor of the bill. He pushed the recess idea for three years.

Douglas, a Stockbridge Democrat, pointed to the high child obesity rate in the state. One-third of Georgia children ages 10-17 were overweight or obese in 2017. “It’s a health initiative first,’’ he said of the recess bill. “It’s about our future. These kids will be running our state.’’

Kemp also vetoed another health-related measure – a pilot program for covering prescription drugs for the treatment and management of obesity and related conditions for the State Health Benefit Plan, which covers schoolteachers, other school personnel, state employees and retirees.

The governor said the program would be too costly and cause higher premiums for state employees.

From the AJC:

Recess lost ground after the No Child Left Behind Act pressured schools to raise their math and reading scores. Forty-four percent of America’s school districts reported cutting time from other areas, including recess, art and music and physical education, to beef up math and reading instruction.

There is no federal requirement for recess as it’s viewed as a state matter. Five states mandate recess, while at least seven states require daily physical activity for elementary schools. In every case, legislators in those states expressed fears over the increasing sedentary lifestyles of children. Georgia has the 18th highest obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17

A strong push for recess is coming from parents, who contend unstructured play is vital to children’s physical and social advancement. Those parents found allies among child development researchers who say recess bolsters social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.

Hemp farming is now legal in Georgia, after Gov. Kemp signed House Bill 213, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp made it legal Friday for farmers to grow hemp in Georgia.

Kemp signed into law a bill that allows hemp crops, which can be used to make CBD oil, rope and other items.

Besides Georgia, 41 states have hemp programs. Kemp signed House Bill 213 during a ceremony in Lake Park in South Georgia.

Some students at Valdosta State University walked out when Gov. Kemp spoke at commencement, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Most graduates stayed seated but others walked out of Valdosta State University’s 227th commencement ceremony as Gov. Brian Kemp gave the address Saturday evening.

Students returned following the speech to walk across the stage.

A town hall meeting was held in late April protesting Kemp as VSU’s keynote speaker. On Saturday, students gave varying opinions regarding the governor’s visit.

“But graduates, I’m confident that together we can tackle things like the opioid crisis. We can expand access to quality health care,” Kemp said.

“We can keep our family safe and boost educational outcomes, protect the vulnerable and ensure that all people are treated with respect,” [said Kemp].

“There will be moments when the odds are not in your favor, when you feel alone and ill-prepared, times of darkness and despair,” he said. “Perseverance builds character and character produces hope,” [said Kemp].

D-list actress Alyssa Milano says she may not return to Georgia, according to BuzzFeed.

Alyssa Milano says she intends to honor the film production boycott of Georgia that she and dozens of other celebrities petitioned for after the state’s governor signed the controversial “heartbeat” abortion restriction into law.

Milano is currently filming Netflix’s second season of Insatiable in Georgia, a show that was criticized when it was released in August for fat-shaming and a storyline featuring an adult male beauty pageant coach who is falsely accused of molesting a minor. The actor said she’s contractually obligated to stay in Georgia for another month, but won’t return to the show if it films there in the future.

“I have to be there for another month but you can be sure I will fight tooth and nail to move Insatiable to a state that will protect our rights,” Milano told BuzzFeed News in an interview that she only agreed to do over email. “And if it doesn’t move to another state, I will not be able to return to the show if we are blessed with a third season. This is my leverage. I will use it for the betterment of society and our great country.”

Good riddance.

Milano also called for a sex strike to protest strict abortion laws, according to CNN.

Actress Alyssa Milano called for a sex strike in response to restrictive abortion laws, and many women were quick to call her out.

“Until women have legal control over our own bodies we just cannot risk pregnancy,” Milano said on Twitter Friday. “JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back.”

Critics said the strike assumes that sex is enjoyed only by men and that women’s bodies are commodities that can be denied to men as punishment. Some people also pointed out that the sex strike ignored LGBTQ people and didn’t consider the possibility of sexual violence.

“Living under the patriarchy has already robbed me of safety, autonomy, opportunities, and trust in our institutions. Now I’m supposed to give up sex, too, and play into the fiction that it is just a bargaining chip/transaction for women,” said Kristi Coulter on Twitter. “Love you, but nope.”

“A shame because again, you are using sex as a weapon, as a way to get what you want,” said Tammy Lawson on Twitter. “I guess your brain wasn’t good enough.”

Some other actress I’ve never heard of suggested mandatory vasectomies for Georgia men, according to Breitbart.

Hollywood actress Evan Rachel Wood took to Twitter over the weekend and joked that men should undergo mandatory surgical sterilization in response to Georgia’s “Heartbeat” abortion law, which prohibits a woman from aborting her pregnancy in the state after a heartbeat is detected.

“Please. We have been abused and used enough. They want control of our bodies. I cant even begin to explain the terrifying implications of this. Help. Please,” the Westworld star said. “They are going to try and overturn Roe vs Wade and countless women are going to die. Everyone STAND UP.”

“I dont want mandatory vasectomies because I don’t believe we should legislate peoples bodies, its a dangerous slippery slope.” the HBO star said. “I used the example to point out the hypocrisy of always putting the responsibility, punishment, blame, or means of prevention, solely on women.”

Some film production companies that don’t do business in Georgia say they’re boycotting the state, according to The Hill.

Bernie Sanders will visit Georgia, according to the AJC.

The Vermont Democrat will hold a town hall on Saturday in Augusta, part of a three-day blitz that will also bring him to Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina.

It’s his first visit to Georgia this cycle, and one of several to South Carolina, home to the first-in-the-South Democratic primary. And by visiting Augusta, the White House hopeful will also slice into a chunk of the South Carolina media market.

The City of Norcross will release results of the first municipal study of extended stay hotel populations, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Like in many other cities across metro Atlanta, there are limited residential options for working and middle-class families in Norcross,” organizers of the presentation event said in a media advisory. “A defining feature of the housing landscape in this city of 17,000 is that it is dotted with extended-stay motels, and most of these are home to families and elderly individuals.”

Rome Circuit Superior Court Judge Bryant Durham will not run for reelection in 2020, according to the Rome News Tribune.

At least one person who already holds a similar position has been openly talking about running within the legal community and others have hinted at it. We’ll see what happens.

The past two judicial races have been hotly contested — three ran for Judge Larry Salmon’s seat in 2008 and two ran for Judge Tami Colston’s seat in 2018. In fact, Judge Jack Niedrach — who won the election for Salmon’s seat — will become the new chief judge. We’re certainly thankful for the experience and gravitas he will bring to that position.

Speaking of the 2020 election, and rumors involved, there have been several more names floating about for those who may run for Sheriff Tim Burkhalter’s position. Three people have officially come out publicly saying they’ll qualify to run for the post — Tom Caldwell, Ronnie Kilgo and Dave Roberson. The last count of rumored candidates (including these three) was somewhere around seven. We’ll see what happens when qualifying time comes around.

Westside High School in Bibb County became the first public school to receive the SMART Exemplary School Award, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Lowndes County Board of Elections will meet on May 14, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Chatham County Board of Elections will add two new precincts in Pooler, according to the Savannah Morning News.

In the 2018 mid-term election, Chatham County saw a surge in voter registrations and early voting numbers.

At 10:30 p.m. on Election Day, voters at Rothwell Baptist Church in Pooler reported about 60 people were still in line waiting to vote. Others reported it took more than four hours to cast ballots.

It’s an issue that Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges attributes to Pooler’s growing pains. The city’s booming population growth in the last few decades.

In 2018, Pooler Mayor Mike Lamb told Savannah Morning News he estimates there were about 2,000 residents in Pooler when he moved there 42 years ago. In 2017, Census data estimates put the population at 24,000.

The new precincts will include at least two voting machines — Bridges said that’s the minimum number for any precinct countywide.

There are currently three precincts in Pooler.

“The biggest problem in places like Pooler is finding places to put the polls. Pooler is residential, and it has a huge commercial district, but the Tanger Outlet and the shopping mall and all those places — they’re not amenable to be polling places,” Bridges said. “We usually use community buildings, public places, churches and schools.”

The Glynn County Board of Elections will announce their choice for hiring a new elections supervisor on Tuesday, according to The Brunswick News.

The board will have to wait 14 days from the announcement date to make the hiring official, she explained.

Assistant supervisor Chris Channell is currently serving as the interim supervisor. He follows former supervisors Tina Edwards and Monica Couch, who left their roles in July 2017 and December 2018, respectively.

Edwards resigned from her position while the board voted to fire Couch on Dec. 12, just after the 2018 general election runoff.

At the same time, they appointed Channell interim supervisor.

The board will also recognize outgoing Glynn County Republican Party appointee Ruby Robinson, who is nearing the end of her second term. The Republican Party announced her replacement, Patricia Featherstone, last week.

Savannah tourism and related revenue increased in 2018, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Last year visitors to the Hostess City opened their wallets more than ever, spending a record breaking $3 billion in 2018, an increase of 3.2% compared to the $2.91 billion spent in 2017, according to the annual Visit Savannah Visitor Study compiled by Longwoods International.

According to the survey, about $1 billion was spent on lodging; $785 million on food and beverage; $502 on retail; $359 on recreation and $322 on transportation and Marinelli said the increase in spending reflects the overall product in the local market, which has added several new, higher-end additions including The Perry Lane Hotel, Alida hotel, Husk and La Scala.

The total number of visitors also increased to 14.5 million compared to 14.1 million in 2017. About 6.2 million of those visitors were day-trippers and 8.2 million overnight visitors, who are also staying a bit longer with the average length of stay increasing to 2.6 nights from 2.4 nights in 2017.

Cave Spring City Council will likely hear a draft of a new alcohol ordinance on Tuesday, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Board members have been working on a comprehensive revision since voters approved in March the sale of liquor – by the drink, by the package and on Sundays – within the city limits. They’re using the city of Rome’s ordinance as a template but tailoring it for their historic small town.

City Attorney Frank Beacham said at the close of a work session last week that he would have a draft of the changes he’s been directed to incorporate so far.

“It is your intention to allow liquor by the drink at restaurants, distillery tasting rooms, farm wineries, malt beverage tap rooms, hotels, private clubs and retail establishments approved by the City Council – but not at bars or sham establishments,” Beacham said in summary, to nods from the board members.

The Hall County Tax Commissioner’s Office will be open Saturday, according to AccessWDUN.

There will be limited or no services related to motor vehicles May 20 through May 29 statewide. The Hall County Tax Commissioner’s Office will be unable to process vehicle tags and titles and business renewals from Thursday, May 23 through Monday, May 27, according to Tax Commissioner Darla Eden. Additionally, the self-service kiosk located at Kroger Marketplace and online renewal services will be off-line from May 21 through May 29.

With that in mind, Eden said the office will be open this Saturday, May 18 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. All titling and registration services will be available to individuals and dealerships on Saturday.

Statesboro City Council will hear the results of a transit study on Tuesday, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Connetics Transportation Group has completed its feasibility study for a possible public transit system in Statesboro and is scheduled to present the results to City Council in an open, special session at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or T-SPLOST, referendum approved by a majority of Bulloch County voters in May 2018 earmarked $450,000 to start a public transit program in Statesboro.

City Council in September contracted CTG, which has an office in Atlanta, to do the study for $68,793. The final report is about 110 pages long, or 190 pages if appendences of details such as survey and interview results are included. Beginning with data showing rapid population and employment growth, the report’s executive summary projects further growth for Statesboro and describes it as having already a “large transportation disadvantaged population,” including students, seniors, low-wage working people and people with disabilities.