Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 13, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 13, 2019

A “Liberty Tree” was planted in Savannah on June 13, 1775 to symbolize support for independence. The first liberty tree was an elm in Boston that became a meeting spot for patriots, but Savannah’s was actually a Liberty Pole. In 2006, a seedling grown from the last of the original Liberty Trees on the campus of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland was planted in Dalton, Georgia.

The Marquis de Lafayette arrived in South Carolina to assist General George Washington on June 13, 1775.

On June 13, 1966, the United States Supreme Court released its decision in Miranda v. Arizona. In Miranda, the Court held that a confession obtained by police without informing the suspect of his rights against self-incrimination (Fifth Amendment) and to the service of a lawyer (Sixth Amendment) was inadmissible.

Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Lyndon B. Johnson on June 13, 1967.

As the NAACP’s chief counsel from 1938 to 1961, he argued 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, successfully challenging racial segregation, most notably in public education. He won 29 of these cases, including a groundbreaking victory in 1954′s Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court ruled that segregation violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and was thus illegal. The decision served as a great impetus for the African American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and ultimately led to the abolishment of segregation in all public facilities and accommodations.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals, but his nomination was opposed by many Southern senators, and he was not confirmed until the next year. In June 1967, President Johnson nominated him to the Supreme Court, and in late August he was confirmed. During his 24 years on the high court, Associate Justice Marshall consistently challenged discrimination based on race or sex, opposed the death penalty, and supported the rights of criminal defendants. He also defended affirmative action and women’s right to abortion. As appointments by a largely Republican White House changed the politics of the Court, Marshall found his liberal opinions increasingly in the minority. He retired in 1991, and two years later passed away.

The New York Times began publishing excerpts from the “Pentagon Papers” on June 13, 1971.

After failing to persuade the Times to voluntarily cease publication on June 14, Attorney General John N. Mitchell and Nixon obtained a federal court injunction forcing the Times to cease publication after three articles.Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger said:

Newspapers, as our editorial said this morning, we’re really a part of history that should have been made available, considerably longer ago. I just didn’t feel there was any breach of national security, in the sense that we were giving secrets to the enemy.

The newspaper appealed the injunction, and the case New York Times Co. v. United States (403 U.S. 713) quickly rose through the U.S. legal system to the Supreme Court.

On June 18, 1971, The Washington Post began publishing its own series of articles based upon the Pentagon Papers; Ellsberg gave portions to editor Ben Bradlee. That day, Assistant U.S. Attorney General William Rehnquist asked the Post to cease publication. After the paper refused, Rehnquist sought an injunction in U.S. district court. Judge Murray Gurfein declined to issue such an injunction, writing that “[t]he security of the Nation is not at the ramparts alone. Security also lies in the value of our free institutions. A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know.” The government appealed that decision, and on June 26 the Supreme Court agreed to hear it jointly with the New York Times case.Fifteen other newspapers received copies of the study and began publishing it.

On June 30, 1971, the Supreme Court decided, 6–3, that the government failed to meet the heavy burden of proof required for prior restraint injunction. The nine justices wrote nine opinions disagreeing on significant, substantive matters.

Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.

—Justice Black

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Atlanta police will start warning Scooter Scofflaws, according to the AJC.

For the past 10 months, electric scooter riders have been allowed to flout the city of Atlanta’s code by riding on sidewalks and in other areas designated for pedestrians.

Atlanta Police officers have begun warning people who use scooters to get around town that they risk being fined if they aren’t riding in the street with traffic, according to a report by Channel 2 Action News.

“If you’re using anything with wheels to get around Midtown or downtown Atlanta, we ask that you be in the street following the rules of the road and staying with the flow of traffic,” Atlanta police Maj. Darin Schierbaum told Channel 2.

Governor Brian Kemp has appointed Joyette Holmes as the new District Attorney for Cobb County, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday announced he was appointing  Joyette Holmes as the DA. Holmes, who has been Cobb’s chief magistrate court judge for the past 4 years, will finish the remainder of the term for former DA Vic Reynolds, who was appointed by Kemp to serve as the director of the GBI. Reynolds’ term expires in December 2020.

“She is certainly one of our best and brightest in Georgia,” he said in a brief press conference. “As DA, I know that Judge Holmes will work around the clock to keep our families safe as well as our businesses.”

Chief Assistant District Attorney John Melvin, who was serving as acting Cobb district attorney until Kemp announced his appointment, will now move on to serve as Reynolds’ chief of staff at the GBI. He told the AJC that he will leave for his new post “as soon as possible.”

Holmes, who said she will run for the district attorney’s seat for a full, four-year term next year, said she will continue the office’s work to keep dangerous people off the streets and provide rehabilitation for people who need treatment by steering them towards Cobb’s Accountability Courts.

The Gainesville Times profiles new interim Georgia Insurance Commissioner John King.

“I am grateful for Governor Brian Kemp and the opportunity he has given me to continue my service to the people of Georgia,” King said in a statement. “My decades of experience in law enforcement have prepared me for this important job in state government. I look forward to restoring trust in the Department of Insurance and providing leadership that protects consumers, promotes public safety, and provides a bright and promising future for all Georgians.”

Kemp appointed King to fill the seat vacated by Jim Beck, who was indicted on federal charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering.

King began working with the Doraville Police Department in 1993 and became chief nine years later. In Doraville, he has implemented several youth education, crime prevention and anti-gang programs. To reach out to the city’s diverse population, he hired bilingual officers, placed signage in several languages on his fleet of police cars, and partnered with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to work on economic growth.

King has served in the military as a brigadier general in the U.S. Army National Guard and director of the joint staff for the Georgia Department of Defense. He is the former commander of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and has deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq and Afghanistan.

King received his Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice and public administration from Brenau and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) named members to a new House Study Committee on Maternal Mortality, according to the Daily Report.

“This is an issue which impacts all Georgians and demands a fact-based approach to problem-solving,” Ralston said. “I look forward to the study committee’s findings and recommendations which will be considered in the 2020 legislative session.”

The committee will be co-chaired by Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, and Rep. Mark Newton, R-Augusta, Ralston said. Cooper chairs the House Health & Human Services Committee and is a medical administrator and registered nurse. Newton is the House Majority Caucus chief deputy whip and a physician specializing in emergency medicine.

The other House members appointed to the study committee are:

Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula
Rep. Carolyn Hugley, D-Columbus
Rep. Deborah Silcox, R-Sandy Springs
Rep. Valencia Stovall, D-Forest Park
Rep. Darlene Taylor, R-Thomasville

The Speaker also appointed the following citizen members to the Georgia Maternal Mortality Review Committee:

Dr. Jane Ellis, medical director, Emory Regional Perinatal Center
Dr. Chad Ray, associate professor, Medical College of Georgia

Hartsfield-Jackson Airport will continue fighting legislative takeover attempts, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Deputy General Manager and CFO Greg Richardson addressed the chamber about what goes on at the airport during the business group’s June On Topic luncheon at the 1818 Club in unincorporated Duluth. The issue of the proposal pending in the Georgia General Assembly for the state to take over the airport came up during a question-and-answer session at the end of Richardson’s presentation.

“We will fight it because we firmly believe it’s the city’s entity, the city built it and the city (ran) it for however many years,” he said.

Legislation was introduced in the Georgia General Assembly earlier this year to take control of Hartsfield-Jackson away from the city of Atlanta, in light of an ongoing federal investigation into alleged corruption in the city’s government.

Richardson told the Gwinnett Chamber that several stakeholders in the airport, including airlines which operate there, support Atlanta’s running of the airport.

“We firmly believe the airport has been very well-run over the last 75-100 years,” he said.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) spoke in support of funding 9/11 victim compensation, according to the Gainesville Times.

More than 40,000 people have applied to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which assists those with illnesses possibly related to being at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon or in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the attacks. More than $5 billion in benefits have been awarded out of the $7.4 billion fund. About 21,000 claims are pending.

Collins spoke Wednesday at a markup of H.R. 1327, which would provide for the fund for the next 70 years.

The country has seen “heroes become victims” as they deal with health problems related to their work following the Sept. 11 attacks, he said.

“Eighteen years later, our responsibility to these heroes remains clear. Congress must do more than memorialize their sacrifices — we must care for these heroes practically,” Collins said. “9/11 first responders, along with all first responders, deserve to have their heroism recognized through programs that mitigate the damage these servants and their families experience as a direct result of their sacrifice on behalf of others.”

Collins requested that the Congressional Budget Office submit more information about the anticipated costs of reauthorizing the fund.

“Let us keep our priorities straight and our government accountable,” he said. “It is good and right for us to understand the costs that first responders have borne in the wake of September 11th and to ensure that we respond meaningfully.”

Some Chatham County taxpayers objected to the Board of Education’s proposed budget, according to the Savannah Morning News.

When retiree Robert Slagel of Skidaway Island was in business and prepared annual budgets, he said people understood, “You’re not going to get what you want.”

As a Chatham County taxpayer, he believes the increased amount of money the school district has received over the past 10 years could be trimmed.

“My school tax now amounts to 55 percent of my tax bill as opposed to three years ago 50 percent. So where is this going? Every year it seems we have an increase, sometimes substantial,” he said, speaking before the Savannah-Chatham County school board at a public hearing Wednesday morning.

Three public hearings are required by law when an elected governing body decides to set the millage rate higher than the rollback rate, said Paige Cooley, budget director, in a presentation at the hearing. The school board’s public notice, published June 5, states the 18.881 millage rate, which the board tentatively adopted June 5, is expected to provide a 5.35% increase in net tax revenue. It set a rollback rate of 18.284. Because some property values have appreciated, the 18.881 millage rate is expected to generate more revenue even though it’s the same rate the board approved a year ago.

Macon-Bibb Commissioner Virgil Watkins says his home was invaded and robbed, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The intruder fled with Watkin’s book bag, stuffed with his broken computer and a watch. Watkins said he chased him to the porch but didn’t pursue him farther as he remembered he’d been sleeping comfortably in the nude.

“I was naked and bare-handed fighting a man with a gun,” Watkins said.

The intruder, later identified as 18-year-old Xavier Matthew Lewis of Macon, was charged with home invasion, aggravated assault and armed robbery, according to a Bibb County Sheriff’s Office news release.

Lewis had kicked in the front door while Watkins was asleep, the release said. The commissioner said he didn’t know if Lewis, who was wearing a bandanna and gray hoodie, had been in his west Macon home for minutes or for some time.

The teen shed his pants and continued to flee in a pair of shorts.

Lewis jumped several fences and ran into a briar patch near Keystone Street, where deputies took him into custody, the release said.

A group calling itself the Faith, Justice and Truth Project issued a report on “lost” sales tax revenue, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

As of this year, online retailers are required to collect the tax in Georgia, but the report from the Faith, Justice and Truth Project found that so-called “marketplace facilitators” — or online sites that connect consumers with a seller’s products and services — are hosting tax-free transactions that should be generating revenue for state and local governments.

Those untaxed products and services could be costing Georgia about $750 million a year, according to the report. A recent state analysis of a similar proposal put the figure closer to about $157 million a year.

“I don’t know of any Georgia community that would say, ‘Please, don’t give us any more resources,’” Billy Honor, who is the executive director of the newly formed Georgia-based advocacy group, said at a press conference held this week at the state Capitol. “This is a way in which we can do it and we can do it on a premise of fairness.”

Larry Ramsey with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia said tapping these marketplace facilitators — such as and — to collect the money is the most efficient way to ensure that sellers who are supposed to be charging the sales tax are actually doing so. Amazon agreed to start collecting the tax in Georgia years ago.

Sales tax dollars, Ramsey said, is the second largest source of revenue for counties.

“Every dollar of sales tax that’s not collected has to be replaced from somewhere. Generally, that’s going to be property tax,” Ramsey said, referring to the primary revenue source for counties. “The demand for county and city services is not going down. The cost for those services is not going down.”

A rezoning to allow a privately-owned outdoor recreation facility drew opposition, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Savannah-Georgia Convention Center Authority will replace the Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center Authority overseeing the Savannah Convention Center next month, according to the Savannah Morning News.

On July 1, Georgia House Bill 525 will go into effect, establishing the Savannah-Georgia Convention Center Authority, which replaces the local authority with a state authority that provides bonding capacity, as well as a tax-exempt status for the operation of the facility, bringing the Savannah Convention Center’s operation and governance in line with other convention facilities in Georgia.

Gov. Brian Kemp will appoint six of its 11 voting members, and local state lawmakers will share three appointments. The voting ex-officio appointments for the president of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, Trip Tollison, and the president of the Savannah Area Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, Joseph Marinelli, will remain.

State lawmakers have appointed [Mark] Smith, along with Benjamin Pelote and Ruth Quattlebaum to the new board, but their roles and titles are not yet known. Contacted on Wednesday, a spokesperson from Kemp’s office didn’t have an update on when the remaining names will be announced.

The new governing change also brings $20 million in bond funding to aid in the center’s expansion, which includes doubling the exhibit hall space, a 40,000-square-foot ballroom, 15 meeting rooms, 900 parking spaces, and more. The current authority had requested $234 million from the state for the expansion at the start of the 2019 legislative session. A hotel, which will be built with private funds, is planned just west of the center.

Augusta City Commissioners continue compiling the wish list for their next transportation sales tax, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta’s evolving wish list for the next Transportation Investment Act sales tax included some $739 million in projects Wednesday and continues to grow.

The list, which must be sent to a regional round-table by the end of June, is what the regional 1 percent sales tax will fund between 2023 and 2033 if voters approve renewing the tax next year. The 13-county Central Savannah River Area district was one of just three in the state to first adopt the 10-year tax program in 2012.

The current list is likely to be culled as city Engineering Director Hameed Malik said the tax is projected to raise $508 million over 10 years to spend on specified projects. One-fourth of collections is returned to the counties to use at their discretion on transportation projects.

The TIA is broken into three bands of three and four years each. Several projects emerged on “Band 1” in the list to be started first.

Flowery Branch City Council is on track to adopt a property tax millage rate the same as last year, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Flowery Branch property tax rate could remain the same as the South Hall city moves toward passing its fiscal 2020 budget, which takes effect July 1.

The tax rate is proposed at 3.264 mills, with 1 mill equal to $1 per $1,000 in assessed property value. Under that formula, a $250,000 home would be taxed at $326.40.

Bulloch County and Statesboro are bracing themselves for a dispute over the integorvernmental service delivery strategy, according to the Statesboro Herald.

While retaining Jarrard & Davis LLP, a law firm that represents other Georgia counties, to deal with the city’s legal team and consultant, Bulloch County officials continued to express a preference for face-to-face talks between the local governments. Noting that the city still had not provided any statement of concerns, county commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson vowed that he will not sign for an extension of negotiations past the June 30 deadline.

“I’m disturbed by all of this … that first of all, we’re put in a position to spend taxpayer money to hire attorneys, and I guess why I’m disturbed about it is, I have had conversation with two councilmen, the mayor and the past city (manager) and I’ve asked them what issues do they have, and as of 6:02 on Tuesday evening, I have not received any issues whatsoever,” Thompson said.

Bulloch County and Statesboro officials in the past two years worked out agreements for a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax renewal, a new Transportation SPLOST and the county’s participation in two city tax allocation districts through direct talks, Thompson observed.

Statesboro City Council, during its June 4 meeting, held a closed session to discuss “potential litigation” and upon returning to open session voted 5-0 to retain the Atlanta-area law firm Smith, Welch, Webb & White LLC, and four of its lawyers specifically, as special counsel for “negotiation, mediation and litigation” of the SDS.

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