Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 14, 2023

14
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 14, 2023

Delegates to the Constitutional Convention began assembling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 14, 1787, the designated starting day. Because a large number of delegates had not arrived the opening of the Convention was moved to May 25.

On May 14, 1791, George Washington addressed the Grand Lodge of Georgia Masons in Savannah.

On May 14, 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left St. Louis, Missouri to explore the Northwest United States from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.

On May 14, 1864, the VMI Corps of Cadets marched 15 miles and camped overnight at Mt. Tabor, near New Market, Virginia. The next day they would march into history.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

They see me rollin’, they hatin’…. Bainbridge Police rolled out a new e-bike, according to WALB.

Bainbridge Public Safety Officers say a new electric bike will keep the community safe one electric pedal at a time.

Walton said a need for speed and a push for more safety on the city’s 8-mile nature trail is what prompted him to invest in the department’s first e-bike.

“There have been a couple of incidents where we’ve had homeless people, transients, people living in the woods, and we just want to have people to be able to use that area and have peace of mind,” he said.

The bike costs just under $1,000 and will be used during the peak hours the trail is used. A bike rail will soon be added where officers can carry a first aid kit and have Narcan readily accessible. Chief Walton says the bike will also help his officers get their jobs done more efficiently.

“If there was a true emergency and you had to get back to your car, by the time the officer got back he would be kind of wiped out. So, the emergency bike gives you a faster response time. It goes up to 20 miles per hour,” Walton said.

At this point, they’re just testing out the bike unit and if all goes well, they’ll get more bikes to increase patrolling on the nature trail even more.

Muscogee County Elections and Registration has identified problems with mail-in ballots being returned by the USPS, according to WTVM.

News Leader 9 was told nearly 1,400 ballots have been mailed for the May 21st General Primary and Nonpartisan Election and less than 200 have been returned to the elections office for counting.

Officials say if you have your absentee ballot and are able, please deliver it to the dropbox at the City Services Center.

If you have not received your requested absentee ballot, please contact the Elections Office.

Early voting continues through May 17.

Some Macon-Bibb County voters with disabilities faced accessibility challenges in Advance Voting, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The NAACP’s Macon-Bibb County chapter, members of the county election board and voters like Patricia Kitchens have expressed multiple concerns over the past year about accessibility issues at Macon Mall, the new home to Macon-Bibb County’s Board of Elections and one of only three early voting locations in Bibb County.

The election board discussed plans in May 2023, and again in February 2024, to solve accessibility problems raised. Board members discussed implementing functional sliding glass doors, indoor-outdoor transportation vehicles, and improved signs to point people in the right direction through the mall.

Other than a few sliding glass doors around the mall, including one that was inoperable last week, no progress has been made.

“It’s gone too far,” Gwenette Westbrooks, head of the NAACP local chapter, said. “The (election) board itself told us that they were going to work on all these issues, but no, they haven’t.”

The board of elections office, inside the west end of Macon Mall, is one of three early voting sites. If a person comes in through the east end by the mall’s food hall entrance – near Eisenhower Parkway – they have to walk to the opposite side of the mall to vote. Even if someone comes in through the mall entrance closest to the voting space – near Mercer University Drive – the nearest accessible parking spot is about 175 yards from the Board of Elections office.

The county’s only absentee ballot drop box is also located at the mall. The number of receptacles per county depends on its population size, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

There is a designated line for voters 75 and older, which is about half as long as the regular line. However, both lines only begin at the entrance to the elections office area. It does not shorten the distance from the mall entrance to the elections board office.

While there is an automatic sliding glass door at the mall entrance nearest to the elections office, it was out of service as of May 8.

“If that proves to be an issue, maybe we can talk to the mall management, maybe we can get some relief, at least for that entrance,” Gillons said, referring to the doors nearest to the voting place.

When The Telegraph asked Gillon what voters with mobility challenges should do if they don’t feel comfortable voting at Macon Mall, he recommended to voice concerns to the elections board or visit the other two early voting satellite locations in downtown Macon – Theron Ussery Recreation Center on Wimbish Road, and Elaine Lucas Senior Center on Willie Smokie Glover Drive.

Governor Brian Kemp supports Georgia Supreme Court Justice Andrew Pinson in a new TV ad, according to the AJC.

The Republican’s political network is airing a new 30-second spot in metro Atlanta backing Justice Andrew Pinson, who is facing a tough challenge from former Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow.

“Georgia is the best place to live, work and raise a family. But we need your help to keep it that way. We need judges who follow the law and uphold the constitution,” Kemp said in the TV ad unveiled today. “Not more partisan politicians in the courtroom.”

The TV ad is part of more than $500,000 in spending from Kemp’s political organization to back Pinson, who has steered clear of speaking publicly about his stance on abortion. Other conservative groups, including the Faith and Freedom Coalition and Frontline Policy Action, are also boosting Pinson.

Former President Donald Trump leads President Joe Biden in Georgia, according to Atlanta News First via WRDW.

Former President Donald Trump is leading the man who ousted him from the Oval Office four years ago in five critical battleground states, according to a New York Times/Siena/Philadelphia Inquirer poll released Monday morning.

The polls indicate “an erosion of support for the president among young and nonwhite voters upset about the economy and Gaza,” The New York Times said.

A total of 4,097 registered voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were surveyed from April 28 to May 9

Georgia: 50-41, Trump-Biden

According to The New York Times, the polls among all the states combined have a plus/minus percentage error of 1.8 percent. Each state poll has a margin of error ranging from plus or minus 3.6 points in Pennsylvania to plus or minus 4.6 points in Georgia.

November’s election will be the first presidential electoral rematch since 1956. In 1952, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower defeated Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson after then-President Harry Truman chose not to run for a second full term. Four years later, Democrats again nominated Stevenson for the presidency, which led to a second defeat at then-President Eisenhower’s hands.

From the AJC:

Many senior Democrats in Georgia privately acknowledge Biden is falling behind Trump, even with all the caveats about the reliability of polling six months ahead of the election.

Yet even many Republicans scoffed at crosstabs that showed Biden only pulling two-thirds of Black support in Georgia, along with his attracting hardly half of the voters in the Democratic strongholds of DeKalb and Fulton counties, and fewer than half of city-dwellers.

The takeaway from several savvy analysts from both parties: Biden is scuffling in Georgia, but he’s not plumbing the depths suggested in the poll, which pegged Trump with a 49-39 lead over the incumbent.

What’s more, Trump’s campaign has yet to build out its operation in Georgia, relying heavily on the Georgia GOP instead, while there are about a dozen Biden staffers on the ground here already and a calendar full of 2024 events.

From the New York Times:

The findings reveal widespread dissatisfaction with the state of the country and serious doubts about Mr. Biden’s ability to deliver major improvements to American life. A majority of voters still desire the return to normalcy promised by Mr. Biden in the last campaign, but voters in battleground states remain particularly anxious, unsettled and itching for change. Nearly 70 percent of voters say that the country’s political and economic systems need major changes — or even to be torn down entirely.

The sense that Mr. Biden would do little to improve the nation’s fortunes has helped erode his standing among young, Black and Hispanic voters, who usually represent the foundation of any Democratic path to the presidency. The Times/Siena polls found that the three groups wanted fundamental changes to American society, not just a return to normalcy, and few believed that Mr. Biden would make even minor changes that would be good for the country.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden are essentially tied among 18-to-29-year-olds and Hispanic voters, even though each group gave Mr. Biden more than 60 percent of their vote in 2020. Mr. Trump also wins more than 20 percent of Black voters — a tally that would be the highest level of Black support for any Republican presidential candidate since the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The polls suggest that Mr. Trump’s strength among young and nonwhite voters has at least temporarily upended the electoral map, with Mr. Trump surging to a significant lead in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada — relatively diverse Sun Belt states where Black and Hispanic voters propelled Mr. Biden to signature victories in the 2020 election.

Mr. Biden nonetheless remains within striking distance. He has maintained most of his support among older and white voters, who are much less likely to demand fundamental changes to the system and far likelier to say that democracy is the most important issue for their vote. As a result, Mr. Biden is more competitive in the three relatively white Northern swing states: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The economy and the cost of living, however, remain the most important issues for one-quarter of voters — and a significant drag on Mr. Biden’s prospects. More than half of voters still believe that the economy is “poor,” down merely a single percentage point since November despite cooling inflation, an end to rate hikes and significant stock market gains.

The Biden administration’s insistence that the economy is faring well has fallen flat for many voters, including Jacob Sprague, 32, who works as a systems engineer in Reno, Nev. He says that he voted for Mr. Biden in 2020 but will not be doing so this time.

“It is concerning to me when I keep seeing press come out of the White House where they keep saying the economy is good,” Mr. Sprague said. “That’s really weird because I’m paying more on taxes and more on groceries and more on housing and more on fuel. So that new doesn’t feel good.”

The New York Times also covers the campaign of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who presides over the case in the Trump prosecution.

In the last few weeks, Judge Scott McAfee of Fulton Superior Court has been on a dizzying tour of the Atlanta area in an effort to hold on to his job — and in so doing, hold on to the Trump case, one that could eventually secure the judge’s place in the annals of history. Since early March, he has, by his own count, attended more than 30 campaign-related events, including three fund-raisers, three candidate forums, seven church services and a parade.

In a recent interview, Judge McAfee, 34, said that campaigning was “delaying every aspect” of his job. And while he enjoys many advantages over his rivals — as an incumbent in a down-ticket election whose work on the Trump case has earned him broad name recognition — he said he has no choice but to give the race his all. Losing the election, after all, would mean turning over the case, a complex racketeering prosecution with 15 defendants, to a new judge.

Of the judges overseeing the four criminal cases against Mr. Trump, he is the only one who has to face voters. He was appointed to his post early last year by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, filling a vacancy created by a judge who left office. He was young, but hardly inexperienced, having served as a county prosecutor (working under Fani T. Willis, now the Fulton County district attorney), as an assistant United States attorney, and as the Georgia inspector general.

The Trump case was randomly assigned to Judge McAfee under the rules of the Fulton County court system. He has noted that it is one of more than 400 other cases on his plate; he is aided by a single staff attorney.

Though Judge McAfee is a Republican in a heavily Democratic county that encompasses much of Atlanta, party affiliations are not listed on the ballot. His main rival in the race, Robert Patillo II, a civil rights lawyer and radio show host, has also been campaigning hard.

Mr. Patillo, 39, describes himself as a conservative Democrat; he voted for Mr. Trump in 2016, he said, but Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2020. (Judge McAfee would not say who he voted for.) In a social media post last year related to those prosecuted for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Mr. Patillo asked: “How many people have had their lives destroyed by #Trump?”

Records show that Judge McAfee has vastly out-raised Mr. Patillo. But his campaign is being buffeted by the strong emotions generated by the Trump case. This was evident on a recent Saturday at a restaurant on Atlanta’s suburban north side, where the judge had been invited to speak to a local Republican women’s group.

Paul Hershey, a 77-year-old ex-Marine in attendance, laced in to Judge McAfee, asserting that he had gone too easy on Ms. Willis during hearings on whether to disqualify her. “You showed a fear of her,” Mr. Hershey said. “Now, I’m just telling you how you presented yourself.”

Judge McAfee, who in the courtroom tends to be imperturbable even during explosions of emotion from others, seemed to take it in stride. By the end of the event, he appeared to have won over Mr. Hershey, who praised his “direct” and “forthright” demeanor.

Judge McAfee has won endorsements from both Governor Kemp and former Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat. Last week, Fulton County voters received text messages from Mr. Barnes saying that Judge McAfee “does not flinch in the face of pressure and is committed to doing what is right.” (During a pretrial hearing earlier this year, Mr. Barnes said he had turned down an offer from Ms. Willis to run the election interference case, though he said this month that he may represent her office in a State Senate inquiry related to the Trump case.)

Judge McAfee, according to campaign finance records, had raised more than $327,000 as of May 2, including $100,000 that he gave to his own campaign. Mr. Patillo has raised about $11,800, records show. A third candidate, Tiffani Johnson, who, like Mr. Patillo, is Black and a Democrat, has raised more than $17,000. But Ms. Johnson was disqualified for failing to meet residency requirements, a decision she is trying to have reversed.

Georgia state government revenues declined 5.4% in April against the previous year, according to a Press Release:

The State of Georgia’s net tax collections in April totaled $3.96 billion, for a decrease of $225.7 million or 5.4 percent compared to FY 2023, when net tax collections approached $4.19 billion for the month.

Year-to-date, net tax revenue totaled $27.45 billion, for a decrease of $341.3 million or 1.2 percent compared to the same ten-month period in FY 2023, a period during which the state’s motor fuel excise tax was suspended until January 10, 2023. Net of motor fuel tax changes, collection revenues for the ten months ended April 30 were down 4.6 percent from fiscal year 2023.

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

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections totaled roughly $1.97 billion, for a decrease of $171.3 million or 8 percent compared to last year when Individual Tax collections totaled nearly $2.14 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 $195.3 million or 31.4 percent
• Individual Withholding payments were up $60.1 million or 4.8 percent over the previous fiscal year
• Individual Income Tax Return payments declined by $142.1 million or 11.5 percent from last year
• All other Individual Tax categories, including Estimated payments, were up a combined $106 million

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections totaled almost $1.58 billion in April, for a decrease of $6.2 million or 0.4 percent compared to April 2023. Net Sales and Use Tax decreased by $24.6 million or 3 percent, compared to last year, when net sales tax totaled $823.4 million. The adjusted Sales Tax distribution to local governments totaled $765 million, for an increase of $8.6 million or 1.1 percent, while Sales Tax refunds increased by roughly $9.8 million or 179.6 percent compared to FY 2023.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections for the month totaled $748.1 million, which was an increase of roughly $3.7 million or 0.5 percent compared to FY 2023.

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

• Corporate Income Tax refunds issued (net of voids) were down $18.5 million or 32.9 percent from FY 2023
• Corporate Income Tax Return payments decreased by $17.4 million or 5.7 percent from last fiscal year
• All other Corporate Tax types, including Corporate Estimated payments, were up a combined $2.6 million

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections for the month of April increased by $3.1 million or 1.6 percent compared to FY 2023.

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees increased by $3.2 million or 9.3 percent for the month, while Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections declined by nearly $6.2 million or 7.8 percent from last year.

A panel of the 11th Circuit United States Court of Appeals found Macon-Bibb County discriminated against a transgender employee, according to 13WMAZ.

They found that Anna Lange, a transgender employee for the sheriff’s office, was discriminated against since they denied her coverage for “medically necessary” gender affirmation surgery solely because she was transgender.

“By drawing a line between gender-affirming surgery and other operations, the plan intentionally carves out an exclusion based on one’s transgender status,” the federal appeals court found. “Lange’s sex is inextricably tied to the denial of coverage for gender-affirming coverage.”

Lange had previously been awarded $60,000 in damages by the U.S. Middle District of Georgia in 2022, but the sheriff’s office then appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The county’s health insurance provider, BlueCross BlueShield, originally approved the surgery since it was “medically necessary” under the insurance company’s guidance, according to the DOJ. But, once the county pointed out the provision in their policy, they denied coverage for Lange.

In the federal appeals court’s decision, they found the Houston County Sheriff’s Office policy was “facially discriminatory” since it treated coverage for transgender issues differently from other medically necessary treatment.

The National Women’s Law Center filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights over books removed from Cobb County public school libraries, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The National Women’s Law Center filed the complaint Monday, stating that Cobb, alongside a Florida public school district, has targeted reading materials that pertain to and are written by racial and LGBTQ+ minorities.

Since August, Cobb Schools has announced that 25 books will be removed from school libraries, with seven taken out so far. Of the 25 books, several focus on characters of LGBTQ+ or racial minorities, or were written by authors of those minorities.

State law enforcement agencies credited a new “Cold Case” unit with identifying a suspect in the murder of Tara Baker in 2001, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Law enforcement agents on Monday attributed the new cold case unit of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as the key to solving the 23-year-old killing of Tara Louise Baker in Athens.

Baker was a first-year student at the University of Georgia law school when she was slain on Jan. 19, 2001 in her Athens home. The case went unsolved for more than two decades. But last week, police arrested 41-year-old Edrick Lamont Faust, an Athens resident who has been charged with murder, aggravated sodomy and arson in connection with Baker’s death.

“For over two decades, investigators have worked tirelessly to find answers for the family and friends of Tara Louise Baker, and bring some amount of closure and healing to this horrific event,” said GBI Director Chris Hosey during a news conference held Monday in Decatur, Georgia. “With an arrest in this investigation last week, it is my prayer that this process has begun.

Hosey said the arrest was made possible by a 2023 law that was partially named after Baker. The law, known as the Coleman-Baker Act, provided $5.4 million in funding to establish a cold case unit, with investigators stationed throughout Georgia who could reexamine old cases with fresh eyes.

Western Judicial Circuit D.A. Deborah Gonzalez also spoke at the press conference, applauding the arrest.

“When I got into office, this was one of the three top cold cases that we had in our office just waiting for when a day like today would come,” Gonzalez said, adding that her office will be setting up a prosecution team for the case. “We know that this may not bring Tara back, but it will hopefully bring her family some closure, and also acknowledgement that we will put in the work to do this.”

State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens), who sponsored the Coleman-Baker Act, thanked the Baker family for their advocacy, which he said will benefit other families trying to get justice for their loved ones.

“I can’t imagine the journey that the family has gone through and will continue to go through,” Gaines said. “I know there’ll be many more difficult days. But I want to say thank you to this family because not only are we here today for this important moment, but this is for so many other families as well.”

State House Speaker Jon Burns (R-Newington) and Lt. Governor Burt Jones (R-Jackson) announced a new joint study committee to consider changes to professional licensing, according to a Press Release.

Speaker of the House Jon Burns (R-Newington) and Lt. Governor Burt Jones announced a joint Blue-Ribbon Committee to investigate licensing issues within the Secretary of State’s Professional Licensing Boards Division.

“Small businesses and the communities they serve are the lifeblood of our state’s economy,” said Speaker of the House Jon Burns. “We have received numerous complaints from businesses across Georgia regarding substantial inefficiencies in renewing and obtaining the licenses and certifications necessary for their operation. In response, we have appointed a joint committee to identify opportunities for improvement—and subsequently determine a path forward for resolving this critical issue. We look forward to working alongside our friends in the Senate to provide much-needed clarity and accountability surrounding the problems within the Professional Licensing Boards Division.”

“One of the most important duties of the Office of the Secretary of State is to ensure licenses and certifications are obtainable in a timely and efficient manner,” said Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones. “It has become increasingly clear that the Secretary of State is incapable of handling such duties. The Blue-Ribbon Committee will examine ways in which we can improve our licensing processes. We must ensure that the government is not impeding Georgians from starting or expanding their businesses.”

From the AJC:

The secretary of state’s office, which includes a professional licensing division, welcomed the effort, spokesman Mike Hassinger said.

“The secretary of state’s office applauds the General Assembly for finally paying attention to removing red tape that slows down licenses and certifications for Georgia professionals and small businesses,” Hassinger said.

Several licensing bills sought by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his GA Works Licensing Commission didn’t pass during this year’s legislative session, including proposals to issue stalled licenses, update continuing education compliance and expand the scope of practice for occupational therapists.

The committee will complete its work before the end of the year, and then bills could be introduced during the 2025 legislative session.

Macon-Bibb County took computer systems offline after a suspected cyber attack, according to 13WMAZ.

The network for Macon-Bibb County was taken down over the weekend after a potential cybersecurity hack, according to Chris Floore.

Floore said they took their network offline out of an abundance of caution. They are adding additional security measures and are investigating the potential breach.

This means officers are unable to access email or landline phones at this time.  The city reached out to state and federal security officials for guidance and assistance with the issue.

Bibb County Board of Education members are considering raising the property tax millage rate, according to 13WMAZ.

Bibb County School District Superintendent Dan Sims wants to raise property taxes, save money by switching virtual school learners to a cheaper online platform and give hefty raises to certain administrative positions.

Sims voiced his preference for a 1.5 mill increase Thursday evening upon prompting from a school board member following the third and final budget presentation for fiscal year 2025.

“It positions us to remain competitive,” Sims said of the tax increase. “Our long term thought process to get us into the space where, if we need to and if we’re able to, we can accommodate the salary increases. The other part we have to keep in mind is the continued needs for technology … We do want to ensure there’s a general fund cushion so that those needs, when they arrive, can be met.”

The proposal to increase taxes came alongside news that the district received about $17 million from the state, an amount unexpectedly higher than previous years. Most of it comes from a $11.4 million equalization grant from the Georgia Department of Education, an amount the state grants to school districts yearly to ensure they are equitably funded regardless of each county’s property wealth.

Additionally, the district received $5.6 million from the state due to adjustments made to the funding formula that are related to increased health insurance costs.

“This is a complete game-changer for us,” CFO Eric Bush said of the extra revenue.

If approved by the board at its regular meeting May 16, the 1.5 mill increase preferred by Sims would bring the millage rate from 14.67 to 16.17 mills. Bush’s projection for the budget assuming the 1.5 mill increase positions the district for a $2.4 million surplus and an ending fund balance of $61 million.

The owner of a home valued at $100,000 with a homestead exemption currently pays the district $484 in taxes. A one mill increase would raise that tax bill by $33. A 1.5 mill increase would raise it by $50 and a 2 mill increase would raise it by $66.

Savannah may consider changing laws on horse-drawn carriages, according to WTOC.

“We’ll do some case studies around cities that have decided to ban, what was the impact. We’ll do some case studies for cities that have also had these discussions but have elected to either further restrict or not to ban,” said Jay Melder, City of Savannah, City Manager.

It comes after demands from advocates like Robyn Lowe who recently organized a protest calling for an eventual horse-carriage ban.

She points to a 2019 incident where a spooked horse injured itself and seven people.

“We think that bringing horses into a city environment is intrinsically immoral because of all of the health, safety and well-being risks that come with that.”

Melder says council could ultimately decide to either ban horse-drawn carriages with a reasonable timeline impose more regulations or leave Savannah’s rules for horse rest times and work in the heat unchanged.

They’re rules that Carriage Tours of Savannah owner Cara Marshall says her staff follow closely.

“As long as we are being responsible and we are taking good care and we are abiding by the city’s ordinances, there’s no reason that the horses shouldn’t be here. We’re not doing anything wrong. These horses are loved beyond measure,” said Cara Marshall, Owner, Carriage Tours of Savannah.

She calls her carriages a vital part of Savannah’s multi-billion-dollar tourism industry.

“It’s ultimately the City of Savannah’s loss if the horses are removed from the street,” said Marshall.

In a newsletter the Tourism Leadership Council’s CEO called demands for an immediate horse carriage tour ban “a non-starter.”

Rome City Commissioners are considering a proposed ordinance regulating Coin Operated Amusement Machines (COAMs), according to the Rome News Tribune.

The ordinance would apply to all locations in the city that have Georgia Lottery regulated Class B coin operated amusement machines, COAMs for short.

City commissioners considered the ordinance on first reading Monday and discussed it during their pre-meeting caucus at city hall.

Under the proposed ordinance, the proprietor must get an amusement room license from the city clerk’s office and pay an occupation tax — which is based on the revenue of a facility and the number of employees. A separate license must be purchased for each location. That license must be renewed annually.

The ordinance would require each location to keep financial records and provide the city clerk with those records on a quarterly basis as well as an annual audit. No location could derive more than 50% of its earnings from the gaming machines, a limit similar to the city’s food-to-drink ratio for alcohol.

The Savannah-Georgia Convention Center Authority is preparing to expand, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Savannah-Georgia Convention Center Authority recently approved the SCC’s 2025 budget, which features a number of initiatives aimed at having the organization prepared for the expansion’s completion. The organization’s leaders are preparing for a step-up in service and clientele from the looming expansion.

“In developing this budget, we want to make sure we are prepared to meet those expectations day one,” said Kelvin Moore, the SCC’s general manager.

While the expansion opening date is not finalized, the SCC planned its FY25 budget around an assumption the expansion will be ready for business at the first of next year. That includes the addition of eight new full-time positions and first-steps in a commercial marketing rights initiative.

But the budget also features some setbacks related to the delay, namely just over $1 million in negative impacts including $640,000 in lost revenues for events that had to be cancelled or booked elsewhere.

The Effingham County Commission will build new roundabouts, according to the Savannah Morning News.

More than a dozen roundabouts are planned for construction throughout the county. Nineteen are in the design phase and more are under consideration.

“According to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), roundabouts can reduce crashes that may result in serious injuries or deaths by 78-82 percent compared to conventional intersections controlled by traffic lights or stop signs that typically create longer delays.” A press release issued by the Effingham County Board of Commissioners Public Information Officer Mark Lastinger states.

“With growth, we are tracking more and more sales tax so that is giving us more opportunities on the (TSPLOST) to collect,” said District 3 Commissioner Jamie DeLoach. “We definitely have a lot of roads that need attention and TSPLOST has allowed us to do that.”

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners are considering an ordinance that would allow private parties to pay for new speed control devices, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

While the Legislative Review Committee (LRC) is making progress toward fine-tuning a proposal for the Voluntary Residential Traffic Management Program, it will be at least another month before its plan is ready to be sent to the full commission for review, where revisions to the proposal could still be considered.

As currently envisioned, the program would allow neighborhoods – from single blocks of streets to entire subdivisions – to develop plans for addressing speeding along their roadway or roadways. The program would apply only to county-maintained neighborhood streets traversing properties with single-family residential or mixed-density residential zoning. All voluntary neighborhood traffic management proposals, including funding plans, would have to be approved by the full county commission.

The county’s Transportation and Public Works Department would be closely involved with the program. The county’s Traffic Engineering Division would provide guidance in studying the affected area and developing a final recommendation for the neighborhood. In no case will a project that the county wouldn’t install on its own be approved.

The voluntary program, if adopted, will serve as a complement to the county’s residential traffic management program, in which the county is funding and installing traffic-calming solutions along a prioritized list of local roadways. While many communities have county-funded traffic calming programs in place, relatively few provide an option for neighborhood-funded initiatives as is being contemplated in Athens-Clarke County.

Hall County mailed property tax assessment notices, according to AccessWDUN.

The Hall County Tax Assessor’s Office announced the mailings Monday, saying the notice is not a bill, but an explanation of the property’s assessment along with an estimate of the upcoming property tax bill.

Anyone who wishes to appeal their assessment will have until June 28 to do so. Appeals can be filed in person, by mail or online.

Any person who does not receive their assessment within a reasonable time after mailing should contact the tax assessor’s office by calling 770-531-6172.

Macon-Bibb County Mayoral candidate Shekita Maxwell has had some brushes with law enforcement, according to 13WMAZ.

Court records and Bibb County Sheriff’s Office reports detail arguments with an apartment rental agent, family members, coworkers and her children’s dance instructor.

Maxwell initially accepted an interview, then canceled and rescheduled. In the end, like several other requests for interviews since March turned out, Maxwell declined.

Oct. 21, 2016 – A Bibb County Sheriff’s Office incident report calls Maxwell “irate” after her children’s dance instructor called her to pick them up. The report says she “grew impatient” waiting for the instructor to discuss the situation and shut the music off by damaging an amplifier.

Maxwell said she was sentenced to anger management classes for that incident according to her statement in an unrelated lawsuit about a year later.

Nov. 8, 2017 – Maxwell gave a statement after suing the United States Postmaster General after she was fired from her job at the U.S. Post Office after less than a month on the job. The Post Office says her arguments with coworkers escalated to violence. A federal judge threw out her lawsuit.

Nov. 8, 2022 – Maxwell was working the polls in Bibb County when a man called the Bibb Sheriff’s Office saying Maxwell wouldn’t let him in. The man was a Republican poll watcher. The incident report says Maxwell’s supervisor told her to let him in, but she refused.

Aug. 16, 2023 – Macon-Bibb County terminated their agreement with Maxwell and her company, Royal Science, after accusing Maxwell of ‘mismanaging’ nearly $21,000 of anti-violence money. The county says they sent Maxwell two demand letters asking for the money back. On the phone at the time, Maxwell denied knowing anything about the letters even though county records show she replied to one of them.

Aug. 31, 2023 – Maxwell is facing battery charges for an August incident at Bowman Station Apartments.

Augusta City Commissioner Francine Scott faces former Commissioner Marion Williams for Super-District 9, according to WJBF.

The super-district consists of Districts 1, 2, 4, and 5.

Commissioner Scott is finishing her four-year term; she was elected back in 2021.

But Williams served two eight-year terms representing District 9.

The last day for early voting is this Friday, May 17th.

That election and Georgia’s statewide primary election is next Tuesday, May 21st.

Dougherty County Board of Education District 5 member Rev. James Bush faces Democratic primary challenger Wanda Mallard, according to the Albany Herald.

Before he joined the school board 20 years ago, Bush had already played a role in the school system. Two school board members requested his assistance in helping pass the system’s first education special-purpose local-option sales tax (E-SPLOST), an effort that ultimately was successful.

“We got over $90 million from that first SPLOST,” Bush said. “As a result, the school system, they built four new field houses, (one) for each high school. We built two new schools from the ground up. They modernized some of the existing buildings that were in kind of deplorable condition.”

Data from 2023 show that literacy has improved at the school system’s high school, middle school and elementary school levels, he said, with Lamar Reese, Morningside and West Town Elementary Schools excelling.

When Bush joined the board a couple of decades ago, its finances were in dire condition, he said. It took a considerable amount of work to dig out of that hole and get the budget back in the black.

“When I got on the board, we had to borrow $25 million every December, and I was wondering why this was happening,” he said. “We finally got our house in order. We have a $41 million reserve at this particular time.”

The board also has rolled back taxes six of the past seven years, the candidate said, and has worked innovatively to earn financial grants. Bush said he has never supported a tax increase and that the board has been able to put a team in place for future success, paying those employees well to get good results.

Mallard’s experience in education came largely from working inside the school system. She retired in 2008 while serving as principal at International Studies Charter Elementary School, where she oversaw the transition to that status from a traditional elementary school program.

“I was a highly performing principal under (former state school Superintendent) Kathy Cox,” she said. “As principal of a blue ribbon school, we traveled across six different states looking at schools trying to bring the international baccalaureate (model) to Dougherty County.”

The Dalton Daily Citizen dedicates separate stories to the candidates for Whitfield County Sheriff.

Glenn Swinney – Republican

Frank Torres – Republican

Glenn Tate – Republican

Darren Pierce – Republican

Travis Presley – Republican

Glynn County Commission Chair Wayne Neal spoke to the Golden Isles Republican Women, according to The Brunswick News.

One such old saying is “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Most in the local government administration care a lot, and he attested to that on Monday.

He also noted that the Glynn County government is very, very different from what it was four years ago. That was before the COVID-19 pandemic, which upended the way the county normally did business, and the trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers.

Zoom meetings, staff shortages and “spiraling” inflation, coupled with the ever-present unrest, which never tipped into violence, during the trial made for an eventful first term for Neal. His second term began in 2022.

“I went back to my county commission manual and looked for how to handle a murder trial with national coverage. It wasn’t in there,” he laughed.

Turnover in several top-level positions, including the county manager, Public Works Department director, Community Development Department director and Glynn County Police Department chief, has driven much change internally at the county government, he said. At the center is improving efficiency and making it easier for citizens to work with local agencies.

Simeone ‘Simi’ Barnes is seeking the Columbus City Council seat vacated by the death of her father, Council member Jerry ‘Pops’ Barnes, according to WTVM.

Barnes served on the city’s council for 20 years before he passed away last month. The mayor and council decided to delay appointing someone to the seat for 30 days out of respect.

News Leader 9 spoke with Simeone ‘Simi’ Barnes, Pops Barnes’s third child, about her desire to fill her father’s shoes. She says it comes from understanding the importance of continuing his legacy.

Simi Barnes is a licensed professional counselor with a private practice in Columbus. Like her father, she advocates for mental health, veterans and seniors and has expressed her interest in filling her dad’s seat.

Simi has the support of State Representative Carolyn Hugley, Teddy Reese, Senator Ed Harbinson and longtime state lawmaker Calvin Smyre. Additionally, Hughley says Simi embodies Pops’ values and service.

“I guess we’ve been spoiled over 20 years to have a councilor like Pops Barnes. One who listens to people and gets out and tries to understand the needs of people and try to represent them fairly and those are the lessons she learned from her father. And we fully expect that she will do the same thing,” said the state representative.

Hugley says Simi Barnes meets the requirements of holding a council seat, living in District 1 for more than a year and is of age.

Three Democrats and three Republicans are running for the House District 145 seat, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Six candidates have qualified for the race, three for each party. The primary election on May 21 will decide the candidate in November’s General Election for each party.

Devin Pandy and Abigail Guzman are running in a May 21, 2024 Special Election for Gainesville City Council, according to AccessWDUN.

The seat became open after the passing of longtime city councilman George Wangemann in late 2023.

Early voting for the election began on Apr. 29. Election day for the special election is May 21.

Fighter jets swarm coastal skies during exercises, according to WTOC.

About 775 participants along with 40 jets all here to train in a simulated combat environment.

“They’re going out in the airspace just off the coast here to be able to fight mainly two different missions, defensive counter air, and offensive counter air missions,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, Commander of Savannah Air Dominance Center.

“The threat is constantly evolving and is only increased its capability so we’re making sure that our fighters in the U.S. inventory are ready to counter the next threat,” said Thomas.

“F-22′s. F-35′s, F-16′s, F-15′s, all here training to advance their mission,” said Thomas.

Colonel Stephen Thomas says Savannah provides the perfect space for this type of training.

“We have the ramp space, vault space and air space large enough to host multiple combat squadrons here to sharpen their sword and train for that next flight,” Thomas explained.

They’ll continue doing practices out here until May 18, to ensure everyone gets the training they need.

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