Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 8, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 8, 2023

On February 8, 1751, the first session of the Georgia Provincial Parliament adjourned, having convened on January 15, 1751.

On February 8, 1955, Gov. Marvin Griffin signed a resolution by the General Assembly calling on Congress to require racial segregation in the military.

On February 8, 1956, the Georgia State House adopted a resolution purporting to hold the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education null and void.

On February 8, 1981, R.E.M. held their first recording session at Bombay Studios in Smyrna, recording “Gardening At Night,” “Radio Free Europe” and “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville,” as well as others.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

TBB Senate Rules Committee: Upon Adjournment – 450 CAP
7:30 AM Senate Appropriations: Education & Higher Education Sub – 307
8:00 AM Cancelled- Senate Natural Resources & Envt – Mezz 1 CAP
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 15) – House Chamber
10:00 AM Senate Floor Session (LD 15) – Senate Chamber
1:00 PM HOUSE Appropriations Health Sub – 341 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Public Safety – 450 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Banking & Financial Institutions – Mezz 1 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Appropriations: Economic Development Sub – 310 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE Insurance Property & Casualty Sub – 415 CLOB
2:00 PM Senate Joint Education & Higher Education – 307 CLOB
2:00 PM Senate Insurance & Labor – Mezz 1 CAP
2:15 PM HOUSE Judiciary Reeves Sub – 132 CAP
3:00 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Sales Tax Sub – 403 CAP
3:00 PM Cancelled – Senate Health & Human Services – 450 CAP
3:00 PM Senate Appropriations: Transportation Sub – 307 CLOB
3:30 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Public Finance & Policy Sub – 403 CAP
4:00 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Income Tax Sub – 403 CAP
4:00 PM Senate Finance – Mezz 1 CAP
4:30 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Ad Valorem Sub – 403 CAP

No arrests were made in an Albany sword fight. From WALB:

A man suffered a cut to his arm after he says he was attacked by a naked man with a sword, according to the Albany Police Department (APD).

The victim who suffered “a large and deep laceration to the left forearm” told police he was checking an abandoned home that previously belonged to a friend of his when a naked man came out from the home and struck him with a sword, per an APD report.

The man with the sword told police that he was sleeping in the home when he was startled by a breaking noise from the window of the home. He then noticed a man outside the window where he says he put the sword out of the window as a “warning.”

APD was then told by the man that he was hit by the victim with a bat.

Blood was found on the sword, according to APD.

Both men were taken to a local hospital.

WALB found no record of either man being in the Dougherty County Jail and no arrests in the case have been announced.

No word on the whereabouts of Conor MacLeod. There can be only one.

The Georgia Supreme Court upheld a 2022 Camden County referendum in which residents voted overwhelmingly to stop spending public money on the proposed Spaceport, according to The Brunswick News.

The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld the validity of the March 2022 special election where 72% of Camden County voters approved a referendum rejecting a commercial spaceport.

In a statement after the court’s ruling, county officials expressed disappointment over the ruling. One argument by the county was concerns of setting a precedent for voters across the state to challenge a local government’s decision.

“While the Supreme Court ruling regarding a local government’s Home Rule authority is discouraging to hear, the Camden County Board of Commissioners respects the difficult decision made by the justices of the Georgia Supreme Court,” according to the statement. “Clearly, given the complexity of this decision on Home Rule and how it will impact local governments moving forward, this will be a matter the General Assembly will need to address quickly to preserve the representative democracy we have in this great state.”

Megan Desrosiers, president and CEO of the environmental group One Hundred Miles, said she was not surprised by the ruling.

“The Justices’ ruling is thoughtful and thorough,” she said. “Most importantly, it recognizes that Georgia’s constitution was written as a tool for regular citizens to defend themselves against rogue spending and decision-making by their elected officials. The effort put forth by the citizens of Camden County was unprecedented and demonstrates the strength of democracy.”

From WTOC:

The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously rejected a legal challenge by Camden County commissioners who sought to have the referendum last March declared invalid. The officials argued Georgia’s state constitution doesn’t allow citizens to veto decisions of county governments.

The court strongly disagreed, ruling that the state constitution’s language “plainly grants repeal and amendment powers to the electorate” over county ordinances and resolutions. The opinion by Justice Carla Wong McMillian said the county’s reading of the same provisions “would violate well established tenets of constitutional interpretation.”

Both sides in the spaceport battle acknowledged that the citizen referendum power has rarely been used in Georgia.

Lawyers for spaceport critics who gathered signatures calling for the referendum noted it took roughly two years until enough people had signed their petition to force a vote on the project.

From The Current:

The project’s promises were “a fiction propagated by traveling spaceport salesmen,” said resident Steve Weinkle, a longtime opponent of the project.

Throughout the process, the Camden County government fought its citizens at every step. The county first sought to invalidate the citizens’ petition, claiming duplicate signatures amounted to fraud. When that didn’t work it sued the county-employed Probate Court Judge Robert Sweatt who approved the petition. After the March 8 referendum, in which about 72% of voters rejected the spaceport purchase, Camden tried to prevent the Georgia Secretary of State from certifying the results.

On Oct. 6, the Georgia Supreme Court heard oral arguments over whether the Georgia Constitution’s  Home Rule provision gave county voters the power to hold a referendum on the Camden County Board of Commissioners’ plans to purchase spaceport property.

Despite the decision, the commissioners haven’t given up on Spaceport Camden, on Tuesday afternoon issuing this statement that suggests a constitutional fix is needed:

“While the Supreme Court ruling regarding a local government’s Home Rule authority is discouraging to hear, the Camden County Board of Commissioners respects the difficult decision made by the Justices of the Georgia Supreme Court. Clearly, given the complexity of this decision on Home Rule and how it will impact local governments moving forward, this will be a matter that the General Assembly will need to address quickly to preserve the representative democracy we have in this great state,” they wrote.

“The future of Spaceport Camden remains a decision of the Camden County Board of Commissioners and as such will be discussed at a future meeting.”

From the Georgia Recorder via NowHabersham:

“The county has been told – and this slaps ‘em good and hard – that the county is not going to be the one to do it,” said Camden County Commissioner Jim Goodman. “I think it’s political suicide for any commissioner to go along with any deal like this.”

“They hold out the hope that some venture capitalist or some private investor, some Elon Musk will come along and build a spaceport. That’s not going to happen,” he said. “You don’t launch rockets over people’s heads.”

First Amendment advocates argued that citizens’ right to petition their local government is essential, but Chief Justice Michael P. Boggs and Justice Charlie Bethel expressed reservations with the decision’s implications for voter pushback, worrying that it could “usher in a frightful season for local governments in Georgia,” according to a concurring opinion written by Bethel and joined by Boggs.

Bethel said the decision represents the best possible interpretation of the constitution, but it could also make it easier for those with bones to pick over things like zoning ordinances, budget decisions or tax rates to call for frivolous votes.

“I worry that a considerable minority group or groups within a community will be empowered to regularly subject their local community to the expense of a series of referenda as a means of either protest or in an attempt to thwart the will of a fatigued majority in a low turnout election,” Bethel wrote. “I hope I am wrong.”

State Senators voted to pass Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Forsyth County), according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

Georgia senators voted Tuesday to permanently block schools and most state and local government agencies from requiring people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Senate voted 31-21 in favor of the bill, which would make permanent what had been a one-year ban enacted in 2022.

Sen. Greg Dolezal, a Republican from Cumming who is sponsoring the measure, said that when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine at least, the government shouldn’t be able to force anyone to get it, or refuse services to people who are unvaccinated.

“I don’t believe that government should discriminate against citizens based on COVID-19 vaccinations,” Dolezal said.

Sen. Nan Orrock, an Atlanta Democrat, said the majority is “fundamentally signing on to the anti-vaccination movement” and tying the hands of government if COVID-19 again worsens.

The measure bars state agencies, local governments, schools and colleges from requiring proof of vaccination. But because governments and schools can’t require proof, they can’t enforce mandates.

Sen. Ben Watson, a Savannah Republican and medical doctor, argues that because COVID-19 has grown less severe, a mandate isn’t needed.

“The science certainly has evolved, the disease certainly has evolved,” Watson said.

From the AJC:

The Georgia Senate on Tuesday passed legislation on a party-line vote that would permanently ban any state or local agency, government or school from requiring anyone to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Lawmakers passed a version of the measure last year that would have expired June 30. Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Greg Dolezal of Cumming, would make the measure permanent.

The bill now goes to the House for its consideration.

Senate Bill 36 by State Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) would increase penalties for some offenses related to human trafficking and passed the Senate, according to the AJC.

A bill that would vastly increase the minimum sentence for those who pay people for sexual acts and those who collect the money cleared the Georgia Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 36, sponsored by Senate Republican Whip Randy Robertson, would bump up the sentence for people convicted of pimping or pandering from days to at least a year in jail. The bill passed 33-16 on a mostly party-line vote, with state Sen. Jason Esteves, an Atlanta Democrat, voting with Republicans.

“This legislation is very clear,” said Robertson, a former sheriff’s deputy. “What it does is it tells the supplier and that person who feeds off of that supply that we’re not going to stand around and allow them to shop and to sell human flesh anymore.”

SB 36 would require people convicted of arranging for someone to perform sex acts for money or something else of value, known as “pimping,” to serve no less than one year and up to 10 years in prison upon their first conviction. Currently, judges can choose to suspend all but three days of a sentence. The proposed legislation would not bar judges from suspending sentences.

Under current law, those convicted of pimping for the first time are charged with a “misdemeanor of high and aggravated nature.” SB 36 would make pimping a felony act.

A Richmond County voter is suing after a slip-and-fall, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

A woman is suing the City of Augusta, city board of commissioners, Richmond County, and the county board of commissioners after she allegedly fell leaving a voting location.

On Jan. 4, 2021, Manor went to the Bernie Ward Community Center on Lumpkin Road in Augusta to vote, according to the lawsuit. As she was walking away from the building, her foot got caught in one of the loose bricks on the sidewalk and she fell, allegedly causing severe and permanent injuries.

The suit claims the City of Augusta and Richmond County were responsible for maintaining the property where Manor fell, and because of their negligence, she had to undergo significant medical treatment for her injuries.

Rome and Floyd County have begun discussions about a November 2023 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Joint Services Committee also began outlining the composition of the SPLOST committee, which will consist of six members appointed by the county, four by the city and one by Cave Spring.

Another idea was the potential for a transportation SPLOST. That penny sales tax addition would be specifically for transportation and infrastructure projects in Rome and Floyd County.

Savannah City Council adopted pay raises and term limits, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Enacting term limits is not something that falls expressly within the powers of city council, as dictated by the city charter. Instead, the approval of the agenda item allows city staff to ask the Georgia General Assembly to make changes to the city’s charter.

The Legislature will be asked to limit alderspersons to three four-year terms in any one seat, starting when the next council is seated in January 2024. Terms of less than four years will still be recognized as a full term, but prior terms, including those of the sitting council, won’t count towards this total.

Savannah’s charter already term limits the mayor, restricting them to two four-year terms consecutively. Technically, this limit doesn’t restrict a mayor from holding the office for two terms, skipping a term, and then coming back, but that hasn’t happened in recent memory.

Savannah council members approved a pay bump for elected posts. Currently, alderman receive $25,000 annually during their terms. With Tuesday’s approval, the next council will receive $30,000 yearly, and $5,000 for mileage and office expenses. Savannah’s next mayor will also see a raise in salary, from $57,000 annually to $65,000.

Savannah Board of Aldermen member Linda Wilder-Bryan gave folks a piece of her mind, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah Alderwoman Linda Wilder-Bryan called fellow council members “large,” “ghetto” and compared the followers of Alderwomen Alicia Miller Blakely and Kesha Gibson-Carter to those of Adolf Hitler and Jim Jones in a Facebook live video published in January and later removed.

Wilder-Bryan took to Facebook Live through her personal page, not her city alderwoman page, and voiced her frustrations — not only with Gibson-Carter, Blakely and Lanier, but with those who support them as well.

In the video, Wilder-Bryan said: “Y’all can keep following them if you want to, but people followed Hitler, and people followed Jim Jones. Y’all can believe y’all truth or y’all can believe what yall see. And what yall see is a bunch of crap, a bunch of pettiness, a bunch of jealousy. They hate me because I’m fabulous. I’ve got high self-esteem, they can’t take that.”

Also in the video, Wilder-Bryan said “She’s at-large. She is large, tell her I said that too.” in regard to Blakely.

Additionally, she made reference to comments made by District 6 Alderman Kurtis Purtee last year, when he called Gibson-Carter a “ghetto b****” following a meeting. Wilder-Bryan said in the video: “What Kurt shoulda did was call both of them ghetto, because that’s what she is. That’s what they are.”

Gibson-Carter declined comment on Wilder-Bryan’s video and her comments. Blakely’s only response was that Wilder-Bryan would be “in her prayers.”

Chatham County’s new courthouse is expected to be finished in 2024, according to WTOC.

It’s been more than two years since Chatham County broke ground on the new county trial courthouse. It may take longer than expected to get it done.

Chatham County engineers say they hit a few setbacks when building the new county courthouse. It was originally expected to be ready by the end of this year. Now they hope to have it wrapped up by 2024.

Baldwin Mayor Joe Elam resigned his office, according to NowHabersham.

There’s been an abrupt leadership change in Baldwin. During Tuesday night’s city council work session, Baldwin Mayor Joe Elam unexpectedly resigned.

“So, I’m officially no longer the mayor,” Elam said, as he handed over the letter and gavel to Baldwin Mayor Pro Tem Alice Venter. The outgoing mayor then turned in his city laptop and keys.

Mayor Pro Tem Alice Venter took over the meeting, saying she didn’t expect to be the mayor.

Venter will serve as Baldwin’s acting mayor until a new mayor is elected. The city will have to hold a special election to fill Elam’s seat.

The City of Gainesville accidentally evicted homeless people in an effort to help them, according to the Gainesville Times.

A city program meant to help the homeless got off to a rocky start in January when, a day after the program’s first meeting, code enforcement officials left eviction notices at two homeless camps and told about 25 residents they had a week to get off city property.

That was a mistake, city officials said. And the next day, the eviction notices were rescinded.

Mayor Sam Couvillon, who was not at the meeting but was briefed on what happened, said code enforcement “misunderstood” their assignment.

“Our goal is to try to identify people who are in need and try to figure out how we can help them, not try to figure out how we can disturb and make their lives more difficult,” Couvillon said in January.

But some local homelessness activists have criticized the program. Most homeless people are from the city or surrounding area, they say, and the program doesn’t address the root cause of homelessness: the lack of affordable housing.

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