Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 15, 2024


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 15, 2024

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: J. Glover (AUTiger)

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

April 22d is the last day to register to vote in order to be eligible to vote in the May 21, 2024 General Primary Election and Nonpartisan General Election, according to AccessWDUN.

April 22 is the last day for Forsyth County residents to register to vote or to make changes to their name or address on the voter registration list for the May 21 General Primary and Nonpartisan General Election.

Forsyth County residents can verify their current voter registration status and Election Day polling place at Changes to multiple precincts and polling places were approved in Dec. 2023. This means a voter’s assigned Election Day polling place may be different from where they voted in previous years.

A general primary is an open primary held for each political party to select their nominees for the office to be elected in the upcoming general election. The general election for the contests that appear on the general primary ballot in May will be held on Nov. 5.

A Nonpartisan general election is an election in which candidates are listed on the ballot with
no designation of party affiliation, officials said.

Georgia voters do not register by party. Voters must select a Democratic, Republican or Nonpartisan general election ballot at the time of voting in a primary. A nonpartisan primary ballot selection will not include candidates from the Democratic party or the Republican party. The Democratic and Republican ballot styles will also include the Nonpartisan General Election contests. A voter’s choice of ballot style for the GP is independent of previous or future choices of ballot styles for primaries, according to officials with Forsyth County.

Mail delivery continues to be delayed in Metro Atlanta, according to 11Alive via 13WMAZ.

“They’ve lost control of the process,” Thomas Day, the vice chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, told 11Alive’s Liza Lucas in an interview.

And he called the current level of breakdowns he’s seen and heard about “unprecedented.”

“I’ve never, ever seen service this poor in my entire career,” he said. “Never.”

The delays in Atlanta trace to the new Atlanta Regional Processing & Distribution Center in Palmetto. It opened on Feb. 24, consolidating Atlanta, Augusta, Macon and Duluth area processing and distribution centers, which are each being repurposed as local processing centers.

Day said he agreed a redesign of the network was necessary, but criticized “Delivering for America” for being implemented with what he called a “lack of transparency.” The Postal Regulatory Commission, he noted, has only limited authority over USPS and is largely advisory — and said their own inquiries have not always gotten answers.

The same has been true in cases for members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. In Georgia, lawmakers from Republican Reps. Mike Collins and Andrew Clyde to Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff have pressed for explanations about the system delays as well as solutions.

It’s also been true for news organizations — 11Alive has contacted USPS on multiple occasions for answers to questions that would paint a fuller picture of what’s going on at the Palmetto facility. Since an updated statement in early March that said in part “operations are improving,” USPS has continued to say it has no additional information to provide.

Day said he had examined data in Atlanta that showed service reliability scores had gone from the high 80s to 90 range down to as low as 10%. A particular metric he felt was telling was the time it takes for good old-fashioned letters and postcards to get from one destination to another just within the same service district.

It can often be as easy as an overnight delivery with that type of mail, and it’s supposed to be no later than two days.
In Atlanta, the average was roughly six days. Day called it “shocking.”

“The problem you have when you get this backlogged, when you have an average time to deliver a letter just within the Atlanta area of six days — totally ridiculous — what that tells me is they’re backing up mail all over the place,” he said. “And as hard as you try to keep it in order it just overwhelms you.”

Governor Brian Kemp’s office announced that Year-to-date state tax revenues are down 4.3% compared to the first quarter of 2023, according to a Press Release.

The State of Georgia’s net tax collections in March totaled $2.34 billion, for a decrease of $338.7 million or 12.6 percent compared to FY 2023, when net tax collections approached a total of $2.68 billion for the month.

Year-to-date, net tax revenue totaled $23.49 billion, for a decrease of $115.6 million or 0.5 percent from the same nine-month period in FY 2023, a period during which the state’s motor fuel excise tax was suspended. Net of motor fuel tax changes, revenues for the nine months ended March 31 were down 4.3 percent from this time a year ago.

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

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections totaled $998.3 million, for a decrease of $191.2 million or 16.1 percent compared to last year, when Individual Tax collections totaled nearly $1.19 billion. This is in part attributable to the planned reduction in income tax rates effective January 1, 2024.

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

• Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were down $79.3 million or 11.1 percent
• Individual Withholding payments were down by $228.2 million or 13.7 percent from the previous year
• Individual Income Tax Return payments declined by $28.4 million or 23 percent from March 2023
• All other Individual Tax categories, including Estimated payments, were down a combined $13.9 million

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections totaled $1.42 billion for the month, which was an increase of $77.5 million or 5.8 percent compared to March 2023. Net Sales and Use Tax decreased by $29.7 million or 4.5 percent compared to last year, when net sales tax totaled $660.4 million. The adjusted Sales Tax distribution to local governments totaled $730.8 million, for an increase of $62.3 million or 9.3 percent, while Sales Tax refunds increased by $44.9 million or 284.7 percent compared to FY 2023.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections for March totaled $356.7 million, for a decrease of roughly $141 million or 28.3 percent compared to FY 2023.

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

• Corporate Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were up $41.6 million or 88 percent over FY 2023
• Corporate Income Tax Estimated payments decreased by $62.9 million or 91.8 percent from the previous year
• All other Corporate Tax types, including Corporate Return payments, were down a combined $36.5 million

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections increased by $21.2 million or 13.5 percent over last year.

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees decreased by $4.8 million or 13.5 percent for the month, while Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections increased by $5.3 million or 8.3 percent over last year.

From the Capitol Beat News Service:

Georgia tax collections continued their downward slide last month, declining by 12.6% compared to March of last year, the state Department of Revenue reported Friday.

Year-to-date tax receipts were more encouraging, with revenues down a slight 0.5% compared to the first nine months of the last fiscal year.

However, that’s only because the state has resumed collecting taxes on gasoline and other motor fuels, a tax Gov. Brian Kemp suspended during most of last year. Not counting those revenues, state tax collections actually fell 4.3% during the first nine months of fiscal 2024.

Despite the slowdown in tax revenues, which the governor’s Office of Planning and Budget expected, Georgia lawmakers adopted a record $37.9 billion midyear budget in February that includes $5.5 billion in new spending.

A month later, the legislature approved a $36.1 billion spending plan for fiscal 2025, which takes effect in July. It includes 4% cost-of-living raises for most state and university system employees, with an additional $3,000 for those in state agencies hit hard by turnover, including law enforcement and welfare workers.

The largesse stems from a $16 billion budget surplus the state has built up during the last three years.

Unemployment claims increased last month, according to USA Today via the Savannah Morning News.

Initial filings for unemployment benefits in Georgia rose last week compared with the week prior, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.

New jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, increased to 4,293 in the week ending April 6, up from 3,512 the week before, the Labor Department said.

U.S. unemployment claims dropped to 211,000 last week, down 11,000 claims from 222,000 the week prior on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Delaware saw the largest percentage increase in weekly claims, with claims jumping by 253.3%. Virgin Islands, meanwhile, saw the largest percentage drop in new claims, with claims dropping by 56%.

A lawsuit against Georgia’s Secretary of State over voting procedures begins this week, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A voting rights trial against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is slated to begin Monday, with the nonprofit organization VoteAmerica challenging a 2021 election law that impacted individual voters and voting rights advocates alike.

SB 202, an omnibus election bill also known as the “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” placed new restrictions on early and absentee voting, imposing stricter ID verification requirements on mail-in ballots and shortening the window of time in which voters could request absentee ballots be sent to them. The law also capped the number of absentee ballot drop boxes to one per 100,000 residents, and removed a pandemic-era provision that allowed voters to access drop boxes outside of regular business hours.

The new law also restricts third-party organizations from distributing absentee ballot applications and imposes a $100 penalty for each duplicate absentee ballot application sent to voters in Georgia.

The lawsuit, known as VoteAmerica et al v. Raffensperger et al, alleges that these changes impede on citizens’ First Amendment rights, and place an undue burden on organizations that seek to improve voter participation. The case was first filed in April 2021.

In 2023, Judge J.P. Boulee struck down a provision that banned anyone from providing food or water to voters waiting in line at the polls, as well as a provision that required voters to include their date of birth on the envelope of their absentee ballot.

Judge Boulee is once again presiding over the case, which will be held at the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta. Court proceedings will begin at 9 a.m.

Several pieces of legislation affecting voting are on the Governor’s desk for his signature or veto, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Taken together, the bills could change the way elections across the state are conducted, tallied and audited. Here’s what’s next for the three bills that passed the legislature.

HB 974  – A bill that would allow ballots cast in an election to be uploaded to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website for the public to access successfully passed through the Georgia legislature on the final day of the 2024 session.

The measure, authored by state Rep. John LaHood (R-Valdosta), was designed to increase transparency and public confidence in election results throughout the state in response to a deluge of election deniers who have repeatedly claimed the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

It was sent to the governor’s desk on April 3 and is awaiting his signature.

HB 1207 – Initially a bill that governed ballot proofing procedures for local superintendents, House Bill 1207 was amended in the Senate Ethics Committee to include language from SB 221, a controversial elections bill that failed to pass during the 2023 legislative session.

The new section requires all election workers to be U.S. citizens, in addition to outlining protections for poll watchers and eliminating the requirement for polling places to maintain a ratio of one voting machine for every 250 voters. It also limits a candidate’s timeframe for reviewing their information before it officially appears on a ballot, giving them a maximum of 24 hours to request any changes.

The bill passed through the House and the Senate on the final day of the 2024 legislative session, and was sent to the governor on April 3. It currently awaits his signature.

SB 189 – Perhaps the most controversial elections measure of the 2024 session, Senate Bill 189 would implement sweeping changes to current voting laws aimed at improving election security and voter confidence.

Among other things, it would allow mass voter challenges, change the rules governing where homeless voters can register, and eliminate the use of QR codes on ballots. It would also shorten the timeframe for early and absentee ballots to be counted, requiring the tabulation to be completed within an hour of the polls closing on election day.

SB 189 outlines several factors that can be used to determine the validity of a voter challenge, but does not limit which factors can be used to place a claim, or how many challenges an individual or organization can file. It would also allow voters to be removed from the rolls until 45 days before an election, violating the National Voter Registration Act, which bans challenges within 90 days of an election.

Sponsored by Sen. Max Burns (R-Sylvania), the bill received final passage on the last day of the legislative session, passing out of the House with a 101-73 vote, and the Senate with a 33-22 vote. It was sent to Gov. Brian Kemp on April 4.

Kemp has 40 days to sign or veto the bill, after which it will automatically become law. The ACLU has promised to sue if Kemp signs the bill into law.

From the AJC:

“It’s a big step. I really think this will help restore voter confidence in Georgia,” said Garland Favorito, co-founder of the group VoterGA, which opposes the state’s voting system and made unsubstantiated claims about counterfeit ballots being used in 2020. “Of course, we still wanted more, but these were good times.”

Heading into the 2024 presidential election, Republican legislators passed bills to challenge voters’ eligibility, eliminate computer codes to count ballots and guarantee more access for partisan poll watchers.

Additional provisions would add watermarks on ballots to prevent potential counterfeits, track ballots anytime they’re touched by poll workers, permit high-resolution photocopies of absentee ballots and require all absentee ballots to be counted by 8 p.m. on election night.

The bills are now awaiting Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature or veto before a May 7 deadline.

“I would describe this year’s session as a home run for those of us concerned about election integrity,” Georgia Republican Party Chairman Josh McKoon said. “We want an overwhelming majority of our citizenry to have confidence in our election process, and this moves us a tremendous amount in that direction.”

Just 42% of Republicans said they were confident that this year’s presidential election would be conducted fairly and accurately, according to a January poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Among all Georgia voters in the survey, 57% said they were confident.

House Governmental Affairs Chairman John LaHood said this year’s bills will make a difference to voters who want assurances that elections are accurate and secure.

“This is the most impactful election package to come out of this General Assembly since 2021,” said LaHood, a Republican from Valdosta. “Georgia will be in the spotlight in this national election, and it’s considered a swing state. We want to make sure we get it right.”

“Our goal is to make it easier to vote but harder to cheat, and I think these bills go a long way toward that,” said Mark Davis, a Gwinnett County resident who analyzes voter registration lists and testified at a state Senate hearing on voter challenges in February. “There’s still some things left to do in the next session of the Legislature.”

Nearly 600,000 Georgians lost their Medicaid eligibility due to re-qualifying, according to the AJC.

The number of Georgians kicked off Medicaid has now reached 596,994 as Georgia and other states continue work to drop beneficiaries who no longer qualify. That number is expected to grow as the process of requalifying recipients continues for at least a couple more months.

The latest number, released Feb. 29, includes 504,000 Georgians who were dropped due to missing paperwork. It appears to confirm experts’ forebodings that large numbers of Americans who need and still qualify for Medicaid would simply fall through the cracks of bureaucracy. Georgia is among the 10 worst states in the nation, with 84% of those losing coverage being kicked off for missing paperwork, according to the health research organization KFF.

Throughout three years of the pandemic public health emergency, no one on Medicaid was required to update their paperwork to show they still qualified. As a result, the rolls grew so that Medicaid covered 2.8 million Georgians, or one-quarter of the state’s population.

Last year, all states were asked by the federal government to recertify every Medicaid recipient and drop those who no longer qualify or who don’t complete the required paperwork.

States were given over a year to do the work, and that deadline is looming. But the task nationwide has proved so daunting that on Jan. 1, Washington ordered states to pause disenrollments on children, and to concentrate instead on adults. As of 2019, 56% of Georgia Medicaid enrollees were children up to and including 18 year olds, according to KFF, a nonprofit health research organization.

Advocates for patients say the system is complicated and glitchy. Attorneys say they have seen the state lose paperwork they know was sent. Doctors say that for those who want to prove their eligibility for Medicaid, the bureaucracy overseen by the Georgia Department of Human Services and the Department of Community Health is a bog.

“I see it in my office every day,” said Dr. Hugo Scornik, a Conyers-based pediatrician and past president of the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Families are coming in to his office with no insurance for their children, and then are faced with deciding whether to pay for medications, vaccines, and necessary care like asthma inhalers.

“It just kind of changes the equation for these families,” Scornik said. “Can they afford this medication your child needs? It’s just really, really tough,” he said.

Scornik was not surprised to hear the numbers. Families who come to him say that after they learn they’ve been disenrolled they can’t get through to caseworkers to solve the issue.

When they do get through to someone at the state, they’re told there’s a long backlog and it will take time. His patients who know they’ve been disenrolled and are trying to get re-evaluated, can go uninsured for months, he said.

State Department of Community Health spokeswoman Fiona Roberts pointed out that some of those people will have moved on to other coverage and simply never re-applied for Medicaid. She couldn’t provide an exact number, but pointed to KFF data showing that since Medicaid re-evaluations began last year, 276,000 Georgians who at some time in their lives had Medicaid have now enrolled in Affordable Care Act private health insurance.

Childcare is an increasing financial burden on working families, according to the AJC.

“As employers endeavor to attract and retain a robust workforce, understanding potential barriers such as the cost of childcare becomes increasingly important,” wrote Brittany Birken, director and principal adviser in Community and Economic Development, and Herman Knopf, a visiting scholar in Community and Economic Development.

While data is available only for the “above ground” operations, child care is a “significant financial commitment… particularly for families at the lower end of the income spectrum,” according to a paper released last week by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

The Atlanta Fed focused on Florida, which has nearly the same share of workers with young children as Georgia.

For households of two adults taking home the state’s median income,child care for one young child on average snared 11% of their pay. Add an infant and the household would be paying 22%, the Fed found.

According to the Census Bureau, the median household income in Florida is $65,370 compared to Georgia’s median of $67,730. The median income nationally is $74,580.

At the low end, if the two adults are making Florida’s $12-an-hour minimum wage, they would average 16% of their income going to child care for one child and 38% if they add an infant, the Fed found.

The pandemic-triggered increase in remote work — and the flexibility it provided — has been crucial to getting more women into the workforce and keeping them working, according to a related paper from the Brookings Institution.

About one-quarter of “prime-age” women — 25 to 54 — with children, were doing at least part of the work week at home last year, wrote Lauren Bauer, a fellow in economic studies, and Sarah Yu Wang, a research intern.

Well-educated women were nearly twice as likely to work at home, perhaps because they were also more likely to be in white-collar jobs.

Fulton County Commission Chair Robb Pitts will appoint Cathy Woolard to Chair the Elections Board, according to the AJC.

Pitts said he asked Woolard if she would serve as interim board chair and she agreed. His recommendation of her as interim chair is on the commission agenda for its next meeting, April 17.

On the same agenda, Commissioner Dana Barrett nominates Woolard to fill out the rest of Perkins-Hooker’s full term, which expires June 30, 2025.

There is much work for the election board in the run-up to the primary, and early voting is “just around the corner,” Pitts said. That will begin April 29.

As such, it’s critical to have someone chairing the election board who already knows the job, Pitts said. Woolard became election board chair in September 2021. She stepped down in May 2023, succeeded by Perkins-Hooker.

Hahira City Council voted to hire Stryde Jones as their new police chief, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Members of the Hahira City Council gathered for a special called meeting on Thursday to appoint a new chief of police, Stryde Jones.

Jones has been in law enforcement for more than 30 years. He previously retired from the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office as the captain of the detective bureau.

After his time with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office he worked with Lanier County Sheriff’s Office as their chief deputy.

“I’m excited about being a part of the team in Hahira,” said Jones. “Hahira enjoys a really good reputation, both as a city and as a law enforcement agency.”

“Being in law enforcement has given me the opportunity to interact with people, sometimes during their worst occasions, sometimes during their best occasions, but I very much love serving people,” said Jones.

Jones is inheriting the role from Terry Davis who was the chief of police in Hahira for over 40 years until his recent retirement.

Tybee Island is reducing public parking and taking other actions to quash Orange Crush, according to WSAV.

Orange Crush, an annual college beach bash, is expected to take place on the 3-square-mile island from Friday, April 19, through Sunday, April 21, according to promotions on social media.

This, despite the recent passage of SB 433 which aims to crack down on unpermitted events.

The city will be beefing up staff and implementing traffic controls to handle the large crowds. Officials say $250,000 has been set aside from the city’s general fund to cover accordingly.

There are about 2,100 parking spaces available on the island, according to the city.

But Tybee is taking note of Miami’s handling of spring break partying and shutting down certain parking spots.

There are two methods for parking on the island: the Park TYB App or parking kiosks. If you use a kiosk, be sure to display your pass on your dashboard.

Public parking on Tybee is $4 an hour and is enforced seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., including holidays and weekends.

All residential street entrances on the west side of Butler Avenue will be closed.

The city will set up an emergency lane down Highway 80 reserved for first responder vehicles. This means the highway will be one lane on each side.

News 3 is told there will be a safety checkpoint set up during the weekend by an interagency law enforcement group.

All license plate readers will also be on within the city’s jurisdiction.

There will be an increased presence of law enforcement officers from state and local agencies on the island who already have jurisdiction within city limits.

The Augusta-Richmond County Public Library was closed several days because of a water leak but is expected to reopen Monday at noon, according to WJBF.

Former United States Senator David Perdue (R-St Simons Island) is back on the campaign trail, but not seeking office himself, according to the AJC.

“Let me get one thing straight with you right now. I am not running for any elected office,” former U.S. Sen. David Perdue told the thousands of Trump supporters packed in a northwest Georgia arena.

“The only thing that I’m doing here in Floyd County and Rome, Georgia, and for the rest of this year until November is making damn sure that Donald J. Trump is the next president of the United States,” he said.

Perdue is tiptoeing back into Georgia’s political scene after his humbling loss to Democrat Jon Ossoff in 2021 and his resounding defeat a year later in his Republican primary challenge to unseat Gov. Brian Kemp.

But in recent weeks, he’s taken steps to position himself as a key Trump surrogate in Georgia. He’s booked speaking gigs at local GOP meetings and helped raise money for Courtney Kramer, a Republican challenging Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

And Perdue was among a handful of co-hosts this week at the lavish Trump fundraiser at the St. Regis Atlanta, arriving early to catch up with donors and operatives who packed the Buckhead hotel’s ballroom. (It cost $250,000 to be listed on the invite as a co-host, but often current and former elected officials aren’t required to chip in that much.)

Perdue, a 74-year-old who never embraced the day-to-day grind of the campaign trail, isn’t expected to run for elected office again.

But a Trump victory could offer other opportunities for a business executive once seen as a potential Cabinet appointee during Trump’s first term. (Perdue’s cousin, Sonny Perdue, served as Trump’s agriculture secretary.)

He’s indicated repeatedly his recent appearances were no anomalies, and that he would be more involved in Trump’s campaign, telling the audience in Rome “there’s more work to be done” to back the former president.

“He cannot win the presidency without Georgia,” Perdue said. “And I need you to help us do that.”

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