Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 3, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 3, 2023

On March 5, 1735, James Oglethorpe presented a budget to the trustees of Georgia and proposed seeking an appropriation from Parliament, thus beginning the addiction of the Georgia government to Other People’s Money.

On March 4, 1762, legislation was passed by the Georgia General Assembly requiring church attendance on Sundays.

On March 3, 1779, the British Army met America forces in Screven County, Georgia.

On March 3, 1779, 238 years ago [] , the first major battle of the British Army’s push into the American South took place at Brier Creek at the old road between Savannah and Augusta. According to Battle and President of the Brier Creek Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution Craig Wildi, the American loss resulted in the deaths of at least 200 patriots.

Studies done by Battle in conjunction with other professional organizations have uncovered evidence that some of Georgia’s soldiers who lost their lives in the fight for independence may still lie in graves at the battle site.

“This was the 16th bloodiest of all battle sites throughout the Revolutionary War,” Battle said. “We found so many artifacts under our original permit, Georgia DNR (Department of natural Resources) shut the study down.”

The land around the battle site is public, managed by Georgia DNR as part of the Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area. The wildlife management area is about 15,000 acres. Battle and Wildi said they want 500-600 acres set aside to fully study the site, but said DNR hasn’t been willing to dedicate more than about five acres for site preservation and management.

Last year, the Sons of the American Revolution held a commemorative event to place flags in honor of those who died at the battlefield. Because the event was hosted by a non-profit organization, Wildi said Georgia DNR waived the requirements for certain liability insurance policies and other fees for group events. This year, he said they are requiring the group to pay for those requirements; payments the small non-profit says it can’t afford.

During the surveys for and original push for the Palmetto Pipeline, bulldozers and other equipment were brought onto the site to widen roads across it inside the wildlife management area. The proposed pipeline map originally had the right of way slated to cross the battlefield. While both said they were relieved the pipeline was stopped, they say other challenges remain in saving the site.

Note that story above was from the Augusta Chronicle and published in 2017. The Brier Creek Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution can be found on the internet and on Facebook.

The first Session of the United States Congress was held on March 4, 1789 at Federal Hall in New York City. Congress would not have a quorum for another month.`

On March 2, 1807, the Congress passed legislation outlawing the importation of slaves from Africa or anywhere outside the United States.

On March 3, 1820, Congress passed the Missouri Compromise.

In February 1819, Representative James Tallmadge of New York introduced a bill that would admit Missouri into the Union as a state where slavery was prohibited. At the time, there were 11 free states and 10 slave states. Southern congressmen feared that the entrance of Missouri as a free state would upset the balance of power between North and South, as the North far outdistanced the South in population, and thus, U.S. representatives. Opponents to the bill also questioned the congressional precedent of prohibiting the expansion of slavery into a territory where slave status was favored.

Even after Alabama was granted statehood in December 1819 with no prohibition on its practice of slavery, Congress remained deadlocked on the issue of Missouri. Finally, a compromise was reached. On March 3, 1820, Congress passed a bill granting Missouri statehood as a slave state under the condition that slavery was to be forever prohibited in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase north of the 36th parallel, which runs approximately along the southern border of Missouri. In addition, Maine, formerly part of Massachusetts, was admitted as a free state, thus preserving the balance between Northern and Southern senators.

The Missouri Compromise, although criticized by many on both sides of the slavery debate, succeeded in keeping the Union together for more than 30 years.

On March 2, 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico.

Texas Flag 1836-39

On March 3, 1845, Congress overrode a Presidential veto for the first time.

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as President of the United States.

In his inaugural address, Lincoln promised not to interfere with the institution of slavery where it existed, and pledged to suspend the activities of the federal government temporarily in areas of hostility. However, he also took a firm stance against secession and the seizure of federal property. The government, insisted Lincoln, would “hold, occupy, and possess” its property and collect its taxes. He closed his remarks with an eloquent reminder of the nation’s common heritage:

“In your hand, my fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect, and defend it… We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Also on March 4, 1861, the Confederate Congress adopted a first national flag.

Confederate 1st National Flag 1

This flag is depicted with varying numbers of stars – originally adopted with seven stars, by December 1861, a version with thirteen stars was flying.

Confederate 1st National Flag 2

The United States Congress passed the first Reconstruction Act on March 2, 1867.

On March 5, 1869, the United States Congress refused to seat Georgia’s elected members of the House and Senate.

On March 2, 1874, Gov. Smith signed legislation allowing anyone fined for a criminal conviction to arrange for a third party to pay the fine in exchange for the convict’s labor.

On March 3, 1874, Governor Joseph Brown signed legislation permitting persons or companies to lease Georgia prisoners for terms from one to five years, with the Governor setting the rates.

The act required the humane treatment of convicts and limited them to a ten-hour work day, with Sunday off. Equally important, leases had to free the state from all costs associated with prisoner maintenance. Once all state convicts were leased, the law provided that all state penitentiary officers and employees be discharged.

Just think of how much progress Georgia has made with privatizing the justice system — now, instead of leasing convicts, we have private probation companies overseeing released prisoners.

On March 2, 1950, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the beginning of construction of Buford Dam, which would create Lake Lanier.

Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis were married on March 4, 1952 in Los Angeles, California.

Herschel Walker was born March 3, 1962 in Augusta, Georgia.

President Lyndon B. Johnson attended ceremonies at Lockheed in Marietta for the first C-5A aircraft to come off the assembly line on March 2, 1968. President Johnson’s remarks can be read here.

On March 5, 1977, President Jimmy Carter held the first “Dial-A-President” radio broadcast in which he fielded questions from radio listeners.

Three years ago today, the big story was that two coronavirus cases had been confirmed in Georgia, according to the AJC.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today was a Committee Work Day, and Session resumes Monday, March 6, 2023, which is Crossover Day.

The game of chicken continues between avian scofflaws and good citizens who just want to luxuriate in the quiet of their own home. From WTOC:

A Jesup city ordinance is ruffling some feathers.

As it stands now, you cannot legally own livestock within city limits without special approval from the city commission. One resident applied for permission to keep the chickens he already had, but the commissioners voted it down 6-0.

“I’ve had chickens since I’ve been here about the past 35 years,” Randy Little said.

According to the city, someone filed a complaint against Little’s chickens causing the city to issue a warning and a citation for violating the city ordinance that bans livestock within city limits.

“With the neighbor reporting it, we’re obligated to go enforce that ordinance. The city doesn’t have a chicken patrol, so we’re not out looking for that. Now, if they see it, or if a citizen files a complaint, we have an obligation to follow up on that,” Jesup Mayor Ralph Hickox said.

“Everybody knows there’s chickens all over Jesup. They’ve been here since I was a youngin’. I still don’t understand how it’s okay for them to be uptown but not here,” Little said.

“The board has never given an exception to anybody because of the fear of opening up Pandora’s Box, and then you’ve got a pile of animals in the city,” he said.

“I don’t know what it’s going to take to get it changed. Glennville’s got it, Savannah you can have chickens, Jacksonville you can have chickens, I don’t know what it’s going to take to get it changed, but I’m going to work on it,” Little said.

Senate Bill 92 by Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) passed the Senate by a 32-24 vote and would create a new Prosecuting Attorneys Oversight Commission, according to the Associated Press via WTOC.

Georgia senators are backing a bill that would create a commission to discipline or remove prosecutors, which supporters say would provide a needed corrective for district attorneys who engage in misconduct.

The House is working on a similar bill, House Bill 231, which could be debated Monday.

Sen. Randy Robertson, the Cataula Republican sponsoring the bill, said it’s aimed at “somebody who says they can choose, not based on evidence, but on how they feel about their political leanings, who they can prosecute.”

Sen. Josh McLaurin, a Sandy Springs Democrat, said he has supported the concept at times, but fears the commission will be “twisted and turned into something else,” and that majority Republicans will “use a commission like this, potentially, to harass or put the fire under prosecutors of a certain party in certain urban areas that don’t align with what state government wants.”

“What do we do about these prosecutors who won’t prosecute?” asked Sen. Ed Setzler, an Acworth Republican.

The bills say a prosecutor can be disciplined or removed if they “categorically (refuse) to prosecute any offense or offenses of which he or she is required by law to prosecute.”

Senate Bill 57, the “Georgia Sports Betting Integrity Act” by Sen. Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro) failed to pass the Senate, according to the Associated Press via WSAV.

Lawmakers voted 37-19 against Senate Bill 57, which would have ordered the state lottery to set up sports betting and wagering on horse races, so long as winnings at the track were paid by the track itself or another company instead of by the betting pool. That traditional set-up, which also allows odds to change right up to race time, is known as pari-mutuel betting.

Lawmakers are set to revisit the issue before Monday. Another bill that would allow sports betting but exclude horse racing is awaiting a vote in the Georgia House, and a proposal to let voters decide the question via referendum could still get a vote in the Senate. Georgia’s Constitution explicitly bans pari-mutuel betting and casinos.

Avoiding a constitutional amendment is an advantage because it requires a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers of the General Assembly, then approval by a majority of voters statewide. Republicans don’t have a two-thirds majority in either legislative chamber and some in the party refuse to support gambling on moral grounds. A standard bill, like the one defeated in the Senate Thursday, needs only a simple majority of both chambers and the signature of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Ledger-Enquirer:

Senate Bill 57 was defeated 37-19, as senators opposed to gambling joined forces with those who believe legalizing sports betting requires a constitutional amendment.

But since it would be limited to online betting, the other Senate measure wouldn’t have significant economic impact, said Sen. Billy Hickman, R-Statesboro, Senate Bill 57’s chief sponsor. “SB 57 creates jobs,” Hickman said. “When you just bet on sports on your phone, no jobs are created.”

Hickman cited a study conducted by Georgia Southern University last year that found sports betting could inject $1.1 billion annually into Georgia’s economy and create more than 8,500 jobs, many in rural areas of the state.

But Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, argued the revenue sports betting would bring in wouldn’t be worth the societal toll of expanding legalized gambling in Georgia. “Much like drugs and alcohol, [gambling] leads to addiction,” Harbin said. “Gambling is financial foolishness. … The house always wins.”

Senate Bill 222 by Sen. Max Burns (R-Sylvania) would prohibit local governments from accepting outside money for election administration, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

The Senate voted 33-23 along party lines Thursday to approve Senate Bill 222, sending it to the House for more debate.

The measure would tighten a provision from a 2021 Georgia law that made it illegal for elections officials themselves to accept outside money after Republicans grew alarmed that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated more than $400 million to election officials nationwide.

“We’ve had some communities that didn’t quite understand the intent, so this is an attempt to clarify the attempt,” said Senate Ethics Committee Chair Max Burns, a Sylvania Republican. He went on to say that a third party gives money for elections, “You influence the outcome of the elections.”

House Bill 520 by State Reps. Todd Jones (R- Forsyth County) and Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) passed the House, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

House Bill 520, which passed 163-3, has the dual goals of growing Georgia’s mental-health workforce and finding better alternatives for patients than shuffling between jails, emergency rooms and the streets.

“Eighty percent of every Georgia family is impacted by either mental health or substance abuse,” said Rep. Todd Jones, R-South Forsyth, one of the bill’s sponsors. “They need a place to turn. They need to know we are there for them.”

The legislation would address the state’s mental-health workforce shortage by creating a loan repayment program for nurses and other mental-health professionals who are already working in the field and agree to provide mental-health care in underserved communities. Last year’s bill limited loan forgiveness to students who had not begun their professional careers.

Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, another of House Bill 520’s sponsors, said Georgia’s mental-health workforce suffers from a 20% vacancy rate. She said an existing loan forgiveness program for physicians willing to practice in rural Georgia is working well.

House Bill 227 by State Rep. Rob Leverett (R-Elberton) aims to protect infrastructure and passed the House, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Legislation establishing the crime of “interference with critical infrastructure” cleared the Georgia House of Representatives unanimously Thursday.

“Some people have decided it’s open season on our infrastructure,” Leverett said. “This is to send a message to those who would target vital infrastructure.”

Under the legislation, critical infrastructure includes electricity, water, sewers, telecommunications, internet, public transportation and public transit systems, hospitals, ambulances, emergency medical and rescue services, the military, police, Coast Guard, and prison and fire services.

The bill provides penalties of up to 20 years in prison for the most serious offenders, those who intentionally damage a form of critical infrastructure with the intention of disrupting service.

Also dying on the floor of the Senate was the Buckhead incorporation. From the Associated Press via the Statesboro Herald:

Georgia senators torpedoed an effort to let the affluent Buckhead neighborhood secede from Atlanta on Thursday, with 10 Republicans breaking ranks and voting with Democrats to doom the measure after Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration questioned its legality and workability.

“If we jerk the heart out of the city of Atlanta, which is Buckhead, I know our capital city will die,” said Sen. Frank Ginn, a Danielsville Republican who chairs the committee that sent the bill to the full Senate.

The 33-23 vote to reject Senate Bill 114 could end the multi-year movement to create the proposed Buckhead City, driven by conservative residents who claimed the Democratic-run city wasn’t doing enough to fight crime and provide services, especially considering that Buckhead makes up less than 20% of the city’s population of 500,000, but about 40% of its tax revenue.

House Bill 196, by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) seeks to ease the medical cannabis licensing logjam and passed out of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

In July 2021, the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission — created through a 2019 law — issued two Class I licenses and four tentative Class II licenses for medical marijuana after scoring more than 70 applicants.

The tentative licenses are still on hold due temporary restraining orders issued after lawsuits from nine applicants that weren’t awarded licenses alleging unfair and inconsistent scoring by the commission.

HB 196, if approved, would allow the commission to award up to four more Class I licenses that allow growing, cultivating and manufacturing THC oil in an indoor space no more than 10,000 square feet; and up to seven more Class II licenses, that allow up to 50,000 square feet of indoor space for growing, cultivating and manufacturing low THC oil. The bills state the total number of Class I and II licenses can’t exceed 14.

The current version of HB 196 approved Feb. 27 by the committee would allow applicant appeals to go through the Georgia Statewide Business Court, and allow licensees to sell products from others manufacturers. The bill would also make the commission subject to the Administrative Procedure Act and laws governing open meetings and open records, and establishes a legislative oversight committee.

Cumberland Island entry fees are going up, according to The Brunswick News.

A seven-day pass to the park will cost $15 for adults 16 and older. An annual park pass will cost $45 and will cover four people. The current annual pass is $35 and will be sold until March 31.

Nearly 100% of the entrance fees collected at Cumberland Island are retained by the park and devoted to maintaining facilities that directly serve visitors.

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