Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 1, 2023

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 1, 2023

On May 1, 1707, the Act of Union with England, passed by the Scottish Parliament brought together England and Scotland and made the Union Jack the official flag of Great Britain.

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The Second Confederate National Flag was adopted on May 1, 1863.

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On May 1, 1886, Jefferson Davis visited the Benjamin Hill monument at Peachtree and West Peachtree Streets in Atlanta, having arrived the previous day. On May 2, 1886, Jefferson Davis left Atlanta, headed to Savannah.

Savannah officials had successfully solicited Davis to attend a variety of special ceremonies and events being planned in Savannah. On the way, the train stopped briefly in Forsyth and Macon, where the ex-Confederate president was greeted by crowds and spoke briefly from the back of his train. Although he didn’t leave the train, Davis would return to Macon the following year for a more formal visit.

On May 1, 1971, “Joy to the World,” by Three Dog Night was the #1 song in the nation.

Kennesaw, Georgia City Council adopted an ordinance on May 1, 1982 requiring each household to own a gun and ammunition.

(a) In order to provide for the emergency management of the city, and further in order to provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants, every head of household residing in the city limits is required to maintain a firearm, together with ammunition therefore.

(b) Exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of households who suffer a physical or mental disability which would prohibit them from using such a firearm. Further exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of households who are paupers or who conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms as a result of beliefs or religious doctrine, or persons convicted of a felony.

On May 1, 1991, Rickey Henderson broke the major league baseball stolen base record on the same day that Nolan Ryan, the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball, recorded his seventh no-hitter.

The official state tartan of Georgia was designated on May 1, 1997.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Kemp issued Executive Order #04.25.23.01, appointing Jessica Barrett Martin as Solicitor General for Habersham County State Court.

Governor Brian Kemp last week signed legislation to bolster Georgia’s workforce, according to a Press Release:

Newnan, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp, accompanied by First Lady Marty Kemp, members of the Georgia General Assembly, education and workforce development representatives, and other local and state leaders, signed multiple bills today at a ceremony on the campus of West Georgia Technical College in Coweta County. This package of legislation builds on the governor’s work to attract, grow and train a top-tier workforce prepared to fill the tens of thousands of new jobs created by record-breaking economic development projects.

“The demand for a well-educated and skilled workforce has never been higher than it is today,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “I am proud to sign legislation that will streamline access to opportunity and help us fill the record-breaking number of jobs on their way to Georgia. Thanks to our partners in the General Assembly, we’re leading the way in training, growing, and retaining a workforce prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

Governor Kemp signed the following legislation today:

HB 163, sponsored by Rep. Lauren McDonald, co-sponsored by Rep. J. Collins, Rep. Carl Gillard, Rep. Alan Powell, Rep. Carter Barrett, and Rep. Soo Hong, and carried by Sen. Mike Hodges in the Senate, creates a service loan repayment program for medical examiners that provides up to $120,000 per individual for five years of service.

In order to be eligible for the program, recipients must meet the following requirements:

▪ Must be employed as a full-time medical examiner on or after January 1, 2023, by the Division of Forensic Science of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Once a year of service is tracked and verified, the loan repayment process begins on or after January 1, 2024, depending on the employment and program enrollment dates.

▪ Must be evidenced by a promissory note that the loan proceeds be used to pay for the cost of attendance at an eligible institution for a semester/term that ended in the five years immediately preceding the individual’s initial employment as a GBI medical examiner.

▪ Must not be in default at the time of application.

▪ Must not have an existing service obligation.

▪ Must not be subject to repayment through another student loan repayment or loan forgiveness program or as a condition of employment.

SB 246, sponsored by Sen. Mike Hodges, co-sponsored by Sen. Ben Watson, Sen. Bo Hatchett, Sen. John Kennedy, and Sen. Blake Tillery, and carried by Rep. Matthew Gambill in the House, provides for student loan repayment for certain nursing instructors. Rep. Houston Gaines, Rep. Katie Dempsey, Rep. Scott Hilton, Rep. Marcus Wiedower, Rep. Matt Hatchett, Rep. Teri Anulewicz also contributed to the bill. This will help address the shortage of qualified nursing educators and increase the number of nurses in the state.

HB 155, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Martin, co-sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse and Rep. Matt Reeves, and carried by Sen. John Albers in the Senate, streamlines and creates a process to allow the issuance of occupational licenses by endorsement for new workers moving to Georgia – removing barriers for those moving to the state to continue to practice their trade.

HB 607, sponsored by Rep. Clay Pirkle, co-sponsored by Rep. Jan Jones, Rep. Chuck Martin, and Rep. Matt Dubnik, and carried by Sen. Max Burns in the Senate, updates the ACT score requirement for Zell Miller Scholarship eligibility to provide parity with the SAT eligibility score, as determined by the Georgia Student Finance Commission using nationally recognized standards.

SB 3, sponsored by Sen. John Albers, co-sponsored by Sen. John Kennedy, Sen. Steve Gooch, Sen. Jason Anavitarte, Sen. Larry Walker III, and 21 other GOP Senate Members, and carried by Rep. Scott Hilton in the House, aims to lower the entry barrier for recruiting employees into state government positions by requiring the Department of Administrative Services to identify and assess all state employment qualifications and requirements and, where appropriate, reduce those qualifications and requirements.

SB 86, sponsored by Sen. Matt Brass, co-sponsored by Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, Sen. Steve Gooch, Sen. Jason Anavitarte, Sen. John Kennedy, and 11 other members from both parties, and carried by Rep. Rick Townsend in the House, creates a three-year pilot program to allow eligible dual enrollment students to access HOPE Grant funds for High Demand Career Initiative Fields for eligible Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education Courses.

The governor expresses his thanks to all who were involved in the passage of the above pieces of legislation.

From the AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday signed bills to help college nursing instructors and state medical examiners repay their student loans.

Senate Bill 246 incentivizes nursing faculty members with at least a master’s degree in nursing to remain in teaching instead of leaving for potentially more lucrative nursing jobs. Officials have said one way to address Georgia’s nursing shortage is to make sure there’s enough teachers to train students who want to enter the profession.

Nursing faculty members who are currently employed and have been employed for at least a year in a nursing program within the University System of Georgia or the Technical College System of Georgia can get up to $100,000 in student loan repayments over five years.

Kemp approved House Bill 163, which will pay off up to $120,000 in student loans for Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiners over five years.

Another Kemp-backed bill, to help Georgia police officers repay their student loans, failed to pass the Legislature this session.

Coastal Georgia employers say too few workers are available, according to The Brunswick News.

Ryan Moore, president and CEO of the Golden Isles Development Authority, said it’s a problem plaguing businesses across the nation.

“It’s difficult finding enough people,” he said. “It’s an employee market, for sure.”

Many businesses in the Golden Isles that had education and job experience requirements to be considered for employment in the past have lowered those standards. They are looking for people who show up to work every day and are willing to learn.

“People are less concerned about education,” Moore said. “Employees can get on-the-job training.”

Another challenge in the Golden Isles is the competition from surrounding counties.

The construction of a new $5.5 billion Hyundai plant in Bryan County is making it increasingly difficult to find local contractors. These are the businesses who bid on local government jobs that are finding it more profitable to accept jobs building the new factory than bidding on local projects.

Another challenge is the lack of affordable housing in the county, which Moore called “the biggest component” for attracting workers to the Golden Isles. Relief is coming with the developments planned or under construction, especially near the Ga. 99 corridor, he said.

Wayne Neal, chairman of the Glynn County Commission, said it’s an ongoing challenge to find contractors. The rising cost of materials and labor is another issue.

“We’re trying to look at different ways we can attack this problem,” he said. “It’s very competitive.”

State legislators announced funding for a new medical school partnership, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Georgia Senate Appropriations Chairman Blake Tillery and state House Speaker Jon Burns, in Statesboro this week, revealed that money has been set aside in the state budget — still awaiting Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature — to create a medical school at Georgia Southern University in partnership with Augusta University, home of the Medical College of Georgia.

By fall 2024, the school, to be based at Georgia Southern’s Armstrong campus in Savannah, could begin receiving medical students on their way to becoming doctors, according to Burns. But it was Tillery who mentioned the funding first during the Building a Better Bulloch Together luncheon, hosted by Morris Bank on April 27 with a panel of four state lawmakers. Tillery, who hails from Vidalia and represents District 19 in the Senate, made the revelation in the course of praising the Statesboro area’s educational and legislative clout.

“But even more than that, you’ve got the speaker over here,” Tillery said. “The speaker is absolutely committed to making sure that Southeast Georgia has the health care that it needs for a growing population.”

He said Burns had taken notice that Georgia has one state-funded medical school, based in Augusta, which now operates a satellite medical school in Athens, and asked, “Why do we not have one of those in southern Georgia?”

Although he just became speaker with this year’s session, Burns, who lives in northern Effingham County and represents District 159, which includes part of Bulloch, has served 18 years in the state House.

”The speaker was able to cajole — maybe that’s the right word … and help the Board of Regents (of the University System of Georgia) to understand why it matters,” Tillery continued.

“So there’s seed money in this year’s budget, I guess still awaiting the governor’s signature, that would create a medical school, being the first partner medical school in Savannah that’s tied in with Georgia Southern and also with … Augusta University, and that’s a huge start,” he said.

Mercer University, a private university based in Macon, has long had a relationship with Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, which serves as a teaching hospital for Mercer medical students on their way to becoming doctors. Meanwhile, Georgia Southern’s School of Nursing, with classes on both the Statesboro and the Armstrong campuses, offers degrees up to a Doctor of Nursing Practice, but Georgia Southern has no program for training physicians.

The Athens program Tillery mentioned is the Augusta University-University of Georgia Medical Partnership, launched from a 2009 agreement. Last May, 41 students received their M.D. degrees in Athens as the partnership’s Class of 2022, but more students typically start than finish annually.

“The first cohort of 40 new physicians will be in place at Georgia Southern in partnership with Augusta … University … in 2024,” Burns said during the April 27 forum. He was actually referring to medical students on their way to becoming physicians.

From the first cohort of 40 med students, the program is expected to ramp up to 120 in future years, he said.

“You haven’t heard much about it yet because the governor hasn’t signed the budget yet,” Burns told the Statesboro Herald. “So, we got a little ahead of the governor, but I think he’s going to sign it. You know, the investment is pretty low to establish a medical school, but we’re able to do it because the buildings are in place at Armstrong, they’re underutilized there. … So we’re ready to go.”

The other lawmakers on the Building a Better Bulloch panel, Republicans like Burns and Tillery, were Bulloch County residents Sen. Billy Hickman and Rep. Lehman Franklin.

Tillery succeeded the late Sen. Jack Hill as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Hickman serves from Senate District 4, which was Hill’s district, but gave up its last portion of Hill’s home county, Tattnall, to Tillery and District 19 in the reapportionment based on the 2020 census. Franklin, the newest legislator on the panel, joined the House this year as the District 160 representative, succeeding now-retired Rep. Jan Tankersley.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education is considering severing the sex ed and health curricula, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

District staff provided board members with four options for the GCPS health and sex ed curriculum, include two that call for splitting the sex ed curriculum from the health curriculum and using two different vendors. The sex ed curriculum in particular has been a topic of debate in recent months.

“I would say that health resources separate from from sex ed,” Chairwoman Tarece Johnson said. “We haven’t had any issues around that (health education portion). I would not want to halt a whole year.”

Johnson and board members Karen Watkins and Adrienne Simmons expressed support for splitting the curriculums and picking HealthSmart for the health curriculum only, saying the opposition they’d heard to HealthSmart focused mainly on the sex ed curriculum rather than the health curriculum.

They also said the district has not had a health curriculum in place. HealthSmart’s health curriculum addresses topics such as personal care, drug education, physical health, mental health and nutrition.

Parents and community members have raised particular issue – HealthSmart is touted as having a more comprehensive sex ed curriculum but some of the issues that critics have centered on includes lessons on gender identity, images they feel are too graphic and concerns that teens may look at the fact that it does not promote abstinence as much as the current curriculum, Choosing The Best, does and therefore feels it validates teens having sex.
Board Vice-Chairman Steve Knudsen and Board member Mary Kay Murphy said they preferred starting the entire review process over from scratch for the health and sex ed curriculums.

The Macon Transit Authority board voted to rescind a fare hike it passed earlier, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Regular fare was set to be bumped up for the first time in 15 years July 1 from $1.25 to $1.75. The cost of a paratransit ride would have gone up from $2.50 to $3.50.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioners voted unanimously last week to pay the transit authority up to $375,000 in hopes it would help the authority stave off the fare increase for at least one more year. That amount is about $14,000 less than revenue the transit authority anticipated after one year of the fare increase in effect.

A Richmond County Accountability Court offers some offenders a second chance, according to WRDW.

“I feel like I would either be dead or in jail if I hadn’t got into this program for sure,” said Rebecca Baldowski, Accountability Court graduate.

Baldowski participated in Accountability Court for five years and spent 18 months at Promises of Hope in Dudley, GA for in-patient care. This was all expense-free thanks to this program. Judge Ashanti Pounds is a state court judge for Richmond County. She told News 12 that this program has a primary mission in mind.

“Our mission with Accountability Court is to focus on reducing recidivism for repeat offenders, additionally to provide court supervision, drug and alcohol treatment, and to help people learn to become accountable for their actions.”

The program aims to get participants help with court supervision, random drug screens, counseling, and treatment through inpatient and outpatient care.

The Richmond County Accountability Court program is a combined effort with the district attorney’s office, the VA, and the sheriff’s office. The hope is that this program helps treat the larger issue of substance abuse in regard to drug and alcohol offenses rather than just punishing someone for a crime.

Former Chatham County Commissioner Larry “Gator” Rivers has died, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Rivers was sworn into his seat on Chatham Commission in January 2021, after winning the District 2 seat in the 2020 General Election. Before that, Rivers was a basketball standout at Alfred E. Beach High School and was inducted into the Greater Savannah Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.

“Marty, the girls, and I were saddened to learn of Chatham County Commissioner Larry “Gator” Rivers’ passing this morning. As a hometown basketball legend who went from the Alfred E. Beach High School Hall of fame to the Harlem Globetrotters, he led a life of accomplishment and chose to spend much of that life serving the people of his community. His loved ones in and beyond Chatham County are in our thoughts and prayers during this time of mourning.” [tweeted Governor Brian Kemp.]

“Commissioner Rivers was a basketball legend and volunteered a lot of his time to the Frank Callen Boys and Girls Club where he inspired our youth to be involved in sports.  As a Commissioner, his passion was ensuring that residents have food security and improving quality of life,” Chairman Ellis stated. “His collaboration as a part of the Board of Commissioners will be missed.”

“This morning, we mourn the loss of Savannah icon, civil servant, and Harlem Globetrotter, Larry “Gator” Rivers. Gator’s legacy and commitment to our community will never be forgotten. Amy and I are praying for the Rivers’ family and the Savannah community,” [U.S. Rep. Buddy] Carter said on Twitter.

Sea turtle season has begun on Tybee Island, according to WTOC.

May 1 marks the beginning of Sea Turtle Season on Tybee Island.

Volunteers will begin walking on the beach at dawn every morning to look for signs of nesting.

The Tybee Sea Turtle Project is also reminding everyone to leave any potential nests alone. If you see sea turtle tracks, they also ask you to leave these alone so volunteers can follow them to locate eggs.

Also starting May 1, outdoor burn bans, according to 13WMAZ.

Georgia’s summer burn ban will start May 1, affecting 54 counties around Atlanta and the northern part of the state.

The ban will last for several months, ending Sept. 30., according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s Environmental Protection Division.

The ban prohibits “citizens and businesses from burning yard and land-clearing debris.” A full-time ban on burning garbage is in place year round, according to the DNR’s website.

According to the Georgia Forestry Commission, humans are the number one cause of wildfires in Georgia. By enacting the annual summer burn ban, this helps to lower the risk of wildfires.

The 54 counties affected can be found here.

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