Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 26, 2021


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 26, 2021

On March 26, 1734, the British House of Commons voted for spending £10,000 to subsidize the Georgia colony, down from £26,000 the previous year.

The British Parliament enacted The Coercive Acts on March 28, 1774.

The Coercive Acts were a series of four acts established by the British government. The aim of the legislation was to restore order in Massachusetts and punish Bostonians for their Tea Party, in which members of the revolutionary-minded Sons of Liberty boarded three British tea ships in Boston Harbor and dumped 342 crates of tea—nearly $1 million worth in today’s money—into the water to protest the Tea Act.

Passed in response to the Americans’ disobedience, the Coercive Acts included:

The Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until damages from the Boston Tea Party were paid.

The Massachusetts Government Act, which restricted Massachusetts; democratic town meetings and turned the governor’s council into an appointed body.

The Administration of Justice Act, which made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in Massachusetts.

The Quartering Act, which required colonists to house and quarter British troops on demand, including in their private homes as a last resort.

Thomas Jefferson was elected as a Virginia delegate to the Second Continental Congress on March 27, 1775.

Colonel James Fannin, a Georgia native and Colonel in the Texas Regular Army and more than 300 other members of the Georgia battalion were executed on March 27, 1836 after surrendering to Santa Anna’s Mexican Army. Fannin County, Georgia is named after Col Fannin.

On March 27, 1912, the first Japanese cherry trees were planted on the northern bank of the Potomac River near the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.

On March 26, 1920, This Side of Paradise, the debut novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald was published. The author was 23 years old.

On March 27, 1941, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed legislation outlawing the handling of venomous snakes in such a way as to endanger another person or to encourage another person to handle a snake in such a way as to endanger them. The legislation resulted from a six-year old handling a venomous snake during a church service in Adel, Georgia, during which she was bitten and died. Under that act you could still handle snakes yourself as long as you didn’t endanger someone else.

On March 27, 1947, Governor Melvin Thompson signed legislation that made Georgia a “Right to Work State,” meaning that employees cannot generally be forced to join a union or pay dues in order to take a job. On the same day, gambling on sporting events was outlawed by another bill signed by Gov. Thompson.

Governor Ernest Vandiver signed legislation on March 28, 1961 authorizing the construction of monuments to Georgians killed in battle at the Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields.

Identical 15 1/2-foot-tall monuments of Georgia blue granite were sculpted by Harry Sellers of Marietta Memorials. At the top of the shaft is the word “GEORGIA” over the state seal. Lower on the shaft is the inscription, “Georgia Confederate Soldiers, We sleep here in obedience; When duty called, we came; When Countdry called, we died.”

Georgia’s first “Sunshine Law” requiring open meetings of most state boards and commissions, was signed by Governor Jimmy Carter on March 28, 1972.

A nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania overheated on March 28, 1979 and within days radiation levels had risen in a four county area. It was the most serious accident in commercial nuclear history in the United States.

On March 26, 1982, a groundbreaking ceremony was held in Washington, DC for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; the design approved a couple weeks earlier was by 21-year old Yale architecture student Maya Lin.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections


10:00 AM Senate Rules – 450 CAP
11:30 AM Senate Legislative Services – 450 CAP

Gov Kemp Tweet Sign SB202

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday signed Senate Bill 202, the broad omnibus election reform bill, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The bitter battles over election legislation spurred by the 2020 election came to fruition on Thursday when lawmakers voted in favor of passing Senate Bill 202 which outlines nearly 100 pages of new voting rules. Changes opponents say would harm and disenfranchise voters.

The measure passed along a party-line vote in both the House and Senate.

Gov. Brian Kemp moved swiftly to sign the bill not long after it passed which he called a step “toward ensuring our elections are secure, accessible and fair.”

“After the November election last year, I knew like, so many of you, that significant reforms to our state elections were needed,” he said. “There’s no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled, and those problems, understandably led to the crisis of confidence.”

“The bill greatly expands accessibility of voters in Georgia and greatly improves the process of administration of elections, while at the same time providing more accountability to ensure the integrity of the vote is properly preserved,” said Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, who led voting bills in the House.

From the Associated Press via the Savannah Morning News:

Among highlights, the bill would require a photo ID in order to vote absentee by mail, after more than 1.3 million Georgia voters used that option during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also would cut the time period people have to request an absentee ballot and limit where ballot drop boxes can be placed and when they can be accessed.

Republican Rep. Jan Jones said the provisions cutting the time people have to request an absentee ballot are meant to “increase the likelihood of a voter’s vote being cast successfully,” after concerns were raised in 2020 about mail ballots not being received by counties in time to be counted.

The bill would replace the elected secretary of state as the chair of the state election board with a new appointee of the legislature after Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger rebuffed Trump’s attempts to overturn Georgia’s election results. It would also allow the board to remove and replace county election officials deemed to be underperforming.

The bill also reduces the timeframe in which runoff elections are held, including the amount of early voting for runoffs. And it would bar outside groups from handing out food or water to people standing in line to vote.

During the rally, Bishop Reginald Jackson of the African Methodist Episcopal Church called for a boycott of Coca-Cola Co. products.

Jackson, who leads more than 400 churches across Georgia, said the Atlanta-based soft drink company had failed to live up to the commitments it made last year to support the Black Lives Matter movement by not forcefully opposing the voting bills being pushed by Republicans.

“We took them at his word,” he said of Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey. “Now, when they try to pass this racist legislation, we can’t get him to say anything.”

Jackson said boycotts were also possible against other large Atlanta companies, such as Delta Air Lines and Home Depot.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Macon Telegraph:

The bill also dropped a prior effort by Republican state lawmakers to shrink early voting on Sundays in Georgia. It instead would require two Saturdays of early voting and give counties the option to hold poll hours on two Sundays.

Among the bill’s most contentious changes to survive final passage is a requirement that registered Georgia voters provide the number on their driver’s license or state ID card to request and cast absentee ballots. If they do not have those ID forms, voters instead would have to send in a copy of their passport, employee ID card, utility bill or bank statement.

“Our goal is to ensure election integrity and to restore or confirm confidence in the election process,” [State Senator Max] Burns [R-Sylvania] said from the Senate floor shortly before the bill’s passage.

Speaking from the House floor Thursday, Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, who has spearheaded the push for election changes in the House, framed the bill as an expansion of voter access and tighter oversight of local election officials as he presented the bill before the vote.

“The bill greatly expands accessibility of voters in Georgia and greatly improves the process of administration of elections, while at the same time providing more accountability to ensure the integrity that the vote is properly preserved,” said Fleming, who chairs the House Special Committee on Election Integrity.

Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, the legislature’s longest-serving member, said earlier this week Democrats will continue to oppose the bills even with some concessions such as ditching the repeal on no-excuse absentee voting and more weekend poll hours.

“As state legislators, our aim is to ensure that all voters, particularly voters of color, have full, meaningful and non-burdensome access to the one fundamental right, and that is the preservation of all other rights, and that is the right to vote,” Smyre said.

From 13WMAZ in Macon:

The law gives the State Elections Board powers such as letting them replace local election officials.

It will also give the State Board the ability to take over local elections boards if the state determines they’re underperforming.

Rep. Barry Fleming said on the House floor Thursday that the state intervention would mirror the oversight for school systems.

“If there’s a school system that’s about to lose their accreditation and their kids can’t even get into college with the diplomas from that school system, there’s provision in our law where after due process, changes can be made to get those school systems back on track. It’s a temporary fix, so to speak,” Fleming said.

Under the law, county commissioners or a certain number of state legislators could request a performance review of local election officials. The State Election Board could also create an independent performance review board.

According to the law, the State Board of Elections can suspend up to four local election board superintendents at a time. The law says the state would temporarily replace the local superintendent with a single appointee to run county elections.

Mayor Pro Tem Seth Clark proposed a resolution in Macon-Bibb County’s commission on Tuesday, asking the local delegation to strip that portion of the bill and also asking the Governor to veto the bill. An amended version passed committee 7 to 2.

State Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) was arrested after banging on the doors to the Governor’s office, according to the Associated Press via the Valdosta Daily Times.

Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon, who is Black, was arrested by Capitol police amid a protest after knocking on the door of the governor’s office during his remarks.

Video captured by a bystander shows Cannon, who is handcuffed with her arms behind her back, being forcibly removed from the Capitol by two officers, one on each arm. She says “where are you taking me?” and “stop” as she is taken from the building.

Cannon was charged with felony obstruction of law enforcement, punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison, and with disrupting a session of the General Assembly. She was being held at the Fulton County jail, said an email from a Georgia State Patrol spokesperson, Lieut. W. Mark Riley.

From the AJC:

The officers forcibly removed Cannon, a Democrat from Atlanta, dragging her through the Capitol and pushing her into a police car. She was charged with obstruction of law enforcement and disrupting General Assembly sessions, according to the Georgia State Patrol and released on bond late Thursday.

“She was advised that she was disturbing what was going on inside and if she did not stop, she would be placed under arrest,” said GSP spokesman Lt. W. Mark Riley. “Rep. Cannon refused to stop knocking on the door.”

Court documents show she was charged with “knowingly and intentionally” knocking on the governor’s door during a bill signing and stomping on Officer L.T. Langford’s foot three times “during the apprehension and as she was being escorted out of the property.”

“The accused continued kicking on LT Langford with her heels,” according to the arrest warrant.

The Georgia Constitution says legislators are “free from arrest during sessions of the General Assembly” except for charges of treason, felonies or breach of the peace.

During a 2018 special legislative session, then-state Sen. Nikema Williams was arrested during a protest urging officials to tally all absentee and provisional ballots before declaring Republican Brian Kemp the winner in a close election for governor.

From the AP via AccessWDUN:

Democrats and voting rights groups say the law will disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color. It is one of a wave of GOP-backed election bills introduced in states around the country after former President Donald Trump stoked false claims that fraud led to his 2020 election defeat.

President Joe Biden called such GOP efforts “un-American” and “sick” during a news conference Thursday. And a group of voter mobilization groups filed a lawsuit late Thursday in federal court in Atlanta challenging the new law.

The Republican changes to voting law in Georgia follows record-breaking turnout that led to Democratic victories in the presidential contest and two U.S. Senate runoffs in the once reliably red state.

“The Republican voters I know find this despicable, Republican voters, the folks outside this White House. I’m not talking about the elected officials. I’m talking about voters.” Biden said.

From the Washington Post:

The new law imposes new identification requirements for those casting ballots by mail; curtails the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots; allows electors to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters and requires counties to hold hearings on such challenges within 10 days; makes it a crime for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters standing in line; blocks the use of mobile voting vans, as Fulton County did last year after purchasing two vehicles at a cost of more than $700,000; and prevents local governments from directly accepting grants from the private sector.

“Contrary to the hyper-partisan rhetoric you may have heard inside and outside this gold dome, the facts are that this new law will expand voting access in the Peach State,” the governor added, noting that every county in Georgia will now have expanded early voting on the weekends.

President Biden on Thursday blasted efforts by Republican-led state legislatures across the country to restrict voting rights, saying he was worried about “how un-American this whole initiative is.”

“This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle,” Biden said, emphasizing he would do “everything in my power” to pass legislation to protect voting rights.

From the New York Times:

The governor, who is up for re-election in 2022 and was heavily criticized by Donald J. Trump after the election for not abetting the former president’s effort to subvert the outcome, detailed his own history as a secretary of state fighting for stronger voter identification laws, which Democrats have denounced as having an outsize impact on communities of color. Mr. Kemp said that protests against the bill were pure politics.

“I fought these partisan activists tooth and nail for over 10 years to keep our elections secure, accessible and fair,” Mr. Kemp said.

From Newsweek:

Abrams said that she expected Senate Bill 202 to be quickly passed and signed to “avoid actual analysis” and “public awareness” that it “hurts voters of color, increases taxes on struggling families & steals power from local governments” in a tweet hours before the bill became law.

“In my 11 years in the legislature, I never saw a bill approved at such speed. This wasn’t efficiency. Republicans want to hide their shameful actions from public scrutiny. Instead, they will see sunlight and legal action,” Abrams added on Twitter after Kemp signed the bill. “Now more than ever, we need federal action to protect voting rights as we continue to fight against these blatantly unconstitutional efforts that are nothing less than Jim Crow 2.0.”

House Bill 146 by State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) would make some state employees and teachers eligible for paid family leave and passed the Senate in amended form, according to the Associated Press via the Statesboro Herald.

The Senate voted 52-0 for House Bill 146 on Thursday. Because the Senate made changes, the bill goes back to the House. If the House agrees, the bill will go to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature or veto. If the House disagrees, the Senate and House must work out differences.

Nearly 250,000 employees of state agencies, universities and K-12 schools would be eligible for the leave after the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.

Both mothers and fathers could use the leave. An employee would qualify after six months of continuous employment with a government agency, college or school.

The measure does not cover leave to care for sick family members or for personal medical problems. It also doesn’t cover private employers.

Georgia State House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) said the legislature will look at recent crime issues in the City of Atlanta, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, on Thursday called for a General Assembly panel to study Atlanta’s crime problem over the summer and decide whether “state intervention may be necessary.”

“In the past I have resisted calls for state oversight of a city’s operations,” Ralston said at a news conference. “But this pandemic of lawlessness has now reached crisis proportions.”

Ralston informed Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of the legislature’s intentions in a letter sent Thursday. Bottoms’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ralston’s announcement comes in the wake of mass shootings at three metro-Atlanta spas that left eight people dead earlier this month. Those murders are on top of a total of 24 people killed in homicides so far this year in Atlanta through March 13, up 41% from the same time last year.

Atlanta saw 157 murders in 2020, marking a steep increase from previous years. Assaults and auto thefts are also on the rise, contributing to a crime situation in Atlanta that Ralston said the city “doesn’t seem to be able to bring under control.”

From the Associated Press via the Rome News Tribune:

“Atlanta has a crime problem, and it doesn’t seem to be able to bring it under control,” Ralston told reporters. “Sadly, the facts paint a chilling reality. Not only is crime on the rise in every corner of this city, but we are losing the fight against crime.”

The speaker, a Republican from Blue Ridge, said he would brief Gov. Brian Kemp on his plans later Thursday. A spokesperson for Kemp didn’t immediately respond as to whether the Republican governor favors any possible intervention.

Ralston said Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee Chairman J. Collins, a Villa Rica Republican, would lead the effort.

Aggravated assaults, which can include nonfatal shootings, have also risen significantly, although not as sharply as homicides. Although Ralston also deplored break-ins in his remarks, burglary and auto break-ins are down in recent months, although auto theft is up.

“We’ve got an outstanding Georgia State Patrol here in the state,” he said. “You know we may have to talk about resources, I mean, there’s any number of forms that this could take.”

Republican Attorney General Chris Carr said he would support the House study, blaming gang activity for “unchecked violent crime” and a lack of support for police for problems in recruiting and retaining officers.

The Georgia Department of Labor says that unemployment claims are at their lowest level since March 2020, according to 13WMAZ.

From the AJC:

Georgia’s economy in February added jobs and cut unemployment, but at such a sluggish pace that it would take more than a year to reach pre-pandemic employment levels, state officials said Thursday.

“We should be able to get back to a pre-pandemic unemployment rate by the end of the year,” said Heather Boushey, a member of President Joe Biden’s Council of Economic Advisors, in a conference call with Georgia reporters last week.

Georgia added just 1,700 jobs last month after losing jobs in January, the Department of Labor said Thursday. The unemployment rate dipped from 5.1% in January to 4.8%, which is less than half the jobless rate during the massive layoffs following the pandemic-triggered shutdowns last spring.

The state in February had 213,600 fewer jobs than a year earlier, the last month before the pandemic. But since May, Georgia has added back 392,800 jobs, according to Mark Butler, the state’s labor commissioner.

“As Georgians return to the workforce and businesses continue to hire, we can look forward to steady economic growth across the state,” he said.

United States Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Extreme Northwest GA) held a town hall meeting in Chatsworth, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, entered the Cloer Barn in Chatsworth Wednesday night to raucous cheers and a standing ovation from a crowd of about 80. Some two hours later, Greene ended the event to an equally enthusiastic standing ovation from the near-capacity crowd.

“The southern border is in crisis,” said Greene, who blasted President Joe Biden for the surge in people, especially minors, crossing the border. Some 13,000 minors who crossed the border unaccompanied by an adult are now in custody, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Greene touted the Protect America First Act, a bill she has introduced that she said would impose a four-year moratorium on all immigration, make it easier to deport illegal aliens, complete the “big, beautiful” wall along the Mexican border started by former President Donald Trump and name it after Trump.

Comments from several audience members indicated that, four months later, they still haven’t come to terms with Trump’s loss to Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Biden won by 81.3 million votes and 306 votes in the Electoral College to Trump’s 74.2 million votes and 232 electoral votes. Greene received several questions about Dominion Voting Systems voting machines, which were used in 28 states including Georgia.

Rep. Greene also has agreed not to block critics on her Twitter account, according to the Associated Press via the Rome News Tribune.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and a Los Angeles-based political action committee have reached a settlement that bars the Georgia Republican from blocking anyone from her public Twitter account or other social media while she’s in office.

Greene was acidly critical of the settlement in a tweet.

“Because of this PAC’s frivolous lawsuit against me, I’m not allowed to block people that threaten my life and my children’s lives every single day on social media,” she tweeted. “And they are bragging about donating the money to organizations that want to take away my guns, so I couldn’t defend myself and my children, when people show up to murder us.”

MeidasTouch sued Greene in February, contending that she violated its First Amendment rights by blocking it from one of her Twitter accounts after the PAC posted critical comments.

Although it wasn’t her formal congressional Twitter account, MeidasTouch said Greene uses it as a “de facto” official account, sharing her positions and doing fundraising drives. The postings generate thousands of replies, according to the lawsuit, which calls it “a kind of virtual town hall in which Greene and her aides use the tweet function to communicate news and information … and members of the public use the reply function to respond.”

State Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia) was elected to the Georgia DOT Board and announced he will resign, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

In a news release, Morris simultaneously announced his retirement from the state House, where he’d served since 1998. He was unopposed for reelection last year.

Morris was elected by the 25 house members from the 12th Congressional District, which includes Augusta but runs as far south as Douglas, Ga. A term on the board lasts five years.

Grantham, a former Augusta Commissioner who stepped down from the transportation board to serve on the Georgia Ports Authority, said he was not pleased with area legislators favoring the transportation board candidate from outside the Augusta area.

“Augusta being the population center that it is and the one that passed TIA, to select one from another part of the district, I did not support that,” he said.

The State Transportation Board oversees GDOT and names the department’s commissioner, designates which roads are part of the state highway system, approves long-range plans and leases and oversees administration of construction contracts.

It’s not clear whether Morris made his resignation effective immediately, after the end of the Session, or some other date.

Richmond County Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick announced he will run for Mayor of Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Kendrick joins the only other announced mayoral candidate, Augusta Commissioner Dennis Williams, in pursuit of the seat held by Mayor Hardie Davis for six years.

Augusta mayors are limited to two consecutive terms, and the opening is scheduled to appear on the May 24, 2022, ballot. Mid-year elections are held because the state of Georgia moved nonpartisan elections of consolidated governments from November to mid-year. Newly-elected officials wait six months or more until their terms start.

Fulton County says clearing the court system of a COVID-19 backlog will cost $60 million dollars, according to the AJC.

Fulton’s courts will face a backlog of roughly 10,000 criminal cases and an unknown amount of civil cases — a logjam that dwarfs other Metro Atlanta counties.

Those who lead the judicial system in Georgia’s most-populated county are currently creating a plan, but Fulton County Manager Dick Anderson said the best estimate is that it will take 36 months and cost at least $60 million to solve the problem.

The money will come from the $200 million recently sent to Fulton in federal stimulus funds to address the coronavirus pandemic.

That $60 million will be split among prosecutors, public defenders, the sheriff’s office, judges, the chief clerk and other agencies that make criminal justice run, said Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Christopher Brasher. He said he thinks the entire system will need 250 total additional staff to expedite the cases.

Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis said her next step is giving the Fulton County Commission a budget. Willis said she’s going to need 30 to 35 more attorneys (at a median salary of $80,000 per year) along with 15 investigators and 15 legal assistants. Then she said she’ll need 25 offices, which will mean putting cubicles in filing rooms. She hopes bench trials, conducted without a jury, will help clear the pile-up.

Willis estimates her backlog operation alone will require $15 million a year — on the low end.

The district attorney for Gwinnett County, which like Fulton boasts roughly 1 million residents, said they have a buildup of 700 criminal cases.

Harris County public schools have vaccinated more than 200 employees in special clinics, according to WTVM.

The Harris County School District partnered with the West Central Health District to administer the vaccines. Pamela Kirkland with the health district says she hopes this helps build confidence in schools moving forward.

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