Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 20, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 20, 2023

On January 22, 1733, James Oglethorpe arrived at Yamacraw Bluff, where the colony of Georgia would be founded.

On January 20, 1788, the First African Baptist Church was established in Savannah, Georgia, one of the first black churches in the United States.

John Marshall was nominated as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States by President John Adams on January 20, 1801.

Robert E. Lee was born on January 19, 1807 at his family home, Stratford Hall, Virginia.

Lieutenant William T. Sherman was ordered to Georgia for the first time in his military career on January 21, 1844.

Delegates to the Secession Convention in Milledgeville voted 208-89 in favor of seceding from the United States on January 19, 1861.

On January 22, 1861, following the passage of Georgia’s Secession Resolution, six delegates, including both from Gwinnett County, signed a statement protesting the decision to secede. On January 23, 1861, Georgia’s members of the United States House of Representatives resigned following passage of the Secession Ordinance; her Senators had resigned earlier. The next day, the secession convention in Milledgeville elected ten delegates to a conference of Southern states in Montgomery, Alabama.

On January 22, 1866, Georgia Governor Charles Jenkins signed a resolution by the legislature asking for federal troops to be removed from Georgia.

On January 19, 1871, Savannah, Georgia became the first city to recognize Robert E. Lee’s Birthday as a public holiday.

On January 20, 1920, DeForest Kelley was born in Atlanta and he grew up in Conyers. Kelley sang in the choir of his father’s church and appeared on WSB radio; he graduated from Decatur Boys High School and served in the United States Navy. Kelley became famous as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in the original Star Trek series.

On January 20, 1928, Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Warm Springs, Georgia for the tenth time, staying through February 11th. During the visit, he spoke to the Chamber of Commerce of Americus and Sumter County, telling them

“In Georgia the movement towards the cities is growing by leaps and bounds and this means the abandonment of the farms or those farms that are not suited to the uses of agriculture. It means that we will have vacant lands but these can and should be used in growing timber.”

January 20th became Inaugural Day in 1937; when the date falls on a Sunday, a private inauguration of the President is held, with a public ceremony the following day. The Twentieth Amendment moved inauguration day from March 4 to January 20. Imagine six additional weeks of a lame duck President.

Roosevelt was sworn-in to a fourth term as President on January 20, 1945 and died in Warm Springs on April 12, 1945.

On January 20, 1939, Paul D. Coverdell was born in Des Moines, Iowa. Coverdell was one of the key figures in the development of the Georgia Republican Party.

On January 22, 1959, Atlanta buses were integrated after a federal court decision.

United States Senator and former Georgia House Speaker and Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr. died on January 21, 1971.

On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court issued its 7-2 decision in the case known as Roe v. Wade.

On January 20, 1977, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as the 39th President of the United States.

On January 21, 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardoned draft resistors from the Vietnam War era and urged Americans to conserve energy.

On January 21, 1978, the Bee Gees Saturday Night Live album hit #1 on the sales charts, where it would stay for 24 weeks.

On January 20, 1981, Ronald Wilson Reagan was inaugurated 40th President of the United States.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp announced House and Senate Floor Leaders for the Session, according to a Press Release:

“As we enter a session of importance for all Georgians, I’m proud to announce the dedicated public servants who will serve as my Floor Leaders,” said Governor Kemp. “In my first term we passed historic budgets and bills that benefit hardworking Georgians and families. As we enter my second term, I’m looking forward to working with these Leaders to build on those achievements. Together, we will make even more history for the Peach State.”

2023-2024 Georgia State Senate Floor Leaders

Senator Bo Hatchett, Senate District 50

Senator Mike Hodges, Senate District 3

2023-2024 Georgia House of Representatives Floor Leaders

Representative Lauren McDonald, House District 26

Representative Soo Hong, House District 103

Representative Will Wade, House District 9

Representative Matthew Gambill, House District 15

From The Brunswick News:

[Sen. Mike] Hodges said he is humbled and proud to be asked by the governor to serve.

“I believe this position will help me provide stronger representation to the good folks living in District 3,” he said.

Senate District 3 includes a part of Ware County and all of Glynn, McIntosh, Camden, Brantley and Charlton counties.

Garrison Douglas, the governor’s press secretary, was asked if it is unusual for a freshman senator to be appointed a floor leader.

“While a privilege, it is not unusual for floor leaders to be members of the freshman class,” Douglas said.

State House Committee rosters also appear to have been filled out.

From AccessWDUN:

Representatives Matt Dubnik, Chris Erwin and  Senator Greg Dolezal were named committee Chairmen this past week.

State Representative Matt Dubnik (R-Gainesville) was named the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

“What an honor it is to lead the investment in Georgia’s 1.8 million young learners,” Rep. Dubnik said. “The responsibility of overseeing more than $12 billion dollars in the state budget for K-12 education is a task that I am ready for and have prepared for during my time serving on the Appropriations Committee since 2019, as well as serving as the chairman of the House Education Committee since 2021. We will help all students, teachers and school systems to succeed, regardless of their zip code.”

State Representative Chris Erwin (R-Homer) was named the Chairman of the House Education Committee.

“I am honored to serve the communities in House District 32, especially the families who’ve chosen to call Northeast Georgia home,” Erwin said. “My passion all of my adult life has been to assist our youth in their quest for education and to develop their path to a productive future. I look forward to guiding legislation that can help our youth achieve their goals and help parents feel secure in sending their children to our K-12 schools.”

Senator Greg Dolezal (R – Cumming) was appointed to serve as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and as the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee last week.

“I am honored to have been chosen by Lt. Governor Burt Jones and my fellow members of the Senate Committee on Assignments in for the opportunity to serve as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation,” Senator Dolezal said. “Establishing the infrastructure to ensure that Georgians are able to move around the state with ease is of the utmost importance. It is up to the committee to guarantee that all issues relating to highway safety, regulation of intrastate common carriers including railroads, buses, trucks, vessels, pipelines, and civil aviation are heard and vetted thoroughly within the committee process.”

From the Athens Banner Herald:

On Thursday, Rep. Marcus Wiedower, R-Watkinsville, was announced as the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government.

“I am excited about the opportunity Speaker Burns has given me, and I fully intend to be a good steward of resources in this role,” Wiedower was quoted as saying in a press release. “I look forward to working together with our state agencies to ensure our government continues to function in an efficient and effective manner for the people of Georgia.”

The Subcommittee on General Government considers the budget as it relates to various state agencies.

New State House Speaker Jon Burns (R-Newington) says he is undecided about some issues before the legislature, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

Burns, R-Newington, said he’s waiting to see how a court challenge to Georgia’s 2019 abortion law plays out before deciding whether any additional anti-abortion legislation is necessary this year.

Ditto when it comes to whether lawmakers should enact a full expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act as legislative Democrats have advocated for years. The General Assembly should give fellow Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s limited Medicaid expansion a chance before going further, Burns told reporters Thursday during his first news conference since House lawmakers elected him speaker earlier this month.

Burns also pledged to consider a proposal to eliminate general-election runoffs in Georgia, which gained momentum after U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in November but was forced into a taxpayer-funded runoff when he failed to win a majority of the vote. Warnock won the December runoff by a larger margin.

While the Georgia House and Senate have had their fair share of disagreements over the years, Burns predicted the two chambers will enjoy a smooth relationship. He pointed to the recent agreement House and Senate leaders reached to schedule the entire 40-day legislative session with a single resolution, something that hasn’t happened under the Gold Dome in memory.

“That speaks to the issue of are we going to be able to get along,” Burns said. “I think we’re going to get along well.”

From the Georgia Recorder:

Burns also said he has no interest in taking up new abortion restrictions while the state’s six-week abortion ban is being challenged in court – a position that will deflate any hope anti-abortion advocates had for more restrictions in the first legislative session since the U.S. Supreme Court made abortion access a state decision.

A Fulton County judge overturned Georgia’s law in November, but the state has appealed the ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court, which is set to hear arguments in March. An attempt to make it harder to access abortion medication in Georgia – requiring, for example, an in-person exam – stalled last session.

“I think the posture that the House should be in – and certainly the posture Jon Burns is in – is we’re going to wait and see exactly what becomes of the legislation we passed,” he said.

“We’re going to hear from the state Supreme Court, and then we’ll move forward on something if we need to. If not, we certainly have something in place.”

But Burns said he was open to another health care proposal that has gone nowhere in the past – raising the state’s tax on tobacco products. Georgia has the second lowest tobacco tax rate in the country.

Burns has restructured the House committees in a way meant to encourage lawmakers to dig into complex health care issues, and he says a possible tobacco tax increase is an example of a health care policy that could bubble up from the committees.

Under Burns, public health has been peeled off as its own committee, led by Marietta Republican Rep. Sharon Cooper who was the chair of the health committee. Rep. Lee Hawkins, a Gainesville Republican, now chairs the health panel.

Rep. Butch Parrish, a Swainsboro Republican who formerly chaired the health budget subcommittee, now leads the House Special Committee on Healthcare.

“I think we have the right folks in place when we look at the focus we’re going to take on a broad perspective on health,” Burns said. “And certainly, if that’s something that rises to the level of us wanting to have more serious discussion, we can have those.”

From the AJC:

Here’s what Burns said about other key issues:

Sports betting: “I believe the position in the House is that we’re still looking. We’re still considering. We want to make sure we consider all the implications … I’m not sure, at this point in time, about the ability to do something with sports betting or any other type of gambling issue without a constitutional amendment.”

Education policy: “I think we’re gonna have a very robust discussion when it comes to school funding, when it comes to vouchers and other issues that come before us. … Nothing is off the table for us.”

Legislation to change runoff elections is expected in the General Assembly, according to WSAV.

“We are going to see some issues with voting issues,” said State. Rep. Roger Bruce (D-South Fulton County)

“In the long run I support instant run-off or ranked choice voting – people can rank candidates – ranked choice is another term for that,” said State Rep. Marvin Lim (D-Norcross).

“I think evidence has shown outside of GA that can be an efficient way to do voting but will requite a lot of education,” Rep. Lim continued.

“I was on a Saturday in December and saw so many people show up that early voting – but these are educated so what are we doing year round to educate voters through digital means?”

Lawmakers say this is how military and overseas ballots work – with ranked choices – and it saves both money and time.

Coastal Georgia will see an influx of Korean families as the Hyundai plant is built and goes online, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As South Korean families prepare to take positions at the Hyundai plant, community members in Bryan, Bulloch, Chatham and Effingham counties must be ready to welcome them with open arms. More than 100 “team members” have already moved to the area.

The Savannah Joint Development Authority, the Development Authority of Bryan County, World Trade Center Savannah and the Richmond Hill/Bryan County Chamber of Commerce hosted a seminar Tuesday morning to discuss ways the community can be of assistance.

Work assignments can be anywhere from two to five years and although the stint is short, guest speaker Jeanne Charbonneau, who spent nearly two decades serving as the Korean Family Support Coordinator for Hyundai and suppliers, said first impressions will last a lifetime.

Carter Infinger, chairman of the Bryan County Board of Commissioners, suggested residents familiarize themselves with South Korean tradition and customs.

Typically, 50% of those families adjust after six months.

“It’s important that we build good long-term relationships for a successful future with Hyundai,” said Infinger. “One way to build those relationships is to be aware of the customs and traditions common in South Korea. We can learn from those that have been part of the new Hyundai Motor Company plant in other regions to facilitate our own success.”

“My general advice is welcome them with open hearts,” said Charbonneau. “In most cases, they didn’t have a choice in coming here. Knowing they can and will be supported here is going to be really important. Certain things can have a trickledown effect because they will talk to each other as the rotation starts to occur. Be sensitive to their culture, know a little bit about their culture and know a little bit about their history. This economic development project is going to change the landscape of these counties in a good way but you have to be receptive to that. Let them know we are happy that they are here in our community.”

Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division released preliminary mining plans for the Twin Pines mine near the Okefenokee Swamp, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division released the Mining Land Use Plan for public comment on Thursday, kicking off the first of two public comment periods leading up to the final decision as to whether the controversial titanium dioxide mine will be permitted to operate at the edge of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

Anybody can view and comment on the plan for the next 60 days. For more information, visit the EPD’s website. Public comments can be sent via email to or physically to the office of the Land Protection Branch at 4244 International Parkway, Atlanta Tradeport- Suite 104, Atlanta, Georgia 30354.

The EPD will host virtual public hearings at 6 p.m. Feb. 21 and 23 on the mining plan. Attendees should register in advance using the link provided in the Twin Pines Public Notice Announcement.

The Mining Land Use Plan is an operational blueprint outlining the engineering of the plan and its ability to operate while protecting adjacent watersheds, in this case the Okefenokee Swamp and the St. Marys River. Once the public comment period is closed, the EPD will take those comments into consideration. Should the agency approve the plan, it will then move to start another 60-day public comment period for the overall permit. At the earliest, this places any final decisions around late May.

“The draft Mining Land Use Plan released (Thursday) by EPD is deeply flawed,” said Rhett Jackson, a hydrologist at the University of Georgia who has been independently publishing analyses of the mining plans. One of the major issues Jackson has with the plan is how the EPD conducted its research.

Rather than using a river gauge closer to the mining site to understand water flow in the area, the EPD is using one several miles downstream on the St. Marys River. EPD documents argue this is because the gauge farther away has more accurate data. Jackson said data from the closer gauge is more accurate and reflects much more severe ecological damage than the EPD’s analysis.

From The Brunswick News:

Opponents say mining near the Okefenokee could permanently damage the swamp’s ability to hold water. Twin Pines officials argue mining will have minimal impacts.

Josh Marks, an Atlanta lawyer who helped lead the fight to stop DuPont from mining near the Okefenokee in the 1990s, also expressed concerns about Twin Pines’ plans.

“Twin Pines Minerals’ dangerous proposal to strip mine along the hydrologic boundary of the Okefenokee would be a massive threat to the swamp’s integrity even if Twin Pines Minerals was a flawless, experienced operator,” Marks said.

The company has no experience developing titanium mines, and has a “laundry list of violations and misrepresentations,” the most recent of which being its apparent violation of state law governing its exploratory drilling and data collection when it was developing the project, Marks said.

“Simply put, Twin Pines Minerals can’t be trusted to operate in the middle of a desert much less next to Georgia’s greatest natural treasure,” Marks said.

A speed camera malfunction is causing questions about Savannah’s deployment of the technology, according to WTOC.

When a WTOC employee received a warning citation, we checked our cameras and found his ticket was issued at a time his car was sitting idly in our employee parking lot.

Savannah Police said it was human error addressed before any real tickets were issued, and that the machines work. But some drivers, like WTOC employee Ian Robinson, are skeptical.

The warning ticket shows it happened during after school pickup, when the limit is reduced to 25 mph. The ticket time said 3:57.

“Everything said I was here at the time… which I think was 3:57,” he said.

We checked our cameras to verify.

“And, low and behold, we look at the camera, and he sends me a picture of my car sitting in the parking lot at 3:57… just sitting basically right here,” Robinson said. “And I’m like, huh.”

Gavin said, the camera was off by three hours. But, he said they found out about it, and fixed it right away. He said the malfunction happened during a 30-day warning period after they installed the cameras in October.

“So, this was part of the, one of the cameras that was off on its time,” Gavin explained. “This is human error. This was someone who was supposed to set that camera to the specific time, and didn’t do that.”

Then, there’s the hours of enforcement. SPD said they differ across school zones. But, we found those reduced hours are not clearly posted in all school zones, and are also not easy to find online.

We could not find them listed anywhere on the department’s web site.

Assistant Chief Gavin told us speeding is the #1 complaint the department receives. After installing the cameras, SPD reported a 59% drop in speeding in those school zones.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr joined twenty other state AGs in signing a letter protesting mail sales of abortion pills, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The FDA decided to permanently allow doctors to prescribe the Mifeprex (mifepristone) with misoprostol medication remotely, a decision that was initially allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pills can terminate pregnancy up to 10 weeks.

“In direct contravention of longstanding FDA practice and congressional mandate, the FDA’s rollback of important safety restrictions ignores both women’s health and straightforward federal statutes. We urge you to reverse your decision,” the Jan. 13 letter states.

“In our states, we prioritize the health and safety of women and children and our laws reflect this.,” the letter continues. “And in many states, including Alabama, elective abortion is illegal. … Our States will not yield to the Administration’s radical pro-abortion policies.”

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, Georgia AG Chris Carr — who is enforcing a six-week abortion ban — and attorneys general from 20 other states where abortion is illegal or restricted, signed the letter.

Under a more recent guidance from the FDA for the mifepristone risk evaluation mitigation strategy program, pharmacies can now become certified to dispense the medication by completing a Pharmacy Agreement Form. Pharmacies that get certified to dispense the mifepristone must be able to ship it using a shipping service that provides tracking information and ensure the pill is dispensed to the patient in a timely manner, the FDA states.

Gwinnett County Board of Education member Tarece Johnson will remain as Chair, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education voted on Thursday to keep board member Tarece Johnson as is chairwoman for the next 12 months, but a decision on who will lead the board during meetings that she cannot attend has been postponed.

Johnson, who was the chairwoman for 2022, was nominated by fellow board member Mary Kay Murphy to remain in the position with board member Adrienne Simmons seconding the nomination. No one else was nominated for the position and the board approved by a 4-0 vote.

Board member Steve Knudsen, who was the board’s vice chairman in 2022, was not at the meeting.

As for who will serve as the vice chairman in 2023, however, that decision has been tabled for a month. It is expected to be taken up at the board’s February meeting, when Knudsen is expected to be in attendance.

United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) announced new federal education funding for the Columbus area, according to WTVM.

“I have a 13-month-old baby girl at home, and I know there’s nothing more important than the safety, security, and opportunity for our kids,” says U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff, D-Georgia.

Ossoff and Congressman Sanford Bishop, D-Georgia, are working with local education leaders and Columbus State University to expand Columbus State’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center by building a new steam facility in the city.

“This is a $4 million contribution to expand this facility, to help kids achieve their dreams and be inspired in the careers in these important fields,” says Ossoff.

The collaboration is between Muscogee County School District, Columbus State University’s robotics program and the Space Science Center to build an integrated facility that will inspire the next generation of engineers, scientists, or even science educators.

The expansion is all about having a better technically trained workforce and community, starting at an early age.

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