Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 7, 2024


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 7, 2024

On February 7, 1733, the first Georgia colonists had been here a week and they finished building a hand-operated crane to move heavy supplies and livestock from their boats to the top of the forty-foot high bluff where they were building a settlement.

On February 7, 1962, President John F. Kennedy issued an Executive Order embargoing Cuba.

On February 7, 1990, the Communist Party Central Committee of the Soviet Union agreed to a proposal by Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev that is should give up its political monopoly.

The response from the United States was surprise and cautious optimism. One State Department official commented that, “The whole Soviet world is going down the drainpipe with astonishing speed. It’s mind-boggling.” Former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger indicated that he was “personally gratified and astonished that anyone would have the chance to say such things in Moscow without being shot.” President George Bush was more circumspect, merely congratulating President Gorbachev for his “restraint and finesse.”

Ironically, the fact that the Communist Party was willing to accept political challenges to its authority indicated how desperately it was trying to maintain its weakening power over the country. The measures were little help, however–President Gorbachev resigned on December 25, 1991 and the Soviet Union officially ceased to exist on December 31, 1991.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about abortion and Georgia’s “Heartbeat Bill,” according to WTOC.

Vice President Kamala Harris made a stop in Savannah on Tuesday as part of her “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms Tour.”

She highlighted the impacts she said come from abortion bans across the country.

This was the third stop on Vice President Harris’ tour. While at the Savannah Civic Center, she criticized Georgia’s LIFE Act, also known as the state’s “heartbeat bill.” It essentially bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

Vice President Harris called that law and others like it in some states “extreme.”

One of her concerns, she said the law forces women to leave the state to seek care.

“They have to leave their family and friends who might be with them in this moment to give them comfort and care to travel to a state that protects reproductive freedom. There is only one state in the south without an abortion ban: The State of Virginia. In the entire south, one – a six hour drive from here in Savannah,” Vice President Harris said.

The Vice President also criticized the state’s maternal mortality rate, which she said is one of the highest in the nation. Saying more needs to be done to protect women seeking care.

She also said President Joe Biden would veto any attempts by Congress to pass a national abortion ban. In her speech, Vice President Harris said the former president is to blame for the overturning of Roe versus Wade, and she went on to say former President Trump bragged about being proud of that reversal.

“How dare he. How dare he. Understand the former president is the architect of the health care crisis. And extremists are not done,” Vice President Harris said.

A statement was sent to WTOC by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s office about the vice president’s trip to the Peach State.

“Georgia is proud of its record on protecting the life of the most vulnerable among us. If the Biden Administration’s Border Czar is looking for something to do, her time would be better spent walking to the Oval Office and telling Joe Biden to secure the border,” Gov. Kemp’s spokesperson, Garrison Douglas said.

Georgia’s abortion ban still faces legal challenges. Just four months ago, a ruling by the state Supreme Court put the ban back in place while the court case against it plays out.

From WSAV:

“Freedom is fundamental to the promise of America. Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Freedom of assembly. The freedom to vote,” Harris said. “In America, freedom is not to be given it is not to be bestowed. It is ours by right.

“And that includes the freedom to make decisions about one’s own body and not have the government telling people what to do.”

From the AJC:

Harris also used the remarks as an opportunity to attack Biden’s likely general election opponent, former President Donald Trump. She called Trump “the architect of this health care crisis” because he appointed three Supreme Court justices who voted to repeal Roe v. Wade.

Harris met privately with local government officials and abortion activists prior to her speech. She also spent several minutes with the family of Army Reserve Sgt. Breonna Moffett, the 23-year-old Savannahian who was one of three Georgians killed in a drone attack on Jan. 28 in Jordan.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson honored Moffett and fellow reservists Sgt. William Jerome Rivers and Sgt. Kennedy Sanders with a moment of silence in the minutes before Harris delivered her remarks. He called the soldiers “bright, shining stars lifted from us too soon.”

Harris’ speech was briefly interrupted by a pro-Palestinian demonstrator, who was escorted out of the venue. A small group of protesters waving Palestinian flags and holding a banner condemning the Biden administration’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war gathered outside the building.

The Savannah visit is Harris’ third to Georgia in the past two months as she and Biden appeal to voters ahead of their 2024 reelection bid. Biden won the state by fewer than 12,000 votes in 2020, defeating Trump.

Harris’ other recent Georgia visits were both to Atlanta. She attended the Celebration Bowl in December. The football game pitting teams from historically Black universities was played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Harris’ alma mater, Howard University, played in the game, losing to Florida A&M University.

Harris returned to Atlanta last month to meet with voting rights advocates and pledged to counter what she called a “full-on intent to attack fundamental freedoms and rights in our country.”

First lady Jill Biden will travel to Atlanta on Wednesday to address efforts to improve women’s health in the state.

TVP also visited a local business in Savannah, according to WTOC.

During her trip to Savannah, Vice President Kamala Harris made a visit to Diaspora Marketplace on Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard.

He says he and the VP talked about how the Biden-Harris administration is making efforts to try to help small, minority business owners.

But not everyone was happy to greet TVP, according to WSAV.

Outside the event, there were activists protesting peacefully – pro-life members of Reformation Bible Church and the pro-Palestine group, Savannah 4 Palestine.

Savannah Police and organizers asked both groups to leave the property, but they stayed right where they felt their voices would be heard.

Both pregnant, Joy Chastain and Jenna Torres peacefully protested abortion.

“I just think it’s horrific to even consider taking that life away and not letting it have a choice. They deserve to be protected, and they deserve to be loved even from the very beginning,” Chastain said.

“Whatever you believe in, this is a life. These babies are alive, and they have rights, too. They have basic human rights, just like we all do. And that’s important. It’s not just important to God, it’s important to the human race,” Torres said.

Savannah 4 Palestine held up signs and yelled chants… calling for attention to reproductive needs in Palestine as well as calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. One protestor even made it inside the event to shout “Free Palestine” before being escorted out.

A spokesperson with Savannah 4 Palestine stated in part, “Our message to VP Harris is clear, do not claim to care about reproductive rights and justice when your party has failed the American people on this issue for decades. Her visit is doubly cruel considering the violence that US-backed Israeli forces inflict on pregnant Palestinians and daily denial of adequate healthcare to all Palestinians. We say to VP Harris and the Biden administration, do not campaign on reproductive rights or any issue while you oversee the systematic denial of basic human rights to Palestinians.”

Johnson recruited Harris to make Tuesday’s visit. He met with the vice president last month during the United States Conference of Mayors in Washington.

“She told me she was coming,” Johnson said Tuesday morning prior to Harris’ arrival, “and here she is.”

FLOTUS Jill Biden visits Atlanta today, according to the AJC.

First lady Jill Biden will be in Atlanta today to highlight the importance of women’s health research, according to the White House.

She will deliver remarks at the Morehouse School of Medicine’s “2024 Women’s Heart Healthy Luncheon,” which will be held at the Georgia Aquarium.

Under the Gold Dome Today

TBD Senate Rules: Upon Adjournment – 450 CAP
7:00 AM Senate Approp: Health & Human Dev Sub – 450 CAP
8:00 AM HOUSE Ways & Means Sub Sales Tax – 403 CAP
8:15 AM HOUSE Ways & Means Sub Pub Fin and Policy – 403 CAP
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD16) – House Chamber
10:00 AM Senate Floor Session (LD 16) – Senate Chamber
1:00 PM HOUSE Education Sub Curriculum – 515 CLOB
1:00 PM Senate Public Safety – 450 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Econ Dev & Tourism – Mezz 1 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE Education Sub Policy – 515 CLOB
2:00 PM Senate Approp: Judicial Sub – 450 CAP
2:00 PM Senate Agriculture & Consumer Aff – Mezz 1 CAP
3:00 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Sub Tax Revision – 506 CLOB
3:00 PM Senate Approp: Agriculture & Natl Res Sub – 450 CAP
4:00 PM Senate Finance – Mezz 1 CAP
5:00 PM Senate Government Oversight – 307 CLOB
5:00 PM Senate Health & Human Services – 450 CAP

The State House Appropriations Committee voted for a midyear budget revision, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The Georgia House Appropriations Committee approved Gov. Brian Kemp’s $37.5 billion fiscal 2024 midyear budget Tuesday.

With the state sitting on an unprecedented $16 billion surplus, lawmakers signed off on a $5 billion spending increase, 15.6% above the 2024 budget the General Assembly adopted last spring.

“For the first time in a number of years, agencies were able to ask for 3% enhancements,” said Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, the committee’s chairman.

The House version of the midyear budget includes $1.1 billion in one-time capital investments for a number of projects. The list includes $450 million for a new state prison in Washington County, $178 million for a new dental school at Georgia Southern University’s Armstrong campus in Savannah, and $50 million for a new medical school at the University of Georgia in Athens.

The committee steered some of those savings toward the secretary of state’s office for projects aimed at improving voter confidence in elections. The midyear budget includes $5 million for new paper ballots that no longer rely on QR codes and $110,000 to add visible watermarks to paper ballots.

House budget writers supported the governor’s recommendation for $300 million in $1,000 one-time pay supplements for 112,000 state employees and 196,000 teachers and school support staff. Additional raises are included in Kemp’s $36.1 billion fiscal 2025 budget, which the General Assembly will take up later this month.

The full House is expected to consider the midyear budget later this week.

From the AJC:

The House Appropriations Committee backed most of the spending hikes Gov. Brian Kemp proposed in January, despite the fact that state tax collections have been slow for much of the past year and are not projected to improve anytime soon.

But with $16 billion in “rainy day” and undesignated reserves, Kemp and lawmakers see the midyear budget — which runs through June 30 — as a chance to allocate money for big construction and infrastructure projects that will both better prepare the state for the future and put more Georgians to work.

“We’ve got some really good stuff in this budget,” said House Appropriations Chairman Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin. “There are many areas where we agree with the governor on the budget.”

Tax collections were slow for most of 2023 after three years of skyrocketing growth, which allowed the state to build up those reserves.

The state spent about $26.6 billion — excluding federal funding — in fiscal 2020, the last budget plan approved before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Last year, it was more than $32 billion, and the midyear plan would spend $37.5 billion for fiscal 2024. Of that, $2 billion would come out of “undesignated” reserves.

The full House is expected to pass the measure Wednesday, and then it moves to the Senate for its consideration.

From State Affairs:

Southwest Georgia will get money to recruit much-needed nurses. Savannah will get a new behavioral health crisis center. Other communities will get after-school programs, family support for K-12 students and summer programs for pre-K students. More Georgia roads and bridges will get repaired.

Those are just a few additions House lawmakers made to Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed $37.5 billion amended fiscal year 2024 budget, which passed in the House Appropriations Committee today. It now heads to the House floor for a vote.

Nailing down a final version of the  fiscal 2024 budget is a multi-step process. Now, at mid-year (the fiscal year ends June 30), both the governor and lawmakers have reviewed actual revenues received, forecasted what the state’s remaining budget needs are, and recommended changes to the initial budget passed last spring.

In his proposed amended budget, Kemp added $5.1 billion to the original fiscal 2024 budget, including big-ticket transportation projects, new hospitals, and $1,000 pay raises for state employees. The governor’s budget includes using $2 billion of the state’s $16 billion revenue surplus.

Lawmakers can’t add money to the budget, but they can move money around. In their appropriations bill, HB 915, House budget leaders accepted most of Kemp’s recommendations, and added a few of their own.

Senate Bill 344 by State Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R-Paulding) would create a state sales tax holiday for gun purchases, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A bill that would create a five-day window for Georgians to buy guns, ammunition and firearm accessories free of tax has passed in the state Senate in a 30-22 vote.

The measure, Senate Bill 344, purports to help hunters, who play a crucial role in keeping the state’s deer population under control, but critics say it would widen Georgia’s already unrestrictive gun regulations even further.

Under SB 344, the newly-created tax holiday would begin on the second Friday in October for each year, and last for five days. All firearms and gun-related purchases made during the holiday would be exempt from sales and use taxes.

“The Second Amendment sales tax holiday is intended to encourage hunting, conservation and tourism in the state of Georgia,” said state Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), who authored the bill. “By carving out a small window of this tax revenue, we hope to expand the base of hunters and increase the overall tax revenue dedicated to conservation.”

However, Senate Republicans voted down an amendment that would restrict the tax break to only hunting-related gun purchases, a fact Senate Democrats were quick to point out.

“This bill is not about hunting. It’s about politics,” said state Sen. Jason Esteves (D-Atlanta). “Colleagues, I encourage you and I urge you to vote no against this bill, not because it’s a gun sales tax holiday for hunting, because ultimately what this is intended to do is to score political points at the expense of Georgia’s families.”

“Let’s stop blaming the gun and start looking into the communities,” said state Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula). “Let’s start talking to children growing up in single-family homes. Let’s start addressing mental health issues. Quit blaming that inanimate object and quit using it to politicize firearms in the state of Georgia.”

The bill now goes to the House for another vote. If it passes in both chambers, it will be sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

From the AJC:

Anavitarte’s bill initially sought an 11-day tax holiday, but senators shortened the time frame to five days. Anavitarte said the 11-day holiday would have cost the state between $1.3 million and $3.3 million. He did not provide updated numbers on the shorter time window.

The sales tax would be removed for sales of guns, ammunition, gun safes, trigger locks and accessories, such as scopes and magazines.

SB 344 is not the only bill focusing on taxes and firearms this year. State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta, is sponsoring Senate Bill 340, which would waive the sales tax on gun safes and gun safety accessories year-round. She estimates her bill would cost the state about $1.6 million in tax revenue.

In the state House, state Rep. Mark Newton, an Augusta Republican, has filed House Bill 971, which would provide tax credits of up to $300 per person for those who purchase a gun safe or enroll in an in-person course on safely handling a firearm.

Both SB 340 and HB 971 have bipartisan support.

The House will now consider SB 344.

Senate Bill 63, which would require cash bail for more offenses, passed the State House, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The Republican controlled House voted 97-69 along party lines to adopt a conference committee report on Senate Bill 63 worked out by House and Senate negotiators.

The ban on no-cash bail applies to both violent and non-violent crimes, from murder and rape to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and white-collar crimes including forgery and financial transaction card fraud.

The Senate passed the conference committee report last week in a 30-17 vote, also along party lines. Most of the work on the bill was done last year, but the conference committee formed at the end of the 2023 legislative session couldn’t reach an agreement before lawmakers adjourned for the year.

“This legislation will make it clear that Georgia is not going to go down the path of other states that have (allowed) no-cash bail,” Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens, who carried the bill in the House, said Tuesday.

Gaines said statistics show that criminal suspects who are granted no-cash bail fail to appear in court at much higher rates than those forced to post bail.

Rep. Tanya Miller, D-Atlanta, accused Republican lawmakers of undermining criminal justice reforms then-GOP Gov. Nathan Deal championed during the last decade. Miller said forcing criminal suspects to remain in jail before their court date is counterproductive.

Senate Bill 373 by State Sen. Larry Walker, III, (R-Perry) would expedite licensure for some Marriage and Family Therapists and passed the Senate, according to the AJC.

Senate Bill 373, which received unanimous support, would allow marriage and family therapists who have practiced lawfully in other states to move more quickly through the licensure process in Georgia. So long as an applicant holds a valid license, is considered in good standing with another state, does not have a criminal record, is a legal resident and pays the necessary fees, the expedited license should be issued within 30 days.

Sen. Larry Walker, a Republican from Perry who sponsored the bill, commended Gov. Brian Kemp for including additional funding for mental health services in his proposed budget. But he said the missing piece to improving the system is addressing the workforce needs, and without access to professional care, “all these efforts that we’ve done really will be in vain.”

“Georgia has had serious problems with access to mental health care and a shortage of qualified mental health professionals at a time when demand for services is increasing,” he said.

Despite completing a standardized national exam, some therapists who have moved to Georgia have had to take additional courses, or repeat courses, to practice in the state. Sen. Sonya Halpern, a Democrat from Atlanta who spoke in support of the bill, said therapists have been delayed for up to a year while awaiting licensure.

Senate Bill 332 by Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) would reform the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission created in 2022, according to the AJC.

Last year, lawmakers created the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission and empowered it to sanction prosecutors once the state Supreme Court approved rules to guide the panel.

The law was challenged in court, and the Supreme Court said it had “grave doubts” about whether it had the constitutional authority to approve rules and standards of conduct for the commission as required by the law.

Senate Bill 332, sponsored by state Sen. Randy Robertson, a Republican from Cataula, would remove the required Supreme Court oversight.

Robertson said he sponsored last year’s bill creating the commission and this year’s bill to amend the law in response to former Muscogee County District Attorney Mark Jones’ indictment and conviction for misconduct in office. Robertson said judges and law enforcement officers all have an oversight panel and prosecutors should have something similar.

“All we’re trying to do is hold every officer of the court to the same standard,” Robertson said. “It’s what’s right. It’s what the citizens who elected (the) district attorneys deserve.”

The House last month passed its own version of a fix to last year’s bill, House Bill 881, also removing the need for the Supreme Court’s approval.

SB 332 now goes to the House for its consideration, but it’s unclear which version — if any — will pass the General Assembly this year.

Senate Resolution 471 by State Sen. John Albers (R-Alpharetta) and others would create a Senate Study Committee on Access to Affordable Child Care, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The sponsors include 15 Republican lawmakers and nine Democrats. Among those sponsoring the resolution is District 54 state Sen. Chuck Payne, R-Dalton.

“The recent expiration of allocated funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 puts additional child care centers, children, parents and caregivers at risk, with at least one report suggesting that Georgia may lose 10,575 child care jobs and experience 944 child care program closures,” the bill text reads, “resulting in the loss of care for more than 80,000 children in this state.”

Per the bill language, recent estimates indicate that parents who do not have affordable child care options could encounter $218 million in lost wages stemming from reduced work hours — or even having to leave the workforce altogether.

“In particular, limited access to affordable child care serves as a significant barrier for mothers of young children to enter and remain in the workforce full time,” the bill text states. “A study is needed to thoroughly determine what measures may be necessary and appropriate to increase access to affordable child care in this state.”

The proposed study committee would consist of seven members appointed by the president of the Georgia Senate.

“The committee shall undertake a study of the conditions, needs, issues and problems mentioned above or related thereto and recommend any action or legislation which the committee deems necessary or appropriate,” the bill language reads. “The committee may conduct such meetings at such places and at such times as it may deem necessary or convenient to enable it to exercise fully and effectively its powers, perform its duties and accomplish the objectives and purposes of this resolution.”

Per Senate Resolution 471, despite the availability of miscellaneous types of state and federal assistance, many child care centers in Georgia have either failed to reopen or reopened with reduced staff since the outbreak of COVID-19.

“In addition to the effects of inflation on the broader economy, the rising cost of child care as a large share of family income makes it a supportive service that is largely unattainable for many Georgians,” the resolution continues. “In the event the committee adopts any specific findings or recommendations that include suggestions for proposed legislation, the chairperson shall file a report of the same prior to the date of abolishment specified in this resolution.”

The resolution was “favorably reported” by a Senate committee on Jan. 31. The resolution received a second reading before the state Senate on Feb. 1.

Senate Bill 189 by State Sen. Max Burns (R-Sylvania) passed the Senate and would eliminate the use of QR Codes for counting ballots, according to the AJC.

The Georgia Senate voted along party lines Tuesday to abandon the use of bar codes on ballots. Instead, ballots would be counted from the printed text or filled-in ovals next to candidate names.

“The biggest challenge that a voter has is knowing that their vote was correctly recorded,” said Sen. Max Burns, a Republican from Sylvania. “Let’s eliminate QR codes. Let’s make sure that electors can read the ballot and be clear about how they voted.”

Democrats critical of the proposal said it would be expensive and impractical to implement before this November’s presidential election.

“We have an election around the corner and there is not time to deal with all this new technology now,” said Sen. Sally Harrell, a Democrat from Atlanta. “There was plenty of time to do it, but Republicans chose not to.”

Under Senate Bill 189, ballot scanners would count votes directly from the ballot text or a machine mark, such as a computer-printed oval filled in with voters’ choices. The text or bubbles would become the official vote rather than the QR code.

The cost of technology changes needed to count ballots from the text starts at $15 million — and possibly much more — for thousands of new ballot printers and election computers across the state. So far, lawmakers haven’t appropriated money in the state budget for replacement election equipment.

The legislation cleared the Senate on a 31-22 vote, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed. The bill now advances to the state House.

Fulton County government’s access to voter records is restricted after a cyberattack against the county government, according to the Associated Press via WRDW.

Robert Sinners, spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, said Thursday that Fulton County’s access to the state voter registration system had been restricted as a precaution. There was no indication election systems were targeted, and county officials were working through plans to begin restoring the connection, county spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt said.

“In an abundance of caution, Fulton County and the Secretary of State’s technology systems were isolated from one another as part of the response efforts,” Corbitt said in a statement. “We are working with our team to securely re-connect these systems as preparations for upcoming elections continue.”

The county, which includes Atlanta, did not respond to questions about whether officials were able to process new voter registration applications and mail ballot requests received since discovering the breach, which the county described as a “cybersecurity incident.”

A document on the county’s website indicated no mail ballot requests had been processed since Jan. 26.

County election officials still have time to do that work, and state officials said they do not expect the issues will affect the upcoming primary. The voter registration deadline is Feb. 12, the same day election offices can begin to send mail ballots to those who requested them.

In-person, early voting is scheduled to begin Feb. 19.

Floyd County and its municipalities are discussing how to move forward after the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) passed, according to the Rome News Tribune.

In November, voters approved a six-year special purpose, local option sales tax referendum, and now city and county officials have started discussion on to prioritize and pay for projects on the SPLOST list.

On Tuesday, Floyd County Manager Jamie McCord told the Rome-Floyd Joint Services Committee projects can be funded via cash flow as SPLOST proceeds come in, or they could issue bonds. However, now isn’t the best time to borrow money because of higher interest rates.

“We spoke with bond counsel over the last couple of weeks,” McCord said. “We could issue up to $50 million within the referendum, and the debt service would be about $9 million. The issuance is around $750,000. So, basically, around 20 percent of your collections are going to go to debt service and issuance costs.”

The moves of both the city and county police departments are the result of a local sales tax distribution agreement reached in 2022. Under that agreement, Floyd County assumed 100 percent ownership of the joint law enforcement center, which will now be converted to additional courtroom space.

Monroe County Commissioners voted to raise the pay for poll workers, according to 13WMAZ.

Rosalyn Harbuck has been with Monroe County’s Board of Elections for over ten years. She said their minimum wage pay rate has cost them in the past.

“Some of them had been with us for a certain number of years, but recently we’ve lost several because our pay grade was not where it really needed to be,” Harbuck said.

“You can’t recruit the kind of people we need to be sure that the election is held fairly for everyone and that it’s secure as we can make it,” Harbuck said.

Jim Hedges is the county manager. He compared Monroe County’s poll worker pay rate to nearby counties like Butts, Lamar, and Jones.

All of them are paying at least two dollars more than Monroe County. In his proposal, hedges gave commissioners two options, an increase to $10 an hour or an increase to $12.50.

Commissioner John Ambrose believes there are ways to save money despite allocating more funds for a pay raise.

“We got what 13 precincts we vote at? This can be cut back to at least six precincts…the money it would save us,” Ambrose said.

The first election in Monroe County will be in March for the presidential primary. It will also include the county’s T-SPLOST.

Port Wentworth short-term rental owners will see higher property tax bills, according to WTOC.

The city of Port Wentworth could be looking at an extra half of a million dollars annually which they say they are going to circle right back into beautification and revitalization.

Port Wentworth is now joining 90 cities and counties around the state to increase their city taxes on short-term rentals.

This tax includes campsites, hotels, and motels. This increase is a 2% increase to match the surrounding areas at a total of 8%.

A visitor rents a room in Port Wentworth for $100, under this new tax, eight dollars will go to the city.

That’s money the residents of Port Wentworth don’t have to fork out but still get to benefit from.

“This is less of our general fund from our general sales tax that we are using, we are using this funding or the increase towards beautifying and enhancement,” said James Touchton, Port Wentworth Economic Development Director.

This tax is expected to into effect by July 1st.

Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar will Chair the National League of Cities 2024 University Communities Council, according to the Statesboro Herald.

According to a release from the City of Statesboro, McCollar was elected to a one-year term to develop and guide programs among local elected officials from similar communities. The appointment was announced by NLC President Mayor-Elect David Sander of Rancho Cordova, Calif.

“I am honored to serve as chair of the University Communities Council and look forward to working with the other council members,” McCollar said. “With Statesboro being home to three higher education institutions, I think we’ll be able to offer significant dialogue to conversations surrounding challenges and opportunities for university communities.”

Houston County law enforcement agencies said more teens are gaining access to guns through theft from cars, according to 13WMAZ.

As Warner Robins city leaders look for ways to bring violence prevention, county law enforcement say locking your car doors and filing police reports could help prevent violence.

“Majority of them — not all, but majority — are from entering autos car break-ins things like that,” Sgt. Justin Clark with Warner Robins Police said.

Clark says those guns are often used to commit violent crimes. He says the average age of people involved in those gun thefts are often 14 to 16.

Agencies have seen people as young as 12 or 13 involved. Perry Police Chief Alan Everidge says in the last few years, they’ve seen an increase in car break-ins.

“We’re asking people don’t leave guns in the car — but sure don’t leave them unlocked,” Everidge said.

Glynn County Commissioner Sammy Tostensen (District 1) will host a Town Hall meeting on Thursday, according to The Brunswick News.

It’s the first of three planned in different areas of his district, the largest in Glynn County.

Tostensen said Bo Clark, at-large county commissioner, will also be at the town hall to help answer questions.

“Most everyone at these town hall meetings will live in that area,” he said.

Tostensen said the annual town hall meetings are an effective way to communicate directly with constituents to learn how they feel about his job performance and what their concerns and needs are.

Other county officials scheduled to attend include Project Manager Jason Hagen, who will update residents on Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax projects in their area.

“We’ll cover a lot of topics in a short amount of time,” he said. “We’re there to inform them what is happening in our district. My pledge as commissioner of District 1 is to keep them informed.”

Dougherty County Commissioners responded to the lawsuit by the former County Manager, according to WALB.

“Dougherty County’s first priority is delivering exceptional service to those we serve. Our mission is to improve the Quality of life for all our citizens by being accessible and good stewards of our resources while delivering cost-effective, responsive, services with integrity, fairness, and friendliness.”

“In regard to the complaint filed Dougherty County Superior Court on February 5, 2024, at 4:47 PM, the Board and individually named commissioners have not been served, but we are aware of the Complaint filed by Mr. McCoy.”

“While all allegations of misconduct are denied and will be responded to accordingly, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time given the sensitive personnel matter and pending litigation at issue.”

“Dougherty County Commission”

In the 31-page legal complaint, McCoy is asking the Dougherty County Superior Court for at least $5 million, his job reinstated as county administrator, costs of attorney fees, and costs associated with multiple damages under Georgia law.

The complaint also lists several accusations against Dougherty County leaders. One claim alleges retaliation, for an incident involving Commissioner Clinton Johnson. In, January of 2023, McCoy called out Johnson for misuse of county funds, citing a $728 hotel bill in Atlanta, where Johnson allegedly didn’t show up for one of two nights. And ordered an alcoholic beverage on the county’s dime.

The legal complaint also claims McCoy’s termination was all a part of a “calculated scheme devised by the defendants, based on information and belief, outside of an official meeting”.

Garden City City Manager Scott Robider resigned, according to WTOC.

Robider gave the following statement to WTOC:

“After eight rewarding years with Garden City, I have chosen to resign to seek new opportunities. The Mayor and Council have treated me like family and I will always be grateful for the opportunity they afforded me to be the City Manager of the best City around. The City has many exciting projects in the works and I know the City staff and City Council will do an excellent job in ensuring  a bright future for the residents.”

Forsyth County Republican Party Chair Mendy Moore announced she is running for County Commission District 4, according to AccessWDUN.

“Our infrastructure, especially our roads, cannot accommodate the rapid, high-density growth that we’ve seen in recent years here in Forsyth,” Moore said. “We need strong conservative leaders who are ready to take on the tough fights and make the tough calls to protect our families.”

She also pointed to her advocacy while working with the Forsyth County GOP in urging county commissioners to lower millage rates.

”I’m a seasoned accounting professional, I know how to champion fiscal conservatism. I will cut wasteful spending, keep property tax rates low, and hold county government accountable for how they spend our tax dollars,”

The District 4 seat, which represents the northeast portion of Forsyth County, is currently held by Cindy Jones Mills, who recently announced that she will not seek re-election.

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