Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 25, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 25, 2022

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.

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.

On February 27, 1922, the United States Supreme Court released an unanimous decision holding that the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting women the right to vote, is constitutional. The case, Leser v. Garnett, arose because of a challenge seeking to strike women’s names from the voter rolls in Maryland and asserting:

  • The power to amend the Constitution did not cover this amendment, due to its character.
  • Several states that had ratified the amendment had constitutions that prohibited women from voting, rendering them unable to ratify an amendment to the contrary.
  • The ratifications of Tennessee and West Virginia were invalid, because they were adopted without following the rules of legislative procedure in place in those states.

It might as well have asserted that sleeping on the couch for the rest of the plantiffs’ lives would be cold and uncomfortable.

Johnny Cash was born on February 26, 1932.

On February 27, 1962, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph David Abernathy were tried in Albany for charges stemming from a demonstration on the steps of City Hall.

On February 27, 1982, Wayne Williams was convicted in Fulton County Superior Court of murdering two adult males. Atlanta Police later said he was guilty of at least 23 of 29 child murders between 1979 and 1981. Williams was never indicted or tried on the allegations of child murder and maintains his innocence.

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.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Four members of the Port Wentworth City Council met in the absence of the Mayor and hired new staff to replace those they allegedly drove off through a hostile work environment. From the Savannah Morning News:

After a string of resignations and a call from the mayor to cancel Thursday’s regularly scheduled council meeting, four council members held the meeting anyway and appointed an interim city attorney and interim city manager.

Mayor Pro Tem Thomas Barbee, Mark Stephens, Rufus Bright and Jo Smith were present. Council member Gabrielle Nelson was absent as she just had a baby.

Mayor Gary Norton and council member Glenn “Pig” Jones declined to attend.

Several residents in the crowd called into question the legality of the council’s actions.

From WTOC:

It was the first council meeting since several city staff members resigned. There was no air conditioning on and a lot of people ticked off at city council members.

The appointed interim city attorney was Scott Robichaux and the interim city manager is Steve Davis.

Doesn’t the Georgia Municipal Association have a “Strike Team” for stuff like this?

Governor Brian Kemp last week campaigned in Cleveland, according to the White County News.

The crowd of residents and elected officials at Feb. 18 meet-and-greet at the Roy Ash Community Room listened as the governor made his case for another term. He focused on actions related to Georgia elections and his handling of business and school operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kemp referred to Senate Bill 202 as evidence of his commitment to making elections more secure, even as detractors such as President Joe Biden and Major League Baseball criticized the measures as unfair to voters.

“I never wavered. Not one single time,” he said. “I stood up for what we have done, because that bill makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

He also mentioned his persistence supporting and signing the 2019 “heartbeat bill” related to abortions in the face of similar backlash from those opposed.

Kemp emphasized Georgia’s economic prosperity in recent years and how he was among the first governors to reopen some businesses that had been initially closed in response to the pandemic. He said that approach allowed business owners a choice, knowing they and their employees needed to work to pay bills.

“What we’ve tried to do in Georgia is not do mandates and divide people,” Kemp said. “but to simply give people a choice and to trust them, trust you all to open your business back open if you want to, to trust you if you want to go get your nails done or get your hair done or get a tattoo.”

The governor cited low unemployment and continued economic development in the state, particularly rural areas.

“So no matter where you are, you have good economic prosperity opportunities in our state,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what neighborhood you’re in or what ZIP code you’re in.”

Governor Kemp wants the state to pay out $1.6 billion dollars in the form of income tax refunds, according to CBS46.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously to pass House Bill 1302 on Thursday, sending it to the full House for more debate.

“It is an opportunity for the state of Georgia to return tax money to the taxpayers of Georgia,” said Rep. Josh Bonner, a Fayetteville Republican who is one of Kemp’s floor leaders.

The measure promises a $250 rebate for single filers, $375 for single adults who head a household with dependents and $500 for married couples filing jointly. The refund would only be paid to people who filed tax returns for both the 2020 and 2021 tax years. The state began processing 2021 returns on Feb. 1 and returns are due April 18 unless a taxpayer files an extension.

Georgia ran a $3.7 billion surplus in the budget year than ended June 30, filling its rainy day fund to the legal limit and leaving $2.3 billion in additional undesignated surplus. The tax refunds would come out of that money, but even after that, the state would have more than $700 million in the bank. The amended budget for the current year provides the money for the payments.

Governor Kemp discussed the potential global trade disruptions in his speech at the Georgia Ports Authority, according to WTOC.

Governor Kemp was asked if he’s looking at taking any actions to preempt any potential global trade impacts on the state’s ports.

“Well, we’ve done state of emergencies in the past to help our logistics and our supply chain. We have one currently in place. We’re looking at all those things. We’ll use any option we have to keep commerce moving through our state,” Gov. Kemp said.

Governor Kemp says the priority would be keeping the supply chain flowing for Georgia citizens as well as those the state supplies around the nation.

“I don’t know what that would be yet, but we stand ready. We’ve got a great team monitoring that. And certainly, I’d ask all Georgians to have our men and women in the military and those serving overseas, or even just moving supplies to the region to be helpful…to keep them in your thoughts and prayers,” Gov. Kemp said.

Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch discussed expansion plans for the ports, according to WTOC.

The executive in charge of Georgia’s seaports called Thursday for an aggressive expansion that would grow the Port of Savannah’s capacity for cargo shipped in containers by 58% over the next three years.

Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, also said in his annual “State of the Ports” speech that a $973 million deepening  of the Savannah River shipping channel linking the port to the Atlantic Ocean will be finished in less than three weeks. Dredging to make room for larger cargo ships began in 2015.

The expansion plan mapped out by Lynch on Thursday would make room on Savannah’s port terminal to handle up to 9.5 million cargo container units of exports and imports annually by 2025. The port’s current capacity is 6 million container units.

“If the supply chain is going to be turned upside down and we’re going to be in a ‘just in case’ environment, we need to rethink how we handle business,” Lynch told a crowd of about 1,200 at Savannah’s convention center. “We can’t just simply do things the same old way.”

Lynch said next month he will ask the board to approve a $200 million project that will develop 100 acres (40 hectares) already owned by the port for longer-term storage of shipping containers. That tract will be able to handle about 1 million extra container units each year. It’s expected to open in 2024.

Governor Kemp’s campaign criticized David Perdue for featuring an image of himself shaking hands with a former Sheriff’s Deputy accused of child pornography, according to Fox5Atlanta.

The ad features video of Perdue shaking hands with former Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Grady Sanford, who was arrested on child porn charges more than a year ago.

Sanford was arrested on November 10, 2020, and charged with two counts of distribution of child pornography.

“David Perdue should immediately take down this TV ad that highlights him shaking hands with a child predator and apologize to the victims of Grady Sanford’s atrocious criminal behavior,” said Cody Hall, Director of Communications and Senior Advisor for the Kemp campaign. “Perdue’s use of this footage to score political points for his failing campaign is absolutely reprehensible. Georgians deserve better in their Governor.”

The State Senate passed a redistricting map that will prevent a Democratic challenger to Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, according to WSAV.

The Senate on Thursday voted 33-21 for Senate Bill 472, which would redraw the utility regulatory body’s five districts.

Public service commissioners are elected statewide, but must live in one of five districts.

Republican District 2 Commissioner Tim Echols is up for reelection to a six-year term this year.

Democrat Patty Durand of Gwinnett County has filed to challenge Echols.

She wouldn’t be able to run under the new map because it draws Gwinnett County out of Echols’ district.

This bill might be radioactive discriminatory, according to Democrats.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:

“Incumbents [are] trying to protect their seats,” said Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta.

Beyond the issue of changes affecting individual counties, Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, sought to change the system of electing members of the PSC. Currently, commissioners must live in one of the five commission districts, but they run statewide.

Jordan proposed an amendment to have commissioners elected only by voters in their districts.

She said electing members of the PSC statewide makes it more difficult for a minority candidate to win.

It’s worth noting for posterity that the current scheme of requiring Commissioners to live in geographic districts while being elected statewide was enacted under the Roy Barnes administration, when Democrats ran both chambers of the legislature and controlled the Governor’s Mansion.

Georgia State Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah) spoke about Senate Bill 403, the “Georgia Behavioral Health and Peace Officer Co-Responder Act,” according to WSAV.

State Senator Ben Watson (R) Savannah, Co-sponsor of the Bill said, “And that statistic turned around dramatically. It went from 90% being arrested to 10% being arrested and the 90% would be plugged into a behavioral crisis center.”

State lawmakers say this would help reduce gang-related crimes, hostage stand-offs and violent crimes by having a licensed counselor on scene.

“They would get treatment for a few days, and that’s how we address behavioral health, mental health issues and substance abuse issues,” Sen. Watson said. “That’s the way we should be doing it — the jail is not a place for situations like that.”

State Senator Larry Walker (R) Macon said, “The isolation, the mental health aspect of COVID, with the lack of socializing with other people, and stress and it’s been a perfect storm and this is a way we can back the blue.”

Cross over day this year is March 15 — when bills move to the other chamber, while April 4 is the last day for the 40-day legislative session.

Note: Crossover Day is March 15, also known as the “Ides of March.” Watch out for Senators wearing togas.

The Georgia State House Agriculture Committee passed House Bill 1150, the “Freedom to Farm Act” that limits residents ability to file lawsuits against agricultural facilities, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

The Freedom to Farm Act would amend a law the General Assembly enacted in the late 1980s governing nuisance suits against farm operations in areas zoned for agricultural use.

Additional protections are needed because nonfarmers and farmers are living closer to each other than ever before, Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella, chairman of the House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee and the bill’s chief sponsor, told committee members.

“When the current law was passed, (farmers) did not have neighbors who did not farm,” he said. “Now, urban encroachment is happening all over Georgia.”

Under the bill, neighbors who object to noise, smells, dust or polluted water emanating from a farm operation would have up on one year to file a lawsuit.

From the AJC:

Opponents of House Bill 1150 say it would strongly tip property rights in favor of farmers, food processors and timber operators, leaving neighboring landowners with little ability to protect themselves. And they fear the changes would open the door for massive animal-feeding operations to expand unchecked across Georgia.

Supporters of the legislation say they want to reduce threats against farmers, especially at a time when the pandemic has disrupted food production, delivery and prices. Agriculture is the state’s largest industry with farm goods bringing in an estimated $12 billion yearly and supporting more than 300,000 jobs, according to the University of Georgia.

The State Senate passed Senate Bill 266, the “Save Girls Sports Act,” according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The bill, which passed 34-22 along party lines, stems from complaints by parents of biological girls who have quit sports because they don’t want to have to compete against transgendered girls who were born male and, thus, enjoy an unfair advantage in strength and speed, said Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, the measure’s chief sponsor.

“This bill is about fairness,” he said. “It’s simply not fair to force biological girls to compete against biological boys.”

But Senate Democrats argued the legislation stigmatizes transgendered students, a particularly vulnerable group of young people who suffer from a high suicide rate.

“This is hurting our kids,” said a tearful Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Atlanta, who is the mother of a transgendered child.

Gwinnett County Public Schools retained their triple-A bond rating, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Services gave GCPS an AAA/Aaa rating for its Series 2022 General Obligation Bonds and reaffirmed triple-A ratings for the district’s outstanding GO bond debt. That rating allows the district to be available for favorable interest rates on the bonds.

“Gwinnett County Public Schools has demonstrated a history of strong fiscal accountability and we are committed to ensuring that remains the case,” GCPS Superintendent Calvin Watts said. “Our work to responsibly manage the budget benefits the district and our community in many ways while also ensuring that we are able to acquire the lowest interest rates possible on the sale of the bonds.”

“This translates into more funds available for teaching and learning and operational supports, allowing the district to focus on how we can more effectively meet the needs of our learners.”

“The triple-A bond rating is a key indicator of our district’s fiscal health and the measures we have in place to responsibly and conservatively manage our budget and debt,” GCPS Chief Financial Officer Joe Heffron said. “In particular S&P cited the district’s robust cybersecurity risk mitigation plans and training, conservative revenue assumptions, monthly monitoring of budget-to-actual information, a formalized five-year financial forecast, a five-year capital improvement plan that is updated annually, a formal investment policy, as well as formalized policies regarding debt management and the general fund.”

The Lowndes County Board of Elections set Qualifying dates for the May 24 elections, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Lowndes County Commission has three positions up for election: Commission Districts 2, 3 and 4. They are currently held by Scott Orenstein, Mark Wisenbaker and Demarcus Marshall respectively.

Districts 1, 2 and 3 are up for election in the Lowndes County Board of Education. The districts are currently held by Mike Davis, Eric Johnson and Brian Browning, who is also vice chairman, respectively.

Special elections will be held in the cities of Dasher and Lake Park to fill two unexpired terms.

Qualifying fees must be paid by cash, money order or check, and must be paid between 9 a.m., March 7, and noon, March 11, to the Board of Elections.

Early voting will run 7 a.m.-7 p.m., May 2-20, and includes 9 a.m.-4 p.m., both Saturdays, May 7 and May 14. All voters must be registered by April 25.

Bibb County public schools will no longer requires masks inside beginning March 1, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar gave his State of the City speech, according to the Statesboro Herald.

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