Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 14, 2024


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 14, 2024

On February 14, 1779, Lt. Col. Elijah Clarke led a charge against British forces at the Battle of Kettle Creek.

On February 15, 1796, Georgia Governor Jared Irwin and legislators gathered with a crowd for the burning of the “Yazoo Act.”

On February 15, 1898, the battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana harbor, Cuba.

On February 15, 1952 Gov. Herman Talmadge signed a joint resolution directing the purchase of Stone Mountain for development as a Confederate Memorial.

On February 14, 1956, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation calling for the protection, cleaning and maintenance, and display of historic Confederate flags at the State Capitol.

On February 14, 1958, the Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution purporting to censure President Dwight D. Eisenhower for using National Guard troops in the integration of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.

On February 14, 1977, the B-52s played their first gig at a Valentine’s Day party in Athens.

Later that year, the group began making regular runs in the Wilson family station wagon up to New York City for gigs at seminal New Wave clubs like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s. With Kate and Cindy in their mile-high beehive wigs and 60s thrift-shop best, and Fred looking like a gay, demented golf pro, the B-52s made an immediate impression on the New York scene, and their independently produced single, “Rock Lobster,” became an underground smash.

The B-52s are still in business three decades later, minus Ricky Wilson, who died of AIDS in 1985. Significantly, their success is widely credited for establishing the viability of the Athens, Georgia, music scene, which would produce many minor successes and one massive one—R.E.M.—in the years immediately following the breakthrough of the B-52′s.

On February 14, 2012, we published the first edition of the GaPundit daily political news, featuring dogs. We originally thought that the dogs would be temporary until enough people complained about them that we felt the need to go to once a week. We were surprised that the adoptable dogs have become the signature of GaPundit’s otherwise-political offerings and our greatest success.

On February 15, 2011, Georgia Congressman John Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in the civil rights movement.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Voters in Senate District 30 overwhelmingly elected former State Rep. Tim Bearden (R) to the seat vacated by former State Senator Mike Dugan.

Tim Bearden (R) 4548 58.87%
Renae Bell (R) 862 11.16%
Ashley Kecskes Godwin (D) 1327 17.18%
Robert “Bob” Smith (R) 989 12.80%
TOTAL 7726

From AccessWDUN:

Bearden was elected to the state House four times before former Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him as director of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. Bearden is now the government affairs manager for a billboard company. Bell is a real estate agent, the wife of Haralson County school Superintendent Jerry Bell, and the former chair of the Greater Haralson Chamber of Commerce.

House District 125 voters will return to the polls on March 12, 2024 to select the Trump candidate choose between the top two finishers, after no candidate garnered more than 50% of the vote.

CJ Pearson (R) 1389 30.78%
Gary Richardson (R) 1691 37.47%
Jime Steed (R) 794 17.59%
Kay Turner (D) 612 13.56%
John Turpish (L) 27 0.60%
TOTAL 4513

From the Augusta Chronicle:

With all 17 precincts reporting Tuesday in Columbia and McDuffie counties, Gary Richardson got 1,691 votes (37.47%) and C.J. Pearson got 1,389 (30.78%) in a five-person election pitting three Republicans against a Democrat and a Libertarian.

Republican Jim Steed came in third with 794 votes (17.59%). Democrat Kay Turner received 612 (13.56%), and Libertarian John Turpish got 27 (0.6%).

The District 125 seat, covering western Columbia and northern McDuffie counties, was vacated recently by incumbent Barry Fleming, who resigned to accept a state superior court judgeship with the new Columbia Judicial Circuit.

Of the 17 precincts in the two counties, Richardson, a former District 3 Columbia County commissioner, won 11 of them. Pearson won six.

From WJBF:

Richardson said he was hoping there wouldn’t be a runoff – but with five candidates, the chances of that were slim.

Pearson said he’s happy about the results and to still be in the running.

“We need our representative sitting in that seat, but we’ll get there. It’s just going to take some time,” Richardson said. “We’re in it to win it, and so we’ll just keep plugging and work hard to get there.”

“This was a David versus Goliath fight and David is still standing,” Pearson said. “And over the course of the next few weeks, we look forward to continuing to make this campaign about issues that actually matter to the people of the 125th district.”

From WRDW:

During the three weeks of advance voting, 879 people voted. Officials say 28 of the 35 absentee-by-mail ballots have been received in Columbia County.

From AccessWDUN:

The House race has shaped up as a battle between Pearson and Richardson. Pearson overcame a residency challenge while winning endorsements from hard-right conservatives and campaigning on a Trump aligned-platform. The 21-year-old Pearson has been opposed by Gov. Brian Kemp’s political organization after Pearson helped manage the primary campaign of Kemp challenger Vernon Jones in 2022. Richardson, who can’t run again for county commission because of term limits, is also quite conservative but has run a lower-key campaign, touting his experience in public service.

Members of all parties are running together on the same ballot. If no one wins a majority in the races, the top two candidates would advance to a runoff on March 12, the same day as Georgia’s presidential primary.

From the AJC:

The head-to-head matchup isn’t exactly a proxy battle over Donald Trump since both Republicans are firm supporters of the former president.

But it could test the limits of Pearson’s far-right brand against Richardson’s more conventional conservative approach. And it will help gauge the strength of Kemp’s political network.

Will the fact that the Runoff Election is being held on the same day as the Presidential Preference Primary determine who wins in HD 125? I think it partly will depend on procedural issues like whether the HD 125 Runoff will be on Early Voting ballots.

On a related note, early voting (in-person) for the Presidential Preference Primary begins Monday, February 19, 2024, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Early voting for the presidential primary starts on Monday, Feb. 19, and will end on Friday, March 8.

Georgians will vote in a primary March 12 to help determine the presidential nominees for the Republican and Democratic parties. Residents will need to choose the political party ballot, either Republican or Democrat, that they want to vote on.

Voters can cast their early ballot, in person, at the Lowndes County Board of Elections office, 2808 N. Oak St. Voting hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Early voting will also be available on Saturdays, Feb. 24 and March 2, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and on Sundays, Feb. 25 and March 3, from noon to 5 p.m.

If a voter would prefer to mail in an absentee ballot instead of going to the early voting site, that option’s available too. A voter can request an absentee ballot at the My Voter Page on the Secretary of State’s website,; or they can call or stop in at the Board of Elections office. Absentee ballots must be requested by March 1, and that’s the last day the Board of Elections can mail them out. Completed ballots must be returned by Election Day.

Under the Gold Dome Today

9:00 AM HOUSE Approp Sub General Govt – 406 CLOB
9:00 AM Senate DOT Board Election (CD-07) – Senate Chamber
9:30 AM Senate Reg. Ind. & Utilities – 450 CAP
10:00 AM HOUSE Approp Sub Econ Dev – 341 CAP
10:00 AM HOUSE Approp Sub Higher Ed – 415 CLOB
10:30 AM Senate DOT Board Election (CD-12) – Senate Chamber
12:00 PM Senate Pub Safety: Fulton County Jail Sub – Mezz 1 CAP
12:00 PM Senate Natural Res & Envt – 307 CLOB
1:00 PM Senate Higher Education – 310 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE Reg. Ind. Sub Occup/Prof Lic – 515 CLOB
2:00 PM Senate Insurance & Labor – Mezz 1 CAP
3:00 PM Cancelled – Senate Health & HS – 450 CAP
4:00 PM Cancelled – Senate Finance – Mezz 1 CAP

Under the Gold Dome Tomorrow Thursday – February 15, 2024

TBD Senate Rules – 450 CAP
TBD Senate Urban Affairs – 125 CAP
10:00 AM Senate Floor Session (LD 21) – Senate Chamber
11:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD21) – House Chamber
1:00 PM Senate Children & Families – 307 CLOB
1:00 PM Senate Banking & Financial Inst – 450 CAP
2:00 PM Senate Reg. Ind. & Utilities – 450 CAP
2:00 PM Senate Science & Technology – 310 CLOB
3:00 PM HOUSE Greene Sub Pub Safety – 515 CLOB
3:00 PM Senate Public Safety – 450 CAP
3:30 PM HOUSE Hong Sub Judy Non-Civil – 606 CLOB
4:00 PM Senate Judiciary – 307 CLOB
5:00 PM Senate Ethics – 310 CLOB

Governor Brian Kemp will send 15-20 National Guard members to Texas to augment a small group already there, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Between 15 and 20 members of the Georgia National Guard will travel to the U.S.-Mexico border this spring to assist border patrol agents in Texas, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced on Tuesday.

They will join the 29 members of the Georgia National Guard who are currently stationed in Texas to help set up a command post at the border.

Kemp’s announcement comes in response to what Republican lawmakers in both chambers of the Georgia legislature are calling a “national immigration crisis.” Kemp’s announcement was delivered shortly after resolutions decrying federal immigration policies and pledging support for Texas Gov. Greg Abbot passed in the state House and Senate.

“No one can claim there is not a crisis at our southern border,” Kemp said in his address. “Thanks to the failures of the White House, now every state in the country is a border state.”

Federal crime data indicates that the vast majority — nearly 90% — of those arrested on fentanyl trafficking charges are U.S. citizens. However, lawmakers say that closing the border is a necessary step to curb drug trafficking throughout the U.S., and have called for the reinstatement of two Trump-era border policies: Executive Order 13768 and Proclamation 9844.

Executive Order 13768, which was declared unconstitutional by a U.S. district court in the first year of former President Donald Trump’s presidency, would have cut federal funding for “sanctuary cities” that refused to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Proclamation 9844 declared a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, and allowed the former president to divert billions of dollars from military construction funds to build a border wall. Both orders were overturned by President Joe Biden.

“Our national guard is not going to be going and arresting people. We don’t have those powers,” Kemp said. “We’ll leave that up to the Texas authorities.”

From WSAV:

Kemp said that the influx of illegal immigrants is causing an uptick in gang activity, human trafficking and illegal drugs entering the country. He also told Georgians that illegal immigration will have ripple effects with drug cartels and criminals creeping into our streets and that border patrol arrested 250,000 people in just December alone — and more than 8 million illegal immigrants have crossed the border since 2021.

“We want to support our border,” Kemp said. “This is a national crisis and a national issue. Every state is a border state. We realize that the way to do this is for President Biden to act. We stand ready to work with him if he would just do that.”

“The massive increase in illegal immigration is not a red state issue or a blue state issue. It is an every-state issue including the great state of Georgia,” said Speaker of the House Jon Burns.

Governor Kemp will deploy up to 20 more National Guard troops – in addition to the 30 already stationed there – to build a command post for agents.

“The number of unaccompanied minors that are coming in and what that is going to do to our foster care system, our social services network,” Kemp explained. “You can imagine how that will be in other parts of the state. In some way we are lucky in Georgia that we are not dealing with influxes like in other states like Texas and Arizona.”

Governor Kemp told Georgians that illegal immigration is costing Georgia taxpayers – more than $2 billion due to a 51% increase in fentanyl activity, more ER visits and a burden on taxpayers.

Governor Kemp says the president has all the authority to secure the US border and “it is long past due and time to step up and act” and says Washington needs to secure the whole southern border – not just one state like Texas – to stop illegal immigration.

From AccessWDUN:

The Georgia guardsmen are expected to be deployed in the spring and will be comprised of those with engineering, mechanical and general-purpose skills.

While deployed guardsmen will assist in the construction of a forward command post on the Texas border with Mexico.

Georgia Guard leadership will work with Texas Guard leadership in the coming weeks to tailor the mission to Texas’ official request for assistance and the evolving conditions on the border.

“The Biden administration’s complete and total failure to secure our border has left our nation and our home state unsafe, while drugs continue to pour in across the border,” Lt. Governor Burt Jones said. “More families are ripped apart due to substance abuse, and an influx of unaccompanied children is impacting Georgia’s foster care system. We will continue to work with Commissioner Broce to ensure this system has all the necessary tools to address this critical issue. I am proud of the steps we are taking here in Georgia and I fully support Governor Kemp’s and our state agencies’ efforts to combat an issue created and exacerbated by failed leadership in D.C.”

The Georgia State Senate and House of Representatives voted on and passed resolutions this week to reaffirm Georgia’s support for Texas and its right to defend its border.

“Illegal immigration is not a red state or a blue state issue — it is an every state issue, and that includes right here in Georgia,” Speaker of the House Jon Burns said. “The massive increase in illegal immigration has caused a humanitarian, public safety, and economic crisis across the country — and cannot continue. House Resolution 1019 is our pledge to Governor Kemp and the people of Georgia that we stand united against lawlessness at our border and in support of legal immigration, affirming our commitment to safeguarding our state’s interests and upholding the rule of law.”

Under Kemp’s leadership, Georgia joined the American Governors’ Border Strike Task Force.

From WRDW:

[Gov. Kemp] said in a Capitol news conference the troops will help build a forward operating base near the border with Mexico. They’ll offer technical and engineering expertise when they’re sent this spring.

He said it’s necessary because of the number of dangerous drugs like fentanyl crossing the border, as well as people coming into the U.S. without legal permission.

Kemp is recently back from a trip to the border, his fifth since taking office.

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones spoke after Kemp, saying it’s impossible to know just how many people are crossing the border illegally.

“More families are ripped apart due to substance abuse, and an influx of unaccompanied children is impacting Georgia’s foster care system,” he said.

Following up after Jones at the microphone was House Speaker Jon Burns, who pledged help from legislators.

“Gov. Kemp, we’ve got your back,” the Screven County Republican said.

Governor Kemp signed Senate Bill 333 by Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Buford), setting up a referendum to incorporate a new City of Mulberry in Gwinnett County, according to AccessWDUN.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 333 Tuesday, which allows residents to vote on the incorporation of the city of Mulberry. The bill cleared both the State Senate and House earlier this month.

In an interview last week with WDUN, Georgia House Majority Leader Chuck Efstration (R-Auburn) said the timing of the governor’s signature could dictate when the measure would go on the ballot. He said it could be as early as May.

“If the governor signs the bill (this week), then it would be on the May primary ballot,” Efstration said. “If it is passed on the May ballot, then council members would actually be elected on the November ballot this year.”

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Georgia House Majority Leader Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, said Gov. Brian Kemp’s office contacted him on Tuesday to notify him that the governor has signed Senate Bill 333 into law. The bill puts a referendum to create the city of Mulberry on the May 21 ballot.

“I’m very pleased that the governor signed Senate Bill 333,” Efstration told the Daily Post. “This is an exciting opportunity for residents of northeast Gwinnett to have local control of planning and zoning without imposing a city property tax.”

The referendum will appear on the general election primary ballots for people who live within the proposed city limits.

If voters approve cityhood, Mulberry will be Gwinnett County’s 17th city. It will also be the largest city in the county in terms of geographic size.

And, Mulberry would be the county’s second largest city, behind only Peachtree Corners, in terms of population with more than 40,000 residents expected to live within its proposed limits.

Efstration worked with state Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, to get legislation through the General Assembly this year. Dixon filed Senate Bill 333 while Efstration filed a House version of the bill.

The city would be limited under the new law to only provide planning and zoning, code enforcement and stormwater management services.

Mulberry would be governed by a five-member city council, which would chose a mayor from among its members to lead the city for two-years at a time.

The timing of the referendum does not leave cityhood supporters much time — just a little over three months — to win over voters and get them to vote “Yes” on cityhood.

“I’m going to be advocating for this new city,” Efstration said. “As a future resident of this new city, I’m an enthusiastic supporter of it and so I plan to be involved in expressing support, but ultimately voters will decide whether the new city will be created.”

Senate Bill 88, the “Parents and Children Protection Act of 2023” by State Sen. Carden Summers (R-Cordele) would require private schools to ask parental perission to address gender issues, and passed out of the Senate Education and Youth Committee with a “Do Pass” recommendation, according to the Associated Press via WRDW.

Senate Bill 88, which majority Republicans on Tuesday passed out of the Senate Education and Youth Committee on a party-line vote, now says private schools would have to obtain written permission from all parents before instruction “addressing issues of gender identity, queer theory, gender ideology, or gender transition.”

“We worked in earnest to make this bill fair while still achieving our goal of making sure children’s parents are involved in a sensitive and often life-changing issue,” said Sen. Carden Summers, a Cordele Republican.

Liberal opponents say the measure, which goes to the full Senate for more debate, remains a thinly veiled attack on LGBTQ+ students.

The measure requires public schools to create policies by Jan. 1, 2025, that would determine how the schools would handle issues of gender identity or a child wanting to dress as a different gender or use a different name.

Public schools that violate the law would have their state aid withheld and be banned from participating in the Georgia High School Association, the state’s main athletic and extracurricular body. Private schools that violate the law would be banned from getting state money provided by vouchers for children with special educational needs. Public school teachers and administrators would be threatened with the loss of their state teaching license.

From Georgia Recorder:

The latest version of the bill applies differently to public and private schools.

If it becomes law, private schools will not be allowed to implement curriculum or instruction addressing “issues of gender identity, queer theory, gender ideology or gender transition” without getting written permission from a parent. Schools operated by a religious institution are exempt “to the extent that the requirements of this code section would be inconsistent with the religious tenets of the institutions.”

Public school boards would have until Jan. 1 to come up with policies regarding parental involvement on issues of gender identity and gender transition, including what to do when a child brings up questions about their gender identity and when to notify parents and refer to a professional.

The bill also prevents schools from accepting a change to a child’s records based on a gender transition or change in the child’s gender identity without written consent from each of the child’s parents.

The bill passed committee on a 6-3 party line vote during a committee meeting in which proponents were given 15 minutes to speak but opponents did not receive time to talk. Dozens of people attended the meeting.

Gwinnett Republican Sen. Clint Dixon, the committee chair, said the public has commented on previous versions of the bill.

“We’ve had four public hearings that have gone for hours,” he said. “And we’ve vetted this bill very extensively. It’s changed quite a bit based on each public hearing, so the bill we’ve got in front of us is because of all the public comment that we’ve heard over the past year. So this bill, in my opinion, has been vetted very thoroughly.”

If the bill is to become law, it will need to pass the full Senate. Feb 29 is the last day it can do so without unusual legislative maneuvering. It will then need a full House vote and Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature.

From the AJC:

State Sen. Carden Summers, a Cordele Republican, said his bill applied only to those in charge of children younger than the age of consent to ensure parents were included in gender identity conversations.

“The whole bill is about protecting the young people and including their parents to talk to them about gender ideology,” he said.

“This bill is only dealing with us telling private schools what to do,” said state Sen. Sonya Halpern, D-Atlanta. “And it’s interesting because generally in schools you (allow parents to) opt out, and now you specifically have to opt in.”

The bill now goes to the full Senate for its consideration.

Four Georgia State House Democrats introduced legislation to move Georgia elections back to hand-marked paper ballots, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

State Reps. Sam Park, D-Lawrenceville, and Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn, joined Reps. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, and Shea Roberts, D-Atlanta, in filing the “Restore Confidence in Elections Act.” The legislation comes as Georgia prepares to hold its presidential preference primary next month, as well as the general election primary in may and the general election, where the highly contested presidential election will top the ticket, in November.

“Georgia will be one of the most important swing states in 2024,” Park said. “As public servants, we must take all action necessary to protect our elections and restore voter confidence,” said Park, who is also the House Minority Whip. “As we first advocated in 2019, hand marked paper ballots are the gold standard for election integrity according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

“Georgia voters on both sides of the aisle understand the importance of this issue and have demanded we take action. The introduction of this bill demonstrates we are listening to all the people we serve. I encourage Georgia voters to continue to advocate for hand marked paper ballots, and I welcome legislators from both sides of the aisle to do the right thing to protect our Democracy and support this bill.”

The bill’s authors said their proposal would help Georgia align with the Carter Center and Baker Institute for Public Policy’s 2024 Guiding Principles of Election Administration as well as what they described as “the nationally accepted standard configuration.”

The main change to elections in Georgia is that it will make hand-marked ballots the primary way to vote in the state. Voters would have to make an oval mark next to their choice in order for the vote to be counted. The ballots would be counted with existing ballot scanners.

Any recounts performed in the state would have to be done manually, for example. The copying and distribution of voting software, without the permission of the Secretary of State’s Office, would be criminalized as well.

“An added benefit is that hand marked ballots counted by scanners will save millions statewide. The significant cost savings will free up money to address poll worker shortages — real security for a fraction of the cost. The Restore Confidence in Elections Act will end the election controversies and conspiracies and give voters verifiable election outcomes that reflect the will of the voters, no matter the result.”

Chatham County has seen a 45% increase in drug overdose deaths, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Reflecting a nationwide trend, drug overdoses in Chatham County are increasing, according to Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team (CNT) Director Michael Sarhatt.

As of Dec. 20, 2023, CNT had recorded 86 overdose deaths, a year-over-year increase of 45.8%. Between 2021 (46) and 2022 (59), deaths caused by drug overdoses increased by 13, or 28.2%.

“I don’t know if that’s because we’re getting better at recording, or the problems getting worse. And my guess is, it’s a little of both,” said Sarhatt.

Much like the rest of the country, the spike in overdoses in Chatham County can be attributed partially to the widespread availability and use of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is, according to the Federal Food and Drug Administration, “100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin as an analgesic.” Overdoses involving opioids killed more than 80,000 people in 2021, and nearly 88% of those deaths involved synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Although Sarhatt can’t pinpoint how many overdose deaths can be directly attributed to a particular drug because they do not have the toxicology screening results, he estimates that “70 to 80% were fentanyl-related.”

“It’s a combination,” said Sarhatt. “But we are absolutely seeing all those drugs. And there’s a lot of dope on the street right now. A lot. And we know that because the prices are coming down. That’s the first indication.”

The bulk of the fentanyl, Sarhatt said, is coming in from across the U.S.-Mexico border. The drug is originally made in China, then shipped to Mexico, then into the United States.

For the last two years, CNT has supplied all local law enforcement agencies with Narcan, or Naloxone, which is used for the emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose. Uniformed law enforcement officers used Narcan less in 2023, than in 2022 – 348 times in 2023, compared to 384 times in 2022, according to Sarhatt.

Sarhatt attributed that drop to how emergency teams are dispatched. “I think EMS and Fire Department get to the individual first due to how the call is routed. So, the initial dispatch is for medical emergency and not a police emergency.”

Pineview Mayor Brandon Holt‘s home was shot at, according to 13WMAZ.

The home where Pineview Mayor Brandon Holt and his mother live was shot at overnight, according to Wilcox County Sheriff Jeff Wessel.

Wessel said it happened between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning. He says there were multiple shots fired at the house and no one was injured.

It’s not the first time the home has been shot at. Last fall, another drive-by shooting took place at the same house, according to Wessel. Additionally, Holt was a victim in a drive-by shooting in LaGrange in August last year, according to a post on his Facebook.

Holt was also recently arrested and is accused of stealing nearly $65,000 from the city using Cash App, according to arrest warrants obtained in late January.

He is charged with 75 counts of theft by taking. It’s one count for each Cash App transaction between June 26, 2023 to Oct. 11, 2023.

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted to allow the University of Georgia to move forward in creating a new Medical School, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The initiation of a school of medicine at Georgia’s flagship university comes at a time when the state faces a significant shortage of medical professionals. In recent years, Georgia’s population has surged to approximately 11 million residents, straining existing medical infrastructure and resulting in longer wait times for appointments and reduced access to care. Georgia—the nation’s eighth largest state—is forecasted to experience further population growth in the coming years, while nearly one-third of the state’s physicians are nearing retirement.

“This is a very important decision by the Board of Regents and a historic moment for our state and university,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “As a land-grant and sea-grant research university, our commitment to Georgia is unwavering, and the new University of Georgia School of Medicine will expand our positive impact on Georgians in many critical ways. The School of Medicine will significantly expand the pool of medical professionals in Georgia, attract more top-tier scientists and researchers to the state, and produce more physicians to serve underserved and rural Georgia communities.”

The UGA School of Medicine will build on the success of the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership, which has been educating physicians in Athens since 2010. The AU/UGA Medical Partnership is currently the longest-serving medical partnership in the United States; others founded around the same time have already transitioned to independent medical schools, which is the natural evolution for such arrangements. UGA will continue to work closely with the Medical College of Georgia to ensure a smooth transition for current medical students as UGA seeks accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME).

“I am thrilled by the Board of Regents’ decision to authorize UGA to seek an independent school of medicine,” said Dr. Shelley Nuss, campus dean of the AU/UGA Medical Partnership. “By expanding the pipeline of students in medical education, the UGA School of Medicine will help Georgia produce more highly trained physicians, alleviating physician shortages and improving the state’s ability to provide quality health care for its citizens.”

Georgia currently ranks No. 40 among U.S. states for the number of active patient care physicians per capita, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), while it ranks No. 41 for the number of primary care physicians and No. 44 for the number of general surgeons per capita. The shortage of medical providers is particularly acute in rural and underserved areas, where access is even more limited.

The university will leverage its vast public service network — which already serves all 159 counties in the state — to partner with local health care providers, rural hospitals and clinics to extend the school’s impact throughout Georgia. Additionally, area health systems across the state have more than sufficient capacity to serve as additional clinical training sites and have expressed their eagerness to do so.

From the AJC:

Last month, Gov. Brian Kemp recommended spending $50 million in state funds for the medical school’s design and construction. The Georgia House of Representatives last week approved the project as part of its amended budget for the current fiscal year, which Senate appropriators will soon consider.

Officials have estimated the total cost of a new facility to be $100 million, with UGA to provide additional funding. The university pointed to its fundraising prowess in a press release about the board’s vote, saying it brought in more than $240 million in gifts and pledges for various initiatives for the last fiscal year.

Augusta University currently operates the state’s lone public medical college, the Medical College of Georgia. In 2010, Augusta University and UGA partnered to open an Athens campus of the medical college, which currently enrolls 60 students per class.

Sonny Perdue, the University System’s chancellor, said the effort will “help to push our state close to where we need to be regarding physician development and graduation.” Georgia has 36 counties classified by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration as having a high need for primary care practitioners.

Republican Elizabeth Atkins announced she is running for Glynn County Commission for Post 2 (at-large), according to The Brunswick News.

“With thoughtfully designed planning for development throughout the county we can take advantage of our prosperity, beginning with what will work for all income levels in an integrated live-work-play environment,” she said. “In already developed areas, code enforcement will be the norm. In areas that have been neglected, we can attract lovers of historical places to refurbish existing buildings that they buy and restore for their own homes or for resale.”

“Nobody enjoys seeing the disheartened or the desperate loitering aimlessly along our streets and highways, sometimes begging and pleading for help, especially since our law enforcement knows that the vast majority of these poor souls are lost in the hell of drug abuse,” Atkins said. “They clearly need our help, are indeed desperate and, as such, can be dangerous to both themselves and to others at whom they lash out mindlessly, out of control.”

The situation is made worse by locking them up in the Glynn County Detention Center without proper physical and mental health care for their conditions, she continued. She supports a full-time homeless shelter staffed with people qualified to provide that care.

Incumbent Republican Walter Rafolski is also planning to run for reelection. Running as an independent, Laura Khurana will not be on the ballot during the party primaries in May.

Qualification for the 2024 general election is March 4-8. The deadline to register for the party primaries is April 22 and early voting runs from April 27 to May 17. Primary Election Day is May 21.

Funeral arrangements for the late former State Senator Ed Tarver have been set, according to WJBF.

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