Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 12, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 12, 2023

James Oglethorpe arrived at Augusta on September 12, 1739, 279 years ago today.

French troops arrived near Savannah to prepare for a siege against British forces there on September 12, 1779.

On September 12, 2009, the “Taxpayer March on Washington” coalesced the Tea Party movement.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Tybee Island Historical Society is raising funds for $1.6 million dollars needed to repair the Tybee Island Lighthouse, according to the Savannah Morning News.

It was determined during a routine assessment last winter that Tybee Island’s historic 1773 lighthouse is in need of essential repairs, according to Tybee Island Historical Society Executive Director Sarah Jones. The windows around the Fresnel lens, the roof and masonry all need repairs.

“We try and do a major assessment about every 20 years,” Jones said. “We did have them come down about five years ago and assess for the paint, but this was a little bit of a more in-depth assessment because we have a spot that’s popping up on the lighthouse, and we just couldn’t figure out where that moisture was coming from.”

“What we’re trying to do is repair the lantern,” said ICC Commonwealth Division Manager Tyler Finkle. “(That) is the ironwork that holds the glass that protects the lens. Over time the corrosion between the iron and bronze causes damage to the glazing. That allows in moisture and rain condensation over time because of the corrosion.”

The water seeped down into the walls and deteriorated the brick and mortar, and had no time to dry out, according to Jones. This damage is around the lens room. If it’s not fixed, the water is going to continue to erode the brick and slowly move further into the building.

The timeline for repairs starts in November, and it will be a three-phase project that will last until June 2024.

The National Park Service calls the Tybee Lighthouse a hybrid, because the bottom half was built in 1773 and burned during the Civil War, and the top half was rebuilt in 1867. It’s two lighthouses in one. Jones said that the lighthouse is also octagonal, which is odd.

Any contribution people can give through their GoFundMe campaign or on their website helps, Jones said. She also encourages people to become a member of the Tybee Island Historical Society or volunteer at the lighthouse.

Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency and will suspend the state sales tax on motor fuel, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp today declared a state of emergency due to the 40-year-high inflation and negative economic conditions felt by hardworking Georgians as a result of policies coming out of Washington, D.C. As part of this declaration, he is temporarily suspending the state’s excise tax on motor and locomotive fuel to provide direct relief to families throughout the state. The executive order will go into effect on Wednesday, September 13 at 12:00 a.m. and will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on October 12, 2023. Consumers should expect the suspension to begin impacting prices after several days. You can read Executive Order here.

“From runaway federal spending to policies that hamstring domestic energy production, all Bidenomics has done is take more money out of the pockets of the middle class,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “While high prices continue to hit family budgets, hardworking Georgians deserve real relief and that’s why I signed an executive order today to deliver it directly to them at the pump. Working with partners in the General Assembly, we’ll continue to help Georgians weather the economic headwinds caused by this president, his administration, and their allies in Congress.”

According to an analysis from Moody’s Analytics from August, Americans are spending $709 more per month than 2 years ago and $202 more per month than last year. Suspension of the excise tax will save Georgians 31.2 cents per gallon of gasoline and 35 cents per gallon of diesel fuel. When the gas tax was suspended from March through December of last year, 2022, Georgians saved roughly $1.7 billion at the pump.

“I applaud Governor Kemp’s suspension of motor fuel taxes to keep our people and our economy moving despite Washington’s inaction on rising fuel prices,” said Speaker Jon Burns. “Georgia’s success story is no accident – it is the result of conservative policies enacted to keep Georgia the nation’s best state for business.”

Thanks to the hard work and conservative budgeting of Governor Kemp and the General Assembly, the State of Georgia can confidently suspend collection of the state motor fuel tax to help lessen the burden of historically high gas prices. According to AAA, the average cost of a gallon of regular gas in Georgia is currently $3.57, up from $3.24 a year ago.

From the AJC:

Kemp can only suspend the tax one month at a time through his state of emergency executive order, and the new suspension – which starts at midnight – will run through Oct. 12. But he can continue the tax break on a monthly basis through executive orders.

The average price for a gallon of gas in the U.S. on Tuesday was $3.83, according to AAA. In Georgia, the price was $3.57, down from $4.33 in mid-2022 but up from earlier this year.

State Rep. Ruwa Romman, a Gwinnett County Democrat, said she’s concerned that Kemp is abusing his powers to suspend the gas tax without consulting lawmakers.

”There is no justification for the way the governor is circumventing the legislative branch on the budget. Georgians are unable to afford healthcare, hospitals are shutting down, and teachers are leaving the profession in droves. We should be addressing those challenges.”

The suspension costs the state — and saves drivers — $150 million to $180 million a month. Kemp said Georgians saved $1.7 billion during the previous suspension.

Motor fuel taxes are excise taxes on distributors, rather than sales taxes on consumers. So the suspension means fuel distributors that supply gas stations will stop collecting the tax.

Any fuel that gas stations already had before the fuel tax suspension takes effect is fuel they’ve already paid the tax on. And gas they ordered before the fuel tax suspension takes effect is also taxed, so the price of that gas won’t change.

The governor is expected to propose more tax rebates in coming months to refund part of the fiscal 2023 surplus. He also has told state agencies they can request more spending in the coming year, a rarity for a fairly tight-fisted governor.

Governor Brian Kemp announced that the federal disaster declaration has been expanded to include 25 additional counties, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Cook, Glynn and Lowndes counties were named federal disaster areas last week, and residents there may qualify for Individual Assistance.

Those counties also qualify for Public Assistance, and now so do Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Berrien, Brantley, Brooks, Bullock, Camden, Candler, Charlton, Clinch, Coffee, Colquitt, Echols, Emanuel, Jeff Davis, Jenkins, Lanier, Pierce, Screven, Tattnall, Thomas, Tift, Ware and Wayne counties.

Individual Assistance can fund individual and family recovery efforts, which may include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of Hurricane Idalia. GEMA said.

Public Assistance is available to state and local government entities and qualified not-for-profit organizations. It will provide financial aid for debris removal and emergency work.

The proposed zoning changes also would have erased language that recognizes Hogg Hummock as a unique and historic place with an indigenous population worthy of special protection. But Stevens told commissioners they would have a vote Tuesday to restore that wording.

From WTOC:

This is the second meeting surrounding the proposed ordinance that would allow larger homes to be built on the island. At last week’s public hearing, the zoning board proposed changes to lower the allowed size of homes that can be built as well as remove any talk of golf courses being added to the island.

State Rep. Steven Sainz (R-St Marys) was appointed to Chair the Economic Development and Tourism Committee’s Subcommittee on Sustainable Economic Development, according to The Brunswick News.

The subcommittee will study and promote how Georgia’s most ecologically diverse communities safeguard the state’s irreplaceable natural resources while increasing economic opportunity for current and future generations.

“I want to thank Chairman Ron Stephens for creating this important study committee and appointing me to lead the charge as we look at sustainable economic development opportunities and workforce initiatives in various communities across our state,” Sainz said. “As someone elected to represent Coastal Georgia’s interests, I understand how crucial it is to have a strong workforce that is dedicated to ensuring that the natural beauty of the coast is protected for many generations to come.”

Sainz has asked the following state representatives to serve on the subcommittee: Katie Dempsey, R-Rome; Becky Evans, D-Atlanta; Matthew Gambill, R-Cartersville; Gerald Greene, R-Cuthbert; Tremaine Teddy Reese, D-Columbus; Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain; and Bill Yearta, R-Sylvester.

Sainz represents District 180, which includes Camden County and portions of Glynn County, including Jekyll Island.

United States Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Joe Manchin (D-WBGV) will speak at the Isakson Symposium on Political Civility at the University of Georgia in November, according to the Albany Herald.

The University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs will host U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., at a special event honoring the late U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. The inaugural Isakson Symposium on Political Civility will take place on Nov. 10 at 10 a.m. in the University of Georgia Chapel.

Isakson’s personal motto was, “There are only two kinds of people in the world: friends and future friends.” This event will pay tribute to his legacy and is intended to inspire future leaders to consider the late senator’s approach of listening respectfully to others in the search for common ground.

“Senator Isakson represented the very best of public service during his more than 40 years in elected office, and a hallmark of his career was his ability to get results by reaching across the aisle and engaging in civil discourse,” UGA President Jere W. Morehead said. “I am excited for UGA to launch the Johnny Isakson Symposium on Political Civility in hopes that future leaders will learn from and carry on Senator Isakson’s valuable legacy.”

McIntosh County Commissioners discussed a proposed zoning ordinance amendment that would affect the Hog Hammock Community on Sapelo Island, according to The Brunswick News.

The McIntosh County Commission met Monday for a workshop at the McIntosh County Courthouse in front of a standing-room-only crowd of more than 150, many of whom also attended a public hearing Thursday at which dozens of people expressed their opposition to the proposed new rules.

They question why a change is needed in the zoning ordinances and said they believe it is an attempt to collect more property taxes and draw wealthier residents to the state-managed island.

If that happens, they say it would drive out long-time, ancestral landowners and threaten the existence of a hundreds-year-old Geechee culture and heritage that has existed there since former slaves were freed following the Civil War.

The zoning amendment originally based the size of a home built in the Hogg Hummock, or Hog Hammock, community on the percentage of space the building would take up on a lot. The existing ordinance, which has been in place since the mid 1990s, limited the size of dwellings in the community to 1,400 square feet of heated and cooled space. It also included language about protecting the Geechee heritage and culture on Sapelo Island.

The updated ordinance amendment as of Monday’s workshop changed the percentage size determination so that it allows homes to be built that are up to 3,000 square feet of enclosed space and lots to be covered by up to 4,356 square feet of impervious surface. It also made the maximum height a building can be 37 feet tall, versus 45 feet tall as was first proposed in the amendment.

From WSAV:

Black residents of the Hogg Hummock community on Sapelo Island sat mostly silent as McIntosh County commissioners scheduled a Tuesday vote on the proposal. The commission’s only Black member implored the others to reject the zoning changes, saying they would favor wealthy buyers and lead to tax increases that would pressure indigenous residents to sell their land.

“This plan will be a giant step in the destruction of the culture of Hogg Hummock,” said Commissioner Roger Lotson, whose district includes Sapelo Island. “It may be inevitable, but let us not be the board that drives the nail in this coffin.”

The zoning plan before commissioners would loosen zoning restrictions adopted nearly three decades ago to help Hogg Hummock’s 30 to 50 residents hold onto their land. It’s one of just a few surviving communities in the South of people known as Gullah, or Geechee in Georgia, whose ancestors worked island slave plantations.

“People are already selling off land because they don’t want to pay high taxes,” said JR Grovner, who was born and raised on Sapelo Island and gives guided tours there for visitors. “Older people aren’t going to be able to afford higher taxes.”

Guyton Mayor Russ Deen is running for reelection, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As he approaches his second mayoral race, his campaign pitch remains the same: “Keep Guyton on the right track.”

“I’m running for council to continue the work of the last four years,” Deen said. “Effingham County is at a time of massive growth, which requires someone looking out for the citizens that already live here.”

Deen has two challengers in Andrew Harville and Michael Garvin. Deen and Garvin squared off in the election four years ago, where Deen won by just 17 votes.

“With a three-person race for mayor, it all comes down to whose supporters make an effort to show up and vote,” Deen said. “It sounds simple, but the number of yard signs and handshakes mean nothing if (supporters) do not vote. If everyone votes, considering how much progress was made these past four years, I believe I’ll have the opportunity to serve as mayor again.”

“The power side of being mayor doesn’t appeal to me,” Deen said. “The deciding factor for me was leaving church one night and realizing members of our church were leaving by themselves and if something would have happened to one of them because I wasn’t willing to serve and stand up, and say we need a police department to make sure our city is safe, then that was my fault. It was not an option to do nothing.”

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