Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 24, 2023

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 24, 2023

Jekyll Island

On January 24, 1915, the first transcontinental telephone call was placed from Jekyll Island, Georgia.

January 24, 1933 saw the first sales tax in Georgia proposed to fund schools and aid for farmers.

On January 24, 1960, Martin Luther King, Jr. became co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, sharing the pulpit with his father.

On January 24, 1987, some 12,000 to 20,000 civil rights protesters marched in Forsyth County, a week after a smaller protest. From the New York Times reporting:

CUMMING, Ga., Jan. 24— This small town in Forsyth County was overwhelmed today by civil rights marchers, members of the Ku Klux Klan and their sympathizers and an army of National Guardsmen and law-enforcement officers who kept the opposing groups separated.

Guarded by what a spokesman for the Governor’s office called ”the greatest show of force the state has ever marshalled,” a crowd of marchers estimated at 12,000 to 20,000 funneled slowly into Cumming, where a week earlier counterdemonstrators, throwing stones and bottles, disrupted an interracial ”walk for brotherhood” prompted by the all-white county’s racist legacy.

As the marchers headed into Cumming, which has a little more than 2,000 people, they found waiting for them, behind a stern-faced force of 2,300 guardsmen and police officers, a group of hundreds if not thousands of white, mainly young, rural men and women, repeatedly shouting, “N[*****], go home!”

Whatever the final figure, the march was one of the largest civil rights demonstrations since a 1965 rally that followed a march from Selma, Ala. to Montgomery. The rally, led by Dr. King, drew 25,000 people.

Seriously, read the Times report.

On January 24, 2001, the Georgia House of Representatives approved legislation changing the state flag to the Barnes design with the state seal on a blue background and a banner depicting five previous flags that flew over Georgia.

2001GeorgiaFlag

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Krispy Kreme will build back better on North Avenue and the “Hot Now” sign will again beckon the hammered. From the AJC:

The company told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an exclusive announcement Monday about the construction of the new doughnut shop at the popular 24-hour location at 295 Ponce de Leon Avenue. An official announcement is planned for Tuesday.

The 4,000-square-foot facility, which routinely had cars wrapped around the building from the drive-thru window, will open this summer and be called “Shaq’s Shop,” the company said. It’s a fitting name considering the basketball legend in 2021 promised the location would rebound following a string of bad luck.

“We’ll bounce back better than ever,” said O’Neal, who joined the ownership team in 2016.

The historic shop was shuttered in February 2021 because of a fire, then demolished that summer after a second blaze in July. In December 2021, the company opened a temporary pop-up store at the location with a drive-thru and limited menu, the first sign that the promise by O’Neal would be fulfilled.

“We’re bouncing back better than I even imagined,” O’Neal said in a news release. “I can’t wait to turn on the Hot Light. It’s gonna light up the whole neighborhood. Get ready, Ponce!”

The new “Hot Light” shop will pay homage to Krispy Kreme’s history in the Atlanta community, as well as the original shop, which opened in 1965. Its interior will include a custom mural and plaque, and its design will allow for plenty of natural light, according to the company.

Doughnut lovers will be able to order from Krispy Kreme’s classic menu, which includes the flagship original glazed as well as other limited time offerings for dine-in, pickup and delivery, the company said.

I’m still a little salty about the disappearance of the chocolate iced cake donuts.

Under the Gold Dome Today

TBD Senate Rules Committee: Upon Adjournment – 450 CAP

8 AM Cancelled – Senate Public Safety – Mezz 1 CAP

10 AM Senate Floor Session (LD 6) – Senate Chamber

10 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 6) – House Chamber

1 PM Cancelled – Senate Children & Families – 307 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY NON-CIVIL COMMITTEE – 132 CAP

2:30 PM Senate Education & Youth – 450 CAP

4 PM Senate Regulated Industries – 450 CAP

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order #01.23.23.01, setting a Special Election on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 for State House District 75 after the resignation of State Rep. Mike Glanton.

Wait, what? I haven’t been able to find out anything about what’s going on there.

Governor Brian Kemp will present the State of the State on Wednesday, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s State of the State address is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Kemp’s address will feature the usual pomp and circumstance, complete with an escort committee of Republicans and Democrats. It’s his opportunity to lay out the specific legislative items he’s looking to pass in the session ahead to support his overall second term agenda.

Expect plenty of economic and budget-related items, along with public safety themes.

One of three Georgians lives in an area with limited availability of primary medical care, according to 13WMAZ.

A national foundation says one out of three Georgians — more than 3.3 million people — live in areas without a primary care physician. Rural counties with a lack of health resources are seeing the most need.

According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Georgia has only met 40% of the care needed. In counties like Peach, Hancock, and Macon, they are underserved and still need healthcare workers. Irene Ho is a certified physician assistant at Family Care of Middle Georgia. She says rural counties are missed because medical professionals aren’t interested in working in those areas.

“They’re really drawn to the larger cities and what larger cities have to offer as far education for their families, resources, family activities, maybe the large city feel, good school systems, so maybe that’s one of the drawbacks,” Ho said.

The shortage doesn’t focus on primary care physicians. It’s in the dental and mental healthcare field, too. Governor Brian Kemp introduced a Healthcare Workforce Commission to hire and retain more healthcare workers in Georgia. Ho says having a primary care physician is important for everyone’s health.

In January 2023, the commission released its final report. It estimates 3.7 percent of the healthcare workforce will leave each year. Either retiring or leaving the state. The report says the state’s growing demand for healthcare services won’t slow down because of population growth, an aging population, and more diseases among Georgians.

Their solutions to keep healthcare workers? Addressing workplace violence, providing loan forgiveness to get graduates to stay in Georgia, and exploring updates to practice limitations.

Former Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Timothy Ward was sworn in to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Leaving behind his leadership over the embattled DOC, Ward joins the five-member parole board tasked with deciding which parole eligible inmates will be released on parole.

“The parole board has an important role in Georgia’s criminal justice system,” Ward said. “During my tenure as the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections, the agency and the board worked closely together to serve Georgia communities and keep families safe. I pledge to make informed decisions when determining which eligible offenders are deserving of parole.”

Parole board members are constitutional officers of the state and full-time employees authorized to grant paroles, pardons, commutations and reprieves. The board is the only entity in the state with the constitutional authority to commute a death sentence. Members are appointed by the governor to seven-year staggered terms and confirmed by the state Senate.

“Tim Ward brings more experience to this board and his decisions will enhance public safety,” Chairman Terry Barnard said.

United States Representative Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) is asking constituents if they would support replacing the federal income and payroll taxes with a national sales tax, according to The Brunswick News.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter says Congress can eliminate the IRS with the adoption of a consumption tax, and he’s asking voters in his district if they support the idea.

Carter, R-1, is conducting a survey that asks: Would you support a flat consumption tax that would replace the IRS and all income and payroll taxes? Respondents have three answers they can choose from: Yes, No, Undecided.

“Since I was first sworn in to Congress, I have been a major proponent of the Fair Tax,” Carter notes in the survey sent via email. “The Fair Tax would repeal and replace our current tax code with a simple, fair consumption tax that eliminates the need for the IRS and puts more control into the hands of the people.”

A co-sponsor of the measure in the past, Carter reintroduced the bill early this month after joining fellow Republicans in the House in repealing the additional 87,000 Internal Revenue Service agents funded by the Biden Administration.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney will hear arguments on whether the “grand jury” used to investigate former President Donald Trump must release its report, according to the AJC.

A Fulton County judge will hear arguments Tuesday from the District Attorney’s office, news media organizations and other stakeholders about whether to make public the final report of a special grand jury that investigated potential criminal interference in Georgia’s 2020 elections.

It will ultimately be up to Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney to determine whether to release the report, which is expected to include a summary of the grand jury’s findings and recommendations about whether anyone should be indicted. McBurney will also decide whether portions of the document should be redacted or expunged before it’s seen by the public.

“The public interest in the report is extraordinary, and there are no countervailing interests sufficient to overcome the presumption,” the coalition [of news outlets] stated in a pre-hearing filing. In addition to the AJC, the group includes WSB-TV, The Associated Press, CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, WXIA-TV and others.

The special grand jury spent eight months investigating whether Trump or his allies broke any state laws as they sought to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s narrow win in Georgia more than two years ago.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission needs additional funding due to litigation over the licensing process, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Andrew Turnage, who became executive director in May 2020, appeared before the House Appropriations General Government Subcommittee Jan. 20 to present an amended budget request for the current fiscal year.

Gov. Brian Kemp had authorized $150,000 in emergency funding to the commission in the previous budget year which ended in June.

“Our protest proceedings continued on into the current fiscal year,” Turnage said. “Our projections is that we will be in excess of $115,000 over budget. We did request $1.2 million in our budget submission but we were funded at $908,000. So this makes our budget for amended Fiscal Year 2023 whole again to cover those administrative hearing costs.”

The hearing costs are the result of 69 applications received by the commission to operate in the medical cannabis industry in Georgia, but by statute, the commission was only allowed to award six licenses to produce, sell and/or transport low-THC products.

“I think you can surmise that there are a lot more unhappy parties than happy parties in that equation,” Turnage said. “There were a number of entities that protested in that process and we conducted pre-hearings for those.”

“Since these licenses are treated as a contract by the language of the law, we were required to conduct a post award protest process,” he said. “In this case, the hearings were all conducted and Judge (Stephanie Howells) ruled in favor of the commission’s evaluation results as the final decisions for all of the protests that were conducted.”

The Georgia Department of Corrections will downsize Lee Arrendale State Prison, the state’s largest women’s prison, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The Lee Arrendale State Prison, located in Habersham County, has a 1,476-inmate capacity. Under the latest GDC budget proposal, it would continue to operate as a much smaller 112-bed “transition center,” a minimum-security facility.

“All the employees that we have there currently will still remain employed at that facility to support that new mission,” state Commissioner of Corrections Tyrone Oliver told Georgia lawmakers.

In Arrendale’s stead, the state plans to create the McRae State Prison in Telfair County.
McRae was owned by a private prison contractor and housed federal prisoners until it closed late last year. The state reportedly purchased the facility for $130 million.

“The ladies that are at that prison [Arrendale] right now are moving to McRae as soon as we get that facility opened up,” Oliver said during state budget hearings.

“While we hate to see the downsizing of this facility, we are encouraged that Commissioner Oliver is taking steps to improve the Department of Corrections statewide,” Rep. Victor Anderson, R-Cornelia, and Sen. Bo Hatchett, R-Cornelia, said in a joint statement. “These changes are in the governor’s proposed budget … and will be deliberated significantly [through] the House and Senate appropriations process.”

Houston County is opening the addition to their courthouse, according to 13WMAZ.

After breaking ground in December of 2020, the state court expansion project is finally complete. The Houston County State Court has moved from Warner Robins to Perry.

At least $20 million of SPLOST money was poured into the new two-story, 46,000 square foot add-on. Jake Cox, community planner with the board of commissioner’s thanks voters for the progress.

“The SPLOST is the reason we’re standing here in this new addition, so to the citizens of Houston County, again, thank you for voting on the 2018 SPLOST,” he added.

Savannah City Council meetings are getting spicy in this election year, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Set against the backdrop of an election year, at the first meeting of 2023, council members made accusations of racism, both institutional and personally internalized, towards both the city’s licensing process and each other.

And a rare vote split saw Savannah Mayor Van Johnson take the side of At-Large Post 1 Alderwoman Alicia Miller Blakely, District 1 Alderwoman Bernetta Lanier, and his mayoral race opponent and At-Large Post 2 Alderwoman Kesha Gibson Carter. The rest of the council voted against giving Cru Lounge the alcohol license, outnumbering the mayor and the alderwomen, 5-4.

The vote comes at a divisive time: The November municipal elections will serve as a referendum on the current council, eight of which were first elected to their posts in 2019. The lone exception is District 5 Alderwoman Estella Shabazz, who won an unopposed race in 2019.

The discussion went on, becoming more heated the longer it stretched. Minutes from the meeting show that District 6 Alderman Kurtis Purtee told Gibson-Carter “shut up Kesha” at one point during the discussion.

“For whatever reason, the politics of the day in this administration is driven by who is part of the majority. I appreciate you having the boldness to go beyond what the majority has demonstrated here, and at least put it on the agenda so the public can see what we’re really dealing with when it comes to bias and disparity about who we allow to do business in the City of Savannah,” Gibson-Carter told Melder, the city manager.

A week later, reached by phone, Wilder-Bryan stood her ground on the insinuation that her pushback was racially motivated.

“I was quiet until she called me a racist. And I know a Black person can’t be a racist,” Wilder-Bryan said. “We don’t make the rules. We try to change the rules. And I was not going to benefit from this. The way I benefit is to give the people what they want.”

Methamphetamine and Fentanyl are growing in Southwest Georgia, according to the Albany Herald.

“Ten years ago, the main drug you could get was cocaine, then it was shifted to crack cocaine,” Eric Schwalls, special agent in charge of the Southwest Georgia Regional Drug Enforcement Office, said. “Now it’s methamphetamine. Meth has skyrocketed because it’s so cheap to make.

“Fentanyl is being put in every drug out there. We’ve seen it in pill form, powder form. People think they’re using cocaine … and there’s fentanyl in it.”

At the last count, there were 28 confirmed overdose deaths in Dougherty County in 2022, with Coroner Michael Fowler awaiting reports on an additional nine potential overdose cases. For 2021, there were 38 confirmed overdose cases in the county.

Following Schwalls’ presentation, the commission voted to accept a $248,000 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, provided by the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. The grant will fund operation of the GBI office located in Albany.

Macon’s housing market could struggle this year, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Economists at the University of Georgia’s Economic Outlook event last week said that Macon’s housing market is in position to lose some ground this year.

“The decline of the housing market in Middle Georgia will likely continue, and it’s part of a universal trend,” said economist Greg George, the director and co-founder of the Center for Economic Analysis at Middle Georgia State University. “But if you’re going to have a mild recession, have one when the economy is strong.”

George spoke on economic trends in Middle Georgia at the event, including the fact that the housing market will likely see a dip in 2023. He cited a 40% decrease in home sales within the past year in Middle Georgia along with interest rates, which he and other economists predict will rise in 2023 and cause a mild recession.

Homes are in high demand in a Macon market stunted by high costs and construction issues since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rising [interest] rates would put a strain on the housing market in Middle Georgia, according to George, but he made clear that it would only be a mild impact.

The interest rates combined with rising mortgages mean the housing market will probably take a hit as part of an overall recession. George said Middle Georgia will be prepared to handle the dip.

This is largely because of the Other Local Operation Sales Tax passed at the end of 2021. The penny tax raised more money for the government and allowed for lower property taxes in Bibb County. OLOST also put more money back in residents’ pockets, another effect that could help diminish the recession in 2023.

“The OLOST was introduced last year and collected more than $40 million for Macon-Bibb. That let them build back up reserve funds,” George said. “Combined with American Rescue Plan money that could be used to pay for fire trucks, police cars, things like that… they’ve really done a good job of allocating resources to what’s needed.”

Augusta Mayor Garnett Johnson visited Washington, DC, according to WJBF.

“It was a very – what I consider- productive week, in that I got the opportunity to not only engage with my colleagues from across the country regardless of their city size,” said Mayor Johnson. “I’m realizing that we have a lot of problems that are similar, but we learned a lot about the resources that, of course, our federal government offers that benefit our cities and cities like Augusta.”

During the conference, Mayor Johnson found a session about public-private partnerships to be deeply informative on how to create opportunity for Augusta.

“We have a lot of needs,” said Johnson. “Most importantly, I heard one about everything from sidewalks to airport construction projects. So, I want to kind of learn how we can partner with someone who is willing to invest from the private sector to help move Augusta forward.”

“Cities were given the ability to be a part of the American Rescue Plan dollars,” said Mayor Johnson. “They were forceful and vocal in that some of that funding should flow directly to cities. So, we look at cities like Augusta- we received some 83 million dollars directly, instead of it going to the state and then being funneled down. So, I see that advocacy as important.”

“It’s just great to know that we’re plugged in at all levels to make sure that we receive the funding that’s necessary for Augusta to move forward,” said Johnson. “Important things like our lock and dam… so many important issues. So, I’m just proud to be representing the city and making sure our voices are heard, to make sure that we’re represented.”

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