Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 28, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 28, 2023

German scientist Johannes Kepler dated the creation of the universe to April 27, 4977 BC(E).

On April 27, 1773, the British Parliament enacted the Tea Act, granting a monopoly on selling tea to the American colonies.

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.

George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States of America in New York City on April 30, 1789. From Washington’s inaugural address:

it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge.

In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either.

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.

On April 30, 1803, negotiators from France and the United States finished discussions of the Louisiana Purchase, which would double the size of the country.

By the middle of the 18th century, France controlled more of the modern United States than any other European power: from New Orleans northeast to the Great Lakes and northwest to modern-day Montana. In 1762, during the French and Indian War, France ceded its America territory west of the Mississippi River to Spain and in 1763 transferred nearly all of its remaining North American holdings to Great Britain. Spain, no longer a dominant European power, did little to develop Louisiana Territory during the next three decades. In 1796, Spain allied itself with France, leading Britain to use its powerful navy to cut off Spain from America.In 1801, Spain signed a secret treaty with France to return Louisiana Territory to France.

Reports of the retrocession caused considerable uneasiness in the United States. Since the late 1780s, Americans had been moving westward into the Ohio and Tennessee River valleys, and these settlers were highly dependent on free access to the Mississippi River and the strategic port of New Orleans. U.S. officials feared that France, resurgent under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte, would soon seek to dominate the Mississippi River and access to the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. envoys agreed to pay $11,250,000 and assumed claims of its citizens against France in the amount of $3,750,000. In exchange, the United States acquired the vast domain of Louisiana Territory, some 828,000 square miles of land. In October, Congress ratified the purchase, and in December 1803 France formally transferred authority over the region to the United States. The acquisition of the Louisiana Territory for the bargain price of less than three cents an acre was Thomas Jefferson’s most notable achievement as president.

Richard B. Russell, Sr. was born on April 27, 1861 near Marietta, Georgia. Russell served in the Georgia House of Representatives, on the Georgia Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and ran for Governor, Congress, and United States Senate. His son, Richard B. Russell, Jr. served in the Georgia State House, including a stint as Speaker, as Governor of Georgia, and in the United States Senate.

On April 30, 1886, former Confederate President Jefferson Davis arrived in LaGrange, Georgia for the unveiling of a monument to Benjamin Hill.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt made his fourth trip to Georgia on April 29, 1926, closing on the purchase of property at Warm Springs, Ga.

Dachau concentration camp was liberated by American troops on April 29, 1945. At least 31,951 inmates died there, more than 30,000 survivors were found on liberation day, and more than 250,000 passed through the camp and its subcamps.

Dobbins Air Force Base was dedicated on April 29, 1950, named for in honor of the late Capt. Charles M. Dobbins and in memory of the other servicemen from Cobb County. Dobbins was shot down over Sicily in 1943 and his family attended the opening of the base.

Hank Aaron hit his first home run in Atlanta against the Houston Astros on April 29, 1966, providing the winning margin as the Braves won 4-3.

Atlanta was selected as the host city for the 1996 Summer Olympics on April 29, 1988.

On April 29, 1993, Barry White guest-starred on The Simpsons. I guess that makes tomorrow “Whacking Day.”

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

Former State Representative Jeanette Jamieson has died, according to Access WDUN.

According to Jamieson’s obituary from Whitlock Mortuary, she served for 24 years as an elected member of the Georgia House of Representatives. Additionally, she served as a Toccoa City Commissioner from 2014 until the time of her passing.

“During her time in the Georgia House of Representatives, Jamieson was the first woman to chair a major committee and the first woman in Georgia’s history to serve as the Governor’s Floor Leader,” her obituary reads.

She also received the President’s Award for Innovative Government from former President George W. Bush for her role in rural development.

Jamieson also served on several boards, including the Stephens County Soil & Water Conservation District board, the Toccoa-Stephens County Humane Shelter Board, and the Resource Conservation and Development board.

She was a member of Confidence United Methodist Church and she owned and operated Jamieson Accounting and Tax Service.

Funeral services will be held at 4 p.m. Friday at the Chapel of Whitlock Mortuary with Rev. Ricky McFarlin and Rev. Dennis Wilkes officiating.

Governor Brian Kemp signed anti-crime and public safety legislation, according to a Press Release:

Governor Brian P. Kemp, accompanied by First Lady Marty Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, Attorney General Chris Carr, Colonel Chris Wright, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Mike Register, and members of the General Assembly, signed SB 44 today at the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association Command Staff Conference. He also signed several other pieces of legislation designed to support public safety and crack down on criminals throughout the state.

SB 44 – sponsored by Senator Bo Hatchett, co-sponsored by President Pro Tempore John Kennedy, Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch, Senate Majority Whip Randy Robertson, and Sen. Lee Anderson, and carried by Rep. Soo Hong in the House – increases penalties for criminal gang activities, especially for those who recruit children. It also codifies judicial best practices and cuts down on the revolving door of criminal justice by ensuring judges consider an offenders’ criminal record and history of returning to court before issuing a bond that frees an offender on their own recognizance.

SB 44 was a major part of Governor Kemp’s legislative agenda this session to crack down on gang activity, protect Georgia’s children from being lured into a life of violent crime, and keep criminals off the street.

“I’m proud to sign SB 44 into law today and send a clear message to gangs in our state: come after our children, and we will come after you,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “This bill will help us stop the spread of gangs, hold offenders accountable, and keep our communities safe. I want to thank Sen. Bo Hatchett, President Pro Tem John Kennedy, Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch, Senate Majority Whip Randy Robertson, Sen. Lee Anderson, Rep. Soo Hong, Rep. Brian Strickland, Rep. Tyler Paul Smith, the Prosecuting Attorneys Council, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the General Assembly for their leadership on this issue. I also want to thank Lt. Governor Burt Jones and Attorney General Chris Carr for contributing to this important legislation.”

In addition to SB 44, Governor Kemp also signed the following bills:

HB 139, sponsored by Rep. Clint Crowe, co-sponsored by Rep. Derrick McCollum, Rep. Danny Mathis, and Rep. Carter Barrett and carried by Senator John Albers in the Senate, eliminates the requirement that prosecutors disclose the home addresses and other personal information of non-sworn employees of law enforcement agencies who are called to testify at criminal trials.

HB 227, sponsored by Rep. Rob Leverett, co-sponsored by Rep. Bruce Williamson, Rep. Tyler Paul Smith, Rep. Victor Anderson, Rep. James Burchett, and Rep. David Huddleston, and carried by Sen. Bill Cowsert in the Senate, increases penalties for those who illegally damage critical infrastructure.

HB 268, sponsored by Rep. John Corbett, Rep. Alan Powell, Rep. Jason Ridley, Rep. Danny Mathis, and Rep. Matt Barton, and carried by Sen. John Albers in the Senate, creates a grant program at the CJCC for local law enforcement agencies and multi-jurisdiction taskforces for the prevention, reduction, investigation, and prosecution of motor vehicle crimes. It also establishes the Georgia Motor Crime Prevention Advisory Board.

HB 373, sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jones, Rep. Steven Sainz, Rep. Dexter Sharper, Rep. Derrick McCollum, and Rep. Sandra Scott, and carried by Sen. Donzella James in the Senate, designates 9/11 as First Responders Appreciation Day.

SB 60, sponsored by Sen. Bo Hatchett, Sen. Frank Ginn, Sen. John Albers, Sen. Randy Robertson, and President Pro Tem John Kennedy, and carried by Rep. Lauren McDonald in the House, addresses issues related to stolen materials like catalytic converters and makes it harder for thieves to sell these illegally possessed goods.

SB 155 (Figo’s Law), sponsored by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, Sen. John Albers, Sen. Randy Robertson, Sen. Brian Strickland, and Sen. Shawn Still, and carried by Rep. Dale Washburn in the House, revises and updates language regarding penalties imposed on individuals that harm a public safety animal or search and rescue animal.

SB 215, sponsored by Sen. Matt Brass, Sen. Michael ‘Doc’ Rhett, Sen. Larry Walker, Sen. Randy Robertson, Sen. Jason Esteves, and Sen. Steve Gooch, and carried by Rep. Houston Gaines in the House, allows law enforcement officers to request that their personally identifiable information be removed from local, publicly available property records.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:

“We’re saying loud and clear, ‘Come after our kids, and we will be coming after you,’ ” Kemp told members of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association at a conference at Lake Lanier Islands’ Legacy Lodge. “We will not let up in Georgia until gangs are literally gone because their members are behind bars.”

Legislative Democrats opposed the legislation because of the mandatory prison sentences, arguing such prison terms take away discretion from judges. Democratic lawmakers also objected to a provision in the bill restricting judges’ abilities to allow people to be released without bond if they have been convicted of bond jumping within the past five years.

Chatham County District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones (D) appears to be emphasizing plea deals in disposing of homicide cases, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Of the 40 total cases prosecuted for murder between 2021 and 2022 under Chatham County District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones, 27 ended in less-than murder convictions, a review by the Savannah Morning News has found.

The statistical analysis, more than anything, reveals that the DA’s office is pursuing a higher rate of plea deals in murder cases, leading to lesser charges such as voluntary manslaughter, rather than felony murder convictions.

The analysis comes at a time when the DA’s office faces increased scrutiny for the low rate of violent crime prosecutions, including homicides and aggravated assaults. In a March 2022 internal memo, assistant district attorneys alleged that homicide prosecutions were falling apart at trial partly because of a recurring problem regarding the quality and timely receipt of case files from the Savannah Police Department and other law enforcement agencies.

The analysis provides deeper insights, and illustrates the tumultuous tenure of the District Attorney, highlighting a crisis that she claims stems from a confluence of factors, from witness issues ― such as snitch culture, extinguished memories, reliability ― to police detective investigative tactics to legal arguments, such as self-defense, lost evidence and a lack of medical examiners.

Chatham County does not employ its own medical examiner, and if foul play is suspected, law enforcement will request a medical examination by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to perform an autopsy. GBI employs only 10 medical examiners for the entire state ― nine at headquarters in Atlanta and one in Macon. GBI currently has no medical examiners in its coastal office, but has one medical examiner or a part-time medical examiner on a weekly rotation. Chatham County relies entirely on the GBI for autopsies related to criminal investigations, because the county’s coroner is an elected position and is not required to be a licensed medical professional, although the coroner must take a basic training course provided by the Georgia Police Academy.

Jones asserts that her office has issued pleas because they remove the risk of acquittal during jury trial and ultimately promote the acceptance of responsibility, providing at least some closure to the victims’ families. She also added that many of the murder prosecutions were filed by former DA Meg Heap and went through several delays due to COVID-19. Of the 40 murder cases, 26 were filed before Jones took office, while 14 were filed during Jones’ tenure.

The Chatham County DA’s Office is far from the only DA’s office in Georgia struggling with murder prosecutions, though it does stand out among them for its low murder conviction rate. According to a WSB-TV report, since 2022, Gwinnett County’s murder conviction rate is at 57% (12/21), Dekalb County is at 87% (38 cases), Fulton County is at 87% (31), and Cobb County is at 100% (8). At 32.5% in 2021 and 2022, Chatham County has one of the lowest murder conviction rates.

Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions said the island was devastated by Orange Crush, according to the Savannah Morning News.

In the first public Tybee Council meeting since Orange Crush weekend, Mayor Shirley Sessions addressed what she described as an event that “devastated” the community.

“It was the worst weekend of an event that I have experienced in my 20-plus years on Tybee,” said Sessions, who then clarified that this is “not a reflection of religion, political persuasion … it’s a situation that was cast upon us, which was simply bad behavior.”

The festival originated more than 30 years ago as a Savannah State University-sponsored event, but the school cut ties after a spate of public safety incidents in 1991. Since then, Orange Crush continued on Tybee Island as an unsanctioned, unpermitted event and is the area’s largest unofficial spring break affair, bringing both revelry and controversy to the island.

This year’s Orange Crush was believed to be the largest in the event’s history. More than 40,000 beachgoers flocked to the island for each of the three days. On Saturday, nearly 50,000 people were reported on the island, according to the city’s phone-tracking system.

The sheer number of visitors overwhelmed the three-square-mile island and the volume of cars brought the only road connecting Tybee to the mainland, U.S. 80, to a gridlocked standstill.

From WSAV:

In the three weeks it had to prepare for Orange Crush, safety leaders on Tybee Island estimated a crowd similar to 7,000 in years past would attend the 2023 event. As many as seven times that showed up, with an estimated 50,000 people on the island over the weekend.

WSAV’s Investigative Unit has learned the promoter of the event did ask the city for a permit — a process that requires a 60-day notice for public safety to prepare and requires a million-dollar insurance policy to protect against damage — but the request for Orange Crush came just before the chaos of last weekend.

A 2018 agreement with the United State Department of Justice prevents the city from bringing in officers from other jurisdictions for Orange Crush, or any other unpermitted event, according to Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions, who added, “Our hands were tied.”

In an email, Sessions said the Orange Crush promoter called the event a success because “no one died.”

At least 10 people were saved by first responders during overdoses. Saturday night, Chatham County Police told WSAV that officers rushed two and a half cases of Narcan to the island.

Tybee Island City Council has not yet weighed in, according to WSAV:

Some were hoping Thursday night’s city council meeting would be the time to talk about what happened last weekend, but officials asked people to wait a little longer.

Mayor Shirley Sessions opened the meeting by thanking all of the crews who worked diligently over the past weekend helping to control the large event. She went on to say that she did not want anyone speaking on the events that transpired last week and she said people would have their chance to speak at a later date.

“It was the worst weekend of an event that I have experienced in my 20-plus years on Tybee,” the mayor said, “and this is not a reflection of religion, political persuasion, race — nothing. It was a situation that cast upon us for just simply bad behavior.”

There will be a town hall meeting next Thursday, May 4 at 6:30 pm for people to talk about last weekend’s events. It’s happening in council chambers at 78 Van Horne Avenue.

Georgia State House Speaker Jon Burns (R-Newington) announced $6 million in funding for a local project, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Burns, a Republican who resides in northern Effingham County, has served 18 years in the state House of Representatives and continues to represent District 159, which includes part of Bulloch County. But previously majority leader, he was elected speaker, the top position in the House, by its members beginning with the 2023 session.

He and 19th District Sen. Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, chair of the Senate Finance Committee; 4th District Sen. Billy Hickman, R-Statesboro; and District 160 Rep. Lehman Franklin III, R-Statesboro, formed the state lawmaker panel for the Building a Better Bulloch Together luncheon hosted by Morris Bank in the new Fox Hall event venue in the West District development.

After mentioning the Creek on the Blue Mile plan, Burns said Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry and State Transportation Board Chair Ann Purcell were allowing him to announce “that a $6 million appropriation has been put in place that will fund replacement of a bridge on 301 that … is central to that project moving forward.”

“Also for the creek project, there is $2.65 million scheduled for F.Y. (fiscal year) ’23 that would also fund a design project for the work on the Blue Mile creek trail,” Burns added.

Truelieve has opened the state’s first medical cannabis dispensary in Macon, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, which oversees the program, granted the first five dispensing licenses in the state on Wednesday to Trulieve Georgia and Botanical Sciences. Trulieve’s Macon facility at 3556 Riverside Drive, which is expected to open at 10 a.m., was among them.

“Obviously, we’re very, very excited,” said Trulieve’s CEO and founder Kim Rivers. “We also feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to the folks in Georgia who have been waiting for so long to get this medicine. “It’s an honor to be the company that will be providing the product,” Rivers continued. “We need to live up to their expectations, and we do that through continuing to focus on high quality and great customer service, providing a welcoming environment … and going on this journey.”

Trulieve’s Macon dispensary initially will dispense the medical marijuana via tinctures, capsules, topical creams and lozenges, Rivers said. The Macon dispensary will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

The next Trulieve dispensary in Georgia also is expected to open Friday at 220 Cobb Parkway North in Marietta, the company later announced Thursday.

Former Georgia Bureau of Investigation Executive Director John Melvin will serve as managing assistant district attorney in the office of Gwinnett District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gaston, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“John has over 28 years of prosecution and legal experience,” the DA’s office said in the short announcement. “We are excited to welcome him to our outstanding team.”

Melvin spent five years at the GBI, first as chief of staff, then assistant director and finally as executive director, which is the second highest position in the agency after the director of the GBI. Prior to joining the GBI, Melvin worked as a prosecutor in the Cobb County DA’s Office.

“My time at the GBI was incredible and I am so thankful for the opportunity to have served as its executive director,” Melvin said in his own Facebook post on Tuesday. “The Lord opened up a new chapter in my life and I am excited and grateful to return to the profession of law (where I spent my first 25 years). I will be returning to Gwinnett County and serving as a Managing District Attorney.”

“Gwinnett is such a cool jurisdiction. It is one million citizens strong and is one of the most diverse counties in this country.”

Bibb County Board of Education members face a choice between raising taxes and slowing spending, according to the Macon Telegraph.

“We know we cannot allow that to happen,” Bibb Schools Chief Financial Officer Sharon Roberts said about the potential deficit to the board in April at its second budget work session.

“We need to look at the rezoning options to reduce facility cost,” Roberts said. “We need to look at reducing personnel at school and the system level.”

School closures, reducing the number of teachers and district employees and tax increases are once again options as the board hears proposals and weighs considerations for how it can maintain fiscal stability amid declining enrollment.

Should the board take no action to reduce expenses or increase revenue, Roberts said the district would have a fund balance below 8%, the state’s minimum, in 2026 and a negative fund balance in 2027.

An infusion of federal dollars related to the global pandemic have helped public school districts, including Bibb, maintain financial stability in recent years, but many of those grants require that money to be spent by 2025.

Centerville has changed its canine governance ordinance, according to 13WMAZ.

The Georgia legislature passed a Responsible Dog Owner Act in 2012. It revamped existing laws and was designed to protect the public from injury or death from dog attacks and to hold dog owners accountable.

“A couple of weeks ago, we had an incident where a dog left the carport area from its owner, was barking at a citizen walking by, and actually engaged into biting the citizen and pushing the citizen down,” Centerville Chief Cedric Duncan.

Chief Duncan says that’s when they gave the city ordinance a second look. They found their ordinance wasn’t up to par with state law. Now, dogs must be leashed in public and must be properly enclosed at home.

“With the city attorney looked at the verbiage of the ordinance in comparison to the state law, we had to amend our ordinance to mirror the state law,” Duncan said.

Dog owners can be fined or cited.

Savannah State University President Kimberly Ballard-Washington has resigned, according to the Savannah Morning News.

According to university’s website, Ballard-Washington was appointed by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia in May of 2021. Before that, she had served as the university’s interim president since July of 2019.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, who attended Savannah State University, released a statement saying:

“I am saddened and surprised to learn of President Ballard-Washington’s decision to resign from my beloved Savannah State University. With the many challenges facing higher education in Georgia and particularly HBCUs, serving as a University president is a difficult job. President Ballard-Washington served well and gave her best. I thank her for her service and wish her well.”

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