Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 17, 2023

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 17, 2023

Five thousand British and Hessian troops surrendered to patriot militia on October 17, 1777, ending the Second Battle of Saratoga, and leading to France recognizing American independence and sending military aid.

An editorial published pseudononymously by Alexander Hamilton on October 17, 1796, accused Thomas Jefferson, then a Presidential candidate, of having an affair with a slave.

Happy birthday to the Texas Rangers, created on October 17, 1835.

In the midst of their revolt against Mexico, Texan leaders felt they needed a semi-official force of armed men who would defend the isolated frontier settlers of the Lone Star Republic against both Santa Ana’s soldiers and hostile Indians; the Texas Rangers filled this role. But after winning their revolutionary war with Mexico the following year, Texans decided to keep the Rangers, both to defend against Indian and Mexican raiders and to serve as the principal law enforcement authority along the sparsely populated Texan frontier.

Paul Anderson, known as the “World’s Strongest Man,” was born in Toccoa, Georgia on October 17, 1932. From his New York Times obituary:

As the unknown substitute for the injured American champion at the first Soviet-American dual athletic competition, in Moscow in 1955, the 5-foot-9-inch Anderson was scorned by his hosts.

The scorn turned to snickers when Anderson called for a weight of 402.4 pounds, more than 20 pounds above the world record. The snickers stopped when the 340-pound Anderson lifted the weight. By the time he set another record, in the clean and jerk, he was being hailed by Soviet fans.

The stunning achievement at the height of the Cold War made Anderson an instant American hero, and it was largely an anticlimax when he set three more world records at the world championships in Munich, Germany, later that year.

Although virtually conceded the gold medal at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, Anderson was stricken with a severe inner-ear infection.

Competing at 304 pounds and with a 103-degree fever, he fell so far behind his chief rival that on the final of three required lifts, he needed to clean and jerk 413.5 pounds, an Olympic record, to claim the gold. Twice he tried and failed. On the third attempt he asked God for a little extra help and got it.

“It wasn’t making a bargain,” he said later, “I needed help.”

Paul Anderson Memorial Park in Toccoa is a private park supported by a 501(c)(3) organization.

Note this: it’ll come in handy when you get to the items below about FLOTUS Jill Biden rooting for the Phillies.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early voting for November’s local elections began yesterday in Glynn County, according to The Brunswick News.

Two seats on the City Commission, one representing the North Ward and one representing the South, are up for grabs. Incumbents Johnny Cason and Julie Martin are not seeking reelection.

Two candidates qualified in August for the South Ward race to represent city residents living south of L Street. The race for the North Ward seat is a little more crowded, drawing five candidates.

In the South Ward race, Lance Sabbe is challenging Christopher Bower. In addition to Atkinson-Williams, Paige Edwards, Gary Cook, Leroy E. Dumas Jr. and Zack Lyde qualified for the North Ward race.

From the Albany Herald:

A trickle of voters made their way to the polls here to cast ballots on Monday during the first morning of advance voting for municipal elections.

The early voting period will extend for three weeks for voters citywide in races for mayor and for contests in Albany City Commission Wards I and IV.

All registered Dougherty County voters also are eligible to vote on the question of extending a 1% special-purpose local-option sales tax that also will be on the Nov. 7 ballot.

As of noon Monday, about 50 people had voted at the Dougherty County early voting precinct, located at the 125 Pine Ave. Riverfront Resource Center, an election official told The Albany Herald. Things began to pick up a little at around noon when some voters began arriving singly and in pairs and groups.

From WRDW in Augusta:

Early voting opened on Monday in two important local elections: a sales tax to rebuild the James Brown arena and the battle over who’ll be the mayor of Grovetown.

In the James Brown Arena vote, 87 people took advantage of advance voting Monday at the Augusta Municipal Building on Telfair Street, according to Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Travis Doss.

The plan comes after passage of special state legislation, House Bill 230, to allow the public to vote on the tax.

Grovetown voters, meanwhile are deciding whether to stick with the current mayor or elect a new one.

We introduced to you all three candidates last week: Deborah Fisher, Ceretta Smith, and current Mayor Gary Jones.

Governor Brian Kemp’s office announced state revenues were down 3.2% in September, according to a Press Release.

The State of Georgia’s net tax collections during the month of September totaled nearly $3.3 billion, for an increase of $199.1 million or 6.4 percent compared to September 2022, when net tax collections totaled almost $3.1 billion for the month. $199.8 million of September’s tax revenue changes were the result of the reinstatement of the Motor Fuel Excise Tax. Excluding Motor Fuel Tax revenues and prior year related local sales tax distribution adjustments made in the current fiscal year, all other September net tax collections decreased by 3.2 percent, or $97.8 million compared to September 2022.

On a year-to-date basis, total revenues were up 6.1 percent or $463 million from the same three months last year, driven mostly by collection of the state motor fuel tax that was suspended throughout the same time period in 2022. Net of the motor fuels tax changes and local sales tax distribution adjustments, revenues for the three months ended September 30 were down 1.3 percent from this time a year ago.

The changes within the following tax categories account for September’s overall net tax revenue decrease:

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections during September totaled $1.39 billion, down from a total of $1.55 billion in fiscal year 2023, for a decrease of $163.4 million or 10.5 percent.

The following notable components within Individual Income Tax combine for the net decrease:
* Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) increased by $52.5 million or 70.4 percent.
* Income Tax Withholding payments for September increased by $51.7 million or 4.5 percent over FY 2023.
* Individual Income Tax Estimated payments decreased by $94.5 million or 36.9 percent from FY 2023.
* Individual Income Tax Return payments decreased by $24.3 million or 25.4 percent compared to FY 2023.
* All other Individual Tax categories, including Estimated Tax payments, were down a combined $43.6 million.

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections for September totaled $1.51 billion, which was an increase of $31.3 million, or 2.1 percent, over FY 2023. Net Sales and Use Tax increased by $70.9 million or 9.5 percent compared to September 2022, when net Sales Tax revenue totaled $749.2 million. The adjusted Sales Tax distribution to local governments totaled $682.3 million, for a decrease of $42.5 million or 5.9 percent from last year, while Sales Tax refunds increased by $2.8 million compared to FY 2023. The September local distributions amount includes an adjustment of $97.1 million for distributions paid out to local governments in August related to the Sales Tax attributable to FY 2023.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections for the month increased by $83.6 million or 13.8 percent compared to last year, when net Corporate Tax revenues totaled $603.9 million in September.

The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the net increase:
* Corporate Income Tax refunds issued (net of voids) were up $17.1 million compared to September 2022.
* Corporate Income Tax Return payments increased by $42.5 million or 56.5 percent from FY 2023.
* All other Corporate Tax payments, including Corporate Estimated payments, were up a combined $58.2 million.

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections for September increased by $199.8 million compared to FY 2023 when Governor Kemp’s Executive Order to suspend the Motor Fuel Excise Tax was in effect during the entire month. Via executive order, the governor again suspended collection of the state motor fuel tax beginning on September 13 of this year and renewed that order this month.

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fee collections for September fell by nearly $0.1 million or 0.3 percent, while Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections rose by $6.1 million or 8.1 percent from FY 2023.

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

Total state general fund receipts rose about $1 billion, or 3%. But because Gov. Brian Kemp has kept budgeting spending well below prior year revenues, the amount of surplus cash at the end of each year keeps rising.

Some state tax collections are cooling off, especially once $185 million a month in fuel taxes are knocked off. The governor’s office said Monday that state tax collections in September, when motor fuel tax collections are excluded, fell by about $100 million compared to the same month in 2022. The declines are mostly in personal income tax collections.

But Georgia is likely to run another multibillion dollar surplus in the budget year that began July 1, unless revenues fall much more sharply.

Kemp indicated in August that he would consider some spending increases, telling state agencies they could ask for 3% increases both when the current 2024 budget is amended and when lawmakers write the 2025 budget next year. He also invited agencies to propose one-time ways to spend the state’s unallocated surplus.

One of the Republican Kemp’s strongest powers as governor is setting the revenue estimate, an amount that state law says legislators cannot exceed when writing the state spending plan.

The governor continues to say he doesn’t want to spend “one-time” revenue on recurring expenses. But it’s far from clear that there’s anything one-time about Georgia’s recurring surpluses at this point. Critics of Kemp’s fiscal policy, including the liberal-leaning Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, say he has starved state services by setting artificially low revenue estimates.

From the AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp has again suspended gas tax collections, meaning the state will lose about another $190 million a month, likely through the end of the year.

That’s good news for drivers, who are seeing lower fuel prices as a result.

Georgia State Senator Russ Goodman (R-Cogdell) returned from Israel, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

State Sen. Russ Goodman and his mother, Donna Kane, are safely back in southeast Georgia after having their Holy Land pilgrimage cut short by the gruesome Hamas attack on Israel last weekend.

“It was quite an ordeal,” said Goodman, who returned to Homerville on Friday, six days after Hamas militants staged a surprise attack that killed more than 1,300 Israelis, most of them civilians.

Goodman, a deacon at First Baptist Church in Homerville, recounted standing on his hotel balcony in Israel and hearing machinegun fire and missiles going off in the distance.

“The good Lord wanted me to see what I saw and to experience what I experienced,” Goodman said. “I don’t know why right now, but I feel sure in time He will reveal what that reason is.”

One takeaway from the experience, he said, is a greater appreciation for the U.S.

“We as Americans don’t realize how blessed we are,” he said. “We’re protected by two oceans. The Israelis are there, surrounded by people who don’t think they even have a right to exist.”

The Georgia Ports Authority wants to deepen the Savannah River channel again, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The agency is asking U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Savannah, and Georgia’s two U.S. senators, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, to seek congressional authorization for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study the economic and environmental impacts of another deepening project. The study would be funded next year through legislation reauthorizing the Water Resources Development Act as well as some non-federal funds.

The earlier deepening project, which took 25 years to navigate bureaucratic red tape and build, was designed to accommodate containerized-cargo ships with capacities of up to 8,200 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

However, vessels with capacities of more than 16,000 TEUs are now calling at the Port of Savannah. Ships that big can’t make it up the Savannah River to the port at low tide, causing delays that make the port less productive.

Some Glynn County property owners received tax bills that omitted homestead exemptions, according to The Brunswick News.

One St. Simons Island resident, Bryan Tolar, said he got two bills in the mail, one with his homestead exemption and a second one later with no exemption.

The difference in the bills was $3,500, he said.

Tolar said he was given different explanations, one saying he lost his homestead exemption because he was renting his renovated garage as an Airb&b and the other a computer error.

Glynn County Tax Commissioner Jeff Chapman blamed the confusion on new tax base hardware that sent some erroneous bills that he said has since been resolved.

“Anyone with concerns should call our office,” [Chapman] said. “We’ll answer every question they have.”

Walthourville, in Liberty County, may levy a property tax, according to TheCurrentGA.

Walthourville residents may soon be paying municipal property taxes to keep the city running. Over the past three years, expenses have gone up, but revenues have remained the same, according to an expert who warned the council Tuesday to take immediate action.

Unlike most other municipalities, the city has not implemented property taxes, but now a series of public millage rate hearings in the coming days will be held to address the crisis with a tax.

“We’ve got to do something before we sink, ladies and gentlemen,” Mayor Larry Baker said. “So let’s get it together.”

To keep the city of about 3,800 people afloat, residents may have to pay annual property taxes between three and six mils. A mil is 1/1000 of a dollar, or $1 on every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Commissioners also voted to discuss rewriting the proposed budget. Walthourville’s budget year starts January 1.

Walthourville offers four basic services: police and fire; library; water and sewer; and road maintenance. A property tax would help pay for those basic services.

Glynn County Commissioners will consider changes to employee benefits, according to The Brunswick News.

Brunswick City Commissioners will hear a report on a proposed housing and neighborhood revitalization report, according to The Brunswick News.

Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Denise Watts held a Town Hall meeting, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Two candidates for Hahira City Council spoke in a forum, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Two candidates running for separate city council seats shared their visions for the City of Hahira’s future with residents during a forum event.

The forum was held on Thursday, Oct. 12, in conjunction with The Valdosta Daily Times and the City of Hahira at the Train Depot, 220 W. Main St. in Hahira. The forum began with the participating candidates Kenneth Davis, the incumbent for council post District 2, and Terry C. Benjamin for the council post at District 3.

Qualified candidates Klay Luke, who is running in opposition to Davis, and David Lindsey, who is opposing Benjamin, were invited but did not attend the event.

Early voting for the election began Monday, Oct. 16, and continues through Nov. 3 at the Board of Elections office, 2808 N. Oak St. Election Day will be Nov. 7.

Candidates for Fort Valley City Council and Utilities Commission will attend a public forum tonight, according to 13WMAZ.

Pooler City Council member Stevie Wall is running for Mayor, according to WTOC.

Stevie Wall has served on council for more than two and a half decades here in the city of Pooler, but now he says after retiring from his full-time job… he’s ready to be mayor.

“Because I have the experience and knowledge that I have gained through the last quarter of a century to lead this city forward for at least the next four years,” said Wall.

“The city of Pooler has 4,500 units that has not even gone under construction yet that has been approved by city council. These things will be built. Hyundai is coming and people are saying, ‘are you ready?’ It’s like the city of Pooler has been waiting on it to come all along.”

Wall has two other opponents for the mayoral seat and you can cast your ballot early until November 3rd with election day to follow on November 7th.

 

Athens attorney Kalki Yalamanchili says he’s received positive reactions to his candidacy for Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Yalamanchili said on Monday that his first effort at seeking public office has garnered “an overwhelming positive reaction.”

“I’ve had messages going all the way back to people I interned for over a decade ago in law school,” said Yalamanchili, who is a former assistant DA in the Western Circuit, where he prosecuted a wide range of major felonies from homicides to large-scale drug cases.

He plans to seek the office as a non-partisan candidate.

“There is nothing partisan about protecting our community, keeping our family and friends safe and seeking justice for victims by holding violent offenders accountable,” he said.

On the day he announced and again Monday, he took a strong stance against the way District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez is conducting the office in her first term, where she has been battling staffing shortages and complaints from crime victims.

“We have seen what happens when you have a district attorney that used the office primarily as a political position and failed – as Mrs. Gonzalez has – to execute the court duties of the district attorney,” he said.

When Gonzalez was elected to the office, she defeated a Democrat candidate in the primary and in the General Election she defeated James Chafin, who also ran as a non-partisan candidate. Gonzalez has not announced her intentions for 2024, nor have any potential Democrat or Republicans candidates announced as of Monday afternoon.

Hall County Commission Chair Richard Higgins announced he will run for reelection in 2024, according to AccessWDUN.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners is comprised of five members, each representing a portion of Hall County with the final member standing as the Chairman of the Board. In Hall, Kathy Cooper represents District 1, Billy Powell for D2, Gregg Poole for D3 and Jeff Stowe for D4.

“I think in the last seven years, we’ve come a long way, and we’ve made a lot of progress,” Higgins said. “Now, we have a growing county and we’ve made a lot of strides, but we still have a lot left to do … the biggest thing I can say, as far as me being on the commission, is getting everybody to work together as a group.”

“I’m not a politician. I’m a public servant,” he said.

Higgins also previously sat on the Hall County School Board for 12 years, presiding as Chairman of that governing body for 11 years of that time. He believes that experience provided a great opportunity to further his goal of serving the community and built a solid bridge into his tenure as a Commission Chairman.

Johns Creek City Manager Ed Densmore announced he will retire, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Densmore, who spent the last three and a half years in the role of city manager, said his last day as city manager will be Nov. 30.

“From helping to create the City of Johns Creek’s first police department as the inaugural police chief to successfully seeing the City through unprecedented challenges as city manager, Ed Densmore has served our city well and has had a very distinguished career,” Johns Creek Mayor John Bradberry said.

Densmore holds the distinction of being the City’s first police chief, a role he held for more than 11 years when he helped launch the Johns Creek Police Department in 2008. Prior to that, he served as police chief for the city of Alpharetta.

Bradberry and the City Council plan to announce an interim city manager in the coming weeks, according to a press release from teh city. Details of an executive search for a permanent replacement for the city manager position will follow.

Emmanuel County Commissioner Desse Davis died, according to WJBF.

The news broke on social media Monday night and WJBF confirmed his death with another Emanuel County Commissioner.

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