Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 13, 2024

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 13, 2024

On May 13, 1607, English settlers founded the first permanent English settlement in America, at Jamestown on the James River. This led to the first English-language politics in America:

Dispatched from England by the London Company, the colonists had sailed across the Atlantic aboard the Susan Constant,Godspeed, and Discovery. Upon landing at Jamestown, the first colonial council was held by seven settlers whose names had been chosen and placed in a sealed box by King James I. The council, which included Captain John Smith, an English adventurer, chose Edward Wingfield as its first president.

Lyman Hall arrived in Philadelphia as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress on May 13, 1775.

On May 13, 1798, a Constitutional Convention adopted the Georgia Constitution of 1798.

The United States declared war on Mexico on May 13, 1846.

Georgia Whigs, led by Governor George Crawford, Alexander Stephens, and Robert Toombs, criticized the war for raising divisive questions about slavery in the territories. Georgia Democrats, led by Howell Cobb and Herschel Johnson, staunchly supported the war and states’ rights afterward. Because Whigs, nationally, appeared to be antislavery, Georgia Whigs lost the governorship in 1847. The Compromise of 1850 temporarily settled the slavery question in the territories, but the moderating influence of Georgia’s Whigs dissolved in the heated rhetoric of states’ rights in the 1850s. The next war would find Americans fighting Americans.

The first fighting at Resaca, Georgia took place on May 13, 1864 and Union forces marched into Dalton. On May 13, 1864, 257 cadets from the Virginia Military Institute camped at Mt. Crawford near Harrisonburg.The next day they would continue their march to New Market, Virginia.

On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

On May 13, 2005, the Pentagon Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommended the closing of Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Fort Gillem in Forest Park, the Naval Air Station in Marietta, and the Naval Supply Corps School in Athens.

The Bulloch County Historical Society unveiled a new historic marker commemorating Statesboro’s first railroad, according to the Statesboro Herald.

“The marker celebrates the coming of railroads to Bulloch County,” said Rodney Harville, a long-time advocate for the Dover-Statesboro Railroad marker. “This event was huge in the economic development of Bulloch County,” Harville added, “and much of the growth in Bulloch County agriculture was the direct result of this development.”

In 2013, the Historical Society dedicated a marker on Gentilly Road to highlight the Savannah & Statesboro Railway, which operated from 1894 to 1933.

“This is the 28th historic marker erected by the Bulloch County Historical Society,” said Joe McGlamery, president of the Society, “and the last marker currently on the erection schedule.”

Brunswick hosted the 86th annual Blessing of the Fleet, according to the Statesboro Herald.

During past blessings, Catholic priests have stood on the bows or decks of tow boats or other ships and showered fishing boats and pleasure craft with holy water and they pronounced blessings. On Saturday, Father Timothy McKeown of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, rode a Brunswick Fire Department ladder to a spot over the East River and blessed the passing vessels from above.

“Apparently the Georgia Bulldog is down,’’ McKeown said of the UGa Marine Extension Service research vessel that was to have been the platform for the blessings. The new method proved a hit with the crowd, however, that lined the city dock at Mary Ross Park and watched the parade of 20 boats.

The ceremony concluded with Friar Esteban Mallar laying a wreath from on high in memory of those lost at sea.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The meltdown of the United States Postal Service’s new Palmetto processing center may threaten some absentee ballots, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The USPS center, which opened Feb. 24, has experienced problems from the start, from lost mail to packages that get rerouted right before arriving to their destination. Only 36% of its inbound mail is delivered on time.

But the problem extends far beyond receiving packages on time. The delays have gotten so bad that officials are now worried they could impact people’s ability to vote by mail-in absentee ballots during Georgia’s primary election this month.

Absentee ballots have taken on a greater role since the 2020 election, when many voters opted to cast their ballot by mail during the height of the pandemic. The practice continued in 2022 – over 6% of all Georgians who voted in the 2022 general election did so using absentee ballots.

That chunk of the electorate could go underrepresented in Georgia’s primary election if USPS does not resolve its issues soon. But how did things get this bad?

The result of the move: cluttered mailrooms, long lines of USPS trucks waiting outside the facility, and an audit from the Office of Inspector General.

With Georgia’s primary election just weeks away, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said that some counties are working with their local post offices to bypass the Palmetto facility entirely.

“You’ll see that county elections directors are very proactive on that,” Raffensperger said.

Otherwise, state election workers are urging voters to get their absentee ballots early and track them for the election.

During an April 16 hearing with Congress, DeJoy said he thinks the Palmetto delays will be worked out within 60 days.

An elections supervisor out of Paulding County, Deidra Holden, told WSB-TV Atlanta that she wanted to “encourage the voters [that got] an absentee ballot, to have one of their family members return it for them, lock it in, or use one of our drop boxes during the early voting hours.”

Voters have until May 21 at 7 p.m. to return their absentee ballots for the primary election. If possible, skip the postage stamp altogether.

United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) asked some pointed questions of the Postmaster, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Ledger-Enquirer.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., is turning up the heat on the United States Postal Service (USPS) concerning delays in delivering mail processed at a new regional distribution center in Palmetto that opened early this year.

In a letter dated Thursday, Ossoff asked Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to update on-time mail delivery in metro Atlanta within a week.

Ossoff grilled DeJoy more than three weeks ago during a hearing held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. At the time, the senator revealed that only 36% of inbound mail handled by the Atlanta Regional Processing and Distribution Center was being delivered on time as of the end of February.

“It is urgent that the performance of USPS delivery in Georgia improve immediately,” Ossoff wrote. “Postal workers working diligently every day to deliver the mail on time deserve the infrastructure and the management competence to enable them to do so.”

Former United States President Jimmy Carter has voted in the May 21, 2024 General Primary, according to USA Today via the Savannah Morning News.

Jason Carter told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Monica Pearson Show,” that his grandfather cast a mail-in ballot in the race. Georgia’s May primary election date is next week, though advance voting began on April 29 in the Peach State

“He’s not going to miss an election.” Jason Carter said. “It’s important to him. I mean, that’s the person he is.”

Jason Carter told USA TODAY last year that his grandfather and President Joe Biden had been in contact “on a relatively regular basis.”

The former president’s grandson added that “He’s hanging in there, and he knows he’s not in charge,” referencing Jimmy Carter’s lifelong commitment to his faith.

“He may be immortal. We have not seen any evidence to the contrary,” Jason Carter joked.

Rosalynn Carter died last year at age 96. Jason Carter told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his grandfather spent hours saying goodbye to his wife at the end of her life.

“He had this opportunity to say goodbye, and after that he was just totally at peace with it. And it was an incredible thing after 77 years of marriage to watch that type of closure,” he told the “Monica Pearson Show.”

Jimmy Carter attended Rosalynn Carter’s memorial services last year, though he was not well enough to speak at the tributes.

The Georgia Republican Party removed an officer who was found to have voted illegally, according to the Associated Press via WALB.

The state Republican Committee voted 146-24 on Friday to remove Brian K. Pritchard, its first vice chairman, state Chairman Josh McKoon said after the closed meeting.

Under pressure from GOP activists, Republicans rammed through a sprawling law in 2021 that shortened the time for requesting a ballot by mail, allowed only restricted use of ballot drop boxes and made it illegal to give food or water to voters waiting in line near a polling place.

It’s that focus that made the findings against Pritchard acutely embarrassing to many Republican activists. In March, Administrative Law Judge Lisa Boggs found that Pritchard was still on probation when he moved to north Georgia’s Gilmer County after he pleaded guilty to forging signatures on two checks worth $38,000 in his home state of Pennsylvania in 1996.

She ruled that Pritchard lied when he registered to vote in 2008 by swearing he wasn’t serving a sentence for a felony conviction. Boggs found that Pritchard voted illegally in nine elections in 2008 and 2010, fined him $5,000, ordered that he receive a public reprimand and ordered him to repay the $375 that the State Election Board spent investigating the case.

Pritchard, who hosts an online conservative talk show, has long denied wrongdoing, saying he didn’t believe he was still on probation in 2008. After McKoon asked him to step down, Pritchard claimed McKoon and others were out to get him for fighting against so-called RINOs, or Republicans in name only.

“My mission was clear: to steer our party back on course and ensure that in 2024, Donald J. Trump would rightfully reclaim his position as our nation’s leader,” Pritchard wrote on Facebook in April. “But as I began to ask the tough questions, to challenge the status quo, I found myself facing a barrage of resistance from within. You see, in the eyes of the entrenched RINO establishment, questioning their authority is akin to heresy. They’d rather maintain their grip on power than uphold the values we hold dear.”

McKoon said Friday after the vote that removing Pritchard was necessary after he refused to step down.

“Today’s vote demonstrates how serious we take election integrity,” McKoon said in a statement.

Pritchard’s ouster could play into a brewing fight over who should represent Georgia on the Republican National Committee. Besides McKoon, who serves on the committee by virtue of his position, delegates will elect two other members — last time that was Committeewoman Ginger Howard and Committeeman Jason Thompson.

Those two now face challengers driven in part by the same forces that elected Pritchard last year.

From the AJC:

Pritchard voted in nine elections from 2008 to 2010 while he was still on probation for a felony sentence that dated to a guilty plea in 1996 to forgery and theft charges involving $38,000 in checks he deposited while working on a construction job, according to court records from Alleghany County, Pennsylvania.

The courts repeatedly revoked and extended his probation until 2011, but Pritchard testified during a February hearing that he thought his sentence had ended in 1999.

Pritchard refused to resign from his role with the party, forcing a hearing Friday that required a two-thirds majority of the state committee to remove him.

But he did not go gently into that good night. From the AJC:

Though the vote was overwhelming, Pritchard framed himself as a political martyr and complained that party leaders “marched” him out of the meeting after he lost the vote. He still plans to attend the convention on Friday.

McKoon said Pritchard was escorted out after he tried to hold an unauthorized news conference outside the meeting with an unnamed ally who was “trespassing on private property.”

He also said he hopes to release a video and transcript of the meeting “so people can judge for themselves what took place.”

More than 300,000 Georgia children lost healthcare coverage in “disenrollment” post-COVID, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia has one of the worst child healthcare disenrollment rates in the country, according to a new report from Georgetown University, falling third in the country after Texas and Florida.

Strikingly, researchers say that the overwhelming majority of children disenrolled from health insurance in Georgia are likely still eligible for Medicaid, but have had their coverage revoked due to procedural red tape.

These changes come amid the end of a pandemic-era provision that allowed those who were on Medicaid to remain covered without filing renewal paperwork between 2020 and 2023. The continuous enrollment provision ended in March 2023, and for the past year, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have been going through the process of “unwinding,” or determining who is still eligible for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage and removing those who no longer qualify.

Georgia’s unwinding process began in May 2023, and by December, more than 300,000 children had been disenrolled from Medicaid and CHIP. According to the study, Georgia has the 10th highest disenrollment rate in the country, with a 17% decline in child Medicaid and CHIP enrollment overall between May and December of last year.

Across the U.S., nearly 3 out of 4 disenrollments during the unwinding process have been due to “procedural reasons — paperwork reasons, red tape, failure to return forms — rather than a determination of a person being no longer eligible for Medicaid,” Park said. “Some people may get coverage in the marketplace, employer-sponsored insurance, separate CHIP programs, but a large share of those are likely ending up uninsured, and that’s particularly the case for kids who are disenrolled.”

According to Joan Alker, the executive director of Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families and the lead author of the report, Georgia was only 55% through its unwinding process in December 2023, falling behind many other states in the study. Texas and Florida, which had the two highest rates of disenrollment, were roughly 75% done. If Georgia continues to remove children from Medicaid at a similar rate, the total could near 600,000 by the end of the unwinding process.

A variety of factors can contribute to families being unable to re-enroll in their state’s Medicaid or CHIP program, researchers say, but disenrollment data indicates that the majority of children are losing coverage because of barriers to enrollment access, not lack of eligibility.

The state government will undertake a nearly $400-million dollar renovation and upgrade of the State Capitol, according to Atlanta News First via WALB.

The Georgia General Assembly approved nearly $400 million for a new legislative office building and significant changes to the state Capitol.

Georgia Building Authority Chief of Staff Gerald Pilgrim expects the projects will be completed by 2027.

“We’re proud that it’s 140 plus-year-old building, we get a lot of life out of our buildings, and we’re ready for it to go another 140 years after this renovation where we’re at in technology and all the things that change. We have to have a have to have it where it’s able to serve the public for what their needs are today,” said Pilgrim.

They plan to build a new legislative office building along MLK Jr. Drive near the Agriculture Building.

The proposed $392 million project includes an 8-story office building with a 500-car parking deck. A bridge would connect it to the State Capitol.

“We’re able to take the stress off of this building on just having the large masses of people that are gathered in the hallway, we’re hoping that to move them, spread them out a little bit further throughout the building,” said Pilgrim.

This summer, they’ll start by replacing some of the gold on top of the dome. They’ll pause their work during the 2025 Legislative Session.

State tax revenues fell again in April, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

Georgia tax collections continued their downward spiral last month, falling 5.4% from April of last year, the state Department of Revenue reported Friday.

The broader picture for the first 10 months of fiscal 2024 was similar. While net tax revenue was down only 1.2% between last July and the end of April, that doesn’t reflect the reality that the state was not collecting sales taxes on gasoline and other motor fuels during the first half of the last fiscal year.

Not counting the fuel taxes the state has brought in thus far in fiscal 2024, tax receipts for the first 10 months of the fiscal year declined by 4.6%.

Individual income taxes fell in April by 8% compared to the same month a year ago, as tax refunds increased by 31.4% while payments were down 11.5%. Net sales tax receipts also declined by 3%.

Usually volatile corporate income tax collections remained nearly flat last month, increasing by 0.5%.

With tax receipts down $341.3 million for fiscal 2024 and just two months left in the fiscal year, it appears likely the state will show revenues down when the year ends on June 30.

Gov. Brian Kemp warned this week after signing a robust $36.1 billion fiscal 2025 budget that times might be leaner when he and the General Assembly put together next year’s spending plan.

Shailen Bhat, Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration spoke about federal funding for dedicated electric chargers in Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As Shailen Bhatt described how more than $15 million in newly announced grants from his agency are aimed at improving air quality at and around the Port of Savannah, hundreds of drivers guided trucks through the rain in a carefully choreographed dance that resembled chaos at first glance.

On weekdays like this, those rigs will make an average of 13,000 trips between the nation’s third-largest port and an ever-expanding collection of nearby warehouses and distribution centers.

On an easel to the right of Bhatt sat an artist’s rendering of a planned facility with the capability to simultaneously charge more than 100 electric versions of the trucks maneuvering outside the window. A California-based clean-energy infrastructure company is putting a $7.8 million Federal Highway Administration grant toward the charging center, which will be a few miles from the port.

A look at the illustration and then the movement beyond revealed a disconnect. The 3,200 short-route trucks serving the port daily are nearly all powered by diesel fuel.

How, Bhatt was asked, will the owners of those vehicles be convinced to transition to still-more-expensive electric versions?

“People want to make money,” he replied. “The ‘sell’ will be, can they save money, attract drivers and affect their bottom line in a positive way?”

While those decisions rest primarily with the private sector, the government’s role in truck electrification is ensuring there is a robust charging network, Bhatt added.

Tapping funds from the 2023 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support projects like Voltera’s Garden City charging center contributes to that process.

The City of Warner Robins will receive a federal grant for affordable housing, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The City of Warner Robins received a $1.5 million grant to construct new single-family housing for low to moderate-income homebuyers, according to an announcement from the city Friday.

The housing units are expected to become available by 2025, Kate Hogan, director of Community and Economic Development told The Telegraph. Interested residents can be put on a waitlist by calling the city office.

The grant, provided by Georgia’s Community HOME Investment Program, was designed to “bolster our community’s housing stock and enhance accessibility to quality housing,” a press release states.

The grant is part of a $13 million distribution to 19 communities in Georgia, administered by the state’s Department of Community Affairs.

Chatsworth will also receive some of that federal affordable housing gravy, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The Housing Authority of the city of Chatsworth will receive $222,727 as part of $80 million in federal housing investments in Georgia, according to a press release from Georgia U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

“These new federal investments secured in the government funding legislation will help working families, support local governments strained by the housing crisis and lower costs,” Warnock said in the press release.

“Georgia families urgently need more affordable housing,” Ossoff said in the press release. “That’s why Sen. Warnock and I brought Republicans and Democrats together to help increase affordable housing supply for families across Georgia.”

Athens-Clarke County will fund some affordable housing in it’s next budget, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz is proposing a $193.7 million general fund budget for the new fiscal year beginning July 1.

The mayor’s spending proposal represents a $7 million increase over the current fiscal year, but it leaves the property tax millage rate unchanged at 12.45 mills.

The spending plan, based in part on a draft prepared by county government management, includes a 4% pay increase for all county employees, along with an outlay for overtime pay needs for police and public safety personnel.

Outside of the general fund, Girtz is also looking for commission approval of a $1 million outlay for an affordable housing “strike fund.”

At a recent public hearing and Athens-Clarke County Commission work session on the budget proposal, Girtz described the “strike fund” initiative as a means of purchasing abandoned or distressed properties to ensure they become affordable local housing stock, rather than seeing them go to real estate investors who could develop them into properties beyond the means of many people.

While the millage rate – a fractional multiplier applied to the taxable value of a property to arrive at a tax bill – remains unchanged in the budget proposed for the 2025 fiscal year, that does not mean that property tax bills will remain unchanged.

County finance staff members said property values have been increasing in the county, meaning that tax bills for individual properties could increase, even with the same millage rate as last year.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee faces his first election while presiding over the Trump prosecution in court, according to the AJC.

The cello-playing Millennial had been a judge for just six months when he was randomly assigned last summer to oversee the election interference case. But the 34-year-old father of two quickly established, with the deftness of someone two or three decades his senior, that he was the one in charge of his courtroom. Typically buttoned-up and soft-spoken on the bench, McAfee has tucked references to Monty Python and Tennessee Williams into his opinions, like when he wrote that “an odor of mendacity remains” from the district attorney’s testimony at a recent hearing.

As a candidate, McAfee is smilier, more relaxed and eager to explain the intricacies of Fulton’s legal system. He was even spotted wearing jeans as he marched in an intown Atlanta parade with his wife, kids and staff.

Judicial rules bar McAfee from discussing how he’ll decide the weighty issues before him, including the racketeering case against Trump and 14 of his allies. But that hasn’t dampened his drive on campaign trail, where he shares his judicial priorities, a sunny message about the direction of his courtroom and the occasional peek into his personal interests.

The overwhelming majority of incumbents go unchallenged. But McAfee is an exception. The University of Georgia Law graduate is among the only 4% of Superior Court judges in the state to draw an opponent this year.

“First-time judges, if there’s going to be a challenge, they tend to draw (them in) their first time out,” said Robert Highsmith, an attorney and long-time member of the state Judicial Nomination Commission, which vets judicial appointments for the governor, including for vacancies on the Fulton Superior Court.

He is being challenged on May 21 by Robert Patillo, a civil rights attorney and media pundit, and Tiffani Johnson, a former Fulton assistant solicitor who is fighting to stay in the race after being disqualified in the wake of a residency challenge. Each has argued they have a background that better suits the job and the county, but both have struggled to raise money.

No public polling has been released in the race, but McAfee is seen as the overwhelming favorite. In addition to his high-profile work on the election case, he has a commanding $320,000 in his campaign war chest and earned a raft of bipartisan endorsements, including from Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed him to the bench in late 2022; former Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat; multiple former state Supreme Court justices; and several Democratic lawmakers serving in the Legislature and Atlanta City Council.

On the campaign trail, McAfee acknowledges his highest-profile case but also notes that it’s just one of some 170 he currently has pending.

One of his major focuses has been working his way through the backlog of cases he inherited. (When he was sworn in early last year, he said had 52 murder cases on his plate. Now he’s down to 20. There were roughly 100 people in jail awaiting trial, now there are 37, he said.)

McAfee attributes the improvements to knowing how to steer prosecutors and defense attorneys to trial quickly. In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he compared efficient case management to gardening.

Brian Jack is running for the Third Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

Brian Jack came home to Georgia with former President Donald Trump’s endorsement and a stack of Washington contacts. Now he just has to close the sale with GOP primary voters in the safely Republican 3rd Congressional District as he makes his first run for office.

On the stump, Jack emphasizes his close ties to Trump at every opportunity. He worked on his 2016 presidential campaign and served for four years as White House political director. Jack is the leading fundraiser, and his television ads thus far consist of Trump praising him. In one, there’s a clip of an Atlanta appearance where Trump called Jack “a MAGA man.”

“I am so proud to not only have President Trump’s endorsement, but to have worked for him for the last eight years.” Jack said in an appearance in Columbus on April 23. “And I helped him build that ‘America First’ agenda. I helped him campaign for it in 2016. I helped him enact it over the four years I served by his side in the White House.”

Trump’s endorsement has proved powerful in Republican primaries nationwide. But the Trump nod hasn’t been a sure thing in Georgia. Six candidates that Trump endorsed for office in 2022 lost Republican primaries in the state, including former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who was routed in his challenge to incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp.

Jack has four Republican opponents in the May 21 primary — former state Sens. Mike Crane and Mike Dugan, Republican activist Jim Bennett and Singleton, who is now a congressional chief of staff. Dugan points to his achievements as the former majority leader in the state Senate to suggest he can get things done, while the other three have staked out positions to Jack’s right on issues including abortion.

Candidates are trying to capitalize on discontent among Republican primary voters in different ways. Dugan, who’s cutting a slightly more moderate path, argues he can bring people together, noting that while he was majority leader the state Senate cut taxes, imposed sharp restrictions on abortion and shortened the period to request an absentee ballot and limited ballot drop boxes.

Singleton, who Republican leaders redistricted out of the state House after he proved a thorn in their sides, promises that he’s willing to fight to balance the budget and to not compromise conservative principles. Singleton said that if legislation subtracts from how he sees freedom and liberty, “then I’m there to stand in opposition to those things and push back.”

Crane has been appealing to religious conservatives, underlining his longtime opposition to abortion and arguing political reform can only flow from a moral rebirth.

Bennett has been in the race the longest, saying he was motivated to run because of his unhappiness with Ferguson. He’s the least well-funded, raising only $38,000 through March 31. Jack has raised the most, at $623,000, with big contributions from political committees controlled by McCarthy and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise. Crane has raised $505,000, while Dugan raised $268,000 and Singleton raised $143,000.

Some Gwinnett County elected officials are supporting a referendum to raise the county homestead examption, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

State Rep. Matt Reeves was flanked by Sugar Hill Mayor Brandon Hembree, Gwinnett County Commissioner Kirkland Carden and fellow state Rep. Rey Martinez on Thursday as he highlighted the tax relief proposals that Gwinnett voters will decide on May 21.

One part of the proposal is the increase of Gwinnett’s county homestead exemption from $4,000 to $8,000. The other part is to create an additional $2,000 exemption for frontline workers.

The two proposals will appear as referendums on all ballots for the May 21 primary elections. Voters must approve the measures in order for them to go into effect.

“I am 36 years old (and) the last time voters had an opportunity to vote on something like this was 1988, which was the year I was born,” Carden said. “It’s a good thing to give voters the opportunity to vote on a significant property tax reduction.”

Reeves said that, on average, homeowners would see a savings of about $120 on their property tax bill, based on the current millage rates, if the referendum passes. That amount would go up, on average, to nearly $200 for first responders, active duty military personnel, nurses and teachers.

“The homestead exemption will reduce taxes so even though the amount goes up that’s a good thing,” Reeves said.

Reeves said he and a bipartisan group of legislators worked with local officials to determine how much the homestead exemptions could be increased without institutions, such as schools, taking a significant hit. Gwinnett County Public Schools had input on the proposed increase, but has not taken a position for or against the proposals, Reeves said.

Sugar Hill voters overwhelmingly approved similar proposals for their city homestead exemptions last year. Although this year’s budget cycle will be the first year to be affected by the changes in the city, Hembree said it appears at this point that the impact to Sugar Hill’s finances will be about $500,000.

Western Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judges unanimously elected Lisa Lott as Chief Judge, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

In a unanimous vote of the judges, Judge Lisa Lott was appointed chief judge to replace Judge Eric Norris, who has served in that position since 2020.

“We are proud to have Judge Lott serve as our next chief judge and first female chief judge,” Norris said in a statement released with the announcement.

“Her years of government service demonstrates her commitment to the rule of law and her faith in our local community,” Norris said.

“I would like to further express my deep thanks to Chief Judge Norris for his four years of steadfast leadership, most of which were during the pandemic. He weathered us through court closures, virtual court proceedings, lean budgets and more, all with calm and dignity,” Lott said.

The role of chief judge was created largely to handle administrative matters, including appointing jury commissioners, overseeing jury lists and serving on boards for such groups as the law library, alternative dispute resolutions and child abuse protocol committees. The chief judge can also convene a special grand jury

Lott was elected and became a Superior Court judge in January 2019. She previously served as a public defender in Athens for 18 years. She also has worked as a prosecutor in the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office.

The Western Circuit covers Clarke and Oconee counties. Besides Lott and Norris, Lawton Stephens and Patrick Haggard also serve as circuit judges.

Former State Senate Rules Committee Chair Jeff Mullis (R-Extreme NWGA) is backing Angela Pence for the Senate seat he previously held over incumbent Colton Moore, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Angela Pence is challenging incumbent Colton Moore in the May 21 Republican primary, for the seat Moore won two years ago. The district covers Armuchee and northwest Floyd, along with all of Chattooga, Dade, Walker and Catoosa counties.

Mullis is among the major donors listed on the report filed by Pence, a Chickamauga native, mother of nine, military wife, community volunteer and small business owner.

Moore is the only member of Floyd County’s legislative delegation facing a primary challenger. A Dade County native, auctioneer, truck driver and outspoken officer of the Georgia House Freedom Caucus, his term has been marred by conflicts with his own majority party.

He was expelled from the Senate’s Republican caucus and barred from the House by its Republican speaker.
The winner of the GOP primary will go up against Democrat Bart Alexander Bryant in November.

Candidates for Richmond County Sheriff met in a public forum, according to WJBF.

Early Voting is underway in Richmond County for the May 21st General Primary Election. One race on the ballot is for Sheriff. Friday night, the Democratic Candidates running for the seat spoke at a candidate forum.

The forum covered several key issues, including the department’s response to alarm systems and department transparency.

Violence with teens in the community has been a big issue recently. Sherriff Roundtree spoke at the forum about how this has to do with gang violence.

“We got a dedicated gang unit,” said Richard Roundtree, Richmond County Sheriff. “That is their primary program to focus to focus on gangs. Unfortunately, what we have seen is they’re getting recruited younger and younger, as you’ve seen in the past week. But like I told people, this is a community issue. Parents got to get involved, churches got to get involved, and the government got to get involved. This can’t just be a law enforcement problem. We fight together.”

Early Voting lasts until May 17th, with election day on May 21st.

Clyde McDaniel Jr. is seeking a full term as Whitfield County Coroner, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

A 25-year veteran of the city of Dalton Fire Department, Clyde McDaniel Jr. also served as deputy Whitfield County coroner from December 2017 to July 2023, when he was named coroner by the Probate Court judge to fill the unexpired term of Greg Bates. That term expires at the end of this year. McDaniel is now seeking his first full, four-year term. He faces Colt Helton in the May 21 Republican Party primary.

Colt Helton is challenging McDaniel for the coroner’s post, promising an “Open Door” policy, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

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