Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 4, 2024

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 4, 2024

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.

On April 6, 1776, the Continental Congress announced that all ports in America would be open to trade with other countries not ruled by the British. The action was taken several months after Britain passed the American Prohibitory Act which forbade trade with the colonies and was intended to punish colonists for the growing rebellion.

On April 7, 1776, the United States warship Lexington captured a British warship, HMS Edward, for the first time.

President George Washington exercised the veto power for the first time on April 5, 1792.

The bill introduced a new plan for dividing seats in the House of Representatives that would have increased the amount of seats for northern states. After consulting with his politically divided and contentious cabinet, Washington, who came from the southern state of Virginia, ultimately decided that the plan was unconstitutional because, in providing for additional representatives for some states, it would have introduced a number of representatives higher than that proscribed by the Constitution.

On April 7, 1798, President John Adams signed legislation authorizing negotiations between three representatives of Georgia and three Presidential appointees over Georgia’s claim to land west of what is now the Georgia-Alabama state lines. Georgia would continue to claim most of what is currently Alabama and Mississippi until 1802.

Georgia Politics Campaign Election

Map by Carl Vinson Institute of Government at UGA

Georgia Politics Campaign Election

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.

John Tyler was sworn in as the tenth President of the United States on April 6, 1841.

Tyler was elected as William Harrison’s vice president earlier in 1841 and was suddenly thrust into the role of president when Harrison died one month into office. He was the first vice president to immediately assume the role of president after a sitting president’s untimely exit and set the precedent for succession thereafter.

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

The first modern Olympic Games opened in Athens, Greece on April 6, 1896.

The United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, when the US House of Representatives voted 373-50 on a declaration of war that passed the Senate two days earlier.

The Brown Thrasher was first recognized as the official state bird of Georgia on April 5, 1935 through an Executive Order signed by Governor Eugene Talmadge. Later the designation of official state symbols through executive fiat was challenged and the General Assembly would recognize the Brown Thrasher again as official state bird in 1970.

On April 5, 1962, Governor Ernest Vandiver called a Special Session of the Georgia General Assembly to revise the state’s election code following a decision by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Baker v. Carr.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 5, 1968, amid racial tension following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., musician James Brown helped keep the peace in Boston.

2001: A Space Odyssey was released on April 6, 1968.

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

On April 5, 1977, Wyche Fowler won a runoff election over John Lewis for the Fifth Congressional District, following the appointment of Andrew Young as Ambassador to the United Nations. Fowler would win election to the United States Senate in 1986, and ironically, lose his seat in a 1992 runoff election to the late Paul Coverdell.

On April 5, 1980, the band that would come to be known as R.E.M. played their first show as Twisted Kites in Athens, Georgia.

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

On April 7, 1995, Governor Zell Miller signed legislation recognizing the peach as the official state fruit 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 State Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) died on April 5, 2020, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Republican was first elected to the Georgia Senate from the 4th District in 1990 and was reelected in 2018 to his 15th term. Hill was a 37-year veteran, serving 33 years in the Georgia Air National Guard.

[Lt. Gov. Geoff] Duncan called Hill a “true statesman, a man of overwhelming integrity, and a servant leader.”

“For three decades Georgians have benefited from his leadership and his calm and steady hand at the helm,” Duncan said in a statement. “He exhibited all the characteristics we hope for in a leader and was a true friend to all. Jack always ensured we were good stewards of taxpayer dollars, but it was more than that, he led with kindness and clarity.”

“There is not a member of the legislature whose life was not touched in some way by Jack,” Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller said in a statement. “Whether it was providing insight into a budgetary need for their district, or by just being a friend to lean on, you could always count on Jack to be there. I can personally attest to the many times I sought his wisdom and how much I benefitted from his counsel.”

Gov. Brian Kemp called Hill a “gentle giant.”

“Jack Hill was one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I ever served with,” he said on Twitter. “His loss is devastating to our state, but he leaves behind an unmatched legacy of hard work and public service.”

Hill was sworn into the Senate as a Democrat, but in 2002 switched parties and after winning the election was named chairman of the Senate budget committee.

“Senator Jack Hill was one of the finest public servants I have known,” House Speaker David Ralston said in a statement. “Quiet, studious, thorough, he exemplified the best in a leader. Senator Hill served with integrity. Georgia has lost one of its finest and I have lost a friend and a mentor. Rest In Peace, Mr. Chairman.”

History drives tourism in the Golden Isles, according to The Brunswick News.

Jekyll Island is one of the most obvious sites in Glynn County with its historic landmark district and its 34 structures, including historic homes and museums.

“We have this unique attribute of being a protected state park where preservation and conservation are the core of our mission in managing this special place, but we can also offer visitors and residents the modern-day amenities of a resort destination,” a Jekyll Island Authority official said. “These attributes, along with our historical significance, are key components of what brings visitors to the island. Given our responsibilities to be a self-operating state park, it’s imperative that we maintain that balance every day, and our historical and natural resources continue to be carefully protected and maintained.”

“We see a lot of Glynn County visitors during spring break and throughout the summer, but we also welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors from Atlanta, Jacksonville, Savannah and other nearby cities. Jekyll Island also attracts tourists from across the United States and even international travelers, most frequently from the U.K., Germany and Canada, interested in its unique history and natural beauty,” according to authority officials.

While many of the attractions on Jekyll Island are historic structures, there are also archaeological sites and nature trails like the Dubignon Cemetery and the Wanderer Memorial Trail that educate the public on their significant history through interpretive panels.

Phil Officer, interpretive supervisor at Fort Frederica, said 286,017 visitors came to Fort Frederica in 2023.

“We definitely see a large number of visitors,” he said. “Most of our visitors are not locals, are new to the island or are visiting and were aware of our site. They come to learn, take a stroll and learn more about the fort.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order #04.03.24.01, appointing J. Wade Padgett to the Georgia Court of Appeals seat vacated by former Judge Christian Coomer.

Governor Kemp also issued Executive Order #04.03.24.02, suspending Reginald “Reggie” Loper from his office on the Effingham County Commission after Loper was indicted.

From the Effingham Herald:

Effingham County Commissioner Reginald “Reggie” Loper requested, and Gov. Brian Kemp signed the executive order, to suspend Loper from his District 4 County Commission seat, effective immediately. The news of Loper’s suspension was posted on Effingham County’s Facebook page late April 3.

The action comes little more than two weeks after Loper was indicted on two counts of sexual battery on March 18.

The suspension was the next step after the indictment was handed down, according to state law; and the suspension continues until Loper’s case is deposed or the end of this term, which is Dec. 31.

Loper’s seat is up for election with five Republicans vying for his seat in the May 21 primary.

House Bill 1425 by State Rep. Carl Gilliard (D-Garden City) passed and will create the “Weeping Time Cultural Heritage Corridor Authority,” according to the Savannah Morning News.

The bill, HB1425, will create a state authority dedicated to the “promotion and provision” of community and educational resources related to the Weeping Time and Gullah Geechee history. The entity, which will be known as the Weeping Time Cultural Heritage Corridor Authority, will comprise the Augusta Avenue corridor and also include the Woodville and Hudson Hill neighborhoods.

“It will be a way to bridge and bring people together,” said Carl Gilliard (D-Garden City District 162), the state representative who sponsored the bill.

The Weeping Time is the name for the largest slave auction in Georgia history, where 436 enslaved men, women and children were sold on March 2-3, 1859, at the Ten Broeck Race Course property three miles west of Savannah.

After passing the state House and Senate during the 2024 legislative session, the bill now awaits Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature to be signed into law. Local activists expressed excitement for the authority’s creation, touting the opportunity for expanded recognition and education on the Weeping Time history.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) said hemp edibles must be tested for compliance, according to Atlanta News First via WRDW.

Hemp-based edible products like Delta 8 and Delta 10 gummies, drinks, and oils are not illegal in Georgia, but the state requires the products comply with the federal .3% THC limit.

State Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper said his department conducted an investigation. They tested products being sold across the state. Harper shared testing results with Atlanta News First. One test showed a product with a 19% THC result.

“We’re focussed on ensuring our kids are kept safe and our families are kept safe. We have found some products that did not match the labels that are on the products being sold in the State of Georgia right now and that’s a concern,” said Harper.

Harper pushed lawmakers for new restrictions. SB 494 is on Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.

The bill would keep anyone under the age of 21 from buying hemp or CBD products. They would also prohibit stores from selling those products that look like candy.

The bill requires all hemp products be tested by a company licensed by the Department of Agriculture to make sure they contain no more than the legal limit and include a label like you’d see on a product at the grocery store.

If signed, the changes would take effect in October. Harper said his office will work to get the word out and give businesses some grace during the transition.

United States Representative Andrew Clyde (R-Jackson County) sent a letter requesting an audit of the United States Postal Service, according to AccessWDUN.

Northeast Georgia’s Ninth District Congressman Andrew Clyde on Thursday announced he has sent a letter to the U.S. Postal Service to request an audit and investigation into recent mail delays in North Georgia.

The letter was addressed to USPS Inspector General Tammy Hull, and came after the agency’s recent consolidation process in North Georgia. During that process, the agency consolidated local Processing and Distribution Centers across North Georgia to the Postal Service’s new Regional Processing & Distribution Center in Palmetto, Georgia.

“The recent transition and consolidation of North Georgia’s more localized PDCs into the one regional Atlanta GA RPDC and USPS’ poor planning for this transition has extensively disrupted mail delivery operations in the region causing my constituents immense trouble and grief in their everyday lives,” Clyde said in the letter.

Clyde also cited an increase in communications his office has received related to the mail delays.

“Since the transition and consolidation of processing and distribution activities from local PDCs across North Georgia into the Palmetto facility on February 24, 2024, my office has received a nearly 90% increase in email and phone call messages from residents of North Georgia about USPS mail and package delays happening in the region.”

Additionally, Clyde said the mail delays have led to loss of revenue and otherwise for North Georgia residents.

“The current mail delivery situation throughout North Georgia is completely unacceptable, and it is clear that USPS must immediately divert resources to the region to prevent the ongoing suffering of my constituents. Furthermore, it is clear that USPS’ poor planning for the transition and consolidation of operations into the Palmetto facility is to blame for the extensive mail delays seen across the North Georgia region. As a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, which provides extensive federal funds to the Postal Service Fund each fiscal year, I am demanding accountability and answers for the residents of North Georgia who continue to suffer every day due to USPS’ incompetent transition and consolidation plan for the Palmetto facility.”

Finally, Clyde made his request for an investigation to Hull.

“Therefore, I request the USPS Office of Inspector General to thoroughly audit and investigate the disastrous situation currently unfolding in North Georgia previously described. I request that you please provide a preliminary response to my office within 30 days of receipt of this letter. Furthermore, I request that you please provide an update on your audit and investigation every three months thereafter of any progress, findings, or preliminary conclusions. Finally, no later than one year after receipt of this letter, I request that you publicly publish a final report detailing the findings and conclusions of your audit and investigation, and furthermore, that you please present your findings and conclusions in a briefing to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the House Committee on Appropriations.”

I guess the Postal Service will respond once they receive the letter. I hope he sent it certified.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

The USPS has been in the news in recent weeks because of issues at the new Palmetto facility, which reportedly had a backed up line of trucks filled with mail at one point, and Clyde is not the first lawmaker from Georgia to demand answers.

Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., sent Postmaster General Louis DeJoy a letter last month calling for an explanation of what went wrong at the new regional facility and what the USPS was doing to fix it.

“The timely delivery of mail across the nation is a vital public service,” Ossoff wrote in his March 14 letter to DeJoy. “I urge you to expeditiously investigate the reported delays across the metro Atlanta area and to take any necessary and appropriate actions to ameliorate any issues.”

In Clyde’s letter to Hull, he accused USPS officials of “poor planning” for how the transition from multiple processing and distribution centers to a single regional facility would work. That lack of planning, the congressman told Hull, has led to “extensively disrupted mail delivery operations in the region.”

Delayed bill payments and medicine deliveries are two examples of issues Clyde said people in north Georgia are facing because of the issues at the Palmetto facility.

“Our constituents have shared stories of the loss of revenue, the immense pain, and the hardship these USPS delays are causing them, their loved ones, and their small businesses,” Clyde said. “One resident in North Georgia writes that costly late fees are being assessed on their bills and their business’ ‘credit reputation’ is in jeopardy due to checks sent through USPS in the mail arriving at their destination more than a month late. A resident of Blairsville, GA writes that rural areas ‘depend on efficient mail service,’ and she is ‘at the mercy of a mail delivery system’ to receive her life-saving medications.”

He asked Hull to have a preliminary response sent to his office within 30 days of when she receives his letter.

Tybee Island City Council adopted a budget amendment adding $250,000 to deal with the expected “Orange Crush” festivities, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The council unanimously passed a $250,000 budget amendment on March 28 to support the annual Orange Crush weekend, even though the official trademarked Orange Crush moved to Jacksonville in 2021, according to the owner George Ransom Turner III.

Last year, the volume of people, traffic and violence devastated the small barrier island’s resources. According to Interim City Manager Michelle Owens, Tybee spent $187,000 in preparation of the unpermitted event last year, which flooded Tybee with more than 111,000 people over the course of three days in April. The bulk of the spending for both this and last year are operational costs, such as overtime for law enforcement officers and staff, gas, housing and food. Owens said additional costs for this year are port-a-potties, barriers to implement the city’s plan to completely block off two parking lots and fencing for a towing yard.

Since the April event has remained unpermitted since 1991 when Savannah State University cut ties with the event, the island takes on the brunt of these costs, which they hope to recoup if Gov. Brian Kemp signs SB 443.

The bill, which passed the both houses in the Georgia Legislature, would allow Tybee to go after social media promoters for costs incurred for unpermitted events – what is now a whopping $215,000 price tag. Owens said she doesn’t think they will reach their ceiling of $250,000. Kemp has 40 days from the last day of the legislative session, which ended March 29, to sign any awaiting bills. SB 443 would immediately go into effect, according to Owens.

From WSAV:

“We’re budgeting for fencing. We’re going to have a fenced-in area for cars that are impounded. We’re budgeting for blocking off the areas on the main route where traffic will be. We’re going to have two lanes of traffic coming and going,” West stated. “The center lane will be used for emergency vehicles. We’re going to, of course, be paying for additional help from other agencies who have to come in and help police the island.” [said Mayor Brian West]

Although the money comes from a general fund, the city already has a very tight budget right now. West attributed low revenue to the drop in hotel-motel tax last year.

“We’re already asking our departments to cut, which is, you know, not comfortable for them. This digs in even more, and so it is difficult for our city to try to come up with this money,” he added.

What that number doesn’t include is the estimated $200,000 of free short-term vacation rental stays being offered to first responders donated to the city by rental company owners on the island. Church groups and others volunteering to provide food for them as well.

Statesboro City Council adopted an amendment to their alcohol ordinance, according to WSAV.

In the past, bars could not open within 100 yards of places of worship, however, the new rules exempt churches located in a storefront.

“What we want to see is more people in downtown after 5 o’clock,” City Manager Charles Penny told News 3.

“By having this issue and having council approve it, we take off the issue of limiting what can go in the downtown area,” he added. “If a church decides they want to go into the downtown area and be a storefront church, they would make that decision knowing that a bar could be right next door to it.”

The council can still deny a request for a liquor license if it thinks there will be an issue.

Former Dodge County Jail Administrator Dennis McCranie was arrested and charged with three felony counts, according to 13WMAZ.

The former Jail Administrator of Dodge County  was arrested and charged with three felony counts of sexual battery.

In a news release, the GBI says 59-year-old Dennis McCranie of Eastman was booked into the Dodge County Law Enforcement Center on Wednesday.

The GBI says on Sunday, March 24,  McCranie “intentionally had inappropriate physical contact with three children under the age of 16 years old.”

Fort Valley City Council voted to fire interim City Administrator Jonathan Harris, according to 13WMAZ.

The mayor and city council reached a decision about Jonathan Harris after weeks of discussion. Marsha Gosier said the council made the right decision.

Council voted 4-3 to part ways after Harris was on the job for less than a month. Council Member Carla Gowen read the following motion before the vote.

“The City of Fort Valley does hereby terminate between the City of Fort Valley and Jonathan Harris, interim city administrator, as of 5 pm Friday April 5 2024,” Gowden read.

Council waited to vote on his employment until they had a background check. Fulton County Superior Court records show Harris was convicted of impersonating an officer and simple battery in 2016.

He then served six months at Central State Prison for a probation violation, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.

After the council voted to terminate Harris, they immediately motioned to hire someone else at the meeting. Without a background check or resume, council member Gowen read the next motion.

“The City of Fort Valley does hire Marcus Agostino as the interim city administrator as of 5pm Friday April 5th, 2024,” Gowen read.

The motion was denied after Gowen was the only one to raise her hand in support. Mayor Jeffery Lundy announced he’d fill the seat in the meantime.

Now, council will wait 24 hours for a list of candidates chosen by the city attorney and the Georgia Municipal Association.

The City of Columbus broke ground for a new judicial center, according to WTVM.

Elected officials and citizens gathered for the groundbreaking of a new judicial center on March 5.

“Many people come to the courthouse not because they want to come because they’re compelled to come for jury duty or as a witness or a party to a case, and so we owe it to them and to the community in general to have safe courthouse for them to come and transact their business,” said Judge Art Smith, the Chief Superior Court Judge of the Chattahoochee Circuit.

According to officials, the new building will include, 342-thousand Square feet, 18 courtrooms, 500 parking spaces, and state of the art technology in each of the courtrooms.

“Our courtrooms are very busy. What I like about the plans for this building is that it provides for what we need today, but it has built in expansion capabilities,” said Smith.

“Currently, in the current government center, employees, judges ride the same elevator up to the courtroom. There is a separate inmate elevator that’s also shared by some of the staff of the building,” said Deputy City Manager, Pam Hodge.

According to Hodge, The project will cost 200 million, and it will be funded by a 2021 Special Purpose local option Sales Tax or SPLOST.

The expected completion date of the new center is June 2026 while demolition of the current government center tower will be in February 2027.

The City of Hinesville City hired Tracey Howard as their new Chief of Police, according t0 WTOC.

Guyton City Council is discussing “decriminalization” of possessing small amounts of marijuana, according to the Effingham Herald.

“Decriminalization” doesn’t mean legalization. That’s what Councilmember Theodore Hamby proposes as the one taking the lead in this action. Hamby wants to reduce the fine and eliminate jail time for possession for small amounts of marijuana.

Pelote directly asked Councilmember Hamby, “What’s the big purpose of doing this?”

“Well, I mean (while) campaigning, there were many elderly people who refused to take opioids and chose to smoke marijuana,” Hamby said. “They invited me to their house and I saw marijuana sitting right there.” Hamby added that decriminalization of marijuana would “help young people who make a bad decision,” because with an arrest on their record “they will never be able to find a job. They can’t go to college.

“For the elderly people, marijuana is much safer than opioids and much safer than alcohol,” Hamby continued; but he didn’t credit a source for his assertions. “As of September 2019, 1.2 million Georgians now live in a community that (have) decriminalized marijuana.”

In his presentation before the council, Hamby cited statistics regarding marijuana use and decriminalization from states such as Nebraska, Mississippi, and Alabama, among others. Hamby also cited several cities in Georgia, such as Atlanta and Tybee Island, which have decriminalized marijuana for personal use of less than one ounce.

A law enforcement source told the Herald that rather than risking their health from marijuana – and especially marijuana that may have been tainted with fentanyl or another drug such as cocaine, to ask their healthcare provider to write a prescription for an FDA-approved drug such as synthetic THC in pill form.

Georgians who feel they need something stronger than over-the-counter medication can ask their doctor or healthcare provider for THC oil.

Guyton’s Interim Police Chief Joseph Coppola attended the meeting during the marijuana discussion and gave the council a list of eight marijuana-related citations and arrests within Guyton from Jan, 1, 2022 through Dec. 31, 2023. One of the offenses was solely a citation for possession of marijuana. The other seven ranged from “no tag light” or “headlight requirement” (which initiated a traffic stop) and subsequently the marijuana was discovered during a search with probable cause.

“With everything that’s going on in Guyton, I don’t know if you all want your name tied to an ordinance such as this, because I feel it’s still a drug,” Pelote said. “They’re all drugs and it concerns me dearly that we’re dealing with something like this because it feels like you’re telling the children that they can do this and it’s okay.”

Mayor Andy Harville expressed frustration with Hamby’s presentation because Hamby did not include statistics for Effingham County, Springfield, and Rincon.

“I don’t see anything local,” Harville said.

“That’s because there’s nothing to go off of,” Hamby answered. “My apologies.”

Albany City Commissioners began the process of searching for a new City Administrator, according to WALB.

The search for a new Albany City Manager is on. Current City Manager Steven Carter officially submitted his resignation on March 21st to become the new city manager in Portsmouth, Virginia.

On Monday, commissioners started working to replace Carter, including naming an interim.

The commission took those first steps this morning during a special meeting. In a 5-2 vote, commissioners approved Underwood & Co. as the consultant to move forward in the search for Albany’s new city manager.

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