Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 30, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 30, 2022

On August 30, 1888, Asa Griggs Candler bought one-third interest in the Coca-Cola company, bringing his total ownership to more than two-thirds of the company.

Georgia native Ty Cobb debuted with the Detroit Tigers on August 30, 1905.

On August 30, 1979, President Jimmy Carter reported being attacked by a rabbit near Plains, Georgia. Here’s an interview in which President Carter was asked about the rabbit incident.

Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell was indicted on August 30, 2004 on racketeering, bribery and wire fraud charges and would later plead guilty to tax evasion.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp announced yesterday that Georgia will spend $62 million dollars on grants to address homelessness, according to a Press Release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced that he is distributing over $62 million in awards to housing initiatives across Georgia focused on fighting homelessness and housing insecurity exacerbated by the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As Georgians faced the unprecedented challenges and economic downturn of the pandemic, COVID-19 robbed some of their financial stability, expanding the homeless population in vulnerable communities,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “Those who were already homeless faced even greater difficulties, with many already struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues. By investing these funds in those who are already making a difference around our state on these fronts, we will provide those most in need with resources that will aid them on the road to personal and financial recovery.”

In total, 20 projects amounting to $62,449,245 will be awarded from the American Rescue Plan and the State Fiscal Recovery Fund for these initial award announcements. Additional awards under this program will be announced in the coming weeks. Projects receiving awards include construction of new affordable housing, improvements to existing properties, and assistance for those experiencing mental health problems while homeless. Housing insecurity issues were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to more individuals and families facing uncertainty about their living situation. Each project was chosen following a competitive application process.

Awards:

▪ 3Keys, Inc.: $4,930,601.00
▪ Advocates for Bartow’s Children, Inc.: $2,695,000.00
▪ Athens Area Habitat for Humanity, Inc.: $4,326,703.00
▪ Atlanta Land Trust: $808,427.00
▪ Decatur Housing Initiatives Corporation: $2,000,000.00
▪ Ebenezer Building Foundation: $5,000,000.00
▪ Focused Community Strategies:$2,500,000.00
▪ Georgia Works, Inc.: $5,000,000.00
▪ Habitat For Humanity Troup County, Inc.: $1,861,400.00
▪ Housing Economic Reinvestment Opportunities, Inc.: $3,850,000.00
▪ Houston Co. Habitat for Humanity: $200,000.00
▪ Mercy Housing Southeast: $5,000,000.00
▪ MicroLife Institute Inc.: $2,500,000.00
▪ Paladin, Inc.: $5,000,000.00 (Cherokee County)
▪ Paladin, Inc.: $1,987,114.00 (Manchester City)
▪ Quest Community Development Organization, Inc.: $5,000,000.00
▪ Resource Housing Group, Inc. and Staff: $2,290,000.00
▪ SUMMECH Community Development, Inc.: $1,000,000.00
▪ Tapestry Development Group, Inc.: $1,500,000.00
▪ West Georgia STAR: $5,000,000.00

Additional information on this program can be found here. You may also find information on awards made under OPB’s competitive application process here.

The Rome News Tribune runs a Capoitol Beat News Service story supplemented by local information on homelessness and related issues.

In Floyd County, that housing wage works out to $16.62 an hour, based on the average rent of $864 a month. But renters, 38% of the county’s population, have an estimated mean wage of $14.65 an hour. That puts affordable housing at $762, using the definition of no more than 30% of household income.

The disconnect holds true in most of the surrounding counties.

Polk County workers need $14.12 an hour for the average two-bedroom apartment rent of $704. The mean wage for renters — half earn more, half earn less — is about $13.14 an hour and affordability is at 684 a month. In Chattooga, the housing wage should be $13.54 but the mean wage for renters is $10.58 an hour. In Bartow it’s $24.79 versus $15.92.

Only Gordon County data shows a positive. With the average two-bedroom rent at $704 a month, the housing wage would be $13.54. The mean wage for renters there, according to the NLIHC, is $16.44.

Governor Kemp issued Executive Order 08.29.22.04, suspending from office Miller County Sheriff Richard Morgan after the Sheriff was arrested by the GBI and charged with one count of Sexual Battery and one count of Violation of Oath of by a Public Officer.

From the Associated Press story dated August 12, 2022:

Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents served arrest warrants on Miller County Sheriff Richard Morgan, 54, on Wednesday, the agency said in a news release. The GBI said the area district attorney late last month had asked it to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct involving the sheriff.

The agency said the charges stem from “an incident that took place while on a 911 call,” but gave no further details.

Georgia law defines sexual battery as making physical contact with “the intimate parts of the body of another person” without consent. It is a misdemeanor unless the victim is a child. The violation of oath charge is a felony punishable by one to five years in prison.

Morgan ran against the incumbent sheriff in 2020 and ended up with the job despite losing the election. That’s because then-Sheriff Scott Worsley died from cancer the week before Election Day. Even after his death, Worsley carried the race with 52% of the vote. As the runner-up, Morgan became the new sheriff.

From a GBI Press Release dated August 10, 2022:

The GBI has arrested Miller County Sheriff Rick Morgan, age 54, of Colquitt, GA, and charged him with Sexual Battery and Violation of Oath by Public Officer.

On July 26, 2022, Pataula Judicial Circuit District Attorney Vic McNease requested the GBI to investigate allegations of sexual battery by Miller County Sheriff Rick Morgan. The allegations stem from an incident that took place while on a 911 call in Miller County, GA involving Sheriff Morgan. GBI agents began the investigation and conducted interviews with the victim, multiple witnesses, and collected evidence related to the investigation and allegations. Agents discussed their findings with the District Attorney and ultimately met with a Superior Court Judge to present their evidence and testimony in the case for the alleged offenses.

Two arrest warrants were issued for Miller County Sheriff Rick Morgan for the offenses of Sexual Battery and Violation of Oath by Public Officer. The warrants were executed, and he was arrested and processed on Wednesday morning, August 10, 2022, in Miller County, Georgia. Once complete, the case will be turned over to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

This investigation is active and ongoing.

The Supreme Court of Georgia delayed hearing a dispute over Camden County’s referendum to prevent the County from closing on the purchase of real estate for the planned Spaceport Camden, according to The Brunswick News.

The referendum approved by 72% of Camden County voters in March prevents county officials from closing on the land deal with Union Carbide for the launch site.

Camden officials argue the state constitution forbids residents from repealing county resolutions, and the real estate agreement falls under Georgia’s home rule provision, which grants counties power to enact local laws.

The fear, according to the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, is a ruling against the county could create challenges against city and county governments across the state.

“Such an outcome would have a dramatic impact on ACCG’s 159 county members, from both an operational and cost standpoint,” according to a statement regarding the court ruling. “Counties would have to provide funding for the staffing, equipment, and locations for holding this new category of countywide special elections.”

The referendum gives residents the ability to veto measures like the Camden spaceport, an issue where many people felt they were being ignored as county commissioners pursued a prolonged quest to launch rockets off Georgia’s coast toward sensitive barrier islands, Norins wrote.

“Invalidating this direct-democracy safety valve embedded in our state’s constitution will strip not just the residents of Camden County, but (also) the people in all 159 Georgia counties of their ability to hold their county commissioners accountable more than once every four years,” the legal brief said. “While county commissioners are small in number, they wield tremendous power to legislatively affect the lives of their constituents.”

The state Supreme Court also rejected an appeal by former State Rep. Jeff Lewis related to the state Senate election he lost, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Georgia Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by Republican Jeff Lewis, who was contesting his removal from the state Senate District 52 primary ballot.

Lewis lost the May 24 primary to Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, who took 62.3% of the vote in the three-way race. The state Supreme Court ruled Friday that the results settled the issue.

“Only after the election was held — with Lewis on the ballot and disqualification notices ordered to be removed from polling places — did the superior court issue its ruling that Lewis was not qualified to be a candidate… (B)ecause reversing the superior court’s ruling would ‘be of no benefit’ to Lewis, his appeal is moot,” the order reads.

At issue was his decade-long failure to file campaign finance reports from his time in the Georgia House of Representatives, even though he had more than $75,000 in that account. A new state law bars candidates from qualifying if they have outstanding state fees, fines, taxes or campaign finance reports.

Georgia’s Medical Marijuana program appears stalled, according to 13WMAZ.

This time last year, there were hopes that medical cannabis production and distribution offices would be opening in several spots in Central Georgia and around the state, like the one on Central State Hospital grounds in Milledgeville.
Since then, complaints about the selection process and legal threats to the state threw off the whole schedule.

Allen Peake is a former Republican state representative. He says, “Still no indication at this point that we’re going to have the licenses issued and granted anytime in the near future, unfortunately.”

He says the reasons behind the delay in medical cannabis production are because of lawsuits.

The state gave out only six permits for medical cannabis processors last year. Peake says that anyone was welcome to apply, and almost 60-70 groups did, including his own company Cannatol, which provides cannabis oil to those with debilitating illnesses.

He says that 20 groups who weren’t awarded the cultivation licenses got left out sued, complaining about a lack of fairness and transparency.

“We hadn’t even gotten to step one yet of granting the licenses, and so that’s what’s been really painful to watch through this entire process,” he explains.

Peake says that his company also did not receive a license, but chose not to be a part of the lawsuit because he knew that it would slow down the approval of these permits.

He says he’s been fighting for the legalization of medical marijuana since 2015, and says delays cause suffering.

“Whether it’s the grandfather with Alzheimer’s, or the soccer mom with breast cancer, while it’s frustrating for me as an advocate, it’s even more frustrating for Georgia citizens who continue to live with pain on a daily basis and don’t have the opportunity to improve their quality of life,” he explains.

Peake says he has hopes that change is coming soon as Governor Brian Kemp put a new person in charge of the board over the process.

Allen Peake should be recognized as a hero for his efforts on behalf of Georgia patients.

A Gwinnett County school notified parents of a monkeypox case, according to CBS46 via WTOC.

According to a letter sent home to school families, an “individual at our school” tested positive. The school says they are taking the situation very seriously and the risk of monkeypox transmission in a school setting is “very minimal.”

The individual in question will remain off campus until cleared to return by medical professionals, according to the letter.

The letter also says that if parents were not “specifically notified with separate communication,” their child was not identified as having close contact with a known case.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

A letter went out to parents on Friday to inform them that an individual at the school tested positive for the monkeypox virus. GCPS officials said they could not release information about the person’s gender or age because of federal HIPAA and FERPA laws, but a GNR Public Health spokesman said it was an adult.

The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence announced that domestic violence reports are up, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Data from 2021 shows domestic violence deaths statewide were up 49% from the previous year, according to Jennifer Frantom, development director for SafeHomes of Augusta – from 142 family violence fatalities in 2020 to 212 in 2021.

So far in 2022, 7,404 incidents of domestic violence were reported to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and 447 incidents of domestic violence were reported to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

New data reveals since the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of domestic violence incidents in Georgia continues to rise.

Data from 2021 shows domestic violence deaths statewide were up 49% from the previous year, according to Jennifer Frantom, development director for SafeHomes of Augusta – from 142 family violence fatalities in 2020 to 212 in 2021.

SafeHomes of Augusta, one of 46 state-certified domestic violence centers in Georgia, receives an annual report from Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which lists the names of victims killed in family violence homicides the previous year.

“That tells me there’s a big problem in Georgia,” Frantom said.

Related:’I left because of my kids’: Augusta woman recounts her path in escaping abusive marriage

So far in 2022, 7,404 incidents of domestic violence were reported to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and 447 incidents of domestic violence were reported to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

The largest number of domestic violence incidents in Richmond County this year occurred in the spring months, with 4,497 of the incidents taking place between March and June.

Nationally, the presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide by 500%, according to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Mariah Parker has resigned, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Mariah Parker announced Monday through Twitter that they planned to resign from their District 2 seat effective Wednesday.

The resignation was unexpected.

Contacted Wednesday, Parker said they would expound on their decision more on Wednesday, but that a lot of people have reached out since the Twitter announcement was posted.

Parker set themselves apart early in their political career. When taking their oath of office, they placed their hand on Malcom X’s autobiography rather than the Bible as is tradition.

Chatham County and its municipalities appear headed toward mediation for determining the revenue split of their Local Option Sales Tax, according to the Savannah Morning News.

At the start of July, Chatham County and its municipalities engaged in a series of discussions, aiming to reach a consensus on how funds from Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) – about $1 billion in revenue generated over the next decade – should be distributed between them.

Nearly two months and three negotiating sessions later, the county and the eight cities (which have worked as one group) remain at an impasse, which means they’re likely headed towards the mediation process in September.

That fast-approaching date marks a crucial checkpoint in LOST negotiations. The two parties have until 2022’s end to resolve disputes and agree on their respective LOST shares, if not through mediation, then through nonbinding arbitration or binding arbitration.

Missing the Dec. 31 deadline would have major repercussions for Chatham County’s residents. The jurisdictions would essentially lose the ability to collect the 1% sales tax, which goes toward general funds, resulting in nearly $100 million in lost annual revenue. The likely consequences would be severe hikes to residents’ property taxes to make up for the losses.

Glynn County and the City of Brunswick have begun mediation of their LOST revenue split, according to The Brunswick News.

Both sides had 60 days to reach an agreement once negotiations began June 28 or they would go to non-binding arbitration. If an agreement failed to be reached by the end of the year, voters would have to renew the local LOST tax through referendum.

Ten years ago, the city and county agreement gave the city 27% of the tax and the county 73%. The county also assumed responsibility for animal control, traffic light maintenance and recreation programs in Brunswick. The three programs were estimated to cost another 8% of the tax, giving the city the equivalent of 35%.

Under the new agreement, the county will get 73% of the revenue generated from the 1% tax and the city will get 27%. The county will also continue to provide traffic signal maintenance and animal control services in Brunswick for the next decade.

“We’ll have a memorandum of understanding on city recreation to give to them,” [Glynn County Commission Chair Wayne] Neal said.

“It was extremely important this process of meetings and discussions demonstrate cooperation between county and city leadership and our mutual goal for continued success,” Neal said.

The agreement has to be formally approved by the Brunswick and Glynn County commissions at upcoming meetings.

Dougherty County Commissioners approved a hike in the property tax millage rate, according to WALB.

The commission proposed a 3.549 increase to the millage rate, meaning that the new millage rate will sit at about 19.069 mills.

“We raised the millage rate, we had to. It had to happen. We knew that we were gonna have to do that years ago. We were told that this was going to have to happen, and we all received the information,” said Chris Cohilas, Dougherty County Commission chairman.

Valdosta City Council retained the current property tax millage rate for the new Fiscal Year, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Valdosta City Council adopted the previous year’s millage rate of 7.796, along with five additional mills for property located in the Central Valdosta Development area, and 15.787 mills set by the Valdosta City School System.

Valdosta property owners will also pay on the mills for Lowndes County, the Valdosta-Lowndes Parks and Recreation Authority and the Valdosta-Lowndes County Development Authority, set at 7.961, 1.250 and 1.000 respectively.

City Manager Mark Barber explained to the council that Georgia law, under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, established a formal mechanism that calculates the rollback millage rate for local governments. The information is provided by the Lowndes County Tax Commissioner’s Office to the city with the calculation already determined.

According to Barber, the computed rollback rate was 7.542 and the County Tax Commissioners Office showed an overall increase in the city’s net tax digest of $102,772,686 or 6.3%. The increase is largely attributable to reassessments of real property totaling $52,970,721 and growth in personal property of $91,468,071 with much of this offset by an increase in exemptions of $53,592,433.

“The current digest should generate adequate revenues to fund the Fiscal Year 2022 budget at the rate but may not fully fund the budget at the rollback rate,” he said in his report.

Rome City Commission will meet to discuss a proposed split of LOST revenues, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Dougherty Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Willie Lockette made the case for adding another judge to the Circuit’s bench, according to the Albany Herald.

Currently there are 10,000 pending felony cases in the county, and a quarter of those involve some of the most heinous charges imaginable, from murder to aggravated child molestation, Chief Dougherty Judicial Circuit Judge Willie Lockette told Dougherty County Commissioners on Monday.

Lockette said some 175 defendants who are either denied bail or cannot afford it have been in the county jail for two years at a cost of millions of dollars to taxpayers.

“Over two years, it cost $6 million to keep these individuals (jailed) that we ought to be able to dispose of cases more efficiently,” the judge said. “It costs $18,000 to keep an inmate in jail for one year, $36,000 for two years.

COVID kept courts closed for more than a year after the pandemic hit in spring 2020, but the three Superior Court judges’ workload would be among the highest in the state even without the COVID factor.

If legislation is approved and signed by the governor assigning a fourth judge to the county circuit, it also would receive an additional public defender, assistant district attorney, judicial and law clerk, with nearly all of the cost picked up by the state, he said. The county’s cost would be about $200,000 per year.

“So you’d be looking at adding another $200,000, but if a judge eliminates 11 cases that are in jail for two years, it will easily pay for itself,” Lockette said. “Even though we are losing population, we are increasing in violent crimes at a brisk rate.”

United States Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Atlanta) campaigned in Albany, according to WALB.

It could be Georgia’s closest race on Election Day: Senator Raphael Warnock versus Herschel Walker.

An average of published polls shows Warnock with a slight edge. Because of that, both candidates have stepped up their campaigning. Walker recently came to South Georgia. Now, it’s Warnock’s turn.

Hundreds of people came out to support Warnock as he spoke about what he’s done as senator and his goal if re-elected.

Some of the legislation he’s proud of are the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law this month.

“Which caps the cost of prescription drugs for seniors, so they don’t choose between buying medicine and groceries,” Warnock said.

He acknowledged what the American Rescue Plan, legislation he supported, did for Albany.

“We sent about $53 million to ASU and $22 million to Albany,” said Warnock.

On Monday, he focused on his agenda, funding for HBCUs, creating affordable housing and his pro-choice position — an issue that’s been at the forefront for him and his opponent.

“My opponent has said that he is against reproductive choices, he said no exceptions. The differences between me and my opponent couldn’t be more [stark]. A women’s right to choose is on the line.” said Warnock.

Senator Warnock also appeared in Columbus, according to WTVM.

People gathered at Friendship Baptist Church on Sixth Street as he spoke on his efforts to protect jobs and lower costs for families across the state after the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Warnock also spoke on passing the jobs and competition bill, which was recently signed into law and will invest in domestic manufacturing, protect Georgia jobs and reduce reliance on foreign nations like China.

“We’ve got Fort Benning, we’ve got Columbus State, and I’m glad we passed the jobs and competition act. I would like to see Columbus be one of those regional tech hubs that come out of that build. I think there are a lot of bright minds, sharp young people on the campus of Columbus State.”

Georgia State Patrol won 4th place in an online contest for best looking police livery, according to 13WMAZ.

The Georgia State Patrol has previously won the competition in 2016, 2017 and 2020.

This year’s winner is the Kentucky State Police with 65,169 votes. They will be featured on the cover of the national calendar as well as for the month of January.

Georgia State Patrol came in 4th place with 38,972 votes and will be featured as the image for the month of April.

Their photo features their new Camaro and Dodge Challenger pursuit cars with the championship trophies under the arching oaks at Wormsloe Historic Site near Savannah.

The calendar should be on sale around October 1, for $10 through www.statetroopers.org.

All proceeds go to the AAST Scholarship Foundation. For a full list of the top 13 winners, check out the associations website.

Former Statesboro City Council member William Britt was sentenced in federal court to 33 months in prison after being convicted of tax evasion, according to WSAV.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) sentenced William Britt on Monday to 33 months for evading taxes on several Georgia bars he co-owned. On paper, the businesses were owned by one individual, however, in reality a group of business partners owned them in varying percentages.

Britt along with others, “skimmed cash from the establishments and disbursed it amongst themselves in accordance with their ownership percentages without reporting that income to the IRS,” DOJ said. Britt also ensured the owners file false tax returns and filed false information to an accountant who prepared the businesses’ tax returns.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:

In addition to the prison term, Chief Judge J. Randal Hall of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia ordered Britt to serve three years of supervised release and pay more than $352,000 in restitution.

Britt pleaded guilty to the charges in April

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