Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 16, 2019

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 16, 2019

On August 18, 1591,the English settlement at Roanoke Island in the Outer Banks of what is now North Carolina was found deserted.

On August 18, 1795, President George Washington signed a treaty with Great Britain called the Jay Treaty, after Supreme Court Justice John Jay who negotiated it. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison led opposition to the treaty.

On August 18, 1862, Confederate Major General of Cavalry J.E.B. Stuart was nearly captured, losing his distinctive hat and cloak and written copies of Lee’s orders near Verdiersville, Virginia.

Georgia Governor Joseph Terrell signed legislation creating the State Board of Health on August 17, 1903.

Georgia Tech was designated the State School of Technology on August 17, 1908 by joint resolution of the State Senate and State House.

In a quaint bit of Georgia history, on August 17, 1908, Governor Hoke Smith signed legislation prohibiting corporate donations to political campaigns. Cute!

The Georgia General Assembly adopted a joint resolution urging the creation of a federal Health Department on August 18, 1908.

The State Highway Department was created on August 16, 1916 to comply with federal funding requirements, when Georgia Governor Nathaniel Harris signed legislation by the General Assembly.

On August 18, 1916, the Cherokee Rose was designated the official state flower of Georgia by a joint resolution of the State House and Senate.

The practice of tipping service employees was outlawed by legislation signed on August 18, 1918.

Georgia Governor Hugh Dorsey signed legislation creating the State Department of Banking on August 16, 1919.

Georgia Governor Hugh Dorsey signed legislation regulating the practice of architecture and licensing practitioners on August 18, 1919.

The Georgia Board of Public Welfare was also created on August 18, 1919 when Gov. Dorsey signed legislation establishing that body and a companion bill that created the Community Service Commission.

Georgia Governor Clifford Walker signed legislation changing the method of execution in Georgia from hanging to the electric chair on August 16, 1924.

On August 18, 1924 Gov. Clifford Walker signed legislation that would allow a referendum on a Constitutional Amendment to allow Atlanta, Savannah, or Macon to consolidate their respective municipal governments with their county governments. Macon-Bibb County merged in 2014 after voters passed a referendum in July 2012.

The Beatles played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on August 18, 1965. AtlantaTimeMachine.com has a couple images from the night.

On August 16, 1974, The Ramones played their first public show at CBGB in New York.

Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977.

On August 18, 1991, hardline Commies in the Soviet Union arrested Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev as part of a coup against Gorbachev’s reforms.

On August 17, 1998, President Bill Clinton testified as the subject of a grand jury investigation.

The testimony came after a four-year investigation into Clinton and his wife Hillary’s alleged involvement in several scandals, including accusations of sexual harassment, potentially illegal real-estate deals and suspected “cronyism” involved in the firing of White House travel-agency personnel. The independent prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, then uncovered an affair between Clinton and a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. When questioned about the affair, Clinton denied it, which led Starr to charge the president with perjury and obstruction of justice, which in turn prompted his testimony on August 17.

On August 18, 2015, Jeb Bush visited The Varsity in Atlanta. Here’s the funniest line from the CBS46 story:

Recently, Bush put a series of “Jeb No Filter” videos on YouTube and some say it’s a way to bring up his popularity.

“We’re going to work hard to earn the support of Georgians in the March 1 primary. It’s the second largest state in the primary, it’s our neighbor to our north, we’re going to be working hard,” Bush said.

While the instinct behind “Jeb No Filter” may have been good, it would take Donald Trump to show what No Filter really means.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Congressman Austin Scott (R-Tifton) spoke in support of the Greater Valdosta United Way, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Scott, representative for Georgia’s eighth congressional district, said he supports organizations helping people in the community.

“United Way, through their brother and sister organizations, do a lot to provide services to those who need it,” Scott said. “We’re basically here to give them credit for what they do and a big thank you.”

Scott said his main goal right now is getting the federal appropriations bill approved, which will ensure United Way receives crucial grants to keep the organization functioning.

His office helps organizations and agencies on a local level apply for and get these grants.

Scott said grants are important, but what’s more important is local donations from residents, because many of the grants are matching grants, which require the nonprofit to meet them half way.

Whitfield County and its municipalities continue to discuss a potential Special Purpost Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) for voter approval in 2020, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

[Whitfield County Commission Chair Lynn] Laughter has spoken in favor of a SPLOST being placed on the May 2020 general primary ballot, arguing that waiting until the November presidential election ballot would cost the county roughly $6 million in revenue.

County Attorney Robert Smalley told the committee members their work would have to be finalized by the middle of November of this year for the proposal to appear on the May 2020 ballot. That tight window worried some on the committee who wondered if they would have the time to listen to and receive ideas from other citizens.

“We want to get as many ideas from citizens who want to be involved in the process, and I wonder if we have the time to do that,” said Michael E. Kelley II, the alternate from the county.

The committee members voted to set a “target goal” of being finished with their work in November but they will revisit that if they believe the process is being too rushed or they can’t complete their work by November.

Savannah Alderman Julian Miller wants the city to consider gun control legislation, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Miller asked city staff to craft a resolution to send to both state and federal elected officials urging them to take a number of steps to stop the violence.

“We really need background checks, to limit magazine rounds, and to ban assault weapons,” Miller said. “Also gun show vendors should have to follow the same rules (to sell guns) as licensed firearms sellers do.”

One step [Alderman Van] Johnson wants to see is prohibiting guns in festival zones.

“When you have liquor and guns in a festival zone, to me that’s just dangerous.”

City staff will work on a resolution to present at the next meeting. The resolution will also include a request for a red flag law. A red flag law permits police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.\

The Albany City Commission declined to place a Sunday sales referendum on the November ballot, according to the Albany Herald.

A measure to allow Sunday sales at package stores in Albany failed with a tie vote at Tuesday’s Albany City Commission meeting.

Commissioner Roger Marietta, who was joined by Commissioners B.J. Fletcher and Jon Howard in opposition, said he just didn’t feel right about approving the measure, which would have put the question of allowing Sunday sales on the November election ballot. Commissioners Matt Fuller and Bob Langstaff and Mayor Dorothy Hubbard supported the measure.

The commission did approve a measure to put another alcohol-related measure on the ballot for the fall – allowing restaurants and hotels that meet requirements to begin selling alcoholic beverages at 11 a.m. instead of 12:30 p.m. on Sundays.

“I just felt like it was unnecessary,” Marietta said. “The brunch, I could see. It made sense to me. The package store sales, it just didn’t make sense to me.”

Marietta said part of his reason was religious.

“I don’t think it’s strictly a religious thing; I think Sunday is a day of rest,” he said. “I thought it was best just to leave it alone.”

The Albany Herald reports that former Democratic candidate for Governor Stacey Abrams will continue lying about the 2018 election working to enfranchise voters.

Abrams will formally launch Fair Fight 2020 during an event at 2 p.m. Saturday in Gwinnett County.

Fair Fight 2020 will build on what the Georgia operation has done and learned since it was formed in the wake of the November election and filed a lawsuit claiming the some state residents, in particular the poor and minorities, were denied the right to vote.

Fair Fight 2020 will build voter protection operations in 20 states and support and fund voter protection programs in 17 battleground states. Among those 17 states are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

“As I’ve said many times, I can’t predict empirically what the outcome would have been” if all votes were counted, Abrams told The Albany Herald during a telephone interview on Thursday. “We do know that more than 40,000 people reported issues. There were thousands and thousands of requests for aid. We had to file multiple lawsuits during the last weeks of the race to fight voter suppression.”

“Every model of voter suppression is (used) in Georgia,” Abrams said.

The Macon Telegraph considers whether the heartbeat bill will stop the local film industry.

It’s almost two-thirds of the way through 2019, but Macon has already seen more film cameras and crews on its streets than it has in recent years.

In 2017, there was only one major studio production filming in town. The same for 2018. But 2019 has been different. HBO and Netflix are some of the companies that worked on projects here.

What effect would the law have on filming in Macon?

“At this point, I’m not certain I have enough information to have a really good opinion,” Buzza said. “Everybody that I have been speaking to has sort of said, ‘We are just kind of waiting to see what happens,’” he said. “It would be difficult to have a specific opinion. I’m going to follow what I am hearing from people in the industry.”

If the abortion law goes into effect, Macon’s approach to attracting productions likely wouldn’t change.

The Georgia Emergency Management Agency reimbursed Glynn County more than $6 million for work in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, according to The Brunswick News.

“Response to a hurricane, response to any disaster, is monumental,” said Charlie Dawson, deputy director for disaster recovery with GEMA, after a check presentation Thursday. “The hardest part, though, is the recovery.”

Dawson brought two big checks along. The first one, which was for about $1.2 million, reimbursed the county for the costs of emergency protective measures, overtime pay for law enforcement officers and public works employees, emergency center operation costs and more.

The second check, which was for about $5,251,000, reimbursed the county for other overtime costs, equipment costs and contracts.

During Hurricane Irma, all 159 counties in Georgia were declared to be in a state of emergency. GEMA is still working to reimburse counties for work done during the storm.

Glynn County submitted its request for reimbursement in March 2018. To request the money, county officials needed to keep track of and organize a great deal of data and paperwork.

Glynn County Commissioners adopted a property tax millage rate for FY 2020, according to The Brunswick News.

Taxes won’t change for most, but the county’s proposed lower base maintenance and operations tax means residents of the city of Brunswick and Jekyll Island will see a dip in their 2019 property taxes.

The county Police Department and Fire Department Emergency Medical Services Division will now be funded by their own separate taxes.

The county’s maintenance and operations tax will drop to compensate for the two new taxes, meaning residents of Brunswick and Jekyll Island will gain the benefit of a lower M&O tax. Anyone outside those two tax districts will see no change in their property tax rate.

Because the new maintenance and operations millage the county proposed is lower this year than last, it was not required to hold town halls or advertise the new millage.

The commission approved the new millage 6-0. It also approved Glynn County Schools’ 2019 millage rate.

The Glynn County Board of Education voted earlier in the day to maintain its millage rate of 16.157. The school board has kept the same millage rate since 2014. However, because the school board did not adopt the rollback rate this year, state law required it to advertise a tax increase and hold three public hearings before adopting its millage rate.

Commission Chairman Mike Browning said he didn’t know exactly why the county commission had to approve the school board’s millage but suspected it was because the county is the one that has to collect the taxes.

Department of Unintended Consequences

So far, the biggest unintended consequence of the 2019 Session of the Georgia General Assembly is the movements among local prosecutors to temporarily halt prosecutions for some marijuana possession charges. From GPB News:

In May, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed Georgia’s Hemp Farming Act. The legislation legalized the growth and sale of hemp. Federally, hemp contains 0.3 percent of THC or lower. The amount of THC present is what contributes to feeling high.

Since the legislation was signed on May 10, it has led to confusion about prosecuting marijuana cases. Law enforcement can test for the presence of THC but aren’t able to test for the amount. That means they wouldn’t be able to tell if a substance was illegal marijuana or legalized hemp. And so far, a number of jurisdictions have decided to not pursue marijuana cases.

From the (UGA) Red & Black:

Athens-Clarke County Police Department officers will not arrest people for suspected marijuana possession until the department receives updated drug testing equipment, according to an ACCPD press release.

The decision comes “in light of unanticipated consequences” caused by the newly-implemented Georgia Hemp Farming Act, which legalized hemp production in the state when it was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp in May.

Hemp looks identical to marijuana and contains .3% or less of THC, which is the main psychoactive compound that gives marijuana its high. According to the release, current drug tests used by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation only confirm the presence of THC in marijuana. ACCPD expects to have testing equipment with the ability to test THC potency in early September.

“The ACCPD is working closely with the GBI, our District Attorney, and the ACC Solicitor General to monitor this situation, as well as to identify and implement solutions,” said ACCPD Chief of Police Cleveland Spruill.

From the AJC:

“Although possession of marijuana remains illegal, the DeKalb County Police Department will temporarily stop issuing citations or arresting anyone for possession of only misdemeanor amounts of marijuana,” the statement said.

The announcement came a day after DeKalb’s solicitor-general said she would dismiss cases involving a single count of misdemeanor marijuana possession. Both the police department and the solicitor-general’s office said they will continue to pursue cases involving additional charges beyond marijuana.

“Marijuana charges are often submitted in conjunction with other charges, thus it is necessary to continue to review each case,” Solicitor-general Donna Coleman-Stribling said. “However, at this time, we will not proceed with any single-count marijuana cases occurring after the passage of this new law.”

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

A new law that made cannabis or hemp plant farming legal in Georgia caused Gwinnett County Public Schools to make a change to its Student Conduct and Behavior Code.

The Georgia Hemp Farming Act, signed into law May 10, has altered how local law enforcement and judicial systems prosecute misdemeanor marijuana cases, but the possession of the substance is still a violation of the Gwinnett County Public Schools Student Conduct and Behavior Code. The wording of Rule 7 in the code now specifically identifies “cannabis” as a forbidden substance, where it previously addressed “marijuana” in a section titled “Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco.”

“This change is necessary in order for us to ensure our Student Code of Conduct is as clear as possible for students and parents,” associate superintendent Steve Flynt said in a statement.

While students will not face criminal charges for possession of cannabis, they will face disciplinary action if found in possession of the substance on school grounds, at bus stops, on a school bus, or at school or district activities, functions and events.

The issue stems from the lack of available testing that determines the amount of THC that makes a substance hemp or marijuana.

School Resource Officers have been instructed to temporarily stop charging students with misdemeanor marijuana charges.

From the Rome News Tribune:

Rome and Floyd County police at this point will continue to prosecute minor marijuana offenses after a law signed on May 10 has made it more difficult for police officers to distinguish between legal hemp and the drug.

Both Floyd County Police Chief Mark Wallace and Rome Police Department Assistant Chief Debbie Burnett said they haven’t had a discussion at this point with the Floyd County District Attorney’s office and will continue filing charges as appropriate until advised to do otherwise.

From NewsChannel9:

The District Attorney for Murray and Whitfield counties tells NewsChannel 9 some misdemeanor marijuana cases are being postponed until prosecutors can find a new test to distinguish between marijuana and hemp. This comes after a new law went into effect in Georgia making hemp legal.

DA Bert Poston says the GBI Crime lab is very close to creating a test that can distinguish between marijuana and hemp based on THC percentage.

He says, “We are waiting for more information from the lab. Pending cases not resolved by negotiated pleas will be postponed until we have the means to properly test the suspected marijuana.” Poston says this only applies to charges filed on and after May 10th.

From the Gainesville Times:

Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard said she expects no changes in how local law enforcement handles misdemeanor drug cases and how her office will prosecute them following the enactment of the Georgia Hemp Farming Act.

“There is not an issue as far as testing procedure pre-date of the hemp statute. We are still going to be continuing to prosecute cases … My understanding from my law enforcement agencies is they will still be investigating and making the same decisions they were making before,” Woodard said.

“The reason misdemeanor is an issue is the (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) does not test misdemeanor cases for local law enforcement … There are hundreds of thousands, so they made an administrative decision. And as our forensic body, they establish the testing procedures for everything. They would only test and verify felony levels for sheer numbers,” Woodard said.

Hemp has .3% or less of THC, the main psychoactive element, whereas marijuana has 5% or higher.

“No one’s going to be toting around hemp in a plastic bag in their pocket. Nobody is going to have a pipe full of hemp. … From our end, it’s business as usual except for this delay due to testing updates,” Hall County Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad Lt. Don Scalia said.

“If it smells like marijuana and it’s psychoactive, then it’s not hemp. … It doesn’t have the THC, the psychoactive. You would have to smoke more hemp than the human body can consume in 24 hours to get anything approaching a buzz,” Woodard said.

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