Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 17, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 17, 2023

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.

On March 18, 1766, the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, which required American colonists to purchase a stamp for every legal or printed document they obtained.  Revenue would be used to support the British army in America.

The Stamp Act led Patrick Henry to denounce King George III, the British Monarch at the time of the passage of the Stamp Act and the ensuing Revolutionary War; Henry’s later “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech to the Virginia Assembly at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, listed by Time magazine as one of the top ten speeches of all time. Henry later opposed adoption of the Constitution, arguing it was incomplete without a Bill of Rights; after the Bill of Rights was adopted, Henry was satisfied.

On February 19, 1807, Aaron Burr was arrested in the Mississippi Territory, in what is now Alabama. Burr had served as Vice President during the first term of President Thomas Jefferson, leaving the administration after the 1804 election; later Jefferson issued a warrant accusing Burr of treason. Burr spent part of his time on the lam in Georgia.

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.

On March 19, 1916, the first American military air combat mission began in support of an incursion into Mexico under President Woodrow Wilson.

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 18, 1939, the State of Georgia ratified the Bill of Rights, which were proposed 150 years earlier in 1789. Georgia initially declined to ratify the Bill of Rights arguing that the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution were unnecessary. Governor E.D. Rivers signed the joint resolution six days later, but under federal court decisions the ratification is marked as of the date the second house of the state legislature adopts the legislation (assuming a bi-cameral state legislature).

On March 18, 1942, the United States government, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, created the War Relocation Authority to “Take all people of Japanese descent into custody, surround them with troops, prevent them from buying land, and return them to their former homes at the close of the war.” More than 120,000 Japanese Americans, many of them citizens of the United States were moved from the west coast into concentration camps in the western United States.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, composed entirely of Japanese Americans, many of whose families were interned at the camps, became the most-decorated unit of World War II, with members being awarded 4,667 medals, awards, and citations, including 1 Medal of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 560 Silver Stars; eventually 21 members of the 442nd would be awarded the Medal of Honor. The late United States Senator Daniel Inouye, a member of the 442nd from 1941 to 1947, was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton for actions during WWII. First elected to the United States Senate in 1962, Inouye became President Pro Tem in 2010.

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

On March 18, 1947, Herman Talmadge surrendered the Governor’s office, ending the “Three Governors Affair.” Earlier this year, the General Assembly honored the late Governor Melvin Thompson, who was elected the first Lieutenant Governor of Georgia and became Governor at the conclusion of the Three Governors Affair.

A couple years ago I was walking my dogs and found those two documents above on the street left out for the trash. Between them, they bear the signatures of all three men who claimed the Governorship during the Three Governors controversy, and a bonus 4th Governor.

On March 18, 1955, the Georgia Educators Association endorsed “equal but separate” schools for the races.

On March 18, 1961, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Gray v. Sanders, which arose from Georgia. Three politically-important results come from the case.

First, the Court held that state regulation of the Democratic Primary made the primary election a state action, not merely that of a private organization; thus, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies.

Second, the Equal Protection Clause requires that every vote be given equal weight in electing officials, often stated as the “one person, one vote” rule. In Georgia at that time, each County had between two and six “county unit votes”. As a result,

“One unit vote in Echols County represented 938 residents, whereas one unit vote in Fulton County represented 92,721 residents. Thus, one resident in Echols County had an influence in the nomination of candidates equivalent to 99 residents of Fulton County.”

Third, because the County Unit System gave the votes of some Georgians greater weight than that of others, it violated the Equal Protection Clause. The “one person, one vote” rule is one benchmark of redistricting.

On March 18, 1976, Governor George Busbee signed legislation recognizing the following official state symbols:

Staurolite – Official Mineral of Georgia
Shark’s Tooth – Official Fossil of Georgia
Clear Quartz – Official Gem of Georgia
Purple Quartz (Amethyst) – Official Gem of Georgia

On March 20, 1982, this song was #1 on the Billboard charts:

On March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush announced the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in order to depose Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and eliminate the country’s ability to produce weapons of mass destruction.

March 19, 2014 was “Bo Callaway Day” in Georgia and flags flew at half-staff in honor of the late Georgia Congressman and former Secretary of the Army.

“Few individuals throughout our history can match the legacy that Bo Callaway left on Georgia politics,” Deal said. “Bo blazed a trail that led to the dramatic growth of the Georgia GOP, which went from virtually nonexistent when he ran for governor to holding every statewide elected office today. Bo stood up for what he believed in even when the odds and the political system were stacked against him. Georgians are all the better for it. Sandra and I send our deepest sympathies to the Callaway family.”

March 19, 2014 was also the first time I wrote about the lack of an “Official State Dog of Georgia.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia General Assembly will meet next in Savannah this weekend on Monday, March 20, 2023 for Legislative Day 36; Tuesday for LD 37, Wednesday is a Committee Work Day with no Session; and Friday for LB 38. Legislative Day 39 is scheduled for Monday, March 27 with a Committee Work Day following. Sine Die (LD 40) will be Wednesday, March 29, 2023.

From the AJC:

It all unfolded early Thursday when Senate Economic Development Committee Chairman Brandon Beach announced a committee substitute for a House-passed soapbox derby bill, House Bill 237. The substitute bill, crafted until 9 p.m. the night before, added language to approve sports betting as a part of the Georgia Lottery.

It happened over the objection of the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Leesa Hagan, R-Lyons, who defiantly told legislators she had never seen the substitute didn’t want her proposal, which was her first bill as a lawmaker, “tarnished” by sports betting.

Hagan asked that her language be stripped out. “I don’t want my soapbox derby to be associated with sports betting,” she said.

State Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton blasted the last-minute switch.

“Whoever came up with this idea just set sports betting back five years,” Dugan said. “I cannot support this. It will not pass on the floor. I think everybody knows it will not pass on the floor and the damage y’all have just done to the sports betting industry is unfathomable to me.”

The force behind the new measure was Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who told us in an interview he wanted lawmakers to deliver a “verdict” on what would be the first major expansion of gambling in Georgia since the lottery was approved more than three decades ago.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:

The sports betting measure, introduced by freshman Sen. Derek Mallow, D-Savannah, would authorize the Georgia Lottery Corp. to oversee online sports betting in Georgia. Twenty-two percent of the adjusted gross income derived from sports betting would support the state’s HOPE Scholarships and pre-kindergarten programs.

To discourage addictive gambling, the bill would allow bettors to use debit cards only. Betting would be allowed on professional and college sporting events but not high school games.

Committee Chairman Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, thanked Lt. Gov. Burt Jones for helping put together the sports betting measure. As a state senator, Jones introduced sports betting legislation three years ago.

“He’s been a strong advocate for sports betting for a long time,” Beach said.

But Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, objected to sports betting advocates essentially stealing the soap box derby bill for their own purposes. He said passing sports betting that way would set the industry back in Georgia by five years.

“When you hijack a soap box derby and put sports betting on the back of it, every person who was on the fence in Georgia has picked a side of the fence,” Duggan said. “It will not pass on the [Senate] floor.”

Freshman Rep. Leesa Hagan, R-Lyons, the original bill’s chief sponsor, went so far as to ask Beach to remove her bill from the sports betting legislation if the committee was determined to try to push sports betting through the General Assembly that way.

Beach told Hagan he would find another bill moving through the legislature and attach her legislation to it.
The sports betting bill now heads to the Senate Rules Committee to schedule a floor vote.

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

The move to piggyback sports betting on an earlier bill comes late in the session, after legalization proposals in both the House and Senate failed to pass before the deadline to advance to the opposite chamber. The newly amended bill next goes to the Senate for its consideration. If senators approve it, the House would then have to agree to the plan.

Rules allow Georgia lawmakers to completely change a bill. Such a “gut and replace” can bring discarded ideas back to life. Sen. Mike Dugan, a Carrollton Republican, said the move “just set sports betting back five years”

“When you hijack a soapbox derby and put sports betting on the back of it, every person that was on the fence in the state of Georgia has just now picked a side of the fence,” Dugan said. “So I can’t support this.”

But committee Chairman Brandon Beach, an Alpharetta Republican, said the plan was supported by Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, which a spokesperson for Jones confirmed. House Speaker Jon Burns said last week that the issue might not be dead for the year.

Senate Bill 84 by Sen. Chuck Huffstetler (R-Rome) passed the State House and aims to protect seniors from financial exploitation, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The bill, which the Georgia Senate passed last month, authorizes financial advisors to delay transactions involving their elderly or disabled clients if they suspect fraud.

“Georgia has a strong tradition of protecting elders from abuse,” Rep. Carter Barrett, R-Cumming, who carried Senate Bill 84 in the House, told his legislative colleagues during a short discussion before Wednesday’s unanimous vote.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, steered the bill through the Senate, where it also passed unanimously.

The legislation now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp for signing.

Senate Bill 3, the “Reducing Barriers to State Employment Act of 2023” by Sen. John Albers (R-Alpharetta) passed the State House unanimously, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Statesboro Herald.

The “Reducing Barriers to State Employment” bill also requires the Georgia Department of Administrative Services (DOAS) to “insofar as practicable” reduce the number of jobs for which a four-year college degree is necessary. The state could continue to require college degrees or other certifications for jobs that are deemed to require them.

“As you know, both the private and public sector right now are in a war for talent, and we don’t want to place any artificial barriers in their way,” said Rep. Scott Hilton, R-Peachtree Corners, who sponsored the bill in the House.

“We want to make sure that we’re not requiring a four-year degree, advanced degree or certification that does not apply to the [state] job we’re currently hiring for and lose out on the opportunity to have our best and brightest apply for that job.”

The bill, which the state Senate passed last month, now moves to Kemp’s desk for his signature.

Senate Bill 140 by Sen. Carden Summers (R-Cordele), prohibiting some medical procedures for minors, passed on a 96-75 vote of the State House, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Ledger-Enquirer.

Senate Bill 140, which the House passed 96-75 along party lines, would prohibit hospitals and doctors from providing hormone-replacement therapy or gender-affirming surgeries to transgender minors. However, it would allow some gender-related treatment for certain medical conditions and let transgender youths take puberty blockers.

Doctors and hospitals could lose their licenses for providing such care. And earlier this week, a House committee amended the bill to allow doctors to be held civilly and criminally liable for providing hormone-replacement therapy or gender-affirming surgeries to Georgians under 18.

“As legislators we are charged with protecting our most vulnerable population in the state,” said Rep. Josh Bonner, R-Fayetteville, the bill’s House sponsor. “SB 140 does just that by establishing guardrails to ensure that children struggling with identity issues are not rushed into decisions that would alter their bodies forever.”

“Nothing in this bill stops an adult from pursuing a different lifestyle based on their feelings,” said [State Rep. Will] Wade. “We must draw a line for the long-term of children. . . . I believe that childhood is about giving young people time to develop and letting them learn by trial and error, but still protecting them from long-term harms.”

Because the House amended the bill in committee, it now heads back to the Georgia Senate.

From the AJC:

Democratic lawmakers cited guidance from major scientific organizations such as the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization that say medical and surgical care to transition genders is appropriate when properly administered. They encouraged lawmakers not to vote for a bill that goes against best medical practices.

State Rep. Mark Newton, an Augusta Republican and emergency physician, took issue with that, pointing to original guidance from medical organizations that encouraged the prescription of opioids, drugs that led to an epidemic of addiction and overdoses. Guidelines from what Newton called “well-meaning, well-intentioned doctors, pharmacists and scientists have since changed.”

“There were very serious, what we call unintended consequences, actually long-term devastating consequences. Hundreds of thousands of citizens have died related to accidental or intentional overdoses, addictions that may have started with the best intentions,” Newton said, implying that guidance could change concerning gender dysphoria — the distress that comes from feeling you’re one gender when you physically look like another. “The science is still in the early stages of understanding and grappling with the tremendous rise in reports of gender dysphoria.”

After the House vote on final passage, the House voted 97-74 to immediately transmit the legislation to the Senate.


Lowndes County Superintendent Dr. Shawn Haralson will repay the school district $2800 for gas taken from the school bus fuel station, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Valdosta Daily Times acquired video footage, through opens records requests, of Superintendent Dr. Shawn Haralson filling up his pickup truck and an auxiliary tank in the bed of the truck at the fueling station on multiple occasions.

Public records obtained by The Times show Haralson pumped at least $2,800 of gas between July 13, 2022 and Jan. 8, 2023.

In addition to the thousands of dollars of gasoline Haralson took from the fueling station, additional open records requests obtained by The Valdosta Daily Times show he had a routine practice of submitting gasoline receipts from numerous gas stations on his expense report during the same timeframe.

The Lowndes County Board of Education launched a third party investigation in January after the allegations surfaced, hiring counsel to assist with the probe.

After receiving the findings from the investigator, the school board approved a repayment plan for $2,800.

The memorandum said, “Outside counsel did not find credible information supporting the intentional use of system fuel for personal use by the Superintendent.”

In an unrelated case, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on March 8 released a statement that Peach County Fire Chief/EMA Director Jeff Doles was arrested and charged with six counts of financial transaction card fraud and six counts of theft by taking (fiduciary theft). In that unrelated case, on Dec. 5, 2022, the Peach County Sheriff’s Office requested the GBI investigate allegations that Doles used a county fuel card for personal purchases. That case file has been given to the Bibb Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. In that case, Doles is accused of fraudulent charge of about $229. His bond was set at $10,000.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education paused its procurement of some new curricula after a letter from State School Superintendent Richard Woods questioned their plans, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The board unanimously voted to remove the $15 million proposed health curriculum, known as HealthSmart, from its meeting agenda at the beginning of the gathering. It is unclear at this point when the curriculum will be voted on.

The district currently uses an abstinence-focused curriculum called Choosing the Best.

“Local public feedback does not support expansion into a comprehensive sex education program, as advanced by HealthSmart,” said board member Mary Kay Murphy, who made the motion to remove the curriculum from the agenda.

“Today, alone, our school board received more than 300 constituents contacting us to ask us for a delay and re-evaluation of adopting sex ed materials, including the HealthSmart materials.”

The move by the school board to delay a decision came after Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods raised concerns about the proposed curriculum change in a letter to GCPS Superintendent Calvin Watts and Gwinnett school board members on Tuesday. Within 24 hours of the letter being sent, parents who opposed the curriculum change had obtained a copy of it and circulated it on social media.

“Regarding the instruction of sex education, Gwinnett’s current curriculum presents itself to be better aligned with the emphasis on abstinence in accordance with state standards and law, as well as State Board of Education board rule,” Woods said in the letter.

Georgia’s unemployment rate ticked upward in February, according to the Augusta Chronicle via the Savannah Morning News.

The news release noted that unemployment tends to increase from December to January due to seasonal trends. According to the national Bureau of Labor Statistics, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Georgia from January was 3.1%.

State Labor Commissioner Bruce Thompson was optimistic.

“Despite a nationwide pandemic and challenging economic times, continued investments in Georgia’s labor force and thriving business community have kept our economy strong,” he noted in the release.

Gullah-Geechee residents of Sapelo Island want cultural representation on the Sapelo Island Heritage Authority, according to The Brunswick News.

The Sapelo Island Heritage Authority is a five-member, state-appointed body created to facilitate island land transactions with the goal of protecting Black culture on Sapelo Island, where a small community of descendants of people formerly enslaved by Thomas Spalding still live and preserve the Gullah-Geechee culture in Hog Hammock. The authority board is currently made up of the governor as chairman, the commissioner of natural resources as vice chairman, the executive director of the State Properties Commission as secretary, one Hog Hammock resident and formerly enslaved family descendant, and the Commissioner of Human Relations in the governor’s office.

House Bill 273 — authored and introduced by Rep. Buddy DeLoach, R-Townsend, and co-sponsored by Rep. Rick Townsend, R-St. Simons Island, Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, and Rep. Al Williams, D-Liberty County — seeks to add an additional Hog Hammock resident to serve on the authority’s board, removes the commissioner of human relations from the board, makes the commissioner of the DNR the chairman, and allows the governor to appoint someone to serve in his stead as vice chairman.

The Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society, or SICARS; The Hog Hammock Community Foundation; and Save Our Legacy Ourselves, or SOLO … want to ensure that, if the bill passes, the two Hog Hammock resident members of the board will be descendants of the 44 formerly enslaved families who still live there, not just anyone who has built a home in the community and moved there. They also want language in the bill to ensure that the governor’s appointee to serve as vice chairman be an elected official or state official so that person can be held accountable for their actions on the board.

The Senate committee decided unanimously on Wednesday to approve a change in the bill to specify that the authority board members be “two resident descendants of the community of Hog Hammock.” A definition of descendants will be added to the bill.

Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill (D) has appealed his conviction for violating the civil rights of prisoners, according to the AJC.

Federal prosecutors indicted Hill on charges that he violated the civil rights to seven detainees by ordering them strapped to restraint chairs for hours, even though they were not of harm to themselves or others. The jury found Hill guilty on all but one count.

Hill’s attorney, Drew Findling, said after Tuesday’s sentencing that he would appeal the former sheriff’s conviction on several grounds.

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