Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 15, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 15, 2023

On March 15, 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated at a meeting of the Senate.

Hmmm, back-stabbing Senators. I’m so glad that’s not a thing anymore.

On March 15, 40 BC, Octavian executed 300 Senators and knights in vengeance for Caesar’s death.

On March 15, 1758, Georgia’s Royal Governor Henry Ellis signed legislation dividing the colony into eight parishes, primarily for religious administration, but with some parishes having secondary government functions.

On March 15, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge negotiated bank loans totalling $2 million dollars to keep the state’s public schools open.

On March 15, 1943, Sea Island was officially named as Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation designating the island that had informally been given several different names.

On March 15, 1980, USS Carl Vinson, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was launched at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. Vinson was the first Navy ship named after a living American.

Howard “Bo’ Callaway, the father of the modern Georgia Republican Party, died on March 15, 2014.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – Ides of March

TBD Senate Rules Committee: Upon Adjournment – 450 CAP
8:00 AM HOUSE Gov’tal Affairs State & Local – 415 CLOB
8:00 AM HOUSE Ways & Means Sales Tax Sub – 403 CAP
8:00 AM Senate Natural Resources & Env’t – 450 CAP
8:15 AM HOUSE Ways & Means Public Fin & Policy Sub – 403 CAP
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 34) – House Chamber
10:00 AM Senate Floor Session (LD 34) – Senate Chamber
1:00 PM HOUSE Judiciary Non-Civil Hong Sub – 132 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Agriculture & Consumer Aff – Mezz 1 CAP
1:30 PM Senate Public Safety – 450 CAP
2:00 PM Senate Insurance & Labor – Mezz 1 CAP
2:00 PM Senate Higher Education – 307 CLOB
3:00 PM Senate Health & Human Svcs – 450 CAP
4:00 PM Senate Finance – Mezz 1 CAP
5:00 PM Senate Ethics – 307 CLOB

Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Forsyth County) would remove the sunset provision from the current prohibition on government requiring proof of vaccinations, according to the Center Square via the Albany Herald.

Public Health [Committee] Chairwoman Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, broke a party-line tie to get the bill through to the House floor.

Senate Bill 1 is sponsored by state Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Alpharetta, and would remove the sunset provision from Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order on proof of COVID vaccination and public services.

If lawmakers had not acted, the prohibition would have sunset on June 30, the final day of the fiscal year.

State Rep. Michelle Au, D-Johns Creek, said putting such a permanent restriction would be “tying the hands for future pandemic response and taking tools out of our toolbox.”

The bill was originally passed out of the Senate on Feb. 7 by a 31-21 vote.

Senate Bill 140 by Sen. Carden Summers (R-Cordele) would limit some transgender treatments for children, and passed out of the House Public Health Committee, according to the AJC.

Senate Bill 140 passed the House Public Health Committee 12-10, with Republicans supporting the measure.

SB 140 would ban health care professionals from giving hormones such as estrogen or testosterone to transgender minors. Doctors also would not be allowed to perform surgeries on children seeking to align with their gender identity.

State Sen. Carden Summers, a Cordele Republican, told the packed committee room that the purpose of the bill is to “make a pause” for transgender youth and make them wait until they turn 18 to take hormonal or surgical steps toward gender transition.

“It’s also been proven that children who have gender dysphoria issues sort of outgrow them as they mature. … They should get a little bit more mature before they make a decision that is 100% irreversible,” he said. “After (transgender children turn) 18 years old, whatever they decide to do is their business.”

Senate Resolution 334 by Senate President Pro Tem John F. Kennedy (R-Macon) would revise Senate rules to prevent a repeat of the overseas junket taken last year by outgoing Senate leaders, according to the AJC.

It’s unclear when Senate Resolution 334 – sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem John Kennedy, R-Macon – will get a vote in the chamber, but it is expected to come before the General Assembly ends its 2023 session later this month.

Senate leaders said as of April 1, all out-of-state travel expenses paid for using funds appropriated to the Senate and Jones’ office should be itemized and posted on the Senate’s website at the end of each month. Jones and Kennedy said they would seek approval of the change at the next meeting of the chamber’s Administrative Affairs Committee.

The rule change in SR 334 would ban out-of-state travel paid for with Senate funds within six months of a lieutenant governor or senator leaving office, or after they lose a primary or general election.

Senate staff would also be banned from international travel paid for by the Senate.

Senate Bill 231 by Senators Max Burns (R-Sylvania) and Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown) passed both chambers and heads to Governor Brian Kemp for signature or veto, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

On Tuesday, the Georgia House approved state Senate Bill 231, which would allow the city to offer a special referendum where voters would determine whether or not the mayor should get a vote equal to Augusta’s Commissioners and not just a tie-breaker vote.

“We trust the citizens of Augusta to review this proposed advantages of this change and decide in a referendum whether to move forward,” [State Rep. Mark Newton (R-Augusta)]  wrote. “We look forward to also working in any way needed with others who have suggested an even more thorough overall study and assessment of our 1996 charter to evaluate potential additional areas where improvements may be made.”

If approved by Kemp, Augusta Mayor Garnett Johnson has said the decision will likely be brought to voters in a November special election.

From WRDW in Augusta:

Right now, the mayor can only cast a vote to break a tie, resulting in strategies among commission members that can keep the mayor from voting.

Most recently, this happened when an abstention during a commission meeting avoided a tie and blocked Mayor Garnett Johnson from voting on an ambulance contract with Gold Cross Emergency Medical Service. Ultimately, this means the state is picking an ambulance provider for the city.

State Senator Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) has asked the remaining members of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics to resign, according to the AJC.

“As the original author of the legislation that reestablished the DeKalb County Board of Ethics in 2020, I am extremely disappointed in the events that transpired which led to the resignation of the majority of their board members,” state Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, said Tuesday. “The actions of a few rogue members of the Ethics Board have cast a shadow on the board’s purpose.

“DeKalb is better than this.”

The board is supposed to have seven regular members and two alternates, but disintegrated in the last months as five members resigned in quick succession. Chair Alex Joseph went first, followed quickly by David Moskowitz, Candace Walker, Shawanda Reynolds-Cobb and Candace Rogers. That left only Nadine Ali and Rita Waymon as regular members, and Bill Clark and Carthea Simelton-Treminio as alternates.

“I call on all remaining members of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics to resign in order to establish an entirely new DeKalb County Board of Ethics, alleviating the risk of personal agendas and baggage interfering with the intended role of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics,” Jones said. “Simply adding additional members to the existing board will not solve the overall problem at hand.”

The last four members held a special meeting Monday to name Waymon as interim chair, declare they were looking to hire lawyers, cancel their scheduled Wednesday meeting and announce they would not act on regular business until more people were appointed to fill the five empty seats — which they expect by the next regular meeting, April 20.

Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill (D) was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, according to the AJC.

Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Tuesday, five months after he was convicted of violating the civil rights of detainees in a facility he once called “Georgia’s toughest para-military jail.”

Hill, whose reputation as a tough-as-nails lawman became so widely known that the creators of Grand Theft Auto video game franchise added a squad car in his name, will also be required to serve six years of probation upon release and will not be permitted to participant in any paid law enforcement activities.

He must also complete 100 hours of community service after he leaves prison.

Federal authorities indicted Hill in April 2021 for violating the civil rights of detainees at the jail by strapping them into restraint chairs as punishment. Jailers are allowed to use the restraint devices only if a detainee may cause harm to themselves or others.

South Carolina legislators are considering what some call a “Yankee Tax,” according to WSAV.

The State Senate is debating the so-called “Yankee Tax” bill.

It would make any new resident pay two fees, for a driver’s license and car registration, for a total of $500, before they are able to get a driver’s license and car registrations.

That would double the current fee on the books.

“I think we risk forfeiting that goodwill if we impose this sort of burden on people coming to our state,” said State Senator Tom Davis.

“I think it’s appropriate to have developers cover the cost associated with new construction,” said Davis. “But we already have a mechanism in place for that with impact fees. We already charge developers to pay for infrastructure costs, schools, fire, and police.”

The reaction video from Georgia economic development officials:

Floyd County is preparing a project list for a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The deadline is March 30 for project submissions to be considered in the 2023 SPLOST package that will be put before voters in November.

A 1-cent special purpose, local option sales tax can be levied by any county to fund the building and maintenance of parks, schools, roads and other public facilities. A SPLOST can last for a maximum of five years.

Another issue is that SPLOST funds cannot be used to pay for city or county employee salaries. That can become an issue when new parks or facilities are proposed, because the city or county will have to shell out additional funds to staff and operate those facilities.

Glynn County and the City of Brunswick agreed to delay the takeover of some recreation programs by the city, according to The Brunswick News.

During that time, the county will continue to manage city swimming pools and programs and the make the transition as smooth as possible. The delay will enable the city to acquire more equipment as the county removes its computers and other equipment.

The city and county agreed to delay the city takeover, originally planned for July 1, during the Local Option Sales Tax negotiations, said Bill Fallon, Glynn County manager.

During a media roundtable meeting Tuesday, Fallon discussed a new campaign regarding short-term rentals called Good Neighbor Guidelines.

The county is asking guests staying in the 1,680 short-term rental homes on St. Simons Island, Sea Island and unincorporated Glynn County to park in designated parking spots, store and follow trash pickup schedules, keep noise to a minimum and be aware of noise ordinances and regulations. They are also asked to use bike paths when available and obey traffic signals and signs.

Fallon said the county has a three-strike rule that could potentially cause a property owner to lose a short-term rental license.

Compliance is strong in the county, with fewer than 40 unregistered short-term rental homes.

Glynn County Board of Elections has eliminated public schools used as polling places, according to The Brunswick News.

The good news is there will not be any more polling places in public schools, a goal election officials have been working toward for security reasons.

It’s likely the number of polling places, currently at 19, will be reduced by at least one and possibly two. Discussions revolved around how to consolidate polling places so ones that don’t get a large turnout see increased participation with the addition of more voters.

Savannah Chatham County Public Schools superintendent Ann Levett presented her final “State of the District” address before her scheduled retirement, according to WTOC.

Hall County Board of Education members voted to build an $8.6 million dollar meat processing plant, according to the Gainesville Times.

Officials say its main purpose will be to serve as a training ground for students who want to pursue a career in the meat industry. Students would be involved in all stages of meat processing, including “stunning,” killing, skinning and butchering cows and pigs, as well as packaging and selling the meat, possibly even wagyu.

“No. 1, it’s a huge career opportunity for numbers of students not only in the food industry but in marketing and logistics, in the natural sciences and research,” Superintendent Will Schofield said at Monday’s meeting.

Here’s how the funding breaks down:

Federal coronavirus relief money: $3.9 million
State grant: $2.5 million
Local sales tax revenue (ESPLOST) and school nutrition: $2.2 million

Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon presented a strategic plan for the Department, according to WTVM.

In the area of retention, Chief Blackmon proposed revising the department’s current retirement plan to include more money for retirees.

“Our officers are seeking 20 years of service and to be able to receive 60 percent of the salary, or 25 years of service to be able to receive 70 percent of the salary or 30 years of service with 80 percent of the salary with no age requirements,” said Chief Blackmon.

Chief Blackmon is requesting additional funding from city council in order to reach the standards outlined in his plan.

City Manager Isaiah Hugley says the city will be able to fund quarterly bonuses of $1,500 starting as soon as April.

“When it comes to public safety, we don’t have the choice of doing nothing – we propose to reinstate for the Columbus Police Department and 911 operators the $1,500 a quarter supplement that we recently discontinued when we implemented the pay plan,” said Hugley.

Pooler City Council member Stevie Walls announced he will run for Mayor, according to WTOC.

He says some of his goals if elected would be improving city drainage projects, making traffic flow more efficiently, and preserving Pooler’s small-town charm and quality of life.

“The promises I’ve made over the 25 years have come true. I told people I would run for controlled growth, which I have. I’ve called for fiscal responsibility, which I have. The City of Pooler with the PUD’s and the developers – we run water lines all the way to the north and all the way to the south at no cost to the city tax payers.”

File Under: Economic Indicators. Container traffic at the Port of Savannah dipped last month, according to The Brunswick News.

Savannah handled nearly 395,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containerized cargo in February, the agency’s second busiest February ever but significantly below the record 460,400 TEUs that moved through Georgia’s ports in February of last year.

Inflation, rising interest rates and high warehouse inventories were important factors in the container trade dip, port officials said.

Meanwhile, logistics data provider PIERS reported the Georgia Ports Authority now handles one out of every 8.8 loaded TEUs in the U.S., its highest national market share ever.

The Port of Savannah had moved 11.4% of the nation’s loaded international containers during fiscal year 2023 through December, with more than 2 million TEUs. The ports authority’s share of the U.S. container trade constituted an increase of 0.7%.

“Our global economy is facing headwinds, but Georgia’s deep-water ports continue to deliver dependable performance to keep business thriving,” authority Executive Director Griff Lynch said Tuesday. “As the nation’s top gateway for American farm and factory exports, the Port of Savannah serves as a hub for global commerce.”

Savannah St. Patrick’s Shenanigans

Savannah predicts a 99% occupancy of local hotel rooms during the St. Patrick’s weekend, according to WTOC.

According to data from the council, Chatham County’s 17,000 hotel rooms are expected to be 99 percent full by Friday and Saturday.

City leaders say the crowds have already arrived with the bulk of revelers expected to come on Thursday.

“I think it’s very difficult to get a hotel room within 45 miles of Savannah,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson says.

Chatham Area Transit will provide free bus service on St. Patrick’s Day, according to WTOC.

The DOT shuttles will not run Friday.

All other buses will be running their normal routes Friday and Saturday, but you can ride for free.

“In some cases I think that there may be some limited impact, it’s going to depend on time of day and where the buses are and so forth. But our drivers, our professional operators, have been preparing and we know what the parade route is, we know the time of the parade and so forth. So our drivers are working around exactly how that’s going to work and anticipating those things to make sure we are deeply committed to our regular riders. We welcome all the visitors and all of the local folks that are going to participate in all the fun on Friday but we want to make sure we’re taking care of our regular riders as well,” said Faye Dimassimo, the CEO of Chatham Area Transit.

Coolers and other large objects are not allowed on CAT’s buses.

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