Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 16, 2024

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 16, 2024

On February 17, 1739, Thomas Jones wrote to the Georgia Trustees in London of the appalling conditions in Savannah.

“The profanation of the Lord’s Day. When at church in the time of divine service, can hear continual firing of guns by people that are shooting at some game, others carrying burdens on wheelbarrows by the church door.

“The uncommon lewdness practiced by many and gloried in.

“The negligence of officers in permitting several in this town to retail rum and strong liquors, unlicensed, who have no other visible way of livelihood, where servants resort and are encouraged to rob their masters… .

“I need not mention profane swearing and drunkenness, which are not so common here as in some other places, and few are notorious therein, besides Mr. Baliff Parker, who I have seen wallow in the mire….

The Georgia legislature, on February 17, 1783, passed legislation granting land to veterans of Georgia militia who served during the Revolutionary War.

On February 17, 1784, the Georgia legislature passed a bill to increase an earlier formula for settling the state, allotting 200 acres to each head of a family, plus 50 acres for each family member (including up to 10 slaves) up to a maximum of 1000 acres.

Thomas Jefferson was elected Third President of the United States on February 17, 1801. The election was deadlocked for three months between Jefferson and his running-mate Aaron Burr.

On November 4 [1800], the national election was held. When the electoral votes were counted, the Democratic-Federalists emerged with a decisive victory, with Jefferson and Burr each earning 73 votes to Adams’ 65 votes and Pinckney’s 64 votes. John Jay, the governor of New York, received 1 vote.

Because Jefferson and Burr had tied, the election went to the House of Representatives, which began voting on the issue on February 11, 1801. What at first seemed but an electoral technicality–handing Jefferson victory over his running mate–developed into a major constitutional crisis when Federalists in the lame-duck Congress threw their support behind Burr. Jefferson needed a majority of nine states to win, but in the first ballot had only eight states, with Burr winning six states and Maryland and Virginia. Finally, on February 17, a small group of Federalists reasoned that the peaceful transfer of power required that the majority party have its choice as president and voted in Jefferson’s favor. The 35th ballot gave Jefferson victory with 10 votes. Burr received four votes and two states voted blank.

On February 17, 1820, the United States Senate passed the Missouri Compromise to govern the admission of new states as either slave-holding or not.

On February 17, 1854, Georgia Governor Herschel Johnson signed legislation by the Georgia General Assembly placing on the ballot for the next generation the question of whether to move the state capital from Milledgeville to Atlanta.

Alexander Stephens, who was born in Crawfordville, Taliaferro County, Georgia, was inaugurated as Vice President of the Confederate States of America on February 18, 1861. Stephens graduated from Franklin College, later known as the University of Georgia, and served in the Georgia legislature. Stephens opposed Georgia’s secession. One year later, Georgia’s delegation to the Confederate Congress, numbering ten members, was sworn in.

Ina Dillard was born on February 18, 1868 in Oglethorpe County Georgia. She married Richard Russell, who served on the Georgia Court of Appeals and as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. Their son, Richard B. Russell, Jr., would be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, where he served as Speaker and became the youngest Governor of Georgia in the 20th Century. In 1932 he ran for United States Senate and was elected.

In 1936, Russell was elected to his first full term in the Senate over former Governor Eugene Talmadge. In 1952, Russell ran for the Democratic nomination for President and he was an early mentor for Lyndon B. Johnson, who later served as President. Russell served on the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President Kennedy.

Russell served as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee for many years. Russell was an acknowledged leader within the Senate, and especially among Southern members, and he led much of the opposition to civil rights legislation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

On February 16, 1923, Howard Carter and his archaeology party entered the burial chamber of King Tutankhamen.

The steps led to an ancient sealed doorway bearing the name Tutankhamen. When Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered the tomb’s interior chambers on November 26, they were thrilled to find it virtually intact, with its treasures untouched after more than 3,000 years. The men began exploring the four rooms of the tomb, and on February 16, 1923, under the watchful eyes of a number of important officials, Carter opened the door to the last chamber.

Inside lay a sarcophagus with three coffins nested inside one another. The last coffin, made of solid gold, contained the mummified body of King Tut. Among the riches found in the tomb–golden shrines, jewelry, statues, a chariot, weapons, clothing–the perfectly preserved mummy was the most valuable, as it was the first one ever to be discovered. Despite rumors that a curse would befall anyone who disturbed the tomb, its treasures were carefully catalogued, removed and included in a famous traveling exhibition called the “Treasures of Tutankhamen.”

On February 16, 1948, the United States Air Force renamed Robins Air Field to Robins Air Force Base. Robins AFB and the City of Warner Robins are named for Air Force General Augustine Warner Robins.

Fidel Castro was sworn-in as Prime Minister of Cuba on February 16, 1959.

On February 16, 1968, Speaker of the Alabama House of Representative Rankin Fite placed the first 911 call from Haleyville City Hall to Congressman Tom Bevill at the Haleyville police station.

The first portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to hang in the state capitol was unveiled on March 17, 1974 and was replaced in 2006 by the current portrait.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early voting begins Monday, February 19, 2024 in the March 12 Presidential Preference Primary, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Georgia has a presidential preference primary March 12 with three candidates on the Democratic ballot and 11 candidates on the Republican ballot. And the opportunity for in-person early voting begins Monday.

As mandated by current Georgia election law, there will be three weeks for early voting, including two Saturdays. In Bulloch County, the one place to vote early in-person will be the elections office in the County Annex, 113 North Main St., Suite 201, Statesboro. Hours for advance voting will be 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, Feb. 19-March 8, and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24 and Saturday, March 2.

To vote in the presidential preference primary, voters must choose either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party ballot. But Georgia does not have party registration for voters. So choosing a party in the presidential primary will not bind a voter to choose the  same party in any other election, not even Georgia’s May 21 general  primary and nonpartisan general election, Jones confirmed.

The May 21 primary will be for county offices, state legislative seats and U.S.  House seats and also includes a general election for nonpartisan positions such as judgeships and school  board seats. It is entirely separate from the March 12 presidential primary.

If voters aren’t already registered, it’s too late to register to vote in the March 12 presidential primary, since the registration deadline was Feb. 12. However, there’s still time to register to vote or update your registration address or name for the May 21 general primary and nonpartisan general election. That deadline is April 22.

Photo ID is required for all forms of voting. Accepted types include a Georgia driver’s license or valid ID card with photo issued by a branch, department, agency or entity of the state of Georgia, another state; or a valid U.S. passport; or photo employee identification card issued by the U.S. government, this state, or any county, municipality board or authority, or valid U.S. military identification card or tribal identification card with photograph.

Under the Gold Dome Today

TBD Senate Rules – 450 CAP
8:00 AM HOUSE SPECIAL RULES – 415 CLOB
8:00 AM HOUSE EDUCATION – 506 CLOB
8:00 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES – 606 CLOB
8:00 AM HOUSE WAYS & MEANS – 406 CLOB
8:00 AM Senate Veterans, Military, & HS – 307 CLOB
8:30 AM HOUSE RULES – 341 CAP
9:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD22) – House Chamber
9:00 AM Senate Floor Session (LD 22) – Senate Chamber
1:00 PM UPON ADJ – HOUSE Reg Inds Sub Occ / Prof. Lic. – 606 CLOB
1:00 PM HOUSE Public Safety & HS 2-A Sub – 506 CLOB
1:00 PM Senate Reg Ind: Infras & Com Dev Sub – Mezz 1 CAP
1:30 PM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY – 506 CLOB

State Representative Butch Parrish (R-Swainsboro) will Chair the House Rules Committee, according to the AJC.

The new leader of the influential Georgia committee that decides whether bills get votes in the House is state Rep. Butch Parrish, a Republican from Swainsboro who has been a state representative for nearly 40 years.

House Speaker Jon Burns appointed Parrish to the role Thursday. He’ll take over for Rules Chairman Richard Smith, who died last month.

“Throughout my time in the House, I have strived to bring an open mind, focus on the facts and deliver results for my constituents and the people of Georgia — and that’s what I intend to continue to do as Rules chairman,” Parrish said.

Parrish, who was first elected to the House in 1984, has previously served as chairman of the Special Committee on Healthcare and an Appropriations subcommittee on health.

“Chairman Parrish has done an exceptional job representing his district, fighting for our rural communities, and championing policies that lift up every Georgia family — including most recently with his work to improve health care across our state,” said Burns, a Republican from Newington. “He will also carry on the indelible legacy of Chairman Richard Smith.”

Governor Brian Kemp announced on Wednesday that Georgia set a new record for exports, according to a Press Release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp today joined the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) in announcing that the state surpassed $49.7 billion in exports in 2023, eclipsing the record-setting $47 billion in 2022. The state currently ranks seventh in the U.S. for dollar value of trade, facilitating more than $186 billion in total trade to 222 unique countries and territories, and 12th in the country for dollar value of exports.

“For the third year in a row, Georgia has broken every record when it comes to exports, bringing billions of dollars to communities all across the state,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “With an estimated 87 percent of those exports coming from small businesses, these numbers are further evidence of just how Georgia means opportunity for all. International trade touches every county in the state, supporting jobs in logistics, manufacturing, agriculture, and more. You can truly make anything here and reach markets all over the world.”

Top exports for 2023 included civilian aircraft products, motor vehicles, turbojets and turbines, poultry, and chemical woodpulp products. Canada, Mexico, China, Germany, and Singapore were the top destinations for Georgia exports.

“For decades, our international representatives in overseas markets have helped find the right homes for Georgia products and Georgia-made goods. By leveraging their unique understanding of the markets where they’re located, they play a significant role in both the lives of our small businesses and in moving the needle to increase our state’s overall exports,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “These representatives work with our Georgia-based export specialists to ensure that Georgia businesses have an advantage and our economy remains strong. Thanks to support from the General Assembly and local leadership, Georgia will continue to identify new opportunities in the global economy.”

In 2023, the state’s top five bilateral trading partners were Mexico, South Korea, Canada, China and Germany, with notable year-over-year growth in total trade between the State of Georgia and South Korea. The state’s international trade efforts are bolstered by representatives in key markets around the world who facilitate connections between Georgia exporters and their territories. Markets where Georgia maintains full-time representation accounted for 67 percent of exports and 71 percent of bilateral trade in 2023.

“Once again, Georgia punches above our weight in exports as a result of the hard work and dedication of Georgia-based businesses,” said Lizann Grupalo, GDEcD Deputy Commissioner of International Trade. “Trade builds a more resilient economy, allowing businesses to shift their strategies as market opportunities evolve, and has a ripple effect in terms of job creation, with an estimated one in nine jobs in Georgia tied to the logistics industry. We are proud of what Georgia businesses accomplished in 2023, and we look forward to continuing to support opportunities for Georgians in every corner of the state this year.”

To read the full 2023 trade report, click here.

Senate Bill 349 by State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) would limit rising property tax valuations and passed the Senate, according to the Associated Press via the Savannah Morning News.

The state Senate voted 42-7 on Thursday for Senate Bill 349, which would limit increases in a home’s value, as assessed for property tax purposes, to 3% per year. The limit would last as long as owners maintain a homestead exemption, typically as long as they own a home.

Voters would have to approve the plan in a November referendum.

“It is to prevent people from being taxed out of their homes,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, the Rome Republican sponsoring the measure. “Their income is often not going up with the taxes, which are going up by the hundreds or thousands of dollars.”

But it’s not clear if the Senate approach will pass, in part because the House has a different property tax cut plan.

House members earlier this month voted 162-0 for a bill that would increase the statewide homestead tax exemption to $4,000 from the current $2,000. That could save some homeowners $100 a year on the tax bills, but it would not apply in some counties that already have local homestead tax exemptions. It’s unclear how many homeowners the measure would benefit.

Already, at least 39 Georgia counties, 35 cities and 27 school systems have adopted local laws limiting how much assessed values can rise, according to the Association of County Commissions of Georgia. Some of those limits only benefit homeowners 65 or older.

While the county commissioners’ group has endorsed the plan, the Georgia School Board Association opposes it, saying decisions should be made locally. For most taxpayers, school taxes are the largest part of the property tax bill.

Many governments and school districts have spent the windfall from rising values to increase employee pay and cover inflation-swollen expenses. A 3% cap could mean that governments would have to raise tax rates instead. In states including California and Colorado, property tax limits have been blamed for hamstringing local governments.

“Their concern is districts are going to have a challenge keeping teacher salaries in line with inflation,” said state Sen. Nikki Merrit, a Lawrenceville Democrat who opposed the measure.

School districts could raise tax rates to make up for lost growth in property values, but most school districts can’t raise tax rates above a certain level. According to data kept by the Georgia School Superintendents Association, some districts are already at or near the tax rate cap.

Statistics show overall property tax collections rose 41% from 2018 to 2022 in Georgia. During that same period, total assessed value of property statewide rose by nearly 39%. Those Georgia Department of Revenue figures represent not only existing property but also new buildings. So they don’t clearly state how much valuations rose on existing homes.

From the Rome News Tribune:

“A green (yes) vote for the bill is a vote for every homeowner in Georgia,” Majority Leader Steve Gooch of Dahlonega said moments before lawmakers began the tally, which came in at 42 to 7.

The main thrust of Senate Bill 349, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, is to limit property tax increases to no more than 3% a year. It also streamlines the valuation and appeals processes.

“This will get rid of a lot of bureaucracy and let many people stay in their homes, knowing they won’t get a massive tax increase,” Hufstetler said in presenting the bill.

If the measure clears its other hurdles, the proposed 3% cap on property tax increases would be on the ballot in November.

From the Capitol Beat News Service:

The measure also changes provisions relating to public notices of a local government’s intention to increase property taxes, changes the process for appealing a tax assessor’s valuation of a residential property, and alters the process for settlement conferences regarding valuations.

“Our goal has always been to keep costs low for Georgia families,” said Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who presides over the state Senate and made property tax relief a priority for this year’s legislative session. “This bill will make the taxation process both less confusing and less expensive for Georgia taxpayers.”

House Bill 947 by State Rep. Rob Leverett (R-Elberton) passed the House and would address judicial pay, according to the Associated Press via WTVM.

The state House voted 154-13 on Thursday to pass House Bill 947, which would put into law guidelines for raising and standardizing pay. The bill goes on to the Senate for more debate, and lawmakers would have to later budget the money for the increases.

The state would have to spend $21 million next year for all the increases, but House Appropriations Committee Chairman Matt Hatchett, a Dublin Republican, recently told The Associated Press that he anticipates any increases would be phased in over multiple years.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Boggs, in his Feb. 7 State of the Judiciary address to lawmakers said it’s “critical that the state compensate the state’s judges sufficiently to attract good ones and keep them.”

The plan would link top pay for judges to what federal judges in Atlanta make. State Supreme Court justices could see their pay rise from $186,000 to more than $223,000, while Court of Appeals judges could see their pay rise from $185,000 now to $212,000.

The picture is more complicated for superior court judges, who hear cases across Georgia’s 50 judicial circuits. The state now contributes $142,000 a year toward their salaries, but counties give local supplements, with urban counties typically paying more. That means that in Augusta, Columbia County or DeKalb County, superior court judges now make almost $222,000 a year, substantially more than state Supreme Court justices, while in two rural multi-county circuits in eastern and southwestern Georgia, judges make less than $154,000 a year.

State Rep. Rob Leverett, the Elberton Republican sponsoring the bill, told House members that the ability of superior court judges to earn more than Supreme Court justices means pay is “upside down.” And he said there’s no reason for such a wide disparity in superior court judge pay, since the state tries to make sure each judge hears a roughly equal number of cases.

“To put it plainly, there’s no reason that a judge out in a rural area should make so much less than a judge in an urban area,” Leverett said.

Under the proposed system, the state would pay superior court judge as much as $201,000, while counties could add a 10% locality supplement, bringing total pay to $221,000.

Sitting judges would be allowed to keep their current pay if it was higher. The Georgia Constitution doesn’t allow the pay of sitting judges to be decreased during their current term of office. New judges would be required to be paid under the new system.

Complicating adoption is that other judges, district attorneys and public defenders have their pay tied to superior court judges. Under Leverett’s plans, there would be a one-year pause before the pay of affected state court judges and juvenile court judges would rise. During that time, a county could ask its local lawmakers to amend pay of the other judges if it didn’t want to pay them more. Pay for other officials wouldn’t rise until a county acted.

Senate Resolution 579 by State Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) would place a Constitutional Amendment to allow gambling on the statewide ballot and passed the Senate Regulated Industries Committee with a “Do Pass” recommendation, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Ledger-Enquirer.

A proposed constitutional amendment allowing Georgians to vote on whether to legalize sports betting in the Peach State has cleared a state Senate committee. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee unanimously passed the bipartisan measure late Tuesday.

The legislation would create a gaming commission overseen by the Georgia Lottery Corp. to regulate sports betting. Eighty percent of the tax revenue derived from sports betting would go toward Georgia’s HOPE Scholarships and prekindergarten programs. Fifteen percent would be dedicated to programs to combat addictive gambling, and 5% would be used to attract and promote sporting events in the state, a provision sought by a coalition of Atlanta pro sports teams.

Some sports betting bills Georgia lawmakers have considered would not require a constitutional amendment. But supporters of Senate Resolution 579 said Tuesday changing the state Constitution would put sports betting on safer legal ground and assure buy-in from Georgia voters.

“You can never go wrong letting the voters have a vote,” Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, told members of the committee.

The full Senate passed an “enabling” bill earlier this month setting the ground rules for sports betting should Georgia voters approve the constitutional amendment. While Senate Bill 386 was supported by 35 of the 56 senators, constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority of the Senate – 38 votes – to pass.

Senate Resolution 579 now heads to the Senate Rules Committee to schedule a floor vote.

House Bill 1172 by State Rep. James Burchett (R-Waycross) , according to the Georgia Recorder.

That late-session measure prompted an outcry from some landowners and representatives of the state’s prized agriculture industry, who worried the new law designed to enshrine the public’s right to fishing would make operations that withdraw water from rivers vulnerable to lawsuits.

Now, after spending last fall studying the quandary, lawmakers are back considering a potential follow-up bill meant to allay those concerns. Industry groups say they support the new measure, but is the proposed fix creating new problems?

Paddling enthusiasts showed up to a committee meeting Thursday to argue that the new bill will limit the public’s access to Georgia waterways that are deemed “non-navigable,” significantly curtailing the streams where paddlers can venture down.

“Should private property owners on all of these streams have the power to override public freedoms and all the economic benefits that flow from them?” said Suzanne Welander, who is the author of the guidebook “Canoeing and Kayaking Georgia.”

“I just ask you to protect Georgia’s freedom to float by ensuring that any stream, navigable and non-navigable, if it’s capable of floating a boat remains open and accessible to the public.”

Opponents argue that by giving navigable streams the green light for paddling, lawmakers are also implying that non-navigable waterways are off-limits. They say that could have far-reaching implications, limiting access to places like the Yellow River, the Middle Oconee River and the Upper Etowah River.

“If we declare navigable streams to be open, haven’t we by negative implication said non-navigable streams are not? And that is our big concern in the paddling community about this bill,” said Dan McIntyre, who is a paddler and attorney.

Some lawmakers were unconvinced that paddling access would be newly limited by the proposal. The bill’s sponsor, Waycross Republican Rep. James Burchett, said someone would still be able to float down a non-navigable stream. They would just need the property owner’s approval.

“There was never an expansion of the right to go into a non-navigable waterway,” Burchett said to a paddler Thursday. “That doesn’t mean you can’t go. Many people float, fish and hunt on non-navigable streams because the property owner gives permission or does not want to exclude you from doing it.”

Paddlers, though, argue that isn’t practical.

“For non-navigability, we do believe it’d be impossible for us on all the rivers that we traditionally paddle to contact every property owner and ask for permission,” said Carol Reiser-Proctor, who is the past president of the Georgia Canoeing Association, which also represents kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders.

After nearly two hours of debate Thursday, the bill made it out of the House Judiciary Committee but only after the chairman, Blairsville Republican Rep. Stan Gunter, cast a tie-breaking vote.

“This is just the first step in the process. There’s more to go,” Gunter said after the vote.

Burchett argues the thorny issue needs to be resolved to avoid conflicts that can easily escalate when firearms are involved, whether on the part of the outdoorsman or the property owner – or more likely both.

“Because we are a strong private property rights state and we also recognize the importance of our fishermen and hunting folks, we want to balance these interests. Now, this is a delicate balance, folks,” Burchett said.

“We want to, one, allow folks to fish, hunt and pass down our navigable waters, while at the same time maintain people’s personal property rights,” he said.

The bill now goes to the rules committee, which decides which bills move on to the House floor for a vote by the full chamber. Crossover Day, when a bill must clear at least one chamber to have a clear path to becoming law, is Feb. 29.

House Bill 1010 by State Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton) would  and passed the House, according to the Georgia Recorder.

Georgia state workers who grow their families could have more time off to spend with their bundles of joy thanks to a bill sponsored by the powerful House speaker pro tem that passed the House Thursday 153 to 11.

Milton Republican Rep. Jan Jones’ House Bill 1010 would double the amount of parental leave new parents could take each year to 240 hours, or six weeks. The leave would be available to mothers or fathers, whether their addition is a newborn or an adoptee, as long as they’ve been employed for at least six months.

Parents could take the leave within 12 months of the birth or adoption, and they could split the time up if, for example, a parent needed to take time off if the baby needed a minor medical procedure sometime in the first year, Jones said.

“Two-thirds of Georgia state employees are female,” Jones said. “Georgia’s the largest employer within the state, and we compete primarily with medium and larger employers for a workforce that is primarily skilled or educated, and most of us have realized workforce participation is down, and particularly from women, and in no small part due to inflated higher childcare costs that we have today.”

Jones characterized the measure as a way to keep those skilled workers on the state payroll.

The bill will have until March 28 to also pass the Senate, after which Gov. Brian Kemp will decide whether to sign it into law.

The United States Department of Agriculture is pushing states for timely issuance of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, according to Atlanta News First via WTOC.

There’s an urgent call for immediate action from federal leaders to address the backlog of SNAP benefits in Georgia.

The USDA is raising concerns about the challenges states are having getting families the food stamps they rely on, with one of those states being Georgia.

The Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) has attributed the delays to a variety of things, including workforce shortages, being hampered by federal rules and requirements and increased volume for SNAP applications and renewals.

A few days ago, the USDA Secretary sent letters to Governor Brian Kemp, and governors of other states, urging them to take immediate action to ensure families receive their benefits on time.

The Georgia Department of Human Services said in a statement: “We have already implemented efforts in every area suggested in the letter and continue to explore ways to secure more flexibility from our federal partners to process cases more quickly and efficiently.”

Bibb County Commissioner Virgil Watkins confirmed he lives outside his district, but says he can’t be removed for that reason, according to 13WMAZ.

Virgil Watkins has represented west Macon’s District 8 for about 10 years; but in May, he sold his Canterbury Road home.

On Thursday, he confirmed to 13WMAZ that most of the time, he’s living in a downtown Macon apartment. That’s outside his district, and according to [Mayor Lester] Miller, not allowed per the county charter.

Watkins says he rents property in his district but doesn’t live in it, spending most of his time in his downtown apartment.

He says it’s allowed because of a principle called ‘preemption.’

It essentially means counties can’t make stricter requirements than state law.

In this case, Watkins is arguing a set of guidelines published in 2013 say he doesn’t need to live in his district after election.

In particular, he cites an attorney general’s office opinion: “A candidate for the office of county commissioner must be a resident for a period of 12 months prior to his or her election, but does not have to reside in the commission district from which he or she seeks election for that period.”

“State law states that you have to have a one-year residential requirement prior to running, and that’s where state law stops,” Watkins explained. “There have been several clarifications from the secretary of state’s and attorney general’s office to this matter, and claims to county commissioners that the only thing is that you have to live in the county.”

Miller says it’s an outdated law. He says it was updated in 2016 and now allows counties to make their own rules requiring candidates to live in their districts.

In Macon-Bibb County, the charter requires a candidate for county commission to live in their district a year before they run. It also requires them to live in their district during their term.

Habersham County opens a new Elections and Voter Registration Office on Monday, according to AccessWDUN.

Hall County Board of Education member Mark Pettitt announced he will run for Clerk of Courts, according to AccessWDUN.

Republican Hall County Board of Education member Mark Pettitt announced Thursday morning his intention to run for Hall County Clerk of Courts in the May General Primary.

The announcement follows the January announcement that longtime Clerk of Courts, Charles Baker, will retire at the end of his current term in 2024.

“As a Constitutional Conservative, I believe that strong leadership is needed at all levels of government. I am running for Clerk of Court to ensure that the Rule of Law and administration of justice is properly supported in the Hall County Judiciary,” Pettitt said in a release.

Pettitt will see opposition from Chris Slate, the owner of Southern Realty.

He was first elected to the Hall County Board of Education in 2018 to represent South Hall County. Pettitt became the youngest county-wide elected official in Hall County after winning that seat. He was then re-elected in 2022.`

State Rep. Will Wade (R-Dawsonville) was recognized as Legislator of the Year for 2023 by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, according to AccessWDUN.

Representative Will Wade is currently serving as Governor Brian Kemp’s Floor Leader Representative. He also is the representative for District 9, which includes the Dawsonville area, according to officials.

“I extend my gratitude to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board for selecting me as a 2023 Legislator of the Year,” Rep. Wade said. “I am honored to be recognized for my commitment to safeguarding life, championing religious freedom and advocating for the welfare of Georgia’s children. This recognition inspires me to continue serving Georgia’s communities with dedication and passion to build a better future grounded in justice and faith.”

The Georgia Baptist Mission Board serves as a resource for pastors, ministry leaders and churches across the state, offering guidance, resources and training to foster spiritual growth and understanding of the Christian faith, leaders said Thursday.

Wade was elected to District 9 representation in 2020. He also serves as Vice Chairman of the Banks and Banking Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and the Education, Juvenile Justice and State Planning and Community Affairs committees.

A dead Right Whale, the official marine mammal of Georgia, was found off the coast, according to WTOC.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that they found a deceased endangered North Atlantic right whale floating off the coast of Tybee Island.

This species of whale has been endangered since 1970.

The last recorded number of these whales, according to the NOAA was 360 with only 70 of those being reproductive females.

In a statement from the International Fund for Animal Warfare, the organization says, in part, “The death of two juvenile North Atlantic whales within three weeks of each other is heartbreaking and preventable. The right whale graveyard off our eastern seaboard continues to grow and inaction from the administration is digging the graves. While we do not know the cause of this particular death, we know human-related activity is the main threat to the survival of this species.”

From the Current GA:

Researchers on Thursday examined the carcass of a 1-year-old female north Atlantic right whale found dead offshore, looking for clues to her death. The whale is the December 2022 calf of north Atlantic right whale #4340, also known as Pilgrim. The 1-year-old had been seen looking healthy less than two weeks ago.

NOAA Fisheries hired Sea Tow of Savannah to haul the approximately 20,000-pound carcass to the north end of Tybee Thursday. The job required special equipment, including a bridle that was rigged for towing.

At Tybee’s Polk Street beach, local, state and federal scientists examined the carcass, removing pieces of some internal organs including the lungs to check for abnormalities. Results were not immediately available. The yearling was last seen free of gear and any injuries on Feb. 3, 2024, south of Cape Canaveral, Fla., near Daytona Beach Shores. That’s the same place she and her mother spent several weeks in the first few months of 2023. Calves typically stay with their mothers for about a year.

“Give the status of the carcass and the extensive scavenging, interpretation and results may be challenging,” Georgia DNR said in a prepared statement. “In addition, NOAA Fisheries has requested a hindcast which should be available in the coming days to help determine where this whale may have died and how far it has traveled.”

NOAA has proposed an expansion of its speed rules to better protect right whales from vessel strikes, but recreational fishers, harbor pilots and some legislators including U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R- St. Simons) have balked at the added restrictions and NOAA has not finalized them.

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