Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 1, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 1, 2021

The Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia on July 1, 1776 to debate a resolution by Richard Henry Lee that the colonies declare their independence of Britain.

The first U.S. Postage stamps were issued on July 1, 1847 in New York City.

The Battle of Gettysburg began on July 1, 1863. July 2, 1863 saw day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg, with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia attacking Meade’s Army of the Potomac.

Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders charged San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War on July 1, 1898.

Coca-Cola marketed its current formula for the first time on July 1, 1916.

On July 1, 1956, a new Georgia flag bearing the state seal and a version of the Confederate Battle Flag became effective after being adopted by the Georgia General Assembly in the 1956 Session.

The current Georgia Constitution became effective on July 1, 1983 after its approval in a referendum during the November 1982 General Election.

Georgia native Clarence Thomas was nominated to the United States Supreme Court by President George H.W. Bush on July 1, 1991.

Savannah’s Mayor and City Council received a report that recommends moving Confederate memorials fromForsyth Park, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Updated plans for the memorial initially developed by a task force in 2017 were reviewed by the Savannah Historic Sites and Monuments Commission on June 1. The commission meets again Thursday and will exam a recommended action plan drafted by Savannah City Manager Michael Brown.

The memo calls for moving forward with the task force’s recommendations, which include the relocation of the busts of Confederate officers Francis Stebbins Bartow and LaFayette McLaws that are park of the memorial in Forsyth Park.

Doing so would end a four-year effort to change the monument. The task force first recommended action in a 2017 report, one approved by council in 2018. The process stalled due to legal challenges when the state tightened restrictions on war memorial relocations in 2019.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The first election conducted under new state laws will be a Special Runoff Election for Dougherty County Board of Education District 2 on July 13, 2021, according to the Albany Herald.

For the runoff in a District 2 Dougherty County School Board special election, the deadline for submitting absentee applications is Friday, a week ahead of what it would have been before the sweeping election changes took effect.

Norma Gaines-Heath and Alma Noble, the top two finishers in the June 15 special election from among a slate of six candidates, will be on the July 13 ballot. The winner will serve the remaining year and a half of the term of long-time board member Milton “June Bug” Griffin, who died in February.

“The law states (that) Friday is the last day we can accept an application for an absentee ballot,” Dougherty County Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said Wednesday.

“Any application received after Friday will be rejected. The application has to be postmarked by Friday in order for us to process it.’
The early voting period also will be shortened due to the Independence Day holiday that falls on Monday.

A number of other state laws become effective today, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Athens Banner Herald.

July 1 will see the implementation of a state tax cut and a series of new tax breaks for Georgia businesses. Local police departments will get new protections from budget cuts, and a new crime applicable to a type of theft popularized during the pandemic will go on the books.

The tax cut will increase the standard deduction for married couples who file joint state income tax returns by $1,100. Single taxpayers can deduct an extra $800, while Georgians ages 65 and older can deduct another $1,300. Married couples filing separately will be able to deduct an additional $550.

Separate legislation also taking effect Thursday serves up a smorgasbord of new tax breaks aimed at spurring business investment in Georgia. It offers tax credits to medical equipment and pharmaceutical manufacturers, aerospace defense projects, performing arts venues, short-line railroads and developers of corporate “mega-sites.”

Republican legislative leaders focused much of their attention this year on crafting friendly tax policies to help Georgians and Georgia businesses cope with the economic damage wreaked by the pandemic.

From the Center Square via the Albany Herald:

HB 593 [the Tax Relief Act of 2021] created the second tax cut of its kind in three years. It will cut income taxes by more than $600 million collectively over the next five years. The Georgia Legislature doubled the state’s standard deduction under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in Georgia in 2018.

“As we return to normal here in the Peach State and look to fully restore our economy, it is critical that Georgians keep as much of their hard-earned money as possible to revive small businesses and industries still struggling under the weight of COVID,” [Governor Brian] Kemp said in late March during a bill signing ceremony at the state Capitol.

Hotels, motels, short-term rentals and most lodging facilities in Georgia will be required to pay a $5-a-night excise tax starting Thursday. House Bill 317 imposes the fee on all lodging facilities and rooms except those that do not provide shelter and extended-stay rentals, which allow guests to occupy a room or facility for at least 30 consecutive days. It also requires online short-term rental companies such as Airbnb to collect hotel and motel excise taxes and pay them to local governments.

Governor Brian Kemp allowed the Public Health State of Emergency Declaration to expire. From Fox5Atlanta:

“I feel very comfortable making this move,” Gov. Kemp explained.

“Our cases are down 92%. Hospitalizations remain below 500 at one point they were all-around 5,000. So, we have a lot of bandwidth out there,” said Gov. Kemp. “So we don’t need the Public Health State of Emergency anymore.”

Gov. Kemp said he would issue a new Executive Order this week to aid in the state’s recovery.  Those orders were posted to the governor’s website late Wednesday.

“We’ll continue to be able to do everything we need to do to be able to do vaccine rollout, continue to do contact tracing, you know, all the public health measures to keep people safe, to move us further away from the pandemic,” said Gov Kemp.  “But it’ll also be really focused on livelihoods and how we respond and help with long-term economy recovery in our state that I believe will be generational.”

From CBS46:

Governor Brian Kemp signed two executive orders Wednesday in an effort to continue pushing Georgia’s economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the two orders, 06.30.21.01 and 06.30.21.02, were provisions to extend various state rule suspensions as well.

“Effective midnight tonight, the public health state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will end in the state of Georgia,” said Governor Kemp. “From the beginning of our fight against this deadly enemy, my office has worked alongside countless hardworking Georgians in the public and private sector to implement a measured approach to protecting both lives and livelihoods. The public health state of emergency was absolutely vital to those efforts, and I thank the General Assembly for the trust they placed in my office last spring.”

The executive order focused on economic recovery aimed to allow the state to work to better respond to the negative economic impacts of the pandemic, among them supply chain and healthcare infrastructure impacts. The second order, regarding rule suspensions, would see a continuation a regulatory provisions from the public health state of emergency into a new state of emergency, which would include provisions for medical professional licensure, unemployment insurance, remote notarization, emergency management designations for medical provider sand facilities, remote grand jury proceedings, and continued vaccine administration.

Governor Kemp continued, “with coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths at all time lows – and vaccinations on the rise – Georgians are getting back to normal. These new executive orders will enable the state to make that transition as easy as possible for our healthcare infrastructure, our job creators and the supply chains they rely on, and Georgians getting back in the workforce. The people of our state have shown their resilience over the last 16 months, and I am truly grateful to them for the sacrifices they made each and every day to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their fellow Georgians. Now, we must commit to working together to ensure Georgia’s best and brightest days are ahead.”

Click here for Executive Order #06.30.21.01, the Declaration of State of Emergency for Continued COVID-19 Economic Recovery and click here for Executive Order #06.30.21.02 State of Emergency for Continued COVID-19 Economic Recovery Regulatory Suspensions.

From the AJC:

During the pandemic, the federal government increased food aid for some families through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the program formerly known as food stamps. As many as 750,000 Georgian SNAP recipients benefited, with an extra allotment of $100 per month or more for a family of four.

But states must have their own emergency declarations in place to qualify for the extra food assistance. Tom Rawlings, director of Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services, said he believes the language in the replacement order is strong enough to trigger continuing use of federal emergency benefits in the state.

“While this order recognizes that we have come far, it also allows us to continue with the economic benefits that some Georgians are going to continue to need as the economy recovers from the effects of COVID,” Rawlings said.

Georgia is delaying its limited expansion of Medicaid under a waiver granted by the Trump Administration, according to 13WMAZ.

A letter from the Georgia Department of Community Health says Georgia will delay the rollout of its limited Medicaid expansion. Instead of taking effect July 1, state officials want to delay its launch until at least August 1.

President Joe Biden’s administration continues to review Georgia’s program and restrictions that Governor Brian Kemp wants to put in place.

Each state runs their own Medicaid program. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Georgia is ranked third for the highest rate of uninsured people.

Medicaid is the federally funded program that provides health insurance for low-income and disabled people. Georgia is one of a dozen states that has not fully expanded Medicaid to all low-income residents as laid out by the Affordable Care Act. Georgia’s current program covers low-income people in several categories including those who are, pregnant, disabled, or legally blind.

Governor Brian Kemp’s plan would extend Medicaid to Georgians that work, attend school or volunteer 80 hours a month to qualify for coverage.

A new Crimes Against Disabled Adults and Elderly Task Force has been formed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Division of Aging Services Forensic Special Initiatives Unit, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The task force will develop and conduct training, provide technical and case assistance and advance police through the identification of gaps in services.

“We were looking to address the specific issues of the increased population and opportunities to improve primary and secondary responders’ awareness and recognition of at-risk adult abuse,” Heather Strickland, assistant special agent in charge of the Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit, which now includes the CADE task force, said. “It’s going to help Augusta, along with the entire state of Georgia.”

Strickland said the most common type of exploitation on elderly adults is financial exploitation. She said about 80% of financial exploitation done on elderly adults is by a known individual, whether it is a caretaker, family member or someone else.

Strickland said the task force’s work will be more effective if they support state and local agencies involved in the recognition of and response to elder abuse.

“We certainly will do everything we can to make sure those that are first responders and secondary responders have the training and the resources that they need to solve it in their own communities,” she said. “A lot of times, law enforcement is not sure if there is a power of attorney involved, if it’s a civil issue or a criminal issue, so we have the experts from the field that can work the local law enforcement.”

United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) introduced legislation modeled on a Georgia roadside solar installation, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The Sustainable Highways Innovation Act is modeled after The Ray, an 18-mile stretch of Interstate 85 in LaGrange used to test clean energy technologies, Ossoff, D-Ga., said Wednesday during a news conference held beside a solar array at the site.

The Ray, a nonprofit named in memory Ray Anderson, an environmentalist and founder of the flooring company Interface Inc., also features a drive-over tire safety inspection station.

The solar array at The Ray contains 2,600 panels that generate 1 megawatt of electricity, enough to power 170 homes. The five-acre site is owned by Georgia Power Co. under a 30-year lease with the state Department of Transportation.

“This is the best example in the country of a higher use of empty roadside land for the benefit of clean energy,” said Allie Kelly, The Ray’s executive director. “Everybody wins when we develop more roadside land for energy generation.”

United States Representative Drew Ferguson (R-West Point) spoke about the Department of Justice lawsuit over Georgia’s new voting laws, according to WTVM.

Ferguson also says he fully supports Senate Bill 202 and thinks it will improve voter turnout, but he doesn’t believe the bill will disenfranchise minority voters.

“I will challenge the DOJ, if they are going to make this about race, I think they should name the people in the Georgia legislature who are racist. You can’t just make a blanket statement like that and not be held accountable,” Ferguson added.

Representative Ferguson added that the lawsuit is “shameful and shallow” and he encourages Georgians to read the claims themselves.

State Senator Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) spoke to Martha Zoller about his campaign for Commissioner of Agriculture on WDUN.

Lowndes County will pay to match state funding grants for its accountability courts, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Lowndes County’s DUI Court is receiving an accountability grant from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council for $109,888 which requires a 10% match from the county.

The match will be in the amount of $12,210. The DUI Court is specifically requesting $39,135 for the 2021-22 grant period since the grant only pays a portion of the salary and benefits of a surveillance officer’s contract salary.

Lowndes County Commission approved the accountability court’s adult drug court program grant for a cash match of $23,557.16.

Lowndes County’s Juvenile Accountability Court will receive a reimbursable state grant with the approved cash match of $10,000 from county commissioners.

Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport will receive a $6 million dollar federal grant toward construction for a new cargo facility, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The grant will be used to construct an apron for a new cargo building, according to Lori Lynah, director of marketing and air service development.

The apron will provide space for planes to park, load and refuel.

“This project is going to be a completely new cargo area for us,” Lynah said. “This building is scheduled to be operational in 2024.”

Savannah will close River Street temporarily on Sunday for the fireworks show, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Police will be closing off River Street starting at 6 p.m. Sunday night. It will remain closed until after the fireworks show.

SPD says they may also close streets around City Market after the fireworks depending on the size of the crowd. Savannah Fire and police want to remind everyone to keep your celebrations safe.

Campaign Finance

Governor Brian Kemp is raising funds at a record pace for his 2022 reelection campaign, according to the AJC.

The Republican will report raising roughly $12 million so far this cycle for his bid for a second term, with about $9 million in cash on hand a year out from the primaries. That includes $3.9 million in cash collected over the last three months, his campaign said Thursday.

Kemp’s rapid fundraising pace set a state fundraising record at this stage in a Georgia gubernatorial contest. And it comes as he faces pressure from challengers on his right flank while he prepares for an expected rematch against Stacey Abrams.

Senior Democrats expect Abrams to make another run for governor, and she’ll have a fundraising juggernaut mobilized behind her. The Fair Fight voting rights group she founded after her defeat has already raised nearly $100 million.

Kemp is certain to continue to leverage the power of incumbency as 2022 nears. And a new law that allows state leaders to set up “leadership committees” that can raise unlimited campaign donations from supporters, including during the legislative session, could further boost his bid.

The Republican’s robust fundraising outpaced other incumbent governors. At this stage in their re-election bids, Roy Barnes raised roughly $4 million, Sonny Perdue collected $7.6 million and Nathan Deal amassed about $3.7 million.

Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D) may be under federal investigation for campaign finance issues, according to the AJC.

Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed appears to be under federal investigation for allegedly using campaign funds to make personal purchases of jewelry, resort travel, lingerie and furniture, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found after comparing details disclosed in a recent court ruling with the former mayor’s campaign disclosure reports.

The ruling shows prosecutors are trying to compel grand jury testimony from the attorney for a local politician’s campaign who helped produce the campaign’s financial disclosures. That person seems to be Jeremy Berry, who worked as Reed’s campaign attorney before taking the job as Atlanta’s city attorney in 2017.

The court document doesn’t name Reed or Berry, but The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has matched — to the penny — one of the questionable purchases listed in the ruling to an expense on Reed’s 2017 campaign finance report.

Attorney Scott Grubman confirmed Tuesday that Berry was questioned by federal authorities.

“Mr. Berry received a subpoena to testify as part of the government’s ongoing investigation,” Grubman said in a statement. “Importantly, Mr. Berry has been assured numerous times, including as recently as [Tuesday] morning, by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, that he is not a subject of the investigation, but is simply a witness.”

The alleged crime being investigated is wire fraud, said the ruling, written by Judge Barbara Lagoa. The judge made note that the court is taking no position “on whether the evidence proffered by the government here would be sufficient to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Prosecutors allege the candidate used campaign funds to make at least five personal purchases between 2011 and 2017.

The Reed administration has been the subject of a years-long federal corruption probe of Atlanta City Hall. That investigation included a subpoena for credit card statements of taxpayer backed cards issued to Reed, his security detail and his chief financial officer, who is currently under indictment on fraud and weapons charges.

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