Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 19, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 19, 2022

On July 19, 1879, Griffin, Georgia native John Henry “Doc” Holliday killed Mike Gordon after Gordon shot up Holliday’s saloon in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

The 1996 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony was held on July 19, 1996 and competition started the next day.

The Georgia State Quarter was released on July 19, 1999.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

File Under Unintended Consequences: Vasectomy demand is rising after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, according to WTOC.

“This is a huge issue, I think probably the most important issue in men’s health this year with the recent court ruling.”

It’s a procedure used as male contraception that Dr. Manuel Perez at The Urology Group in Hardeeville says is getting more interest after Roe V Wade was overturned.

“Well they’re very concerned about not only right here right now, whether they’re sexual partner is going to get pregnant or not, but also down the road. I think with this recent court ruling overturning Roe V Wade, there may be further restrictions on abortion people are very concerned about,” Dr. Manuel Perez said.

As a result of the ruling, abortions are now banned in South Carolina after six weeks in most cases. And a similar law is expected to take effect in Georgia.

“Dr. Perez says since the overturning of Roe V Wade there’s been a 25 percent increase in men coming here to get vasectomies.”

“Couples are concerned about restriction of contraception.”

“Vasectomies are reversible. The success rates are pretty high up till the ten year mark for reversals.”

“We’re seeing older patients coming in because they are concerned about the inadvertent pregnancy that may occur when they’re off contraception.”

So now with men of all ages considering the procedure, Dr. Perez believes interest will just continue to grow

A new 9-8-8 emergency line for mental health issues is going live nationally and in Georgia, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

The new 9-8-8 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline went into effect on Saturday. Dialing the number puts a caller into direct contact with a trained mental health counselor rather than an emergency dispatcher who must handle a variety of calls including crimes in progress, fires and traffic accidents.

Counselors are able to address a caller’s immediate mental health needs and help connect them to ongoing care.

Georgia is well prepared to make the 9-8-8 system a success, said Judy Fitzgerald, commissioner of the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

“Georgia’s work to develop its crisis network over the past 12 years has DBHDD well positioned for change,” Fitzgerald said.

“I am very excited about this work, how important it is, both in preventing suicide and in building a diverse coalition to develop an infrastructure that supports Georgians’ mental well-being for generations to come.”

Lawyers briefed the 11th Circuit United States Court of Appeals panel on the lawsuit that halted enforcement of Georgia’s “Heartbeat bill,” according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit recently received briefs on whether it should allow Georgia’s 2019 abortion law to take effect now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned of Roe v. Wade.

Attorneys for Georgia call for the appeals court to overrule a lower court injunction and allow the law to take effect. Plaintiffs say the law should remain blocked.

The heartbeat bill was blocked at the time by an injunction from a federal judge as illegal under Roe v. Wade. Georgia then appealed the ruling to to the 11th Circuit. On June 24, when the Dobbs v. Jackson decision came down ruling that there is no constitutional right to abortion, the 11th Circuit requested additional briefs from all parties on the impact of the ruling within 21 days.

“Plaintiff-Appellees now have no case,” wrote Georgia Solicitor General Stephen J. Petrany for the state. “Their challenge to Georgia’s prohibition of post-fetal-heartbeat abortions is dependent on a theory of substantive due process, and Dobbs held that there is no substantive due-process right to an abortion.”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs filed a joint brief acknowledging that after Dobbs there is no constitutional protection for abortion. But they argued that the injunction should become permanent based on vague language about personhood.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune:

The case started when the General Assembly passed legislation in 2019 banning most abortions in Georgia after a fetal heartbeat could be detected — usually around six weeks of pregnancy.

In a brief filed late last week, reproductive rights advocates who oppose the law appear to say they will no longer pursue a constitutional right to abortion as a legal path to block Georgia’s abortion law. Instead, both sides’ briefs focused on the broad definition of a “person” found in Georgia’s abortion law.

[Plaintiffs] say the broad definition could even lead to prosecution of medical providers for providing “critical medical care that pregnant patients need.”

The chilling effect on physicians would cast a shadow over patients’ care — specifically the “fundamental right to procreate,” argue the plaintiffs. That would infringe on people’s right to make childbearing decisions.

“By threatening reproductive health-care providers with criminal penalties for providing routine obstetrical and gynecological care, such as amniocentesis and miscarriage care, and thus chilling and delaying needed diagnostic and treatment … the Personhood Definition forces those who choose to procreate to incur needless medical risk,” the plaintiffs said.

United States Representative Jody Hice (R-Monroe) has received a subpoena from Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis, according to the Associated Press via WRDW.

The subpoena, which Hice received on June 29, orders him to appear before the special grand jury in Atlanta on Tuesday, his lawyer said in a court filing. Hice on Monday filed a motion to quash the subpoena in federal court in Atlanta.

Any discussions Hice had as he investigated “alleged irregularities” in the election were within his authority as a member of Congress and are shielded by the U.S. Constitution from any legal proceedings and inquiry, his lawyer wrote in the filing. High-ranking officials, such as members of Congress, also should not be called as witnesses unless the information that they could provide cannot be obtained from another source, the filing says.

Hice is challenging the subpoena in federal court rather than before the Fulton County Superior Court judge who’s overseeing the special grand jury. A federal judge has set a hearing for June 25.

From CNN via the Albany Herald:

Hice was served last month, with the subpoena calling on him to testify before the grand jury this week. Hice went to court regarding the subpoena, and in the new filing, he indicated that he’s trying to move the proceedings from state court to federal court.

In filings with a federal court in Georgia, Hice argued that the subpoena violates the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause, which shields lawmakers from certain law enforcement actions related to their legislative duties. Hice also claimed that the subpoena ran afoul of the “high-ranking official” doctrine, which sets certain legal standards for when a high-ranking official can be compelled to give testimony.

According to Hice’s filings with the federal court, he and the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office had agreed that he would not testify before the grand jury on Tuesday, as the subpoena had demanded, so that the court could consider the legal issues Hice was raising.

US District Judge Leigh Martin May, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, scheduled a hearing on Hice’s motion for July 25.

Gwinnett County Police are alerting the public to a spike in overdoses, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

In a span of 18 days, up to Monday, there have been 41 overdoses cases in Gwinnett, according to Police Officer Sr. Hideshi Valle. That led the police department to issue information on Monday about what residents can do to save the life of a person who is overdosing on drugs.

The first recommendation Valle had was for people to call 911.

“Accidental overdosing caused by recreational, illegal, or illicit drugs is a life-threatening emergency,” Valle said. “The state of Georgia’s 911 Medical Amnesty and Expanded Naloxone Access Law protects the victim and caller when requesting medical emergency services at the scene of a suspected drug overdose from being arrested, charged, or prosecuted. If you or anyone you know is experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately.”

One option people have, after calling 911, while they wait for first responders to arrive is to administer Naloxone HCI, which is commonly known as NARCAN. It is a nasal spray that includes an opioid antagonist that has gained it a reputation for being able to largely reverse the affects of an overdose and reduce the chance that a person will die.

NARCAN works to counter the effects of heroin, fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, methadone, hydrocodone, OxyContin, “roxys,” dilaudid, morphine and codeine in particular, according to Valle. She warned it will not work to counter the effects of overdoses on methamphetamines; cocaine; benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Valium or Klonopin; bath salts; or alcohol poisoning.

“However, most people overdose on a combination of drugs, so when in doubt about what someone has overdosed on, give naloxone,” Valle said. “Naloxone does not affect a person who has not taken opioids.”

Athens-Clarke County is again mandating mask use, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

As Athens-Clarke reinstates its mask mandate due to an increase in cases of COVID-19, local hospitals have fewer COVID-19 patients than in previous waves.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention marks Athens-Clarke as “high” for COVID-19 cases, a pre-existing ordinance takes effect that requires masks in public spaces and private entities, with some limited exceptions, regardless of vaccination status. The ordinance has not been enforced for several months because of the low-case status in the county.

Local private businesses have to “opt-in” to the mask requirement due to an executive order from Gov. Brian Kemp. Employees and members of the public will be required to wear face masks in any indoor, shared or public local government spaces, including on transit vehicles.

Of the surrounding counties, Barrow and Jackson are also considered “high” by the CDC while Oglethorpe, Madison and Oconee are at “medium” status.

A lawsuit challenging Georgia election laws targets the restriction on giving away foods and beverages at polling locations, according to WTOC.

Voting rights groups asked a judge on Monday to block a provision of a new Georgia law that is not necessarily the most consequential, but one that has certainly attracted the most outrage: a ban on handing out food and water to voters waiting in line.

The ban is just one piece of a 98-page bill containing dozens of changes to state voting law, including shortening the time to request a mail ballot, rolling back the pandemic-driven expansion of ballot drop boxes and reducing early voting before runoff elections.

The groups argued that it illegally infringes on their free speech rights and should be blocked immediately, even before any broader case challenging other areas of the law goes to trial.

U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee didn’t immediately rule on the request for a preliminary injunction.

Lawyers for the state described the provision as a “bright line” drawn to prevent circus-like conditions around polling places that could spur concerns over the possibility of illegal campaigning or vote-buying. But former Richmond County elections director Lynn Bailey called the measure “harsh.”

The state argued that it’s too late, under earlier court decisions, for Boulee to make changes to the November election. The plaintiffs cited multiple examples of when changes were made up to the eve of elections.

“Line relief constitutes core expressive conduct,” said Davin Rosborough, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Its meaning is well understood in communities where plaintiffs provide it.”

State Election Board member Matt Mashburn, a Republican poll watcher before he was named to the board, said he witnessed Democrats not only providing food but apparently controlling the line outside a Cobb County polling place during early voting.

“My reaction to that is, we’ve completely lost control of the precincts,” Mashburn said. “And when the voters see the poll workers have lost control, it makes them very nervous for their own safety and makes them nervous that somebody’s cheating.”

They also argued that Georgia could have more narrowly tailored its law by limiting the value of what can be given to voters. But Ryan Germany, the chief lawyer for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, said that forcing overburdened poll workers to police whether gifts were illegally tied to voting or whether people were illegally campaigning was “a tricky proposition” that depended on the facts of each instance.

Georgia higher education institutions could be caught between differing federal and state laws on abortion, according to the AJC.

Georgia’s fetal “heartbeat” law could cause trouble for colleges that must follow federal law and accommodate students who want an abortion.

The Biden administration wants to rewrite the regulations for Title IX, the 50-year-old law banning gender discrimination in education. One stated reason for the proposal is to strengthen preexisting protections for women who want to end a pregnancy.

Georgia’s law would ban most abortions once embryonic or fetal cardiac activity can be detected, about six weeks after conception and before many women realize they’re pregnant. It has stalled in federal court since passage three years ago, but observers expect it to take effect soon, given the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing states to ban abortion.

“It puts the women and anybody who may want to help them in a position where they may be criminally or civilly liable for trying to comply with federal law,” said W. Scott Lewis, who consults with colleges on Title IX.

By allowing students to make up coursework and tests after taking time off for an abortion in another state, colleges might be seen as aiding and abetting a crime, said Lewis, managing partner with TNG Consulting and a co-founder and advisory board member of the Association of Title IX Administrators.

U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) is introducing legislation to improve mental health care for military women, according to WJBF.

This new legislation could make a difference in the care of pregnant women in the military – not only with their health care, but with their mental health care. It is an issue that the senator is passionate about.

Sen. Jon Ossoff: “Well, there’s nothing more important than healthy babies and healthy mothers. And this bipartisan effort that I’m leading is about ensuring that military moms get the very best healthcare that we’re focused on ensuring that military moms have access to the mental health services that they need during pregnancy around delivery and after delivery. You know, our military service members already make such huge sacrifices. Our military families already make such huge sacrifices. They shouldn’t have to sacrifice great healthcare and military moms are under a lot of stress. Oftentimes they’re facing an imminent deployment. They may only get six weeks off after delivering a child. So I want to be there for the military moms at Fort Gordon in the Augusta area, across the state and across the country. And that’s why I’m leading this bipartisan effort to strengthen maternal mental healthcare for military moms. And I really want to emphasize that it’s bipartisan.”

Sen. Jon Ossoff: “Well, let me just point out, first of all, that, if we allow mental health issues or physical health issues to go unaddressed, the costs only increase over time. We wanna get ahead of these issues and that’s the fiscally responsible thing to do as well as what’s in the best interest and best health of service members and military families. So this bipartisan effort that I’m leading to strengthen mental health services for military moms will help us to avoid much more serious and costly problems that can be so damaging for families and financially costly for families down the road. The other legislation that I’ve introduced that I wanna highlight another bipartisan bill that I’ve introduced is to make mental healthcare services available to service members and military families, three visits per year with no out of pocket costs. Because again, we want to encourage military service members and their families to access mental healthcare services.”

Dougherty County will collect more in property taxes in the new fiscal year, according to WALB.

Dougherty County homeowners will be paying more in property tax as early as next year. The County Commission made that decision to help fund an increase in employee pay and compensate for record inflation. The decision was not unanimous.

The County Commission did vote and approve a plan that will increase employee pay. To do that though they have to raise property taxes, a decision that many commissioners say they needed more time with.

Many commissioners still had questions even after a 4-to-3 vote to increase the millage rate by 4.5 mills.

One thing the County Commission did agree on was increasing employees’ wages. Commissioner Clinton Johnson said he wants alternatives to bring money in.

The millage rate increase is projected to bring in an additional $4 million by raising residents’ property taxes.

The county’s financial advisor, Ed Wall said even if the county didn’t want to give employees a pay increase property taxes would still need to be raised.

This means a person who owns a $100,000 home would see about a $200 property tax increase.

Chairman Chris Cohilas said this raise in property tax is something they’ve been expecting for several years, but they need it to pay employees the wage they deserve and compete with other areas.

The Cobb County Board of Education declined to rollback the property tax millage rate and will collect higher revenues in the coming fiscal year, according to the AJC.

The rate, approved last week, is the same it’s been since 2007: $18.90 per $1,000 of taxable property value. But because property values have gone up, many residents will be paying more than they did last year.

Some residents asked the district to lower taxes, looking for a relief from inflation. Board members David Banks, Jaha Howard and Tre Hutchins also indicated that they’d be interested in lowering the rate.

Howard moved to lower the rate by $0.10, but only Hutchins supported the motion. Board member Charisse Davis was absent.

The school board approved a $1.4 billion budget in May based on the current tax rate. The budget included raises for all permanent employees and added dozens of new positions. Any changes to the tax rate would have required the board to revisit the budget.

The Brunswick City Commission will consider a proposed project list for the anticipated Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum, according to The Brunswick News.

Based on current projections, a 1% sales tax would generate $170 million over six years, but with a potential economic downturn on the horizon, this SPLOST proposal was created with two tiers of project funding.

Milledgeville is considering how to respond to rising crime, according to 13WMAZ.

City leaders in Milledgeville are talking about plans to address the uptick in crime and gun violence. It comes after a shooting at a block party on Leo and Noble Court left five people wounded early Sunday morning.

“This shooting was strictly gang-affiliated,” says Police Chief Dray Swicord.

Swicord says shootings in that neighborhood happen from time to time, but gun violence has been on the rise nationwide.

“It’s the people that are affiliated with gangs, or gangs themselves that has become a norm in their neighborhoods,” he says. “It’s sickening that these groups of people don’t care for life itself.”

“Talked to faith-based people, NAACP. I mean, everyone has a solution sitting at the table – certainly, I have not seen that go forward where we’ve been seeing a decrease in what we’ve been seeing,” Swicord says.

Milledgeville City Manager Hank Griffeth says that the city is working on a plan to come up with potential crime initiatives, similar to Macon-Bibb’s Macon Violence Prevention (MVP) program. The city will be funding this strategic plan.

Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon spoke to WTVM about that city’s crime reduction efforts.

Gainesville City Schools are beefing up security efforts, according to the Gainesville Times.

Superintendent Jeremy Williams said they are adding an “additional layer of security,” which will cost the school system about $1 million.

A security guard will be hired at every school, and they will have backgrounds in law enforcement, either active or retired.

The school system will also hire a safety and security manager, who will centralize security operations, which have up until now been split between Deputy Superintendent Priscilla Collins and Chief Operations Officer Adrian Niles.

Williams said they will likely make all hires by Sept. 1, once the board reviews a new policy in August that would allow them to arm certain staff.

Lowndes County Board of Education members appointed Robert McGeehan to a vacancy representing District 5, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Lowndes County Schools Superintendent Dr. J. Shawn Haralson said Lowndes County Board of Elections office notified the school district that McGeehan was the sole qualifier for the District 5 seat, making him immediately eligible to become a school board member.

In May, the school board announced the resolution to fill the District 5 seat, which had been vacant since the passing of long-time school board member Dave Clark earlier this year.

“I am excited to join the school board and contribute to Lowndes County Schools remaining one of the top systems in Georgia,” McGeehan said. “Mr. Clark was a mentor of mine and I am honored, yet excited, to try and fill the big shoes that he left in this seat.”

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