Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 13, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 13, 2023

The Second Continental Congress opened in Philadelphia on September 13, 1775; Georgia was represented by Archibald Bulloch, Lyman Hall,  John Houstoun, and John Zubly.

On September 13, 1788, the Confederation Congress voted to implement the Constitution and authorized states to elect Senators and Representatives and called the first Presidential election, with selection of presidential electors in the states to be held on January 7, 1789, and February 4, 1789 as the day electors would cast their ballots.

The first two women to enter the Georgia General Assembly, Viola Ross Napier of Bibb County and Atlanta Constitution reporter Bessie Kempton of Fulton County, were elected on September 13, 1922.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States Department Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is on the hot seat after a complaint alleging charger hogging, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Granholm and an entourage of staffers conducted a four-day trip through the South in June to tout green energy and the efficiency of electric vehicles. The group reached the Grovetown area to charge their EVs at the Walmart Supercenter on Steiner Way.

“Her advance team realized there weren’t going to be enough plugs to go around,” said National Public Radio reporter Camila Domonoske, who accompanied Granholm on the junket and wrote an online article that published Sept. 10 describing the incident. “One of the station’s four chargers was broken, and others were occupied. So an Energy Department staffer tried parking a nonelectric vehicle by one of those working chargers to reserve a spot for the approaching secretary of energy.”

That didn’t sit well with an EV driver who was among several others waiting to use the station.

“They said they are saving the space for somebody else, and it’s holding up a whole bunch of people who need to charge their cars,” the unidentified caller said to the 911 operator.

No Georgia law seems to prohibit a nonelectric vehicle from parking at an EV charging station. Georgia lawmakers passed Senate Bill 146 earlier this year that requires EV drivers to pay for recharging by the amount of electricity used instead of by the time spent charging.

First Lady Jill Biden will visit Atlanta on Friday, according to the AJC.

First lady Jill Biden will meet with scientists at Emory University who are the recipients of a first-of-its-kind federal grant to help research possible future use of mRNA technology, the basis of COVID-19 vaccines, to combat cancer and other illnesses.

The White House announced last month that a grant for as much as $24 million had been awarded and that the team will be led by researchers at Emory. Biden is scheduled to highlight that funding during a visit Friday.

She will also headline a campaign fundraiser Thursday hosted by Comer Yates and Sally Quillian Yates, a former acting attorney general who was fired in 2017 by then-President Donald Trump.

Former State Rep. Jeff Jones (R-Brunswick) questioned the state’s use of Dominion voting machines, according to The Brunswick News.

Former state Rep. Jeff Jones told board members the county’s continued use of the Dominion voting system “is in violation of Georgia law.” He cited O.C.G.A. 21-2-379 (6) that says ballots must be marked in a format readable by the elector.

“The evidence shows that the Dominion BDM system does not produce a paper-verifiable paper ballot or a paper ballot marked with the voter’s choice in a format readable by the voter because the ballots are tabulated solely by the unreadable QR code,” he said.

In order to comply with state law, Jones said Glynn County “must change to a different voting method other that the unreadable QR code” before the 2024 election cycle.

He added that to continue using the QR code system and to fail to change voting systems “means that Glynn County is knowingly and willfully violating Georgia state law” and that “Glynn County is satisfied to produce a ballot printout of voter choices unreadable to the voter.”

Jones said the short-term solution is for the county to use secure, hand-counted paper ballots.

The City of Edison is working to improve its financial condition, according to WALB.

Tommy Coleman, Edison’s city attorney, said the city is now more than $500,000 in debt. On Monday night he said, “We need an action plan.”

Here is a look at how they’re working to curb this problem:

• Solid waste fees will now generate $25,000 a month. Bumping bills from $27 to $38.50

• The city’s property tax rate is now being raised from 18% to 29%

• Residents could see a rise in water, sewage and gas bills

As for what comes next, three public hearings will take place next week in regard to the millage rate increase.

An audit of Burke County Sheriff Alonzo Williams’s department found issues with department spending, according to WRDW.

A new financial audit report for Burke County confirms what the I-TEAM has reported on for almost a year.

It shows how the Burke County Sheriff’s Office is one of the major weaknesses for the county.

Question after question was raised by the county manager’s office, county commissioners and taxpayers about how Williams is running his department.

The 102-page financial audit report for the county was completed by the independent accounting firm Lanier, Deal, Proctor and Bloser.

The first point covers lack of internal controls over expenditures for the agency. The audit notes there was not sufficient control over the budget.

This allowed Williams’ office to purchase items that were overbudget, which then caused the agency to go significantly over budget.

The next two points are problems our I-TEAM just recently exposed: unrecorded grant funds and lack of supporting documentation by the Burke County Sheriff’s Office with unauthorized accounts.

The audit tells us the Burke County Sheriff’s Office received significant grant funding that was put into a separate account opened by the sheriff without the county’s knowledge.

The I-TEAM previously reported $425,000 in grants were put into that unauthorized account. The sheriff also got an unauthorized county credit card, which he used those grant dollars to pay off.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office purged more than 90,000 voter registrations, according to The Brunswick News.

Already this year, there have been 91,673 records canceled due to death, a move out of state or felony conviction, among other reasons, according to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Another 191,473 inactive records could be canceled this year, the Secretary of State’s office said. A voter’s registration is placed on the inactive list if they don’t cast a ballot or respond to letters from election officials for five years. A voter must be inactive for another two even-year election cycles before the registration is purged from the system.

“All they have to do is make some kind of contact with us or the Secretary of State,” said Christina Redden, assistant director of the Glynn County Board of Elections. “Voting, renewing their driver’s license, returning mail, stopping by, and they can still vote.”

The next election in Glynn County is in November. Two seats on the City Commission, one representing the North Ward and one representing the South, are up for grabs. Early voting begins in the city elections on Oct. 16 and Election Day is Nov. 7. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 11.

McIntosh County Commissioners voted to adopt a revised zoning ordinance governing development in the Hog Hammock community on Sapelo Island, according to the Associated Press via the Savannah Morning News.

Descendants of enslaved people living on a Georgia island vowed to keep fighting Tuesday after county commissioners voted to double the maximum size of homes allowed in their tiny enclave, which residents fear will accelerate the decline of one of the South’s few surviving Gullah Geechee communities.

Black residents of the Hogg Hummock community on Sapelo Island and their supporters packed a meeting of McIntosh County’s elected commissioners to oppose zoning changes that residents say favor wealthy buyers and will lead to tax increases that could pressure them to sell their land.

Regardless, commissioners voted 3-2 to weaken zoning restrictions the county adopted nearly three decades ago with the stated intent to help Hogg Hummock’s 30 to 50 residents hold on to their land.

From the AP via WSAV:

Hogg Hummock is 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.

Fights with the local government are nothing new to residents and landowners. Dozens successfully appealed staggering property tax hikes in 2012, and residents spent years fighting the county in federal court for basic services such as firefighting equipment and trash collection before county officials settled last year.

Hogg Hummock’s population has been shrinking in recent decades, and some families have sold their land to outsiders who built vacation homes. New construction has caused tension over how large those homes can be.

Commissioners on Tuesday raised the maximum size of a home in Hogg Hummock to 3,000 square feet (278 square meters) of total enclosed space. The previous limit was 1,400 square feet (130 square meters) of heated and air-conditioned space.

Commission Chairman David Stevens, who said he’s been visiting Sapelo Island since the 1980s, blamed Hogg Hummock’s changing landscape on native owners who sold their land.

“I don’t need anybody to lecture me on the culture of Sapelo Island,” Stevens said, adding: “If you don’t want these outsiders, if you don’t want these new homes being built … don’t sell your land.”

Located about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Savannah, Sapelo Island remains separated from the mainland and reachable only by boat. Since 1976, the state of Georgia has owned most of its 30 square miles (78 square kilometers) of largely unspoiled wilderness. Hogg Hummock, also known as Hog Hammock, sits on less than a square mile.

The Bulloch County Board of Education voted to adopt a property tax millage rate, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The Bulloch County Board of Education – after a second round of tax increase hearings, with most members attending all three hearings this time – met at noon Friday and voted 7-1 to adopt a property tax rate for school maintenance and operations of 8.478 mills, up from last year’s 8.236 mills.

That alone would be a 2.9% rate increase.

But when compounded with the inflation in real estate values as determined by the county tax assessors, the resulting proposed increase in property tax for school maintenance and operations is 16.07% for taxable properties on average. So that was the percentage stated in the formal notices school system officials posted to comply with the Georgia law known as the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. The notices referred to a 1.174-mill increase, the difference between the new rate and a rollback rate of 7.304 mills that would have been needed to avoid announcing a tax increase.

But according to Superintendent Charles Wilson and Business Services Director Alison Boatright, the Bulloch County Schools faced a dilemma between the Georgia law that results in the rollback rate and a different law that governs state equalization funding to counties. The school district receives a majority of its operating funds from the state, and an annual equalization grant is part of that.

“The unfortunate irony in all of this is that because we’ve kept school property taxes so low, we have now run up against the 14-mill floor required to continue qualifying for state equalization grant funding,” Wilson said in a media release issued after Friday’s vote.

Because Bulloch County already rolls back its school millage by having the county’s original 1% Local Option Sales Tax permanently assigned to the schools, the “effective” rate is a combination of the actual property tax millage and the sales tax revenue stated as a millage.

Republican Paul Abbott announced he will run for the State House District 131 seat held by State Rep. Jodi Lott (R-Harlem) after she announced she will not run for reelection, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

According to the press release, Abbott is an educator with 32 years of experience, winning Teacher of the Year in Lowndes County in 2009, and his areas of policy focus are largely related to education. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Army and National Guard.

“Teachers need the support of the Georgia legislature to protect them from the ever-increasing regulations that make their jobs even more difficult,” Abbott was quoted as saying in the release.

Abbott is married to his wife, Megan, and they have five children and two grandchildren.

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