Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 23, 2023

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 23, 2023

On the Presidential campaign trail, Franklin Delano Roosevelt arrived in Atlanta on October 23, 1932, speaking to 10,000, and continued on to his “second home” at Warm Springs, Georgia.

smFDR Atlanta 1932

FDR campaigning in Atlanta and Georgia in 1932.

FDR Georgia

When he arrived at Warm Springs, FDR gave a short speech:

“Two more weeks to go. . . . First, let me say this: this old hat, a lot of you people have seen it before. It’s the same hat. But I don’t think it is going to last much longer after the 8th of November. I have a superstition about hats in campaigns, and I am going to wear it until midnight of the 8th of November. . . . Well, it’s fine to see, and I’m looking forward to coming down here for the usual Thanksgiving party at Warm Springs, and having a real old-fashioned Thanksgiving with my neighbors again. I thank you!”

On October 23, 1971, the Coca-Cola Company launched the advertising campaign “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.”

Georgia-born Clarence Thomas was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court on October 23, 1991.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Saturday voting was open in some local elections. From the Statesboro Herald:

Saturday voting [was] available 9 a.m.-5 p.m. today, Oct. 21, at the Bulloch County Annex in Statesboro for the Statesboro District 2 City Council race and for Register’s Town Council race. Meanwhile, Brooklet City Hall will host Saturday voting, also 9 a.m.-5p.m., in its liquor store referendum and a Brooklet Council race.

The same locations will be also be available for voting the next Saturday, Oct. 28, during the same hours. The Saturday voting opportunity starts one hour later than early voting on weekdays, when both these locations host in-person voting 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, until Nov. 3, in advance of the Tuesday, Nov. 7, regular Election Day.

During the first four and a half days of early voting, to 1 p.m. Friday, 63 Statesboro District 2 and Register voters had been through the line at the County Annex, reported Bulloch Election Supervisor Shontay Jones.

During the first five days, through 5 p.m. Friday, Brooklet had just eight early voters at its City Hall, said City Clerk Lori Phillips.

Brooklet voters will answer “yes” or “no” to the referendum question, “Shall the issuance of licenses for the package sale of distilled spirits be approved?”

From the Augusta Chronicle:

As of Saturday, 616 people had voted early in person.

The only county-wide election will be on whether or not to approve a 0.5% sales tax to raise $433,196,500 for major renovations to the Augusta Entertainment Complex, including the James Brown Arena. The vote would cover a $250 million bond, including interest over time through 2043. The vote was authorized by House Bill 230 earlier this year, leaving the final decision up to voters.

This election follows on a vote in 2021 where residents rejected a property tax proposal to fund the arena project. If this vote fails, it could be another five years before the work happens, according to prior reporting in the Chronicle.

Georgia beer brewers want to lift distribution restrictions, according to Atlanta News First via WRDW.

Spencer Nix just celebrated 10 years as the CEO and co-founder of Reformation Brewery.

He’s thankful for his success, however, remembers how difficult it was to start from scratch faced with what he calls Georgia’s “antiquated” distribution laws.

“Are there other makers of products that are having to limit how they run their business and who they can sell to and who their consumer is and being able to build those relationships with them and as a starting small business that is everything,” said Nix.

Joseph Cortes with the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild has been pushing lawmakers for years to loosen restrictions on how breweries can sell their products.

Current Georgia law limits breweries to selling their product on their property directly to customers. To sell it somewhere else, it has to go through a distributor, something Cortes says isn’t profitable for smaller breweries.

The Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association sent Atlanta News First this statement about the proposed distribution law changes:

“Georgia is a great state to brew beer. This is because of thoughtful, incremental changes that have been made over the past 7 years at the legislature, some at the request of craft brewers. Despite the incredible success of breweries in Georgia – growing from just 10 in 2011 to more than 170 now – some in the craft brewing industry continue to push for laws that will weaken a system that offers safeguards for our youth, provides more than 5,000 jobs statewide, ensures a consistent revenue stream to state and local government and, most importantly, guarantees thousands of choices of good beer on store shelves, at bars and in local breweries.

Georgia’s independent, family-owned distributors work every day to promote and sell craft beer, and will continue to do so in partnership with our brewers, retailers, and others who are a vital part of the state’s economy, but we cannot support the changes to state law being pushed by the Georgia Craft Brewers Association, especially when they do not involve all stakeholders in Georgia’s thoughtful and successful alcohol distribution system.”

Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones’s constituent service representatives will hold mobile office hours in Dalton, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Along with the lieutenant governor’s staff, several state agencies will staff tables for constituent questions and requests.

The event will be from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Edwards Park Community Center, Brooker Room, at 115 Edwards Park.

Georgia’s limited Medicaid expansion program is falling short of estimated enrollments, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The state Department of Community Health predicted the Georgia Pathways to Coverage program would eventually serve up to 345,000 Georgians, including an estimated 100,000 during its first year. However, the agency reported that only about 1,300 have signed up for coverage.

“Georgia has already invested about $20 million in state funds to launch the Pathways to Coverage program and earmarked another $118 million for the current fiscal year,” said Leah Chan, director of health justice for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. “These low initial enrollment numbers do not match the large-scale investment made thus far.”

“Medicaid expansion would be a more effective way to meaningfully cover state residents and connect them to care,” added Laura Colbert, executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future.

Under Georgia Pathways, Georgia residents between the ages of 19 and 64 with household incomes up to 100% of the Federal Poverty Level are eligible for Medicaid coverage. The federal Medicaid program covers Americans with household incomes up to 138% of the poverty level, which is $30,000 a year for a family of four.

Recipients of Georgia Pathways coverage also must participate in at least 80 hours per month of “qualifying” activities, including work but also education, job training, or community service.

From AccessWDUN:

Thirty-nine states have expanded Medicaid eligibility to nearly all adults with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level, $20,120 annually for a single person and $41,400 for a family of four. North Carolina will become the 40th state to do so in December. None of those states require recipients to work in order to qualify.

That broader Medicaid expansion was a key part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul in 2010, but many Republican governors, including Kemp, rejected it. In addition to imposing a work requirement, Pathways limits coverage to able-bodied adults earning up to 100% of the poverty line — $14,580 for a single person or $30,000 for a family of four.

Kemp has argued full expansion would cost too much money. State officials and supporters of Pathways say the work requirement will also help transition Medicaid recipients to better, private health insurance, and argue that working, studying or volunteering leads to improved health.

Critics say many low-income people struggle to document the required 80 hours a month of work, volunteer activity, study or vocational rehabilitation.

Georgia state legislators may consider budget requests designed to make more mental health crisis treatment beds available, according to the AJC.

Calvert’s son illustrates a long-standing problem with the state’s mental health care system. Meant to protect patients in crisis, it’s routinely overloaded, leaving patients sitting in emergency rooms or jail cells where they can’t get the care they need. A new study commissioned by the state shows that Georgia will need five more behavioral health crisis centers by 2025, and another three on top of that by 2032. That’s in addition to needing nearly 120 beds by 2025 for people who are ordered mental health treatment before they can stand trial.

State officials say they don’t have enough beds or mental health professionals to meet the existing demand. The state has 28 crisis centers with about 650 beds. But demand is far outpacing capacity, and many of these beds can’t be used due to a lack of staff.

The five crisis centers the study calls for by 2025 are in addition to creating and expanding three new facilities that are now underway: in Fulton County, Augusta, and Dublin.

“It’s important for us to stay focused on the people that we’re here to serve, who are some of the most vulnerable individuals in the state,” Kevin Tanner, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), said in an interview.

Tanner has put forth a plan that asks the governor for about $36 million in the next fiscal year, and a one-time $15 million payment this fiscal year to help start paying for this endeavor. The funds have been approved by the DBHDD board and now goes to the budget office to be considered in Kemp’s spending plan for next fiscal year.

If approved when the Legislature meets next year, the money would cover a number of things, including expansion of crisis centers’ capacity, as well as funds to boost wages for centers’ staff and psychologists who evaluate people within the criminal justice system. That money would come on top of $10.2 million Gov. Brian Kemp earmarked to boost the salaries of hospital staff, including behavioral health counselors, health aides, client support workers, social workers, and more.

The shortage of workers means that existing crisis beds are going unused across Georgia. In some parts of the state, as many as 20% to 50% of beds at a facility are unused, Tanner said.

The Dekalb Regional Crisis Center offers a peek into how the worker shortage and lack of bed space means fewer services for vulnerable Georgians. The facility has 36 crisis beds, but the struggle retaining workers has meant it can only staff 20 beds on average.

To remedy this, DeKalb is currently trying to secure funding for a new 30-bed mental health crisis center. The county is seeking voter approval of a sales tax that could raise $15 million for the facility, but will still need another $10 million to fully cover the remaining costs.

Gwinnett County Board of Education members think “equity” is the key to reverse declining graduation rates, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Using GCPS’ class of 2022 graduation rate of 83.2% as a baseline, the district’s goal for 2023 was to have a 83.5% graduation rate.

It ended up dropping to 81.9% instead.

“I have asked of our school system, as a board trying to understand context, for an equity audit,” school board Chairwoman Tarece Johnson-Morgan said. “Two members of our board already asked for information around data — like how are schools performing (or) what’s that information like at one school versus another school — well, that’s an equity audit.

“The equity audit would include us understanding how schools are performing on a school-to-school basis.”

Asian students graduated on time at a rate of 92.6%, followed by white students (90.5%), multiracial students (86.9%), Black students (84.6%) and American Indian students (84%), but Hispanic students only graduated on time at a rate of 70%.

Students who participate in the free and reduced lunch program, indicating they come from families who struggle more economically, graduated at a rate of 78.2% while students with disabilities graduated at a rate of 69.4%.
Multilingual students graduated in four years at a rate of 57%.

[Gwinnett BOE member Adrienne] Simmons said the district needs to do more to ensure resources are allocated equitably across the district to ensure weaknesses at specific schools are addressed. She said officials talk more about allocating resources equally across the district instead.

“Until we, as a district, start talking about how we’re going to allocate our resources fairly to address the weaknesses, we’re going to continue to see these results where certain populations are not being served the way that they need to,” Simmons said.

The last time Gwinnett schools outpaced the state was in 2018, when GCPS’ graduation rate was 81.7%, compared to 81.6% for the state. For the class of 2023, Georgia as a whole had a graduation rate of 84.4%.

United States Representative Austin Scott (R-Tifton) is again tilting at windmills running for Speaker of the House, according to Atlanta News First via WALB.

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Austin Scott announced on X (formerly known as Twitter) he will again run for the position.

This is Scott’s second candidacy for House speaker. One week ago, he announced a bid for the position, only to withdraw it hours later after the House GOP caucus chose U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. Scott represents Georgia’s 8th congressional district.

On Friday, Jordan failed for the third time this week to secure the speakership. On Friday, Jordan lost even more support during this third vote than he did during his first and second attempts, with 25 Republican votes against him. He was 20 votes down on Monday and 22 votes down on Thursday.

Some locals protested at U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson’s (R-West Point) Newnan office over his votes for Speaker, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

As the U.S. House was voting on a new speaker, Maxwell Britton was near the front of the pack in Newnan with a poster reading “Drew votes for himself.”

Britton, who said he was disappointed in Ferguson on a number of issues, including border security and the conditions facing Jan. 6 prisoners, compared Ferguson with former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, calling them both fake conservatives.

“McCarthy is the same exact situation, it’s the same dynamic where he had his feet to the fire and he had to promise that he would do certain things in order to get elected, those are the deals that were struck for him to get elected, he got in there and he didn’t do anything,” Britton said.

Ferguson said he and his family started receiving death threats after that vote.

At least six uniformed police officers were stationed outside Ferguson’s office Friday, but the protesters were peaceful. They waved their signs and cheered at motorists who honked their horns or gave the thumbs up.

The only thing the group wanted to take from Ferguson was his job, said Jared Craig, President of the Georgia chapter of Veterans for Trump and National President of the conservative Legacy Political Action Committee.

Craig ran against Ferguson in 2022 in the Republican Primary, but only took 17% of the vote. He said he’s not interested in running again next year, but he’s keeping his options open for 2026 if Ferguson sticks around.

College student Preston Parra said he once interned for Ferguson and is considering primarying his former boss in 2026, once Parra will be over 25 and eligible to run for the House of Representatives.

“They’re going to have their asses primaried if they don’t vote the way we want them to vote,” he said. “So, I mean, you can listen to your people or you can get ostracized and you can get voted out. That’s what it’s going to be from now on.”

“Most voters are not thinking that much probably about this leadership selection process in congress,” [UGA Political Scientist Dr. Charles Bullock] said. “Most of them, if you stopped and asked, would not know Jim Jordan, Steve Scalise or even Kevin McCarthy for that matter. So if you’re going to use that as a basis for your campaign against someone who has not voted for Jim Jordan, you’re going to have to do a lot of educating.”

From the Newnan Times-Herald:

Ferguson initially supported Representative Jim Jordan on the first ballot but later switched his allegiance to House Majority Leader Steve Scalise.

Ferguson cited “threatening tactics and pressure campaigns” employed by Jordan and his allies to secure votes. These concerns ultimately led him to change his vote and support Majority Leader Steve Scalise, “a principled conservative and unifying leader.”

“When the pressure campaigns and attacks on fellow members ramped up, it became clear to me that the House Republican Conference does not need a bully as the Speaker,” Ferguson said in a statement released Thursday.

Shortly after casting his vote, Ferguson said he and his family started receiving death threats.

“That is simply unacceptable, unforgivable, and will never be tolerated,” Ferguson said.

Three local governments – Bulloch County Commission, Statesboro City Council, and Brooklet City Council – agreed to move forward with a new Brooklet sewer system, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Brooklet’s businesses, churches, elementary school and most of its homes still rely on septic tanks for sewage disposal. Brooklet’s and Statesboro’s councils had approved an intergovernmental agreement in July for Brooklet to extend a sewer line far enough to connect to Statesboro’s system and then pay Statesboro to treat Brooklet’s sewage at Statesboro’s existing treatment plant.

But some further agreements were required before Brooklet makes final arrangements to borrow more than $4 million through a bond issue and – with more than $2 million already on hand from a state grant – seek a contractor for the project.

“This is basically to accommodate Brooklet’s water and sewer,” said County Attorney Jeff Akins. “They’re going to start providing sewer, which they have never done before, and it also expands the area in which they’re authorized to provide water.”

Representative officials of the county and of Brooklet’s city government agreed to the general concept in August, but putting the details in writing took a while because consulting engineers had to determine the exact route, he said.

A University of Georgia cybersecurity program will receive $500,000 from Google, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The University of Georgia CyberArch program has worked to provide free cyber security reviews for local government, school systems and hospitals.

“We’re excited to receive this support from Google and combine its resources with our expertise and resources at UGA,” program coordinator Mark Lupo was quoted as saying in a news release. “This funding gives us a stronger foothold as a formalized program. We see the funding as a way to increase our ability to reach more students and to be able to serve more communities.”

The grant is part of a $20 million commitment from Google.org to fund cybersecurity workforce development, and will support both expanding cybersecurity clinics like CyberArch and developing new ones.

Milton Mayor Peyton Jamison apologized for holding a closed meeting to discuss the ethics of a previous closed meeting hosted by a council member. From the AJC:

The mayor of Milton is apologizing for holding a private meeting with a quorum of City Council members in September, in violation of the state’s open meetings law.

Mayor Peyton Jamison and all six City Council members attended the Sept. 18 private meeting at Avalon in Alpharetta. On the agenda was an election update with Milton City Manager Steve Krokoff urging officials to delay further investigation of an email Councilman Rick Mohrig accidentally sent to city officials trying to arrange a private meeting with two poll workers.

“It was improper for us to have that discussion in that environment and that oversight falls on me,” Jamison said. “And although a lack of candor was not the intent, I regret that I did not have the proper protocol top of mind.”

Holding the meeting without public knowledge does not align with Milton’s transparency goals; he and other officials will receive training on the Georgia Open Meetings Act, Jamison said.

Following the private meeting, officials met later that day for a regular City Council meeting that was open to the public. The earlier meeting was not discussed and no information or related documents have appeared on the city website.

Clayton County Commissioners will consider taking action against a colleague, according to the AJC.

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners could strip Commissioner Felicia Franklin of her role as the body’s vice chairwoman at a special called meeting today.

The commission will meet at noon to decide whether to sanction the District 3 leader over events related to findings by Morrow Police that she was inebriated and unconscious outside a local sports bar in late September.

“The board finds that Franklin’s actions and the local news coverage of her actions paints Clayton County, the Board of Commissioners, county employees, citizens and businesses in a negative light,” the commission wrote in a resolution to remove Franklin as vice chairwoman. “The board finds that such actions as vice chair are unbecoming of the position.”

Franklin, in an Oct. 1 Facebook post, alleged that someone had spiked her drink with the date rape drug gamma hydroxybutyrate or GHB while she was out enjoying a night of music at the 404 Sports Bar & Grill at Southlake Mall. The incident occurred Sept. 29. GHB is commonly referred to as the “date rape” drug because of its frequent use in sexual assaults.

But Morrow authorities said after reviewing footage from several cameras inside the establishment that they did not see any proof that anyone tampered with the drinks Franklin ordered. Instead, they said, Franklin was drinking heavily that night — she consumed parts of five drinks — and a toxicology report showed cannabis in her system.

An investigation into the incident concluded that Franklin left the restaurant and walked to a nearby bench to wait on a ride home. At some point, she passed out and fell off the bench and was found later in a pool of what was believed to be her own urine.

Chatham Area Transit is rolling out a new microtransit service, according to WTOC.

It’s being described as the Uber of public transportation.

With this new microtransit service, riders in certain areas of Chatham County will be able to hail a ride on one of these electric vans using their phones.

The program will first be launched in four zones including the Crossroads, East Savannah, Southwest Chatham, and Islands areas.

Riders will be able to call or schedule a ride on an app to get around these zones in these battery powered vans.

Chatham Area Transit CEO Faye DiMassio says the program will add to the fixed routes and CAT mobility serves already offered.

The transit system bought the electric vans using a $1.2 million federal grant.

Technicians say the battery powered vans have a 110-mile range and will help reduce maintenance needs.

“We don’t have to bring them in. We don’t have to change the fluids. There’s no engine/oil, so none of that has to be done,” said David Flanders, Assistant COO for Assets and Maintenance.

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