Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 6, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 6, 2023

The Mayflower left Plymouth, England for a voyage to America on September 6, 1620.

The United States government was nicknamed “Uncle Sam” on September 7, 1813.

On September 7, 1864, General William T. Sherman sent a letter to his Confederate counterpart, General John Bell Hood, offering to transport civilians out of Atlanta for their safety.

President William McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901. He is buried in Canton, Ohio, not far from the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

Alonzo Herndon founded the Atlanta Life Insurance Company on September 6, 1905, one of Georgia’s great success stories.

The first supermarket, a Piggly Wiggly, opened on September 6, 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee.

On September 6, 1941, Margaret Mitchell christened the cruiser USS Atlanta – Atlanta would later sink after being hit by 50 shells and a torpedo during the Battle of Guadalcanal.

The Professional Football Hall of Fame opened on September 7, 1963 in Canton, Ohio.

The Summerhill Race Riot broke out in Atlanta on September 6, 1966.

Future Atlanta resident Curtis Mayfield saw his song, “Superfly” turn gold on September 7, 1972.

Here’s my favorite song by Curtis Mayfield, “People Get Ready.”

Former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter returned to the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, on September 6, 1976 to kick off the final phase of his presidential campaign.

On September 7, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaty, which promised to turn over control of the canal to Panama by 2000.

Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin on September 7, 1998.

On September 6, 2014, USS John Warner (SSN-785), a mighty Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine, was christened at Newport News Shipbuilding. Big John calls Naval Station Norfolk its homeport. USS John Warner was commissioned on August 1, 2015 at Norfolk Naval Station.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A local judge ruled the court has no power to force two Camilla City Council members out of their seats after previously ruling both were not residents of the city, according to WALB.

The judge ruled that he didn’t have jurisdiction to enforce his order removing City Councilmen Corey Morgan and Venterra Pollard from office. He has previously ruled Corey Morgan and Venterra Pollard failed to provide documentation proving they’re residents of Camilla.

“I think that the judge, the court got it right today,” Mayor Kelvin Owens said. “And that is that this case right now is at the Georgia Supreme Court. And until that decision is made there, there’s nothing to be done here in Mitchell County. So we are extremely happy.”

“What I’m looking forward to in the next steps is for us to continue on the proper path of the law and let the appropriate entities continue to review. And we look forward to that ruling,” Councilmen Corey Morgan said.

“This is just delaying the inevitable,” Christopher Cohilas, a partner at Watson Spence, said. “That’s really all that it is. And I’m curious if the trial court was worried about imposing sanctions on them simply because they raised this argument and it’s easier for the trial court to let the Georgia Supreme Court deal with it. They may have been what the trial court’s motivation is, I don’t know the answer to that.”

Governor Brian Kemp toured parts of South Georgia to see the hurricane damage, according to WALB.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp was in Valdosta with Hurricane Idalia recovery updates on Friday. He announced that federal disaster assistance from FEMA has officially been requested. That will allow individual damage requests to be filed.

Kemp noted that while the recovery process has been slow, there has been some progress made throughout Lowndes County.

GEMA Director Chris Stallings estimates there are about $35 million in damages throughout Lowndes County, and that amount is growing.

“We’re in this fight with this local community and the rest of them that were affected by this storm for the duration. We still have a lot of work to do, and we’re going to be here and help get it done,” Kemp said. “Our biggest concerns continue to be getting roads cleared so we can get our power company personnel to the places they need to be to get power back on. We still have a few water issues that are mainly because we don’t have power to those water systems and we’re working hard to alleviate that.”

Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper said that Georgia’s pecan crop in the impact zones took a huge hit with about 50-60% of the pecan crop being wiped out by the storm.

“In the impact zone for the Department of Agriculture, there are a little over 13,000 businesses and farms and operations that we’re involved with that are in the impact zone of this specific hurricane,” Harper said. “The tobacco and the corn crop that were still in the field, most of that had been harvested, but that was left in the field is probably all gone and unable to be harvested. Just like the governor said, we’ve got other operations on significant power, all of these ag operations are utilizing generators to keep their barns operational, to keep their produce operational, facilities operational.”

On Monday, Sept. 4, the insurance commissioner will be setting up insurance companies at the Home Depot in Valdosta on Norman Drive for residents to start filing damage claims. Governor Kemp also says FEMA trucks will start coming in and out of town to assist as they continue assessing the storm damage.

United States District Court Judge Sarah Geraghty (ND-GA) modified her earlier ruling that enjoined enforcement of a legislative ban on some transgender treatments for minors, according to the Associated Press via WDUN.

Georgia can resume enforcing a ban on hormone replacement therapy for transgender people under 18, a judge ruled Tuesday, putting her previous order blocking the ban on hold after a federal appeals court allowed Alabama to enforce a similar restriction.

Attorneys for the state had asked Judge Sarah Geraghty to vacate the preliminary injunction in light of the Alabama decision.

Geraghty did not go that far, but she also said keeping her injunction in place was not possible after last month’s ruling on Alabama’s law by a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Georgia. She instead issued a stay, or hold, on her injunction in anticipation of a possible rehearing of the Alabama case before a larger panel of the court’s judges.

The 11th Circuit judges who ruled on Alabama’s law said states have “a compelling interest in protecting children from drugs, particularly those for which there is uncertainty regarding benefits, recent surges in use, and irreversible effects.”

At least 22 states have now enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors. Most of those states have been sued.

From the AJC:

The new order again bans health care professionals from giving hormones such as estrogen or testosterone to minors. The ban initially took effect July 1. Geraghty’s earlier order allowed the treatments to resume Aug. 20.

Attorneys for several families with transgender children had asked Geraghty to continue to block the law because “it is a pretext for discrimination against transgender individuals.” But Carr’s office argued that findings by the 11th Circuit contradict Geraghty’s ruling and she should vacate her ruling and allow Georgia’s law to be in effect during the court process.

Georgia’s law, Senate Bill 140, bans health care professionals from giving hormones such as estrogen and testosterone to transgender minors. Doctors also are not allowed to perform surgeries on children seeking to align with their gender identity.

Federal judges at district levels have stopped similar laws from taking effect in other states. But the laws have been reinstated by U.S. appeals courts in the 11th and 6th circuits.

United States District Court Judge Steve Jones (ND-GA) is hearing a challenge to Georgia’s legislative district maps, according to the Associated Press via WRDW.

Opening statements began in what’s expected to be a two-week trial. If the challengers win, Democrats could gain one of Georgia’s 14 U.S. House seats, as well as multiple state Senate and state House seats.

The case is a 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. Section 2 of the federal law says voting district lines can’t result in discrimination against minority voters, who must be given a chance to elect candidates of their choosing. A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that Alabama’s attempts to redraw its congressional districts fell short.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones is hearing the Georgia case without a jury. Jones preliminarily ruled in 2022 that some parts of Georgia’s redistricting plans probably violate federal law, but the trial is needed to flesh out facts for a verdict. Jones could order Georgia’s Republican-controlled General Assembly to redraw districts to comply with the law.

The plaintiffs argue that Georgia’s failure is clear after the state added nearly 500,000 Black residents between 2010 and 2020, but drew no new Black-majority state Senate districts and only two additional Black-majority state House districts. They also argue Georgia should have another Black majority congressional district.

But Bryan Tyson, defending the state’s maps, argued that “Georgia has a very different set of facts than Alabama,” which prompted the recent court ruling. Tyson pointed to the election of Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to the Senate, as well as President Joe Biden’s success in carrying Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in 2020, as proof that candidates favored by Black voters can win.

Tyson argued that the plaintiffs’ proposed plans cross the line from legally being aware of race to illegally drawing maps mostly based on race. That’s a charge the plaintiffs deny. William Cooper, an expert hired by the plaintiffs to draw alternate maps, testified that it’s possible to create more Black-majority districts.

Tyson also renewed the state’s argument that Georgia’s maps were drawn to protect incumbents and to prioritize Republican majorities, motives that are legal under federal law. He argued that recent voting behavior shows party, not race, is the most important factor motivating voters.

“You can’t presume race when partisanship is an equally plausible explanation,” he said.

From the Georgia Recorder:

If Jones finds that state lawmakers violated the Voting Rights Act, the ruling could lead to Democratic gains at the ballot box next year – including one of Georgia’s 14 U.S. House seats and multiple legislative seats.

To buttress their case, the ACLU offered up an expert Tuesday who recently testified in the Alabama redistricting case. William S. Cooper, a private consultant based in Virginia, said Tuesday that the number of majority Black state House and Senate districts has been largely stagnant since 2006.

In the House, two new Black majority districts were created in 2021, bringing the total number to 49 districts – up slightly from 45 districts in 2006. No new majority Black Senate districts were created. Cooper called it “baffling.”

The state, though, is defending the maps as being the product of a political process that protected incumbents and the GOP majority.

Bryan Tyson, who is serving as special assistant attorney general, argued Black Georgians have a shot at voting for their preferred candidates, pointing to recent election cycles. Political losers are coming up short because of partisanship, candidate quality or other factors, he said.

“They are not losing on account of race or color,” he said.

Tyson argued political maps should be about creating equal opportunities, regardless of race, and said the plaintiffs’ alternative maps have “all the hallmarks of a racial gerrymander.”

In Georgia, the ACLU is representing the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity in a case challenging the legislative maps, arguing several more majority Black districts could have been drawn. Other plaintiffs include the Sixth District of the African Episcopal Church and four Black voters who live in McDonough, Thomasville, Wrens and Tyrone.

Another challenge being heard takes aim at the congressional map. It was filed by a group of Black voters, including three in Cobb County who are now represented by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, and another who says his district, represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. David Scott, has been “packed” with Black voters.

The third case was brought by another group of Black voters from some of the areas in the state’s Black Belt where it’s being argued that more majority Black legislative districts could be created.

From the AJC:

During redistricting, Republicans redrew political lines in a way that resulted in their party adding a congressional seat north of Atlanta that was previously held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, who is Black.

Georgia’s Black population, including Hispanic residents and Black people of multiple races, increased by 484,000 in the decade before 2020, while the state’s white-only population declined by 52,000, according to the U.S. census. Black residents account for 33% of Georgia’s population.

If Jones, who was nominated to the court by President Barack Obama, rules against Georgia’s maps, the General Assembly would likely convene a special session this fall to redraw the state’s political boundaries.

All 14 congressional seats and 236 General Assembly districts will be on the ballot next year.

Meanwhile, in Alabama, a federal court is working to produce its own legislative maps, according to the Associated Press via WTVM.

Federal judges said Tuesday that they will draft new congressional lines for Alabama after lawmakers refused to create a second district where Black voters at least came close to comprising a majority, as suggested by the court.

In blocking the newly drawn congressional map, the three-judge panel wrote that they are “deeply troubled” that Alabama lawmakers flouted their instruction to create a second majority-Black district or something close to it. A designated special master will be tapped to draw new districts for the state, the judges ordered.

“This is a significant step toward equal representation for Black Alabamians,” said former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which backed one of the court challenges that led to the decision.

The three-judge panel, in striking down Alabama’s map in 2022, said the state should have two districts where Black voters have an opportunity to elect their preferred candidates. Because of racially polarized voting in the state, that map would need to include a second district where Black voters are the majority or “something quite close,” the judges wrote.

Alabama lawmakers in July passed a new map that maintained a single majority-Black district and boosted the percentage of Black voters in another district, District 2, from about 30% to almost 40%.

“We are not aware of any other case in which a state legislature — faced with a federal court order declaring that its electoral plan unlawfully dilutes minority votes and requiring a plan that provides an additional opportunity district — responded with a plan that the state concedes does not provide that district,” the judges wrote in the ruling rejecting the new map.

Alabama argued the map complied with the Voting Rights Act and the Supreme Court decision in the case. The state argued that justices did not require the creation of a second majority-Black district if doing so would mean violating traditional redistricting principles, such as keeping communities of interest together.

“District 2 is as close as you are going to get to a second majority-Black district without violating the Supreme Court’s decision,” Alabama Solicitor General Edmund LaCour said during oral arguments.

State Senator Kim Jackson (D-Stone Mountain), a member of the Georgia Senate Study Committee on Foster Care, said “hotelling” of children in DFCS custody has been reduced, according to WALB via WRDW.

Last year, the state of Georgia spent $28 million on foster care “hoteling,” a practice where foster kids are placed in a hotel room or office, rather than a foster home.

State Sen. Kim Jackson says the issue has improved, with only a couple of kids being placed in hotels.

“It’s an unfortunate practice that comes when we simply don’t have a place for a kid to go immediately when a child must be immediately removed from the home,” Jackson said.

“We have gone from over 100 children all the way down to two,” Jackson said. “And of course, the best news would be zero. That’s what we’re going for. But I’m super excited to say that the department has worked with community partners to get us down to only two children tonight.”

Warner Robins is raising property taxes, according to 13WMAZ.

“For next calendar year, council and I are proposing that the rate stay the same at 9.98 mills,” Mayor LaRhonda Patrick said.

Property values have gone up, causing tax bills to also rise.

“When you add that in cumulatively over the last three years that is a tremendous increase,” Daryl Vining said.

Mayor LaRhonda Patrick says the city needs to focus on finding more revenue.

The city has no say in the housing reassessment, but they do have a say in the millage rate. Patrick says they considered rolling back the rate to help citizens.

“If we were to roll it back we would have to find $2.5 million somewhere else,” Patrick said.

She says they don’t have it. So they’re keeping their millage rate the same to meet their 2024 budget and quality of service.

“For the services that we’re providing it costs us more too. What we cannot let occur is, letting us be working in the hole. We can’t have that, at least not in my administration. So we have to make those types of tough decisions, and we’ve decided to do the 9.98 mills,” she said.

She says they’re also looking into ways to get Local Option Sales Tax money to help with revenue.

“This year and last year, we’ve been working really hard to find new strings of revenue. To make sure we are getting our due share without touching taxes,” Patrick said.

Bryan County Commissioners voted to lower their property tax millage rate, partly because of sales tax revenues, according to WTOC.

Bryan County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to lower the current millage rate meaning you’ll pay less on your property taxes.

The Bryan County commission chair says that it is actually due in part to the SPLOST and TSPLOST tax which is the allowed 1% county tax on all things subject to sales tax. He says that his staff has found ways to make those taxes even out for Bryan County.

“We always say we are going to save people money on taxes, but in Bryan County we really do save people money on taxes – being the lowest 10% of the state out of 159 counties,” said Chairman Carter Infinger.

“Property value does keep going up. We are the fastest-growing county in the state, and as those property values go up, we can roll those millage rates back,” said Chairman Infinger.

“Our staff does a great job and we also take advantage of SPLOST and TSPLOST, so that 1% sales tax that we charge to not only our residents but people who come through our community as well, and that contributes to our tax pace,” said Chairman Infinger.

Statesboro City Council adopted an ordinance requiring more safety measures at apartments, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Statesboro City Council on Tuesday enacted an Apartment Security Ordinance requiring security cameras at drives into and out of apartment complexes plus, for larger complexes, either gates or license plate readers. But these rules will only apply to new, resold or extensively renovated properties.

But the Apartment Security Ordinance, which had been voted forward on a first reading Aug. 15, was approved 5-0 Tuesday on a motion from District 4 Councilmember John Riggs, seconded by District 2 Councilmember Paulette Chavers. It took effect immediately, except that it doesn’t apply to any apartment complexes already existing this week, unless they undergo major changes.

Tracts of land that have 25 or fewer apartment units under any single ownership are also exempt, since they don’t meet the new city law’s definition of “apartment complex.”

The ordinance requires camera systems at all vehicle access points for all non-exempt complexes containing more than 25 apartments, plus an additional level of “controlled access” for complexes with more than 50 units.

It requires that the camera systems be connected to the Statesboro Police Department’s currently contracted Fusus video network “or any other data collection system then in use by Statesboro PD.” Property owners or managers will be required to archive video for a minimum of seven days and have it available for inspection by police “in the course of investigating criminal behavior.”

Complexes required to have the camera systems could face fines up to $1,000 a day — as with other violations of city codes — for not having operating cameras, City Attorney Cain Smith said during an August work session. But Chief of Police Mike Broadhead noted that fines for such violations follow Municipal Court processes that generally give people a chance to cooperate.

The Macon Water Authority says new water meters are responsible for higher bills, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Some customers of the Macon Water Authority are decrying increases in their water bills but leaks and increased usage are not to blame.

As crews replace aging meters and upgrade to Automatic Meter Reading, or AMR, the system is more accurate and customers are being billed for the water they are actually using, say MWA staff.

Over the past 30 months, MWA began replacing 45,000 of its small meters through a $9.3 million loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. Last fall, the authority hired ENVOCORE to install 33,000 of the Neptune meters for primarily residential and small commercial accounts.

Glynn County is considering hiring a lobbyist, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County Commission needs help articulating its concerns and interests with state lawmakers and department heads in Atlanta.

That’s the opinion of County Commissioner Sammy Tostensen, who will ask fellow commissioners at Thursday’s meeting to hire Joe Tanner & Associates at $5,000 a month to represent the county in the state capital.

Former state Rep. Jerry Keen of St. Simons Island is president and CEO of the agency.

The company of the first Georgia Department of Natural Resources commissioner would represent the county with issues with the Georgia Department of Transportation, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Natural Resources and other state and federal agencies.

Tostensen said the county’s state delegation to the General Assembly does a good job, but the distance from Atlanta and the county’s small population in comparison with those in the metropolitan Atlanta area make it difficult to compete for state dollars and to resolve issues.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioners revised their alcohol ordinance to require earlier closing of bars, according to 13WMAZ.

County commissioners decided Tuesday to close bars an hour earlier from now on, following a packed commission meeting. They announced three ordinances to limit late-night crime. Two of the three came up for a vote, and both passed by a narrow margin: One vote.

Both votes were 5-4. One of the contested votes requires bars to shut down, doors locked, at 2 a.m. instead of the usual 3 a.m.

“I can’t sit by and just point my finger at the sheriff when there’s some things that I can do to save people’s lives,” Mayor Lester Miller told commissioners.

He says the ordinance, and another limiting food truck hours on county property, are designed to keep Maconites safe. The goal is to get people home before there’s a chance for late-night crime or violence.

“That’s about $15,000 to $20,000 a year. It’s a chunk of change. So financially, absolutely, it will hurt us,” [Justin] Lawler [with the JBA music venue/bar] said.

Julia Pearce is getting more in-kind campaign donations free press for being the first Black candidate for Mayor of Tybee Island.  From the Savannah Morning News:

“I do it for the ancestors,” Pearce said. “I do it for the people who came here, built a nation and died. And there’s not even a plaque that says that they were ever here.”

“People call me and say awful things,” Pearce said. “They leave me stuff on Facebook, they say things like you’re a joke, you’re the biggest racist on the island.”

After 26 years on the island though, she’s accustomed to people telling her to her face that she should stop causing trouble.

Gary Cook will be on the ballot for Brunswick City Commisison after his qualifications were challenged by the City, according to The Brunswick News.

City Hall challenged his candidacy for the position last week due to $810 in unpaid tax bills from 2021 and 2022. Cook contended at a hearing Tuesday that he was more than willing — and had tried several times — to pay his property tax bill.

State law requires a citizen to have paid all taxes owed or has some mutually agreed upon arrangement to pay taxes with local, state and federal governments to qualify to run for office.

Cook was more than willing to pay his property taxes, which amounted to around $640 of the $810 owed. He did not, however, feel he should have to pay roughly $170 in garbage collection fees included on his tax bill in order to meet the requirements of state law.

He protested because the house for which he owed taxes had not had trash service since well before it was condemned in March 2021 after a tree fell on it and damaged the back end. The tree fell years prior, Cook said, and the city knew as much but did not condemn it until 2021.

City Tax Specialist Taylor Ritz said the city simply charges a garbage collection fee to all houses that are deemed habitable. She said Cook had to pay the fee all the way up to the time the city’s code enforcement department declared it condemned.

Elections board member Sandy Dean made a motion to give Cook until noon today to pay his tax bill in full, or he would not be qualified to run for office. The motion passed unanimously.

Lawrenceville will not hold municipal elections as the Mayor and two incumbent City Council members were unopposed, according to the AJC.

Shaylin Holley kicked off his campaign for Dacula City Council, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Shaylin Holley qualified late last month to run for a seat on the City Council. He is one of four people who signed up to run for two council seats that are up for election this year.

The other candidates are Councilwoman Ann Mitchell, Councilman Sean Williams and Erica Pope.

“Holley’s campaign beckons citizens to engage actively, fostering a spirited exchange of ideas through civic engagement, economic development, and youth development,” Holley’s campaign said in an announcement. “Shay is committed to the success of Dacula and hopes to continue his service as a City Council member.”


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