Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 10, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 10, 2023

Savannah received news of the battle at Lexington on May 10, 1775, leading to a raid of British gunpowder for the colonial effort. On the same day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Second Continental Congress met.

On May 10, 1863, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson died a week after being shot at by his own troops.

He died, as he had wished, on the Sabbath, May 10, 1863, with these last words: “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”

Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart was mortally wounded on May 11, 1864 at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, near Richmond.

On May 10, 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured by Union troops near Irwinville, Georgia.

On May 10, 1869, a ceremonial “Golden Spike” was driven in Promontory, Utah, symbolizing completion of a transcontinental railroad line joining the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad.

The first observance of Mother’s Day was May 10, 1908 at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first official “Mother’s Day.”

May 11, 1996 was the deadliest day on Mount Everest. “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer is a fantastic chronicle of the deadliest season on Everest.

On May 10, 2006, Georgia State School Superintendent Linda Schrenko, a Republican, pled guilty to federal charges of fraud and money laundering, beginning a streak of Republican State School Supers to leave office under a cloud.

On May 11, 2011, Newt Gingrich announced via Twitter that he would run for President. Two days later, I caught up with Newt at Fincher’s Barbecue in Macon for a brief interview the day he was scheduled to speak to the Georgia Republican Party State Convention.

Happy Birthday to Minnesota, which became a state on May 11, 1858. Y’all talk funny.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp broke out the special pen he uses for line-item budget vetos. From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Statesboro Herald:

The Republican governor has vetoed 14 bills the General Assembly passed during this year’s legislative session, not including nine vetoes of line items in the $32.4 billion fiscal 2024 state budget he signed late last week.

Other bills Kemp vetoed include:

— House Bill 193 increasing the value of local government public works contracts subject to competitive bidding requirements from $100,000 to $250,000. Kemp argued state contracts worth more than $100,000 must be competitively bid, and he saw no reason to be more lenient with local contracts.

— House Bill 541 expanding Georgia’s “move over” law to apply to any stationary vehicle displaying flashing hazard lights. Kemp argued applying the requirement to such a broad group of emergency vehicles would pose a safety and enforcement hazard.

— Senate Bill 199 allowing the Employee Benefit Plan Council to offer health savings accounts to all eligible state employees to be funded through automatic salary deductions. Kemp wrote the fiscal ramifications of such a step have not been fully explored.

The nine budget line-item vetoes include several projects on Georgia’s public university and technical college campuses to be financed through bonds. In each case, Kemp wrote the projects had not been requested by the University System of Georgia or the Technical College System of Georgia.

The projects include:

— $6 million for a dental school building at Georgia Southern University.

— $6 million to expand a medical building at Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia.

— $4 million for land acquisition for Georgia Piedmont Technical College in DeKalb County.

— $2 million to build a new student services and academic support center at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville.

Kemp also vetoed $4 million in bond funding to expand the medical examiner’s office in Bibb County, arguing the project already has received funding.

From the AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp has blocked $550,000 in state funding for technology intended to reduce wait times when voters check in at their polling places.

Instead, money for the upgrades would have to come from county governments and their taxpayers during next year’s elections.

Kemp wrote in a message that accompanied his line-item vetoes Friday that the secretary of state’s office should disregard an item in the state budget calling for a statewide data plan to connect check-in tablets to a cellphone network. The Republican governor said local governments are responsible for data plan contracts for election equipment.

The connected tablets, called PollPads, reduced early voting check-in times by about a minute per voter during a test run last year, said Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer for the secretary of state’s office.

Some of the additional costs that will fall on local election offices are minimal, Sterling said. Network connections cost about $38 per early voting location, or roughly $12,000 for the entire state in each election, Sterling said.

The bulk of the $550,000 in funding would have paid for tablet connections on election day, when many more polling places and tablets are needed. Election officials would be able to remotely monitor check-in times, slowdowns and technical difficulties.

Some nursing instructors will be eligible for educational loan repayment under legislation signed by Gov. Kemp, according to WALB.

Healthcare workers around the state are celebrating a new law that could help keep nurses in the state. A new law will help certain nurses and instructors repay college loans.

The bill states that nursing facility members with at least a master’s degree in nursing are eligible. This incentive is their way to keep nursing instructors keep teaching instead of leaving the profession.

The bill also states that those already employed for at least a year in a nursing program at a University System of Georgia or a Technical College System of Georgia can get up to $100,000 in student loan repayments over the course of five years.

Almost one-third of the nursing workforce could be retiring in the next decade, according to the National Institute of Health. Health professionals say they are worried about the future of healthcare.

The talk about new incentives has been a priority in several healthcare facilities to combat the many challenges healthcare workers face daily.

Governor Kemp signed Senate Bill 129 to allow workers two hours off to vote, according to the AJC.

Workers in Georgia can take up to two hours off to cast a ballot during early voting, under a bill Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law Thursday. The law also requires more frequent audits of election results.

The new law expands on an existing statute that guarantees two hours of unpaid voting time for workers on Election Day.

“This bill would further empower Georgians to participate in one of the most important civic duties,” said state Sen. Rick Williams, a Republican from Milledgeville and the sponsor of Senate Bill 129.

Workers seeking time off will have to notify their employer in advance, and then the employer will decide on a time when workers can be absent.

Gov. Kemp signed local legislation allowing Savannah to raise the Hotel-Motel tax, according to WTOC.

Visitors to the Hostess City will soon pay a little more for a room now that Governor Brian Kemp has signed a hotel-motel tax increase into law.

The law brings Savannah’s tax rate up to 8% from 6%.

City leaders and local lawmakers told WTOC back in March that the change puts them on par with other places like Tybee Island and Macon.

“This was a seven-year journey. For us to get to this point where visitors help to pay for things that visitors enjoy, but that we all enjoy is a huge shift and another opportunity for us to be able to expand our financial and revenue streams,” said Mayor Van Johnson.

The mayor says Tuesday’s signing paves the way for the council to change the city’s tax code.

From WSAV:

The hotel motel tax in Savannah is finally going to be on the rise. It comes after Governor Brian Kemp signed House Bill 718 which now paves the way for Savannah to increase the tax from 6% to 8%.

Michael Owens, CEO of the Savannah Tourism Council explained, “Hotel motel tax is really built to invest in tourism. Our folks are by and large pretty excited about the opportunities that this higher tax can bring.”

Today, Mayor Van Johnson further explained the advantage of the two percent increase.

“To get to this point where visitors help to pay for things that visitors enjoy is a huge shift for us to be able to expand our financial and revenue streams,” Johnson said.

“What we will ultimately do is we will have total renovation of River Street. I see it being play spaces I see it being splash pads, more performance. It’s going to be epic. It’s going to be a great opportunity for us.”

Based on the 2022 tourism numbers, the city would have brought in an extra $12 million with an 8% tax in place.

As of now, the mayor says the city will look to start collecting in the fall.

Medical cannabis is making its way to Georgia patients after more than eight years of waiting. From the Valdosta Daily Times:

The rocky battle toward bringing the medicine to shelves in Georgia ended late last month with the opening of two medical marijuana dispensaries operated by Trulieve — one at 3556 Riverside Drive in Macon and the other at 220 Cobb Parkway in Marietta.

Another customer at the Macon facility — a 37-year-old who did not want to be identified — said he’s been obtaining medical marijuana in the “black market.” He has a Georgia Low THC Oil Card to treat post traumatic stress disorder, which he said often triggers his attention-deficit disorder.

In 2015, lawmakers approved the Low THC Oil Patient Registry in 2015, which allows Georgia patients to possess 20 fluid ounces of Low THC Oil within the state, though the medication was not available in the state.

Medical cannabis is allowed to be sold in non-smokable forms such as tinctures, topical creams, tincture drops and capsules, which are priced at approximately $40.

“There’s always a place for growth,” Andrey Mathurin, general manager of the Macon Trulieve. “And now we are going to be looking to add to our product list. But of course, we’re going to do as much as we can, legally, of course.”

Medical marijuana products are not covered by insurance and must be paid for out-of-pocket.

“Customers can tell us what they would like or let us know their conditions, and we can go from there to help them pick which product would best suit them,” Mathurin said.

As long as their THC card is active, customers can purchase as much product as they would like.

According to the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, since 2015 the Low-THC Oil Patient Registry has grown from 13,000 to more than 27,000 registered patients. That number is expected to grow as medical cannabis becomes more widely available.

A Hollywood writers’ strike is affecting Georgia businesses, according to WALB.

Dozens of cameras and lenses typically used on TV and film sets in Atlanta are sitting stagnant inside Otto Nemenz International in Norcross.

“It’s all just sitting here until the strike ends,” manager Pat Smart said. “Basically, we are on hold.”

The camera warehouse typically makes money by renting equipment out for productions like Jumanji, Dynasty, and MacGyver. But, with the writers’ strike in full swing, Smart says there is virtually no one who needs their equipment.

“We were just getting ready to start a show. We had just received notice on Friday afternoon that it was going to be our show, and Friday evening, the news came out that the show had been stopped because of the writer’s strike,” Smart said.

Smart says he may have to reduce work hours for his staff. But others in the Atlanta entertainment industry are already out of a job, like cinematographer Paul Krumper.

Krumper says the strike is creating a trickle-down effect, impacting things like local hotels and restaurants that won’t benefit from a film crew is in town. Or police officers who won’t be employed to patrol productions. And even people who work in the lumber industry, won’t be needed to build sets or props.

Tybee Island began asking for law enforcement support ahead of Orange Crush, according to WTOC.

In an early April email chain between Tybee Island police chief Tiffany Hayes and Sgt. Joseph Curlee with the Georgia State Patrol, Hayes says: “We are planning on heavy traffic coming on the island on April 22 and 23 for Orange Crush. Would it be possible to have a unit or two help with traffic during these dates?”

GSP Sgt. Curlee responded saying: “The nighthawks will be doing a crime suppression detail with Savannah PD on the 22 and are off on the 23, so we won’t be available.”

A week later, on April 12, Tybee city manager Shawn Gillen messaged Chief Hayes about getting help ahead of Orange Crush saying: “If the Sheriff is still bugging you, you can let him know that we are bound by an agreement with the US Justice Department.”


Brunswick area leaders met to discuss homelessness, according to The Brunswick News.

Pastors and representatives of nonprofit organizations from around the Golden Isles gathered at Zion Baptist Church on Monday with a single goal: figure out what the collective of faith leaders and their congregations could do to help address the issue of homelessness.

Zion is located one block over from the former St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church, where the Revs. Leonard Small of Savannah and Zack Lyde of Brunswick set up a tent for homeless people to use as a shelter at the corner of Gordon and G streets. They did so after the City Commission imposed a 65-day closure on The Well, a daytime shelter and hospitality center for the homeless on Gloucester Street, which began on April 22.

Small, pastor of Litway Missionary Baptist Church in Savannah, and Lyde opened the doors of the derelict St. John’s church building at the corner of G and Gordon streets to the homeless after The Well closed. Brunswick code enforcement shut down the church and had it boarded up last week after declaring it unfit for occupancy, prompting the pastors to put up a tent.

Code enforcement cited Small for both housing people in the derelict building and putting up the tent. Brunswick Police Chief Kevin Jones, who also attended, said Small has a May 24 court date.

Jones noted that since The Well’s closure, police calls for service and interactions with homeless persons are down 70% in the downtown area.

When asked directly why the city commission had closed The Well, Jones said four homeless people alleged by police to have been involved in violent crimes in the last month said they had recently been to The Well or received mail from The Well.

It’s nearly impossible for the Brunswick Police Department to be proactive with heading off issues at any one particular location, Jones responded. The department continues to struggle to fill open positions. Of the 72 officers the department has in its budget, only 38 are filled. Some shifts have only three officers on patrol, instead of the seven the department is supposed to field.

He also reiterated that several other jurisdictions, including Savannah and Camden County law enforcement, regularly bring homeless people to Brunswick and drop them off at truck stops off I-95.

The Glynn County Board of Elections and Registration elected officers, according to The Brunswick News.

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