Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 5, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 5, 2023

On September 5, 1774, the Continental Congress convened for the first time at Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia; delegates attended from all the colonies except Georgia.

The Heart of Atlanta Motel opened at 255 Courtland Street in downtown Atlanta on September 5, 1956. It included a three-story diving platform reached by spiral stairs and a pool large enough to hold a ski boat. African-Americans were not allowed at the Heart of Atlanta. [Photos © Georgia State University]

heart of atlanta

After passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned racial discrimination in interstate commerce, the Heart of Atlanta’s owner sued the federal government, asserting that the Act was an overly broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

The resulting decision by the United States Supreme Court upheld the Act, finding that Congress was within its authority to ban racial discrimination in businesses affecting interstate commerce.

Atlanta Time Machine has a webpage with interesting images of the Motel.

On September 5, 1969, United States Army Lieutenant William Calley was charged with murder in connection with the deaths of 109 Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. An Army inquiry listed 30 people who knew of the event and charges were filed against 14; Calley was the only conviction. Later, President Nixon paroled Calley. From 1975 to 2005 or 2006, Calley lived and worked in Columbus, Georgia, before moving to Atlanta. In 2009, Calley apologized for the events at My Lai while speaking to a meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

State Senator Colton Moore (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia) will hold a Press Conference this week to continue defecating on his colleagues raise some more campaign funds announce his call for a Special Session, according to a Press Advisory.

The AJC Political Insider asks what Sen. Moore’s colleagues think about his antics.

Moore’s actions beg another question: Will the Senate move to sanction Moore?

He has repeatedly insulted his GOP colleagues and posted several of their personal phone numbers on social media. Several lawmakers have reported being targeted with threatening or harassing behavior as a result of the pro-Trump fury. And Moore has apparently ignored efforts by Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, and others to dial back his language.

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order #, appointing a three-member commission to review the indictment of State Senator Shawn Still (R-Norcross) and recommend whether Sen. Still should be suspended. The Committee members are Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (R-Cobb County), Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), and House Majority Leader Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula).

From the AJC:

“The evidence at trial will show that Sen. Still is innocent as the day is long,” Still attorney Tom Bever said last month. “We look forward to our day in court to clear his good name.’”

Under Georgia law, Still could be suspended from the Senate while the case is pending.

The commission is required to provide a “speedy hearing” under state law and produce a written report within 14 days. If the commission determines the indictment relates to or adversely affects the administration of Still’s office, and the public is adversely affected, Kemp is mandated by state law to “suspend the public official immediately.”

Still’s indictment has added to a fraught environment in the state Senate, where normally congenial GOP colleagues have been engaged in a bitter back-and-forth over efforts to punish Willis for bringing the charges.

From 11Alive:

Under Georgia law, Kemp is required to wait 14 days before appointing a commission that will review the indictment and is charged with appointing the panel. Kemp said he received the indictment on Aug. 16.

The review commission can recommend Still’s suspension but it will be up to the governor to make the final call. The suspension would last until the case is settled or until Still’s term ends — whichever event comes first.

I hope the commission and Governor Kemp will consider the ramifications upon Georgia’s Constitutional Separation of Powers of allowing a District Attorney to sideline a member of the General Assembly by indictment.

Governor Kemp announced that Hyundai Motor Group and LG Energy Solution will invest an additional $2 billion dollars in the Bryan County Metaplant, according to a Press Release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced that Hyundai Motor Group and LG Energy Solution (LGES) will invest an additional $2 billion in their battery cell manufacturing joint venture (JV) at the Metaplant in Bryan County, raising the JV’s total investment value to more than $4.3 billion. This expansion will create another 400 new jobs.

“In a single year, we broke ground on the largest project in state history, landed multiple suppliers across the state for Hyundai’s Metaplant, and welcomed LGES to Bryan County. Today, we’re building on that success as we continue to make Georgia the e-mobility capital of the nation,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “These types of major investments ultimately go to hardworking Georgians in the form of paychecks, improved schools and infrastructure, and more. Thank you to Hyundai Motor Group and LGES for again recognizing that the No. 1 state for business is a good investment.”

“This incremental investment in Bryan County reflects our continued commitment to create a more sustainable future powered by American workers,” said José Muñoz, president and global COO, Hyundai Motor Company and president and CEO, Hyundai and Genesis Motor North America. “Hyundai is proud to partner with LGES and we are grateful for the support of Governor Kemp and the many communities throughout the State of Georgia that help drive our operations everyday as we work to be a global leader in the electrified mobility industry.”

In May 2023, Hyundai Motor Group and LGES signed a memorandum of understanding establishing LGES as the partner for Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America’s (HMGMA) onsite battery cell manufacturing JV. With today’s announcement, the EV manufacturing facility and the battery JV represents an estimated $7.59 billion in investment and will create 8,500 new jobs for the region over the next eight years.

“In collaboration with our trusted partner Hyundai Motor Group, this investment underscores our dedication to driving America’s EV transition while bolstering the local economy through the creation of quality jobs,” said Dong-Myung Kim, president and head of the Advanced Automotive Battery Division of LG Energy Solution. “Thanks to the support from the State of Georgia, we are excited to bring in our top-quality products and storied operational experience to grow together with its communities.”

The 30 GWh facility will be able to support the production of 300,000 units of EVs annually at full operations. Hyundai Mobis will assemble battery packs using cells from the plant, then supply them to the Hyundai Motor Group’s U.S. manufacturing facilities for production of Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis EV models.

“Today’s announcement that Hyundai Motor Group and LG Energy Solution will make an additional investment in the onsite EV battery cell manufacturing joint venture will bring 400 additional well-paying jobs for those in the Savannah region,” said Carter Infinger, Chairman of the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority. “The continued investment by Hyundai Motor Group and the announced suppliers like LG Energy Solution is truly remarkable and will be transformative for our region.”

Director of Project Implementation and Supplier Strategy Alyce Thornhill represented the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s (GDEcD) Global Commerce team on this competitive project in partnership with the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority (JDA), Georgia Power, Georgia Ports Authority, and Georgia Quick Start.

“Governor Kemp set a goal of Georgia becoming the top location for EV manufacturing in the United States, and with this announcement today, the state is in a great position to claim that distinction,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “Through our focus on building an ecosystem that supports the entire EV supply chain, Georgia continues to add to our industry-leading success, bringing the jobs of the future home to Georgians in every corner of the state. State and community partners like the Savannah-area JDA, utility providers, Georgia Ports Authority, and Georgia Quick Start create a collaborative, business-friendly environment that sets Georgia up for success. Congratulations to LGES, Hyundai Motor Group, and all the partners we are celebrating today!”

As the emerging EV market continues to grow, Georgia has pursued job creation along the entire supply chain, resulting in more than $25 billion in investments and the creation of over 30,000 jobs since 2018. Battery related projects have accounted for at least $11 billion in investment. In fiscal year 2023, job creation in the automotive industry increased by 324 percent when compared to FY21.

From the Associated Press via the Statesboro Herald:

Hyundai said in 2022 it would invest $5.5 billion to assemble electric vehicles and batteries on 2,900 acres in the community of Ellabell.

It’s not clear whether the additional investment and jobs announced Thursday mean the Hyundai/LG battery plant will produce more batteries. When the joint venture was first announced in May, the companies said they would supply batteries for 300,000 EVs per year — equal to the initial projected production of the adjoining vehicle assembly plant.

It also wasn’t clear whether the state of Georgia and local governments were kicking in additional incentives.

They have already pledged $1.8 billion in tax breaks and other perks. It’s the largest subsidy package a U.S. state has ever promised an automotive plant, according to Greg LeRoy, executive director Good Jobs First, a group skeptical of subsidies to private companies.

From the Statesboro Herald:

It brings the number of jobs at the Metaplant alone to 8,500 while increasing total investment in the EV facility there to more than $7.59 billion, according to Kemp’s office, which announced the additional jobs and investment roughly an hour before the ceremony following a brief meeting of the Savannah Harbor I-16 Joint Development Authority to sign the updated agreement between the JDA and Hyundai.

Not counted in Thursday’s announced investment and jobs total is Hyundai supplier Hyundai Mobis’ construction of a $926 million facility in Richmond Hill at the Belfast Commerce Park. That plant, which will manufacture the power systems that operate the EVBs, is expected to employ at least 1,500 people and should begin operations in 2024.

It also doesn’t include various announcements from suppliers to the Hyundai plant, which to date add up some $2 billion in investment and roughly 5,000 related jobs being created in Bulloch, Chatham and Effingham counties, also a part of the JDA, and in several other counties in Georgia farther afield.

Hyundai partners with Effingham County schools for a new STEM program, according to WSAV.

Hyundai has partnered with Effingham County middle schools to implement a new hydrogen STEM program. The automotive giant hopes to raise awareness about alternative energy sources through the school-based program.

“The partnership we are starting to develop with Hyundai is outstanding,” said Todd Wall, chief
executive officer, Effingham College and Career Academy. “They are here looking to build
relationships with parents, teachers, and administrators, and most of all, they are building relationships with our students who could one day be employees in the future for their companies.”

The Hyundai Hydrogen STEM Program has been shared with over 800 students in Georgia and California. This year in Effingham County, students built their own hydrogen fuel-cell-powered miniature-model vehicles and raced them on a Hyundai racetrack.

St. Joseph’s / Candler is partnering with Bryan County schools to create more career opportunities in healthcare, according to the Savannah Morning News.

St. Joseph’s/Candler President and CEO Paul P. Hinchey led an announcement Aug. 25 at Richmond Hill High School. He summed up a partnership the Bryan County School District as “marrying academics with real-life job experience.”

A press release from St. Joseph’s/Candler ahead of the news conference noted that the hospital and the school district “have created a partnership that will eventually expand the health science curriculum for students at Richmond Hill High School and prepare them for careers in healthcare.”

Hinchey highlighted how the two partners had already piloted a program in Spring 2023 with 40 Richmond Hill students who engaged with 22 departments at St. Joseph’s/Candler.

“A cornucopia of jobs … under the dome of the hospital,” said Hinchey, referencing more than 200 different possible career tracks.

“The most obvious one,” he said, “might be the clinical track.”

According to St. Joseph’s/Candler, “the School System and the Health System have been working for months to create a plan that will help expand Richmond Hill High School’s certification programs.”

To assess long-term success of the program, the Richmond Hill Healthcare Science Pathway instructors are developing a system to track healthcare science students who matriculate into healthcare programs and careers beyond high school.

At the end of his speech, Hinchey cited the vision of the St. Joseph’s/Candler Board of Trustees as a major driver for the partnership.

“The board believes that community hospitals need to be partners in economic development as a community grows,” Hinchey said.

“(St. Joseph’s/Candler) believes that it’s our responsibility to work with schools to foster a new generation of caregivers,” said Hinchey. “[The partnership] is unique and expansive, providing long-term benefits for the students and the community and it is structured in such a way that it can evolve and change as the needs of the school system changes.”

But see the article linked later about Statesboro’s property tax and the “Hyundai effect” on labor markets.

U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones will hear a case about legislative redistricting, according to the Associated Press via the Macon Telegraph.

Democrats could gain a seat in the U.S. House and multiple seats in Georgia’s Legislature if a judge rules Republicans drew maps illegally weakening Black voters’ power.

The trial beginning Tuesday is part of a wave of litigation progressing after the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year stood behind its interpretation of the Voting Rights Act, rejecting Alabama’s challenge to the law.

In Georgia, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones is hearing what is expected to be a two-week case without a jury. If he rules against the state, he is likely to order Georgia’s Republican-controlled General Assembly to redraw districts to comply with the law. The trial yokes together three different cases, meaning Jones could rule for the challengers in some instances and not others.

Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political scientist who studies redistricting, said he expects Jones to side with the plaintiffs. “He found the plaintiffs had proven the elements of a Section 2 violation at that point,” Bullock said of the earlier ruling.

The state, though, argues the plaintiffs haven’t proved voters act the way they do because of race, arguing partisanship is a stronger motivator.

Republicans held an 8-6 majority in Georgia’s U.S. House delegation in 2020, but majority-GOP state lawmakers redrew lines to eliminate one of those Democratic seats, boosting their majority to 9-5. If the plaintiffs win, the balance could revert to 8-6 Republicans. However, lawmakers also could try to convert McBath’s current seat into a majority Black seat.

The GOP currently holds a 102-78 majority in the state House and a 33-23 majority in the state Senate. While a plaintiff’s victory is unlikely to flip control in either chamber, additional Black-majority districts in the Senate and House could elect Democrats who would narrow Republican margins.

From the AJC:

The case focuses on the fundamentals of representation for Black Georgians, who overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates. A majority of white people generally vote for Republicans in Georgia.

Jones wrote in a previous ruling that the plaintiffs are “substantially likely” to prove violations of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was designed to protect representation of Black voters. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling recently upheld the Voting Rights Act in a similar case in Alabama.

State Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch said legislative leaders crafted Georgia’s districts after holding multiple public meetings across the state to hear from residents. Those public hearings were before the GOP maps were released, though.

“Redistricting can be challenging, and that’s why there was a robust outreach and engagement process,” said Gooch, a Republican from Dahlonega. “The Joint Committee on Redistricting traveled all over the state, from Dalton to Brunswick, gathering input from the communities we serve and elected officials. I am proud of the work that went into the finished product.”

Jones, who was nominated to the court by President Barack Obama, left Georgia’s Republican-drawn maps in place in 2022 because it was too close to primary elections to make court-ordered changes.

Longtime Dean of the Georgia General Assembly former State Rep. Calvin Smyre was appointed by President Biden to serve as a delegate to the United Nations, according to the AJC.

Former state Rep. Calvin Smyre is headed to New York City this month to serve as one of the United States’ official delegates to the United Nations General Assembly.

In this role, Smyre will rub elbows with leaders of nearly 200 nations and participate in discussions on global issues such as climate change, immigration and the impact of war and other international conflicts. The General Assembly is the main legislative body of the United Nations, and Smyre will serve as one of the United States’ five delegates alongside two members of Congress and two other private citizens.

“I am deeply honored to be appointed representative of the United States at the United Nations, and I am excited to have this opportunity to serve and represent the United States,” Smyre said in a statement Sunday. “I am grateful to President Biden for this opportunity and the trust he has shown in me.”

The United Nations delegate role is a temporary one and not subject to Senate confirmation. It is separate from the permanent, Senate-approved positions, such as the one held by U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and formerly by Nikki Haley.

Two Georgia State Senate Committees will hold joint meetings to research Artificial Intelligence, according to Atlanta News First via WRDW.

Senator John Albers and Senator Chuck Payne are leading the Georgia Senate’s new subcommittee on artificial intelligence. Albers said the goal of the committee is to educate members of the General Assembly on what AI is and where it is going.

“It’s the greatest disrupter we have seen in maybe a hundred years. It’s going to impact every part of our lives. It can bring enormous benefits to things such as healthcare, automation and solutions to some of the problems we face on a day-to-day basis. However, what can be used for good can also be used for evil,” said Albers.

Said Payne: “As chairman of the Senate Science and Technology Committee, I look forward to the opportunity to collaborate with Chairman Albers and the Public Safety Committee, to best address real concerns related to advances in artificial intelligence and to mitigate any risks facing the citizens of our state.”

The joint committee will bring industry experts to the table with the goal of analyzing current and projected future artificial intelligence practices.

“I want to commend Chairman Albers and Payne for their proactive work on this important issue,” Burt Jones, Georgia’s lieutenant governor, said. “Artificial intelligence is evolving rapidly and it is important for us to analyze current and future AI practices. We must look at the pros, cons and potential unintended consequences of AI and I look forward to the work of this Senate joint committee.”

Check out the original Senate Press Release here.

Georgia Craft Brewers are asking for additional legislation to benefit their industry, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

“Senate Bill 85 was a great step forward,” said Joseph Cortes, executive director of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild. “(But) it left a lot of restrictions in place for our small brewers. … They’re still limited in what they can do within their four walls.”

Cortes’ group is gearing up to push for passage next year of legislation that was introduced in the state Senate this year but failed to reach the Senate floor for a vote.

Senate Bill 163, which remains alive for consideration in 2024, would repeal a provision in the 2017 law that limits craft brewers to selling no more than 288 ounces of beer per day — equivalent to one case — for off-premises consumption.

“That’s an artificially low barrier,” Cortes said. “Every other surrounding state except South Carolina has no limit or a larger limit.”

Instead, the bill would let craft brewers sell up to 3,000 cases of beer per year directly to retailers within a 100-mile radius of the brewery without going through a wholesale distributor.

While the bill hit a dead end in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee this year, there’s support for it among the chamber’s Republican majority, said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, the measure’s chief sponsor.

Martin Smith, executive director of the Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association, pointed to the rapid growth of the craft beer industry in the Peach State during the last decade as evidence craft brewers are doing fine under the current law.

“The current system dictates that if a brewery wants to get a product to market, they have to enter an agreement with a wholesaler,” [Cortes] said. “It’s nearly impossible to terminate that agreement or switch to another distributor.”

But Smith said giving craft breweries free rein would disrupt the “three-tier” system of beer producers, distributors, and retailers that has existed since the end of Prohibition.

“What the brewers are asking for would take away from a structure that’s there for healthy growth,” he said.

Gwinnett County launched Ride Gwinnett, a micro-transit service, which I can only imagines moves micro-people from place to place. From AccessWDUN:

Microtransit is an on-demand, shared-ride service that allows customers to request shuttle pick-up through the Ride Gwinnett application, according to Media Relations Manager Deborah Tuff. The new service is available within “designated zones” in both Snellville and Lawrenceville, operating Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

When using the app, customers are now able to set pick-up and drop-off locations and pick-up times and clarify the number of riders. Each microtransit ride costs $3 per passenger and can be paid through the app or in-person through exact change, officials said.

In addition to the microtransit option, Ride Gwinnett has also added two new routes.

Statesboro City Council will host two state-mandated meetings to discuss their proposed property tax millage rate increase, according to the Statesboro Herald.

After feathering back a proposed 2-mill increase in the city property tax rate to a 1.9-mill increase, Statesboro officials are heading toward a series of public hearings on a total advertised property tax increase of 44.75%.

The first two hearings will be held Tuesday, Sept. 12, at noon and 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall. The third hearing is set for Sept. 19 at 5:30 p.m., which is also the time of the second regular City Council meeting of the month. The council could then vote to adopt the proposed millage rate or change it.

That 44.75% number, from the city’s own published notices, includes a 26% increase in the millage rate itself, atop more than 17% inflation in the assessed value of taxable property in the city limits. The Bulloch County Tax Assessors and their staff gauge the property values based on the past year’s sales, but the mayor and council set the city’s millage.

“I know people don’t like to talk about raising taxes, but this is my fourth year with the city of Statesboro, in fact I’m just starting my fifth year … and the first time I ever presented a budget to you [in 2020] I told you that in my opinion, professionally, we needed to increase our tax rate. …,” [City Manager Charles W.] Penny said. “There are outside pressures that you can’t control that we’re going to be dealing with.”

He noted that personnel costs make up about 70% of the city’s general fund spending. Now, he said, the Hyundai Motor Group’s electric vehicle and battery manufacturing Metaplant America, under construction in Bryan County, is putting upward pressure on area labor costs. He also noted that the city has budgeted a pay study to be completed before the next fiscal year. It is being done by the human resources consulting firm Condrey & Associates.

“We can’t do the work we do without personnel, and so these increases are tied to personnel,” Penny said. “We are in the process of a pay study so that next year we make sure our salaries are competitive so we maintain our work force. I’ll also just share with you, Hyundai is already impacting our workforce. We’ve already lost an employee to Hyundai.”

The city’s tax increase notices state that the proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $200,000 amounts to approximately $222.15 and that the proposed increase for a $200,000 non-homestead property would be approximately $227.84.

Perry City Council is also considering a property tax millage rate increase, according to 13WMAZ.

The City of Perry is raising its millage rate by nearly 9%.

The city says for a home valued at $150,000, your bill would increase by $67. For a home valued at $300,000, your bill will increase by about $135. These rates don’t include exemptions.

LaGrange is considering measures to combat violence, according to WTVM.

LaGrange city officials announced new initiatives to help combat crime after a man was shot to death while walking at a city park.

At the conference, authorities stressed to the public if you see something, say something. They also announced a gun buyback event, a youth crime prevention program and promised more resources for police.

City of Rome Finance Director Toni Rhinehart discussed municipal cash flow, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The city began the year with a cash fund balance of $24.2 million. That total currently stands at $3.4 million.

“We do start every year with a very healthy fund balance or a healthy cash balance,” Rhinehart said. “However, we have a lot of expenses between January and the current time that take most all of that. We are not at our lowest yet. September will be our lowest cash balance.”

In September of last year, the balance was at $2.6 million and Rhinehart anticipates being lower than that this year. However, money will start coming in during the months of September and October from tax collections, and the cash balance will start going back up.

“What we report at our end of year, which is Dec. 31 because we are on a calendar year, is our highest point,” Rhinehart added. “Where we are now, and in the next month, is our lowest. It looks like we have tremendous cash at the end of the year, but it takes that to carry us through until we start collecting taxes again.”

It’s a fascinating article that highlights the importance of strong fiscal management in government. Political nerds may wish to read it in its entirety.

United States Senators Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) and Raphael Warnock (D-Atlanta) surveyed hurricane damage in Valdosta, according to WRDW.

“We are here with you for a long haul. We will stay in touch with the White House and all of our partners to get the federal resources that this region needs and deserves,” Warnock said.

Ossoff said: “That means supporting the immediate clean-up and recovery efforts. Also, the long-term rebuilding that will be necessary for the business and agricultural communities.”

The senators were joined by Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson and met with local leaders, including Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter, state Reps. John LaHood, Chas Cannon and Dexter Sharper, and Valdosta Police Chief Leslie Manahan, among others.

On Thursday, the senators sent a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to deploy federal disaster assistance as soon as Gov. Brian Kemp requested a federal disaster declaration.


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