Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 2, 2020

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Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 2, 2020

Atlanta Mayor James Calhoun surrendered the city to federal forces on September 2, 1864.

Calhoun’s two-sentence letter, directed to Brig.-Gen. William Ward stated: “Sir: The fortune of war has placed Atlanta in your hands. As mayor of the city I ask protection of non-combatants and private property.”

The cornerstone of the Georgia State Capitol was laid on September 2, 1885.

Author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien died on September 2, 1973.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp announced that Georgia was named “Top State for Doing Business” for the seventh consecutive year by Area Development magazine, according to a press release.

The executive publication’s annual poll of nearly fifty leading site consulting firms from across the U.S. weighs thirteen different factors to make this determination. In addition to Top State, Georgia earned a No. 1 ranking in the category of cooperative and responsive state government.

“This seventh consecutive Top State award is a powerful testament to the fundamental strength of Georgia’s economy, even in these challenging times,” said Governor Kemp. “After all of these years, it’s abundantly clear that Georgia remains the epicenter for job growth, economic development, and investment because of strong, conservative leadership. But make no mistake about it, this ranking is because of the hardworking Georgians who work tirelessly to create opportunities and build success in their communities.”

“From advanced manufacturing to leading-edge cyber innovation, we are proud to work with job creators to secure mutual success and a brighter future for Georgia. Moving forward, we will work around the clock to keep our state government streamlined, responsive, and business-friendly, and there is no doubt this ranking will help to strengthen our economic recovery as we protect the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians,” said Kemp.

“Today’s announcement confirms that our work to lower taxes and ease burdensome regulations is attracting businesses and jobs to Georgia,” said Speaker David Ralston. “Being the best state in the nation for business means more opportunities for our children and grandchildren. It is a designation we are proud to hold and one which we will continue to earn every day. My thanks to our partners in this effort in the public and private sectors. Together, we will keep Georgia the envy of the nation.”

“Georgia began 2020 in its strongest economic position in generations. I am proud that our state continues to be the number one state to do business, and will work to ensure we remain the best place to live, work, and grow,” said Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan. “The leadership of this state dedicates endless time and energy to make certain that Georgia boasts a climate that welcomes companies large and small, whether it’s FinTech, agriculture, or any business imaginable. Georgia is the world’s destination for commerce.”

Area Development’s 2020 Top States for Doing Business results reflect the rankings that states receive based on weighted scores in the following categories: overall cost of doing business, cooperative and responsive state government, favorable regulatory environment, business incentives, workforce development programs, competitive labor environment, speed of permitting, logistics and infrastructure, available real estate, energy availability and costs, site readiness programs, corporate tax environment, and access to capital and projects. Georgia ranked No. 1 in 10 of the thirteen categories and placed in the top five in the other three categories.

“Today, we have just released the results of this year’s survey and are pleased to announce that for a record seventh consecutive year, top consultants have collectively rated Georgia as the ‘No. 1 state to do business’ in our survey,” said Area Development Publisher and President Dennis J. Shea. “Congratulations to Georgia on this outstanding achievement that speaks to the state’s dependability and its relationships with businesses, consultants, and economic development partners.”

“Earning the title of Top State for Doing Business for the seventh year in a row demonstrates Georgia’s consistency in partnering with our business communities for success,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson. “From our workforce development programs to our strong logistics infrastructure, there truly is no better state to do business than Georgia. A great deal of credit for our state’s economic development success goes to Governor Brian Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, Speaker David Ralston, the Georgia General Assembly, and our public and private economic development partners who are helping us keep Georgia on the path to growth.”

This recognition comes on the heels of the Port of Savannah being named the top port for U.S. exports from January through May of this year. Governor Kemp also recently announced a strong start to the first month of fiscal year 2021. Georgia economic development projects attracted roughly $574 million in new investments, and 3,629 new jobs were created in nearly every region of the state in July.

From the AJC:

[Governor Kemp] called the award, the seventh consecutive, a “powerful testament to the fundamental strength of Georgia’s economy – even in these challenging times.” Other GOP leaders chimed in, invoking efforts to lower taxes and reduce regulations.

Now, amid a recession triggered by the pandemic, Kemp wants to frame the magazine’s ranking as a sign of Georgia’s economic resiliency even as the spread of the coronavirus has smothered business growth.

Roughly a half-million jobless Georgians are competing for about one-quarter that number of openings. Unemployment benefits have been slashed.

The Republican used the occasion to declare that Georgia “remains the epicenter for job growth, economic development and investment” because of conservative leadership.

“But make no mistake about it,” Kemp said, “this ranking is because of the hardworking Georgians who work tirelessly to create opportunities and build success in their communities.”

From the Augusta Chronicle:

While coronavirus-prompted closures hammered local service industries, Georgia still managed to drum up more than $7.4 billion in new investments stemming from around 350 development projects since July of 2019, Kemp noted.

With more than 24,000 jobs created during that stretch, Georgia also saw a 30% bump in jobs created outside metro Atlanta since last July, highlighting the governor’s emphasis on stimulating economic growth in more rural parts of the state.

But Georgia still carries a high unemployment rate at 7.4% with roughly 378,000 out-of-work Georgians due to the impacts of COVID-19, though that figure does fall below the national unemployment rate of 10.2% as of July.

Governor Kemp also announced the appointment of Chris Stallings as the new director of the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA), according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Stallings replaces outgoing GEMA Director Homer Bryson, who retired Tuesday after nearly four decades in public-safety roles including prior tenures overseeing the state’s prison system and wildlife rangers.

Bryson’s departure comes as the state continues grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, which through Monday had killed 5,633 Georgians and led to more than 240,000 positive cases.

At a news conference Tuesday, Kemp praised the work of Bryson and GEMA officials since the pandemic took hold in the state in March.

“These men and women have played a huge role in the fight to protect lives and livelihoods in our state, and we are forever grateful for their service,” Kemp said.

The governor also touted the new GEMA director, Stallings, saying he had “full confidence in Chris and his ability to run GEMA with the integrity and hard work that this job demands” as well as take the reins from Bryson amid the ongoing pandemic.

U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Buckhead) campaigned in Columbus, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler made a stop in Columbus Tuesday as part of her second statewide campaign tour, with a speech centered on core Republican values including pro-life and pro-Second Amendment policies.

Loeffler said she has introduced legislation to “crack down on criminal gangs like MS-13,” introduced an act to bring manufacturing jobs back to American from China, and signed a pledge to create term limits in Congress.

Loeffler told those gathered at Trevioli at the Rapids that she has “stood strong” with law enforcement, referring to calls from Americans to defund police departments in the wake of the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.

“This defund the police movement is radical, it’s dangerous and it’s wrong,” she said. “I’ve introduced legislation that would defund cities and municipalities that defund police.”

In press interviews after her speech, Loeffler blamed Democrats for the lack of a second economic stimulus package to offset the effect of COVID-19.

“Thank goodness President Trump has stepped up with four executive orders to give Americans the relief that they need in the interim,” she said. “I expect we’ll get back to Washington and try to make a difference here but it looks like from here on out Democrats are playing politics.”

Sen. Loeffler also campaigned in Bainbridge, according to The Post-Searchlight.

Conservative businesswoman and U.S. Senate hopeful, Kelly Leoffler visited Covey Rise Plantation on Monday, where she spoke to Decatur County and other surrounding county residents on her platform.

Loeffler was introduced by Senator Dean Burke, who applauded Loeffler’s hard work for the citizens of Georgia.

“She has absolutely no reason she needs to do this job,” Burke said. “I feel like I got into politics for a similar reason, I didn’t need the Georgia Senate job, but I felt like I had something to offer and I think that’s why Kelly is in it too.”

Someone should inform the Post-Searchlight that Loeffler is an actual United States Senator, not just a “hopeful.”

Congressman Doug Collins also campaigned in Bainbridge.

Collins is ready to see a Senator be a force in agriculture, but he also is prepared to tie the role agriculture plays to the rest of the state.

“I’m ready for One Georgia to not just be a slogan,” he said. “I’m ready to really see how we can integrate our rural communities into the rest of the state.”

Collins went on to say that one of the things he is focused on is rural broadband. Collins addressed how the pandemic proved what an issue Internet access in rural communities is.

“A few miles down the road shouldn’t be the difference between a dream and a divide,” he said.

Collins wants to incentivize companies to put their wires or fiber optic networks in rural communities, so everyone can have the service and communities can work on becoming One Georgia.

Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission Executive Director David Emadi says the commission may move forward on allegations against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, according to the AJC.

The executive director of the state ethics commission says Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has refused to cooperate with an investigation into her campaign finances — an allegation the Bottoms’ campaign disputes.

The commission alleged in December that Bottoms’ 2017 mayoral campaign accepted $382,773 in contributions from individuals that exceeded the maximum allowable under state law.

“We have not received campaign bank records from the Bottoms campaign, which were subpoena’d, despite her public statements that she would provide all documents and be fully transparent,” ethics commission Executive Director David H. Emadi said in an email to Channel 2 Action News.

A spokesperson for the Bottoms’ campaign said Emadi was being “blatantly untruthful.”

“It is unfortunate that the State’s Ethics Officer is being blatantly untruthful regarding this matter,” the spokesperson told The Atlanta-Journal Constitution on Tuesday. “This matter will be addressed in accordance with the law and not based upon the unlawful demands of an untruthful and over zealous prosecutor.”

The spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for him to identify what made the commissions’ demands unlawful.

I’m sorry, but if a campaign spokesperson is speaking for the campaign and calling someone else a liar, I think the paper should publish their name. Am I wrong?

Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico announced she is starting a political action committee, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

Sarah Riggs Amico lost the 2018 race for lieutenant governor to Republican Geoff Duncan and unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination this year to challenge U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga.

Now, she’s putting her experience on the campaign trail into the Our American Dreams PAC, which hopes to raise $50,000 to $100,000 this year on behalf of 21 candidates for state and local offices.

Amico, a businesswoman from Marietta, has an affinity for women who own businesses. More than half of the 21 candidates her PAC is endorsing are women business owners.

Of the 21 candidates the PAC has endorsed, 13 are running for seats in the Georgia House of Representatives and five are seeking election to the state Senate. The other three are running for the school board, district attorney and a county commission chairmanship.

Of the 18 running for the General Assembly, five are incumbents. A dozen are either challenging incumbent Republicans or looking to fill a vacant seat, while one of the candidates defeated a fellow Democrat in a House primary.

The Glynn County Commission is suing to halt a referendum on dissolving the county police department, according to AccessWDUN.

The Glynn County Commission filed the lawsuit Friday, The Brunswick News reports. The report said the lawsuit argues that a state law mandating the November vote is unconstitutional. The referendum would seek to abolish the county police agency and hand law enforcement authority over to the sheriff.

Glynn County commissioners have opposed that effort, saying two local Republican lawmakers are trying to help their political ally, Sheriff Neal Jump.

The county police chief and three former high-ranking officers were indicted in March on charges that they ignored an officer consorting with a drug dealer. A Glynn County narcotics officer was found to have been having sex with two confidential informants. There also have been claims of unjustified shootings by the department’s officers.

Commissioners want to prevent the scheduled Nov. 3 vote while the lawsuit is being considered. The suit describes the two laws that cleared the way for the vote as “patently unconstitutional,” saying the General Assembly can’t take back home rule powers given to county governments in the state Constitution.

The Augusta Commission voted to give Paine College $1.4 million in federal coronavirus relief funding, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Dalton City Council voted to adopt a lower property tax millage rate for the new fiscal year, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The Dalton City Council cut the city’s property tax rate on Monday. By a 3-1 vote, council members set the 2020 property tax rate at 2.237 mills, down from 2.482 mills in 2019 and from 2.616 mills in 2018.

Dalton Chief Financial Officer Cindy Jackson said during a Dalton Finance Committee meeting in August that the new rate will translate into a tax cut of about $48 for the owner of a $200,000 house.

For the city, it means a reduction of about $850,000 in revenue. Jackson said that’s about how much the city is on pace to come in under its $35 million 2020 budget. She credited careful management of spending by department heads as well as some positions that haven’t been filled in several departments for the savings.

Mayor David Pennington, who typically votes only in the event of a tie, noted during that meeting that the city has ended the year under its budget for the past four years.

A Glynn County SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) approved in 2016 hit its collection goal and collection will end, according to The Brunwsick News.

Voters approved the penny sales tax in the November 2016 general election. It was set to end at the end of September or when the target amount was reached.

County officials said they hit that target in June, but the Georgia Department of Revenue can’t stop collecting the tax until the end of a calendar quarter. The current quarter ends Sept. 30.

“The (department of revenue) advised the county that the goal amount had not been met in time … to legally be able to end the tax at the end of June 2020,” according to a statement from the county. “Because of this situation, we were also advised that the current SPLOST collection will end at the end of September 2020.”

All SPLOST revenue must go towards unfinished SPLOST projects per state law. If all projects are complete and SPLOST proceeds remain, by law the additional revenue must go towards paying off county debt or, if the county has no debt, lowering property taxes.

Gwinnett County Commissioners voted to buy Lawrenceville’s municipal water distribution system, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Lawrenceville City Council and the Gwinnett County Water and Sewer Authority board approved the sale in separate meetings on Monday. The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners then turned around and gave final approval of the purchase on Tuesday.

The city announced plans to sell the water distribution system to the county last week, citing aging infrastructure that officials said would have otherwise necessitated a “significant water rate increase” by the city to pay for upgrades.

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