Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 10, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 10, 2022

On February 10, 1787, the Georgia House of Assembly named William Few, Abraham Baldwin, William Pierce, George Walton, William Houstoun, and Nathaniel Pendleton to the Constitutional Convention called to revise the Articles of Confederation at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

On February 10, 1861, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi received word that he was chosen as President of the Confederate States of America.

On February 10, 1972, David Bowie made his first appearance as Ziggy Stardust.

On February 10, 2015, on the anniversary of the United States House of Representatives passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation proclaiming February as Black History Month.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States District Judge Steve Jones said he might delay Primary elections if he requires new legislative redistricting maps, according to the AJC.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones said in court Wednesday that he would consider the risks to voter confusion and confidence before ruling on lawsuits alleging Georgia’s redistricting discriminated against Black voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Redistricting lawsuits are seeking an additional majority-Black district after new GOP-drawn maps positioned Republicans to gain a seat in Congress, where they currently hold an 8-6 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation.

Delaying the primary could potentially allow Jones to address concerns raised by the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative justices in a redistricting decision earlier this week.

The high court put on hold a lower court ruling that Alabama was required to draw new congressional districts to increase Black voting power, in part because there’s little time to craft new maps before the May 24 primary.

“I could change the whole calendar,” Jones said. “I need to hear all the evidence before I make a decision,” likely soon after court hearings conclude early next week.

The plaintiffs said the May 24 primary could be delayed as late as July 26 and still leave election officials enough time to prepare ballots, test voting machines and meet deadlines to send absentee ballots to overseas and military voters before the general election.

The Candler County Sheriff’s Office has a secret crime-fighting weapon – spurned exes. From WTOC:

If you have an ex who’s wanted by the law, they’re inviting you to send them any info that could help deputies find and arrest them.

“We began to get tips! I got them on Messenger, we had calls here at the office,” Candler County Sheriff John Miles said.

“Bench warrants where they didn’t show up for court, arrest warrants for crimes, probation warrants where they failed to meet the obligations of probation,” Capt. Justin Wells said.

Capt. Wells got the Valentine’s idea from a sheriff’s office in North Carolina. The “package” starts with a pair of shiny bracelets and a chauffeured ride to town. From there, you get a glamorous photo session and at least a one night stay in these accommodations and the meals that go with them. The sheriff says all’s fair in love – and finding bad guys.

If you’ve got information on someone you know is wanted, you can private message them on the sheriff’s Facebook page or call directly to the jail.

Under the Gold Dome Today

TBD – Senate Rules Committee upon Adjournment – 450 CAP

7:00 AM – HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE – 341 CAP

8:00 AM – HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE – 606 CLOB HYBRID

8:00 AM – Senate Ethics Committee- canceled – 307 CLOB

9:00 AM – HOUSE RULES COMMITTEE – 341 CAP

10:00 AM – HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 14) – House Chamber

10:00 AM – Senate Senate Floor Session LD 14 – Senate Chamber

1:00 PM – HOUSE WAYS & MEANS COMMITTEE – 406 CLOB HYBRID

1:00 PM – HOUSE AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMITTEE – 341 CAP HYBRID

1:00 PM – HOUSE Education Academic Support Subcommittee – 606 CLOB HYBRID

1:00 PM – Senate Public Safety Committee – Mezz 1

1:00 PM – Senate Science and Technology Committee – 310 CLOB

1:30 PM – HOUSE Judiciary Gunter Subcommittee – 132 CAP HYBRID

2:00 PM – HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE – 132 CAP HYBRID

2:00 PM – HOUSE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE – 506 CLOB HYBRID

2:00 PM – HOUSE GAME, FISH & PARKS COMMITTEE – 406 CLOB HYBRID

2:00 PM – Senate Transportation Committee – 450 CAP

2:00 PM – Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee – Mezz 1

2:30 PM – HOUSE Governmental Affairs Cityhood Special Subcommittee – 606 CLOB HYBRID

3:00 PM – Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities – 450 CAP

3:30 PM – HOUSE Special Committee on Access to Quality Healthcare – 406 CLOB HYBRID

4:00 PM – Senate Government Oversight Committee- canceled – 450 CAP

The Republican Governors Association will spend $500,000 on ads supporting Governor Brian Kemp, according to the AJC.

For the first time in its history, the Republican Governors Association is financing a TV ad during a party primary to support an incumbent facing a GOP challenger. The group unveiled a pro-Kemp ad Wednesday – and put more than $500,000 behind it.

The ad launched days after Kemp’s top Republican rival, former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, aired his own spot featuring former President Donald Trump’s endorsement. And it underscores a growing proxy war between mainstream GOP groups and Trump’s allies.

Kemp and other Republicans are increasingly attacking Biden – and tying their Democratic adversaries to his administration – as polls indicate his popularity is waning.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released in January showed Biden’s approval rating among registered voters plummeted from 51% in May to 34% this month. Nearly two-thirds of Georgians now disapprove of his performance.

The RGA is one of Kemp’s most important allies in his battle for reelection, and the group has pledged to open its coffers to support his second term. Kemp has built a hefty financial advantage over Perdue – but Democrat Stacey Abrams is outpacing them both.

Governor Kemp announced he will support legislation allowing parents control on whether their children wear masks in schools, according to 11Alive.

“As some school systems continue to ignore the science, concerned parents, and the wellbeing of students, in the coming days my office will be introducing legislation to give parents the final say on masking for their children,” Kemp wrote.

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, the Georgia leader offered more details on the legislative decision.

“On the mask issue, I’ve been very patient,” Kemp said. “I’ve been a local control governor. But, this has gone on for too long. Parents are beyond frustrated in a very small number of districts in our state about young children, especially, being masked.”

“We are working with our floor leaders and the Biden administration to introduce some legislation to address this issue,” Kemp said. “We’ll have more details on that when we have it put together.”

“If you look at the way our cases are right now, they are beyond on the path downward,” Kemp said. “We are rapidly getting back to where we were. Our hospitalizations are dropping statewide. Our hospitalizations have been dropping in the metro areas for weeks now, and it’s starting to do that in south Georgia.”

“People are just beyond frustrated. Nobody seems to be following the data and the science anymore,” Kemp said. “They’re following the politics. At this point in the pandemic, it is my belief that parents have the tools that they need to best take care of their children. That’s why I think we should just let parents decide whether their kids need to be masked or not. They are the ultimate decision-makers for the child’s healthcare.”

“I appreciate what the schools have been doing,” Kemp said. “We’ve been there the whole time helping them get the resources to stay open and keep our kids in the classroom. But now it’s time to do this. Certainly this legislation, I hope, will send a message to those districts.”

Whitfield County Schools are seeing declining COVID numbers, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

After peaking in mid-January, the number of cases of COVID-19 among Whitfield County Schools’ students and staff continues to decline.

“It was a quick and huge rise, and just as quick of a descent, thankfully,” said Superintendent Mike Ewton. That descent is “not complete, yet, but the trend is definitely favorable.”

The week that ended Jan. 21 saw 376 student cases and 80 staff cases, but those numbers dropped to 274 and 34 the following week and declined again, to 95 and 21, last week. Whitfield County Schools has approximately 13,000 students and roughly 1,900 teachers and staff.

Coastal Georgia public school systems also are seeing declining COVID numbers, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) experienced a more than 70% decrease of positive COVID-19 cases among students over the past week.

For the third week in a row, the district didn’t have any school closures.

Similar to Savannah-Chatham public schools, COVID-19 cases are decreasing in public schools in both Bryan and Effingham counties.

Georgia State Senator Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) penned an Op-Ed calling for the renaming of the Talmadge Bridge for the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Atlanta), in the Savannah Morning News.

The time has come for us to rename the Talmadge Bridge in Savannah. It is also time for us to put aside our old thoughts and embrace the future with honor and remembrance of our roads, highways, and bridges.

To that end, I recently introduced Senate Resolution 126, legislation that would rename the landmark span the John R. Lewis Memorial Bridge. The legislation is simple. The effort will be the struggle, but as one of the longest serving African-American senators in the General Assembly, it is nothing I haven’t faced before.

The Eugene Talmadge Bridge was named after a three-term governor of Georgia who was known for having actively promoted segregation and white supremacy, and for advocating for racism in the University System of Georgia.Talmadge’s legacy has caused some in Savannah to oppose him having the prominent honor of the bridge named for him, including Savannah’s City Council.

However, renaming the bridge is decided at the state level by the Legislature, where there is considerably more sympathy for Talmadge.

It is time for the Georgia Legislature and Gov. Brian Kemp to recognize the hurt and distrust we in the African-American community feel when we cross that bridge.  We know who Eugene Talmadge was and we do not respect or support his legacy and we must not honor it.

It is time to heal the wounds of segregation by eliminating the Talmadge Bridge signs and replace them with the John R. Lewis Memorial Bridge.

House Bill 1289 will protect the Okefenokee Swamp by prohibiting surface mining on the Trail Ridge, according to The Brunswick News.

House Bill 1289 would “prohibit the director of the Environmental Protection Division of the Natural Resources Department from issuing, modifying or renewing any permit or accepting any bond to conduct surface mining operations on the geological feature known as Trail Ridge between the St. Marys and Satilla rivers.”

The legislation is sponsored by House committee chairs concerned about the potential risks mining poses to the swamp.

The request of Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals for a permit to mine on a 577-acre tract near the southeast border of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has drawn opposition from environmental groups who are concerned about the potential impacts of mining near the world-famous swamp.

“As a danger to the future of the Okefenokee Swamp, Trail Ridge mining impacts the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples of the area, as well as the historic heritage of the people and communities whose existence has been shaped by the swamp,” the resolution reads.

As many as 700,000 people visit the wildlife refuge each year, creating 753 permanent local jobs and adding $64.7 million to the local economy.

“Over the past year, city councils and commissions around the swamp have adopted local resolutions asking our state legislature to help protect the swamp.” [said Alice Keyes, vice president of coastal conservation for the environmental organization One Hundred Miles.]

They included Valdosta in Lowndes County, Kingsland and St Marys in Camden County, Waycross and Ware County, and Homeland in Charlton County.

“It’s important that the members of the General Assembly hear from their constituents,” she said. “All of us who love the Okefenokee should contact our representatives in the House and Senate and urge them to support HB 1289.”

From the Georgia Recorder:

On the same day that Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia Legislature proclaimed as “Okefenokee Swamp Day,” a bipartisan group of state lawmakers filed a bill Tuesday aimed at protecting the national wildlife refuge from mining operations.

The legislation would block the state Environmental Protection Division from issuing, modifying or renewing surface mining permits on Trial Ridge for any applications submitted or revised after July 1.

The bill is sponsored by Republican Rep. Darlene Taylor of Thomasville and co-sponsored by Savannah Republican Rep. Ron Stephens and signed by 15 other legislators.

Last month, Georgia Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff sent out a statement urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to return the mining proposal back to federal review due to changes in regulations protecting waterways.

Georgia River Network executive director Rena Peck thanked Kemp and other legislators for showing support for the wildlife sanctuary at a critical juncture.

“The (swamp) is a Garden of Eden,” Peck said. “The idea that you could have a bond that would be able to pay for humans messing up the swamp is pretty ludicrous.”

From the AJC:

House Bill 1289 would not stop the consideration or awarding of the mining permits filed by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC., if the state’s Environmental Protection Division approves them before July 1, 2022.

However, it would bar the agency’s director from issuing new permits or amending existing ones after that date. The application being weighed by the EPD is for a 740-acre demonstration mine, and the agency has said that any expansion of the mine would require a new set of permits.

Senate Bill 456 by State Senator Bruce Thompson (R-White) passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, according to the Georgia Recorder.

The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Bruce Thompson, is a response to the Biden administration’s pandemic-loosened rules that allow for mail-order medication abortion. The Food and Drug Administration made the change permanent in December.

The bill was voted out of a Senate committee Wednesday along party lines after a one-hour debate where public comments were limited to two minutes or less.

“This bill is simply intended to protect these women from the reckless actions of those mailing these drugs to women without ensuring she receives the proper and necessary care to ensure her health and safety and that it’s not compromised,” Thompson said.

Under the bill, doctors would be required to perform an in-person physical exam and ultrasound before prescribing medication to induce an abortion, which the bill calls “chemical abortion.”

The doctor would then be required to schedule a follow-up appointment to check for complications and then provide contact information for a second physician who can assist with any unexpected problems.

And providers would also be barred from distributing abortion medication, such as mifepristone, on college campuses and state-owned property.

John Walraven, a lobbyist for the Georgia chapter of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, urged lawmakers to focus the bill more narrowly on requiring an in-person exam before abortion medication can be prescribed – which is what he said most physicians would prefer anyway.

The bill will likely sail through the Senate, where nearly every Republican lawmaker signed onto the bill when it was filed late last week.

It’s unclear how it would fare in the House. When House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, was asked generally about the potential for more abortion restrictions at his pre-session press conference early last month, he said his preference was to hold off until the U.S. Supreme Court settles a Mississippi case.

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

“These drugs were never intended to be provided without the direct involvement of a health-care worker,” Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, the bill’s chief sponsor, told members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. “These drugs were never intended to be delivered through the mail.”

“If we’re going to be a state that values life, we’re going to have to protect women,” added Mike Griffin, public affairs representative for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.

From the AJC:

“We value the health and safety of each person in our state, especially the women that are facing the difficult decision of whether to terminate her pregnancy or not,” said Thompson, who is running for state labor commissioner this year. “This bill is intended to protect these women from the reckless actions of those mailing these drugs to women without ensuring she receives the necessary and required care to ensure her health and safety are not compromised.”

The Biden administration first allowed the drug to be mailed in April. The coronavirus pandemic has caused a rise in doctor’s visits being conducted by phone or online as the Biden administration temporarily waived the requirement for pregnant women to have in-person visits to gain access to the abortion pill. Last month, the Federal Drug Administration made the temporary allowance permanent.

Under the FDA guidelines, doctors must prescribe the abortion pill before it can be sent through the mail, but an in-person visit is not required.

Senate Bill 435 addressing gender in public school sports, was recommended for passage by the Georgia Senate Education and Youth Committee, according to the AJC.

Senate Bill 435 would ban schools from allowing transgender girls from participating in sports that align with their gender identity. The Senate Education and Youth Committee approved the measure on a party-line vote of 6-4, with Republicans voting in favor of the bill.

“This bill is about fairness,” said state Sen. Marty Harbin, a Tyrone Republican who sponsored the measure. “We must only allow biological females to compete in girls sports. This will allow more young girls to achieve their dreams without worrying that they may be competing against those who have an insurmountable genetic advantage.”

This year, SB 435 is co-sponsored by Senate Republican Caucus leaders. Gov. Brian Kemp, who faces a stiff GOP primary fight for reelection, has also hinted at support for such legislation. During his State of the State address last month, Kemp said that it is wrong and dangerous to divide students along political lines, adding it is occurring “from the classroom to the ballfield.”

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

The “Save Girls’ Sports Act” would prohibit biological boys from competing with biological girls, with biology defined as a student’s gender listed on their birth certificate.

To illustrate his point, Harbin said more than 1,400 males have run the mile in fewer than four minutes, while no female has ever accomplished the feat. He said biological high school girls forced to compete against transgender girls lose college scholarship opportunities they might have had otherwise.

But Democrats on the committee said the bill would single out transgender students as different and further endanger a group that already suffers a disproportionate amount of verbal abuse and physical attacks.

“We see transgender students considering suicide at substantial rates higher than other students,” said Sen. Sonya Halpern, D-Atlanta.

House Bill 1154 by State Rep. John Carson (R-Cobb), redistricting Cobb Commission districts, was recommended for passage by the House Governmental Affairs Committee, according to the AJC.

Georgia House Republicans approved new Cobb County commission maps that would shore up two conservative seats, while potentially forcing an incumbent Black Democrat out of office two years before her term ends.

The map’s sponsor, state Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta), said the new district lines would maintain the existing political split of the commission, which is controlled 3-2 by Democrats. And, he insisted race was not a factor in how the districts were redrawn.

“I believe this reflects the political composition of the county,” Carson said.

The proposed commission map would create two conservative districts with white supermajorities in a county that is about half white and half racial minorities. It packs Black and Hispanic voters into the other two districts, which Democrats say has the effect of diluting their political power.

It also could prematurely end the term of District 2 Commissioner Jerica Richardson, a Democrat who represents southeast Cobb. The Republican map draws her into a conservative district held by Republican JoAnn Birrell. And under county law, Richardson could be forced to vacate her seat two years early if she no longer lives in the district.

Carson said he didn’t know any of the commissioners’ home addresses when he proposed the map. “There was no targeting here,” he said.

Camden County residents will vote in this year’s Primary elections on whether to allow the County to proceed with a land purchase for the Camden Spaceport, according to The Brunswick News.

Probate Judge Robert Sweatt Jr. verified in a hearing Tuesday there are enough valid signatures on a petition to hold a special election on March 8 to determine whether county commissioners will be allowed to buy the Union Carbide tract.

There is nothing that would prevent county commissioners from closing on a deal to buy the 4,000-acre site before the special election is held. But opponents said they’d be surprised if the county didn’t give voters an opportunity to end the debate once and for all about public support for the project.

“I don’t think they would try to do that,” said Jim Goodman, one of two people who filed a civil lawsuit to let voters decide the fate of the spaceport. “We’re in competition with the county to let the people decide.”

Camden officials who support the project say a spaceport would bring high-paying jobs, opportunities and great economic gains to the county and its residents.

One concern is the wording of the referendum question, Goodman said, which reads: “Shall the resolutions of the Board of Commissioners of Camden County, Georgia authorizing the Option Contract with Union Carbide Corporation and Camden County’s right and option to purchase the property described therein be repealed.”

People opposed to the spaceport will have to vote “yes” to stop the county from buying the Union Carbide site. Voters will have to vote “no” if they want the county to proceed with a spaceport.

“It’s counter intuitive, but if you want to vote against the spaceport you have to vote yes,” Goodman said. “The citizens will have their say. I’ll live with the results.”

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson will face John Anker in his reelection campaign, according to WTVM.

Mayor Henderson took office in 2018, becoming the Fountain City’s 70th mayor. He won 56% of votes that year and started serving the city in January 2019.

Crime has been and continues to be a big concern during Henderson’s time in office.

“Of course we’re tired of crime,” Henderson said. “We tend to look at crime as a statistic but that’s statistics. These are people. Peoples lives have been interrupted. Absolutely, the entire community is tired of crime.”

John Anker says his number one priority is safe streets and crime reduction.

Anker says he wants to build a culture that “allows dreams to be imagined while providing the opportunity for those dreams to come true”.

Jenkins County residents will see greater broadband availability as the state spends $11.9 million dollars in COVID-relief funds, according to the Statesboro Herald.

“Access to reliable, high speed broadband internet is critical in order for Georgia’s rural communities to continue to attract economic development opportunities and for schools and business to connect to the online resources they require,” said Sen. Max Burns (R – Sylvania). “These funds represent a significant investment in increasing the availability of broadband access state-wide, and I am particularly pleased with the allocations to Jenkins County, an area which is currently underserved by broadband. I want to thank Governor Kemp for his work acquiring these funds and hope to see additional projects like these moving forward.”

In Senate District 23, the following grants were announced:

Jenkins County: $11,907,225 to serve around 1,875 households.

McDuffie County: $3,817,531 to serve around 2,405.

Burns represents the 23rd Senate District, which includes Burke, Glascock, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, McDuffie, Screven and Warren counties and portions of Columbia, Emanuel and Richmond counties.

 

 

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