Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 23, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 23, 2022

On August 23, 1784, four counties is western North Carolina declared themselves the State of Franklin, setting up its own Constitution and treaties with local Indian tribes. In 1788, they rejoined North Carolina but would eventually become part of a new state, Tennessee.

The Kimball Opera House, serving as the Georgia State Capitol, was sold to the state on August 23, 1870.

On August 23, 1961, four African-American citizens attempted to play tennis at Bitsy Grant Tennis Center in Atlanta, which was informally “whites only.” The Tennis Center was hastily closed rather than allow them to play, but it was the first volley leading to the eventual desegregation of Atlanta’s public recreation facilities.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp announced the state will spend $37.4 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund to address COVID-related learning losses, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced over $37.4 million in Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds will be awarded to various organizations around the state to support learning recovery initiatives and programs as educators and students continue to confront the learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With input from parents, students, and educators alike from all across Georgia, we worked diligently to get our schools back open and return to in-person learning safely following the pandemic,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “We know there is still more work to do when it comes to recovering from pandemic-driven learning loss in our classrooms. That’s why I’m thankful to know that these additional funds — on top of the historic investments we’ve made in K-12 education — will both put students first and help set them on a renewed path of learning success.”

The new allotment of GEER funds will go to various community and public organizations that directly impact Georgia’s students, including:

The Georgia Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs – $12 million

Following the overwhelming success of the Boys & Girls Club learning recovery efforts, Governor Kemp is allotting a further $12 million toward these efforts. This is on top of the $15 million allotted in GEERs I funding to the Boys & Girls Club last year which went to helping thousands of youth throughout the state return to grade-level achievement standards.

Through that prior investment, the Boys & Girls Clubs provided more than 21,000 youth with intensive academic enrichment and tutoring to get back on track after the learning disruptions caused by the pandemic. Among those who participated in the programs, more than 86 percent improved test scores in Math & English Language Arts; 94 percent of 5th-to-12th graders were on grade level for the 2021-22 school year, and 100 percent of high school seniors applied to trade school, military or postsecondary education institutions.

Georgia Alliance of YMCAs – $2 million
Governor Kemp is investing these funds in the YMCA’s Learning Loss Program through Y facilities across the state, which will facilitate learning recovery in an engaging and student-centric approach that incorporates technology and E-games.

These funds will go toward:

▪ A learning loss startup program for 6 YMCAs, serving approximately 500 children, to better meet community needs.
▪ Learning loss materials for 11 YMCAs to serve approximately 11,000 children. Supplied items will include backpacks, tablets, teaching supplies, workbooks, and toolkits.
▪ The Y has developed an E-sports program with an emphasis on learning loss. E-sports allows kids to become part of a team, provides peer-to-peer learning, and develops strong critical thinking skills. The E-Sports learning loss program startup will operate in 6 YMCAs and serve approximately 300 children.

Georgia Department of Education – $9.1 million

Special Needs Teaching Resources (an estimated $6.5 million):
Students with special needs were particularly impacted by the pandemic’s disruptions to schooling, and they often require more services and resources to obtain a quality education. These funds will help teachers and paraprofessionals of special needs learners buy more materials to support improved school performance.

Special Needs Equipment Grant for Georgia’s State Schools (~$900,000):
This grant will address equipment needs for Georgia’s state schools that service the blind and deaf communities, including the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf, Georgia School for the Deaf, and Georgia Academy for the Blind. These funds will provide support for instructional technology and materials as educators prepare classrooms to better address pandemic-related learning loss in this special needs student population.

Hearing/Vision Loss for Infants and Elementary-aged Students ($1.7 million):

Infants and elementary school students in Georgia receive regular hearing and vision tests in public schools, but during the pandemic, these tests were discontinued. As a result, some of Georgia’s students are struggling to keep up academically without the ability to hear or see their teachers and learning materials properly. We know that there has been a 40 percent decrease in hearing and vision screenings for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries aged 0-18 over the past two years, alone. Governor Kemp is therefore allotting these funds to:

▪ Train and equip schools within the Okefenokee and Pioneer Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs) for mass hearing and vision screenings.
▪ Improve diagnosis of hearing loss among infants who missed hearing and vision screenings during the pandemic.
Department of Early Care and Learning – up to $12 million

As students and teachers continue to work hard to make up for any learning loss created by the pandemic’s disruptions, Governor Kemp is awarding up to $12 million for the Department of Early Care and Learning’s (DECAL) Summer Transition Program that will be active in the summer of 2023.

DECAL offers two types of Summer Transition Programs which operate during the months of June and July. Each program offers high-quality instruction with a focus on language, literacy, and math and are designed to reduce the achievement gap. Of the two programs, one is designed specifically for students whose home language is Spanish. These funds will help ensure those just beginning their learning careers will not be impeded by the lingering academic disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Georgia Public Library Service – $2.3 million

Governor Kemp is awarding these funds in the form of Library Grants, administered by the Georgia Public Library Service, to replenish the connectivity and remote learning devices in public libraries throughout the state that were used more significantly during the pandemic. These funds will further connect students to academic resources that might not otherwise be available as they endeavor to accelerate learning achievement.

About the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA), was signed into law on December 27, 2020. This Act provides funding to supplement the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund awarded to each state under the previous CARES Act. Additionally, this Act provided for the transfer of remaining Emergency Assistance to Nonpublic Schools (EANS) funding to the Governor’s Office for designation of allowable use under GEER requirements. GEER funding is awarded for the purpose of providing local educational agencies, institutions of higher education, and other education-related entities with emergency assistance in response to COVID-19. The total of additional funding available to award is $59.7 million.

The funds were made available for these permissible uses. More about the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund can be found here. Previous awards can be found here.

The Savannah Morning News looks at the history of Georgia voting laws.

“You see record levels of voter registration, record levels for general election turnout, and in the 2020 election, a record for runoff turnout,” said Charles Bullock, a professor at the University of Georgia and the man considered the foremost expert in Georgia politics over the last half-century.

“Not everybody who is registered turns out, but we haven’t seen participation like this at any time in memory.”

–When I think about the barriers that (Republicans) have broke down over the years to make it less restrictive to cast a ballot, I believe that’s one of the reasons we’re seeing great – record – turnout,” [State Rep. Ron] Stephens said.

Republicans pushed through extended early voting hours through House Bill 244 in 2005, expanding opportunities for early, in-person voting to 45 days before an election. The option is open to any registered voter. Prior to 2005, in-person early voting was restricted to a single week before an election.

The GOP also enacted no-excuse absentee voting that year over the objections of Democratic lawmakers who feared doing so would “open the door wide” to voter fraud.

Republicans also made registering to vote easier, implementing an online voter registration portal and implementing automatic registration for any Georgian applying for a driver’s license or state ID.

Fulton County elections will avoid a state takeover for the November elections, according to the AJC.

A performance review of Fulton’s elections management won’t be completed until after this year’s results are certified, an attorney for the secretary of state’s office told the State Election Board on Monday.

Only after the review is finished could the State Election Board consider installing an interim superintendent, who would have broad powers to close polling places, decide on challenges to voter eligibility and certify results.

“Accountability and knowing that there are people watching the processes and make sure that they are trustworthy … that’s what we want and what the citizens want,” said State Election Board Chairman William Duffey, a retired federal judge overseeing his first board meeting.

After the performance review is completed, the State Election Board will hold hearings and decide whether to appoint a single elections superintendent to replace the county’s bipartisan elections board for nine months.

“We have had multiple successful elections this year. At this time we are fully focused on preparing for another successful election in November,” said Fulton County spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt.

Democrat Stacey Abrams campaigned in Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Stacey Abrams, talked about the difficulties surrounding voting in the black community. “Our right to vote is so sacrosanct,” said Abrams. “No matter what they do to try and stop it, we are going to fight to keep it.”

In front of a packed house at 520 Tavern in Savannah, Abrams touched on everything from supporting entrepreneurship to tightening gun laws.

In talking to Black men throughout the state, the biggest issues that have been brought to Abrams’ attention are limiting gun violence and affordable housing among other issues. Abrams feels governors have ignored disparities in the state concerning small businesses, an issue she intends to fix.

“I will do what this governor has refused to do for four years,” said Abrams. “I will begin to close the equity gap between minority and non-minority businesses in state contracts. Right now, Blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans and others comprise 48% of Georgia’s population. Yet minority-owned small businesses account for only 12.2% of business revenues in Georgia. Georgia’s population is growing more diverse and the governor elected this November will oversee an unprecedented transition of our state’s demography.”

Abrams said she wants to create a small business fund to support budding entrepreneurs, saying they are at a major disadvantage compared to bigger brands.

“If you have to pay permit fees, other expensive fees and do jujitsu, it is going to be difficult,” said Abrams. “We need to invest in our small businesses. We know small businesses tend to hire locally. Right now the balance is so inequitable. I want to tip the balance the other way.”

Lastly, she touched on gun violence, saying Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to ease gun laws puts weapons in the wrong hands. “Brian Kemp wanted to win his primary,” she said.

“To do so, he weakened gun laws in the state of Georgia. I know we can protect second graders and the second amendment at the same time.”

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R) spoke in Augusta, according to WRDW.

Duncan spoke briefly about a measure he helped pass that allows families to donate to their local police departments and file for a special reimbursement.

“For me, it was one of those true moments in time where I got to see hard work pay off. We had built a culture in the Senate that wanted a problem solved. At the end of the day Georgians get wins,” he said.

United States Senate candidate Herschel Walker (R) spoke about the Democratic climate legislation, according to The Hill via WSAV.

Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker (R) reiterated his opposition to Democrats’ climate, health care and tax bill over the weekend, arguing that too much of the money is “going to trees.”

“They continue to try to fool you like they are helping you out. But they’re not. They’re not helping you out because a lot of money it’s going to trees,” Walker said, according to a clip of his remarks that was shared with The Hill.

“Don’t we have enough trees around here?” he added, in comments that were first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The legislation, which has nearly $370 billion in spending on climate change and energy and was signed into law by President Biden last week, puts $1.5 billion toward the Urban and Community Forestry Assistance program, which plants trees in urban areas.

Some gay state legislators want the state to recognize gay marriage, according to CBS46 via WRDW.

Three openly gay Georgia lawmakers held a news conference at the state capitol Monday, urging voters concerned about LGBTQ rights to reject Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in the upcoming election.

“If he has the opportunity, Brian Kemp will not hesitate to roll back the progress we’ve made to assure equal protection for all Georgians,” said State Rep. Sam Park, a Lawrenceville Democrat.

“Brian Kemp’s Episcopal church changed their minds and allowed me to go forward as an Episcopal priest in order for me to be able to marry my own wife,” said State Sen. Kim Jackson, a Democrat from Stone Mountain.

“We’re not going to go back into the shadows,” said State Rep. Karla Drenner, a Democrat from Avondale States, the first openly gay state senator in the South.

When asked if there should be an amendment to Georgia’s Constitution, which currently states that marriage is between a man and a woman, Drenner answered, “All of the groups are going to be nervous that I’ve said this, but I do think it should go on the ballot.”

For that to happen, it would take a two-thirds majority of lawmakers, meaning Democrats would need extraordinary wins in Georgia in November.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post:

“Brian Kemp… has chosen to ignore the ways in which both the church has evolved and the very people of Georgia have evolved,” Jackson said.

“He’s ignored the evolution of his own fellow Republicans who understand that LGBTQ people have a fundamental right to access to marriage,” Jackson said.

“Georgia is one of five states in the country that does not have comprehensive civil rights protections in which discrimination is permitted in employment, housing and public accommodations,” Park said.

An alleged gun incident at a football game highlighted safety issues, according to WTOC.

The police department said a fight was stopped before it happened. No shots were fired, and no one was injured. Some people that were in the stands claim they saw someone with a gun, which caused Rahnie and many others to panic.

While the Savannah-Chatham County school district usually has their own medal detectors at games their schools host, they couldn’t set up security at the stadium because they weren’t the home team and didn’t rent out the facility. They only had school resource officers with the Jenkins High team.

Memorial Stadium is owned by Chatham County. County Commissioner Dean Kicklighter says after hearing these safety concerns he plans to recommend some changes to these entrances.

In a statement sent to WTOC, the District 7 Commissioner Dean says, “Although providing security is the duty of the party that is renting the facility, I believe that it would be in the best interest of the public’s safety for the county to purchase and require the use of metal detectors at all entrances at all future events held at Memorial Stadium. So, I will recommend and or support a motion to purchase and install metal detectors at the stadium at this coming Fridays commission meeting.”

Benedictine Military School also sent WTOC a statement: “When Benedictine Military School hosts football games at Memorial Stadium, BC employs off-duty police officers through the Savannah Police Department. The SPD recommends that BC use six officers at our regular-season home games. In addition to those six officers, BC hires at least four additional security officers and provides at least 14 school personnel to work the venue. In addition, a clear bag policy is in place at all home football games.”

Gwinnett County will start mailing property tax bills this week, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Twin Pines Minerals announced it has settled with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and will be able to proceed in mining near the Okefenokee Swamp, according to the Associated Press via WSAV.

Twin Pines Minerals said the Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the company by once again relinquishing the agency’s regulatory oversight of the proposed mine in southeast Georgia near the Okefenokee, home to the largest U.S. wildlife refuge east of the Mississippi River.

“We appreciate the Corps’ willingness to reverse itself and make things right,” Twin Pines President Steve Ingle said in a statement, calling the development “great news” for the project.

In June, the Army Corps notified Twin Pines that its prior decisions allowing the company to bypass federal regulators “are not valid” because a tribal government with ancestral ties to the proposed mining site had not been consulted. The agency said the Georgia project couldn’t move forward without consultation with the Muscogee Creek Nation.

Twin Pines quickly sued the Army Corps in U.S. District Court, arguing the agency was “asserting jurisdiction the federal government does not possess.” The company noted the Corps’ finding from October 2020 that it lacked jurisdiction over the mining project should be valid for five years.

A copy of the settlement, which Twin Pines provided to The Associated Press, says the Army Corps will honor that five-year span unless “new information” surfaces that causes the agency to revisit whether it should reclaim oversight of the project near the Okefenokee.

Columbus Police and Muscogee County’s Sheriff’s Department are in a dispute over handling prisoners, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The conflict started around 8:30 p.m. that Saturday, when the sheriff-run jail would not book Columbus police prisoners who were picked up in a weekend crime suppression detail coordinated with the Georgia State Patrol.

The standoff ended about 2 hours later when police took their suspects from jail to Sixth Avenue and released them with court summons, despite felony charges. The dispute was born of the sheriff’s complaints that extra crime suppression operations were overwhelming his already overcrowded jail. He asked police to call the operation off, but they persisted in pursuing the detail.

Subsequently the sheriff’s office told the jail to process prisoners in the following priority: deputies’ first, state patrol officers’ second and Columbus police officers’ third. When a deputy booking a suspect cut ahead of awaiting police officers that hot night, police blocked his car in and refused to move, though the deputy had a call to go to.

Sheriff Greg Countryman said he warned police of the dangers of overcrowding the jail, well in advance of their operation.

On July 3, he sent out a news release saying overcrowding posed risks to both inmates and staff. The next day, he forwarded the news release to the mayor and city manager, with an email adding in part, “Right now, our inmate population needs to be reduced by 100. As I have requested, we cannot handle any additional operations. We have ceased any we had planned.”

Milledgeville Police say speed cameras are making their streets safer, according to 13WMAZ.

Over the past six months, the Milledgeville Police have sent out over 4,000 tickets based on the two cameras in front of Baldwin County High School, and over 300 tickets based on the cameras in front of Georgia Military College. That’s over $160,000 in speeding fines, but some people think it’s for the best.

City manager Hank Griffeth says so far they have no solid plans to install more cameras, or more speeding safety measures. However, he says installing the cameras was important.

“Somebody has to exceed the speed limit by 11 miles per hour to be cited, so I think that’s pretty indicative of how fast the speeds may actually be that are going through there,” Griffeth explains.

He says the public reaction has been mixed to the cameras, but traffic has slowed down.

Griffeth says by law, the money from fines must go to police equipment or school safety measures. He says that he’s already starting speaking with the school district about creating new safety measures for schools.

Warner Robins is considering speed cameras, according to 13WMAZ.

A company that installs speed cameras recorded more than 1,600 drivers speeding in front of Lake Joy Elementary School, in one day, and that’s just a sliver of data that comes from their new, detailed traffic study.

In March, RedSpeed USA did a traffic study near three Warner Robins schools. The City and the Warner Robins Police Department just released the results.

“It was eye-opening for the amount. We knew there was speeding, but we had no idea that there was that much amount of speed and how high the speed was as well,” Warner Robins Police Chief John Wagner said.

“These are two of the larger elementary schools that we have in the City of Warner Robins. There’s a lot of traffic coming in, a lot of moms and dads dropping kids off, a lot of bus traffic coming in and out of here. We’ve seen I think it was up to 68 miles per hour. That in and of itself is about 18 miles over what the normal speed limit is, so if you factor in when it’s a school zone, you’re looking at almost 30 miles over what the limit is,” Councilman Kevin Lashley said.

That’s why Lashley says the city is thinking about installing speed cameras in some school zones.

“Anywhere you have a lot of foot traffic. That’s where we really want to start the focus and then eventually, if we can work them into all of them, that would be great,” Lashley said.

Suwanee is expected to retain its current property tax millage rate for the coming fiscal year, according to AccessWDUN.

The city has had a millage rate of 4.93 mills for the past 10 years, which would remain unchanged under the proposal. One mill is defined as $1 per $1000 of assessed value.

The Rome Board of Education adopted a revised budget for the current fiscal year, according to the Rome News Tribune.

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