Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 7, 2022

7
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 7, 2022

On March 7, 1861, delegates to the Georgia Secession Convention reconvened in Savannah to adopt a new state Constitution. A resolution offering to host the Confederate Capitol did not pass.

On March 7, 1965, a group of marchers led by Martin Luther King, Jr., met Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

“I was hit in the head by a state trooper with a nightstick… I thought I saw death.”

—John Lewis, SNCC leader

John Lewis, now the United States Congressman from the Fifth District was in the front row wearing a light-colored overcoat and backpack.

GaVoice talked to Lewis about what was in his backpack on that day.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – Committee Work Day

8:00 AM Senate Education and Youth Committee 307 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE Governmental Affairs State & Local Government Subcommittee 506 CLOB HYBRID

9:00 AM Senate Government Oversight Committee – canceled 450 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE JUDICIARY NON-CIVIL COMMITTEE 132 CAP HYBRID

10:00 AM HOUSE Governmental Affairs General Government Subcommittee 506 CLOB HYBRID

10:00 AM Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee 450 CAP

11:00 AM HOUSE Regulated Industries Occupational / Professional Licensing Subcommittee 506 CLOB HYBRID

11:00 AM HOUSE Georgia Farmers’ Market and Produce Terminal Development Authority 403 CAP

12:00 PM Senate Transportation Committee Mezz 1

1:00 PM HOUSE Public Safety & Homeland Security Subcommittee B 406 CLOB HYBRID

1:00 PM Senate Science and Technology Committee 307 CLOB

1:00 PM Senate Finance Committee 450 CAP

1:30 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE 132 CAP HYBRID

2:00 PM HOUSE Natural Resources and Environment Resource Management Subcommittee 406 CLOB

2:00 PM Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee Mezz 1

2:00 PM Senate State Institutions and Property Committee 450 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY NON-CIVIL COMMITTEE 132 CAP HYBRID

3:00 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Public Finance & Policy Subcommittee 406 CLOB HYBRID

3:00 PM Senate Banking and Financial Institutions 307 CLOB

3:30 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Sales Tax Subcommittee 406 CLOB HYBRID

4:00 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Ad Valorem Subcommittee 406 CLOB HYBRID

4:00 PM Senate Ethics Committee 307 CLOB

4:30 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Income Tax Subcommittee 406 CLOB HYBRID

5:00 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Tax Revision Subcommittee 406 CLOB HYBRID

5:30 PM HOUSE WAYS & MEANS COMMITTEE 406 CLOB HYBRID

Governor Brian Kemp appointed Deah Warren as a Superior Court Judge for the Douglas Judicial Circuit, filling a vacancy, according to a Press Release.

Ms. Warren will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of The Honorable David Emerson. Judge Emerson’s resignation was effective December 31, 2021.

Deah Warren has served as Chief Assistant District Attorney for the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office since January 2021, having previously served as Deputy Chief District Attorney for the Major Case Unit and a Senior Assistant District Attorney. Ms. Warren has also worked in the District Attorney’s Offices of Fulton and Clayton Counties. Ms. Warren received her Juris Doctorate from Georgia State University College of Law, and her Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Spelman College.

The State of Georgia’s net tax revenues rose again for February 2022, according to a press release.

The State of Georgia’s net tax collections for February totaled over $1.95 billion, for an increase of $19.8 million, or 1 percent, compared to February 2021, when net tax collections totaled roughly $1.93 billion. Year-to-date, net tax collections totaled nearly $19.76 billion, for an increase of $2.72 billion, or 16 percent, over February of FY 2021.

The changes within the following tax categories help to further explain February’s overall net tax revenue increase:

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections totaled $992.4 million, which was a decrease of $72.6 million, or 6.8 percent, compared to last year when Income Tax collections totaled over $1.06 billion.

The following notable components within Individual Income Tax combine for the net decrease:

• Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were up $184.6 million or 148.3 percent
• Individual Withholding payments increased by $75.8 million, or 6.8 percent, over last year
• Individual Income Tax Return payments were up $10.8 million, or 48.6 percent, from FY 2021
• All other Individual Tax categories, including Non-Resident Return payments, were up a combined $25.4 million

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections totaled $1.24 billion in February, for an increase of $152.4 million, or 14 percent, compared to February 2021. Net Sales and Use Tax increased by roughly $69.7 million, or 12.8 percent, compared to FY 2021, when net sales tax totaled $545.9 million. The adjusted Sales Tax distribution to local governments totaled $620 million, which was an increase of $79.2 million, or 14.6 percent, while Sales Tax refunds increased by $3.5 million, or 81.7 percent, over last year.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections during the month totaled nearly $10 million, for an increase of roughly $2.3 million, or 29.2 percent, compared to February 2021.

The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the net increase:

• Corporate Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were up $20 million or 104.8 percent
• Corporate Income Tax Estimated payments increased by $12 million, or 82.3 percent, over last year
• All other Corporate Tax types, including Corporate Return payments, were up a combined $10.3 million

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections increased by $3.5 million, or 2.3 percent, compared to FY 2021.

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees declined by $0.4 million, or -0.9 percent, for the month, while Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections increased by $3.4 million, or 5.8 percent, from last year’s total of $58.1 million.

Governor Kemp announced $4.5 million in funding for broadband expansion in Wavery Hall, according to WTVM.

“No more trying to get your kids homework uploaded and it just spins,” said one official. “No more getting cut off in important medical appointments. These are the stories we hear all the time as cover news underserved areas.”

Georgia State Representative Debbie Buckner says the limited access to internet causes many problems, including virtual doctors appointments.

“You can not do telemedicine and exchange x-rays and have the conversations from doctor-to-patient unless you have a certain speed of internet,” said Buckner.

“This will continue to be a high priority for me because I know what this means – this means greater economic opportunity and prosperity,” the governor said.

Kemp says the new grant money will allow fiber to serve 2,100 locations in Waverly Hall.

Residents will start seeing changes by next year. Governor Kemp also says he is working now to get better broadband through more rural counties throughout Georgia.

Spaceport Camden is , according to The Brunswick News.

Camden County commissioners met Friday to make the first appointments to a spaceport authority at a special called meeting.

Before the vote, commissioners were accused by spaceport opponents of making the appointments in an attempt to circumvent a special election to determine the future of Spaceport Camden.

Tuesday’s referendum asks voters if county commissioners should be allowed to spend any more taxpayer dollars to establish a spaceport. But if a spaceport authority was given the power to complete the transaction with Union Carbide to buy the 4,000-acre tract as the launch site, the referendum would be a meaningless straw vote regardless of the outcome.

State Rep. Steven Sainz, R-Woodbine, released a statement online Friday after the meeting in response to the county commission’s decision to appoint members to the authority. Commission Chairman Gary Blount and commissioners Lannie Brant and Chuck Clark voted for the appointments. Commissioners Trevor Readdick and Ben Casey voted against the motion.

“To me, if the Camden County voters decide that Spaceport Camden should proceed to allowing this purchase to happen, it is between the voters and county commissioners,” he said. “However, if there is a referendum vote that signifies the county commissioners cannot purchase this property, I will not stand aside and see this piece of legislation created a few years ago be utilized in a way that allows the county to ignore the votes” of his constituents.

But Sainz promised to “act immediately” to introduce local legislation to sunset the spaceport authority if voters choose to abandon the project and commissioners attempt to circumvent the vote.

From WTOC:

Voting continues in a Camden County special election that could put the brakes on a land deal for the site of what would be Georgia’s first spaceport.

The County’s elections supervisor tells [WTOC] as of lunchtime [Friday], more than 2000 people have cast a ballot in early voting, underscoring how important this topic is to people who live here.

The final day for Camden County residents to vote in the special election and decide on the land deal between the county and the property owner is next Tuesday.

According to the elections supervisor, if more than half of the votes cast are in favor of the repeal, then the property purchase won’t be allowed to go through.

Republican Kandiss Taylor brought the Jesus Guns Babies tour to Gainesville, according to the Gainesville Times.

“I’m the only one who’s running who’s not establishment,” Taylor said. “Money is all involved in politics. How much you’ve raised makes you viable or not, and I want us to put morality first.”

Her campaign slogan is “Jesus, Guns and Babies,” representing her commitment to protecting 1st and 2nd Amendment rights as well as her pro-life stance on abortion. Taylor also railed against teachings she believes are harmful to K-12 students including critical race theory as well as comprehensive sex education and social emotional learning, which she said teaches students to be more in touch with their feelings than capable of performing well in a classroom.

She said these disciplines “teach communism, oppression and conversion to our children,” she said. “(Parents) have no voice and they feel helpless.”

The Georgia State House passed a redistricting map for the Georgia Public Service Commission, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

The Republican-controlled Georgia House of Representatives gave final passage Friday to new district boundaries for the state Public Service Commission (PSC) over objections from Democrats that the map discriminates against minority voters. The bill, which originated in the Georgia Senate, cleared the House 97-68 along party lines and now goes to GOP Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.

A federal lawsuit currently pending claims electing commissioners statewide violates the federal Voting Rights Act because it dilutes minority voting strength.

“It makes no sense for us … to perpetuate statewide election of members of the PSC,” said Rep. Sam Park, D-Lawrenceville. “It could be seen as thumbing our noses at the court.”

House Minority Leader James Beverly, D-Macon, said the new map is politically motivated, a bid by majority Republicans to avoid creating a majority-minority PSC district centered around Gwinnett County, which has seen huge growth in its minority population since the current map was drawn a decade ago. The new map moves Gwinnett into a district dominated by heavily white communities in Northeast Georgia.

The State House passed HB 1216, to enhance the penalties for attempting to evade police, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

The House voted 95-62 on Thursday to approve House Bill 1216, sending it the Senate for more debate. The measure says that anyone convicted of fleeing from the police for a fourth time would be convicted of a felony.

Right now, all offenses of fleeing from police in Georgia are high and aggravated misdemeanors. That’s a category of misdemeanor that carries higher penalties than regular misdemeanors.

Someone convicted of a fourth offense within 10 years would be required to spend 1 to 10 years in prison and pay a fine of $5,000 to $10,000

The bill would also raise the minimum fines and jail penalties for earlier offenses. Someone convicted for the first time, for example, would be sentenced to at least 30 days in jail, up from 10 days now, and would be fined at least $1,000, up from $500 now.

The Georgia House of Representatives also passed HB 1084, according to the AJC.

[T]he Georgia House of Representatives approved legislation Friday that would limit what could be said about race during classroom discussions.

House Bill 1084 passed 92-63 in a party-line vote.

It is the first of four such bills to reach a vote by one of the chambers during this legislative session. It comes in the wake of national outrage over the notion that K-12 teachers are promoting the college-level academic concept known as critical race theory, which is used to examine the effect of racism on society.

Rep. Will Wade, the author of HB 1084, has produced a list with a handful of incidents, including an old high school syllabus in Gwinnett County with the words “critical race theory” (the district said it was never shown to students) and an Atlanta school where students allegedly were assigned to classrooms based on race. He said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week that he just wants due process for parents who think their school may have crossed a line.

The legislation would “put a process in place to confirm, OK, what is the actual there that’s there,” the Dawsonville Republican said. “Let’s talk about what happened.” It would give parents a chance to feel like they’d been heard, he said, adding, “if there is a serious infraction, I really believe most schools will address it.”

Teachers would still be able to teach history, he said, but couldn’t express their political beliefs. He said he worked with groups representing teachers and school boards in writing the bill.

The State Senate passed SB 345, aimed at prohibiting vaccine passports, according to the AJC.

Senate Bill 345, sponsored by Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis, would not apply to health care providers. The ban on what is sometimes referred to as a “vaccine passport” would be lifted June 30, 2023. The measure passed 31-19, with Republicans supporting the bill.

“This bill simply says that the state of Georgia cannot mandate the COVID-19 vaccination. That’s it,” the Chickamauga Republican said.

“I believe we should be vaccinated. I’ve had COVID. I’ve had the two vaccinations and the booster, and I would recommend that everybody do this,” Mullis said. “However, I don’t think the state of Georgia — the government — should require a COVID-19 vaccination.”

A state audit criticized the Department of Labor’s handing of COVID-related issues, according to the AJC.

Greg Griffith, the state’s auditor, said many claimants waited months for payments and many others could not reach staffers to ask for help with their claims. He pointed out multiple problems that exacerbated delays in the 79-page Department of Audits and Accounts report issued late last week.

DOL Commissioner Mark Butler said the report was unfair.

“No one had a pandemic plan in place,” he said. “The primary factors causing pandemic unemployment insurance delays were the unprecedented volume of claims, federal pandemic programs which required extensive new programming, and inadequate funding,” he said.

Because the pandemic’s economic impact was so sudden, it was wrong to judge DOL performance and planning against previous recessions, he said.

Former Governor Sonny Perdue will be paid more than $520,000 as the next Chancellor of the University System of Georgia, according to WSAV.

Former Gov. Sonny Perdue will be paid $523,900 a year when he takes the reins on April 1 as chancellor of the University System of Georgia.

System spokesperson Lance Wallace said Friday that’s the same amount that Steve Wrigley was making as chancellor before retiring last year.

Republican Mike Collins discussed his campaign for the Tenth Congressional District with AccessWDUN.

Q: Mr. Collins, you’ve made no bones about the fact that you’re a supporter of President Trump, but you didn’t receive his endorsement, were you surprised by that?

A: Donald Trump didn’t endorse Vernon Jones to run for Congress. He endorsed Vernon Jones to get out of that governor’s race. He wouldn’t have cared if Vernon Jones ran for dog catcher–he would have endorsed him for that. It was kind of like the “Art of the Deal”– Donald Trump got what he wanted, and [Vernon Jones] negotiated his way out of the race that he was in. That’s fine because I will tell you…not only does he not even live in the district, he’s from DeKalb County. He’s not a Republican; he’s a Democrat. The guy’s had more grand juries against him, more accusations against him than times he’s been able to vote in the 10th district, which is zero. [I] was born, raised, live and work in the 10th.

Q: When you go out and meet voters, what are you telling them about Mike Collins? What’s your most significant selling point?

A: I am unapologetically pro-Trump, a business person, outsider; I have never been elected to anything in my life. I do believe in that “America First” agenda. And if people are looking for somebody to go to Washington, D.C., and fight, and I mean fight, I’ll be glad to do that. And we’ll get up there, and we’ll take our country back. And we’ll get this country back on track. And I look forward to doing that.

Gwinnett County Commission Chair Nicole Love Hendrickson said affordable housing is the number one issue in the county, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The theme of the speech was the kaleidoscope of Gwinnett County, and as such she focused on everything from additional support for police and efforts to improve how law enforcement handles mental health calls to expanding transit and addressing the needs of a growing senior population.

But, in her mind, addressing housing and homelessness issues took precedence above all of the other areas she talked about.

“We have a lot of our constituents, we have a lot of residents who can’t afford to live in this county (and) we have a lot of our workforce who can’t afford to live in this county,” Hendrickson told reporters after her speech. “In order to own a home that is $200,000, you have to make at least $50,000, but we’re not building any homes that are in the $200,000 price range so people are priced out of this community.”

“We want to make sure we’re providing adequate housing opportunities and home ownership for our residents and for the people who work here: our law enforcement, our teachers, our nurses, our public safety officials,” Hendrickson said after her speech. “They’re living outside of the county and we want to try and change that.”

Qualifying to run for Gwinnett County Board of Education will be different as the seats move to nonpartisan elections, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Qualifying begins Monday and lasts through noon on Friday for all races that will be up for election this year, from governor and Congress all the way down to Gwinnett Soil and Water Conservation District. The biggest change this year will be where candidates for county school board seats go to file their qualifying paperwork now that those races are nonpartisan.

School board candidates will deal directly with Gwinnett County elections staff this week.

“All the nonpartisan races qualify here at our office,” Gwinnett County Elections Supervisor Zach Manifold said. “So, that is now the Board of Education, the two districts — District 2 and 4, and then we also have a couple of State Court judge races that are nonpartisan.

“And, then we also have the Soil and Water Conservation (District) … That is nonpartisan as well.”

This year will mark a big change for school board candidates well as voters. In the past, school board elections entailed partisan primaries and then a general election. Candidates for those seats went to their respective political parties to file qualifying paperwork.

Columbus and Muscogee County officials held a press conference to address recent crimes, according to WTVM.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson spoke about against the crime and said there are too many young people with guns. The mayor vowed that officials will not stop until they get criminals off the street.

Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon shared the same sentiments as the mayor. He said his agency will not stand idly and watch anyone attack a citizen or law enforcement officer.

Chief Blackmon said the Columbus Police Department will proactively police “hotspot” locations and constantly engage citizens with information.

Blackmon also praised faith-based groups and asked them to continue doing good jobs with their efforts in crime prevention.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson has repealed the mask mandate for city buildings, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The requirement ended Friday at 5 p.m. Surgical and KN95 masks will still be available at the entrance points of buildings owned by the Columbus Consolidated Government. Judges may still require masks in city courtroom and jury selection facilities.

Masks are still recommended, the mayor’s office said in a news release.

A shortage of Special Education teachers is affecting some South Georgia schools, according to WALB.

Special education has been a critical need for several years now in the Lee County school district. Assistant Superintendent Kevin Dowling believes the pandemic played a big role in this decline. But it isn’t the primary reason.

“We struggle sometimes with just getting folks. I think it’s just a combination of you know teaching, a lot of people say it’s not just a job, it’s a calling. And I’ve had several people that have started teaching a position, even substitute teachers, and they’re like ‘I can’t do this, this isn’t for me,” said Dowling.

He says along with special education, there is a critical need for secondary-level educators as well.

“I think sometimes teaching secondary becomes problematic some folks are you know when you’re dealing with the older kids, the bigger kids, it’s a little bit different than when we are dealing with the little ones.”

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis responded to a state ethics complaint, according to WRDW.

Mayor Hardie Davis released a new [42-page] response about a state ethics investigation into how he spent nearly $20,000 in campaign funds.

The complaint accuses the mayor of never filing documents to disclose a total of $10,000 in campaign contributions and not properly disclosing $6,000 in campaign funds.

It also alleges Davis improperly used more than $3,000 worth of campaign funds on everything from credit card payments to Starbucks and ESPN plus subscriptions.

In his response, Davis’s attorney attributed some of his purchases to auto-pay errors. He also denies improperly disclosing where he got more than $10,000 for the campaign.

In the response, the Mayor’s Attorney, Ed Tarver, writes the reason for more than $2,000 in unspecified credit card purchases and more than $400 on things including LinkedIn was for “fulfillment of the Respondent’s elected office.”

Dalton City Council will vote on whether to enter an agreement Whitfield County and Dalton Public Schools to create a Tax Allocation District (TAD), according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Liberty County District 2 Commissioner Justin Frasier was arrested and charged with DUI, according to WTOC.

Mara Zúñiga announced her candidacy for Mayor of Athens-Clarke County, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Zúñiga is one of four mayoral candidates who have filed to run at the election’s office. The others are Mykeisha Ross, Pearl Hall and Bennie Coleman III.

Incumbent Kelly Girtz also has announced his reelection bid.

The election will take place May 24 and candidates will need to qualify between March 7 and 11.

 

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