Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 6, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 6, 2023

On January 5, 1734, the Trustees of Georgia ordered the return of 42 Jewish settlers who had come in 1733, primarily from Portugal, without the knowledge or approval of the Trustees. The Brits who sponsored the Jewish settlers refused and Georgia is home to one of the oldest Jewish settlements in the United States.

On January 5, 1781, traitor Benedict Arnold and 1600 British troops captured Richmond, Virginia.

Samuel Elbert was elected Governor of Georgia for a one-year term on January 6, 1785. Elbert was an early participant in Patriot meetings at Tondee’s Tavern, a Lt. Colonel in the first group of troops raised in Georgia, and a prisoner of war, exchanged for a British General, and eventually promoted to Brigadier General reporting to Gen. George Washington. As Governor, Elbert oversaw the charter of the University of Georgia and afterward, he served briefly as Sheriff of Chatham County.

On January 6, 1961, United States District Court Judge William Bootle ordered the University of Georgia to enroll Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter, ending the segregation of UGA.

On January 5, 1978, the British band the Sex Pistols started their American tour at the Great Southeast Music Hall in Atlanta, GA.

On January 6, 1988, the United States Postal Service released a stamp commemorating the bicentennial of Georgia’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

On Monday, January 9, 2023, the Georgia General Assembly will gavel in the 2023 Session. Shortly after that, they’ll recess for the college football championship. From the AJC:

The 40-day session will begin as scheduled on Monday, Jan. 9, when lawmakers are set to be formally sworn-in and then vote to elect leaders of each chamber. They’re expected to adjourn around noon, hours before Georgia and TCU meet in Los Angeles for the championship.

There’s also set to be a light schedule on Jan. 10 to give legislators, state officials and others time to return from the West Coast. Some officials say they expect at least a dozen lawmakers to attend the game, along with lobbyists, aides and other political figures.

The annual Eggs & Issues breakfast, often a platform to roll out economic policies, will be held on Jan. 11. And Gov. Brian Kemp – an Athens native and diehard Bulldog fan — built a three-day cushion into the schedule by setting his inauguration for Thursday, Jan. 12.

The governor’s annual State of the State address – which usually takes place in the opening days of the Legislature – won’t be held this year until Jan. 25.

It won’t be the first time legislative leaders have taken steps to accommodate Georgia fans.

In 2018, lawmakers quickly adjourned the first day of the legislative session ahead of Georgia’s championship game against Alabama, which that year was played in Atlanta.

And last year, the Legislature went on temporary hiatus as many red-and-black clad legislators bolted shortly after the opening gavel to travel to Indianapolis to watch UGA win its first national football championship in about four decades.

New hands will wield the gavels in both chambers of the General Assembly, according to the AJC.

Long a symbol of continuity under the Gold Dome, Ralston’s death is a key reason the legislative session opens Monday with an air of uncertainty. His successor, Jon Burns, won’t be the only leader trying to find his footing.

Incoming Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, long a backbencher in the state Senate, will preside over the fractious chamber. A class of up-and-coming lawmakers, many untested, replaced tried-and-tested legislative leaders. And dozens of newcomers will take their oaths when the session begins.

“There hasn’t been this type of change at the Legislature in decades. And that’s humbling,” said state Sen. Jason Anavitarte, a Paulding Republican newly elected to a Senate leadership post. “And if we can be intentional and rise above the politics, I believe this General Assembly will do monumental things.”

Now [Governor Brian] Kemp has emerged as a political force beyond Georgia, and he must work with new legislative leaders to make good on vows to refund about $2 billion of the surplus to taxpayers and address violent crime.

Already, the governor has promised to take aim at “far-left prosecutors” in his second term, signaling plans to endorse legislation that would bring more oversight of district attorneys.

It’s also the first session since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion, and Republicans are under new pressure from conservative advocates who want to further limit the procedure in Georgia.

“We don’t know what to expect. Speaker Burns didn’t ruffle a lot of feathers or make a lot of waves before,” said state Rep. Jasmine Clark, a Gwinnett County Democrat. “But we just don’t know what type of leader he’ll be now.”

From the Augusta Chronicle via the Savanah Morning News:

“The governor is going to be more powerful, because he is the only holdover,” said Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political science professor. “And the new speaker, and particularly lieutenant governor, are going to be kind of a shakedown cruise.”

In the House, the transition from Ralston’s tenure, and interim speaker Jan Jones, to Burns is likely to be smooth.

“I think in the House, they may see pretty much a continuation of what David Ralston was trying to do,” Bullock said.

“I would think at least the attitudes of the new lieutenant governor I’m expecting to be quite different from that of Geoff Duncan,” Bullock said. “Geoff being something of a reformer within the Republican party and not a Trumper, while Burt Jones is the only Trump candidate for major office to win in Georgia.”

Meanwhile John Kennedy will serve in as the second highest ranked member of the Senate. Kennedy served as the chair of the Senate Redistricting and Reapportionment Committee last year as legislators re-drew district lines based on the 2020 census.

From another story by the Augusta Chronicle via the Savannah Morning News:

“Probably at least in this first year, that new leadership may be more deferential to the governor and the governor may get pretty much everything he asks for,” Bullock said. “And even more importantly, if he sends signals that there’s some things he does not want to see on his desk, that may suffice to ensure that they don’t get to his desk and say, die a quiet death somewhere.”

Bullock thinks some Republicans may want to further restrict abortion beyond the six-week ban passed in 2019, but that Kemp is unlikely to back such changes. There may be some moves to reform the general election runoff system, which Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has called for without endorsing a specific alternative. One option would be ranked-choice voting, where voters rank several of the candidates in order of priority, rather than simply voting for their top choice.

“The Legislature might take another partial step towards rank-choice voting, perhaps consider maybe applying that in municipal elections and not do it for partisan contests,” Bullock said.

The one area where Kemp may not get what he wants, Bullock said, is in the Senate if the staunchly conservative Jones tries to distinguish himself politically. He succeeds Geoff Duncan, who did not run for re-election.

“I think we can also anticipate that Jones is going to spend the next four years trying to position himself to become the next governor,” Bullock said. “So he might, at some point, choose to push some of the concerns, the interests of more conservative Republicans, even if the governor is not eager in pursuing those goals.”

From the Associated Press via the Statesboro Herald:

State government ended the 2022 budget year in June with $6.6 billion in surplus cash, even after it filled its savings account to the legal limit.

Gov. Brian Kemp has announced plans to spend more than $3 billion of the amount through a combination of one-time tax givebacks, with fellow Republican legislative leaders signaling support. But even that bonanza would leave about $3 billion that could be spent, saved or given away. And barring a notable economic disaster, the state is likely to run a surplus again in the current budget year.

Despite the evident good fortune, Kemp and lawmakers have yet to announce additional spending or tax breaks. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, a Vidalia Republican, said lawmakers are likely to pause on broad pay increases after giving election-year $5,000 raises to university and state agency employees and $2,000 raises to public school teachers.

Georgia will spend $30.2 billion in state revenue and $57.9 billion overall. That money pays to educate 1.75 million K-12 students and 465,000 college students, house 48,000 state prisoners, pave 18,000 miles (29,000 kilometers) of highways and care for more than 200,000 people who are mentally ill, developmentally disabled or addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Kemp wants to dig into the surplus for three big items. First is replacing revenue Georgia hasn’t collected on gasoline and diesel taxes since March. The state next week will resume taxing gasoline at 29.1 cents per gallon and diesel at 32.6 cents per gallon. That money is used for transportation, and Kemp plans to backfill foregone revenue using $1.7 billion or more of the surplus.

The governor also wants to give another round of state income tax rebates like the $1.1 billion in payments issued last year. Those payments gave dual-earner households $500, single adults with dependents $375, and single adults $250.

Finally, Kemp wants to revive a property tax rebate abolished in 2009. The governor wants to spend $1 billion to save about $500 a year for homeowners.

Tillery and incoming House Appropriations Committee Chairman Matt Hatchett, a Dublin Republican, are also considering whether the state should pay down debts.

A discussion of state liabilities during budget hearings will examine Georgia’s $11.6 billion in bonded indebtedness, the $11 billion Georgia needs to pay future pension benefits and the $10 billion owed in post-retirement health care benefits.

“I think you’re going to find out that the liabilities that are there would knock out more than our unallocated surplus,” Tillery said.

“There will be at least tremor effects that we feel too,” Tillery said. “You can see that in our revenues. We’ve been gangbusters — month over month, year over year increases — that now are starting to plateau.”

The House will be gavelled-in for the first time by a female Speaker, State Rep. Jan Jones, who will relinquish the Speakership once State Rep. Jon Burns is formally elected. From the AJC:

The Georgia constitution dictated that Jones, the Speaker Pro Tem and second-ranking leader in the state House, automatically rise to the position of speaker without ever being sworn in.

But even without the pomp and circumstance, Jones, a Republican from Milton, made history as she became the first woman to fill the role and the highest-ranking woman in Georgia state government history.

The timing of Ralston’s death, less than two months before the start of the next Legislative session, meant that it would fall to Jones to both preside over the House membership as its members grieved, but also over the nuts and bolts of getting the chamber ready for January.

“My family has always been supportive of me, as I have been supportive of them,” she said. “But…at this very particular point, I think they want more of me, not less.”

She said she called the House Majority Leader, state Rep. Jon Burns, to say she’d back him for speaker instead. Burns quickly consolidated support and will be sworn in to replace Jones next week when the General Assembly convenes.

Because of her years of experience, colleagues told me they expect Jones’ portfolio to grow while Burns settles into his new job. She has expanded her staff by one to accommodate what is likely to be a broader policy portfolio, especially on education, but in other areas as well.

Her term as House speaker will end less than two months after it began, but she said she thinks becoming the first female speaker, along with being the first woman to be GOP majority whip and Speaker Pro Tem, is important for the state.

“The significance to me of being the first female speaker is that it won’t be significant the second time. That’s why it matters,” she said. “Whether it is the first Black person in a certain role or first Hispanic or female, people want to see others like themselves in the roles that they might aspire to, that they should aspire to. It does matter.”

The next session of the Georgia General Assembly, with Speaker Jones gaveling the House into session, will convene on Monday.

Some legislators may seek to raise pay for law enforcement, according to the Georgia Recorder via the Albany Herald.

In a fall meeting, a panel of state lawmakers, police chiefs, sheriffs and state law enforcement officials discussed the pressing challenges facing their profession as Georgia ranks near the bottom of the nation in average law enforcement pay.

The House Study Committee on State and Local Law Enforcement Salaries report could become the lynchpin for new legislation once lawmakers return Monday after the committee signed off on recommendations granting local officers access to a statewide retirement plan, providing income tax breaks, and encouraging city and county leaders to adopt a minimum salary of $56,000 to match the national average.

By comparison, the average salary for rural southwest Georgia is about $35,000 per year.

In addition to a salary bump from local departments, the study committee recommends the University System of Georgia Board of Regents should consider creating a law enforcement bachelor’s degree and streamlining the transfer of credits earned at police academies.

It is up to city and county officials to determine how much money officers and other public safety officials make working in local jurisdictions. But the state can provide incentives like it did in 2021 with one-time $1,000 bonuses to nearly 81,000 police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders and another bonus last year distributed from federal pandemic relief funds.

Committee Chairman Mike Cheokas, an Americus Republican, said that he’s hopeful the report will lead to more ideas about addressing salaries at the state and local levels.

“Our study committee wanted to look at issues and shine a line on what you guys face on a day-to-day basis and how we can create career opportunities for our young people and also have motivation to stay because it’s a grueling profession and dangerous profession” Cheokas said. “We hoped that by getting this started, the ball rolling, shining some light on it, that the conversation will continue.”

Legislators may also consider issues related to electric vehicles, according to the AJC.

Legislators are likely to wrestle with building a charging network to support the surge of EVs expected on Georgia roads. Rooftop solar billing is also expected to be considered, along with a new push to protect the Okefenokee Swamp from a controversial mine planned on its doorstep.

A state legislative committee spent months last year studying how the transition to EVs will affect Georgia. Now, lawmakers could turn some of their proposals into legislation this session.

Among the committee’s recommendations was to allow convenience stores to sell electricity by the kilowatt-hour, instead of by the hour or minute, as most businesses are currently required. The move would also allow the state to tax the electricity — a potential source of revenue to replace motor fuel taxes that pay for road construction and maintenance. Motor fuel tax revenue is expected to decline as electric vehicles become more common.

The committee also recommended the state explore charging motorists by the mile to replace lost motor fuel taxes. The Georgia Department of Transportation plans to launch a voluntary mileage-fee pilot program in 2023 and will report its findings to lawmakers by the end of the year. It’s unlikely the Legislature will take such action until GDOT completes its report.

The committee couldn’t agree on whether to restrict utilities’ from selling electricity directly to motorists. Nor could it agree on whether to allow EV manufacturers to skirt local dealerships and sell vehicles themselves — an issue that pits new electric vehicle manufacturers such as Rivian against politically powerful car dealers. Still, it’s possible lawmakers will move to address both issues.

Several bills proposed in 2022 dealt with rooftop solar and net metering, but none made it across the finish line. But in the wake of the PSC’s recent decision, the solar industry is planning a new effort in the upcoming session.

“The industry must now look to the Legislature to help clean up the mess left behind by the commission,” said Don Moreland, executive director of the Georgia Solar Energy Association.

Also new to the Gold Dome, a bumper crop of freshman state legislators and higher pay for most legislators, according to State Affairs.

The Georgia 2023 Legislative session convenes Monday with one of the largest, most diverse groups of newcomers ever to assemble under the Gold Dome.

The Senate will have 10 new members while the House will have 43 newcomers.

All told, the General Assembly will have 155 men and 81 women, 151 of whom are white and 83 of whom are people of color, including immigrants from Nigeria, the Caribbean, and Bangladesh. There will also be bipartisan Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Hispanic caucuses for the first time. The 236-member Georgia General Assembly is the third largest in the nation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“It’s probably a better reflection of the makeup of the state because Georgia has become a very diverse state,” said Larry “Butch” Parrish, R-Swainsboro), a retired pharmacist who will be one of the longest-serving lawmakers when he begins his 39th session Monday. “They’ll be bringing diverse ideas and everybody sort of has their own idea of what’s important to them and what they would like to work on. So I think it’ll be an interesting session and mix.”

New Rep.-elect Long Tran (pronounced “Chang”) hopes the greater diversity “will lead to legislation that will benefit some of the minority communities while at the same time solving some of the labor shortage our industries are facing.”

Tran, a Democrat representing District 80, which includes Doraville and parts of north DeKalb, said he wants to see the Legislature tackle immigration challenges, such as those hindering Georgia’s estimated 20,000 young immigrants — including Latinx, Africans and Asians — enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA. Many were raised and educated here, but are banned from being able to get in-state tuition for college.

“Personally, I would like to see anyone who graduates from a Georgia high school be given in-state tuition,” Tran said.

State lawmakers will earn an annual salary of $22,341 for 40 days of work during the 2023 legislative session, which runs until early April, thanks to a $5,000 raise. The financial boost is the first in a decade. Even with the raise, the annual base pay doesn’t begin to compare with legislators in Alaska or Alabama, who earned $53,956 and $50,400 in 2022, respectively.

Four former state legislators will return to the Capitol after hiatus, according to the AJC.

for four of the 53 freshman lawmakers heading to Georgia’s Gold Dome on Monday, it will be almost like “going back to summer camp” — all have served at least one term in the Legislature and, after some time away, are headed back to the Capitol.

Incoming Republican state Rep. Scott Hilton served one term before losing his 2018 reelection contest in his Peachtree Corners-based district as it trended more Democratic. Then his district lines were redrawn in 2021, removing a portion of diverse Gwinnett County and adding part of slightly more conservative north Fulton County.

“When the new district was drawn, I very quickly raised my hand and fortunately didn’t face anyone in the primary,” Hilton said. He defeated Democrat state Rep. Mary Robichaux — the same person who’d defeated him four years prior — with about 54% of the vote. “It’s kind of like I’m a comeback kid.”

State Rep.-elect Doug Stoner — a Smyrna Democrat who served in the House for two years and the Senate for eight years before losing in his redrawn, more conservative Senate district in 2012 — said when the state representative in his district decided not to seek reelection, he saw it as an opportunity. He recently served as the chairman of the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority and also spent a term as a Smyrna city councilman since he last was in the Legislature.

Incoming-state Rep. Deborah Silcox, a Sandy Springs Republican, lost the closest race in the state in 2020 — by just 277 votes. A constituent sued the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections alleging votes were illegally thrown out, but the state Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the challenge nearly a year after the election.

Silcox ran in a district that was newly created due to the population growth in the Sandy Springs area. The new district neighbors her previous district.

“I felt like I made a difference,” she said of the four years she served in office. “I feel like I still have a lot to contribute at the end of the day.”

Some 2022 legislation just became effective January 1, 2023, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The food truck legislation does away with a current requirement in Georgia law that food truck operators obtain a permit and inspection in every county where they do business.

“Almost all food trucks operate in multiple counties,” said Tony Harrison, board president of the Food Truck Association of Georgia. “That means multiple permits and fees. It’s just insane.”

Under House Bill 1443, which members of the General Assembly passed unanimously last March, food truck operators need only notify county health departments when they open for business in their communities.

“We do not have to go through all the paperwork and fees,” Harrison said. “We’ve already seen an increase in food trucks popping up before the law has even taken effect.”

While the tax credit bills technically became effective last summer, they don’t really become reality until New Year’s Day, the beginning of the tax year.

Three of the measures create new income tax credits.

House Bill 424 will provide a tax credit to Georgia taxpayers who contribute to nonprofit organizations that help foster children about to age out of the foster care system. More than 700 young men and women age out of the system each year.

Senate Bill 361, which was championed by Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, will provide a dollar-for-dollar income tax credit on contributions to public safety initiatives in the taxpayer’s community. Law enforcement agencies will be able to use the money for police officer salary supplements, to purchase or maintain department equipment and/or to establish or maintain a co-responder program.

Senate Bill 87, the Jack Hill Veterans’ Act, honors the late state Sen. Jack Hill of Reidsville, who died in 2020. It provides income tax credits in exchange for contributions to scholarships for service-disabled veterans through the Technical College System of Georgia Foundation.

The General Assembly also expanded Georgia’s rural hospital tax credit through House Bill 1041, which increases the annual statewide cap on the credit from $60 million to $75 million. Rural hospital administrators and the program’s legislative supporters originally sought to raise the cap to $100 million but were forced to settle for the lower figure.

Jannine Miller will take the reins at three state transportation agencies, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

The boards of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority Thursday named Jannine Miller executive director of the two agencies. The two votes came one day after the State Road and Tollway Authority board appointed Miller to head that agency.

Gov. Brian Kemp nominated Miller for the three posts last month. Miller, currently director of planning for the state Department of Transportation, will succeed Chris Tomlinson as head of the three agencies.

“Jannine Miller is a great public servant who has distinguished herself as a leader in the field of transportation and infrastructure on both the state and national levels,” said Kemp, who besides being governor chairs the SRTA board.

“She will bring an innovative approach and a deep knowledge of the issues facing commuters and those who move Georgia-made products through and beyond Georgia as she steps into this new role.”

“Jannine Miller is no stranger to the GRTA board,” said Sonny Deriso, chairman of the GRTA board, on Thursday. “The board is pleased to have the opportunity to work with Jannine again and have a leader with institutional knowledge and experience with GRTA’s work that also includes a vision for its future.”

U.S. Representative Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) said $1.5 million dollars in federal funding will be spent for modifying the navigation channel at the Port of Brunswick, according to The Brunswick News.

Carter submitted the funding through a Community Funding Request for the federal government’s fiscal year 2023 budget.

“The Port of Brunswick is a key element of the global supply chain and employer in the First Congressional District,” Carter said. “During my frequent visits to the port, I’ve heard first-hand from employees and shipping companies how important this expansion project is for both our local economy and the global shipping community.

“I am proud that Congress allocated these funds and am eager to see the jobs and growth this project will bring to Brunswick.”

Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, said the Brunswick port serves as a vital gateway for Roll-on,Roll-off cargo and is the “busiest port of entry for a range of vehicles and heavy machinery in the Southeastern United States.”

“Through these proposed upgrades, the port will attract more jobs to the region while supporting the efficient service of larger vessels with greater capacity,” Lynch said.

“The GPA appreciates the ongoing support from Sens, Ossoff and Warnock and Congressman Carter in ensuring these vital improvements will continue at the Port of Brunswick — a testament to the collaboration which continues to make Georgia the best state in the nation to do business,” Lynch said.

Burke County will address broadband connectivity with a $16 million dollar grant, according to WJBF.

“Being in a rural area– even though we had our device– without the internet connection or very spotty connection, just made it hard to keep a four-year-old’s attention.”

Jaymie Miettenen has lived in Burke County all her life and thought she’d never see the day where she’d have this kind of easy access.

“It’s crucial for us to have the internet so that they can get those lessons. The teachers have worked hard to put those lessons together to bridge those gaps so that they’re always moving forward.”

Jada Curd is a senior at Burke County high school who’s getting ready to further her education at college.

“Because Burke County is so far away from certain towns and places like Atlanta, we require the internet to have just certain opportunities. Like even, for example, I do a lot of my competitions over line, and I need the internet to be able to submit things,” Curd said.

“Teaching virtually or I’m trying to upload lessons, because it’s difficult when you’re trying to upload things and you can’t because of the weak signal. So, I am so happy that this grant is here,” Blakeney Elementary Fourth Grade teacher Pamela Green said.

I wish that story had identified the source of the funds. It appears to be a state grant made from federal COVID-relief dollars, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Georgia is awarding $234 million in federal COVID-19 relief fund to construct broadband internet to rural locations that don’t currently have connections.

The grants announced Wednesday by Gov. Brian Kemp are supposed to provide service to nearly 77,000 locations in 28 counties.

Kemp decided to spend much of Georgia’s $4.8 billion in federal relief on broadband expansion, water and sewer improvements and offsetting the negative economic impact of the pandemic.

The county with the largest number of locations getting new service in Wednesday’s round of grants is Burke County, where Comcast Corp. is getting $16.7 million to serve more than 6,000 homes and businesses. Comcast got nearly $67 million overall, the largest single winner among 12 cable, telephone and electric cooperatives getting money in this round.

The state will seek another round of grant applications to serve five middle and south Georgia counties — Calhoun, Echols, Johnson, Miller and Webster — that have not gotten any grant money yet.

Floyd County Juvenile Court Judge Steve Bennett swore in Juvenile Court Associate Judge Deana Perry, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“I’m extremely proud that my first official act as a judge was to appoint Deana Perry,” Bennett said. “We’ve worked together for 10 years at the juvenile court; she has a fine legal mind and this is a huge credit to her character and intellect.”

“Juvenile court has been a part of my life since I graduated law school,” Perry said. “Steve has been a mentor of mine since I started and I want to thank him for believing in me all these years.”

Rebecca Yardley, Chair of the Ninth District Georgia Republican Party, will run for Chair of the Georgia Republican Party, according to AccessWDUN.

“Our Party deserves a chairman who is fully focused on taking the steps required to win Georgia elections,” Yardley said in a press release. “I’ve witnessed firsthand the incredible work done on the county and district levels. Now it’s time to have our top leadership at the state match the same energy, concentration, and drive shown by our local members daily.”

Yardley has been an active resident in White County for 21 years and has served as chairman of the Gateway Theatre Company. She was elected as a delegate to the 2020 National Convention in Charlotte, NC. Yardley is also a former Chairman of the White County Republican Party.

“If elected, I pledge to remain conservative, honest, and passionately committed to the wise development of our Party, its infrastructure, and disposition of its resources, ” she said. “Together, we will win the necessary battles in the rural and metro counties to secure victories for Republicans. Let this chairman’s race serve as our notice to the Democrat Party to send their billions of dollars from New York and California elsewhere because their efforts in Georgia will be wasted in 2024.”

A press release from Yardley said she has gained the endorsements of the following:

State Senator Steve Gooch
State Senator Bo Hatchett
State Senator-Elect Shelly Echols
State Representative Victor Anderson
State Representative Stan Gunter
State Representative Will Wade
State Representative Marcus Wiedower
State Representative-Elect Bethany Ballard
1st District Republican Party Chairman, Bill Edgy
4th District Republican Party Chairman, Rachel Little
8th District Republican Party Chairman, Chan Jones
10th District Republican Party Chairman, James Cooper
Under 80K Chairman, Kathy Hurley
State Committee Member, Carl Blackburn
State Committee Member, Fran Blackburn
State Committee Member, Kevin Harris
State Committee Member, Ed Henderson
State Committee Member, Gary Longueuil
State Committee Member, Julianne Thompson
State Committee Member, Andrew Turnage
State Committee Member, Theresa Webb
State Committee Member, Michael Williams
War Town YR Chair and State Committee Member, Brittany Bennett
Republican Party Chairman Banks County, Ron Hooper
Republican Party Chairman Berrien County and State Committee Member, Keith Stone
Republican Party Chairman Calhoun County, Donna Wilkinson
Republican Party Chairman Effingham County, Brittany Dasher
Republican Party Chairman Franklin County, Angela Whidby
Republican Party Chairman Habersham County, David Sosby
Republican Party Chairman Hall County, James Gisonna
Republican Party Chairman Hart County, Christopher NeSmith
Republican Party Chairman Houston County, Donna Sant
Republican Party Chairman Liberty County, Alan Preble
Republican Party Chairman Lumpkin County, Katherine James
Republican Party Chairman Madison County, Bruce Azevedo
Republican Party Chairman of Coffee County GOP Chairman and 3rd Vice Chairman of 8th District, Chris  Papierz
Republican Party Chairman Pickens County, Chris Mora
Republican Party Chairman Rabun County, Ed Fickey
Republican Party Chairman Stephens County, Kellie Austin
Republican Party Chairman Towns County, Betsy Young
Republican Party Chairman Union County, Dena Gooch
Republican Party Chairman White County, Ron Webb
1st Vice Chairman of Chatham Republican Party, Carrie Johnson
Chairman of Republican Women of Hall County, Betty Fisher
Chairman of the North Georgia Young Republicans, James King
Cobb County Young Republican Chairman, DeAnna Harris
Former 10th District Republican Party Chairman, Brian Burdette
Former Candidate for Lt. Governor, Jeanne Seaver
Former Chairman of the Georgia Young Republicans, Jade Morey
Former Congressional Candidate CD 9, Michael Boggus
Former Congressional Candidate CD 9/Talk Show Radio Host, Martha Zoller
Former Floyd County Chairman, Layla Shipman
Former Forsyth County Chairman/Former 9th District Congressional Candidate, Ethan Underwood
Former Under 80K Republican Chairman, Ashley Gilles
Former US Senate Candidate, Kelvin King
Republican Grassroots Leader, Amy Covington
Republican Grassroots Leader, James Hall
Republican Grassroots Leader, Lucretia Hughes Klucken
Republican Grassroots Leader, Surrea Ivy
Republican Grassroots Leader, Janelle King
Republican Grassroots Leader, Dave Klucken
Republican Grassroots Leader, Debbie Whelchel
Republican Grassroots Leader, Ron Winkowski
Republican Grassroots Leader, Justin Wright

Charlie Chase is running for State House District 119, recently vacated by the resignation of State Rep.-Elect Danny Rampey, according to AccessWDUN.

Chase is one of five Republicans who qualified to run in the Jan. 31 special election. He previously ran unsuccessfully for State Senate District 47 in the May 2022 Republican primary.

A press release from Chase’s campaign said his platform includes making sure the Georgia public education system focuses on preparing young people for the workplace and “less on social issues better left to parents.” Additionally, he said he wants to reduce crime and put taxpayers’ needs ahead of politics.

Other candidates who qualified for the January 31 Special Election include:

Shelbey Diamond Alexander, Democrat

Joseph Grodzicki, Republican

Renee Lord, Republican

Holt Persinger, Republican

Joe Price, Republican

Bill Ritter, Republican

Glynn County Commissioners elected Wayne Neal as Chair and Walter Rafolski as Vice Chair, according to The Brunswick News.

The meeting opened with Neal, reelected to another four-year term in November, and newly elected Commissioners David Sweat and Bo Clark taking the oath of office.

Neal, who is serving as chairman for the second full term, completed former Commissioner David O’Quinn’s term last year after business commitments conflicted with the time consuming chairman’s job.

Forsyth County Commissioners also elected their own leadership, according to AccessWDUN.

According to a press release from Forsyth County Government, District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson was elected to serve as vice chairwoman. District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills was elected as secretary.

The Board of Commissioners also met in December to elect District 2 Commissioner Alfred John as chairman, which will be his second consecutive year in a row.

The board also welcomed its newest member, District 1 Commissioner Kerry Hill, who was elected to serve as commissioner in November.

Gwinnett County Commissioners elected Ben Ku (D) as Vice Chair, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams says he wants to quit fighting with county commissioners, according to WJBF.

He said his office dropped the appeal to the ruling on a lawsuit he brought against the commission to gain control of his budget.

“I decided because Commissioner Abrams asked to, let’s just work this out and stop fighting back and forth. So, we dropped the appeal.”

“I reached out to the commissioners. I was hoping that they would be here today, and they were not here. But we hope that they will see this report,” said Williams. “We hope that they will see our Facebook Live and understand that this was a resounding message that we want to reach out to them. We want to work with them. We want to find amenable ways to get back to reasonable governance of the people and stop the fighting.”

Williams stressed that he wants to improve relations with [County Manager Merv] Waldrop and the Board of Commissioners so they can work together for the wellbeing of Burke County.

Macon-Bibb County speed cameras will begin working, according to 13WMAZ.

This means speed limit cameras will stay active an hour before school starts and an hour after school ends between school zones.

Macon-Bibb County says the cameras will be on whether the reduced limit lights are flashing on or off.

Drivers who go more than 10 miles above the school zone speed limit will be given a citation.

The county says the first citation will cost $100, and each source after this will cost $150.

The citations will not appear on a driver’s record or be added as points to their insurance.

Any citation fines paid to go to local law enforcement or public safety initiatives.

Mayor Lester Miller says people need to drive slower around school zones because it can save our children’s and other people’s lives.

Some in Augusta want state legislation to allow a new kind of local option sales tax, according to WJBF.

The building of a new James Brown arena could be decided in Atlanta with the creation of a new half-a-penny sales tax to pay for construction.

“It takes much of the burden off of property tax owners and puts the burden on sales tax and with it only being a half-cent I actually think this is a pretty smart way to go,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Brandon Garrett.

City leaders are getting behind the idea of a C-SPLOST, a new sales tax that could go before voters in November if approved by the General Assembly.

“I look forward to getting it started, frankly I’ll get it stated a little bit today, in a Ways and Means pre-session meeting we’ll all work together but I think it’s bipartisan,” said State Representative Mark Newton.

In 2021, voters rejected a bond referendum for the new arena that would have raised property taxes by more than one hundred dollars a year on the average priced home.

Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber will retire from the city, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

“Normal retirement here in the city is for 25 years. I’ve been here for almost 35 years. So I’m pushing 10 years beyond that. So that option – retirement – has been out there for quite a while now. So I’m going to exercise that option to retire and I’m very interested in being the city manager of Adel. I went through the process and Adel has to announce their finalists for the city manager’s job in the future, and I just happened to be the sole finalist for that position. But they haven’t taken an official vote just yet,” he said Thursday.

His retirement comes on the heels of a series of anonymous emails last month accusing Barber of financial irregularities going back several years and other city officials of covering it up.

In a statement sent to all city employees, a memorandum from Mayor Scott James Matheson, Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Miller-Cody and Councilmen Eric Howard, Andy Gibbs and Ben Norton cleared Barber of any impropriety after an internal investigation.

Barber confirmed his last day as city manager will be Jan. 31.

More information about the search for the new city manager will be released as soon as council begins the process of selecting a consultant for recruitment.

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