Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 6, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 6, 2023

On March 6, 1857, the United States Supreme Court published its opinion in Sanford v. Dred Scott.

the Court held that African Americans, whether slave or free, could not be American citizens and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court,and that the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in the federal territories acquired after the creation of the United States. Dred Scott, an African American slave who had been taken by his owners to free states and territories, attempted to sue for his freedom. In a 7–2 decision written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the Court denied Scott’s request and in doing so, ruled an Act of Congress in this case—the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which prohibited slavery north of the parallel 36°30′ north—to be unconstitutional for the second time in its history.

The decision would prove to be an indirect catalyst for the American Civil War and was functionally superseded by the post-war Reconstruction Amendments. It is now widely regarded as the worst decision ever made by the Supreme Court.

One member of the Court that decided Dred Scott was Associate Justice James M Wayne, who was born in Savannah and served in Congress from Georgia from 1829 to 1835.

On March 6, 1946, the Fifth Circuit United States Court of Appeals ruled in King v. Chapman that Georgia’s all white Democratic Primary violated the 14th, 15th, and 17th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Primus E. King of Columbus, Georgia brought the lawsuit against the Muscogee County Democratic Party Executive Committee Chair Joseph E. Chapman.

Savannah-area locals gathered at the Weeping Time historical marker in West Savannah on Sunday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

In 1859 one of the largest slave auctions in United States history took place here in Savannah.

Hundreds of enslaved people were auctioned off by a Darien slaveholder over a two day period.

The slave sale is remembered as ‘The Weeping Time’ out of respect for the families that were torn apart over the two-day auction.

“We want to make sure that our people, all people know, about this that took place here in Savannah. We ask you to bless all that has been done to honor these people,” Dr. Brenda Roberts said.

The prayer, commemorating the 429 enslaved men, women, and children, who were sold over the two-day period.

An undercover journalist from the North, Mortimer Thomson, wrote a report from the auction that shows rain fell the whole time- and stopped as soon as the last enslaved person stepped off the auction block.

“Those who were being sold themselves said, ‘Wait a minute. God must have been weeping,” Dr. Kewsi Degraft-Hanson said.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is Crossover Day in the Georgia General Assembly. Legislation must pass one chamber by the end of the legislative day to be eligible for final passage in the other chamber. Some of the hottest action today may have been in the Joint Appropriations Committee, where the two chambers agreed on a Supplement Budget for the current Fiscal Year, according to the AJC.

Budget-writers agreed Monday on a midyear spending plan that includes a property tax cut of about $1 billion and repays the Department of Transportation $1.1 billion it lost last year when the state suspended the motor fuel tax to stem the impact of high gas prices.

Fuel taxes pay for roads projects, and the $1.1 billion will go toward keeping DOT programs rolling.

The full House and Senate are expected to ratifiy the deal later Monday.

The Georgia Senate is also considering a $1 billion income tax rebate that Gov. Brian Kemp has proposed, a measure that has already passed the House.

The House and Senate budget conferees on Monday backed an overall $32.5 billion midyear budget, which runs through June 30. It builds on consecutive years of massive tax surpluses the state has seen since the COVID-19 economic shutdown ended in the spring of 2020. It increases spending by about $2.36 billion, which Senate Appropriations Chairman Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, said is in line with inflation.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, told conferees he is hoping to have a budget proposal for fiscal 2024 – which begins July 1 – out later this week. The General Assembly must pass a final budget for the upcoming year before it adjourns in late March.

Under the Gold Dome Today – Legislative Day 28

TBD Rules Committee: Upon Adjournment – 450 CAP







10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 28 Crossover) – House Chamber

10:00 AM Floor Session (LD 28) – Senate Chamber

The Georgia Recorder looks at bills likely to be voted on today.

Lawmakers will weigh in on dozens of bills in a marathon day of rapid-fire voting that will likely go late into the night. Many of the measures will sail through with little discussion, but several controversial bills poised for a vote – like a proposed ban on some gender-affirming care – is sure to spark bitter debate.

The Senate’s agenda has been set by the gatekeeping rules committee, which has teed up nearly more than 60 bills for a potential vote. Over in the House, that chamber’s agenda-setting committee will push out piles of bills for lawmakers to vote red or green on throughout the day.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill that would ban doctors from performing some gender-affirming procedures for transgender minors.

Sen. Carden Summers’ Senate Bill 140 seeks to bar surgical and hormone therapy for gender dysphoria, while still allowing puberty blockers.

Macon Republican Rep. Dale Washburn’s plan to ease rising home prices by curbing local regulations quickly collided with county leaders.

The strongest opposition to House Bill 517 comes from local government officials who do not want to be restricted when it comes to setting design and zoning standards for their communities and who raised concerns about the bill opening up the construction of substandard homes.

Late last month, Cumming Republican Sen. Greg Dolezal notched a win for the school voucher movement when his bill aimed at extending tax subsidies for private school scholarships to nearly all Georgia students was approved by the Senate Education and Youth Committee.

He’s hoping to chalk a bigger W on Monday when the bill is scheduled for a full Senate vote.

From the AJC:

Dozens of bills will be decided on Crossover Day, the General Assembly’s internal cutoff for legislation to pass at least one chamber. Monday is the 28th business day of the state’s 40-day legislative session, which ends March 29.

Bills that fall short have less of a chance of becoming law, but they could later be revived if their language is inserted into other legislation.

In the Senate, lawmakers are scheduled to debate Senate Resolution 140, which would ask voters to amend the state constitution to allow sports betting, and Senate Bill 172, which would create a gaming commission to regulate the form of gambling.

Across the hall, House Bill 380 has not yet been scheduled for a floor vote, but that chamber has a habit of adding bills to the calendar as they make their way through the day. HB 380 would legalize sports betting without including a provision for a constitutional amendment.

Crimes against Jewish people could be treated as hate crimes under a bill pending in the Georgia House.

The legislation would define antisemitism, providing legal protections for Jewish people after antisemitic flyers were found in the driveways of some predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in metro Atlanta in February.

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

Proposals that don’t pass Monday could still be resurrected later this year, but it becomes more difficult. Because this is the first year of a two-year session, bills that don’t pass Monday could also be considered next year.

TRUCK WEIGHTS: House Bill 189 would allow trucks carrying logging, farming and mining commodities to weigh up to 88,000 pounds (39,916 kilograms), compared to the current 84,000 pounds (38,101 kilograms).

JUVENILE CRIMES: House Bill 462 would raise the age for filing adult criminal charges against people from 17 to 18 for most crimes.

PAPER BALLOTS: House Bill 426 would let people inspect paper ballots after an election. Now, only electronic images are available.

TAX ON DOWNLOADS: HB 170 would impose sales tax on books, music, movies, pictures, games and other digital goods bought online, although it would not affect rental or subscription items.

Governor Brian Kemp announced he will appoint Northeastern Judicial Circuit Chief Assistant District Attorney Kelley Robertson to a judgeship in Hall County State Court, according to AccessWDUN.

Robertson will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of B.E. Roberts, III, according to a press release from Governor Brian Kemp’s office.

She previously served as an assistant district attorney and as a staff attorney under Judge Kathlene Gosselin.

Lt. Governor Burt Jones (R-Jackson) appointed Sen. Chuck Payne (R-Dalton) to serve on the Georgia Commission on Civics Education, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

“I am honored to have been appointed to serve on the Georgia Commission on Civics Education, a commission I helped establish last year,” said Payne. “It is important that students understand the significance of civic involvement and are educated on the importance and role of state, local and federal governments.

“By continuing to evaluate our civics education courses, we ensure that Georgia students are given the most up-to-date education in this subject and know the true value of these institutions. I want to thank Lt. Gov. Burt Jones for continuing to place his trust in me as I am pleased to serve in (this) capacity. I am eager to work alongside all members of this distinguished commission, including my Senate colleagues, Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson, and Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R–Dallas, as we work to promote and enhance civics education for all Georgians.”

The Georgia Commission on Civics Education was established pursuant to Senate Bill 220, legislation sponsored by Payne that passed during the 2022 legislative session. The commission consists of 17 members, including three members of the Senate appointed by the president of the Senate.

The legislative members of the commission serve two-year terms, concurrent with their terms as members of the Georgia General Assembly. The commission is tasked with conducting reviews of civic education in Georgia schools, including but not limited to career, technical and agricultural education (CTAE), instruction for the government and public administration and the law, public safety, corrections and security pathways.

House Bill 404, the “Safe at Home Act” by State Rep. Kasey Carpenter, (R-Dalton) passed the House and would enhance tenants’ rights, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Statesboro Herald.

House Bill 404, which now moves to the state Senate, would require rental properties to be “fit for human habitation” upon signing a lease, and landlords would be required to maintain their properties throughout the lease.

“My family moved to 16 different rental properties throughout my childhood, so I understand the problems that many tenants face on a daily basis,” said Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, the bill’s chief sponsor.

“This legislation seeks to balance the interests of both the tenant and landlord, whose relationship sits on a foundation of livability. As a result, House Bill 404 would provide tenants with more opportunities to ensure their rental property is safe and stable.”

Carpenter’s bill also would prohibit landlords from turning off a rental home’s air conditioning prior to an eviction to force tenants to move out.

It would limit landlords from requiring a security deposit that exceeds two months’ rent. If a tenant fails to pay rent or charges owed to the landlord, the tenant would be guaranteed written notification at least three business days before an eviction proceeding could be filed.

Landlords would be required to post an eviction notice on the tenant’s front door or deliver the notice based on the stipulations of the rental agreement.

Gambling continues to be a contentious issue in the state Senate, according to the Georgia Recorder via the Albany Herald.

Tyrone Republican Sen. Marty Harbin said gambling is a waste of money and ruins lives by causing addiction. He said he was concerned that legitimizing a process that goes on under the table could entice more young people to get hooked.

“There’s gambling going on as we speak — there may be gambling going on about this bill, whether it’s going to pass or not. I don’t know what the odds are, but I can guarantee you they’re gambling somewhere,” he said, bringing out his cellphone. “And this phone is gambling wherever we go; it’s going to be open to our children.”

The debate over the bill became personal when Hickman asked Harbin whether his children accepted the HOPE Scholarship. Harbin said some of them did and some of them didn’t.

“So lottery funds helped fund your children’s education?” Hickman asked.

“A small part of it.” Harbin said.

“Do you feel like you have done something wrong to allow your children to accept lottery funds when you’re so against gambling?” Hickman asked. “Isn’t that like taking money from the gamblers and spending it for your own personal needs? That’s what’s so hard for me to understand here.”

“I’m just very disappointed that you’re so against gambling, but you were willing to take money from the lottery for your children,” Hickman said. “If you were so against it, you should never have taken the money from the lottery.”

One hope for people who like to wager lies in the hands of Watkinsville Republican Rep. Marcus Wiedower’s House Bill 380. If that bill becomes law, the Georgia Lottery will assume control of sports betting in the state, and 16 licenses would become available to operate betting services.

The other gambling bill still alive and kicking heading into Monday’s pivotal day for a bill to advance from one chamber to the other is Sen. Bill Cowsert’s Senate Bill 172, which would call for a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting in the state.

That would require two-thirds majority votes in both chambers and approval from voters.

Senate Bill 60 by Sen. Bo Hatchett (R-Clarkesville) attempts to prevent catalytic converter thefts, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, in 2020, catalytic converter theft claims jumped to more than 14,000 — a 325% increase in a single year, though those numbers aren’t inclusive of all thefts of catalytic converters across the country.

Georgia’s proposed Senate Bill 60 would make it illegal to buy, possess, transport or sell used catalytic converters unless the person can provide valid documentation that the catalytic converter was replaced with another catalytic converter by a licensed dealer or repairer; or can provide a copy of their certificate of title or registration of the car in the which the catalytic converter was replaced.

Secondary metal recyclers can only purchase used catalytic converters from motor vehicle dealers, licensed repair shops, manufacturers or distributors, or persons with valid documentation proving ownership of the car part.

Secondary metal recyclers wouldn’t be allowed to pay more than$ 100 in cash for any transaction or complete more than two transactions per seller, per day, per registered recycler location, according to the bill.

The bill passed in the Senate 50-2 and is awaiting a vote in the House.

Legislation to allow the incorporation of the City of Buckhead City was rejected and proponents may ease up for the time being, according to the AJC.

The Buckhead City Committee announced its “farewell” to supporters in a late Sunday email that assailed Gov. Brian Kemp and other Republicans who raised concerns about the breakaway push.

“In a nutshell, Governor Kemp and his team coordinated behind closed doors to kill the Buckhead City bills before they even had the chance for an honest vote in the Senate,” wrote the committee, which is led by Bill White, a wealthy New York transplant.

“Unfortunately, now that Governor Kemp has displayed that he does not support our right to vote, there is no path forward for a cityhood referendum while he remains governor until the end of his term in 2026.”

The Senate’s 33-23 vote on Thursday to put down the pro-Buckhead rebellion was a humiliating defeat for supporters of the divorce, who contended that they’ll be better able to fight crime and provide services by splitting the wealthy, white neighborhood from the rest of Atlanta.

Fentanyl is leading to large numbers of overdoses nationwide and in Georgia, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Often made in China, Mexico or India and smuggled into the United States, fentanyl is added to common illicit drugs so dealers can sell smaller amounts while maintaining potency, according to Dr. Kavita Babu of the University of Massachusetts medical school. Dealers also manufacture drugs laced with fentanyl that mimic prescription opioid pills, like oxycodone.

As illicit fentanyl pours into the United States, people are dying at exponential rates. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services measured a 97-fold increase in synthetic opioid deaths between 1999 and 2021, the last year for which nationwide data is available. More than 70,000 people died from synthetic opioid overdoses in 2021, according to the CDC.

Georgia has not escaped the epidemic. In 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, just under 1,400 people died from fentanyl overdoses in the Peach State, up from just over 500 in 2019, according to the state’s health department. Counties across the state are wrestling with the problem. In Muscogee County, fentanyl overdoses quadrupled to 18 in 2022 from four in 2019, according to the state health department and coroner Buddy Bryan. Cobb County, in metro Atlanta, saw more than 100 fentanyl overdoses in 2021. Bibb County had 19 in 2021 and 24 last year, according to county coroner Leon Jones.

The Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office captured more than 380,000 doses in January, Sheriff Greg Countryman said.

Countryman said the majority of overdose deaths in the Columbus area involved fentanyl, and that even touching the overdose can be deadly. This year, over the border in Lee County, Alabama, two officers went into shock after they were exposed to a substance that may have been fentanyl, according to the sheriff there.

Countryman said his intel shows fentanyl in Muscogee County comes from China and Mexico. He’s increased the number of drug investigators and has partnered with five federal agencies in response, but there still aren’t enough resources.

If you or a loved one struggles with chemical dependency naloxone and Narcan are available without a prescription at Walgreens pharmacy thanks to a recent Georgia law.

Bulloch County Public Schools wants the William James Educational Complex cafeteria to no longer serve as a polling place, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Bulloch County Schools officials say this is no longer compatible with safety and security requirements for the building’s current and evolving school programs.

So now, county and Statesboro city officials are talking about a finding new voting site. Several alternatives have been suggested, ranging from the community building at Luetta Moore Park on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to the privately owned Belle House on Westside Road.

After some earlier conversations, school system Safety Director Todd Mashburn began “official communications” with the county Board of Elections and Registration in October 2021 “to move the voting precinct due to growing security concerns and increased use of that portion of the building for student learning programs,” Hayley Greene, the Bulloch County Schools public relations director, replied in a March 2 email.

Racquet sports enthusiasts needed a tiebreaker in the Glynn County Commission, according to The Brunswick News.

With Commissioner Sammy Tostensen absent, commissioners were deadlocked with 3-3 votes on three different motions.

The first motion was to designate specific days and equal time for tennis players and pickleballers. That motion failed to pass with a tie vote.

The second motion that ended in a tie vote was for the two groups to split time on the playing courts for one year on the dual-striped courts at Kings Park and then designating them for tennis play only. The year-long period would be used by the pickleball community to come up with a plan acceptable to commissioners for more courts without infringing on tennis players.

A third motion was to leave things they way they are, an alternative that again failed with a tie vote.

During the discussions, Glynn County Recreation and Parks Director Lisa Gurganus said disputes between tennis and pickleball players have been so contentious recently that several people have been banned for “poor behavior.”

Macon District Attorney Anita Reynolds Howard announced she will run for reelection, according to 13WMAZ.

She announced in front of friends, family and supporters at a fundraiser at the Tubman Museum, according to campaign spokesperson Keisha Carter.

The Macon Judicial Circuit covers Bibb, Crawford and Peach counties.

Howard became the first African American and first woman elected District Attorney of the Macon Judicial Circuit in December 2020. She won with roughly 70 percent of the vote over Democrat incumbent David Cooke.

The Democrat primary is set to be in May 2024.

Libertarian Clinton Cowart will run for Savannah City Council District 3, according to the Savannah Morning News.

In 2021, Cowart mounted an unsuccessful run to fill the rest of the late Rep. Mickey Stephens’ term in the Georgia House. He was defeated by former Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson. Cowart ran as a Libertarian.

Cowart is vying for the seat held by Linda Wilder-Bryan, who is expected to launch a re-election campaign this week.

Cowart worked in the hospitality industry as the HR director for MSG Staffing Agency for two years before entering politics in 2021. Prior to that, he operated a consulting business called Cowart Consulting.

In fact, Savannah Council member Linda Wilder Bryan did announce she will seek reelection, according to WTOC.

People around the city showed up to support the councilwoman at the event, including some fellow councilmembers and Mayor Van Johnson.

Alderwoman Wilder-Bryan reminded voters of the work she’s done on addressing homelessness and building affordable housing in the city through projects like Dundee Cottages and LB4 Village of Love.

Wilder-Bryan is the third council member to host an event announcing a re-election bid, following district 2′s Detric Leggett and district 6′s Kurtis Purtee.

District 4 Alderman Nick Palumbo is also running for re-election, but has not announced a date for his own event yet.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service move forward glacially on new rules to protect Right Whales in coastal waters, according to The Brunswick News.

Georgia’s coastal waters are calving grounds for the whale.

The restriction would be in place annually for close to six months out of the year beginning Nov. 1 in Georgia waters.

“NOAA Fisheries is reviewing the public comments provided to the agency and anticipates taking final action on the proposed rule in 2023,” said Lauren Gaches, NOAA Fisheries Public Affairs.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter announced in the final months of 2022 that he planned to meet with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gina M. Raimondo to discuss the proposal. Carter, a Republican, represents Georgia’s coastal counties and its saltwater fishing industry in Congress.

Carter and Georgia’s entire delegation to Washington, including the two Senate Democrats, addressed a letter to Raimondo last October asking her to consider concerns raised by Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch. In addition to being unsafe for the large cargo vessels, the rule proposed by NMFS would cost the state millions of dollars and jobs, Lynch wrote in his own letter to the Interior Department secretary.

“We believe NOAA is overlooking several critical factors as it seeks to implement harmful changes to the rule,” Lynch wrote. “The proposed rule raises considerable life and safety concerns and would cause further interruptions to an already strained supply chain. If implemented in its current form, this rule will exacerbate congestion at American ports – resulting in detrimental effects on the nation’s economy.”

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