Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 4, 2023

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 4, 2023

On April 4, 1776, General George Washington began marching his troops from Cambridge, Massachusetts to New York, in anticipation of an invasion by the British.

President William Henry Harrison died in office on April 4, 1841, a month after his inauguration.

At the inauguration of America’s first Whig president, on March 4, 1841, a bitterly cold day, Harrison declined to wear a jacket or hat, made a two-hour speech, and attended three inauguration balls. Soon afterward, he developed pneumonia. On April 4, President Harrison died in Washington, and Vice President John Tyler ascended to the presidency, becoming the first individual in U.S. history to reach the office through the death of a president.

On April 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln toured Richmond, Virginia the day after the Confederate Capitol fell to Union forces.

On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot in Memphis. James Earl Ray would later be arrested and plead guilty to the assassination.

On April 4, 1974, Hank Aaron hit home run 714, tying Babe Ruth’s record.

On April 4, 1988, the Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly was recognized as the official state butterfly of Georgia.

The Atlanta Braves played their first game in Turner Field on April 4, 1997, defeating the Chicago Cubs 5-4. Denny Neagle started on the mound for the Braves and Mark Wohlers earned a save. Atlanta’s Michael Tucker hit the first homerun in the new stadium.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

State legislators added $2 billion dollars to the state’s 2023 budget, according to WSAV.

State lawmakers in Atlanta have increased the 2024 budget by 7% or $2 billion for a total of $32 billion.

More than half the budget is allocated for education, with a quarter for healthcare, and the rest for transportation, economic development and public safety.

“It’s not an ‘either or’ but an ‘and’ conversation,” said State Rep. Carolyn Hugley. “We have to make sure people who don’t have guns don’t have access to guns.  People who do have guns know how to store them safely.”

“Gangs are a huge problem. They are a problem in Georgia. We would be naive and our law enforcement would see it here every day,” explained State Rep. Jodi Lott.

State Sen. Derek Mallow said, “Education for me is important. We need to make sure Pre-K and early childhood teachers and that matters for and so they will better produce and make sure teachers are the highest paid in the state.”

Questions are being raised about how Senate Bill 62 will be enforced, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The Georgia Senate last week gave their stamp of approval to Senate Bill 62. The bill, which awaits Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature, would require Georgia’s counties and municipalities to enforce public camping bans.

Sponsors of the bill say they want to solve Georgia’s homelessness crisis. But local nonprofits say the bill puts homeless people and the organizations supporting them in jeopardy.

Like most legislation, the bill’s language gets a little convoluted. Technically, the bill bars municipalities from passing legislation of their own, legislation that would prohibit the enforcement of public sleeping or camping bans. It’s a state legislative ban on local legislative bans.

The bill also bars hospitals, police departments, and local governments from dropping off homeless people in another county. Hersh said this would place further restrictions on the resources available to Georgia’s homeless.

“So what if somebody’s at a hospital in Atlanta, and they have no shelter there, because it’s full? My understanding is they have to stay in Fulton County, or I guess the jurisdiction of the hospital. So what does the hospital do now? Do they just have them go outside on the street?” he asked. “But then they’re going to be out there camping, right?”

If Kemp signs the bill, it’s unclear how Athens officials will respond to this legislation. SB 62 would require local governments to enforce camping bans, but it does not require local governments to enact camping bans.

Athens has ordinances on trespassing and on camping in public parks, but no law on the books specifically regarding any kind of public camping, sleeping, or obstructing sidewalks.

Let’s take this a little further. Here’s an excerpt from SB 62:

36-60-30  (a) A county or municipal corporation shall not adopt or enforce any written policy under which the county or municipal corporation prohibits the enforcement of any order or ordinance prohibiting unauthorized public camping, sleeping, or obstruction of sidewalks.

Would a municipal ordinance repealing an existing prohibition on “unauthorized public camping, sleeping, or obstruction of sidewalks” run afoul of SB 62?

Imagine a city’s Mayor issued a written order prohibiting unauthorized public camping, sleeping, or obstruction of sidewalks and it was outside the scope of the Mayor’s power under the city charter. Would action by City Council to make clear that the written order was ultra vires be prohibited?

Some people rallied in Savannah in a way that makes it very difficult to write about. From WTOC:

[H]undreds of people identifying as trans and LGBTQ allies want any lawmakers who were in support of Senate Bill 140 to see them and hear them.

“It’s inextricably tied to gender equality in general and all of the things women’s rights movements have been fighting for…trans rights are part of that struggle.”

Senate Bill 140, signed into law by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, makes it illegal for licensed medical professionals in Georgia to provide hormone therapy or gender transition surgery for people under 18 years old.

The only exception – people born with a medically verifiable disorder of sex development.

The passing of the bill is painful for protestors in Savannah who feel they are unprotected.

“The reason they commit suicide is because they cannot access gender-affirming care. And since this bill is banning it for trans youth, suicide rates are going to go up.”

Seriously. Who said those things? You can’t really put something in quotes without any attribution.

Savannah City Council races are heating up, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The result of the last Savannah City Council election in 2019 was nearly a clean sweep of the previous administration.

Of the nine council members who served in the Eddie DeLoach years, only two remained when the dust cleared, current Mayor Van Johnson and longtime District 5 Alderwoman Estella Shabazz.

Every other council member was replaced.

And this year, every sitting council member is running to keep their current seat, spare At Large Post 1 Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter, who is running against Johnson for the mayoral post.

That should provide plenty of drama.

Speaking of drama, Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon pushed back on an offered severance agreement, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Threatening to sue the city for racial discrimination, Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon has made a counter-offer to a severance package from Mayor Skip Henderson.

The chief’s counter proposal is in a March 28 letter from the Atlanta law firm Buckley Bala Wilson Mew, which specializes in employment law.

The firm claims the city is ending Blackmon’s employment based on his race, in violation of his civil rights.

Mayor Skip Henderson offered Blackmon a severance package on March 15, a day after the chief presented a strategic plan to address issues raised in a police department study authored by the national consulting firm Jensen Hughes.

Henderson offered Blackmon a lump sum of $250,000. Blackmon’s proposal seeks about $850,000, plus attorneys’ fees.

Blackmon’s attorneys claim the Jenson Hughes study was biased, having relied heavily upon complaints from Columbus’ Fraternal Order of Police. The police officer heading that group, Lt. Ralph Dowe, who is white, has sued the city on claims that he was denied promotion because of his race.

Even more drama is in the offing, as the Hall County Board of Elections will review a petition to recall Lula Mayor Joe Thomas and Councilman Gene Bramlett. From the Gainesville Times:

Lula business owner Amanda Browning, the head of the movement to remove the two men from office, submitted to elections officials a petition of more than 100 signatures from residents on Wednesday, March 29.

Hall County Board of Elections Chair Jack Noa said elections officials will begin to review and verify signatures on the petition before Tuesday’s executive meeting. Official certification could take up to 48 hours, he said, and the board will likely determine legal sufficiency or insufficiency of grounds for the recall by Wednesday.

“Each signature has to be verified…once that’s verified, then the board will have an executive meeting,” Noa said. “We’ll go back through each one of them, and make sure what they found was correct.”

According to the state Recall Act of 1989, if at least 100 signatures (or 10% of the number of voters registered to vote at the last preceding election) on the petition are verified, an official call for a special recall election will be issued 10 days after the receipt of certification.

The Recall Act of 1989 states that once the declaration for a recall election is made by officials, a special election will be held “not less than 30 nor more than 45 days” thereafter. If a special election is called, registered voters within the city of Lula will decide whether to remove Thomas and Bramlett from office.

Browning told The Times that she and fellow supporters of the recall movement experienced both subtle and brazen forms of intimidation last week as they petitioned for signatures in downtown Lula. The Recall Act of 1989 states that any attempt to intimidate or threaten individuals involved in a recall is illegal.

The City of Savannah has temporarily moved a statue of Johnny Mercer, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The popular statue has since been temporarily removed. The City of Savannah says it took down the statue on March 11 because the base of it is damaged. The statue is in storage right now and once it’s repaired – Mercer will reclaim his spot in Ellis Square.

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