Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 28, 2021


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 28, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Joe and First Lady Jill Biden will visit former President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Carter in Plains on Thursday, according to CNN via the Albany Herald.

The White House had previously announced that the Bidens would attend a drive-in rally in Atlanta on Thursday to mark his 100th day in office.

The trip to Georgia, a state that helped Biden land the presidency and secured the Senate for Democrats, is part of what the administration is calling the “Getting America Back on Track” tour. The tour to different states across the country will highlight the President’s accomplishments and promote the administration’s ambitious economic legislative agenda.

President Biden will rally with Democrats in Gwinnett County, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

President Joe Biden’s trip to Georgia later this week will feature a visit to Gwinnett County for a rally with supporters as he marks a major milestone in his administration, according to an email sent out to people who RSVPed for the event through the Georgia Democratic Party as well as a text message sent out by the Democratic National Committee.

The email from the state party says Biden and his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, will appear at a “Getting America Back on Track” drive-in rally in Duluth on Thursday. The text message sent out on Tuesday added it would be at the Infinite Energy Center.

Census delays mean this year’s redistricting will start after November elections, according to GPB News via the Athens Banner Herald.

The first census results were released April 26. Those results determine, based on population, each state’s representation in Congress and the Electoral College. States will either gain, lose or keep the same number of representatives. Georgia retained its current allotment of 14 congressional seats.

Full census figures are expected to be delivered to the states by Sept. 30. After that, the governor will call a special session for lawmakers to return to the Capitol and draw lines for the state House and Senate districts, as well as the state’s congressional districts.

In Georgia, suburban Atlanta’s 6th and 7th Congressional districts have recently turned Democratic blue after decades of being reliably red Republican strongholds. But lawmakers could change their boundaries this year so Democratic Reps. Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux face a different, more conservative electorate in 2022.

Governor Brian Kemp signed legislation targeting human trafficking, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed three bills Tuesday aimed at boosting protections for victims of human trafficking in Georgia and raising awareness for children on the dangers and signs of trafficking.

The newly enacted measures mark the latest steps by Kemp’s administration and First Lady Marty Kemp, who heads the trafficking-focused GRACE Commission, to combat human traffickers and help victims in the metro Atlanta and elsewhere in the state.

“If you are someone who’s trapped, someone currently being trafficked, know that we will not stop until you are set free,” Kemp said at a bill-signing ceremony in Buford. “We are working daily to support you and to help you, and to go after those who are victimizing you.”

Two bills the governor signed allow trafficking victims and Georgia’s attorney general to bring lawsuits against traffickers and their associates to recover monetary damages, and let victims file name-change petitions under court seal to shield their identities.

A third measure adds a course on human-trafficking awareness to grades six through 12 in Georgia schools, as well as new courses on the harms of vaping and tobacco use for all grades to supplement existing instruction on drugs and alcohol.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which accredits Georgia’s public colleges, is asking about undue political influence in the search for a new Chancellor, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Belle Wheelan, the president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, told The Associated Press in a Tuesday telephone interview that she sent a letter Monday to the Board of Regents, who oversee the 340,000-student system, after reading news coverage suggesting that regents were being politically pressured to name Perdue to head the system. The Republican Perdue was a two-term governor and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under President Donald Trump.

Wheelan said she was not questioning Perdue’s qualifications, saying that “having been governor and secretary in a U.S. cabinet could very well make them qualified.” She said Gov. Brian Kemp and others are welcome to nominate candidates, but that regents must ultimately make the decision on their own.

“If it is shown that they did it because the governor said so, it was undue political interference,” Wheelan said.

The commission’s standards prohibit undue outside influence, trying to make sure that trustees truly run a college, and not some outside group.

Wheelan said that if wrongdoing occurred, the agency could sanction all the universities in the system. Typically, the commission puts a noncompliant school on monitoring or issues a warning. More serious problems or the failure to clear up problems that sparked a warning can lead to probation. At its most serious, the commission can revoke accreditation, but that usually comes only after a college gets years to correct its problems.

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill (D) has been indicted on four counts alleging violation of civil rights of people in the Clayton County Jail, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The indictment, filed on April 19, states that four detainees identified by initials only were strapped into a restraint chair “for a period exceeding that justified by any legitimate non punitive government purpose.”

In a statement released Tuesday morning, Hill said he will fight the “political motivated” case and continue to “focus on the mission of fighting crime in Clayton County.”

“My legal team are the only ones authorized to speak on the details of this matter and they are confident about the facts of this case,” Hill said.

United States Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Atlanta) wrote Air Force officials asking them to assign C-130J cargo planes to the Savannah Air Guard Base, according to WTOC.

In a new letter to the United States Air Force, Senator Raphael Warnock urged senior Air Force department leaders not to divert new, strategic C-130J planes that were promised to Savannah Air Guard Base.

Savannah Air Guard Base is home to the 165th Air Wing, which is currently flying older C-130H planes for tactical airlift, airdrop missions.

“The reports that the Georgia Air National Guard may not receive the modern aircraft as previously announced is concerning, particularly given that this decision would be made without any congressional oversight or transparency,” said Senator Warnock. “I request that the Department of the Air Force…ensure that the Georgia Air National Guard is able to continue to conduct their important mission with the C-130J.”

He urged them to honor the commitment of the previous administration. Savannah had previously been named as the next in line to receive the modern aircraft as the plans were procured.

Democratic State Rep. Matthew Wilson (Brookhaven) announced he will run for Insurance Commissioner, according to the AJC.

The Brookhaven Democrat is running against Republican incumbent John King, a former police chief and military veteran who made history as the first Hispanic statewide official when he was appointed to the post by Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019.

In a splashy video announcement, Wilson highlighted his support for Medicaid expansion that Georgia Republicans have long resisted as too costly, and he pledged to be a consumer advocate who is not “bought and paid for” by powerful insurance companies.

If he wins the Democratic nomination, Wilson would face a politically untested incumbent. When Kemp tapped King to the post in 2019, he was the Doraville police chief and a brigadier general in the U.S. Army National Guard but had no formal insurance experience.

King launched his election campaign earlier this month with a sweep of stops across the state, including a visit to a Cartersville coffee shop where he emphasized his role as a reformer.

Savannah continues to require masks, according to WTOC.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson was asked about his stance on the current mask ordinance and what, if any changes he’s considering for the city’s rules, after the new CDC guidance was released Tuesday.

Mayor Johnson was clear, that until more people get vaccinated, this sign here on city hall likely isn’t going anywhere anytime.

During Tuesday’s news conference, Mayor Van Johnson pointed to the numbers of those vaccinated in the community not being high enough to reach herd immunity just yet.

As for the new CDC mask guidance, Mayor Johnson says he’s also favoring keeping the ordinance in place because of enforcement hurdles.

“How do you prove that they’re vaccinated? Am I going to waste police and COVID resources saying ‘show me your vaccination card?’ And now there’s a market I understand where people can get fake vaccination cards. So, I think again, for me, I would rather leave the mandate in place, at least for a while rather than saying, trying to determine who’s vaccinated and who’s not,” Mayor Johnson said.

Clarke County’s vaccination rate is lower than the state average, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Twenty percent of residents — or 25,826 people — in the county are considered fully vaccinated, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. To be fully vaccinated, the resident must have had both shots of the vaccine from either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna or the one-dose Johnson and Johnson Jannesen vaccine.

For those receiving a two-dose vaccine, 24% of Clarke residents have received at least one dose.

The data reported by DPH is recorded by a person’s county of residence, provided at vaccination appointment. When a provider in Georgia administers a vaccine, it is recorded through GRITs or the Georgia Registry for Immunization Transactions and Services.

The state percentage shows that 34% of Georgians have received at least one dose and 24% are fully vaccinated, according to DPH. Nationally, 42.7% of the county has received at least one dose and 29.1% are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Augusta’s vaccination rate is lower than those of other Georgia cities, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta appears to trail most of the other metro areas in Georgia in getting people vaccinated as local providers say they are already having a hard time getting people to come to clinics and get the shots. The numbers might be a little misleading because they do not include doses given at long-term care facilities or take into account other big vaccinators, such as the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center and other federal providers, health officials said.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Dashboard, Augusta trails almost every other metro area in terms of both getting people a single dose, at just 18%, and in those who are fully vaccinated at 16%. Only Columbus/Muscogee County is worse at 17% and 14% respectively while Albany/Dougherty County leads the way at 26% and 22%, with Savannah/Chatham County not far behind at 25% and 22%.

“What we’re seeing is that although Augusta is serving as a vaccine hub for the area we still have a significant population in Richmond County in particular that is falling behind in terms of getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Phillip Coule, chief medical officer for AU Health.

[P]art of the problem is hesitancy, particularly with younger people. Health officials always knew they would reach a point where people who are eager to get the vaccine would and then they would need to reach out to those with questions and concerns, said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

“We really need to meet people where they are and understand why they are hesitant,” she said. The White House respects that people make decisions in their own way and in their own timeframe but is encouraging people to seek those answers, said Andy Slavitt, Senior Advisor for COVID-19 Response.

A public waterpark in Statesboro required heavy public subsidy during the pandemic, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Splash in the Boro Waterpark’s inability to open for a 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic left Bulloch County taxpayers to pay $697,175 just in loan principal and interest so far. A county spreadsheet shows Splash’s fiscal year 2020 and fiscal year-to-date 2021 losses total almost $1.58 million.

But the county was already subsidizing the capital investment in the waterpark before the pandemic, especially since a $7.4 million loan in fiscal 2017 that funded the addition of the wave pool and other amenities and refinanced the remaining debt from a 2009 expansion. So the same spreadsheet shows an accumulated balance of $2.86 million owed by Splash to the county’s general fund from the four most recent fiscal years.

Athens-Clarke County will vaccinate inmates with the J&J vaccine, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

“With the warnings we’ll make sure everyone is clear on the associated risk factors,” Williams said. “Most of the population here will not fall in the high-risk category of females in that age range.”

One reason jail officials prefer the J&J vaccine is because it is a one-dose shot, precluding the need to track inmates who may have been released or transferred but would need a second shot with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

“The J&J shot has been especially popular for use in difficult-to-reach populations, such as people experiencing homelessness, those who are homebound and incarcerated individuals,” according to a USA Today report.

The Hall County Board of Education heard parent comments on their mask policy, according to AccessWDUN.

At the end of their regular meeting Monday night, Hall County School Board members listened to Assistant Superintendent of Technology Aaron Turpin read aloud 21 emails from parents – all but one of them urging the Board to abandon a mandatory mask mandate for students for the upcoming school year. The emails were included in the public input portion of the meeting, which in the past – prior to the COVID pandemic – was held in person.

According to one of the pieces of correspondence, 400 people had signed a petition calling on board members to suspend mandatory masking for students.

Nath Morris, the Vice-Chair for the Board, said after listening to the emails he was unsure what prompted the correspondence, but he understood the parents’ frustration.

Superintendent Will Schofield acknowledged the “genuine concern” he heard in the tone of the emails, but he said now is not the time to make a decision on health protocols for the new school year.

“We certainly all have said we do hope that we begin next school year in what looks like normal…and if trends continue, we certainly hope we’ll be there, but to make a decision today about something that’s coming up five months from now would not be prudent,” Schofield said.

The City of Oakwood is considering whether to start its own fire department, according to WDUN.

The city council has had a fire department on their list of capital projects for about 10 years, according to City Manager B.R. White.

“Now with the plan, what we’re looking at is having a consultant come in, identify locations that would best serve the citizens of Oakwood, and serve them to keep the ISO insurance rating down,” said White.

Since it’s early in the exploration and development of a city fire department, White said they don’t know some of the details yet, like where a fire station might go.

“Cause if we locate a fire station in the wrong place, some people’s ISO rating could go up, and that would force their insurance to go up,” White said. “And we don’t want anything to go up, including taxes or ISO for our citizens, our industry and our businesses.”

The Columbia County School District welcomed a new superintendent, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Rome is working on collecting hotel/motel taxes from online short term rental services, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The General Administration Committee signed off Tuesday on plans for a new short-term rental ordinance that will allow the city to capture the revenue from Airbnbs and other Vacation Rental By Owner properties.

City Attorney Andy Davis explained that a new state law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp last week includes marketplace facilitators in the definition of “innkeepers” required to charge the excise tax.

“A lot of this tax (money) has been missed,” Davis said.

If adopted, the ordinance would require that people owning an Airbnb or VRBO register with the city. The Airbnb and VRBO corporate offices would collect the taxes at the time facilities are booked, then remit payments to the city and state.

The committee also asked that Davis look into submitting the ordinance for consideration by the Floyd County Commission and Cave Spring City Council.

A Valdosta Board of Education seat representing Superward West remains unfilled after the incumbent resigned, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The nominating committee originally selected three possible candidates: Lynne Wilson, Peggy Parramore and Marty Roesch.

The school board agenda included an action item on selecting a person to fill the vacant seat from the three candidates.

Trey Sherwood made a motion for Parramore to be selected for the seat. He was backed by Tad Moseley, Stacy Bush and Debra Bell. Those opposed were Warren Lee, Tyra Howard, Kelisa Brown and Liz Shumpard.

With the deadlock, the motion died and the seat will go back to nominating committee.

Gwinnett County will open a new round of rental assistance using $28.1 million federal stimmiebucks, according to the AJC.

The $28.1 million will be administered through Project Reset.

Gwinnett has already distributed more than $6 million in federal money for rental aid. County Commissioner Marlene Fosque said the money halted more than 1,300 evictions, keeping 3,791 people stably housed.

The latest round of funding will target people whose income is half the area median income or who have a member of the household who’s been unemployed for 90 days or more. But anyone with income that’s 80% of the area median income and has experienced financial hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic is eligible to apply, County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson said.

The funding will pay for up to 12 months of past-due rent, utility arrears and current rent and utilities payments. It can also pay for some future rent.

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