Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 28, 2023

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Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 28, 2023

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.

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

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.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Outdoor Adventures in Smyrna was inspected by ATF days before hosting Florida Man Governor Ron DeSantis. From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began an inspection Friday of Adventure Outdoors, the sprawling gun store and shooting range on South Cobb Drive.

“We feel like we’re being targeted by big government. … It just seems to be textbook for government overreach, you’re sending in 16 investigators to a family-owned business that’s had a good relationship with the ATF and the local community for 40-plus years,” said Eric Wallace, the store’s manager.

The ATF said the store was randomly selected for a routine inspection, which all federal firearm licensees undergo. The inspection entails looking over records and conducting inventory.

“They are not in trouble,” said Nathan Banks, a spokesman for the ATF’s Atlanta field division “… This happens to all the federal firearm licensees, they all get inspected in some form or fashion. We don’t have a time that we do it, and we don’t have to announce it.”

Eric Wallace said he called U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, Saturday to tell him about the inspection. The congressman then brought the other three representatives with him.

Loudermilk showed up Monday along with Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rich McCormick and Mike Collins.

“This visit was unprecedented,” Greene wrote on social media. “The sheer amount of agents from the bluest parts of the country is unusual and unnecessary to conduct a routine audit.”

“This is a prime example of Joe Biden and the Democrats weaponizing federal agencies to silence and intimidate their political opponents.”

On Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is widely speculated to run for president in 2024, will hold an event there.

Governor Brian Kemp toured parts of Georgia hit by storms, according to WSAV.

Gov. Brian Kemp visited Troup County after a line of severe weather tore through the western half of the state Sunday morning.

Gov. Kemp provided an update Monday afternoon on the storm damage sustained in Troup, Meriweather, Pike, Spaulding and Baldwin counties.

“When you view the damage that’s all around us and the location we are, we have not had a fatality,” the governor said.

“From a state perspective, we took a lot of action very quickly,” Kemp said. “We did a State of Emergency within hours of the tornado touching down.”

From WTVM:

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp confirmed an EF-3 tornado was responsible for the damage left behind in West Point on Sunday.

Gov. Kemp arrived in Troup County on Monday afternoon around 4PM. He addressed reporters after surveying the damage.

“This situation is continuing to evolve due to the flooding with the heavy rains today. We’re going to continue working to clear roads and then we’ll come back to do more assessment and more clean ups, but our main priority is clearing roads and getting routes clear for the power companies,” said Gov. Kemp.

Gov. Kemp said state troopers are helping with traffic control, and the sheriff and his team are also on duty along with The Department of Transportation, Department of Natural Resources, and other agencies. The Army Corp of Engineers is also assisting in West Point.

Legislators passed Senate Bill 92 by Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), creating the Prosecuting Attorneys Oversight Commission, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The Republican-backed Senate Bill 92 passed in the Georgia House of Representatives 97-77 over the objections of House Democrats that the measure both isn’t needed and is being driven by politics. The state Senate followed suit a few hours later, giving the bill final passage 32-24.

The legislation, which now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk, would create the Prosecuting Attorneys Oversight Commission, an eight-member board that would investigate complaints lodged against prosecutors and hold hearings.

The panel would have the power to discipline or remove prosecutors on a variety of grounds including mental or physical incapacity, willful misconduct or failure to perform the duties of the office, conviction of a crime of moral turpitude, or conduct that brings the office into disrepute.

“This bill was brought because we have district attorneys who are not doing their jobs,” said state Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens.

Rep. Matt Reeves, R-Duluth, said the current remedies to remove prosecutors are difficult to pursue. For example, the state bar isn’t equipped for the types of investigations that would be required of a district attorney who is the subject of a complaint, he said.

“We don’t want to have prosecutorial veto of the laws we enact,” he said.

From the AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp could soon sign a measure to create a state board with powers to investigate, punish or even oust local district attorneys as Republicans seek sweeping oversight over prosecutors they accuse of skirting their duties.

The House voted 97-77 on Monday to approve legislation to create the panel, and the Senate is poised to follow suit. Kemp and other GOP leaders have advocated for the bill to sanction “rogue prosecutors” they see as ineffective or inept.

“Whether intended or not, the majority of the world” will see it as a reaction to the investigation of Trump, said state Rep. Tanya Miller, an Atlanta Democrat and former prosecutor. She called it a “power grab by the majority to usurp the will of the voters.”

The measure is expected to soon become law. Kemp and Lt. Gov. Burt Jones have both endorsed the idea, and nearly two dozen prosecutors recently signed a letter backing the creation of the panel.

Under the measure, members of a newly created five-member commission would be charged with investigating complaints and bringing formal charges. A three-member hearing panel has authority to issue disciplinary orders and advisory opinions.

The panel would be empowered to investigate and punish the state’s 50 district attorneys and solicitors general for a range of violations. It wouldn’t take effect until April 2024 and couldn’t consider a complaint until at least July 2025.

Senate Bil 107, “Izzy’s Law” by Sen. Max Burns (R-Sylvania) passed the House and heads to Gov. Kemp for signature, according to WRDW.

The bill, which passed Monday in the House after previously being approved nearly unanimously in the Senate, calls for more restrictions and guidance for private swim lessons.

Georgia does not have many regulations on private swim lessons or instructors. Getting this bill signed into law is a top priority for several lawmakers.

Izzy’s Law would require the Department of Public Health to develop a widely accessible and downloadable safety plan for aquatic activities based on the standards for nationally accredited swim instructors.

“I am proud of my Senate colleagues for passing Izzy’s Law,” Burns said. “This bill is incredibly important to me, as I have worked closely with Izzy’s family through every step of the legislative process.”

Senate Bill 233 by Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Forsyth County), called “The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act,” was tabled in the House, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Ledger-Enquirer.

Legislation providing private-school vouchers to Georgia students attending low-performing public schools is struggling to get through the General Assembly in the final days of this year’s session.

After a lengthy debate late Thursday, the state House of Representatives tabled a bill that would create $6,500 vouchers for Georgia students.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones, R-Milton, moved to table Senate Bill 233, likely because it did not have the votes to pass.

The House voted 95-70 in favor of the motion, with many Democrats voting against putting off a vote on the measure. That leaves just two legislative days – Monday and Wednesday – to get the bill passed.

Senate Bill 146 by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) sets new rules for electrical vehicle charging, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Athens Banner Herald.

The state House of Representatives voted 175-1 in favor of the bill, which included significant changes from the version of the legislation the Senate passed three weeks ago. The Senate then agreed to the House changes a few hours later Monday in a 51-4 vote.

Senate Bill 146 changes the way motorists charging their EVs will pay for the electricity they buy from the current system, which is based on the length of time a customer uses an EV charger. Instead, they will pay by the kilowatt hour, a federal requirement Georgia must meet to be eligible for $135 million in federal funds earmarked by Congress to build a network of charging stations across the state.

The biggest change the House made to the legislation reduces the tax rate motorists will pay when they charge their EVs. The final version of the legislation imposes a tax of 2.84 cents per kilowatt hour, down from 3.47 cents, as lawmakers responded to complaints that Georgia was poised to charge the highest excise tax on EVs in the nation.

The excise tax at charging stations is necessary to capture tax revenue from out-of-state motorists traveling through Georgia, Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, said Monday.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure people driving a gasoline-powered car are paying the same rate as someone driving an electric vehicle, and vice versa,” added Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, the bill’s chief sponsor.

The legislation now heads to Kemp’s desk for signing.

Senate Bill 93 by Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R-Paulding) bans TikTok from most state-owned devices, and heads to Gov. Kemp for his signature, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle.

“Hopefully, we will see the federal government and other states follow Georgia’s lead,” said Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas, the bill’s sponsor.

Senate Bill 93 would codify into state law Gov. Brian Kemp’s directive last year prohibiting the use of TikTok, a highly popular video hosting service that runs user-submitted videos, and other similar applications on state-owned devices.

TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, Byte Dance, and there is concern that its ties to the Chinese government could expose sensitive state data to a foreign government.

However, the bill provides exceptions for law-enforcement investigations, cybersecurity research and for other governmental purposes.

Georgia joins at least 25 other states that have banned TikTok on state-owned devices.

Senate Bill 222 by Sen. Max Burns (R-Sylvania) bans “Zuckerbucks” from local election administration, according to the AJC.

The Georgia House voted late Monday to prohibit donations to county election offices, a Republican response to outside money that flowed primarily to Democratic areas.

The bill passed the state House along party lines 100-69, and it will head to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature if the state Senate agrees before the General Assembly adjourns for the year Wednesday. The Senate previously passed a similar version of the measure.

Before the House vote, the Rules Committee amended the bill so that it’s no longer backdated to Jan. 1, a provision that would have required DeKalb to return its $2 million grant. A retroactive law could have been challenged in court since it was legal for DeKalb to receive the money at the time.

The law would go into effect when Kemp signs the bill.

Legislators confirmed the election of William Duffey as Chair of the State Elections Board, according to the AJC.

William Duffey has served as chair of the board since Gov. Brian Kemp appointed him to the post in June. The appointment was subject to approval by state lawmakers.

The House approved Duffey by a vote of 173-0 on Monday. The Senate approved his appointment a short while later by a vote of 53-0.

Kemp’s appointment followed the General Assembly’s 2021 decision to remove Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as chairman of the board.

Duffey was a judge for the U.S. District Court in Atlanta from 2004 until his retirement in 2018. He previously was the U.S. attorney in Atlanta.

Fifty-three thousand dollars missing from the Burke County Sheriff’s Office for years has been found, according to WRDW.

Questions are mounting about more than $50,000 missing for more than six years from the Burke County Sheriff’s Office and specifically, its top leader, Sheriff Alfonzo Williams.

The county attorney told the I-TEAM, who says this was not only improper, it threatens public trust and potentially tax-payer funding for law enforcement.

We’ve confirmed the missing money, close to $53,000 is now deposited where it was supposed to be all along into a bank account. But the investigation is not over. And so far, there is no official word on where it’s been for all of Alfonzo Williams’ tenure as sheriff.

Questions are mounting about if policies and procedures were followed to the letter of the law with the Burke County Sheriff’s Office, especially when it comes to $53,000 given to Sheriff Williams from former Sheriff Greg Coursey’s office when he retired.

Two members of Pooler City Council are running for Mayor, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Two Pooler council members, longtimer Stevie Wall and newcomer Karen Williams, are campaigning for the city’s top post. Wall launched his bid last week while Williams plans to announce in April. Incumbent Mayor Rebecca Benton has not disclosed plans for re-election but is serving just her first term in a seat that has historically been held for multiple terms by mayors such as Buddy Carter and Mike Lamb.

Albany and Dougherty County are planning to celebrate Juneteenth, according to the Albany Herald.

This year, both the City of Albany and Dougherty County will join forces to educate the community on the history of Juneteenth.

“It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of providing that program for the community last year,” Michael McCoy, county administrator, said. “And the city and the county joined together this year to provide that program. And it will start in April through June. An activity each month leading up to the Juneteenth celebration.”

“Most people that are from Texas are very familiar with the holiday, as well as other parts of the country,” McCoy said. “But last year when it was turned into a federal holiday then everyone became familiar or at least introduced to Juneteenth and what happened in 1865. So it’s very, very important to continue educating the public on the event that occurred in 186 in Galveston, Texas.”

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