Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 25, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 25, 2023

Emory Window 628

On January 25, 1915, a charter was issued in DeKalb County Superior Court to Emory University.

On January 25, 1943, Georgia Gov. Ellis Arnall signed legislation eliminating the governor as an ex officio member of the State Board of Education, State Board of Regents, Department of Public Safety, and State Housing Authority, as part of a proposal to reduce the Governor’s power over education.

On January 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy held the first live televised press conference.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

8 AM Cancelled- Senate Natural Resources & Envt – Mezz 1 CAP
10 AM Senate Floor Session (LD 7) – Senate Chamber
10 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD7) – House Chamber
12 PM Cancelled – Senate Rules: Upon Adjournment – 450 CAP
1 PM Senate Higher Education – 307 CLOB
1 PM Cancelled – Senate Insurance & Labor – Mezz 1 CAP
2 PM Cancelled- Senate Agriculture & Consumer Aff – 450 CAP
3 PM Senate Joint H&HS and C&F Committee Hearing – 450 CAP
4 PM Cancelled – Senate Finance – Mezz 1 CAP

Governor Brian Kemp will present his 2023 State of the State Address at 11 AM in the State House Chamber before a Joint Session of the Georgia General Assembly. From Atlanta News First:

Kemp hasn’t really said much publicly about his agenda for this session, but we know he also talked a lot on the campaign trail about new crackdowns on human trafficking and gang violence. And he’s made it clear that in his second term, he will back proposals to bring more oversight of district attorneys, some he’s referred to as “far left.”

And while the heartbeat bill was a big part of his last term, we haven’t seen much of an indication that he will try to further restrict abortions in the state.“

From Fox5Atlanta:

The governor, who won reelection after defeating his Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams in a rematch of their previous gubernatorial election, is expected to share a vision for Georgia following the same path as the one in his first term – pushing for pay raises for teachers and highlighting the state’s growth in manufacturing fields.

Speaking at his swearing-in ceremony earlier in January, Kemp pledged a low-drama conservative agenda, calling for $2,000 pay raises for all state and university employees and public school teachers and more job growth focused on manufacturing electric vehicles.

The governor again placed his economic message at the center of his second term, staking his reputation on nurturing businesses and increasing jobs.

“Over the next four years, we’re going to be focused on growing Georgia, not growing government,” Kemp said. “That’s why we will invest state dollars by putting them back in your pockets, not using them to build new bureaucracy.”

“By the end of my second term as your governor, I intend for Georgia to be recognized as the electric mobility capital of America,” Kemp said, embracing a goal that has been pushed by his economic development chief, Pat Wilson.

From the AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp is opening his second term in an unusual position for a much-targeted incumbent in one of the nation’s premier political battlegrounds: His approval rating now sits at a record high, and most Georgians say the state is squarely on the right track.

A new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll underscores his rising stature. About 62% of Georgia voters “strongly” or “somewhat” approve of Kemp’s performance, according to the poll conducted by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. The poll has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.

It’s the highest approval Kemp has logged in an AJC poll since taking office in 2019 and a dramatic reversal from a nadir two years ago. Vilified by Trump and scorned by Democrats, just 42% of Georgia voters approved of Kemp’s performance back then.

About 35% of Georgia voters approve of the way Biden is handling his job, compared with nearly 60% who disapprove.

As the next race for the White House takes shape, the poll shows a majority of Georgians — 55% — have a negative view of Trump. That includes one-fifth of Republicans. Former Vice President Mike Pence is also underwater, with a favorable rating of only 35%.

He’s expected to sharpen his criminal justice policies in the wake of violent protests at the site of a proposed public safety center where authorities say a trooper shot and killed a 26-year-old activist after an exchange of gunfire.

Kemp is also set to detail his health care agenda now that a federal judge has approved his plan for a limited expansion of Medicaid tied to work and engagement requirements. And he’ll hone his vision for a surplus that tops $6.6 billion.

“If you want to do something as governor, now is the time to do it,” said Bobby Kahn, a former top aide to Democrat Roy Barnes when he was governor. “You’re in a honeymoon phase and you’re getting positive national press. That can turn on a dime.”

The AJC eventually noticed that Gov. Kemp called a Special Election to fill a State House District 75 vacancy created by the resignation of State Rep. Mike Glanton.

Glanton’s resignation leaves five open seats in the Georgia General Assembly as its annual legislative session is already underway.

Glanton, a retired U.S. Army combat veteran, was reelected in November with 89% of the vote.

“State Rep. Mike Glanton was a dedicated Democrat — dedicated to his peers here at the caucus and dedicated to his district. He will be missed greatly,” said Minority Leader James Beverly, a Democrat from Macon.

Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday called for a special election to fill Glanton’s seat in House District 75 on March 21, a week before this year’s legislative session ends March 29. Four other vacant seats will be filled in special elections or runoffs on Jan. 31.

The seats currently open for Special Elections are:

State House District 7 vacated by the death of Speaker David Ralston Runoff Election January 31, 2023.

State House District 119 vacated by State Rep.-Elect Danny Rampey after his indictment, Special Election January 31, 2023.

State Senate District 11 vacated by Sen. Dean Burke’s resignation to take a job in the Department of Community Health, Special Election January 31, 2023.

State House District 172 vacated by State Rep. Sam Watson’s resignation to run for SD 11, Special Election for HD 172 on January 31, 2023.

State House District 75 vacated by Rep. Glanton’s resignation, Special Election March 21, 2023.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney held that Fulton County DA Fani Willis will not be compelled to release the report of her “grand jury” investigating the 2020 elections, according to the Associated Press via the Statesboro Herald.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney said he was considering whether to release the report after hearing arguments from prosecutors, who urged it be kept secret until they decide whether to file any charges, and a coalition of media organizations, which pressed for its release.

He said he would further reflect on the parties’ arguments and would reach out with any questions before making a final decision. He also said he anticipated his eventual decision would be appealed.

A coalition of news organizations, including The Associated Press, argued in favor of releasing the report in full, saying public interest in the report is “extraordinary.” Attorney Tom Clyde, representing the news media, said arguments for keeping the report secret would typically be a case involving minors or highly private information.

“It doesn’t typically involve public officials who are involved in activities following a national election,” Clyde said.

Willis argued Tuesday that disclosing the report now could violate the rights of potential defendants and could negatively affect the ability to prosecute those who may be charged with crimes.

“We want to make sure that everyone is treated fairly and we think for future defendants to be treated fairly, it is not appropriate at this time to have this report released,” Willis said.

The district attorney’s office is not opposed to the eventual public release of the report, added prosecutor Donald Wakeford, but “it is opposed to it right now.”

Two Democratic state legislators proposed new legislation to protect abortion, according to WALB.

The legislation is called The Reproductive Freedom Act. It aims to repeal House Bill 481 and other abortion restriction laws.

House Bill 481 was signed into law in 2019 and consists of a six-week abortion ban.

The legislation is a first for Georgia and will decriminalize pregnancy loss. It also aims to extend access to abortion care for those in rural areas.

State Representative Shea Roberts says this would also protect healthcare providers.

“The fact that healthcare providers are having to consult lawyers before they advise patients. And they have to make sure that the patient is close enough to death that they’re not going face prosecution. That’s gotta stop,” Roberts said. “It’s dangerous. We have such a shortage of healthcare providers in the state anyway.”

Roberts says the house will read the piece of legislation tomorrow in session. There will be a second reading where it could potentially be assigned to a committee on Thursday. She says it may go beyond that, but if not, they will continue their fight.

Some Georgia residents are pushing for better maternal healthcare, according to Atlanta News First via the Albany Herald.

Lawmakers, advocates, and supporters met outside at Liberty Plaza to recognize Maternal Health Awareness Day. They reflected on the work they’ve done in the past and what still needs to be done to protect pregnant mothers and their children.

“The problem we know is not as easy as snapping our fingers, but by allocating more funding. Metro areas like Atlanta, but also many of the rural areas. Statistics show that half of the counties half of them rural, don’t have an OBGYN,” said [State Rep. Marvin] Lim.

House Republican Sharon Cooper pushed to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months. Now her focus is on mental healthcare to support a mother after birth.

“Along with a year’s coverage, it came with more money, $20 million. To make sure we dont lose one mother, and that all babies get here as safely as possible to start their lives,” said Cooper.

State legislators will also consider legislation aiming to reduce violent crime, according to WSAV.

“There are a lot of gangs out there. That’s where kids are going and see gangs as a way out and a fast life and we are trying to deter that,” State Rep. Brian Prince.

Some lawmakers say reviewing gun laws – and who has access – will reduce violence and shootings.

“Guns are out there – it is so easy to get a gun and very easy for people to steal guns which is cars are getting broken into,” State Rep. Teri Anulewicz (D-Smyrna) told WSAV News 3.

“We have talked about how we are making sure our officers are trained to understand mental health, illness, addiction and behavioral issues,” Rep. Anulewicz continued.

State Sen. Bo Hatchett (R-Northeast Georgia) said law enforcement needs training when it comes to ending human trafficking.

“Give law enforcement training to stop human trafficking a big session for types of legislation that will address human trafficking.”

“We all want to live in a safe community and every Georgian whether you are a Democrat or Republican wants to be in that. Our question as policymakers how are we going to support our law enforcement because they are having a difficult time to retain qualified officers,” Rep. Anulewicz said.

Georgia DOT’s plan to raise the Talmadge Bridge is only a temporary reprieve for ships, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The $175 million plan to replace the cables of the Talmadge Memorial Bridge, thus raising it so that taller shipping vessels can access the Port of Savannah, is not a long-term fix, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The contracting method was approved by the State Legislature two years ago and will allow GDOT to work directly with cable bridge industry experts to seek solutions and implement much-needed maintenance on the 30-year-old bridge.

The total height the bridge will be raised ― if it can be raised at all ― will be decided in the coming years as the project kicks off. Pre-construction bids will go out at the end of this year, with a more concrete timeline of design and construction to come next year, according to GDOT.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (R) will pursue domestic terrorism charges against some defendants accused accused of violent protests, according to the Georgia Recorder via the Albany Herald.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced on Monday that he is preparing a case to bring domestic terrorism and multiple other felony charges against protesters who escalated a peaceful march into violence. Carr along with Gov. Brian Kemp and other lawmakers said protesters who caused damage to property in downtown Atlanta are facing serious felony charges that could serve as a warning to others who might escalate peaceful demonstrations to lawbreaking.

Protesters clashed with police in downtown Atlanta on Saturday night, destroying a police car and breaking windows in bank branches and a Peachtree Street office tower. In what police say represents the worst of “Stop Cop City” opposition for the new training facility, tensions heightened after the scene turned deadly on Wednesday when a Georgia State Trooper was shot and 26-year-old protester Manuel Esteban Paez Teran was shot and killed by troopers during a sweep to clear campers from Atlanta’s Intrenchment Creek Park. The 60-acre woods inside DeKalb County have had protesters who call themselves “forest defenders” encamped for more than a year.

“Here we have this group that has for over a year been illegally sitting on this property and has been trying to stop the process of ensuring the community and law enforcement officers are safe and it’s gone on long enough,” Carr said Monday during a radio interview. “I’m confident that the facts will show these folks have engaged in DT and it provides for serious punishment and for a longer term if convicted.”

Georgia officials were quick to note that most of the dozen or so people arrested within the last week lived outside the state.

“Law enforcement demonstrated how quickly we shut down those trying to import violence from other states, and we’ll continue to do so,” Kemp said.

The violence and damage to property caused last week were condemned by several Georgia lawmakers Monday.

Republican Sen. John Albers said people have a right to protest, but they cannot block streets or worse without paying a price.

“You do not have the right to squat on private property,” he said during Monday’s Senate chamber session. “You do not have the right to vandalize patrol cars or private property. You do not have the right to assault a citizen or a law enforcement officer.”

DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston (D) is expected to make an announcement today about possible prosections in the protest case, according to the AJC.

The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office was set to make an “announcement” Wednesday regarding last week’s incident that left a protester dead and a state trooper wounded near the site of Atlanta’s planned public safety training center.

What, exactly, the announcement would be was not revealed. A spokesperson declined to provide further information.

It’s unclear, though, what role Boston’s office has played or would play in investigating the Jan. 18 shooting that left a still-unnamed trooper wounded and 26-year-old Manuel Teran dead.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is leading the probe into the shooting, as it does with all officer-involved incidents throughout the state.

Middle Georgia Regional Airport is expanding, according to 13WMAZ.

The Middle Georgia Regional Airport has some new upgrades planned, like a new two-story corporate terminal building that will hold conference rooms, restaurants, and gathering spaces. They are also planning on building a new air traffic tower.

Tuesday morning, they broke ground for their runway extension.

The project has been in the works for four decades, and now it’s finally taking flight. They expect 25 – 40 percent to be complete this year.

“We look for good opportunities for our children to get good jobs here at the airport,” says [Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester] Miller.

Miller says kids have this opportunity to learn this trade through the Central Georgia Technical college, and the career academy.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson wants to address homelessness, according to WTVM.

“We’re over 20 percent poverty rate in Columbus. That’s too high,” says Mayor Skip Henderson. Mayor Skip Henderson says that number needs to come down in our city, and he has the plan to get it done.

“If you ask anybody in any city and they what they really want to address, they want to raise the opportunities for their community,” says Mayor Skip Henderson. He says those opportunities come with quality programming through organizations like United Way through 211.

“Ending that generational poverty is a really long term, but we can see some immediate benefits if we pull together some of these resources,” says Mayor Henderson. He says the goal of decreasing poverty rates by 50 percent, set by United Way, is a large number that can be tackled with the aid of grants and other funding. “There’s a lot of grant money that’s available certain, areas, working to try to give people an opportunity can take a lot of shapes,” says Henderson.

The Floyd County Board of Education reelected their Chair and elected a new Vice Chair, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Floyd County Board of Education unanimously reelected Melinda Strickland as chair and Danny Waits to his first term as vice-chair in their regular meeting Monday night.

Some residents of Lula, Georgia want to recall the Mayor and a council member, according to the Gainesville Times.

At least three Lula residents plan to move forward with a plan to unseat Councilman Gene Bramlett and Mayor Joe Thomas through a recall.

[Amanda] Browning told council members that she and other business owners in Lula have faced acts of “intimidation” and “retaliation” from Thomas and “his known associates.” Emphasizing the two investigations into the city’s elected officials in a six-month timeframe, she expressed disappointment in both Thomas and Bramlett and claimed the mayor has “tarnished” Lula’s reputation for the foreseeable future.

“I have never been more disappointed in our mayor than I am right now,” she said. “In the history of Lula, we have never had a 45-page investigation. We’ve never had sexual harassment reported, and we have never been put in the Gainesville Times for so many disconcerting stories,” Browning said, spurring a wave of applause from more than half of the 40-plus residents in attendance.

[Robert] Grizzle again called for the resignations of Code Enforcement Officer Doug Forrester and Bramlett, citing allegations from the first investigation into the city’s code enforcement office that accused Bramlett of taking photos of Grizzle’s property and his two adolescent grandchildren while they were in a swimming pool at his home last summer – something he said his wife Loretta witnessed.

Bramlett was accused of making an inappropriate comment and unwanted physical contact with a female employee in October.

Lula City Council and the mayor underwent sexual harassment training after the employee’s complaint of sexual harassment against Bramlett led to a $3,500 investigation paid for by the city. Bramlett has denied the accusations against him, and no further action was recommended or taken following the investigation.

Before the process can proceed, the Hall County Board of Elections must first determine whether a recall is warranted, assessing questions of misconduct, illegality or malfeasance. If a petition is issued and signed by at least 100 residents – 10% of registered voters in Lula – it then goes back before the board for consideration and possible certification.

If certified, a special recall election will be called in Lula. The public offices in question “shall immediately become vacant” if more than 50% of ballots cast by voters are in favor of recall.

Grizzle said he plans to spearhead the push to recall Thomas and Bramlett, and that he’ll look to rally support from church congregations of registered voters throughout the city.

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