Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 10, 2022

10
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 10, 2022

On March 10, 1734, a group of German immigrants reached the mouth of the Savannah River, from where they would proceed on to Savannah. Today, the Georgia Salzburgers Society works to preserve the Salzburger heritage and traditions in Georgia.

On March 10, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed legislation allowing women to have bank accounts separate from their husbands as long as the balance was less than $2000; an earlier act set the limit at $1000.

On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first speech over his new invention, the telephone.

Thomas B. Murphy was born on March 10, 1924 in Bremen, Georgia and would first be elected to office in the 1950s, winning a seat on the Bremen Board of Education. In 1960, Murphy ran for the State House facing no opposition and was sworn in in 1961. In 1973, he became Speaker Murphy and would hold the post until Bill Heath, a Republican, beat him in the November 2002 General Election.

Murphy held the top House seat for a longer consecutive term than anyone in any American state legislature. He died on December 17, 2007.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – Committee Work Day

7:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE 606 CLOB HYBRID

8:00 AM Senate Ethics Committee- canceled 307 CLOB

8:30 AM HOUSE Natural Resources and Environment Resource Management Subcommittee (upon adjournment of the NR&E Full Committee meeting) 606 CLOB HYBRID

9:00 AM HOUSE Motor Vehicles Tags & Titles Subcommittee 506 CLOB HYBRID

9:30 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES COMMITTEE 506 CLOB HYBRID

10:00 AM HOUSE Special Committee on Election Integrity 606 CLOB HYBRID

10:00 AM HOUSE AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMITTEE 406 CLOB HYBRID

10:00 AM Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee 450 CAP

11:00 AM HOUSE RULES COMMITTEE (Upon Adjournment of the House Appropriations Committee) 341 CAP

11:00 AM HOUSE CREATIVE ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT COMMITTEE 406 CLOB HYBRID

12:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES COMMITTEE 506 CLOB HYBRID

12:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION COMMITTEE 606 CLOB HYBRID

12:00 PM Senate Rules Committee – Canceled 450 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE 606 CLOB HYBRID

1:00 PM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY & HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEEE 406 CLOB HYBRID

1:00 PM Senate Public Safety Committee Mezz 1

2:00 PM HOUSE HUMAN RELATIONS & AGING COMMITTEE 415 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Transportation Resolutions Subcommittee 506 CLOB HYBRID

2:00 PM HOUSE GAME, FISH, & PARKS COMMITTEE 406 CLOB HYBRID

2:00 PM Senate Transportation Committee – canceled 450 CAP

2:00 PM Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee – canceled Mezz 1

2:30 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE 506 CLOB HYBRID

3:00 PM HOUSE Special Committee on Access to Quality Healthcare 406 CLOB HYBRID

3:00 PM HOUSE WAYS & MEANS COMMITTEE 606 CLOB HYBRID

3:00 PM Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee- canceled 450 CAP

4:00 PM Senate Government Oversight Committee- canceled HOUSE 450 CAP

The Georgia Supreme Court dismissed further challenges to legislation splitting the Augusta Judicial Circuit, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

One challenge was filed by Columbia County resident Willie Saunders and two others were filed by the Black Voters Matter Fund, alleging the split of the circuit violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the separation of powers among the three branches of government. It also argued it deprived residents of effective and efficient access to courts.

On July 12, a judge appointed to hear the case ruled against Saunders and BVMF and found Senate Bill 9, which created the Columbia County Judicial Circuit, was constitutional. Saunders and BVMF appealed the decision to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Georgia Supreme Court Justice John Ellington argued that BVMF did not established standing to sue since it didn’t show who it was representing, any injured caused by the split and any impact on their voting advocacy mission. The court argued that the lawsuit should have been dismissed before and dismissed the challenges by BVMF.

The BVMF said they were representing citizens in Georgia who were members of the organization, including people in the Augusta Judicial Circuit, but didn’t identify any of those members, according to the opinion.

State Sen. Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown, introduced Senate Bill 9 to the General Assembly to create the new judicial circuit. The bill passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp in March.

Governor Brian Kemp will appeal the federal court decision that sidelines state-created Leadership Committees, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

The law, passed by state legislators last year and signed by Kemp, allows certain top elected officials, including the governor and party nominees, to create leadership committees that can raise campaign funds without limits, including during a legislative session. Just after the law took effect in July, Kemp created the Georgians First Leadership Committee.

Perdue and his campaign allege in the suit that the law gives Kemp an unfair fundraising and spending advantage in the primary. The lawsuit asked the judge to find the law unconstitutional. Perdue also asked the judge to block the new law while the litigation was pending.

[U.S. District Court Judge Mark] Cohen issued an order granting a preliminary injunction that prohibits Georgians First from spending money to advocate for Kemp’s reelection or his opponent’s defeat during the primary and any primary runoff.

A new poll shows Governor Kemp leading his challenger among likely Republican Primary Voters, according to AccessWDUN.

In the new Fox News poll of Georgia Republican primary voters released Tuesday, Kemp received 50 percent, while Perdue, who has the backing of former President Donald Trump, got 39 percent. Ten percent are unsure or would vote for someone else.

The poll broke down support for the former president among primary voters. Nearly eight in 10 view Trump favorably, with 57 percent having a strongly favorable opinion. Nineteen percent view Trump negatively.

Trump’s endorsement does appear to be working among those who strongly support him. Among those voters, Perdue has 52 percent to Kemp’s 39 percent. But among voters with an unfavorable opinion of Trump, Kemp is a big winner, 70 percent to 15 percent.

The poll also asked voters what issues they felt were important: economic issues (93 percent extremely or very important), immigration issues (86 percent), social issues (75 percent), and in a distant last place are COVID-19 policies (54 percent).

Interest in the election is high: Over 8 in 10 GOP primary voters are “extremely” (54%) or “very” (28%) interested. Extremely interested voters break for Perdue by 7 points (49% Perdue-42% Kemp).

From the AJC:

“At this point, David Perdue’s campaign is nothing more than an in-kind contribution to Stacey Abrams,” said Kemp spokesman Cody Hall. “While the former senator continues to run a failing campaign, Governor Kemp will remain focused on uniting Republicans behind a record of results and beating Abrams this fall.”

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday announced with House and Senate leadership a plan to temporarily suspend collection of the state gas tax, according to a Press Release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced that he plans to work with the Georgia General Assembly to temporarily suspend the state’s excise tax on motor fuel sales. In Georgia, the average price of a gallon of gas has increased from $2.59 to $4.06 (over 56%) since March of 2021. Researchers further estimate that the average American household could spend an additional $2,000 a year on gas as a result of increases in fuel cost, on top of record-high inflation already impacting families. Governor Kemp, in conjunction with Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston, will take measures to alleviate the burden placed on Georgians. The measures will take effect upon the governor’s signature of HB 304 and remain in effect through May 31, 2022.

“President Biden took office in January of 2021, and to understand why we are in this current state of record-high inflation and costs to the average American family, people can simply track his first year of misguided policy decisions,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “Because of our strong, fiscally conservative approach to budgeting, Lt. Governor Duncan, Speaker Ralston, and I can confidently propose a state motor fuel tax suspension to curb sky-high gas prices while also returning money back to hardworking Georgians through a tax refund and an income tax cut. With this latest measure, we are making it even more clear that in Georgia we are going to empower families to keep their money in their own pockets.”

“I applaud Governor Kemp for delivering bold leadership that will provide crucial relief for Georgians at the gas pump,” said Lieutenant Governor Duncan. “I look forward to working with Speaker Ralston and my colleagues in the Senate to quickly pass this measure as a counterweight against the extreme rise in gas prices.”

“We know that Georgia families and businesses are hurting from outrageously high gas prices,” said Speaker Ralston. “That’s why I’m proud to join Governor Kemp and Lt. Governor Duncan in supporting a temporary suspension of the state’s motor fuel taxes. In these extraordinary times, every little bit helps and we remain focused on keeping our people and our economy moving.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Athens Banner Herald:

The average price of a gallon of gas in Georgia rose from $2.59 in March of last year to $4.06 through the end of last month, a figure that is continuing to increase rapidly.

The state has temporarily suspended the gasoline tax on a number of previous occasions.

Most recently, Kemp issued an emergency order last May halting collection of the tax after the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline disrupted fuel supplies. The General Assembly was not in session at the time.

This time, the suspension is being included in a bill making its way through the legislature on a fast track. The temporary suspension would take effect when the governor signs the bill and expire May 31.

From the Macon Telegraph:

Researchers found that Americans could be paying an additional $2,000 for gas this year, which could be detrimental for Georgia residents.

The average price for a gallon of unleaded gas in the state was $4.17 on Wednesday, according to data from AAA.

The gasoline excise rate, set in January, is about 29 cents, according to the state.

Three ways that fuel costs affect Georgia, from WALB in Albany.

Increasing gas prices affecting Meals on Wheels program – “As I mentioned, the cost of everything is going up right now. We are dealing with increased costs of materials. Increased costs of supplies. The cost of the food, in addition to just work supplies. The cost of the food. In addition to just workforce shortages that are happening on top of that which is increasing the cost of the labor that it takes to get the jobs done. And for our home-delivered meals program especially, not only are we dealing with the increased food costs, but the gas prices are a big deal when we are trying to deliver 115,000 meals a year,” Sadler said.

Increasing diesel costs hits farmers hard – “With that everything is fluid and everything going up, up, up. It’s hard to pencil in a number when the meter is running wide open. There’s no stability,” Windhausen says.

He tells me fertilizer used to cost him $12,000 and this year he expects it to cost him $30,000 or more.

I asked him if buying a newer tractor that’s more fuel-efficient would help. He says it’s smarter to keep his older tractors. He hopes gas prices are not a long-term problem.

‘’We’re losing money anyway and we’re going to stack up a 2,3,400,000 dollar note on top of that? That’s not even an option,“ Windhausen says

“You look at all of the fuel a farmer has to go through to be able to plant a crop, take care of a crop, harvest it, get it to market. If a farmer has to spend more money to make a crop, you’re going to see those prices in a grocery store sooner or later,” Trough says.

State Superintendent: Let schools use COVID funds to cover rising fuel costs – State Superintendent Richard Woods is calling on the Biden administration and the U.S. Department of Education to “specifically clarify that school districts can utilize their federal K-12 COVID relief funds to directly cover the rising cost of transporting our students.”

“As we stand committed to keeping schools open and learning going, it’s essential that school districts be given the flexibility to keep up with rising diesel costs due to unfolding world events,” Woods said.

Woods said Georgia schools districts, “particularly ones in rural areas of our state,” need the relief now.

The State House and Senate agreed upon an amended budget for the current fiscal year, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

Budget negotiators added nearly $450 million to the spending plan at the 11th hour, bringing the mid-year budget to $30.3 billion, thanks to new projections that allowed Gov. Brian Kemp to increase his revenue estimate for the fiscal year ending June 30.

House lawmakers approved the mid-year budget 162-2 on Wednesday. The Senate is expected to follow suit on Friday.

Most state and university system employees would receive $5,000 raises, with an additional $2,000 going to correctional officers in the juvenile and adult prison system in an effort to reduce high turnover.

Georgia teachers are slated to get $2,000 raises in the fiscal 2023 budget the House Appropriations Committee is expected to approve on Thursday. The increase would combine with $3,000 raises teachers received in 2019 to fulfill the governor’s campaign pledge to increase teacher salaries by $5,000.

The mid-year budget also includes $950 million to fully fund the state’s K-12 student funding formula, which was cut amid the financial uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic’s early stages.

From the AJC:

The budget includes the $1.6 billion in state income tax refunds that Gov. Brian Kemp proposed earlier this year, after the government ran a surplus in fiscal 2021.

The midyear plan includes big increases for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled and nursing homes, which were hit hard by the pandemic.

The proposal calls for $432 million to get a start on a plan to buy a private prison and build a new one. The idea is the new bed space would replace more run-down and dangerous facilities.

The midyear spending plan includes $112.6 million to buy and develop the land for Rivian’s new electric-vehicle manufacturing plant east of Atlanta.

The State House passed a billion-dollar income tax cut, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Republican-controlled Georgia House of Representatives passed a $1 billion state income tax cut Wednesday over objections from Democrats that most benefits would go to upper-income taxpayers while some Georgians would pay more.

The bill, which passed 115-52 and now moves to the state Senate, would reduce Georgia’s income tax rate from 5.75% to 5.25%.

While doing away with the standard deduction, the legislation would increase the standard exemption from the current $2,700 to $12,000 for single filers and from $7,400 to $24,000 for married couples filing jointly.

“A family of four will not pay one penny of state income tax on their first $30,000 of income,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Shaw Blackmon, the bill’s chief sponsor, told House lawmakers during a brief debate.

Blackmon, R-Bonaire, said that same family of four with an annual income of $50,000 would receive a tax cut of more than $400.

From the AJC:

House Bill 1437, pushed by House Ways and Means Chairman Shaw Blackmon, a Republican from Bonaire, passed the chamber 115-52 after zipping through his committee with no opposition. It now heads to the Senate for its consideration.

Blackmon said the proposal “is simple and fair and allows Georgians to keep a larger portion of their hard-earned dollars.”

But Rep. Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn, said many Georgians would see only the equivalent of $6 a month. Some middle-income Georgians would pay higher taxes as the progressive income tax brackets — the rates rise based on income — would be replaced with the same single rate for all.

If the measure wins final passage, it wouldn’t take effect until 2024 so budget writers would have time next year to figure out how to make up for the loss of tax revenue.

State Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), longest-serving member of the State House, will not run for reelection after being nominated to an Ambassadorship by President Biden, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Democrat Teddy Reese announced Wednesday he intends to qualify for May’s House District 140 primary. The recently redrawn and renumbered district was represented by Calvin Smyre, who served nearly 50 years and became one of the most powerful state lawmakers during his tenure.

Smyre was tapped by President Joe Biden to serve as ambassador to the Dominican Republic and will not seek re-election.

Reese garnered endorsements from several local politicians, including state representative Carolyn Hugley and Muscogee County Sheriff Greg Countryman.

“There is no replacing a pillar of our community in the Georgia House of Representatives like Calvin Smyre, but I can’t think of a better person to follow in his footsteps than Teddy Reese,” Hugley said in a statement. “Teddy will be an asset to the Columbus delegation and the Georgia House of Representatives.”

State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Chatham County) said he will not introduce legislation to dissolve the city of Port Wentworth, according to WTOC.

Georgia State Rep. Ron Stephens drafted a bill that if passed, would dissolve the city, making it a part of unincorporated Chatham County.

Rep. Ron Stephens said this idea didn’t happen overnight. He said there have been problems for years, including council members not working together and the city not paying bills.

After meeting with the interim city manager and city attorney Wednesday, Stephens said they’ve been convinced to give them a chance to do things right.

“There’s been so many bruised egos, if you will, over a period of time that it’s gotten to a point that it’s toxic…very toxic. There’s some work to do. I want to give them a chance to see if they can actually run a city and represent the folks that represented them to do that,” said Rep. Stephens.

He added the city will probably get the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the Georgia Municipal Association to step in, examine the city and provide guidance.

The State Senate voted to defeat Senate Bill 203, which would have rolled back some restrictions on cell phone use by drivers, according to 13WMAZ.

The vote for SB 203 failed by 35 to 14 on Wednesday afternoon.

The bill stated that Georgia drivers could have used their phones while on a mount if they come to a complete stop; like at a red light, stop sign, or safe area.

Currently, motorists in Georgia are prohibited from having a phone in their hand or using any part of their body to support a phone under the state’s hands-free law — which took effect in July of 2018.

Drivers are only permitted to use their phones to make or receive phone calls through speakerphone, earpiece, wireless headphone or if the phone is connected to the vehicle itself or an electronic watch.

The SB 203 rejection comes just days after a state Senate committee postponed the vote of a similar proposal, SB 356, last week after it was amended in response to some lingering safety concerns.

Incumbents in the upper-left-hand corner of Georgia are facing election challenges, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Shane Day, global sales director for Tiarco Chemical in Dalton, qualified for the Republican Party primary for Whitfield County Board of Commissioners District 3, challenging incumbent John Thomas, who qualified Monday. That sets up a rematch of the April 2021 special election runoff to fill the unexpired term of the late Roger Crossen for that seat. Thomas defeated Day in that runoff by 587 votes (52.98%) to 521 votes (47.02%).

Lee Coker, a firefighter and emergency medical technician from the Varnell area, qualified in the Republican Party primary for state House of Representatives District 6, challenging incumbent Jason Ridley, who qualified Monday. The district includes all of Murray County and part of northern Whitfield County.

Marcus Flowers, a U.S. Army veteran from Bremen, qualified in the Democratic Party primary for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, which is currently represented by Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene of Rome. Greene qualified Monday for the Republican primary.

Democrat Stacey Abrams will campaign in Columbus, according to WTVM.

The Lincoln County Board of Elections voted to end its plan to close some voting locations, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

After a months-long effort to close all seven polling places, and replace them with a new single site, then to close all but two existing sites, the board passed a 3-0 motion Wednesday not to close any. Two members were absent.

Board chairman J.H.Allen said the opposition had caused “nothing but terror” by appearing at board meetings and voicing opposition to the plan. Their effort has included two petition drives, which Elections Director Lilvender Bolton said lacked enough signatures to be effective.

Statesboro City Council and Mayor will hold a retreat at Jekyll Island, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Bulloch County Commissioner Walter C. Gibson will not seek reelection, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Georgia State Senator Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro) is running for reelection, according to the Statesboro Herald.

District 4 State Sen. Billy Hickman, first elected in the summer 2020 in a special election to complete an unexpired term but also elected that fall to a full term, qualified Monday to seek re-election for a second full two-year term in the Georgia Senate.

[H]e signed up and paid the qualifying fee for is actually the May 24 Republican primary. As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, Hickman alone was listed on the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office database as a candidate for the District 4 Senate seat. No other Republican challengers were listed, nor had any Democrats signed up to seek their party’s nomination for the seat in the May 24 Democratic Party primary. Primary winners will progress to the Nov. 8 general election

“I ran for Senate on the promise to use my business experience and conservative values to put the hardworking folks in our district first – ahead of Atlanta and the special interests,” Hickman said in a media release. “In my first term I fought to lower taxes, cut red tape, improve public safety, protect innocent life, increase access to rural broadband, and give parents a voice in their child’s education.”

“We need more unapologetic conservatives in the Legislature to stand up for our values and that is why I am running for re-election,” he said.

The Brunswick News covers local qualifying.

Two more Democrats, both women and both Army veterans, qualified for Georgia’s 1st District U.S. House seat now held by Republican Buddy Carter.

Michelle Monroe of Richmond Hill, a nurse who retired as a colonel after 28 years in the service, and Joyce Marie Griggs of Garden City, who retired as a second lieutenant in Army intelligence after more than 33 years in the service, will vie against Savannah lawyer Wade Herring in the Democratic Primary.

Former state Rep. Jeff Jones qualified for the state District 3 Senate seat now held by Sen. Shelia McNeill, a Republican who will vacate the post at the end of this year. Jones will face retired educator Nora Lott Haynes in the Republican Primary. Both candidates reside on St. Simons Island.

Qualifying ends at noon Friday.

The Gainesville Times looks at candidates qualifying for local office.

The Albany Herald writes about legislative seats representing Dougherty County.

The Port of Brunswick is planning a major expansion, according to The Brunswick News.

During a state of the port presentation Wednesday at the Jekyll Island Convention Center, Jamie McCurry, chief administrator of Georgia Ports Authority, explained plans to expand port operations over the next several years.

He said Georgia ports in Savannah and Brunswick are dealing with a volume of traffic at speeds “unmatched in the Western Hemisphere.”

The supply chain issues and backlog of ships waiting for cargo to be unloaded has been resolved at the Port of Savannah, and there are currently no ships waiting to enter the port.

The Port of Brunswick is the nation’s second busiest port for roll-on/roll-off cargo. Last year an estimated 650,000 units of vehicles and heavy machinery moved through the port, an increase over the previous year.

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