Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 31, 2024

31
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 31, 2024

Georgia’s first colonists landed at Yamacraw Bluff on February 1, 1733.

The United States Supreme Court held its first session in New York City, Chief Justice John Jay presiding, on February 1, 1790.

On February 1, 1861, Texas seceded from the Union.

On January 31, 1865, Robert E. Lee began service as Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate armies.

On January 31, 1865, Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing slavery.

On February 1, 1871, Jefferson Franklin Long of Macon, Georgia became the first black Member of Congress to speak on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Long was born into slavery and taught himself to read and write. Long was a prominent member of the Republican Party, speaking on its behalf in Georgia and other Southern states. He helped elect 37 African-American members to the 1867 Georgia Constitutional Convention and 32 members of the state legislature; Long continued after his term in Congress as a delegate to Republican National Conventions through 1880. In 1880, Long’s support of Governor Alfred Colquitt showed that African-Americans could be an electoral force in Georgia politics.

General William Tecumseh Sherman visited Kimball Opera House in Atlanta on January 31, 1879, which was then serving as State Capitol, fifteen years after burning the city.

On January 31, 1893, the trademark for “Coca-Cola” was filed.

On February 1, 1965, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived in Selma, Alabama, where he was arrested.

Richard M. Nixon announced his candidacy for President of the United States on Feburary 1, 1968.

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker was suspended on January 31, 2000 for remarks made to ESPN.

On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded while re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

TBD Senate Rules Committee: Upon Adj – 450 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE INSURANCE – 406 CLOB
8:00 AM HOUSE AGRICULTURE – 606 CLOB
8:00 AM HOUSE W&M Sub Sales Tax – 403 CAP
8:00 AM HOUSE SMALL BUS DEV – 506 CLOB
8:00 AM Cancelled- Senate Natl Res & Envt – 450 CAP
8:15 AM HOUSE W&M Sub Pub Fin and Policy – 403 CAP
8:30 AM CANCELED – HOUSE MOTOR VEH – 415 CLOB
9:00 AM HOUSE CREATIVE ARTS & ENT — 403 CAP
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD13) – House Chamber
10:00 AM Senate Floor Session (LD 13) – Senate Chamber
1:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION – 606 CLOB
1:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE – 403 CAP
1:00 PM HOUSE Appropriations Sub Health – 515 CLOB
1:00 PM HOUSE PUB SAFETY & HOMELAND SEC – 506 CLOB
1:00 PM Senate Public Safety – 450 CAP
1:30 PM HOUSE Judy Non-Civil Hong Sub – 132 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE TECH & INFRA INNOV – CLOB
2:00 PM Senate Insurance & Labor – Mezz 1 CAP
2:00 PM Senate Higher Education – 307 CLOB
3:00 PM HOUSE SPECIAL RULES – 415 CLOB
3:00 PM HOUSE GOVTAL AFFAIRS – 606 CLOB
3:00 PM HOUSE INDUSTRY & LABOR – 506 CLOB
3:00 PM Senate Health & HS – 450 CAP
4:00 PM Senate Finance – Mezz 1 CAP
5:00 PM Senate Vets, Mil, & HS – CLOB

Thursday, February 1, 2024

TBD Senate Rules: Upon Adj – 450 CAP
8:00 AM HOUSE NATL RES & ENVT – 606 CLOB
8:00 AM Cancelled- Senate Ethics – 307 CLOB
9:00 AM Senate Floor Session – Senate Chamber
12:00 PM Senate Children & Families – 307 CLOB
12:00 PM Senate Retirement – 310 CLOB
1:00 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION – 606 CLOB
1:00 PM HOUSE EDUCATION – 506 CLOB
1:00 PM Senate Judiciary – 307 CLOB
2:00 PM Cancelled- Senate Regulated Ind – 450 CAP
2:00 PM Cancelled- Senate Science & Tech – 310 CLOB
3:00 PM Cancelled – Senate Public Safety – 450 CAP

More reactions to the death of House Rules Chairman Richard Smith from WTVM.

“He loved Columbus, he loved our state,” said former State Rep. Calvin Smyre. “I worked with him for the betterment of Columbus.”

Former State Representative Calvin Smyre says losing Richard Smith means the city and state have lost a sound voice, a steady hand and someone with immense experience.

“When you combine those… that creates a void,” said Smyre.

“I don’t know if I knew of anyone that was not prepared for what he wanted to do here on this Earth everyday… he was also prepared to move on when his time came,” said Jon Burns.

Smyre says Rep. Smith represented the city well.

“When you’re chairman of the Rules Committee, you’re somewhat like the Grand Central Station,” said Smyre. “That’s what your office resembles when House is in session. I can truly say he was a man of his word, you could count on that.”

State Rep. Teddy Reese says we have lost a brilliant man who had an answer for just about anything.

“He had it and he was gentle with that answer, don’t get me wrong there were times when he cracked his jokes too… but you have to laugh sometimes it comes with the growth,” said Reese.

The University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue also commented on the loss.

“Georgia State Rep. Richard Smith had an unerring sense of what it meant to be a leader and citizen legislator and didn’t need to shout to be heard. Having known him for many years, back to my own service as governor, he never failed to stand for what was right.” [said Perdue.]

“When Richard spoke, I listened because I knew what it was about,” said Burns. “It was about our community and our state. Richard was awfully proud of Columbus.”

Governor Kemp will be required to call a special election to replace Smith. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

From the Capitol Beat News Service and the Ledger-Enquirer:

“Columbus has lost a giant of a man,” said Rep. Carolyn Hugley, D-Columbus. “He always kept the city of Columbus before him.”

Rep. Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain, said Smith had a “big heart” but could be tough on his legislative colleagues when it came to deciding whether to let bills reach the House floor.

“You better come to him with something great,” he said. “If not, it went in the trash.”

Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City, sat beside Smith in the House chamber for years.

“He could act gruff, almost scary at times to prove a point, to share his feelings,” she said. “But underneath, he was a really good man.”

Smith was the third House Rules Committee chairman to die in office in recent years. Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun, died of stomach cancer in 2018 at the age of 74. Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, died unexpectedly a year later at the age of 67.

Rep. Smith apparently died of complications from the flu, according to AccessWDUN.

One of the most influential members of the Georgia House of Representatives has died. State Rep. Richard Smith, a Columbus Republican who chaired the House Rules Committee, died at his home from complications of the flu before dawn Tuesday, the House Speaker’s office said.

“You never had to wonder where he stood with Richard Smith, did you?” said Republican House Speaker Jon Burns of Newington, who entered the House with Smith in 2005. “He was always honest. But he was a compassionate person about his honesty.”

Smith’s desk in the 180-member chamber was draped in black, with Rules and some other committees canceling meetings. A hush fell over the oft-noisy chamber Tuesday morning as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and his wife Marty made an unscheduled appearance to mourn Smith.

“He has been my friend and my colleague for 20 years, and as the speaker said when he was your friend, you knew it,” Kemp said. “There were times when he was standing with me when others were not, but that didn’t bother him. He just did what he thought was right.”

Before joining the House, he was the interim city manager for the Columbus consolidated government in 1989 and 1990 and served on the Columbus City Council from 1999 to 2022.

Kemp will be required to call a special election to replace Smith.

Smith is survived by his wife Clara, his children Shannon, Ashley and Justin and grandchildren.

Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones (R-Jackson) named members of a new Senate Special Committee on Investigations after Senate Resolution 465 passed the chamber, according to the Associated Press, Atlanta News First, and WTOC.

The committee comprises six Republican state senators and three Democrat state senators.

The state Senate approved the special committee by a 30-19 vote Friday:

Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens)
Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming)
Sen. Jason Esteves (D-Atlanta)
Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon)
Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia)
Sen. Harold Jones (D-Augusta)
Sen. Bo Hatchett (R-Cornelia)
Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega)
Sen. Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain)

Cowsert will serve as the chair and Dolezal will serve as the vice chair, according to Jones’ office.

“The multitude of accusations surrounding Ms. Willis, spanning from allegations of prosecutorial misconduct to questions about the use of public funds and accusations of an unprofessional relationship, underscores the urgency for a thorough and impartial examination,” said Dolezal, who is chief deputy whip in the Senate. “We owe it to the public to ensure transparency, accountability, and the preservation of the integrity of our justice system.”

“It’s something we are going to take seriously,” said Hatchett. “We’re going to make sure that public funds were used appropriately we’re going to look into this as much as we need to. I think the state of Georgia is owed an explanation. We owe it to the people to look into what’s happened.”

The Senate panel will look into Willis’ alleged relationship with Wade and whether the Democratic district attorney misspent state tax money in her prosecution of Trump and the other defendants in the sprawling Fulton County RICO case.

Democrats seated on the committee feel there are more pressing issues the state Senate could be tackling, like jail deaths, said Sen. Esteves.

“I think that this is ultimately a distraction from the issues and I think it’s unprecedented for us to use subpoena power on an issue like this versus using it for all kinds of other pressing issues that impact Georgians,” he said. “Whether there’s a misuse of funds, I think is something that should be investigated but it shouldn’t be the state Senate. It should be local authorities, it should be voters, it should be Fulton County.”

The committee, which doesn’t require approval by the state House or Gov. Brian Kemp, is assigned to make recommendations on state laws and spending based on its findings. But the committee can’t directly sanction Willis, and Democrats denounced it as a partisan attempt to try to play to Trump and his supporters.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has set a Feb. 15 hearing on the allegations that Willis and Wade engaged in an improper romantic relationship.

I can imagine the February 15th hearing will mean a strained Valentine’s Day for some folks.

BRIDGE Georgia and Georgia First hosted a discussion of Medicaid expansion, according to the Georgia Recorder.

Republican state Rep. Donny Lambeth backed expanding Medicaid in North Carolina for nearly a decade before it passed in that state last year.

But when he would talk about it, the former hospital executive said there was one phrase he avoided: Medicaid expansion.

“I never talked about this bill as an expansion bill,” said Lambeth, who was the primary sponsor of the bill that expanded Medicaid in North Carolina last year. “I talked about it closing the coverage gap. I talked about it as job development – a lot of things – but never did use the word ‘expansion.’”

“When we looked across the country, and in North Carolina, we did not find anywhere that this caused an incumbent to lose their seat. This just isn’t an issue politically,” Lambeth said.

Lambeth made these comments at a panel discussion Tuesday that was organized by BRIDGE Georgia, which is a coalition group led by a bipartisan group formed in 2022 called Georgia First. A handful of Republicans trickled in and out of the meeting.

“I encourage all of us in this space to remember that beyond political implications and political party, the folks we’re working for our fellow hardworking Georgians,” Natalie Crawford, the executive director of Georgia First and a former Habersham County commissioner who moderated the panel discussion, said to the crowd.

House Speaker Jon Burns said earlier this month a “private option” was being studied. Many Republicans have voiced support for an Arkansas-style model that uses federal funds to purchase private plans on the federal marketplace.

Cindy Gillespie, a former Arkansas official who led the state’s Department of Human Services, also participated in Tuesday’s panel discussion. Gillespie, who now lives in Americus, was part of an influential House study committee’s November meeting that focused on Arkansas’ approach to expanding Medicaid, causing a stir in Georgia politics.

“It’s incredibly important that if you go down this road, even if you do private insurance, even if you do a premium assistance program, you’re not going to do ‘Arkansas,’” Gillespie said. “Because you’re fundamentally different here in Georgia than Arkansas is. You will design something that actually fits Georgia and Georgia’s needs.”

Lambeth echoed that message.

“Create your own Georgia plan, so that you can be proud of what you’ve been able to create,” he said.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, a Rome Republican who has long supported expanding Medicaid and who was also part of Tuesday’s panel discussion, told reporters afterwards that there’s still time for it to happen this year.

Still, there is much work left to do to convince holdouts to support it, Hufstetler said.

“It’s a hugely complex issue, and most people just don’t understand it,” he said. “And they also forget that these people we’re talking about are not unemployed people. These are the working poor.”

Hufstetler argues expanding coverage would mean a healthier workforce, which is needed to support Georgia’s growing economy. He also noted that North Carolina has been able to cut its income tax rate more aggressively than Georgia.

“We’ve got to be the No. 1 state for health, for education and for business climate to move forward,” he said. “We can’t say, ‘Well, we’ve had a great few years’ and just relax. It’s a constant market to compete in, and the South is very competitive.”

Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones (R-Jackson) said any Medicaid expansion would have to include repeal of Certificate of Need, according to the AJC.

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones told us this week he’s “heard rumors, nothing concrete, that the House is going to come with a proposal of some sort.” And he said it must be tied to an effort to roll back “certificate of need” regulations on new hospitals. Meanwhile, we’re told that House Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, is warming to the idea of expanding the program. Even so, supporters say no draft measure is immediately forthcoming with nearly a third of the session under wraps.

Where does Gov. Brian Kemp stand? State lawmakers passed a measure in 2014 that required legislative approval before expanding Medicaid. But Kemp would still get the final say, and word from several lawmakers is that his camp sent word he is skeptical of an expansion but has left it an open question whether he’d approve a law that adds Georgia to the 40 other states that have expanded the program’s rolls.

House Bill 881, to rewrite the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission enabling legislation, passed the House, according to WRDW.

The House voted 95-75 along party lines on Monday for House Bill 881, sending it to the Senate for further debate. A similar bill advanced out of a Senate committee last week.

Though Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation last year creating the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission, it was unable to begin operating after the state Supreme Court in November refused to approve rules governing its conduct. Justices said they had “grave doubts” about their ability to regulate the duties of district attorneys beyond the practice of law. Monday’s measure removes the requirement for Supreme Court approval.

“This commission will now be able to begin their real work, which is bringing accountability to those rogue prosecuting attorneys who abuse their office,” said Rep. Joseph Gullett, a Dallas Republican who sponsored the measure.

“Today, the House passed HB 881 to hold district attorneys and solicitors general across Georgia accountable,” House Speaker Jon Burns said in a statement. “Georgians deserve district attorneys who are focused on upholding their oath of office, prosecuting criminals, and doing their job to keep our communities safe – and I am confident that the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission will ensure that happens. I look forward to the Senate acting quickly on this important legislation and delivering it to Governor Kemp to sign into law.”

Democrats in the House warned that less oversight didn’t calm their fears about the bill being weaponized by the majority party.

“The Georgia Supreme Court looked at their own jurisdiction, looked at their own oversight power, they had concerns and they said, we don’t think we could do it,” said Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Atlanta). “So what’s our answer? No oversight. For a body so concerned about oversight, when the person we picked to do the oversight said they can’t do it, we didn’t pick a substitute overseer we just said, ‘we’re good.’”

“The commission will be able to unilaterally proceed and have the ability to interfere and undermine an ongoing investigation against Donald J. Trump,” said House Minority Whip Sam Park, a Lawrenceville Democrat. “You are taking action to protect former President Trump from an ongoing criminal prosecution.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that this is about the former president and Fani Willis,” said Rep. James Beverly (D-Macon). “It’s a witch hunt, to say the least. I think it’s another overreach by Republicans. It’s a new low in Georgia, and it’s a new grab of power I’ve never seen and I’ve been here twelve years.”

Kemp has said he prefers that the prosecutor oversight panel and not the Senate committee probe any accusations of misconduct by Willis. But Democrats warn that removing the requirement for the Supreme Court to review rules could leave the commission itself without oversight. The measure also would make it harder for a court to overturn the commission’s action by imposing a high standard of review.

“The question we should all ask is who will police this commission,” said Rep Tanya Miller, an Atlanta Democrat. “Who will they be accountable to? Certainly not the voters, because they are not elected. This should terrify all of us.”

Senate Bill 392 by State Sen. John Albers (R-Alpharetta) would ban the use of “deepfakes” in political campaigns, according to WSB Radio.

Senate Bill 392, filed on Jan. 25, would make it a criminal offense for deep fakes to be used, created or requested, describing it legally as a criminal election interference charge.

The bill was filed three days after an AI-generated robocall impersonated President Joe Biden in what the Associated Press reported was an attempt to suppress votes during the New Hampshire primary.

The day after the legislation was filed, deepfakes took social media by storm after someone published a series of deep faked explicit images of popstar Taylor Swift.

According to the legislative text of the bill, if it passes, Georgia would ban any video recording, video file, sound recording, sound file, electronic image or photograph that is “created through technological means, rather than through the ability of another person to physically or verbally impersonate such person,” and appears to depict a real person speaking or behaving in a way that did not happen in real life.

The bill also says that any deep fake created by a candidate or at a candidate’s request, and that includes a depiction of the same candidate will not count as an illegal deep fake.

However, anyone who solicits a deep fake to interfere with an election could be found guilty of a felony, with a one to five-year prison sentence and up to a $50,000 fine.

The bill also requires the results of any investigation into the potential illegal use of deep fakes, politically, to be released to the public.

Here’s a question for you: when Artificial Intelligences become sentient, will they have First Amendment rights?

Senate Bill 394 by State Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Buford) would address adult-themed books in local libraries, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Last week, state Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, filed Senate Bill 394, which is also known as the Restricting Explicit and Adult-designated Educational Resources Act, or the READER Act for short.

The bill would help state education officials define terms such as “harmful to minors,” “restricted materials” and “sexually explicit materials,” according to Dixon, who chairs the Senate Education and Youth Committee, where the bill has been assigned.

“The mechanism would be set up by the State Board of Education and it would be any explicit materials dealing with nudity or any sexually explicit content, either visually or audio devices (would be banned) from grades six and under,” Dixon said.

“Seventh-grade and above, it would allow the parents to opt the child in if they chose to see any material like that. It’s not taking anything out of the libraries. It’s just prohibiting those from (sixth-grade) and under and then you’ve got to opt (older) children in.”

The bill is the latest step in a movement to remove books that talk about subjects such as sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity from classrooms in recent years. In recent years, a Parents Bill of Rights has been introduced to give parents the ability to opt their child out of classroom materials and subject matter that they objected to.

Dixon explained that, under the READER Act, a grading system would be implemented by the State Board of Education to evaluate materials in school libraries. The grading system would be similar to the ratings system used for films, he explained.

Conservation advocates supported House Bill 71 by State Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Taylorsville) to protect the Okefenokee Swamp., according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“The threat of mining is very real,” said Alice Miller-Keyes, vice president of coastal conservation for the Brunswick-based environmental organization 100 Miles. “House Bill 71 offers some hope of protection.”

The bill was introduced last year and enjoys the backing of more than 90 of the 180 House members. But it has yet to gain a committee vote in the House let alone reach the floor.

“The Okefenokee Protection Act will forever protect the swamp and (Trail) Ridge,” said Rep. Darlene Taylor, R-Thomasville, the bill’s chief sponsor.

The bill’s supporters said Monday its chances for passage have improved since last year’s legislative session. For one thing, the National Park Service announced last September it is asking officials at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge to prepare a draft nomination for the Okefenokee to become the 25th UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United States.

Also, 14 cities and counties across South Georgia have passed resolutions supporting Turner’s bill.

Supporters also pointed to the Okefenokee Swamp’s contribution to the region’s economy from the growing ecotourism business. An estimate in an article published by Georgia Trend magazine put the swamp’s annual economic impact at $64.7 million, including 700 jobs.

Taylor said her bill wouldn’t prevent the Twin Pines mine from opening because its permit applications have already been submitted. But she said the measure would protect the swamp from future mining projects.

State legislators approved new district maps for the Cobb County Board of Education, according to the AJC.

“Assuming (Gov. Brian Kemp) signs it, it will become the operative map for the 2024 election cycle,” explained Daniel White, an attorney for the Cobb County Board of Elections.

Voting rights groups sued the Board of Elections in 2022 after a new school board map was adopted, alleging it was discriminatory and diluted the voting power of people of color. U.S. District Court Judge Eleanor L. Ross found in December 2023 that the groups could likely prove in court that “race was a predominant motivating factor” behind the map. She granted a preliminary injunction, which required lawmakers to adopt a temporary map for this year’s election while the case continues.

The map, Senate Bill 338 proposed by Sen. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, passed in the Georgia Senate last week. It passed in the House of Representatives on Monday, along with House Bill 989, a proposed map by Rep. Teri Anulewicz, D-Smyrna. Both maps were part of a slate of local issues the House tackled in a single vote.

Setzler has said his map meets criteria set by the federal judge and reduces the number of people moved into a new district. But critics such as Cobb students with the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition said in a statement after Monday’s vote the map does “as little as possible to reduce gerrymandering in the district.”

Anulewicz’s map more closely resembles the district map from 2012 while protecting communities of interest, like cities and high school districts, she said.

“Once the governor signs it into law, it becomes valid law until some court says otherwise, so the Cobb County Board of Elections will move forward with implementing those maps,” White said.

Athens-Clarke County announced lower qualifying fees for some elected offices, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The fees affect the offices of judge of Probate Court, clerk of Superior Court, chief Magistrate Judge, Tax commissioner, sheriff, state court judge, coroner and certain commission district seats and school board districts.

The fees are based on base salaries for that office when a person is first elected.

Nonpartisan candidates and partisan candidates seeking office must file an affidavit at the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections and Registration beginning at 9 a.m. March 4 and ending at noon March 8, according to the government.

Probate judge, $2,591; clerk of superior court, $2,591; chief magistrate, $2,643; tax commissioner, $2,591; sheriff, $2,891; State Court judge, $3,442; Chief State Court judge, $4,492; coroner, $1,644.

Also, county commissioners for Districts 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10, $860; and school board district 4, 6, and 8, $108 and district 2, $99.

The Rome News Tribune writes about local positions being elected this year.

While the election cycle most notably contains the presidential election, most of the offices that oversee the day to day operations of the county are also up for grabs.

Floyd County Sheriff Dave Roberson jumped ahead of the pack late last year and announced his intent to seek reelection for a second term in office. Since he took over the reins from outgoing sheriff Tim Burkhalter there have been notable changes in the sheriff’s office, including the opening of SPLOST-funded mental health and medical wings at the jail.

Floyd County Superior Court Chief Judge John “Jack” Niedrach also announced his intent to seek reelection to that post this week. He has served as a Superior Court judge since 2009.

That’s one of the better articles about local politics I’ve read recently.

Wrens Police Chief John Maynard announced he is running for Jefferson County Sheriff, according to WRDW.

John Maynard, the current police chief in Wrens, posted a Facebook video announcing he will be running, and his goals as sheriff.

The election for Jefferson County Sheriff will be on May 21.

A state Administrative Law Judge is requiring former Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis to pay campaign finance fines from personal fund, according to WRDW.

A judge last month found Hardie Davis guilty of several ethics violations — including failing to report campaign contributions in a timely manner and failing to identify charges made on a campaign credit card.

The court ordered Davis to pay $16,900 in civil penalties.

Davis argued a significant penalty would be an undue hardship and told the court the investigation has made it hard for him to get another job.

The court added that Davis needs to pay the fines from his own pocket and not from campaign or government money.

Davis wasn’t able to run for re-election due to term limits and was succeeded by Garnett Johnson.

Albany Municipal Court will move out of the Dougherty County Judicial Building, according to the Albany Herald.

“We don’t have a for-sure move-out date,” Sharri Twyman, director of municipal court administration, said Tuesday. “We are still kind of finalizing plans on the move.”

The city held court sessions in the Albany Civic Center in May and June of 2021 after a faulty hose connected to a coffee maker caused significant flooding in the courthouse building. That is one possibility as a temporary site for Municipal Court.

“It will be a temporary location,” Twyman said. “The city commissioners and the mayor are actually looking at a temporary or permanent location.

Albany attorney Joe Dent was sworn in as the fourth Superior Court judge for the Dougherty Judicial Circuit on Jan. 11 after Gov. Brian Kemp appointed him to the position in December.

That came after the Judicial Council of Georgia in 2022 rated the Dougherty County Circuit as the most in need of an additional judge’s position.

The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority approved an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Augusta, subject to approval of Augusta Commissioners, according to WJBF.

The bonds to fund the new James Brown Arena would go straight to the city, which would in-turn give them to the authority.

“To kind of have a check and balance, and making sure that the funds are handled the way that they are supposed to be handled,” Chairman Cedric Johnson said. “Without that agreement, the city would not give us those funds, and if we don’t get those funds, then we can’t build a new arena. So that’s why it’s so important.”

Johnson hopes a city committee will visit the proposed agreement within the next week, and if approved, it may go to the full board of commissioners on February 6th.

Glynn County Commissioners will hold a day-long retreat today, according to The Brunswick News.

In past meetings, commissioners have discussed employee pay, Local Option Sales Tax projects, roads, drainage, taxes and public safety.

Department heads will also attend the meeting with commissioners to discuss any concerns or needs.

Commissioner Chairman Wayne Neal said the daylong meeting is time well spent with a focus on important issues. Each commissioner will be given the opportunity to discuss the goals for his district and the county for the coming year. The group will establish action items moving forward.

Meeting participants will also discuss goals set last year to determine what was accomplished and why some goals may not have been met. Neal said the goals set a year ago were followed closely throughout the months to track their progress.

Commission Vice Chair Walter Rafolski said the meeting is a good way to establish clear goals and expectations for the upcoming year.

“It’s an opportunity for the staff to come before us and tell us their concerns,” he said. “It’s also a way for commissioners to let staff know our expectations.”

Milledgeville will “pause” liquor license applications for 90 days, according to 13WMAZ.

The city put a temporary hold on new permits to sell hard liquor or drinks at a restaurant. It’s to give time to adjust some rules. The resolution was adopted at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The moratorium specifically includes no new alcohol licenses to sell distilled spirits, packages to go or sales by the drink.

“There are some things in our current alcohol ordinance that could make some fairly substantial changes,” City Manager Hank Griffeth said.

He says they’re looking to amend a few rules, but they have a problem they’re focusing on.

“The density of distilled spirits, package to go stores,” Griffeth said.

He’s talking about places that sell your bourbons, gins and vodkas, or hard liquor.

“We’re beginning to get a lot of those stores close to one another. Oftentimes those types of businesses cause harm to the neighborhood,” he said.

Griffeth says they worry it could attract crime, loitering, litter or gambling activities. He says they may require these businesses to be a certain distance apart from now on.

“We’ve just got some antiquated pieces in our alcohol ordinance. We’re trying to have a controlled expansion. We’re trying to make sure the things we have in the ordinance are enforceable,” Griffeth explained.

The 90-day pause does not apply to businesses that are renewing their alcohol licenses or who currently have one.

The Port of Brunswick moved a record number of automobiles in 2023, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The Port of Brunswick rolled more than 775,000 autos and heavy machinery units on and off ships in the 2023 calendar year, when U.S. auto sales saw their biggest increase in more than a decade. That is the port’s highest ever auto and machinery total and an increase of more than 15% over the previous year.

The news comes as port authority CEO Griff Lynch has set a goal of Brunswick surpassing the Port of Baltimore as the No. 1 U.S. port for automobile imports and exports. The Georgia agency is investing $262 million in upgrades and expansions to make room for growth at the Brunswick port.

“At its current rate of growth, the Port of Brunswick is poised to become the nation’s busiest gateway for ‘roll-on/roll-off’ cargo. We will be ready to serve this growth with our capital improvement projects underway and available land to expand to meet demand.”

Auto shipments into Georgia boomed last year as sales surged amid pent-up demand following a computer chip shortage that slowed assembly lines.

Georgia’s push to become a Southern hub for electric vehicle production is expected to send more autos across Brunswick’s docks in the coming years. Hyundai is building its first U.S. plant dedicated to EVs west of Savannah, while electric truck maker Rivian is constructing a factory east of Atlanta. Kia last summer announced an expansion of its plant in West Point to manufacture electric SUVs.

Meanwhile, the Port of Savannah saw a dip in cargo shipped in containers, the giant metal boxes used to pack retail goods from consumer electronics to frozen chickens. Savannah is the fourth-busiest U.S. seaport for containerized cargo, behind only New York, Los Angeles and Long Beach, California.

Savannah handled 4.9 million container units of imports and exports last year, down 16% compared with calendar 2022. Lynch said retailers ordered less inventory as inflation and higher interest rates cooled consumer spending.

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