Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 21, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 21, 2021

Georgia’s Royal Colony Seal was approved on June 21, 1754.

Georgia Colony Seal

The Constitution of the United States of America was ratified on June 21, 1788, when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify.

On September 17, 1787, after three months of debate moderated by convention president George Washington, the new U.S. constitution, which created a strong federal government with an intricate system of checks and balances, was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the convention. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states.

Beginning on December 7, five states–Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut–ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In February 1788, a compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. In June, Virginia ratified the Constitution, followed by New York in July.

A lynch mob including members of the KKK killed three young civil rights activists who were trying to register African-Americans to vote near Meridian, Mississippi on June 21, 1964.

When Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, a young black man, were coming back from a trip to Philadelphia, Mississippi, deputy sheriff Cecil Price, who was also a Klan member, pulled them over for speeding. He then held them in custody while other KKK members prepared for their murder. Eventually released, the three activists were later chased down in their car and cornered in a secluded spot in the woods where they were shot and then buried in graves that had been prepared in advance.

When news of their disappearance got out, the FBI converged on Mississippi to investigate. With the help of an informant, agents learned about the Klan’s involvement and found the bodies. Since Mississippi refused to prosecute the assailants in state court, the federal government charged 18 men with conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney.

John W. Hinckley, Jr. was acquitted of attempted murder of President Ronald Reagan and others in the Presidential party by reason on insanity on June 21, 1982.

Voters in Sandy Springs approved the new city’s incorporation on June 21, 2005.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp last week announced that Georgia’s unemployment rate dropped again for the 13th consecutive month.

Governor Brian P. Kemp applauded Georgia’s unemployment rate dropping for the thirteenth straight month from 4.3% in April to 4.1% for the month of May. The national unemployment average is 5.8%.

“Protecting both lives and livelihoods throughout a global pandemic continues to pay off for hardworking Georgians,” said Governor Kemp. “Despite false attacks from the left and many in the media, the Peach State was the first state to safely reopen our economy and get more Georgians back to work and back to normal. Georgia continues to lead the nation in economic recovery as our unemployment rate drops for the thirteenth straight month.”

The number of jobs in May increased by 7,000, reaching a total of 4,481,100. This number is up 295,800 compared to the same time last year. Since April 2020, 424,100 (70%) of the 609,500 jobs lost in March 2020 and April 2020 have been gained back.

Since March of 2020, the state has supported the creation of nearly 37,000 jobs – totaling 394 projects and 12 billion in investment.

Columbus restaurants are struggling to find workers and blame the federal unemployment supplement, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

In Columbus, restaurants emerging from the worst of COVID-19 are facing a new issue: finding enough help to keep their doors open.

As the weather warms up, cases trend downward and vaccination rates increase, customers are pouring into restaurants.

A group of restaurant owners and managers who spoke with the Ledger-Enquirer said they are having a hard time filling positions, partly due to federal COVID-19 unemployment benefits.

Workers who left the industry during the pandemic cite a variety of reasons for their departure. Some were tired of the stress and the treatment from owners and customers. Others found better job opportunities with better pay or benefits.

Workers left the restaurant industry during the COVID-19 pandemic for a variety of reasons. Some who spoke to national news outlets cited abuse from customers over COVID-19 protections as grounds for their departure. Others found better jobs and simply took advantage of the opportunity.

Governor Kemp will decide whether Georgia state government will recognize the federal holiday for Juneteenth, according to the Associated Press via News Nation.

It was too late this year for Georgia state workers to get the new Juneteenth holiday off, even though some federal agencies scheduled to close on Friday to observe the day in advance of the actual June 19 date on Saturday.

But Republican Gov. Brian Kemp will soon face a decision about whether Georgia government agencies will close for Juneteenth next year, marking Black liberation from slavery at the end of the Civil War.

State law fixes 12 paid holidays for public employees, including all federal holidays as of 1984, when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first observed.

“We’ll announce the holiday observances for next year in the coming weeks, like we did last year,” Kemp spokesperson Cody Hall wrote in an email on Friday.

Kemp signed a proclamation Wednesday recognizing Juneteenth, but that didn’t make it a holiday.

Statesboro City Hall was closed Friday in observance of Juneteenth, according to the Statesboro Herald.

As it turns out, when Statesboro City Council voted to that effect on June 16, 2020, the city got a one-year jump on the federal government in recognizing this holiday. President Joseph R. Biden on Thursday signed legislation, passed by Congress, making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced an upcoming purge of the voter rolls, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia’s secretary of state is making public a list of nearly 102,000 voters who will be removed from the rolls unless they act to preserve their registration.

Republican Brad Raffensperger announced the list Friday, part of an every-other-year bid to remove voters who may have died or moved away. The state has about 7.8 million voters and his office said the removals include about 67,000 voters who submitted a change of address form to the U.S. Postal Service, and about 34,000 voters who had election mail returned.

In the current purge, election officials said, cancellation notices will be mailed and those who respond within 40 days will have their registration switched back to active. Anyone who is removed could register again.

Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero was scheduled to hear arguments on the Fulton County ballot audit this morning, according to the Associated Press via WTOC.

The lawsuit alleges evidence of fraudulent ballots and improper ballot counting in Fulton County, which has Atlanta as its seat. As part of the suit, the nine voters who filed it want to inspect some 147,000 absentee ballots to see whether there are any that are illegitimate.

Henry County Superior Court Chief Judge Brian Amero, who is presiding over the case, last month ordered that the paper ballots be unsealed so the petitioners who filed the lawsuit can inspect and scan them. He had scheduled a meeting with the parties to sort out the logistics of how that review and scanning of paper ballots would proceed.

But before that meeting happened, Fulton County, the county election board and the county courts clerk all filed motions asking the judge to dismiss the lawsuit. The judge canceled the logistics meeting, saying those motions needed to be dealt with first and scheduled Monday’s hearing.

From the AJC:

Election skeptics will argue they need an opportunity to search for possible counterfeit ballots. Fulton officials will ask the judge to put an end to the quest to undermine Democrat Joe Biden’s nearly 12,000-vote win over Republican Donald Trump.

Attorneys for Fulton have argued that the case is a baseless and flawed attempt to use the courts to intervene in an election that was settled seven months ago.

Election officials have repeatedly said there’s no evidence of significant fraud, and two recounts validated the results. The secretary of state’s office is investigating over 100 complaints about last year’s general election, and even if all of them exposed invalid votes, Biden still would have won.

Amero previously ordered Fulton to unseal its absentee ballots so plaintiffs in the case could make high-resolution copies, enabling them to try to find fake ballots. The case is based on sworn affidavits from several Republicans who said they saw “pristine” ballots with perfectly filled ovals and no fold lines during November’s manual recount and audit.

Digital ballot images are now public records in Georgia, available for anyone to review if they pay the county the cost of retrieving them — $240 in the case of Fulton’s absentee ballots. But those images come from ballot scanners that don’t create high-resolution images that the plaintiffs say they need.

The lawsuit is asking county election officials to rescan ballots at high resolutions and also allow the plaintiffs to look at ballots in person. Original ballots would remain in the custody of election officials, and the plaintiffs would be responsible for the costs of the review.

The Federal Aviation Administration weighed in on the Spaceport Camden application, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The project came closer to fruition Thursday, when the Federal Aviation Administration issued its final study on Spaceport Camden’s environmental impacts. The agency concluded that building the spaceport was its “preferred alternative,” as opposed to scrapping the project. That paves the way for a final decision in July on its license to operate a launch site.

Even if approved, there’s no guarantee the project will fire its first rocket anytime soon. Despite increased demand for commercial launches in the past decade, more than half of licensed U.S. spaceports have never held a licensed launch.

The United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia is looking at PPP fraud, according to WTVM.

Acting U.S. Attorney, Peter Leary, says his office has been investigating a high volume of cases where people are trying to get rich off of PPP loans through the CARES Act.

He says there’s a number of crimes people are committing here like bank fraud and wire fraud, which come with huge fines and serious jail time.

“So I would hope that folks are not engaging in this activity, and I’ve been very thankful of the citizens out there who are reporting concerns they have of people out there committing this type of fraud,” said Leary. “This is money that’s supposed to be helping small businesses survive the pandemic. Not enrich people who are stealing it for their own benefit.”

U.S. Attorney Leary says people are creating fake companies and seeking those funds.

Chatham County District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones is asking for some funds to be reallocated to more Assistant District Attorneys, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Jones said the reallocated funds would add four assistant district attorneys to the office to help with crime prevention efforts. According to the response, the DA’s office has requested $280,000 to fund the positions. Those filling the roles would work in the newly formed Expedited Case Resolution Program, which would find ways to divert existing cases from the system through diversion programs.

“We do not have the manpower to create preventative programs because we are so overloaded with our current system,” Jones told the Savannah Morning News, adding it’s been difficult to create and maintain programs with her ADAs juggling 600 cases. Jones said on average they should be handling 150 cases apiece. “We need more bodies to get rid of the cases that we have.”

Jones attributed some of the case backlog to COVID-19, but said there was a backlog well before then.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education voted to tentatively adopt a budget and property tax millage rate for FY 2022, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County Public Schools’ $2.35 billion fiscal year 2022 got the official seal of approval from the county’s school board on Thursday, and district leaders are poised to make no changes to the school system’s millage rate.

The school board tentatively adopted a 21.6-mill millage rate, with 19.7 mills going to maintenance and operations and another 1.9 mills doing to debt service. The board is now set to vote on final adoption of the millage rate in July.

The budget, among other things, includes funding for teachers and other staff to get cost-of-living raises in the upcoming fiscal year. There is also about $15.4 million that is expected to be spent on hiring employees, particularly teachers and school support staff, to handle an expected increase in student enrollment in the 2021-2022 school year.

Although the millage rate will remain the same, that does not necessarily mean homeowners will pay the same in school taxes as they paid last year. County commissioners heard a presentation earlier this week about how the county’s tax digest has grown in the past year.

The Whitfield County Board of Education approved a budget for FY 2022, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The Whitfield County Board of Education approved a fiscal year 2022 budget with $125.9 million in estimated general fund revenues and approximately $127.2 million in general fund expenditures.

The projected general fund balance at the end of fiscal year 2022, which concludes June 30, 2022, is $31.4 million, while the projected beginning general fund balance at the beginning of fiscal year 2022 (July 1 of this year) is $33.2 million.

Coon anticipates Whitfield County Schools will receive about 72% of its general fund revenue from the state in fiscal year 2022, with roughly 28% derived from local sources. She also expects zero percent growth in the tax digest, but that information won’t be available until at least mid-July.

The school system should exhaust the $2.7 million it received from the initial federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act by June 30, Coon said. Whitfield County Schools has used those funds for custodial services, teacher laptops, docking stations and licenses, and a portion of the online high school curriculum.

Coon anticipates spending $11.5 million from the second CARES Act by Aug. 15, 2022, and those funds have been earmarked for 14 new school buses, network upgrades, instructional iPads, Ecovasive treatments, commercial dehumidifiers and ViewSonic digital whiteboards, among other purchases.

Glynn County Tax Commissioner Jeff Chapman, a former state legislator, failed to move forward in consideration for County Manager, according to The Brunswick News.

The three commissioners who supported naming Glynn County Tax Commissioner Jeff Chapman as the only individual under consideration for the top county post failed to reel in a fourth vote to make it official.

Brunson acknowledged Friday that Chapman had not formally submitted an application for county manager by the May 19 cutoff date.

“I think we should honor that process and the candidates that applied and went through that process,” Brunson said. “If the process doesn’t provide a qualified candidate, then we will pursue other options, which will include other interviews, including (Tax) Commissioner Chapman.”

Commissioner Sammy Tostensen made the motion that the commission accept Chapman. Commissioner Walter Rafolski seconded it and Commission Chair Wayne Neal cast the third favorable vote.

The motion failed when the vote ended in a 3-3 tie.

Commissioner Cap Fendig abstained.

Rome and Cave Spring will be hotbeds of election activity this year with 13 seats being elected, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Three seats on the Rome City Commission and all seven on the city school board are on the ballot this fall — and at least two will be filled by new members.

Cave Spring voters also will fill three of their five City Council positions on that same timeline.

The last election in Cave Spring, in 2019, was canceled due to a lack of competition. Mayor Rob Ware was the sole qualifier for that slot and Council Members Tom Lindsey and Joyce Mink had no challengers.

Former Augusta Commission candidate Brian Marcus joins the field of candidate for Mayor of Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Marcus joins three candidates who have formally announced for the May 2022 election: Augusta Commissioner Dennis Williams, Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick and school board president Charlie Hannah.

Four-term former commissioner Marion Williams has talked about running for mayor for months but not yet filed a declaration.

The full-time position comes with a budget of nearly $500,000, a city vehicle and a current salary of around $80,000, but lacks many clearly defined powers. Most decisions such as hiring and budgeting are overseen by the commission.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans Georgia division filed suit over the removal of a Confederate statue in downtown Decatur, according to the AJC.

The nine-page suit filed last week in DeKalb County Superior Court asks that the 30-foot Confederate obelisk, plucked from its perch last June, be returned to its “former place of honor.”

It names Decatur city attorney Bryan Downs and all seven DeKalb County commissioners — including two who weren’t in office when the obelisk was removed — as defendants, suggesting that officials took “collusive action” to circumvent state law protecting Confederate monuments.

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