Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 15, 2024

15
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 15, 2024

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.

James Madison, drafter of the Constitution and fourth President of the United States, was born on March 16, 1751.

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 17, 1762, the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in New York City by Irish serving in the British army; the date commemorates the death of St. Patrick in 461. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah, Georgia was held in 1813.

The United States Military Academy was established at West Point, New York on March 16, 1802.

On March 16, 1861, delegates in Savannah unanimously ratified the Confederate Constitution and voted to have a new state constitution drafted.

On March 17, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed legislation granting African-Americans the same rights as whites for contracts, suits, inheritance, property, and punishments for violation of the law.

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879.

S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, was born on March 14, 1921.

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

On March 17, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed a joint resolution of the state legislature to place a plaque on the wall of the Georgia Capitol commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the founding of Georgia.

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 17, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation creating a commission to revise the 1877 Constitution of Georgia.

On March 16, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Illinois Democratic Primary. His spiritual successor President Barack Obama, from Illinois, would visit Carter’s home state of Georgia on March 16, 2012.

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.

Mikhail Gorbachev was elected President of the Soviet Union on March 14, 1990.

The largest traffic accident in Georgia history occurred on March 14, 2001 on I-75 in Catoosa County, involving 125 cars, injuring 39 people and killing 5.

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

On March 14, 2020, Governor Brian Kemp issued an Exeutive Order declaring a Public Health State of Emergency related to the novel coronavirus.

Based on President Trump’s emergency declaration, today I will declare a public health emergency for the State of Georgia. This declaration will greatly assist health and emergency management officials across Georgia by deploying all available resources for the mitigation and treatment of COVID-19. If necessary, unlike other states of emergency, this declaration will allow the Department of Public Health to direct specific healthcare action in extraordinary circumstances. It suspends restrictions on hours of commercial vehicle operation and vehicle height, weight, and length thresholds to assist in preparation and response efforts. It authorizes the Georgia Composite Medical Board and Georgia Board of Nursing to grant temporary licenses to applicants who are in good standing in other states to assist in addressing healthcare needs.

In accordance with state law, I will call for a special session of the General Assembly to convene at the State Capitol at 8 AM on Monday, March 16, 2020 to ratify this action through a joint resolution. Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and Speaker David Ralston have expressed their full support, and I look forward to continuing to work with them on this important effort in the weeks ahead. I have also spoken to leaders of both parties in the General Assembly to explain the situation that we are facing and ask for their support.

On March 16, 2020, the Georgia General Assembly passed HR 4 EX, concurring with the Governor’s declaration.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Please join me in praying for Georgia Labor Commissioner Bruce Thompson (R-White), who announced he has advanced pancreatic cancer. From the AJC:

Bruce Thompson, the Georgia Commissioner of Labor, said in a statement late Thursday that he has been diagnosed with an advanced case of an often-deadly disease.

Thompson, who lives in Cartersville, said he has been told he has stage four pancreatic cancer, but will remain in office as he battles the illness.

“Yesterday, I was suddenly diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which has spread to my liver,” he said in a statement he provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “While we wait on a final prognosis, I can assure you I will continue to be who I have always been — a fighter. From the start, my life has been full of what seem like insurmountable challenges, but I’ve never given up and this farm boy from Montana doesn’t intend to start now.

“I will continue to fulfill my duties as Labor Commissioner throughout this time and will work with my highly professional and qualified staff to ensure Georgia citizens are served with uninterrupted excellence. I ask that you cover my family, the DOL staff, and me in prayer as we prepare to boldly take on this next battle.”

Thompson has been the state’s labor commissioner since January 2023.

Thompson, an insurance agent, entrepreneur and U.S. Army veteran, was a Georgia state senator for a decade before being elected labor commissioner in 2022.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee held that Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis (D) must be removed from the Trump prosecution or remove Nathan Wade from the case, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

The judge in the Georgia election interference case against Donald Trump and others said Friday that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis must step aside from Trump case or remove the special prosecutor with whom she had a romantic relationship before case can proceed.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said he did not conclude that Willis’ relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade amounted to a conflict of interest. However, he said, it created an “appearance of impropriety” that infected the prosecution team.

“As the case moves forward, reasonable members of the public could easily be left to wonder whether the financial exchanges have continued resulting in some form of benefit to the District Attorney, or even whether the romantic relationship has resumed,” the judge wrote.

From WRDW:

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis can remain leading her historic racketeering indictment of former President Donald Trump if her special prosecutor – with whom she had a romantic relationship – steps aside.

In arguably one of the nation’s most anticipated legal and political decisions in decades, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee issued his ruling Friday morning.

Here’s what the opinion actually says:

The Court therefore concludes that the prosecution of this case cannot proceed until the State selects one of two options. The District Attorney may choose to step aside, along with the whole of her office, and refer the prosecution to the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council for reassignment. See O.C.G.A. § 15-18-5. Alternatively, SADA Wade can withdraw, allowing the District Attorney, the Defendants, and the public to move forward without his presence or remuneration distracting from and potentially compromising the merits of this case.

My favorite phrase in the opinion is “an odor of mendacity remains.”

Republican CJ Pearson wants a recount of the HD 125 Special Runoff Election he lost, according to WJBF.

House District 125 Representative candidate CJ Pearson and some voters are questioning why the county’s board of elections is declining to do a hand re-count of Tuesday’s runoff election votes.

Gary Richardson has been declared the winner of that race – with a little more than 60% of the vote.

Gary Richardson said he would support the re-count to help ease voters’ minds, but he would be okay with the board’s decision either way.

“Since I’ve been involved in politics, I’ve always heard questions about just about every election that’s come down the pipe,” he said. “But, however and whatever we can do to remove doubts, I think we need to do it.”

“I think it’s important that this re-count happens,” Pearson said. “The board of commissioners came together and said that this needed to occur, and for the board of elections to disregard that completely, I think it’s unsettling.”

He even mentioned using his campaign to pay for the recount.

“From what we’ve heard from voters and people throughout our community, this is a step that they want to see,” he said. “If it came to a point where I would – the campaign would have to pay for that recount, we would be happy to do that.”

State Senator Colton Moore has been declared a huge d-bag persona non grata by House Speaker Jon Burns, according to WRDW.

Senators were debating SR 687, which would have allowed a building on the University of North Georgia’s campus to have been named for the lawmaker, who passed away late last year.

All but one senator took to the Senate well to support the resolution. But state Sen. Colton Moore (R-Trenton) denounced Ralston as “one of the most corrupt Georgia leaders we’ll ever see in our lifetime.”

Moore, who has drawn fire from within his own party for his criticism of Fulton County DA Fani Willis’ investigation and subsequent indictment of former President Donald Trump, accused Ralston of delaying legal and judicial cases involving suspected criminals.

Senate President Pro Tempore John Kennedy (R-Macon) apologized for Moore’s comments. The resolution was adopted by the Senate, 53 to one, with Moore’s being the only vote in opposition.

Later in the day, House Speaker Jon Burns (R-Newington) announced Moore was banned from the House chambers. One House doorkeeper said this was the first time a senator had ever been banned from the House floor.

Burns received a standing ovation from representatives when he made that announcement. Ralston’s portrait was also unveiled Thursday under the Gold Dome.

In September 2023, after Moore called for a special session to review Willis following her indictment of Trump, he was suspended from his party’s caucus.

From Fox5Atlanta:

His statements were heavily attacked by senators on both sides of the aisle. The room was filled with visible whispering and visible reactions of disbelief.

“He was a great man, a great mentor and a wonderful friend,” countered Sen. Tim Bearden, R-Carrollton.

“There was a measure of caring about the institution of the General Assembly and the House that Speaker Ralston held dear that made it worth it for everybody to serve, including Democrats, even when you didn’t get what you wanted,” stated Sen. Josh McLaurin, D-Sandy Springs.

House Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, visibly angry and emotional, addressed Moore’s comments in the House. “His comments impugned the integrity of my good friend, and we all know they were not true,” said Burns.

The speaker then took swift action. “At no time in the future will the senator from the 53rd be allowed to come into that room or any property of the Georgia House,” he ordered.

Burns’ announcement was met with a standing ovation and loud applause. He quickly and publicly confirmed his decision with the doorkeeper.

“Cory, you have the orders. We expect you to enforce them and carry them out,” added Burns.

Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 332, to restructure the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission, according to WALB.

Senate Bill 332 attempts to implement rules and procedures for the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission (PACQ), an agency created last year by the GOP-led state legislature that, Kemp said, would ensure DAs and solicitors-general “fulfill their constitutional and statutory duties.”

“My No. 1 priority is public safety across our state,” Kemp said last year. “The creation of the PACQ will help hold prosecutors driven by out-of-touch politics than commitment to their responsibilities accountable and make our communities safer.”

But only months after Kemp and lawmakers approved the agency’s creation, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down the agency’s operating rules, which led to the latest attempt by Republican lawmakers to bring its procedures in line with those of other state organizations and commissions.

Immediately after Kemp’s signing, DeKalb County DA Sherry Boston claimed the agency is a “group of political appointees chosen solely by Republicans.

Kemp has also been critical of Athens-Clarke County District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez, who is now overseeing the case of Laken Riley, the nursing student whose body was found on the University of Georgia campus several weeks ago and whose case has become front and center in the nation’s immigration debate.

From WRDW:

[Augusta District Attorney Jared] Williams said Wednesday the law isn’t about prosecutor oversight at all.

“It allows members of one party to challenge and remove elected officials of another without any regard for the will of the voters who elected them,” he said in a statement.

“I will challenge this law just like the previous,” he said. “I am licensed to practice law in three states, and I swore an oath in all three of them to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. When a law violates the Constitution, especially a law that threatens the voice of voters, I will never back down from that fight.”

Glynn County voters turned out in low numbers for the March 12, 2024 Presidential Preference Primary, according to The Brunswick News.

Former President Donald Trump got 5,112 votes in a crowded field of 11 candidates to earn 81% of the vote for the Republican nomination. President Joe Biden got 1,608 votes, or 94%, in the three-candidate race for the Democratic nomination.

In all, 6,313 Glynn County voters, or 10.6 %, cast ballots in the primary election.

Redden said the low turnout was not a surprise considering both races were pretty much presumed over. Some voters were not motivated to go to the polls because so many states held primaries on March 5, Super Tuesday. There was not much at stake for either party in the Georgia primary a week later.

Harris County voters decided to extend the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, according to WTVM.

“I’m glad the SPLOST passed,” says Alexandra Casey. Casey works in Harris County and serves on several economic boards in the county, she says she is glad voters agreed to continue paying that penny over six years for several projects across the county.

“I think the SPLOST passing is huge, because its bringing road infrastructure, bringing water, like it’s bringing civil infrastructure to people who don’t have it,” says Casey.

According to projections obtained by News Leader 9, the one cent will add up to $27,000,000 over the next six years. It will go towards road projects across the county, and while Casey thinks it’s a good thing, others disagree. Casey believes if it doesn’t happen the county will not continue to grow.

And the tax would not just go to the county it will also help other cities within the county like Pine Mountain, Hamilton and West Point.

Georgia’s Secretary of State requested additional state funds for post-election audits, according to WALB.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is asking the State Senate to fully fund additional audits after elections to help ease doubts in some voters’ minds about the voting process.

Raffensperger is asking for new technology approved by the House that would give election officials the ability to audit the text of every choice, on every ballot, in every contest — without using QR codes.

Raffensperger says election security is his top priority and he wants all Georgians to have full confidence in their elections.

He continued to say, “Voters deserve comprehensive audits of all races and the reassurance that the ballots are being counted correctly. With the support of the General Assembly, we can stay ahead in the technology race, lead the nation in auditing of elections, and increase confidence in our already successful election system.”

If approved, Georgia would be the first state in the nation to do a post-election audit using optical recognition.

Raffensperger says removing QR codes from ballots would require six to nine months and could cost taxpayers approximately $25 million. The change would not happen until after the 2024 presidential election.

House Bill 1170 passed the Senate Health & Human Services Committee after being Frankensteined in a Senate Committee. From the Augusta Chronicle:

A bill aimed at ensuring overdose medications are available in municipal buildings this week saw tacked onto it a provision banning a form of gender-affirming healthcare for minors, alarming legislators and activists alike.

House Bill 1170 was heard in the state Senate Health and Human Services committee Monday afternoon, after being introduced by Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah), who chairs the committee. A provision added to the bill would build on legislation from last year that sought to limit gender-affirming care for transgender youth by adding puberty blockers to the list of medical interventions that would be denied to those under the age of 18.

But in introducing his new section of the bill, he described puberty blockers as a gateway, and said that when transgender children are allowed to access them, “they do go on to a sex change operation or surgery, or sex change hormones. If [puberty blockers] are not used, the data is showing that about 50% are electing not to pursue that. That’s why, upon reflection, I thought this was appropriate to make it so that minors would not be using puberty blockers.”

Democratic lawmakers voiced concerns about the way the bill was introduced to the committee.

“For such a controversial bill, to not give any notice and provide opportunity for people who are on the opposing side to be able to testify against it is very disappointing and ultimately not good for the Georgia people,” said state Sen. Kim Jackson (D-Stone Mountain), who sits on the Health and Human Services Committee and voted against the bill. “We would have liked to have heard from medical professionals who work in gender dysphoria clinics, who work with young people who are experiencing gender dysphoria, who have the position where they can provide true, sound, medical advice about this bill.”

Senate Bill 233, which would create a private school voucher program, passed the House, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Senate Bill 233 was amended in the House Education committee on Wednesday to include a provision that would create a new Georgia Education Savings Authority. The authority would be responsible for distributing school vouchers of up to $6,500 per student that could be used to cover the cost of tuition, tutoring, supplies for home schooling and other education-related expenses.

“This body has a strong record of supporting public education. I’m very proud of that,” said state Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton), who presented the bill on the House floor. But, she added, “One size does not always fit all, and this is designed in a very narrow, measured, accountable and careful way. It will give some students … some further options that might best fit their family.”

Other Republican legislators voiced their approval for the bill, which they say is a win for parents seeking greater choice in their children’s education.

“I rise in full support of Senate Bill 233, which provides a critical lifeline of hope across our state to families who are currently trapped in failing schools,” said state Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners).

“Vouchers don’t work,” said state Rep. Miriam Paris (D-Macon), who spoke out against the bill. “They don’t work for poor people, and they don’t work for the underserved. They don’t work for Title I schools. They only work for a certain few, and generally those few don’t need the help.

From WRDW:

Speaker Jon Burns threw his weight behind the legislation at a House Committee meeting on Monday.

“We are going to empower our parents to make the best educational decisions for their children and give them the tools to succeed for generations to come!” the Screven County Republican said in a statement after Thursday’s vote.

Gov. Brian Kemp has stated publicly he wanted to see school choice legislation passed this year.

The bill passed the House floor by one vote. The bill needed a two-thirds majority and the bill received 91 votes.

Senate Bill 233 called The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act would give $6,500 vouchers to students already attending public schools that score in the lowest 25% in the state.

Republican Representative Mesha Mainor switched parties last year. She felt differently from a lot of Democrat lawmakers who opposed the bill.

“In District 56 some of these schools have 2-3% reading and math proficiency, which means 97-98% can’t read or do math, but yet some of our colleagues want to tell you that it is okay,” said Mainor.

Not sure how 91 votes equals two-thirds of 180 State Representatives.

Two Democrats in Congress wrote Gov. Kemp a letter about Medicaid “disenrollment,” according to WALB.

In a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp, U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff and U.S. House of Representatives Congresswoman Lucy McBath said they have “grave concerns” after they say over 149,000 children lost their healthcare coverage from March to September last year. The two lawmakers also said hundreds of thousands of Georgians were disenrolled from Medicaid and haven’t been able to reenroll “due to the state’s mismanagement of Medicaid redetermination.”

“This catastrophic outcome results from the state’s decision to disenroll entire Georgia households from Medicaid, in violation of federal requirements that children and other eligible Georgians be auto-enrolled at the individual level,” the letter states. “In August 2023, Georgia reported that the state had failed to follow federal requirements and ‘household members with different eligibility statuses’ were affected.”

Georgia’s Department of Human Services, Ossoff and McBath claim in the letter, is failing to efficiently reenroll healthcare coverage for those affected. The two lawmakers said this is leaving a large number of Georgians without health coverage.

“The State of Georgia has a responsibility to manage programs correctly to serve the people of Georgia and is currently failing to do so,” the letter states. “Your administration must take immediate corrective action.”

From 11Alive:

However, a spokesperson for the governor’s office refuted claims from Ossoff and McBath that the state violated federal law and was mismanaging resources, calling them “disheartening.”

“Contrary to their claim, Medicaid recipients are NOT waiting without health coverage until the redetermination process is complete,” wrote Garrison Douglas, a spokesperson for Kemp.

“Our state has taken considerable steps, including allocating $54 million in surge staff funding, to efficiently and effectively carry out the review process within the confines of federal guidance, and provide innovative alternatives through Georgia Pathways and Georgia Access for those who are no longer eligible for traditional Medicaid coverage,” Douglas continued.

Douglas brushed off McBath and Ossoff’s letter as “misinformation.”

Former Worth County Tax Commissioner Tabetha DuPriest pled guilty to filing a false federal tax return, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Tabetha DuPriest, 57, of Poulan, Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count of making and subscribing a false tax return before U.S. District Judge Leslie Gardner Wednesday. The maximum sentence is three years in prison to be followed by one year of supervised release, a $100,000 fine and restitution. A sentencing date will be determined by the Court. The defendant is not eligible for parole.

“There is no excuse for a long-time tax commissioner to fail to report earnings on personal income taxes, just like other citizens must do,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “These kinds of schemes undermine the public’s trust and simply won’t be tolerated by our office or our law enforcement partners.”

According to court documents, DuPriest was the Worth County tax commissioner since 2001; she also served as the president of the Georgia Association of Tax Officials from 2019-2021. In her role as tax commissioner, DuPriest oversaw the collection of motor vehicle taxes and property taxes for the Worth County cities of Sylvester, Poulan, Warwick and Sumner. For that work, she earned approximately $80,000 in wages a year and received a Form W-2 from the Worth County Board of Commissioners.

In addition to her salary, each of these municipalities separately contracted with DuPriest to collect city taxes, court documents said, and she was paid separately by each city for that work. An FBI and IRS investigation revealed that DuPriest failed to declare any of the additional income she had received from her independent contracts with the four municipalities in Worth County on her federal tax returns since she became tax commissioner. It was not until after she was interviewed by the FBI in 2022 that she began to declare the additional income.

A federal judge ordered Bibb County Sheriff candidate Chris Paul to pay back pay , according to 13WMAZ.

Chris Paul is one of five men challenging sheriff David Davis for Bibb County Sheriff.

He’s a former Bibb County officer, and now runs CP Security.

The men claimed that starting in 2019 and into 2021, they often worked seven 12-hour shifts a week for Paul’s company – totaling 70 to 80 hours.

The men claimed that Paul told them he couldn’t pay overtime because his company was being audited, and the auditors wouldn’t allow it.

13WMAZ reached out to Paul Thursday morning by phone. He said he takes “full responsibility” for the problems. He said he was new in business and starting his own company and didn’t know all the “ins and outs.”

The lawsuit against McIntosh County over rezoning Sapelo Island was dismissed by the judge, according to WTOC.

Lawyers with the Southern Poverty Law Center are representing members of the Gullah Geechee community known as Hog Hammock on Sapelo Island.

They filed a lawsuit in October over a decision to allow larger homes to be built in the community. The change more than doubles the size of homes that will be allowed.

At the heart of their appeal, concerns that new development will raise property taxes and erase the island’s history.

They write in part, “The ruling only addressed procedural issues, and the court did not address any of the underlying merits regarding Hog Hammock or the zoning amendment.”

SPLC says they plan to amend their suit and refile within the six months given under Georgia law.

Rincon Mayor Ken Lee resigned, according to WSAV.

Lee has held office since 2005 after moving to Rincon in 1993. During the first 12 years that he lived in Rincon, he served as president of the chamber and rotary.

The City of Rincon released a statement that said:

“Mayor Lee served as Mayor for 19 years, his resignation letter stated ‘My greatest obligation is to my faith and my family. At this time, my first and greatest priority is my family who needs my complete and undivided attention.’ City Manager Jonathan Lynn says, ‘We have been fortunate to have stable leadership for the last two decades and we truly wish him all the best. Effective immediately, Kevin Exley, the City’s Mayor Pro Tem, will serve in that role. A special election will be scheduled to fill the unexpired term but that date has not been determined at this time.’”

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