Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 2, 2024


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 2, 2024

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution by Richard Henry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) calling for independence from Britain. The delegations of twelve colonies voted in favor, while New York’s abstained, not knowing how their constituents would wish them to vote.

On July 2, 1826, representatives from Georgia and Alabama met to begin surveying the border between the two.

On July 2, 1861, Georgia voters approved a new state Constitution, which had been adopted by the state’s Secession Convention.

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.

On July 2, 1898, the first pot of delicious Brunswick Stew was made in Brunswick, Georgia. I think I’ll celebrate with a bowl for lunch today.

Construction of USS Augusta, a cruiser, began on July 2, 1928, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

She would be completed and launched in February 1930, “sponsored” by Evelyn McDaniel, of Augusta, who would later become the wife of a Superior Court judge.

Augusta saw service in the Pacific and later became a command ship during Operation Overlord and the D-Day invasion. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman traveled aboard her during wartime treaty endeavors, and the latter would publicly announce the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima from his office aboard the ship.

USS Augusta was built at Newport News Shipbuilding, where my father worked when I was a child, and where we occasionally attended christenings and launches.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1864. Major provisions included outlawing discriminatory application of voting laws, prohibiting racial discrimination in public accomodations, allowing the Attorney General to join lawsuits against states operating segregated public schools, and prohibiting discrimination by state and local governments or agencies receiving federal funds.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a witness to Johnson’s signature, standing behind the President in the Oval Office. Johnson presented King with one of the 72 pens used in signing the legislation.

Occasionally, pens from the Civil Rights Act signing come onto the collectors’ market. A collection of 50 pens used to sign legislation by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson went across the block in November 2013. This pen went unsold.

As a student of Dr. Merle Black in the political science department at Emory, we began our study of Southern politics from the premise that race relations and the legacy of racial discrimination shaped Southern politics. One book we read every year was The Longest Debate: A Legislative History of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which belongs on the bookshelf of any serious student of American politics, political history, and legislative process.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Senate Bill 465, aka “Austin’s Law,” went into effect yesterday and allows prosecutors to charge fentanyl dealers with aggravated involuntary manslaughter in overdose cases, according to 13WMAZ.

Senate Bill 465 is one of many laws that went into effect Monday morning. It punishes drug dealers if their product causes a fentanyl overdose. Under the law, these dealers could be charged with a felony.

Under the new law, dealers can be charged with aggravated involuntary manslaughter if they cause a death by a fentanyl overdose. If convicted, they can face between 10 to 30 years in prison or up to life.

Between 2019 and 2022, the State Department of Health said there was a 308% increase in fentanyl-linked overdoses.

Houston County Coroner James Williams said in the first three months of 2024, there were six overdose deaths all involving fentanyl.

Since then, there have been an additional 18 pending cases for toxicology reports with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Perry Police Chief Alan Everidge said they’ve been dealing with fentanyl overdoses for a while.

“I do think it’s necessary. I think it gives us another tool to try to be a deterrent and hold people responsible for putting this poison on the street,” Everidge said.

Also effective Monday was legislation removing the cap on aggregate donations to the Qualified Foster Child Donation Credit program, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Moultrie Observer.

The General Assembly created the foster-care tax credit last year with a $20 million cap. In its first year, the program raised almost $11.6 million.

About 700 young Georgians age out of the foster care system each year, most with no family to return to after they leave the system. Data from numerous studies shows most who leave foster care end up homeless, in chronic poverty, in jail, or become victims of human trafficking.

Taxpayers wishing to contribute to the program can receive dollar-for-dollar state income tax credits for up to $2,500 per year, while married couples filing jointly can receive up to $5,000. Corporate donations are limited to 10% of the company’s annual tax liability.

“Every Georgia taxpayer ,,, whether a business or an individual … should see this as a no-brainer to either eliminate or greatly reduce their state income taxes,” said Heidi Carr, executive director of Fostering Success Act Inc., (FSA) one of the foster-care support organizations authorized by the state to work with these young people.

“At the same time, their tax credit donation will not only save lives but save more tax dollars in the long run by keeping these youth off the streets, out of jail, and out of poverty.”

FSA and other nonprofits use the proceeds from donations to the program to provide foster youth who age out of the system medical care, counseling, food, car repairs and housing, as well as aid for high-school GED programs and tuition to pay for vocational or college courses needed to complete their education.

You can learn more about the Qualified Foster Child Donation Credit program from the Georgia Department of Revenue.

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge-Elect Tuwanda Williams will take the bench in January 2025, according to the Daily Report.

Williams campaigned for the impending judicial vacancy against Gwinnett County Magistrate Court Judge Regina Matthews and Grayson attorney B. Thassanee Gutter-Parker.

In the May 21 nonpartisan primary election, Gutter-Parker obtained 24% of the county vote. With the remaining 53,147 votes split between Matthews and Williams at 45.1% and 30.9%, respectively, neither candidate met the 50% plus one vote threshold needed to win the judicial race outright, prompting a runoff election.

On June 18, Williams defeated Matthews after securing 53.1% or 8,939 of 16,833 runoff election ballots cast countywide.

Williams told the Daily Report she’s set to begin four days of new judge training on Dec. 9, but that she’d begun preparing for her new judicial role two days after the June 18 runoff election.

“I ordered family law and evidence CLE course materials, and I will be spending some time studying the materials along with Titles 15 and 16 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated that govern criminal law,” Williams said. “I have also recently been extended the wonderful opportunity to shadow the superior court judge that I will replace upon her retirement at the end of this year.”

Williams said she recently shadowed Beyers, noting the retiring jurist “graciously” offered to assist the judge-elect in her transition to the bench.

“I am tremendously grateful,” Williams said of Beyers’ guidance. “In addition, the Court Administrator and his staff have already provided me with a binder filled with valuable information for new judges and extended their assistance in securing my staff, scheduling my swearing-in ceremony, and planning other details of my transition to the bench. These fine individuals are super helpful and amazing.”

Judge-Elect Williams will take office next year, but be sworn in on Dec. 19.

Valerie Vie was appointed and sworn in as Douglas County Probate Judge after beating now-removed incumbent Christina Peterson, according to the AJC.

Former Douglas County Probate Judge Christina Peterson, ousted from office after being arrested at a Buckhead nightclub, has been replaced by the attorney who won the May Democratic primary for her seat.

Douglasville lawyer Valerie Vie was appointed and sworn in as the county’s probate judge on Friday and will serve the remainder of the term, ending Jan. 1, 2025. Unchallenged in the November general election, Vie is expected to then begin her own four-year term.

Peterson was removed from the bench by the Georgia Supreme Court on June 25 in response to 30 charges of judicial misconduct. The ruling came days after Peterson, 38, was arrested at the Red Martini Restaurant and Lounge on Peachtree Road. She is charged with battery and felony obstruction, accused of punching an Atlanta police officer.

Douglas County Magistrate Judge Barbara Caldwell, who swore Vie in as probate judge, promised to support her.

“I’ve never known a person to work so hard and so diligently for a position that she really cherished,” Caldwell said of Vie.

Douglas County Superior Court Chief Judge William “Beau” McClain said he was honored to appoint Vie and encouraged the county to “let go of the past” and “embrace the future that our new leaders are going to help us have.”

“(Vie) was elected by the people of this county to serve in that office,” McClain said during the ceremony.

Independent candidate Kalki Yalamanchili submitted petitions to be placed on the ballot for Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Yalamanchili took his petition to qualify as a non-partisan candidate to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office in Atlanta earlier on Monday.

Yalamanchili said he needed 5,406 signatures that could be validated, but he achieved more than 14,000 signatures. He said he and his supporters had a goal when they began the petition in January to obtain 6,500 signatures.

“It more than doubled our goal that we originally set,” he said, explaining he is confident that in the next five to seven weeks officials on the state level will approve his bid to be on the ballot.

Gonzalez is running as a Democrat for her second term in office. She did not have competition in the recent Democratic Party primary, nor did the Republican Party in Clarke or Oconee field a candidate.

Yalamanchili, who served about six years as a prosecutor in the Western Circuit DA’s office and previously for Cobb County, said he wanted to run as an independent even though he would have to overcome the barriers that decision presented such as needing the signed petition.

“To me, public safety is not a partisan issue. It’s not an issue that we should allow politics to divide the people in our community,” said the lawyer, who has done criminal defense work since 2018.

Yalamachili noted that the petition process began with volunteers, but in May a firm that specializes in petition drives was hired to continue the process. The person’s signature also required a witness signature, who then attests to a Notary Public they witnessed the signature, he said.

He estimated the cost for hiring the firm was in the neighborhood of $120,000, but the exact amount will be included in his election financial disclosure form.

Twice the number of required signatures is a good start, as many of the signatures may be invalidated for various reason. I think the amount of voter contact required to get that many signatures is probably a good jump start for a campaign.

Georgia is suing the Biden Administration over a new immigration rule on visas, according to the AJC.

The new rule, currently set to go into effect this summer, reinforces that farmers are prohibited from holding or confiscating workers’ passports, and requires that vehicles used to transport workers be equipped with seat belts. It also allows workers to invite guests to their employer-provided housing – in the H-2A migrant farmworker program, employers are required to give their seasonal migrant workers, most of whom come from Latin America, free housing.

The legal challenge to the new federal rule focuses on a host of additional provisions that seek to expand H-2A farmworkers’ ability to organize for better working conditions.

“This rule imposes costs on food producers at a time when Americans are already reeling from the high price of groceries. Before those costs should be imposed, the American people should get a chance to debate it and hold their elected leaders accountable for the choices they make. They cannot do that with the unelected bureaucrats responsible for this rule,” said attorney Braden Boucek with the Southeastern Legal Foundation, who represents the plaintiffs.

The suit against the Biden administration’s Department of Labor, the federal agency responsible for overseeing the H-2A program, was filed in Brunswick. The only two non-state entities involved in the suit are the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, a trade group, and Miles Berry Farm, a 400-acre blueberry producer in Appling County. According to the complaint, Miles Berry Farm employs roughly 150 H-2A workers every year.

In a statement, Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association executive vice-president Chris Butts warned that the Department of Labor’s new rule “will be devastating for the agricultural industry.”

In Ocilla, city employees were not paid on schedule, according to WALB.

Melvin Harper II, the mayor of Ocilla, says he learned of this accident just like every other city employee because his direct deposit was missing, too.

“It was a simple mistake and a fundamental flaw. I do take ownership on the part of the city of Ocilla,” Harper said.

“There was just one glitch in the system. It happened on Friday the 28th and by the time the error was caught and corrected it was after 12 noon on that business day which allows for all business transactions to post on the next business day. Of course, the next day was Saturday, the day after that was Sunday, and now, we are here on Monday,” Harper said.

Harper says each employee is currently being issued their payment and he along with other members of his staff are taking the necessary steps to make sure this mistake doesn’t happen again.

The Anti-Gang Network hosted a meeting in Valdosta, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

“In 2018, everybody said we were making it up, that it wasn’t true,” Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr told area law enforcement leaders in closing remarks at Thursday’s Anti-Gang Network meeting. “But people knew that it was.”

Carr said his effort has been vindicated since the network formed in 2018, because many people have come to agree that gangs are a problem in the Peach State, not only in cities like Atlanta or Savannah, but in all 159 counties.

The Anti-Gang Network was conceived as a way for local, state and federal law enforcement officers and their agencies to come together, build relationships and share resources to defeat gangs.

“They [gangs] don’t care where the county line is,” Carr said in remarks after the meeting.

Carr said the network had been wanting to meet in Valdosta for some time. Interstate 75’s free and fast transportation providemany economic benefits, he said, but it also makes it easy for drug smuggling and human trafficking to pass through the community too.

On Thursday, members of the network gathered at Valdosta State University’s University Center to discuss challenges they’re facing and resources they’ve found or created that have helped.

Participants, other than Carr himself, included U.S. Attorney Peter Leary, Valdosta Police Chief Leslie Manahan, VSU Police Chief Alex Rowe and representatives of state and local law enforcement agencies throughout South Georgia.

The meeting, and others like it, have helped the Attorney General’s Office identify a number of programs that help in the fight against gangs, especially ones that interfere with gangs’ recruitment, one of the biggest challenges they face with gangs.

Sixty to 90 percent of violence in the state is gang-related, Carr said.

Atlanta City Council voted to give $2 million dollars for eviction relief, according to the AJC.

The Atlanta City Council voted Monday to donate $2 million to an eviction relief program for low-income residents, which will provide up to $7,000 of relief for households that make up to 60% of median income — about $62,000 for a family of four, or $43,000 for a single person.

Metro Atlanta reported over 144,000 eviction filings in 2023, according to the City’s website.

Star-C Corporation, the nonprofit receiving the funds, has prevented displacement for over 220 Atlanta households after receiving an initial $2 million from the City in October 2023, city officials said. The city says over 500 additional households have since applied for assistance.

“When you are already challenged financially, you are only one bad day or one serious health emergency from not being able to pay your rent or mortgage,” Mayor Andrew Dickens said in a press release. “Thanks to City Council’s support today for these efforts, we are now able to help even more families avoid worst-case-scenarios and keep the stability that housing provides for both them and our community.”

The money comes from the city’s $100 million housing bond, created in 2023 to finance affordable developments and preserve affordability of existing housing options.

Murray County Sole Commissioner Greg Hogan will host a public meeting this morning, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Whitfield County Commission Chair Jevin Jensen wants to ensure all county residents have access to broadband internet, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

“(Broadband) drives innovation, job growth and income growth, and it helps citizens participate with their government as we’ve been investing and converting Whitfield County into a digital government,” Jensen said. “And it gives them options for medical, health and well-being. It’s really become required. Just like power, water, sewer or septic, you also need broadband. It’s that critical.”

Whitfield County was awarded $30,000 in grant funding in March from Connect Humanity’s Appalachian Digital Accelerator initiative.

“These funds are essential to identifying areas of the community that need improved services and planning for how to address these needs,” Jensen said then.

“In Whitfield County, we have a very large aging population and it has nothing to do with affordability … it’s just they simply do not have the educational resources,” [consultant Jake] Bearden said. “They don’t trust the internet or they don’t trust their devices. So, we could look into partnering with the (Whitfield County) Senior Center or our local library to provide these educational resources.”

Three local governments will pay $62,000 each for a study to determine whether Bryan County needs an airport, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The city of Richmond Hill, Bryan County and the Development Authority of Bryan County are contributing $62,000 each for a comprehensive airport study.

DABC’s interim CEO Sean Register said there is a demand to have an airstrip and hangers for smaller aircrafts located on the south end of the county. He added that it could attract new industry but since the project is in the early stages, the county has not determined all the ways such an airport could be utilized.

“People from Savannah are having to store their planes in Metter and Hinesville and other places,” said Register. “Our community is excited about it. When there is a demand, you have to find research and find a solution that can satisfy a demand.”

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