Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 15, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 15, 2021

On December 15, 1791, Virginia ratified the Bill of Rights, giving the first ten Amendments a three-quarter majority required to become law.

On December 15, 1859, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown signed legislation outlawing public execution of criminals. The previous day he signed legislation prohibiting slave owners from freeing their slaves on the owner’s death.

On December 15, 1939, Gone With the Wind held its world premiere at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta.

President Jimmy Carter announced on December 15, 1978 that U.S. diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China would begin on January 1, 1979.

The United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee released a report on December 15, 1998 that recommended impeachment against President Bill Clinton and introduced H.Res. 611.

On December 15, 2016, Republican Tim Echols was sworn in by Gov. Nathan Deal to a second term on the Georgia Public Service Commission.

Lawrenceville celebrates her 200th Birthday today, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Today marks 200 years since Lawrenceville was incorporated as a city, coming just three years after the Georgia legislature established Gwinnett County. The county seat is believed to be the oldest city in metro Atlanta — edging out Decatur by two years.

Lawrenceville is now Gwinnett’s second largest city, with 30,629 people calling it home. The city has also continued to evolve, going from a rural town to a center for the arts and a college town.

The actual bicentennial date will be marked with an event at the recently opened Lawrenceville Arts Center. The event will include a reception as well as 30-minute bicentennial presentation and a special performance of the Aurora Theatre’s Christmas Canteen show.

The city’s name and even the names of three street on the Lawrenceville Square — Perry, Pike and Crogan streets — illustrate the fact that the city was incorporated just a few years after the War of 1812. The city was named for U.S. Navy Capt. James Lawrenceville, who reputedly uttered the phrase “Don’t give up the ship,” now a motto of the Navy, as he was dying during a battle.

Perry, Pike and Crogan streets were named for War of 1812 heroes as well.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia Supreme Court held that no state law nor case law supports the right of private property owners to boot care improperly parked on their property, according to the Associated Press via WTOC.

Property owners don’t have a common-law right to boot unauthorized vehicles on their premises, Georgia’s highest court ruled Tuesday.

The defendants argued on appeal before the Georgia Supreme Court that they had a common-law right to remove vehicles trespassing on their property. They also cited the centuries-old doctrine of “distress damage feasant,” which recognizes a landowner’s right to contain trespassing livestock and hold it until the animal’s owner can be determined and pays the landowner for damage, according to the opinion.

The high court rejected those arguments, saying that the neither that doctrine nor the right to remove trespassing vehicles gives property owners the right to immobilize vehicles on their property.

“Indeed, there appears to be no legal authority recognizing a common-law right to immobilize unauthorized vehicles located on private property and hold them against the owner’s will until payment is received,” Justice Shawn LaGrua wrote.

Some municipalities in Georgia do have ordinances that specifically allow the booting of unauthorized vehicles, but that is not the case everywhere.

From the AJC:

In a unanimous opinion, the Georgia Supreme Court flatly rejected a shopping mall’s assertion that a law established centuries ago allowed it to immobilize cars and trucks until their owners pay a fine to have the boot removed.

The ruling is a victory for Forrest Allen, whose tractor-trailer was booted after he parked it in a DeKalb County shopping center in February 2018. After paying a $650 fee to have the boot removed, he filed suit against Wesley Chapel Crossing and several of the mall’s tenants.

The lawsuit is one of about a dozen pending statewide that challenge a property owner’s right to boot unauthorized vehicles.

A number of municipalities, such as Atlanta, Decatur and Union City, have passed local ordinances that allow unauthorized vehicles to be booted, [Attorney Matt] Wetherington noted. But there are some property owners who are booting cars in areas with no such laws and who are requiring motorists to pay up to $2,600 to have a boot removed, he said.

The Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission has drafted a complaint against Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

An unknown “dark money” campaign  connected to Mayor Hardie Davis was behind a 2018 billboard campaign to build a new James Brown Arena at Regency Mall, according to a revised complaint from the state ethics commission.

The amended complaint, pushed to a later hearing date last week by the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Committee, contends Davis and former Chief of Staff Tonia Gibbons accepted and spent funds on behalf of the campaign while failing to register it with Richmond County Board of Elections.

The signs included the disclaimer, “Paid for by Concerned Citizens of Richmond County,” but the entity wasn’t registered anywhere, including with the elections office, and Davis vehemently denied any involvement with the signs.

The 2018 complaint filed by Republican strategist Dave Barbee targeted the Concerned Citizens group for failing to register. But the amended complaint filed earlier this year by Joseph Cusack, senior staff attorney for the ethics commission, names Davis and Gibbons as responsible for registering the committee and filing subsequent disclosure reports, but failing to do so.

Davis and Gibbons “operated as a dark money ballot committee that sought to subvert registration” with the elections board, the complaint said. They have not returned requests for comment.

Augusta voters last month rejected plans for Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority to issue $230 million in bonds for a new arena downtown.

From WRDW:

Davis says the commission itself didn’t follow the law.

The commission filed the complaint Aug. 18, alleging Davis didn’t file his campaign contribution disclosure reports on time once in 2017, twice in 2018 and again in 2019.

It also alleges he didn’t file one at all in June 2019. The complaint also alleges he failed to file his personal finance statements in 2017 and 2020 and didn’t do it in time in 2018.

It’s not clear to me whether there is one complaint filed by the Commission or two.

Some Georgia State legislators will form a “Freedom Caucus,” modeled on the one that has been so effective in Washington, DC. From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

Eight Republicans introduced themselves as members of the first-ever state level Freedom Caucus, although a national group promised the Georgia affiliate would be the first of many. Lawmakers from more than a dozen other states gathered Tuesday in Atlanta to discuss forming their own state-level groups. All would be modeled on the House Freedom Caucus in Congress, a group that has often found Republican House leadership to be insufficiently conservative for its tastes.

“The state Freedom Caucus will work in each state and among the states to secure rights, to defend liberty, to protect each state’s sovereignty,” said the group’s chairman, Sen. Greg Dolezal of Cumming. “The Biden administration is determined to change seemingly every aspect of the American way of life. We need a local and statewide effort to fight back.”

The Conservative Partnership Institute, launched by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and led in part by former President Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, promises that the network will provide staff support and electoral backing for its members.

Rep. Philip Singleton of Sharpsburg, who has warred openly with House Speaker David Ralston of Blue Ridge, was drawn into a district likely to elect a Democrat in the recent redistricting session. Credited with organizing the group, Singleton said it that often “it’s very easy to isolate those who stand apart” from leadership and that “in Georgia that there’s a there’s a long history of retribution against members that don’t toe the line.” For that reason, leaders said they are only identifying lawmakers who want to be named as part of the group.

From the AJC:

In a press release, CPI says that its goal in supporting the State Freedom Caucus Network is to seed state legislatures across the country with “principled, America-First conservatives.” Among CPI’s top priorities for legislative issues are “election integrity, critical race theory, school choice, vaccine mandates, and police reform.”

Organizers say the Georgia group will start with at least seven Republican members: State Reps. Charlice Byrd, Emory Dunahoo, Sheri Gilligan and Philip Singleton; and state Sens. Greg Dolezal and Burt Jones.

Of those, Jones is the most prominent. He is running for lieutenant governor with Donald Trump’s support, while his GOP rival Butch Miller is pursuing hard-right policies, such as banning ballot drop boxes, to curry favor with conservatives. Jeanne Seaver, a former Trump organizer, is also in the primary.

From another story in the AJC:

With more than 130 Republicans in the state Capitol, seven total seemed like a light turnout. But Singleton said at the event Tuesday, and again in a comment on Facebook, that not all members of the caucus have been made public.

“In Georgia, there’s a long history of retribution against members who don’t toe the line,” Singleton said.

The Sharpsburg Republican said the Freedom Caucus membership “is much deeper and wider than expected.”

But he added, “We’re much stronger if our full strength is not known. So there’s strategic reasons and there’s tactical reasons we’re not listing our membership…and it’s also the way D.C. does it.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R-ish) spoke to the Congressional Committee investigating allegations about January 6th, according to the AJC.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, spoke for the first time publicly about the closed door hearing that was held two weeks ago. During the meeting, Raffensperger talked about the phone call he received from then-President Donald Trump who told him to “find” the votes to overturn Joe Biden’s general election victory in Georgia.

Thompson said that Raffensperger spoke about his efforts to defend the integrity of the state’s election system despite claims from Trump and his allies that the election had been stolen, which was based on falsehoods and misinformation that were all debunked when audits and recounts confirmed Biden’s win.

“In spite of the pressure from President Trump, Mark Meadows and others, he has steadfastly held to that position,” Thompson said.

“Well, obviously if the President called him, if Mark Meadows went to Georgia, if countless other people communicated with him, then clearly he stood his ground and he’s a principal person,” Thompson said. ” And because of that, he’s being criticized by people because he didn’t cheat.”

Floyd County Commissioners named new members to the reconstituted Board of Elections, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The commissioners chose the board members from lists provided by county executive committees of the two local political parties whose candidates for Georgia governor received the most votes in the previous election. At this point, that means two members from the Floyd County Republican Party and two from the Floyd County Democratic Party.

The final fifth member and board chair was chosen by commissioners.

Ralph Davis and Corey Townsend will serve as the Democratic representatives on the board while Pam Peters and Gary Stamper will be the Republican representatives.

The terms will be staggered with Townsend’s and Stamper’s terms expiring in December 2024 and Peters’ and Davis’ terms expiring in December 2022.

Jerry Lee will serve as the board’s nonpartisan chair.

Hall County Commissioners are discussing changing the constitution of the Board of Elections, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners plan to change the selection process for members of the Board of Elections and Registrations to give commissioners more control over the process and bring it into compliance with the state constitution.

In the new proposal, elections board members would be selected by the Board of Commissioners from a list of seven nominees from both the Democratic and Republican parties. Commissioners would select two members from each list of seven, and the chairman of the board would be appointed by the Board of Commissioners.

Currently, two board members are appointed by the Democratic and Republican parties with no involvement from the county. The process of selecting the chairman would not change under the new proposal.

Dougherty County Board of Education members discussed redrawing their district lines, according to WALB.

The Richmond County Board of Education is also working on new election district lines, according to WRDW.

Augusta’s redistricting map is in the hands of the Richmond County Board of Education.

It’s already made its way through the redistricting committee and the Augusta Commission. The school board is the last stop before heading to state lawmakers in Atlanta.

The new map will determine the voting and representation districts for both the Augusta Commission and the Richmond County Board of Education. Lines have to be redrawn every 10 years to ensure that each district has the same population.

United States Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Atlanta) wants Congress to stay in session to vote on federal voting legislation, according to the AJC.

“We need to acknowledge that the ceiling of our democracy is crashing in on us; it needs to be raised and repaired,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And voting rights needs to be next in the queue. It is the very next thing we should take up. And we should not leave for recess until we at minimum have a clear path that we’ve all agreed on to get there.”

Warnock said he wants a commitment to getting the voting bills passed, although he stopped short of suggesting exactly how the rules should or could be changed to get it done.

Sen. Jon Ossoff said he shares his Georgia counterpart’s opinion that time is of the essence to pass new federal voting laws.

“The urgency of action is a legislative urgency,” Ossoff said. “And Senator Reverend Warnock and I both continue to urge our colleagues to recognize the urgency and to recognize that this moment demands that legislative action now.”

The Hall County Courthouse was temporarily evacuated due to a gas leak, according to AccessWDUN.

Columbus area landlords discussed who is responsible for cleanup after an eviction, according to WTVM.

Some Columbus landlords have an idea to help keep the streets free of trash and debris after someone is evicted from their home. This comes on the heels of a proposed plan to possibly charge landlords $500 for debris removal.

That group brought their idea before city council members today. It would essentially make landlords responsible for cleaning up the waste left behind after evictions.

“We’re falling behind in bulk waste,” said District 5 Councilwoman Charmaine Crabb. “And then also because the eviction moratorium because of COVID. Now, we have more evictions.”

Crabb says at last week’s landlord’s committee meeting, the group suggested giving landlords three business days after an eviction to clean up any trash left behind.

“If they do not pick up the bulk waste on day four, the city will hire a vendor to come in and take care of it,” said Crabb.

As for how much it will cost a landlord to have the city clean up the waste instead, Crabb says on the low-end, it could cost a couple hundred dollars. However, as a landlord herself, she’s paid way more.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson is concerned about rising COVID numbers, according to WSAV.

Mayor Van Johnson said Tuesday, the city of Savannah is “cautiously” evaluating COVID-19 infections and will implement further restrictions if infections continue rising.

For the first time in more than a month, the community transmission index — which totals the number of new confirmed cases in the past two weeks per 100,000 residents — surpassed 100, noting a high transmission rate, according to the Coastal Health District.

“It’s very concerning and we’re watching,” Johnson says. “So, I would not be surprised to see additional measures if this continues.” While Johnson said reinstating restrictions is a possibility, the city and its health advisors will hold off on recommendations until it reports a consistent rise in COVID-19 infections.

The Georgia Department of Reveue will upgrade some computer systems, leading to temporary closures, according to WALB.

Starting Thursday, Dec. 30, the Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR) will begin a system upgrade to the state’s Driver Record and Integrated Vehicle Enterprise System (DRIVES) to improve efficiency and reduce operational costs, according to a press release from Dougherty County officials.

Due to the upgrade, vehicle registrations and titling services, including e-services and tag renewal kiosks, will be unavailable starting at 7 p.m. on Dec. 30 through Jan. 3, 2022.

Vehicle owners with expiration dates in late December and early January are encouraged to renew before Dec. 30 to avoid delays.

The Jekyll Island Authority Board voted unanimously to adopt changes to the Master Plan, according to The Brunswick News.

The board voted unanimously to approve the five-year plan, which updates the 2014 version.

The University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government created the plan using feedback provided through stakeholders, including residents, visitors, authority staff and others.

“A primary focus of this master plan update is the importance of balancing capacity on the island,” said Leigh Elkins, senior public service associate at the institute. “The 2014 plan addressed the revitalization and redevelopment of Jekyll, which has been tremendously successful, and now that success has led to the need to address the capacity issues on the island.”

Jones Hooks, executive director of JIA, said a significant accomplishment in the new plan is the reclassification of 8.45 acres of coastal prairie land to undeveloped.

“That 8.54 acres is so, so prevalent and such a brand of Jekyll Island when you are driving on this island and you can see the ocean,” he said.

Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar will host a Town Hall on Saturday at City Hall, according to the Statesboro Herald.

“This town hall is an opportunity for our community to ask questions and get answers,” McCollar said. “It’s a chance for me to share the exciting projects that the City of Statesboro is currently working on, receive feedback from residents and business owners, and provide a place for open, friendly discourse amongst neighbors.”

Savannah-Chatham County Public School System will use grant money to discuss dating violence, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As a way to help teens develop healthy dating relationships and get ahead of potential abuse, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and the Violence Against Women Act awarded a $41,669 grant to the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System.

The grant will allow the district to purchase informational handouts, visual aids and rack cards about dating violence, and to provide school police and social workers and counselors with resources, such as information packets to share with both middle and high school students.

SCCPSS Board of Education (BOEPD) Chief of Police Terry Enoch said unhealthy relationships can start at an early age, so education is key in preventing violence.

Enoch said over the course of the pandemic, he has seen domestic violence increase among teens. He declined to provide a quantitative number for the level of teen violence that occurs in the district, but he confirmed, “We have seen some, but we don’t see an abundance of it.”

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