Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 23, 2024

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 23, 2024

The British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act on February 22, 1766.

Georgia’s first Governor Archibald Bulloch died mysteriously on February 22, 1777.

[Bulloch] became a leader in the state’s Liberty Party and was elected to the Commons House of Assembly in 1768, to the post of speaker of the Georgia Royal Assembly in 1772 and finally to the Continental Congress in 1775.

On June 20, 1776, Bulloch was elected the first president and commander in chief of Georgia’s temporary government, posts he held until February 5, 1777, when Georgia adopted its state constitution. Just over three weeks later, on February 22, 1777, Georgia faced a British invasion, and the state’s new government granted Bulloch executive power to head off the British forces. A few hours later, Bulloch was dead. The cause of his death remains unknown but unsubstantiated rumors of his poisoning persist.

[H]e is also known as the great-great-grandfather of America’s 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt.

On February 24, 1803, the United States Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall decided the case of Marbury v. Madison, enunciating the principle of judicial review under which the Court has authority to review Congressional action and hold them unconstitutional.

In writing the decision, John Marshall argued that acts of Congress in conflict with the Constitution are not law and therefore are non-binding to the courts, and that the judiciary’s first responsibility is always to uphold the Constitution. If two laws conflict, Marshall wrote, the court bears responsibility for deciding which law applies in any given case.

President elect Abraham Lincoln arrived in Washington, DC on February 23, 1861.

The United States Congress passed the Legal Tender Act on February 25, 1862, allowing the government to pay its bills with paper money it printed.

Union troops under General George Thomas attacked Confederates led by General Joseph Johnston near Dalton, Georgia on February 24, 1864.

Casualties were light. Thomas suffered fewer than 300 men killed, wounded, or captured, while Johnston lost around 140 troops. The Union generals did learn a valuable lesson, however; a direct attack against Rocky Face Ridge was foolish. Three months later, Sherman, in command after Grant was promoted to commander of all forces, sent part of his army further south to another gap that was undefended by the Confederates. The intelligence garnered from the Battle of Dalton helped pave the way for a Union victory that summer.

The first prisoners of war were moved to Andersonville on February 24, 1864.

On February 26, 1868, the Atlanta City Council offered use of the combined City Hall and Fulton County Courthouse as a temporary capitol if the Constitutional Convention meeting in the city would designate it the capital city.

On February 25, 1870, Hiram Rhoades Revels (R-Missippi) was sworn in as the first African-American Congressman in history.

In 1867, the first Reconstruction Act was passed by a Republican-dominated U.S. Congress, dividing the South into five military districts and granting suffrage to all male citizens, regardless of race. A politically mobilized African American community joined with white allies in the Southern states to elect the Republican party to power, which in turn brought about radical changes across the South. By 1870, all the former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union, and most were controlled by the Republican Party, thanks in large part to the support of African American voters.

On January 20, 1870, Hiram R. Revels was elected by the Mississippi legislature to fill the Senate seat once held by Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy. On February 25, two days after Mississippi was granted representation in Congress for the first time since it seceded in 1861, Revels was sworn in.

On February 25, 1876, the first Georgia state law against abortion was passed.

On February 26, 1877, Governor Alfred Colquitt signed legislation calling a June 1877 election of delegates to a state Constitutional Convention to be held in July of that year.

The Atlanta Journal was first published on February 24, 1883.

The Cyclorama painting of the Battle of Atlanta went on display on Edgewood Avenue on February 22, 1892.

Johnny Cash was born on February 26, 1932.

WW2_Iwo_Jima_flag_raising

On February 23, 1945, United States Marines raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi, the highest point on the Pacific island Iwo Jima.

This first flag-raising was photographed by Marine photographer Sgt. Louis R. Lowery. On Lowery’s way down Mt. Suribachi, he ran into AP photographer Joe Rosenthal and two other Marine photographers, PFC Bob Campbell and PFC Bill Genaust, who was shooting movies, informing them that the flag-raising they were looking for had already occurred, but encouraging them to check out the view from the top of the hill. The three men continued up the volcano.

Once atop Mt. Suribachi, Rosenthal attempted but was unable to find the soldiers involved in the first flag-raising, deciding instead to photograph the second flag-raising, which featured a much bigger and more photogenic Stars and Stripes. Lowery’s film was sent back to military headquarters for processing via ordinary army post–and took a month to arrive. Rosenthal’s film was sent by seaplane to Guam, and sent from there via radio-photo to the United States. The photograph so impressed President Roosevelt that he ordered the men pictured in it to return home for a publicity tour. Rosenthal later won a Pulitzer Prize for the photo, but for years was forced to deny erroneous reports that he personally staged the second flag-raising and attempted to pass it off as the original.

Although the famous photograph has long led people to believe that the flag-raising was a turning point in the fight for Iwo Jima, vicious fighting to control the island actually continued for 31 more days.

Today, the first and second flags flown atop Mt. Suribachi are held at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia.

On February 23, 1954, the first children in the U.S. were inoculated against polio using a vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk.

On February 22, 1976, a series of U.S. Postage stamps commemorating the Bicentennial was issued, featuring the state flags.

GeorgiaFlagStamp1976white

On February 24, 1988, the United States Supreme Court held in the case of Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, that the First Amendment protects publishers against claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress where the plaintiff is a public figure being parodied by the publication.

The World Trade Center in New York City was bombed on February 26, 1993, killing six and causing half-a-billion dollars in damage.

On February 25, 1999, Johnny Isakson was sworn into Congress from the Sixth District, a seat vacated by the resignation of then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Tybee Island has a Black History Trail, according to the Savannah Morning News.

In the 12,000-square-mile stretch of coastal North Carolina to Florida that is the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor lies pieces of Gullah history within the Tybee Island Black History Trail.

The trail, which has 13 stops, documents the arrival of enslaved Africans at Lazaretto Creek Quarantine through the Jim Crow era to the journey to present day Tybee Island. Launching virtually last year, the trail was a collaborative effort between Tybee MLK, the Tybee Historical Society and Georgia Southern University.

It’s a fascinating story, well worth reading in its entirety if you’re interested in Georgia history.

Savannah City Council voted to place an historical marker commemorating the first St. Patrick’s Day parade, according to WTOC.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson says this marker is just a small way to honor an event that’s been a crucial part of this city’s history for the past two centuries.

The street marker will be placed on Montgomery Street, just outside of the City of Savannah’s Robbie Robinson Parking Garage.

As we get closer to the 200th anniversary, Mayor Van Johnson says it’s only right that we recognize the importance of this day.

“We want to be able to mark it for future generations that we were here for the bicentennial observance of the Savannah St. Patrick’s Day parade and how it’s grown, and now it’s become a worldwide phenomenon. People come from all over the world to Savannah. And so, we just want to mark the specialness of this moment here in this time in Savannah, Georgia,” said Mayor Van Johnson, City of Savannah.

Mayor Johnson also says that Savannah is a city that’s built on a strong history, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade being a huge part of that each year, which is why he says it’s especially important to have something in the city marking that recognition.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

WSAV reviews early voting procedures.

To receive an absentee ballot or a paper ballot, you must submit a request. Visiting Georgia’s Secretary of State’s ‘My Voter Page’ or simply going in person to your local election headquarters, are both available options to get the process started. WSAV spoke with Shontay Jones, elections supervisor in Bulloch County, to get more insight about the alternative voting method.

“They can request it for different reasons,” Jones said. “So, no reason, if you’re elderly 65 or older, or physically disabled. When you submit a request, you can fill out the back of the form and opt-in to receive a rollover ballot if you fit those eligibility requirements. We will automatically mail you a ballot for the election cycle.”

Absentee ballot requests include voter identification information and choosing your ballot type, republican, democratic, or non-partisan. This information is reviewed before a ballot is mailed. Once the ballot arrives at your home, be sure to fill out all required information before turning it in to avoid delays. Jones tells News 3 there are ways to check the status of your ballot if you decide to mail it in.

“That’s why I encourage people to be aware and go to their ‘My Voter Page’,” she said. “All of that information is documented there.  So, your ballot is actually being tracked. Log into your ‘MyVoterPage’ after you’ve requested a ballot and once we’ve received it and verified the information, we process it. You can see when we receive that ballot, and you can tell when we mailed it out.”

Jones told News 3 that if you decide to drop your ballot off in person, be mindful of your drop box locations. She told us dropping it off in the wrong location, can put your vote at risk of not being counted.

“If you notice our drop box when we came in, we have a little note on top that says, ‘if you’re returning a ballot from out of the county, you need to mail it to the county that mailed you the ballot.’ we’ve had some confusion in the past where people have dropped their ballots off here at the last minute. we always forward those ballots to the other counties, but then again if they don’t have it by 7 o’clock – it’s not counted.”

March 1 is the last day to request an absentee ballot.

Scientists finally grew a pair. Of testicles. In a lab. From Gray News via WTOC:

“Artificial testicles are a promising model for basic research on testicle development and function, which can be translated into therapeutic applications for disorders of sexual development and infertility,” said researcher Dr. Nitzan Gonen.

In the future, the scientists plan to produce organoids using human samples. A testis produced from human cells could help children being treated for cancer. Development of cancer in boys followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatments leads to 1 in 3 remaining infertile.

Along with basic research, the study suggests that testis organoids could be beneficial in exploring the effects of exposure to opioids, toxins and environmental factors that are known to negatively affect testicle infertility.

I wonder if the General Assembly will want to regulate the procedure.

The General Assembly is in recess on Friday. Next week’s schedule is:

Monday, February 26 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .convene for legislative day 26
Tuesday, February 27 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .convene for legislative day 27
Wednesday, February 28 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Crossover) convene for legislative day 28

Crossover Day is the date by which proposed legislation must pass one chamber to be eligible for consideration by the other chamber. So, a House bill must pass the House by the end of Crossover Day for the Senate to take it up, and vice-versa.

Crossover Day is when some of the shenanigans begin. If, for instance, your House Bill doesn’t pass before Crossover Day, you can look for a suitable Senate bill that passed that chamber, and repurpose it, which is called finding a “vehicle.” This repurposing of the other chamber’s pride and joy can be done “Christmas Tree” style, in which all sorts of other parts of legislation from other bills is “hung on” the host bill. Less elegant, is the “Catfish” style, in which the donor legislation is “gutted” and stuffed with other language. Advanced practitioners may attempt the “Turducken” style, in which the original bill’s carcass is deboned, and “stuffed” with other bills’ language in a concentric fashion.

This can be consensual or non-consensual. Whether consent is given by the original sponsor largely depends on the importance of the underlying legislation to the author. It is also affected by the relative status of each member. When a junior member is called into the office of a high-ranking legislator on the other side of the Dome, what happens to the junior legislator’s bill may not be quite voluntary if consent is under duress.

State Rep. J Collins (R-Villa Rica) announced he will not run for reelection, according to the AJC.

Rep. J Collins, R-Villa Rica, won’t seek reelection to the House seat he’s held since 2016. Collins chairs the Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee.

“I am proud of the great work that we have accomplished under this Gold Dome. But it is time to turn the page and allow someone new to represent our community’s values and interests at the State Capitol,” Collins said in a statement.

Collins is the second high-ranking Republican this week to announce a pending retirement from the General Assembly. Rep. Penny Houston of Nashville said Tuesday she would not seek reelection after 26 years in the House.

Georgia State Senators passed their version of the state’s midyear “Little Budget,” which reconciles the current fiscal year’s projected revenues and expenditures with actual receipts, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

Georgia’s Senate is supporting changes to the state budget that would add $5 billion in spending, including money for bonuses already paid to state employees and teachers, additional roadbuilding, new dental and medical schools, and paying down some state debts.

The Senate voted 54-1 on Thursday to pass House Bill 915, which adds money to the current budget running through June 30. The House and Senate will now seek to work out their differences, sending the measure to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp once they agree.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, a Vidalia Republican, told senators that there were relatively few differences between Kemp’s proposal and those of the House and Senate. “For 95% of the budget, there’s agreement,” Tillery said.

Kemp proposed raising spending of state money to $37.5 billion from the $32.5 billion that lawmakers approved last year. Total spending, including federal aid, college tuition, fines and fees, would rise to $67.5 billion

The state can spend lots more, even though growth in tax collections is slowing, because Kemp set a revenue estimate much lower than what the state will actually collect this year and because Georgia has $10.7 billion in surplus cash beyond its $5.4 billion rainy day fund. Kemp would spend up to $2 billion of the surplus.

Because lawmakers can’t spend above Kemp’s revenue estimate, lawmakers can only cut or rearrange the governor’s proposed spending.

From the Capitol Beat News Service:

The Senate agreed with 95% of the spending recommendations Gov. Brian Kemp made when he presented the midyear budget last month, including $1,000 one-time pay supplements for public school teachers and state and University System of Georgia employees.

More than 58% of the funding goes to education and more than 22% to health care, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery told his Senate colleagues before Thursday’s vote.

“We can’t invest in every good idea that approaches our desks,” [Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia)] said. “We have not started new positions. We’ve also tried not to start new programs.”

“We’re using our savings to avoid the record-high inflation we see in the bond market,” Tillery said.

After the Senate passed the midyear budget, the House disagreed with the Senate version of the spending plan, and the two chambers appointed members of a joint conference committee that will work out the two legislative chambers’ differences.

After the General Assembly approves the midyear budget, which covers state spending through June 30, lawmakers will begin work on Kemp’s fiscal 2025 budget proposals.

From the AJC:

One area of disagreement: The House supported $5 million for technology to give officials the ability to audit the text of every choice on a ballot without using the QR codes. House and Senate Republicans — stirred by opposition to QR codes on voter ballots — want to get rid of the feature. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said it can’t be done until after the 2024 election, and the auditing technology is a stopgap measure.

Senate Republicans asked Raffensperger to agree that nobody in his office “will benefit financially from the software development or procurement in the implementation of this pilot project.” They said Raffensperger’s office wouldn’t agree to that stipulation, so they nixed the House funding.

However, Senate Appropriations Chairman Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, indicated the Senate may have a change of heart if Raffensperger agrees to the stipulation in coming days.

The General Assembly is run by rural lawmakers, and so Kemp and the House and Senate leaders also included big money for projects in those areas.

The budget would put $100 million into supporting rural economic development projects and expanding grant opportunities for rural site development. The House added $27 million for aid to small-town airports, another favorite program for rural legislators. The Senate pumped that up to $98 million.

Senate Bill 221 by State Sen. Max Burns (R-Sylvania) would end automatic voter registration with driver’s license issuance, according to the AJC.

The Senate Ethics Committee voted along party lines, 6-5, to approve legislation that would end automatic voter registration, a policy that registers eligible Georgians when they get their driver’s licenses unless they decline to sign up.

GOP senators pushed the legislation, Senate Bill 221, after a one-hour hearing that featured testimony from Brad Carver, one of 16 Republicans who attempted to award Georgia’s electoral votes to Donald Trump in 2020 even though he had lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
Ethics Chairman Max Burns said he’s concerned that automatic voter registration could result in voters being signed up twice, but officials from the secretary of state’s office said the policy ensures voters’ addresses are updated when they move and prevents noncitizens from registering.

“The intent is to ensure that every registered voter is registered accurately and there are no duplicate registrations,” said Burns, a Republican from Sylvania. “There needs to be some conscious decision of the Georgia voter saying, ‘I wish to ensure I’m registered in Georgia.’ ”

Republicans from the secretary of state’s office said automatic registration ensures that voters are registered at home addresses listed on their driver’s licenses, which voters then use as proof of ID. About 79% of registrations processed from the Department of Driver Services are updates to existing registrations, not new registrations, according to state election officials.

But the legislation may meet the Governor’s veto pen, according to the AJC.

Will Gov. Brian Kemp sign legislation that ends automatic voter registration in Georgia if it reaches his desk? Don’t hold your breath.

“This bill somehow manages to both undermine voter access and election security at the same time,” said Cody Hall, Kemp’s senior political adviser. “A uniquely terrible idea.”

Hall was referring to a measure adopted by the Senate Ethics Committee along party lines Thursday that would end Georgia’s popular “motor voter” policy that registers eligible Georgians when they get their driver’s licenses unless they decline to sign up.

Senate Bill 180, the “Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act” by State Sen. Ed Setzler (R-Cobb County) was recommended for passage by the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to the Associated Press via the Valdosta Daily Times.

That religious protection bill resurfaced Thursday eight years after lawmakers passed a different version of the measure. Then-Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, vetoed it in 2016 under pressure from Georgia’s business community, who said they feared it would hurt their ability to attract employees and tourists.

Also Thursday, a House subcommittee advanced a measure that would ban transgender students in public schools from using the bathroom that meets their current gender identity. Supporters say the measure is needed to protect students who aren’t transgender, while opponents in sometimes tearful testimony told lawmakers the measure would stigmatize and endanger transgender students who are already subject to bullying.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-3 to pass Senate Bill 180, sending it on to the full Senat for more debate. It mirrors a 1993 federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Ed Setzler of Acworth, has pushed for the measure for years, because the federal law doesn’t apply to state and local governments, which might deny things like permission to distribute religious literature or a zoning permit for a church without giving enough deference to religious freedom.

“Every Georgian should be free to worship and exercise their faith without unfair federal, state or local government intrusion,” Setzler said.

But opponents warn that private businesses will use the law to do things like deny birth control coverage to their employees, and the legislation could blow holes in local laws that ban discrimination. Georgia has no statewide law banning discrimination.

I’ve always considered Librarians to be unlikely outlaws, but then there’s this. Senate Bill 390 by State Sen. Larry Walker, III (R-Perry) would prohibit libraries from accepting money from the American Library Association, according to 13WMAZ.

Librarians receive certification and training through the American Library Association.

“It helps us keep up to date with technology, finance, human resources, community needs, and more,” Houston County Library Director J. Sara Paulk said.

The American Library Association says it’s the oldest professional organization for librarians. Now, some Georgia lawmakers are looking to cut ties.

“The Senate bill will hurt librarians,” Paulk said.

It’s led by Sen. Walker who says the ALA pushes radical political agendas and is worried one Houston County library bought LGBTQ+ and radical books for children.

Paulk says ALA doesn’t provide direct support or advise purchases for libraries. She says Georgia libraries are governed by local boards of trustees made up of community members appointed by local government officials and collection decisions are made locally.

Paulk says as the bill is currently written, this limits future opportunities and hurts the only library school in the state, Valdosta State University.

Here is Walker’s full statement:

“The American Library Association is a private organization that built its reputation by providing accreditation for librarians across the country. Following the lead of its self-avowed Marxist president, this once-revered group is now pushing a radical political agenda that does not reflect the values of many local librarians throughout our state. SB 390 is designed to prohibit taxpayer dollars from funding political extremism while empowering our local librarians and communities to determine, without undue pressure from out-of-touch elitists, the material available in their library. It is our responsibility to keep public libraries a welcoming place for literacy and learning, not political indoctrination centers for a radical agenda promoting aberrant sexual behavior and socialist anti-American rhetoric in an overt attempt to influence impressionable young children.”

“Prior to taking on this issue, I put libraries in the same category as moms and apple pie. I was shocked to find that the havens for learning that I envisioned, places where children’s imaginations could run free, where our young people could find inspiration for their future careers, are being co-opted by a top-down bureaucracy that embraces Marxist ideology and pushes sexually explicit material. Most librarians that I have heard from are as shocked and dismayed by the actions of ALA as I am. They share my view of what libraries should aspire to be for the communities they serve and would welcome an alternative to blindly following the ALA down the path of political activism and societal decay.”

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

Public schools would be banned from acquiring any materials that depict sex acts after Dec. 1 under Senate Bill 394, dubbed the “Clean Libraries Act” by its sponsor, Senate Education Committee Chairman Clint Dixon.

“It has to do with sexual content in books,” said Dixon, a Buford Republican. “Heterosexual, homosexual, any of that, we don’t want to expose our kids to any of that when they’re minors.”

The measure passed by the Education Committee would ban distribution of any sexual materials to students in sixth grade and below and restrict them for seventh grade and above. At least some materials deemed necessary for teaching could be accessed by older students with written parental permission.

Senate Bill 154, also passed by the Education Committee, would subject K-12 librarians to criminal penalties if they violate state obscenity laws. Current law exempts public librarians, as well as those who work for public schools, colleges and universities, from penalties for distributing material that meets Georgia’s legal definition of “harmful to minors.”

The bill makes school librarians subject to penalties only if they “knowingly” give out such material. The sponsor, Republican Sen. Greg Dolezal of Cumming, says Georgia shouldn’t have a double standard allowing for the prosecution of teachers for obscenity but not librarians down the hall.

The bill was amended to let librarians argue that they should be exempt from prosecution if schools review every item in a library for obscenity. Sen. Ed Setzler, the Acworth Republican who offered the amendment, said the measure “creates an incentive for schools to scrub their libraries.”

School districts could drop sex education and students would only be enrolled if parents specifically opt in under Senate Bill 532, which the Education Committee also passed. Dixon’s measure would ban all sex education in fifth grade and below. It would keep the requirement for age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education.

From the Capitol Beat News Services:

Legislation that would create a state council to set standards for books that could be banned from public school libraries as obscene cleared a Georgia Senate committee late Wednesday.

“This bill is about making sure our public school libraries are not places for kids to be exposed to sexually explicit materials,” Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, chairman of the Senate Education and Youth Committee and the bill’s chief sponsor, said before the vote.

Senate Bill 394 would create the Georgia Council of Library Materials Standards, whose members would be appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the House, House minority leader, and Senate minority leader. The council would create a grading system that would be used to decide which books fit the legal definition of “harmful to minors” or “sexually explicit” and therefore should be banned.

Schools that fail to comply with the standards the council sets forth would not be subject to criminal charges. However, they would be subject to complaints from parents that potentially could lead to lawsuits.

The legislation now moves to the Senate Rules Committee to schedule a floor vote.

Senate Resolution 538 by State Sen. Carden Summers (R-Cordele) would create a statewide referendum on whether to legalize some forms of gambling, passed out of the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The state Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved a proposed constitutional amendment late Thursday calling for Georgia voters to decide whether to legalize not only sports betting but casino gambling. Other gambling legislation before the General Assembly this year is limited to sports betting.

Casinos would produce much more economic impact than sports betting, Sen. Carden Summers, R-Cordele, chief sponsor of Senate Resolution 538, told committee members Thursday.

Georgians are already gambling in casinos, with more than 80,000 traveling to out-of-state casinos each year, Summers said. The rub is that the jobs and tax revenue those casinos generate don’t come back to Georgia.

Summers pointed to the funding the Georgia Lottery has generated for HOPE Scholarship and pre-kindergarten students as an example of what legalized gambling already has done for the Peach State.

“The lottery’s been wonderful for our children,” he said.

Under Senate Resolution 538, 50% of the tax revenue produced by sports betting and casinos would go toward transportation improvements. Another 20% would be dedicated to pre-kindergarten and child-care programs.

The other 30% would be divided equally among mental health and gambling addiction programs, rural health care, and Georgia’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Local political and business leaders from Columbus and Henry and Liberty counties spoke in support of the bill, citing the potential economic impact of casinos. Senate Resolution 538 calls for the construction of five casinos around the state.

But Mike Griffin, public affairs representative for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said talking about the economic benefits of legalized gambling ignores the social costs. He said casinos would be accompanied by a rise in addictive gambling, sex trafficking, and suicide.

“We can’t let money be the reason we do everything,” Griffin said. “We can’t let money be the ultimate moral standard.”

The resolution now moves to the Senate Rules Committee to schedule a floor vote.

State Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) introduced House Bill 1338 to prohibit new mining permits near the Okefenokee Swamp for three years, according to The Brunswick News.

The state Environmental Protection Division would be banned from accepting new permit applications for dragline mining in areas where permits have not been previously issued during that time.

Corbett, whose district includes the area near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge where a controversial strip mine is proposed, said the moratorium would give Twin Pines Minerals time to collect data that will show it is safe to mine on a 582-acre tract near the world-famous swamp.

Corbett said the bill advocates for private property rights and lets EPD officials make a determination to mine based on science.

Corbett’s proposed bill would also force the EPD to review and make permit applications within five months, Marks said.

From the Associated Press via the Macon Telegraph:

The sponsor of House Bill 1338, approved by a House committee Thursday at the state Capitol in Atlanta, calls the measure a compromise between conservationists who oppose the mine and supporters living near the swamp who say the project would bring needed jobs.

The bill by Rep. John Corbett, a Republican from Lake Park whose district includes the swamp, would prohibit until July 1, 2027, any new permit applications in Georgia for the type of mining Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals plans to use to extract titanium dioxide just outside the federally protected swamp.

Corbett’s measure would not affect the draft permits Twin Pines received earlier this month from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to mine on 773 acres less than 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, the largest refuge east of the Mississippi River. The agency will collect public comments and could make adjustments before issuing final permits.

Several conservation groups dismissed the proposed moratorium as ineffective. They had backed a different bill that would outright ban future mining near the Okefenokee, including any expansion by Twin Pines. That measure stalled in the same committee that moved swiftly on Corbett’s permitting pause.

Conservationists said they’re also concerned by a provision that would place deadlines of 180 days or less on legal appeals of some mining permits. Challenged permits would be automatically upheld if those deadlines aren’t met.

House Bill 1125 by State Reps. Sharon Cooper (R-Cobb County), Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton) and others would limit the payment of sub-minimum wages to Georgians with disabilities, and passed out of the House Industry and Labor Committee, according to CNHI News.

House Bill 1125, introduced during the Georgia General Assembly session on Feb. 1, would phase out the payment of sub-minimum wages to workers with disabilities.

As currently written, Georgia Code 34-4-4 does allow the state commissioner of labor the ability to grant exemptions for “certain categories of organizations and businesses” to pay “certain classes of persons” wages below the minimum rate “because of overriding considerations of public policy to allow employment of certain persons with disabilities and others who cannot otherwise compete effectively in the labor market.”

The code section also authorizes the state commissioner of labor to “conduct investigations and compile information as to the reasons for granting exemptions” and requires the commissioner to maintain public records of such exemptions and investigations pertaining to sub-minimum wage payment.

The text of HB 1125 would eliminate that code section and replace it with language indicating that “no employer shall utilize a certificate issued by the United States Department of Labor … to pay individuals with disabilities who are employed by such employer less than the minimum wage required to be paid by employers to employees under federal law.”

The bill, however, notes that any employer who received a U.S. Department of Labor certificate on or before July 1, 2024, would be able to pay employees with disabilities less than the minimum wage — albeit, with a major caveat.

“During the period of July 1, 2025, through June 30, 2026, such employer shall pay individuals with disabilities at least half of the minimum wage required to be paid by employers to employees under federal law,” the bill text reads. “On and after July 1, 2026, such employer shall no longer utilize such certificate to pay individuals with disabilities less than the minimum wage required to be paid by employers to employees under federal law.”

Also sponsoring HB 1125 are District 43 state Rep. Sharon Cooper, District 117 state Rep. Lauren Daniel, District 48 state Rep. Scott Hilton and District 18 state Rep. Tyler Smith.

All of the lawmakers sponsoring the bill are Republicans.

Senate Bill 508 by State Senator Clint Dixon (R-Buford) would redact some personal information about judges and passed the Senate Public Safety Committee, according to Georgia Recorder.

The Senate Public Safety Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 508 on Wednesday, a measure intended to protect judges from threats made against them and their families. More than 30 states have passed or are considering similar laws that limit public records of addresses, telephone numbers and other identifying information of judges.

Under the new law, the Administrative Office of the Courts would create and maintain a database of protected judges and personally identifiable information. In addition, the judicial office would coordinate training for security procedures and keep track of which local and state government agencies have access to the confidential information.

The bill is sponsored by Republican Sen. Clint Dixon, who was among several Georgia lawmakers who had police officers show up at their homes at Christmas time because of hoax 911 calls claiming that someone’s life was in danger.

A judicial security committee created about a year ago by the Georgia Supreme Court recommended that judges and their spouses should have the ability to limit the public disclosure of where they live and their cell phone numbers.

The security committee was led by state Supreme Court Justice Shawn Ellen LaGrua and Court of Appeals Judge Brian Rickman and was represented by leaders from the state’s law enforcement agencies.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael P. Boggs said that the protections provided to judges in the measure can be replicated for other public officials.

“We know that y’all are dealing with similar challenges, which have become all too real for too many of you in recent weeks,” Boggs said during his Feb. 7 State of the Judiciary address to Georgia lawmakers. “While some of our security measures are specific to the judiciary, many are more broadly applicable.”

Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar will deliver the State of the City next Tuesday, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Over the past four years, McCollar has hosted annual State of the City events to highlight the city’s achievements from the previous year and to share the city’s vision and goals for the year to come. This year’s event will take place in the Emma Kelly Theater inside the Averitt Center on East Main Street. The public is invited.

“I’m extremely excited about this year’s State of the City address,” McCollar said. “Statesboro is currently experiencing unprecedented growth. If you take a quick drive around town today, you’ll see signs of new development in every corner of the city limits.”

Staff for United States Representative Rick Allen (R-Augusta) will hold office hours across the district, according to WJBF.

The Congressional staff for U.S. Representative for Georgia Rick Allen is holding office hours in thirteen local counties throughout the month of March.

A spokesperson for the Congressman asked, if possible, if we could get the word out to the public – Congressman Allen’s staff will be available to help with any issues residents might be having with federal agencies, as well as answering questions.

They will be available to assist with a variety of federal issues, including helping navigate various issues residents might be experiencing with Social Security, Veterans Affairs, and Medicare.

Congressman Allen himself will not be in attendance.

Muscogee County public schools is hosting meetings to discuss the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) renewal on the May 21, 2024 General Primary Election, according to 13WMAZ.

The first meeting happened tonight at Wesley Heights Elementary.

There will be another meeting on March 12th at Forrest Road Elementary starting at 6 in the evening.

The third and final meeting will be on March 27th at the Muscogee County Public Education Center Board Room starting at noon.

Savannah violent crime statistics dropped from 2022 to 2023, according to WTOC.

In 2023, the Savannah Police Department has seen an 8% decrease in violent crimes compared to 2022.

SPD Chief Lenny Gunther presenting 2023′s crime statistics, showing that a number of what the department calls part one crimes saw a decrease.

“Homicides, aggravated assault with gun domestic, aggravated assault without gun non-domestic, residential burglary, entering auto and auto-theft,” said Chief Lenny Gunther, Savannah Police Department.

File Under “Unintended Consequences”: Tybee Island City Council considers revisions to Short Term Vacation Rental ordinance, according to WSAV.

A proposed ordinance aims to reduce the number of rentals in residential areas.

Spearheaded by Councilman Nick Sears, the proposal states that grandfathered properties with short-term vacation rental (STVR) permits have a monopoly, increasing the value of their property at the “expense of their neighbors.”

While it has supporters, some property owners say this limits their income and infringes on their rights. Mayor Brian West says there are pros and cons with vacation rentals, and no neighborhood is the same.

“There are those that believe that it’s a business in a residential area, and it shouldn’t be there. That’s the conflict,” he said. “[Short-term vacation rentals] bring in 80% of the revenue to the island in 20% of the year. It’s a huge benefit to the island and for this region of the state. But, we also have those homes that sleep 14, 16, and 20 people. They bring in the party crowds. They bring in the proms and the bachelorette parties.”

“It’s a very divisive topic. We went through it for a year and a half to two years. I wish we weren’t going through it again because we have things we need to accomplish, but that’s where we are,” Mayor West said.

“According to the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, there is over $560 million in direct spending just on Tybee for our businesses, our hotels, our grocery stores, and our shops. Over 8,000 jobs just on Tybee. Not to mention the impact it has around the rest of our region. When you start talking about people not being able to come there, because they can’t find a place to stay…you talk about losing businesses and losing jobs. It’s just ten weeks. The rest of the year, it’s perfectly peaceful there,” he said.

If the council is in favor, the ordinance will be drawn up by their legal counsel, and it will go before the planning and zoning board.

The Georgia Ports Authority seeks to speed the approval of permits for further development, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Georgia Ports Authority plans to tap its financial resources to expedite approval of a key permit for a proposed 400-acre terminal on the Savannah River, and federal officials say they intend to go along with the deal.

The corps is evaluating whether the project on Hutchinson Island meets requirements of the federal Clean Water Act after ending public comment on GPA’s related permit request late last year.

Before that permit can be issued, however, Section 408 of the Clean Water Act requires USACE to determine whether the work would significantly impact other federally authorized projects.

“(Wednesday’s) public notice is requesting comments on our intent to accept funds (from GPA) to expedite the processing of the 408 permit,” said Cheri Pritchard, spokesperson for the USACE Savannah District.”

In terms of a pay-for-pace arrangement with GPA, “the USACE Savannah District does not expect priority review of the requester’s projects to negatively impact the Section 408 program or to increase the time for evaluations of other projects since additional staff may be hired to augment these priority reviews,” the corps said in its notice, which did not include financial terms.”

According to the permit application, GPA expects the terminal, which will house cargo containers transported on ships, to add 2.7 million “20-foot equivalent units” in overall capacity.

Expansion projects already underway are expected to absorb projected growth at the booming ports for another decade. But GPA argues that without added capacity from the proposed terminal, increased activity through 2035 will eat away at overflow space.

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