Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 18, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 18, 2022

On February 20, 1792, President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act, creating the United States Postal Service.

The act allowed for newspapers to be included in mail deliveries and made it illegal for postal officials to open anyone’s mail.

On February 19, 1807, Aaron Burr was arrested in the Mississippi Territory, in what is now Alabama. Burr had served as Vice President during the first term of President Thomas Jefferson, leaving the administration after the 1804 election; later Jefferson issued a warrant accusing Burr of treason.

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 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the military to remove from military areas any people whose exclusion was “necessary or desirable.” By June 1942, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans had been interned in concentration camps in the western United States. On the same day, the United States War Department announced that a new bomber plant would be built in Marietta, Georgia.

On February 20, 1970, Georgia ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote. The Amendment states:

Section 1. The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Seriously. 1970. Luckily ratification occurred when Tennessee approved adoption of the Amendment on April 18, 1920.

Interestingly, the only case in which the United States Supreme Court has addressed the Nineteenth Amendment arose in Georgia. Breedlove v. Suttles was a suit brought in Fulton County Superior Court concerning the poll tax. Here’s an excerpt:

The tax being upon persons, women may be exempted on the basis of special considerations to which they are naturally entitled. In view of burdens necessarily borne by them for the preservation of the race, the state reasonably may exempt them from poll taxes.

The laws of Georgia declare the husband to be the head of the family and the wife to be subject to him. To subject her to the levy would be to add to his burden. Moreover, Georgia poll taxes are laid to raise money for educational purposes, and it is the father’s duty to provide for education of the children. Discrimination in favor of all women being permissible, appellant may not complain because the tax is laid only upon some or object to registration of women without payment of taxes for previous years.

Privilege of voting is not derived from the United States, but is conferred by the state and, save as restrained by the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments and other provisions of the Federal Constitution, the state may condition suffrage as it deems appropriate.

It is fanciful to suggest that the Georgia law is a mere disguise under which to deny or abridge the right of men to vote on account of their sex. The challenged enactment is not repugnant to the Nineteenth Amendment.

Bless their hearts.

On February 20, 1974, Reg Murphy, an editor for The Atlanta Constitution was kidnapped and held until managing editor G. James Minter delivered $700,000 in ransom. I’m not sure if they’d pay 700 cents to get any employee back nowadays.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The General Assembly does not convene in Session today and next meets as a body on Tuesday, February 22d.

Governor Brian Kemp announced the investment of $13 million in opiate settlement funds, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced the award of $13,081,929 in funds from the State of Georgia’s settlement with McKinsey & Company to be used to address the negative effects of opioid misuse and to invest in opioid abatement strategies. The funds will be utilized to expand Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) availability, increase detoxification service capacity, promote stigma reduction, increase access to naloxone for emergency service providers, and expand training on naloxone to community providers.

“The opioid crisis has affected – either directly or indirectly – almost every Georgia family,” said Governor Brian P. Kemp. “We appreciate the Office of the Attorney General for working to represent the interests of Georgians throughout this litigation, and we look forward to ensuring these funds are leveraged to help us combat the scourge of opioid misuse in our state.”

Funds will be distributed through Memorandums of Understanding between the Department of Law, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), and the Department of Public Health (DPH).

“We are using all tools at our disposal to protect Georgians and to help our state heal from the devastating effects of the opioid crisis,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “This includes holding accountable those who have contributed to this epidemic and securing much-needed resources for victims, families, and communities already struggling with addiction. With the alarming increase in opioid overdose throughout the pandemic, these funds will make an immediate impact by allowing our public health agencies to connect even more Georgians with support services to recover and rebuild their lives.”

Breakdown of Recommendations:

Expand investment into MAT providers

MAT is the use of FDA-approved medications, in combination with counseling, behavioral therapies, and social support to provide a whole-patient approach to the treatment of substance use and opioid use disorders. Benefits of MAT include reducing illicit drug use, disease rates, and overdose events in patients. Further, across the criminal justice system, MAT has been found to reduce criminal activity and arrests, as well as probation revocation and reincarceration. Through the investment of State Targeted Response (STR) and State Opioid Response (SOR) grant funds from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), DBHDD has expanded MAT programs across the state. While DBHDD currently contracts with 24 MAT providers, gaps in access to services still exist.

$4,750,000 will provide for DBHDD to expand funding for MAT service providers, including providers not currently contracted with DBHDD, that already have the training, staff capacity, and ability to offer MAT. DBHDD intends to also utilize funding to ensure sustainability of MAT programs over a three-to-four-year time period.

Enhance capacity for detoxification services

DBHDD contracts with three providers to provide medically monitored residential withdrawal management services, also known as detoxification services, to individuals when a bed at a crisis stabilization unit is not available or is not the most appropriate level of care for an individual. The purpose of detoxification is to provide medical oversight to safely manage withdrawal symptoms for individuals who have stopped using alcohol and certain drugs, specifically opiates. $3,250,000 will allow for DBHDD to contract for detoxification beds with multiple existing detoxification service providers and to invest in system capacity across the state. This increase in bed capacity will reduce the number of individuals waiting for treatment and increases those individuals’ chances of successful recovery.

Implement statewide stigma reduction and opioid abuse public awareness campaign

Stigma surrounding opioid use disorder (OUD) discourages individuals struggling with OUD from accessing services or choosing to work towards recovery.

$2,064,000 will fund a two-year pilot program for DBHDD to create a public awareness campaign to reduce stigma regarding opioid use disorder statewide. The campaign will include formative research, stakeholder outreach and recruitment, campaign execution, and evaluation.

Provide naloxone kits to Emergency Medical Service providers

Emergency Medical Service providers (EMS) personnel indicated to DPH the ongoing need for naloxone kits. $2,017,929 will provide for DPH to distribute approximately 326,000 naloxone kits to EMS providers.

Expand naloxone training and education to service providers

$1,000,000 will support DBHDD’s current SOR-funded program to support training on naloxone administration and safety, specifically among community-based treatment and recovery providers. DBHDD will utilize this investment to focus on educating providers on addiction as a brain disease, creating and sustaining cultures of recovery, and naloxone administration. Additionally, training will focus on bringing providers from all levels of the substance use treatment continuum of care to improve linkages in service and cooperation between providers.

Georgia State Representative Terry England (R-Auburn), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, announced he will not run for reelection, according to the Associated Press via the Valdosta Daily Times.

“Eighteen years in this body has been some of the most meaningful work in my entire life,” England said.

He helps control the spending of $30 billion in state funds, plus tens of billions more in federal money that flows through the state budget. While being a lawmaker in Georgia is supposed to be a part-time job, the House and Senate appropriations leaders work nearly year-round.

Georgia’s budget pays to educate 1.7 million K-12 students and 435,000 college students, house 45,000 state prisoners, pave 18,000 miles (29,000 kilometers) of highways and care for more than 200,000 people who are mentally ill, developmentally disabled or addicted to drugs or alcohol.

England’s longtime counterpart in the Senate was Jack Hill, who died while in office in 2020. Sen. Blake Tillery, a Vidalia Republican, took over as that chamber’s chief budget writer. England’s departure means both budget leaders will be relatively inexperienced.

“Twelve years as appropriations chairman is an awful long time, and quite honestly it takes about the first five or six to know what you’re doing,” England said, adding that the best part of his job has been watching and helping state employees do their jobs.

From the AJC:

When asked why he was giving up his seat, England said: “A lot of it is just the amount of time it takes to do the job and takes to try to do it right. Through this entire pandemic, it has been nonstop. I just realized I am getting tired. I don’t know any other way to put it.”

“I have often said that other than being the speaker, the Appropriations chairman puts in more time during the interim (between sessions) than anyone else,” said House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “I am going to miss him bad.”

“I always believed the speaker needed someone he completely trusted in that position, that he could talk with very openly and would be honest with the advice he gave,” Ralston said. “Terry was on a mission from day one. His work ethic is unparalleled.”

When England took over, the state was still reeling from the Great Recession, and his mission during his early years was to find ways to further cut what was already a pared down budget.

When the pandemic hit Georgia in March 2020 and the economy shut down, England talked almost daily with longtime Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, his mentor in the budgeting process, and Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget director, Kelly Farr, trying to figure out how bad things were going to get.

After Hill died in the spring of 2020, England became a mentor to new Senate Appropriations Chairman Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia.

“To me, he has been a teacher, a brother, a friend,” Tillery said.

“It was always clear how deeply he understood the impact state dollars could have on core priorities, like agriculture and education,” [Acting University System of Georgia Chancellor Theresa MacCartney] said. “Today, our students and campuses across the state benefit from his insight and work to make education accessible to communities across Georgia.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Athens Banner Herald:

“This past 18 years, especially the last 12, have taught me so much about this state that I love so much,” England told his House colleagues from the well of the chamber. “The last 12 have allowed me to be a part of helping so many citizens, not only in Barrow County, but across our wonderful state.”

England has lent valuable continuity to the budget process in the General Assembly since the death of veteran Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Hill two years ago.

“Throughout the pandemic, he has been a valued and trusted partner in addressing the needs of our state and the unprecedented challenges we’ve faced,” Gov. Brian Kemp said Thursday.

“This is on top of the measured and skilled management he brought to the budgetary process as Georgia battled the Great Recession. That quality of leadership and willingness to collaborate is invaluable.”

Senate Bill 369, to make Gwinnett County Board of Education elections nonpartisan, passed the State House, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

On Thursday, the Georgia House of Representatives voted 95-61 in favor of the bill.

Governor Kemp still has to sign the bill into law but supports the Republican-backed bill.

Once approved, it would take effect for this year’s elections. Names of school board candidates will appear on the ballots without party affiliation. In addition, school board elections would be held during the primary elections, removing the board seats from the November general ballot.

“The education of our children should be a nonpartisan issue,” said Sen. Clint Dixon of Buford, the measure’s Republican sponsor. “We need to get politics out of our schools.”

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

That means this year’s school board elections for the seats currently held by board members Steve Knudsen and Everton Blair would be decided solely this spring, and would not appear on the November ballot.

State law stipulates that nonpartisan county elections must be held on the same ballot as the party primary elections. Those elections are currently held every other year — in even-numbered years — in May.

Effectively, the school board elections would be treated the same as judicial elections, which are also held in conjunction with the primary election.

The Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee heard four bills addressing legalizing pari-mutuel betting, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

Supporters came armed with a report from Georgia Southern University projecting horse racing – including the breeding and raising of racing thoroughbreds – would create 15,800 jobs in Georgia during its first decade, generating $1.28 billion in economic impact.

Those numbers are based on provisions in one of the bills calling for the construction of three racetracks, one in metro Atlanta and two in other parts of Georgia. Each track would hold 60 days of racing annually for a total of 180 racing days.

“The majority of these jobs would be agricultural. It will be great for our rural areas,” said Sen. Billy Hickman, R-Statesboro, who raises and breeds horses and is a cosponsor of one of the Senate bills.

“Today’s horse tracks are a bankrupt business model unless they’re transformed into casinos with slots,” said John Kindt, a retired business professor who has written extensively on the dangers associated with legalized gambling.

“This will bring [gambling] addictions, bankruptcies and broken homes,” added Paul Smith, executive director of Citizen Impact, a Georgia-based Christian public policy nonprofit.

The committee took no action on the bills Thursday. Committee Chairman Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, said he would like to hold an additional hearing to go over the bills in more detail.

Senate Bill 389 by Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) would require “panic buttons” for employees in the hotel and motel industry, according to The Brunswick News.

Dubbed the Panic Button Bill, the purpose of the legislation is to make the warning devices available to guest service workers as a means to protect themselves from sexual harassment and assault.

The bill was read Jan. 27 and has been referred to the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee for consideration.

Senate Bill 346 by Senate Rules Committee Chair Jeff Mullis (R-Upper Left Corner) passed the Senate, and would prohibit state contracts from going to Chinese-government owned companies, according to the AJC.

Senate Bill 346 passed 32-20 on a nearly party-line vote, with Atlanta state Sen. Jen Jordan being the only Democrat to support the measure.

Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis, a Chickamauga Republican, said he filed the measure to keep Georgia from getting into business with a government that has been accused of human rights violations, harvesting organs of executed inmates and using technology to steal users’ data around the world.

“Americans in the Peach State are impacted by the concern of the technology theft that goes on from the Chinese government every day,” Mullis said.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune:

Senators passed the bill 32-20 during the second week of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, which has drawn worldwide attention to human rights abuses committed by China’s government. The United States and several other countries have refused to send diplomatic delegations to the Olympics, although athletes from those nations are competing.

“China is known for its civil rights violations,” state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, the bill’s chief sponsor, said on the Senate floor Thursday. “Technology theft by the Chinese … is a threat.”

Mullis went on to blame the Chinese government for the coronavirus pandemic, although whether the virus escaped from a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan or from an animal market continues to be a subject of debate.

But Mullis said the Chinese government — not individual businesses — is the target of his bill. “I’m not talking about Chinese companies,” he said. “I’m talking about Chinese government-owned companies.”

United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Corellia) discussed his legislation on Tybee Island beach renourishment, according to WTOC.

Sen. Ossoff says preserving Tybee’s coast is important for public safety and for Georgia’s economy.

He says Tybee’s natural resources and tourism industry are critical to the state. And he says storm surge is a major threat to those.

“We can’t eliminate that threat, nor can we entirely protect the island from that threat. But what we can do is take steps to reinforce the island, reinforce and renourish the beach, and maximize the island’s ability to protect itself when those things do happen,” Sen. Ossoff said.

Bartow County voters will decide whether to implement a property tax discount for seniors 65 or older, according to the Rome News Tribune.

State Reps. Mitchell Scoggins and Matthew Gambill announced Thursday that the enabling legislation passed the General Assembly and is awaiting Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature. The Cartersville Republicans were joined on House Bill 604 by Rep. Trey Kelley, R-Cedartown.

“This bill is a major win for our senior residents in Bartow County, most of whom are on fixed incomes and could really benefit from these tax savings,” said Scoggins, the lead sponsor. “I’m thankful to my Senate colleagues for passing this bill and hope that Bartow County voters will approve this upcoming ballot referendum to help our seniors.”

If approved by local voters, seniors who live in the Bartow County School District would be able to claim a homestead exemption from the assessed value of their home.

Dan Perdue announced he will run for Chairman of the Houston County Commission, according to 13WMAZ.

Dan is a farmer and business owner. Sonny is his dad and David is his cousin.

His decision comes after Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker announced his plans to retire this year.

In Kathleen, dozens of people including county leaders showed up to support Perdue. He already holds the Post 4 commission seat. He plans on resigning from his current seat to run for chairman.

“While there are no shoes that can fill Chairman Stalnaker’s place in this county, my hope is that my size 12 shoes may measure up just a little bit,” Dan Perdue said.

Also retiring this year is Post 2 Commissioner Jay Walker. Houston County voters will fill both seats in November.

He appears to have inherited his father’s hair.

Bibb County Sheriff David Davis will undergo treatment for leukemia, according to 13WMAZ.

According to a news release, Davis has been admitted to Emory University Hospital. It says his prognosis is ‘very good,’ but the treatment will require him to be out of the office.

He first became sheriff in 2012 and has served in the position for three terms now. He most recently won reelection in 2020.

Davis says the cancer diagnosis is something he’s going to overcome and be better for it. He says he loves serving this county and looks forward to getting back in the game real soon

One of the people cheering him on is Mayor Lester Miller. In a statement to 13WMAZ, the mayor said, “We are keeping Sheriff Davis and his family in our prayers and are thankful this was caught early and he’s receiving expert treatment.”

Bibb County Board of Education District 7 member Daryl Morton will run for reelection, according to 41NBC.

Morton has previously served as board president for three years.

He referenced the county’s graduation rate improvement since he’s been on the board, from 58.9%  in 2014 to more than 80% today.

“When Dr. Jones became superintendent, he said he wanted a goal of 90% graduation rate by 2025,” he said. “I think we can do that, so I want to continue to see that grow, and I just want to see general improvement in the performance of our children, and I think we’re committed to making that happen.”

The non-partisan election for Post 7, and also Post 8, is set for May.

Glynn County Commissioners voted to implement an across-the-board pay raise for employees, according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County commissioners Thursday unanimously voted to raise pay across the board, with the lowest paid employees getting three-quarters of the $5.47 million budgeted to support the salary hikes, said David O’Quinn, commission chairman.

“It’s not a top-heavy raise,” he said.

Funding will come from excess Local Option Sales Tax revenue and increases in property values.

The new pay plan includes full-time, part-time and seasonal employees of Glynn County Board of Commissioners. Elected officials, supplemental pay employees, poll workers and elected official offices that do not participate in the Glynn County pay plan are not included. Employees hired after Feb. 18 will be hired at current rates and increased to new entry level rates at the same time as other employees. Employees hired after Feb. 18 that are already earning more than the entry level salary will not receive any other pay adjustments.

Georgia Power announced yet another delay in the schedule to bring on two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

Georgia Power Co. now says the first of two nuclear reactors it’s building at Plant Vogtle near Augusta might not begin generating electricity until as late as March 2023 and the reactors will cost their owners nearly $30 billion.

Southern Co., the Atlanta-based parent of the Georgia utility, made the announcements as it released its annual earnings Thursday. The parent company took a further $920 million loss on the reactors and warned it could have to write off another $460 million depending on how a dispute with Vogtle co-owners turns out.

Georgia Power’s 2.6 million customers are already paying the financing cost of the third and fourth reactors at Vogtle on monthly bills, a total of $3.5 billion through December 2020. Customers could be asked to pay $680 million of the additional construction and financing costs recorded Thursday, although ultimately that will be up to regulators at the Georgia Public Service Commission.

Southern Chief Financial Officer Dan Tucker told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday that the company recognizes it’s committed more than $10 billion to building the plant but may never recover more than the $7.3 billion limit in construction costs set by commissioners.

In totally unrelated news, the challenge to an incumbent Public Service Commissioner has been ended by redistricting an announced opponent from the district in which candidates must reside. From the Associated Press:

The Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee voted 8-3 on Wednesday for Senate Bill 472, which would redraw the utility regulatory body’s five districts. The commission controls how much Georgia Power Co. can charge on electric bills and also regulates private natural gas companies.

Public Service Commissioners are elected by voters statewide, but must live in one of the five districts. Echols, the District 2 Commissioner, is up for reelection to a six-year term this year, while District 3 Commissioner Fitz Johnson, also a Republican, is running for the remaining two years of former Commissioner Chuck Eaton’s term. Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Eaton to a judgeship and named Johnson to replace Eaton.

Democrat Patty Durand of Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County had filed to challenge Echols, but won’t be able to run if lawmakers approve the new map, because her county will be drawn out of Echols district and into Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald’s district. Durand can’t move, because candidates must live in their district for a year before November’s election.

Durand told The Associated Press that the major rejiggering of the map leads her to believe she was targeted. A total of 41 of Georgia’s 159 counties would change districts from the current map, including the Savannah and Macon areas and much of northwest Georgia, in addition to Gwinnett. She said lawmakers could have moved as few as six counties to get five districts of roughly 2.1 million people.

Residents in Gwinnett County, as well as in 10 middle Georgia counties, including Bibb and Houston, would go 10 years without being able to run for a commission seat under the proposed changes.

 

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