Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 11, 2020


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 11, 2020

On August 11, 1862, Confederate General Braxton Bragg declared martial law in Atlanta.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the summer commencement address at the University of Georgia on August 11, 1938. Later that day, Roosevelt endorsed Lawrence Camp over incumbent Governor Walter F. George, saying George had not been sufficiently supportive of the New Deal.

The Atlanta Braves signed legendary Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige on August 11, 1968. Here’s a story on what the Braves signing meant to Paige:

In 1968, the right-hander was 158 days shy of the five years’ playing time needed to qualify for the major league pension. He would reach out to 29 teams and 29 teams would turn him down.

The problem was, he was 62.

But Braves president Bill Bartholomay saw an opportunity. While it would help at the box office for a franchise that was in its third season in Atlanta, it was also about something more.

“I jumped all over it, because I just thought it was the right thing to do,” said Bartholomay, currently the team’s chairman emeritus. “I didn’t think of it so much from the standpoint of diversity, I thought it was just the right thing to do.”

After reaching his 158 required days, Paige left the Braves and less than three years later, began drawing that pension. He received $250 a month.

“It was momentous and he did quality for his pension,” Bartholomay said, “but more importantly, the slight recognition for one of the great athletes, maybe one of the .. certainly short list of greatest pitchers of all time.”

From the AJC:

“Baseball would have been guilty of negligence should it not assure this legendary figure a place in the pension plan,” the [Braves] owner said at the signing in 1968. Looking back 40 years on, Bartholomay says Satchel justified his faith by performing sensationally as a goodwill ambassador.

“He came to us four months after the King funeral in Atlanta,” says Bartholomay. “Those were pretty tough times for African-Americans and the country in its entirety. Satchel understood that. He helped in a way that went way beyond baseball.”

On August 11, 1984, Ronald Reagan jokingly announced that he had “signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever…we begin bombing in five minutes,” without knowing he was speaking into a live microphone.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp addressed the ongoing coronavirus pandemic yesterday. You can watch the entire address on Facebook or GPB News.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

During a press conference with U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams Monday, Kemp said it is up to local schools districts and superintendents to make the decision whether or not to require students to wear masks during in-person instruction.

“We’ve given the responsibility to the schools and to the local superintendent,” he said. “Like most things in education, I’m a firm believer that the local governments know their school better than the state government does. We’ve been handling things that way for a long time.”

Kemp and Adams said COVID-19 cases are inevitable, whether you’re reopening businesses or schools.

“When you reopen — whether it’s schools, or worship or sports — it’s not if you have a positive test, it’s when you have a positive test,” the U.S. Surgeon General said in Atlanta. “And it’s how you react and respond to it.”

From the AJC:

Kemp was seconded by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who joined the governor to highlight Georgia’s new testing initiative.“We find that engagement and education goes a lot further than enforcement,” Adams said. “I’m not against places having to mandate. But what I want people to understand is that a mandate alone will not fix your problem, particularly when you’re dealing with young people.”

State officials say 68 of Georgia’s 180 school districts have mask mandates for teachers, and 43 have imposed the requirements for both students and teachers. Six districts only offer in-person courses; the rest either offer online coursework or a mix of in-person and virtual learning.

Overall, Kemp said, he believes the school reopening “quite honestly this week went real well” aside from the Paulding County photos.

The Georgia State Election Board voted to allow online applications for Absentee ballots, according to the AJC.

The board voted unanimously to create the absentee ballot application website, which is planned to go live by the end of this month.

The website will help voters participate in this year’s presidential election without having to visit a polling place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Voting from home became popular in Georgia’s primary, when nearly half of voters cast absentee ballots. The trend continued in advance of Tuesday’s runoffs, with 60% of early voters submitting absentee ballots through Sunday.

In addition to the website, voters will still have the option to print out and mail paper absentee ballot requests.

Voters will be able to request absentee ballots through the website by typing in their name, birth date, and driver’s license or state identification card number, according to the new State Election Board rule. Then ballots will begin to be mailed Sept. 15.

Polls open today in Macon-Bibb County for the Runoff for Mayor, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Early voting for the Macon-Bibb County mayoral runoff election wrapped up on Friday with nearly 10,000 people casting their ballots in-person and nearly 10,000 absentee ballots received by the Board of Elections.

Mike Kaplan, chair of the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections, said typically around 3,000 people vote early, but 9,359 voters cast their ballots early for the Aug. 11 election.

As of Friday evening, the Board of Elections had received 9,607 absentee ballots, bringing the total number of ballots to 18,966, nearly half of the votes cast in the June 9 election.

In the June 9 election, a total of 40,120 votes were cast, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. 5,906 votes were advanced in-person ballots in the June 9 election, which had a much larger ballot with candidates running for seats in the U.S. Senate to the Bibb County Commission.

Chatham County also saw significant Absentee voting, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As of the end of the day Sunday, Chatham County Board of Registrars had received 7,127 completed ballots, and BOR Director Sabrina German said the number of returned ballots would only increase through the day Monday.

A total of 11,381 absentee ballots were requested for the runoff, dwarfing the Dec. 4, 2018 runoff’s requests, which numbered around 4,000.

Additionally, 3,195 Chatham County voters cast their ballots through early in-person voting.

In Chatham County, absentee ballots returned in the June 9 election outnumbered the total turnout for the 2018 primary election.

It took Chatham County Board of Elections 10 days to count all the absentee ballots cast in the June 9 election.

BOE Supervisor Russell Bridges said he doesn’t expect the count to take that long this time around,

“I won’t say that we’re going to be finished on election night, but we’re going to be really close,” Bridges said.

Bridges said around 7,000 ballots were accounted for and scanned on Monday.

“I daresay, if there is any holdover, it would likely be completed Wednesday,” Bridges said.

Some Chatham County voting precincts have been relocated for the Primary Runoff, according to WJCL.

Floyd County voters will choose a Republican nominee for Sheriff and one for Congress, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The runoff will decide who will take up the mantle of Floyd County Sheriff after Sheriff Tim Burkhalter’s term ends on Dec. 31. Running for the post are FCSO Maj. Dave Roberson and Tom Caldwell, the former chief deputy.

The race was extended in June when Roberson only brought in 48.1% of the vote, leading to a runoff. Caldwell brought in 34.3% of the votes and a third, and now former, candidate Ronnie Kilgo took 17.5% of the votes.

Voters will also decide whether to send Dr. John Cowan or Marjorie Taylor Greene as the GOP nominee to vie for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Graves. The winner will face Democratic candidate Kevin Van Ausdal in November.

After three weeks of early voting, 3,350 people were able to cast their ballots ahead of time. Any voter who voted Republican, nonpartisan or didn’t vote at all can participate in the runoff election.

The elections office sent out 5,271 absentee ballots to voters in Floyd County and almost 3,000 ballots have already been processed.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, a Republican, is under fire from Democratic state legislators, according to the AJC.

Monday morning [] a group of Democratic state legislators held a press conference outside of a Department of Labor office near Decatur. The lawmakers, who have repeatedly clashed with labor commissioner Mark Butler in recent weeks, said the current situation is the result of a “horrible lack of leadership.”

Some 1.3 million Georgians have applied for unemployment since March. And while Butler touted his department’s hard work and its clearance rate — some 91% of claims that have been verified and in which payment was requested have gone through — the legislators said it’s not enough.

The cases of about 100,000 Georgians are still in limbo, though Butler said some of those people may not have actually requested payment because they ended up finding work.

“It’s not getting done,” state Sen. Elena Parent said, “because they do not care enough.”

The commissioner called lawmakers’ actions “political grandstanding” and said his office has met with the Democratic caucus more than any other group. He called their suggestions “nonsense, as far as things that we should be doing.”

President Trump‘s actions on unemployment have complicated Georgia’s administration, according to US News and World Reports.

Trump’s order allocates $44 billion in federal dollars from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to boost unemployment aid for the jobless and calls on states to kick in roughly $15 billion. The Trump administration says states can pull from federal coronavirus relief funds already distributed to states earlier in the crisis.

In Georgia, GOP Gov. Brian Kemp praised Trump for taking action amid the congressional gridlock.

But Kemp, a Trump ally, offered no details on whether Georgia will contribute state funds toward the $400 weekly unemployment payment.

“We’re digging in on that issue,” said Kemp, who said his office is in talks with Georgia’s labor department and budget planning office.

From the Gainesville Times:

Georgia is trying to figure out how to proceed following President Donald Trump’s executive order calling for $400 weekly federal unemployment benefits, with the state responsible for a quarter of it.

The Georgia Department of Labor “is currently analyzing President Trump’s executive order on the weekly unemployment supplement,” the agency said on Twitter Monday, Aug. 10. “We will be working with the governor’s office on implementation in the weeks ahead.”

“At this time, the GDOL is still awaiting clarification on the funding mechanism for this new benefit,” Commissioner Mark Butler said. “We will make an announcement on our website and social platforms once more information becomes available.”

Habersham County public schools will delay reopening until September 8, according to AccessWDUN.

The Dougherty County Commission is holding public meetings to discuss a proposed property tax increase, according to the Albany Herald.

The Dougherty County Commission did not increase the tax rate levied on the county’s property owners, but the board did not roll back the millage rate to reflect a 0.57 percent growth in the overall property digest. Under Georgia law, that is considered a tax increase and requires three public hearings.

The tentative millage rate for the county’s 2020-2021 general fund budget will remain at 15.569 mills, which is expected to bring in about $31.2 million, while the rate for the special tax district that covers the unincorporated portion of the county will stay the same at 9.173.

If the commission had rolled back the general fund millage rate to generate the same amount of revenue through property taxes for the 2020-2021 budget year as the previous year, residents with a house valued at $100,000 would have seen a reduction of $3.34 in the amount of taxes owed.

A rollback on a residence of the same value for the special tax district levy would have reduced the property tax owed by $1.37.

Glynn County likewise will adopt the same property tax millage rate but must advertise it as a tax increase, according to The Brunswick News.

The bottom line is that the county’s maintenance and operations tax rate isn’t changing, but property values have increased. That translates into more revenue for the county if it maintains the same tax rate.

State transparency laws require counties to publicize the rollback millage or the millage rate the county would have to adopt to keep tax revenue equal to the previous year.

Columbus City Council is considering options for increasing police oversight, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

After hours of discussion at its July 28 meeting, Columbus Council will hold a second public hearing Tuesday on three proposals regarding police use of force, one of them an ordinance that would give the city’s Public Safety Advisory Committee the authority to subpoena witnesses to investigate complaints against police officers.

Athens-Clarke County began the removal and relocation of a Confederate memorial, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

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