Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 17, 2020


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 17, 2020

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.

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

Under the Gold Dome Today
7:00 AM Senate Ethics, Subcommittee A – Mezz 1
7:00 AM Senate Ethics, Subcommittee B – 307 CLOB
8:00 AM Senate Government Oversight – 450 CAP
8:00 AM HOUSE Motor Vehicles Driver and Safety Services Subcommittee – 506 CLOB
8:00 AM HOUSE Motor Vehicles Tags and Titles Subcommittee – 506 CLOB
10:00 AM Senate Floor Session (LD 18) – Senate Chamber
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD18) – House Chamber
12:00ish Senate Rules Upon Adjournment – 450 CAP
12:00 PM Senate Urban Affairs – 125 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Natural Resources and Environment – 307 CLOB
1:00 PM Senate Health and Human Services – 450 AP
1:00 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Ad Valorem Subcommittee – 403 CAP
1:30 PM HOUSE Judiciary Scoggins Subcommittee – 132 CAP
1:30 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Income Tax Subcommittee – 403 CAP
2:15 PM Senate Retirement – 450 CAP
2:15 PM Senate Education and Youth – 307 CLOB
2:30 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Tax Revision Subcommittee – 403 CAP
3:30 PM Senate Finance – 450 CAP
4:00 PM Senate Insurance and Labor- Health and Workman’s Comp Subcommittee – Mezz 1
4:45 PM Senate Judiciary – 307 CLOB


SB 52 – Selling and Other Trade Practices; legislative findings; standards for cybersecurity programs to protect businesses from liability; provide (Substitute)(S&T-14th)

SB 81 – Office of College and Career Transitions; change name to the Office of College and Career Academies (H ED-53rd)

SB 88 – Education; Georgia Teacher of the Year shall be invited to serve as advisor ex officio to the State Board of Education; provide (ED&Y-8th)


Modified Structured Rule

HB 90 – Torts; certain persons, firms, or corporations who are buyers of land for conversion of timber shall be exempt from certain liabilities; provide (Substitute)(Judy-Williamson-115th)

HB 130 – Local government; fence detection system; define term (GAff-Gullett-19th)

HB 154 – Domestic relations; protection of children; strengthen, clarify, and update provisions (Substitute)(JuvJ-Reeves-34th)

HB 287 – Education; tobacco and vapor products in course of instruction regarding alcohol and drugs; include (Ed-Rich-97th)

Structured Rule

HB 282 – Ad valorem tax; qualified timberland property; add a definition (Substitute)(W&M-Meeks-178th)

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday announced his support for House Bill 479,  according to the AJC.

At a press conference Tuesday, Kemp rolled out House Bill 479, which would still allow employees at businesses, security officers, private investigators and inspectors at truck scales to detain someone they believe has committed a crime. The bill, being shepherded through the legislative process by Marietta Republican state Rep. Bert Reeves, would also allow off-duty police officers to make arrests when they are not in their jurisdictions.

“This bill repeals the current Civil War-era statute to prevent the terrible consequences of a vague and outdated law,” Kemp said, flanked by a bipartisan group of state House and Senate members, Attorney General Chris Carr and GBI Director Vic Reynolds.

The governor’s plan would replace the roughly 150-year-old statute with a version that includes protections for law enforcement officers and private businesses that detain lawbreakers, Kemp officials said, while also addressing concerns from critics who say it has been systemically abused to disproportionately target Black Georgians.

“The horrific killing of Ahmaud Arbery shook a Georgia community to its very core,” Kemp said. “Ahmaud was a victim of a vigilante style of violence that has no place in Georgia, and some tried to justify the action of his killers by claiming they had the protection of an antiquated law that is ripe for abuse.”

State Rep. Calvin Smyre, a Columbus Democrat who is a co-sponsor of HB 479, said by overhauling citizen’s arrest, lawmakers will take the necessary step after passing hate-crimes legislation to make good on a promise to Arbery’s family that meaningful change would come from his death.

“I can honestly tell you that had not it been for Ahmaud Arbery’s killing, I don’t think I’d be sitting here talking to you today about citizen’s arrest,” Smyre said. “And sometimes when you’re in a reflective mode, you look back and you say, ‘How did we not do this earlier?’ And to me, you just have to continue.”

From Fox5Atlanta:

“Law enforcement officers can still perform arrests outside of their jurisdiction when a crime is committed in front of them, in hot pursuit of an offender or when helping fellow officers. This legislation clearly allows business owners to detain people and turn them over to authorities when crimes are committed on their premises,” said Kemp.

“Like the anti-hate crimes legislation, Reforming Georgia’s Citizens Arrest Statute is first and foremost about who we are as a state. The killing of Ahmaud and others last year rightfully led to calls for change and meaningful action,” said Kemp, who expects the measure to receive bi-partisan support with the passage before the end of the 2021 legislative session.

From WTOC:

“I am proud to announce my administration’s significant reforms to our citizen’s arrest statute to prevent evil acts of vigilantism and keep our communities safe,” said Governor Kemp. “One of the most fundamental rights of any citizen is the right to defend themselves or others, and this legislation does not undermine or infringe on that sacred protection. This bill repeals the current Civil War-era statute in order to prevent the terrible consequences of a vague and outdated law, and clarifies when a citizen, business owner, or law enforcement officer may reasonably detain an individual.”

“I believe it is time for Georgia to take another step toward a better, safer and more just future for our state,” said Gov. Kemp.

WTOC has a section-by-section expanation of the bill.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said during a press conference outlining his legislative priorities, that this session gives lawmakers the opportunity “to build on momentum” of the hate crimes legislation passing and that Arbery’s death was a “tragic catalyst” to take on changes to the citizen’s arrest law.

“I expect an overwhelming number of Georgians expect us to take that position,” he said.

After Kemp’s announcement, the NAACP and the Southern Center for Human Rights commended the Republican governor for his proposal.

“It is high time to repeal Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law,” Marissa Dodson, public policy director at the center, said. “It is unnecessary, dangerous and has held a central role in perpetuating anti-Black vigilante violence both recently and historically.”

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

Since 1863, Georgia’s written law has allowed a private citizen to make an arrest if a crime is committed in the person’s presence “or within their immediate knowledge.”

Advocates say the law is steeped in racism and slavery, and was used to round up suspected escaped slaves and then as a justification for the lynching of African Americans.

Rep. Carl Gilliard, a Democrat from Garden City who was an early proponent of the repealing the law, said ending it would strike at the racist roots of a measure codified by a Georgia slaveholder who died fighting for the Confederacy. He said it would be a fitting tribute to Arbery a year after his death.

“I think it sends a message not only to his family, but all those who cry justice,” Gilliard said, alluding to nationwide protests after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis that also took up Arbery’s cause after a video showing his death was released.

The Jekyll Island Authority Board adopted a resolution opposing the legalization of casinos, according to The Brunswick News.

There is no plan to open casinos on Jekyll Island. The [Board] resolution is in opposition to House Resolution 30 now under consideration by the state legislature.

The [House] resolution calls for a statewide referendum authorizing a limited number of casino resorts.

The legislation does not call specifically for casino gambling on Jekyll. Instead, it seeks to require a vote from local jurisdictions that would be interested in creating casino gambling opportunities.

“I understand that there are three jurisdictions in Georgia that are interested,” said Jones Hooks, JIA executive director. “Nevertheless, there was just recently an editorial in The Brunswick News which expressed concern about casino gambling as it related to Jekyll Island, and as a result of that editorial there was social media discussion about expressing concerns, that is this something that’s being considered for Jekyll Island?”

The JIA resolution reads, in part, that “the Jekyll Island State Park Authority Board of Directors expresses its strong opposition to any thought, discussion or action that would include Jekyll Island as a location for casino gambling; and … in light of Georgia House of Representatives Resolution 30 calling for a statewide referendum authorizing a limited number of casino resorts, that the Jekyll Island Authority Board has not, does not and will not support casino gambling on Jekyll Island.”

The State House passed House Bill 146 by State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) to provide parental leave for state employees, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

State employees and Georgia teachers would be able to take up to three weeks of paid parental leave under legislation the state House of Representatives passed overwhelmingly Tuesday.

The bill, which passed 155-2, would apply to parents following the birth of a child of their own, an adopted child or a foster-care placement.

The House passed the same bill last March, shortly before the General Assembly was forced to take a three-month break because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is something [former] President Trump and Ivanka Trump led on at the national level,” Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens, the legislation’s chief sponsor, told his House colleagues Tuesday. “This is a positive step forward for the state.”

The House also passed House Bill 163 by State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) to bring more children onto the Medicaid rolls, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

Under House Bill 163, children in families that are eligible for food stamps could be enrolled in Georgia’s Medicaid program automatically rather than having to go through the normal application process.

“For many families, this is difficult,” said state Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee and the bill’s chief sponsor. “They don’t have computers, they live in South Georgia where there’s no internet, or don’t have a car to go to the DFCS (Division of Family and Children Services) office.

“We have children today who are eligible for Medicaid but aren’t getting it because of this glitch.”

If it becomes law, the “express lane” bill would allow an estimated 60,000 additional Medicaid-eligible Georgia children to enroll in the joint state-federal health coverage program, according to the nonprofit advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future.

House Bill 286 by State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) would address local governments “defunding” police departments, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Sponsored by state Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens, the bill would limit local governments from reducing funds for police by more than 5% over a 10-year span. It includes exemptions for smaller jurisdictions and for spending on equipment purchases.

“These efforts are underway in our state and certainly something I think we need to fight against,” Gaines said. “We all recognize that supporting law enforcement is of the utmost importance and, in my opinion, the most important role that our local governments have.”

Gaines’ bill cleared the House Governmental Affairs General Government Subcommittee on a party-line vote. It heads to the full committee for another vote before potentially moving to the House floor.

Opposition to the bill came Tuesday from the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, which represent city and county governments. Decisions on police funding should be left to local officials, said Todd Edwards, ACCG’s deputy legislative director.

“Police power is one of our inherent or supplemental powers under the constitution,” Edwards said. “We’d like to maintain our flexibility to fund and manage police forces how our local elected officials – those accountable to the public – feel is the best use of taxpayer dollars.”

The Fulton County Board of Elections voted to fire Elections Director Richard Barron, according to the AJC.

It’s [] unclear whether Fulton commissioners must vote to ratify the decision.

The 3-2 vote to fire Richard Barron came Tuesday, only 8 months removed from polls re-opening for city elections.

No replacement or interim director was named during the special-called meeting, which was hastily scheduled over the weekend after the board made a closed-door vote last week to fire Barron in apparent violation of Georgia’s open meetings law.

A county spokeswoman said officials realized the the vote was invalid shortly afterward.

Elections Board Chairwoman Mary Carole Cooney was one of the two members who voted against firing Barron.

“We have made no provision for a new director,” she said. “Zero.”

Gwinnett County Commissioners are considering decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Commissioner Kirkland Carden pitched the idea of decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana to his colleagues on Tuesday. It doesn’t make marijuana legal, but rather the idea is to target possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, allowing police to issue a citation rather than arresting the person and taking them to jail, which can take the officer off the streets for several hours.

“This came from a conversation I had with (County Administration Glenn Stephens) when we were talking about the monetary and personnel burdens that are put on our law enforcement officers by having, let’s say someone is caught with a joint, to process (the arrested person),” Carden told the other commissioners. “They’ve got to drive down 316 in rush hour, they sit maybe two or three hours in booking to go through that whole process when other municipalities in Georgia, and across the country, have moved to just giving somebody a ticket and keeping it moving.”

The proposed ordinance resolution, which Carden said he had already discussed with fellow Commissioner Ben Ku, would give law enforcement the option to issue a citation that carries a $150 fine or require up to one year of community service.

It would not supersede state law, which carries a stiffer punishment, however.

“There is a state law they can be charged under as well,” the county attorney said. “If you reduce these penalties, and say somebody is involved in a serious accident, or there’s other crimes associated with it, they can still be charged under state law as opposed to this.

“We have the option right now to charge under state law or charge under our county ordinance,” he said.

Commissioner Jasper Watkins expressed concerns about the fairness of implementing the ordinance since it would not apply to someone who recently began serving a sentence on marijuana possession. Since they are already convicted and sentenced, their existing sentence could not be altered by a change in local ordinance.

“That’s a hard bill,” Watkins said. “You have person that’s in there and that met the standard and now you’re telling them they’re in their third month … and they have to stay.”

Some Bulloch County residents want a mask mandate for schools, according to the Statesboro Herald.

An education professor and two mothers of Bulloch County Schools students spoke to the Board of Education Thursday urging that students and employees be required to wear face masks as a COVID-19 preventative measure.

Meanwhile, a petition launched that day seeking the mask mandate has now accumulated more than 550 online signatures. But Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson defended Bulloch County’s existing practice of strongly encouraging but not requiring masks. He drew on a comparison with two other, similar-size Georgia School systems that do have mask mandates.

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