The blog.

8
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 8, 2024

Paprika is a young female Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Burke County Animal Services in Waynesboro, GA.

Iris is a young female Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Burke County Animal Services in Waynesboro, GA.

Reggae is a young male Shepherd mix puppy who is available for adoption from Burke County Animal Services in Waynesboro, GA.

8
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 8, 2024

Congress passed the second part of the Militia Act on May 8, 1792, requiring all able-bodied white male citizens to be enrolled in the militia.

A Constitutional Convention convened on May 8, 1798 in Louisville, Georgia to rewrite the state Constitution after the Yazoo Land Fraud.

The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in Augusta, Georgia on May 8, 1845.

On May 9, 1862, a Union general, David Hunter, ordered the freedom of all slaves held in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, but President Lincoln issued a counter-order.

On May 8, 1864, Union forces under Sherman continued to engage Confederates at the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge four miles west of Dalton, Georgia, seizing Blue Mountain.

In Georgia on May 9, 1864, Union troops under General Sherman took Snake Creek Gap. In Atlanta, a notice was published,

“ATTENTION MILITIA! All persons between the ages of 16 and 60, not in the service of the Confederate States, in the second ward, are hereby notified to be and appear at the City Hall today, at 2 o’clock P.M., for the purpose of being armed and equipped for local defense. Herein fail not under penalty.”

Elsewhere on the same day, the Army of the Potomac under Grant reached Spotsylvania Court House in Virginia and found that Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had beaten them there from the Battle of the Wilderness.

Grant’s Army of the Potomac remained engaged against Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House through May 21, 1864.

On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first official “Mother’s Day.”

On May 9, 1974, the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary opened hearing on the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.

Governor Sonny Perdue signed legislation designating the current state flag on May 8, 2003.

On May 9, 2005, Governor Sonny Perdue signed legislation recognizing the Green Tree Frog as the official state amphibian.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

In-person Advance Voting continues through May 17 for the May 21, 2024 General Primary Election, according to WALB.

Congratulations to Republican Carmen Rice, who was elected State Representative from District 139. From WTVM:

The results are in for the District 139 special election runoff. The seat covers North Columbus and a small portion of Harris County.

Former Muscogee County Republican Chair Carmen Rice is the winner… beating out business owner Sean Knox.

2,075 votes were cast and Rice won 1,157 of those votes or about 56%… Knox got 918 votes or 44%.

In Muscogee County alone, 1,485 people voted and Rice took 841 votes and Knox won 644.

In Harris County, 590 people cast their ballots and Rice took the lead with 316 votes while Knox followed behind with 274.

Carmen Rice will finish out the term and would have to be re-elected in November to hold office come 2025.

 

 

Ms. Rice will also be on the May 21, 2024 Republican General Primary Ballot against Mr. Knox again, as well as Republican Donald Moeller, before the winner of that election faces Democrat Carl Sprayberry in November. Dr. Moeller also ran in the April 9, 2024 Special Runoff Election, finishing fourth.

 

Governor Brian Kemp signed the FY 2025 state budget, according to a Press Release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp, joined by First Lady Marty Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, Speaker Jon Burns, constitutional officers, members of the General Assembly, and state and local elected officials, signed the Fiscal Year 2025 Budget (HB 916) today at a signing ceremony in the North Wing of the Georgia State Capitol. This budget was carefully worked on by Senate and House Appropriations Chairmen Blake Tillery and Matt Hatchett, along with members of both legislative chambers and invests in public safety, education, healthcare, workforce development, and much more.

An excerpt from the governor’s remarks can be found below:

The yearly budget is the biggest demonstration of our priorities and the biggest tool we have to serve the people of our state.

This budget in particular will help us further promote economic prosperity in communities all across the state, provide Georgia students a quality education, care for the health and wellbeing of our families, and ensure the safety of our neighborhoods.

And because we’ve budgeted conservatively and refused to spend beyond our means, we’re able to invest in these core areas while cutting taxes at the same time.

The fiscal year 2025 budget will build on the investments we made in the amended budget and the budgets that came before as we meet the challenges facing our communities.

One of the greatest challenges we’ve faced even as we’ve enjoyed unprecedented economic development is the recruitment and retention of critical positions like law enforcement officers, teachers, caseworkers, and other public sector roles.

In recent years, we’ve raised pay to offer competitive salaries to these hardworking men and women, and this budget furthers those efforts by offering a four percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees.

And while helping all of our workers fight the negative effects of inflation, we’re also targeting positions with the highest need and offering additional salary enhancements for roles like public safety officers.

This budget will also help us address another side effect of record job creation – the need for affordable workforce housing. HB 916 includes an additional 6 million dollars for the Rural Workforce Housing Program that is already producing quality results, because every Georgian should be able to live in the same community where they work.

We know that maintaining that growth will require a well-educated workforce.

That’s why, between this budget and the amended budget I signed in February, we are committing more to K-12 education than ever before: an additional 1.4 billion dollars, for a total of 13.2 billion dollars.

We know just how important teachers are to preparing the next generation for that success, which is why we’ve raised educator pay faster and by more than ever before in state history.

This year, we’ll do it again, with an increase of an additional 2,500 dollars. That’s a total pay raise of 9,500 dollars since I took office.

We’re also committing over 7 million dollars for literacy initiatives – an important priority for the state Senate – to ensure all Georgians have this foundational skill.

And in a time when far too many parents and loved ones worry about the safety of students and teachers in our classrooms, one of our most serious responsibilities is securing our classrooms.

That’s why one of our top priorities in this budget was enacting a school safety grant program that will be included annually to provide ongoing state support for school safety as a part of the K-12 budget.

After hearing from administrators across the state how impactful our school safety grants have been, we wanted to provide them certainty that these funds would be there when they were making planning decisions.

I’m grateful to the General Assembly for supporting that vision and including over 100 million dollars to establish this yearly program.

But our commitment to public safety does not end with our campuses… we’re also pouring resources into strengthening law enforcement statewide.

Frontline state public safety officers are receiving a 3,000-dollar salary enhancement – helping ensure these critical positions are filled with capable men and women.

We’ve also allocated over 1.5 million dollars to support an additional trooper school of 35 graduates.

Rest assured, we will continue investing in our law enforcement to ensure they have the training and resources necessary to protect hardworking Georgians.

That includes investing in our Department of Corrections, where Commissioner Oliver has made improving security and staffing levels a top priority.

We’ve allocated a record amount to help achieve that goal… including over 10 million dollars for safety, security, and technology enhancements to intercept contraband.

We know many of the criminals engaged in these activities are also gang members, which is why cracking down on these criminal enterprises has been one of our top priorities for years.

This year, the budget includes 4.8 million dollars to the GBI to establish a gang task force in Columbus and over 800,000 dollars to expand the Attorney General’s Gang Prosecution Unit across the state.

On top of that, we’re putting 1.4 million dollars to standing up the Organized Retail Crime and Cyber Prosecution Unit within the Attorney General’s Office – further building on our efforts to combat crime on a statewide level.

We also have made historic investments in the health and wellbeing of our people.

We’ve already made incredible strides in both increasing access and improving affordability for health insurance… and I’m proud this budget includes a further 20 million dollars for the state reinsurance program that has been critical to that success.

And as our population continues to grow, we’re also making sound investments in growing our healthcare workforce. This budget includes over 160 million dollars to implement provider rate study recommendations and provide parity for the Georgia Pediatric Program to support the men and women providing critical and direct care to Georgians in need.

We’ve also allocated 2 million dollars for 105 new primary care residency slots; 3.3 million dollars for the Board of Healthcare Workforce to address physician workforce needs through the support and development of medical education programs; 900,000 dollars for additional loan repayments for dentists who practice in rural areas.

We’re also expanding the maternal health pilot program in rural communities, with over 1.7 million additional dollars committed to this program that is helping mothers across Georgia.

Finally, Marty and I have made it a top priority, alongside many of the leaders here today, to ensure we are tackling the challenge of mental health directly.

We took the first steps two years ago when I signed the Mental Health Parity Act, a top priority of the late Speaker David Ralston.

Now, we’re building on that legacy by committing more funds to mental health than ever before.

That includes 16.5 million dollars for behavioral health crisis centers statewide; 1 million dollars for child advocacy centers to expand mental health services and forensic interviewing for children who have suffered abuse, neglect, exploitation, and trafficking; And 1 million dollars to expand the Veterans Mental Health Services Program.

We’re also allocating 1.5 million dollars to establish the David Ralston Center for Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities at UGA, ensuring we remain at the forefront of this issue, building the needed workforce and providing a valuable resource for research.

As we make record investments in the services our state needs, we have returned over 5 billion dollars to Georgia taxpayers – all while speeding up cuts to the state income tax.

When others, including Washington, D.C. politicians, want to spend like there is no tomorrow, here in Georgia, we continue to balance the budget and put our money where it will have the greatest impact while working together to ensure we are good stewards of the people’s money.

Because we know that is your money, not the government’s.

This year’s budget is in line with that philosophy, and I’m grateful to all the partners in the General Assembly who supported it.

So, with that, let’s sign this budget!

From the Savannah Morning News:

Kemp signed the $36.1 billion budget into law Tuesday at a ceremony at the state capitol building in Atlanta. The budget, dubbed House Bill 916, allocates funding for all state departments, programs and employees from July 1 to June 30, 2025. Including money from the federal government, the state is projected to spend a total of $66.8 billion.

At the signing ceremony, Kemp emphasized his focus on cutting taxes, as well as investing in key services for Georgia residents.

Also present at the bill signing ceremony were state officials and lawmakers who played a key role in passing this year’s budget, including Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, House Speaker Jon Burns (R-Newington), House Appropriations Committee Chairman Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia).

Among the most notable items included in this year’s budget are sweeping raises for state employees, including a $2,500 pay increase for public K-12 and pre-K teachers, a 4% salary increase for university employees, and a $3,000 pay increase for law enforcement officers.

From WSAV:

What the newly signed budget offers for the city of Savannah is $4.7M to expand the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Southern University (Armstrong Campus).

It will grant $2.3M to construct and equip a new State Patrol facility for Post 21 (Sylvania).

The budget also includes $500,000 for EV transit infrastructure in Chatham County.

Under the new budget state and university employees would also get a 4% pay increase, up to $70,000 in salary. The typical state employee makes $50,400.

Georgia has $5.4 billion set aside in its rainy-day fund, which is filled to its legal limit of 15% of state revenue. Beyond that, it had $10.7 billion in surplus cash collected over three years. Lawmakers approved Kemp’s plan to spend more than $2 billion of the surplus in changes to the current budget, which ends June 30. But that would leave more than $8 billion in reserve.

Kemp said it was important to hold on to that money to fulfill his promise to reduce the state income tax rate while maintaining higher spending levels.

Governor Kemp signed House Bill 409, “Addy’s Law,” according to WTOC via WTVM.

House Bill 409 is named after 8-year-old Adalynn Pierce, who was killed after being struck by a vehicle while trying to get on a school bus. That happened in Henry County back in February.

Under the new law, anyone convicted of passing a stopped school bus, could face a $1,000 fine or more than a year in prison.

Representative Jesse Petrea from our area voted in favor of this law, saying protecting our children is always a priority.

“Public safety is job one for government. It is the number one thing that government should always be dealing with, and now we’re talking about a subset of our society and of our community that are children,” said Rep. Jesse Petrea, (R) Ga. House. “So, we have to do everything we can as we learn what we can do to make it safer for children to attend school.”

The law also calls on school systems to look at their bus routes and consider getting rid of any stops where a child has to cross streets with a speed limit higher than 40 mph, something officials at the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System say they have already started doing.

From Fox5Atlanta:

“This bill directs school districts to consider not having bus stops where a student would have to cross the roadway with a speed limit equal to or greater than 40 miles an hour,” Gov. Kemp said.

The new law means the possibility of re-drawn bus routes for some metro Atlanta school districts—many of whom didn’t have answers when we reached out.

In Rockdale County, a school spokesperson said: “We are aware of Addy’s Law and will be evaluating our routes to see if any of them need to be adjusted based on this law.”

In response to questions on Wednesday, Clayton County school officials issued a statement saying in-part: “In anticipation of Governor Kemp’s signing of Addy’s Law, Clayton County Public Schools’ Department of Transportation has initiated an audit of the more than 200 bus routes that may be affected by the new law.”

From an earlier story by Fox5Atlanta:

“To me, it just felt like victory. It felt like everything I had been fighting for when this happened had finally been accomplished,” Alexa Wright said.

Wright and other family members were on hand as Gov. Brian Kemp signed HB 409 into law on Tuesday. The law is named for the 8-year-old.

In February, the little girl succumbed to injuries she suffered when she was struck by a passing motorist on Jackson Lake Road in McDonough, while boarding her school bus.

Family members started a petition, following the deadly accident, for the creation of a law that would require school buses to pick children up in their driveways so they wouldn’t have to cross the street to board a school bus.

In February, Addy’s mother joined lawmakers at the State Capitol to lobby for the bill’s passage.

“We do understand the logistics around a lot of things with buses and everything, but I think we can figure out some resources or find time to pour into this issue now,” Pierce told reporters.

“It hurts to lose somebody,” Wright said, “and if we can prevent other families from losing somebody, then that’s good.”

Gov. Kemp signed Senate Bill 494, the “Georgia Hemp Farming Act,” limiting hemp products sales to people 18 or over, according to 13WMAZ.

Under Senate Bill 494, you have to be 21 or older to purchase consumable hemp products.

Businesses that manufacture or sell the products will also need state licenses under the new bill. Additionally, labs that test hemp products will be required to test for a variety of hemp extracts besides Delta-9-THC. Delta-9-THC is the cannabinoid that gets users “high.”

It also gives regulatory power to the Department of Agriculture, allowing it to determine if businesses and farmers are complying with the law.

In Georgia, people with a medical marijuana card can have 20 ounces of low-THC oil at a time. Harrison said that doesn’t cut it for her pain, and that’s why she buys stronger products at the CBD Source.

Joseph Loadholt is the owner of the CBD Source, and said his small business opened last February. He said a lot of his products — like kief, wax and hemp flower, which is his top seller — couldn’t be sold anymore under the new bill because it redefines Delta-9 THC.

Under the new bill, products will have to have under 0.3% of both Delta-9-THC and Delta-9-THCA to be legal.

“It’s going to end my business. It’s going to end my family’s you know, life and everything. The ability to do anything for myself,” Loadholt said.

He said he already doesn’t sell to people under 21 and has no problem with applying for licenses. He also has no problem with it being regulated and held to safety standards.

State Sen. Sam Watson sponsored the bill, and said it’s all about consumer protection.

“Consumers know and understand when they purchase a product, what’s in that product. I mean we do that with food that we grow and produce,” Watson said.

He said they’re just trying to look out for everybody who uses hemp products.

“We want to make sure everybody is using safe products and they’re labeled properly and that we know, you know, who’s manufacturing it, selling it,” Watson said.

This new law takes effect July 1.

Governor Kemp also signed into law a changes to some voter registration procedures, according to USA Today via the Athens Banner Herald.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill on Monday, his spokesperson, Garrison Douglas, confirmed to USA TODAY. Kemp did not issue a statement or comment on the bill.

Kemp’s decision was highly anticipated given his unique predicament in governing a state whose GOP lawmakers often follow former President Donald Trump. Trump rejects the results of the 2020 election, but Kemp refused to help Trump overturn his defeat in Georgia. Throughout the South, Republican legislatures have been making changes to election laws in response to unfounded allegations of a stolen 2020 election.

The new law, SB 189, creates a new process for how counties can remove people’s voter registrations from the rolls, provisions that empowered grassroots activists on the right who have challenged thousands of registrations as ineligible, but that the secretary of state’s office have said provide limitations.

It’s the second election overhaul bill Kemp has signed into law since 2020. The previous law, SB 202, made it more difficult to obtain an absentee ballot and banned bringing food or gifts to people waiting to vote. The law also moved control over the leading the state election board from the secretary of state to the legislature, and allowed average citizens to file unlimited numbers of challenges to people’s voter registrations.

The bill also makes it easier for third-party candidates to get on the ballot, a provision that can help independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., nephew of the former president, who has challenged President Joe Biden to drop out of the race if he can’t beat Donald Trump.

Other provisions of the law, including removing QR codes from ballots, will go into effect in future years.

From WRDW:

Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday signed legislation that makes additional changes to Georgia’s election laws ahead of the 2024 presidential contest in the battleground state.

Among the most contested provisions in the election measure is a definition of probable causes for removing voters from the rolls when their eligibility is challenged.

Republican activists fueled by debunked theories of a stolen election have challenged more than 100,000 voters in recent years.

Opponents have said the probable cause list would enable more baseless attacks on voters and overwhelm election administrators. Republican lawmakers have said the measure would make the challenge process more difficult.

The bill Kemp signed into law — SB 189 — lists death, evidence of voting or registering in another jurisdiction, a tax exemption indicating a primary residence elsewhere, or a nonresidential address as probable causes for removing voters from the rolls. Most controversially, it says the National Change of Address list can be considered, though not exclusively.

The Georgia bill also allows challenges to be accepted and voters removed from the rolls up until 45 days before an election. That provision in part has prompted the threat of lawsuits from liberal groups because federal law says states and counties can’t make systematic changes to voting rolls within 90 days of a federal election.

The measure also says homeless people must use the county voter registration office as their address instead of where they live. Opponents have said that could make it harder for homeless citizens to cast ballots because their registered polling place might be far away.

Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group founded by former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, slammed the signing of SB 189, calling the measure a “voter suppression bill that emboldens right-wing activists in their efforts to kick Black and brown voters off the rolls.”

“By signing SB 189 to become law, Brian Kemp delivered a gift to MAGA election deniers,” the group said in a statement.

From the Capitol Beat News Service:

Kemp signed the three bills on Tuesday, the deadline for the governor to either sign or veto legislation the General Assembly passed this year.

The three-bill package marked the latest bid by Georgia Republicans to overhaul state election laws in the wake of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over incumbent Republican President Donald Trump in 2020. Biden narrowly carried the Peach State, the first Democratic presidential candidate to do so since Bill Clinton in 1992.

Passing mostly along party lines, the package included:

Senate Bill 189, which makes it easier to file mass voter challenges, eliminates QR codes from paper ballots, and eases requirements for third-party presidential candidates to get on Georgia’s ballot.

House Bill 1207, which allows fewer voting machines on election days, requires poll workers to be U.S. citizens, and allows closer access for poll watchers.

House Bill 974, which requires the secretary of state to set up a statewide system to scan and post paper ballots at a minimum resolution and requires more audits of statewide election results.

Republican supporters praised Kemp for signing into law legislation they said will promote the cause of election integrity.

“Although there is always more work to be done, our new laws will ensure even more accuracy, safety and transparency,” said former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., now serving as chairwoman of Greater Georgia, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to mobilizing voters and protecting election integrity.

“On the eve of a presidential election, Georgians deserve to have confidence that – despite the best efforts of liberal activists in our courts, our media, and our federal government – their votes will count.”

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

Raffensperger and some others had lobbied for Kemp, himself a former secretary of state, to veto the bill.

The bill, additionally, says that beginning July 1, 2026, the state can no longer use a kind of barcode called a QR code to count ballots created on the state ballot marking devices. That is how votes are counted now, but opponents say voters don’t trust QR codes because they can’t read them. Instead, the bill says ballots must be read using the text, or human-readable marks like filled-in bubbles, made by the machines.

The bill also requires counties to report the results of all absentee ballots by an hour after polls close. It also lets counties use paper ballots in elections in which fewer than 5,000 people are registered, though that change will not take effect until 2025.

Kemp on Tuesday vetoed a separate election bill that would ban political contributions by foreign nationals and impose additional registration requirements on agents of foreign principals. The governor noted that such donations are already prohibited by federal law, and he said some of the registration requirements were not intended by the bill’s sponsor.

Governor Kemp also vetoed 12 bills, according to the Savannah Morning News.

May 7, which marked exactly 40 days since the end of the 2024 legislative session, was the deadline this year for Gov. Brian Kemp to sign bills into laws. The legislation included the 2025 state budget, which Kemp signed Tuesday morning.

Vetoes usually come at the very end of the 40-day signing period. Any bills that are vetoed will be returned to the legislature at the beginning of the next session, and the bill must pass each chamber with a two-thirds majority.

House Bill 1019, a homestead exemption bill that has been one of the biggest priorities for Republican lawmakers throughout the legislative session, was vetoed due to what amounts to a legislative typo.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Matt Reeves (R- Duluth), would have posed a referendum question to voters in the November general election, letting them decide whether to raise the current homestead exemption from $2,000 to $4,000.

An earlier draft would have raised the exemption from $2,000 to $10,000, but that number was changed during a state Senate Finance Committee hearing. However, those changes were not reflected in the final referendum question.

“Voters would therefore be approving a different exemption which the legislature did not pass, while the statutory language would never receive the voter approval needed for it to take effect,” Kemp noted in a news release. “This conflict between the statutory language and the referendum language precludes implementation of House Bill 1019.”

Senate Bill 368, a measure that would ban non-U.S citizens from donating to Georgia state candidates or election campaigns, was also vetoed by Kemp at the request of Sen. Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville), the bill’s sponsor.

The legislation would also have required foreign nationals conducting business in Georgia to register with the State Ethics Commissioner. It passed unanimously in the Senate, and 161-2 in the House.

However, Kemp said late additions ultimately capsized the measure. The bill, he noted, “would prohibit foreign nationals from making political contributions, which is already prohibited by federal law, and impose additional state-level registration requirements on agents of foreign principals, some of which were unintended by the bill’s sponsor.”

A full list of bills that Kemp vetoed is available at gov.georgia.gov.

State Rep. Rick Tonwsend (R-St Simons Island) faces criticism over his legislation regulating kratom sales, according to The Brunswick News.

Mac Haddow, senior fellow with the American Kratom Association, claims legislation sponsored by state Rep. Rick Townsend, R-St. Simons Island, accomplished little other than requiring needed product standards and labeling.

“There is only one beneficiary of Rep. Townsend’s Kratom bill – other than his own political campaign account – and that is a group of trial attorneys who want to sue Kratom manufacturers and retailers for their own profit,” Haddow said. “The Georgia citizens who purchase Kratom for their health and well being are less protected today than they were before this legislation was passed.”

Townsend originally advocated for an outright ban of Kratom like it has been in several other states. He said a strong lobbying effort derailed that attempt.

“An out-of-state political special interest group continues misrepresenting the facts and engaging in a campaign of misinformation to protect their own interests,” Townsend said. “This legislation is a constituent-driven initiative aimed at safeguarding the health and well-being of Georgia citizens who consume Kratom products.”

The new law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, will raise the minimum age to 21 to buy Kratom.

Townsend said the legislation was necessary because of the ongoing harm to Georgians caused by unregulated Kratom.

“Too many families have been devastated by the loss of loved ones due to the lack of proper oversight in the Kratom industry,” he said. “As a representative of the people of Georgia, it is my duty to prioritize the safety and protection of my constituents above all else.”

“The continued claim by this out-of-state political special interest group that this bill only benefits trial attorneys is false and baseless.”
The product also has to remain behind the counter in stores once the new law goes into effect.

The Georgia Court of Appeals will hear an appeal of a lower court decision against disqualifying Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) and her office from the Trump prosection, according to The Hill via WSAV.

On Wednesday, the Georgia Court of Appeals granted the request from Trump and several allies charged alongside him to take up their appeal now, before the case heads to trial. The district attorney’s office had opposed the move.

Willis was allowed to continue prosecuting the case after Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the case in the Superior Court of Fulton County, ruled that she could stay if her lead prosecutor, Nathan Wade – with whom she had a romantic relationship – resigned.

McAfee has not yet set a trial date, and the higher court’s decision to hear the appeal is likely to cause further delays. McAfee has signaled he plans to continue addressing various pending motions in the meantime, though the defendants could attempt to pause the trial.

Steve Sadow, who represents Trump in the case, welcomed the development.

“President Trump looks forward to presenting interlocutory arguments to the Georgia Court of Appeals as to why the case should be dismissed and Fulton County DA Willis should be disqualified for her misconduct in this unjustified, unwarranted political persecution,” Trump attorney Steve Sadow said in a statement.

The NAACP Macon Branch is considering a lawsuit over ballots containing incorrect election districts, according to the Macon Telegraph.

With only nine days left until early voting closes, the NAACP is considering taking legal action after Macon-Bibb County voters in four districts were allegedly given wrong ballots.

Gwenette Westbrooks, head of the NAACP’s Macon-Bibb branch, said some voters in Districts 2, 4, 6 and 9, including at precincts Warrior 1, Howard, and Hazzard, were given ballots for the wrong districts. The county addressed the issue but initially only discussed issues involving two districts.

“For a person to cast their vote, and then a vote not even get counted for the correct district, it sends a message that we’re dealing with the same issues from 50 years ago, where voter suppression took place,” Westbrooks told The Telegraph.

A candidate from District 6 first informed the NAACP on Friday, May 3 about the discrepancy, Westbrooks said. They later found out three other districts had the same problem.

“Some people could not vote for a candidate because they were not on their ballot,” Westbrooks said.

Thomas Gillon, elections supervisor of the county, mentioned how the discrepancy impacted two districts when contacted by The Telegraph, but did not mention the others. Gillon did not respond to further request for comment about additional issues before publication.

Gillon told The Telegraph that some voters in District 6 noticed their electronic ballots were actually meant for District 9. He said recent redistricting of the county – updated in December due to the latest U.S. Census results – may have sent ballots to the wrong precincts.

Voters in District 6 brought the discrepancy to poll workers’ attention, Gillon said. The Elections Board then inspected the ballots, and discovered some precincts in the electronic “poll bed” system, which creates voter cards, hadn’t updated since the county commission’s redistricting.

“We started looking at each voter in our registration system, which was much more correct than the system that was making voter cards,” Gillon said.

In addition to flaws within the electronic system, some voters never received updated voter cards properly assigned to their designated districts.

“Anytime there was a discrepancy we’d make a proper voter card once there was an issue … while we were working to get the voter card system updated,” he added.

An Administrative Law Judge ruled in favor of disqualifying a candidate for State House District 151, currently held by State Rep. Gerald Greene (R-Cuthbert), according to the Albany Herald.

An administrative law judge ruled on Tuesday that Democrat Othellious Cato was disqualified after the candidate reportedly failed to appear for a Tuesday session of the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office received the initial decision on Tuesday, the office said in an email response. The office has not issued a final decision in the case and is reviewing the administrative law judge’s initial decision.

The complaint in the case was related to a challenge over the question of whether Cato lives within the district.

Bryan County Commission Chair Carter Infinger is being challenged by Republican Buck Holly, according to WTOC.

Infinger is hoping his experience will convince voters to re-elect him, saying he has unfinished business as the county prepares for Hyundai’s massive car plant and recovers from the April 2022 tornado.

“Obviously the Hyundai one. We’ve got a lot of big projects in the south end with the co-op project, a bunch of infrastructure projects and roads. I think it’s critical to have experience to know about those projects and be able to finish them up,” Infinger said.

Holly says his time owning a business and the variety of roles he’s held gives him a fresh perspective.

“Being able to focus on the little things, medium things, and big things will translate well into being a politician,” Holly said.

Both candidates note the race has ignited a social media firestorm…as they vie for a job that could change the course of Bryan County.

“If you can’t do the small things? How can we trust you to do the big things,” asked Holly.

“You cannot run the county like a business. It’s not a business, it’s not a family business. This is the government,” Infinger said.

Both candidates are running on the Republican ticket and no Democrats are on the ballot, meaning whoever wins the May 21 primary will run unopposed in November.

Incumbent Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner Denise Mitchell (D) and Democratic Primary challenger Phillip Bonton III face-off to determine who is in the November General Election with Republican Arefeen Chowdhury, and spoke to the Gwinnett Daily Post about modernizing the Tax Commissioner’s Office.

Gwinnett County Commission candidates spoke to the Gwinnett Daily Post about housing affordability.

The Dalton Daily Citizen profiles the Republican candidates for Whitfield County Sheriff – Wallace “Wally” Johnson III and Scotty Martin.

The Savannah Morning News profiles the candidates for Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education District Three.

Funeral arrangements were announced for the late Muscogee County District Attorney Stacey Jackson, according to WTVM.

District Attorney Stacey Jackson passed away Sunday morning, May 5, after a long battle with illness, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Jackson worked as an Assistant District Attorney from 2000 until 2008. He then went into private practice in 2008 and remained there until 2022. He returned to the office as District Attorney in May 2022 when Governor Brian Kemp appointed him to the office.

Mr. Jackson is a native of Harris County. He is survived by his two children.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson continues to push back on opposition to gun storage legislation, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Two high-profile challenges to the city’s landmark ordinance, which was passed unanimously by city council in April, came in quick succession last week. A Wayne County man filed a civil suit against the city on May 1, dubbing the ordinance “void” by state law in what appears to be the ordinance’s first legal challenge. Attorney General Chris Carr followed up with the same assessment on May 3 in a courtesy review letter to Savannah’s city attorney Bates Lovett.

The ordinance requires firearms left in motor vehicles to be “securely stored” in compartments or in a locked trunk. Johnson, who led the creation of the ordinance, has continued to defend both the law’s legality and rationale despite the public pushback. Lawsuits were anticipated and even welcomed, Johnson said.

“It is Savannah’s legal opinion that this ordinance strikes the right balance,” Johnson said.

Included in Johnson’s remarks were the same emphasis used during his advocacy for its passage: the majority of guns stolen from cars in Savannah occurred when the vehicles were unlocked. The point of the law is to promote responsible gun ownership, not infringe on Second Amendment rights, said Johnson, who is gun owner and former police officer.

When asked during his press conference why the city did not consult the Georgia AG’s office for review, Johnson said they don’t send most ordinances in for review.

“I think we were pretty certain about what that reaction would be, so we chose not to do it, which was our prerogative,” Johnson said.

Forty military aircraft take to the skies of Coastal Georgia for exercises, according to the Savannah Morning News.

From now until May 18, 40 aircraft will be participating in Sentry Savannah, the Air National Guard’s “premier fighter exercise,” according to the Air Dominance Center (Savannah CRTC).

Nearly 800 participants will be part of the exercise. People in the coastal Georgia area and near the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport are likely to notice noise from the jets.

During this event, “4th and 5th generation fighter jets and warfighters from across the Air National Guard come together to train,” according to the Air Dominance Center.

 

 

7
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 7, 2024

Daisy is an adult female Boxer mix who is available for adoption from the Cobb County Animal Shelter in Marietta, GA.

Say hello to the beautiful 4 year old girl we are calling Daisy. She arrived at the shelter on 04/21 and is micro-chipped but her owners chose not to come to fetch her home once they were contacted. Daisy is a bit shy inside the noisy kennels but once outside her personality shines through. Daisy will sit for you when you ask her to and she is very gentle taking treats. At 63 pounds she is a nice size and will fit into any size home. Daisy is also a beautiful girl with a soft and shiny coat, it feels like silk. Daisy is current on vaccines, tested negative for heart worms and is spayed. She is waiting to meet you in run 25 and her ID# is 657041.

Bindi is a young male American Bully mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Cobb County Animal Shelter in Marietta, GA.

Introducing this charming little boy named Bindi. Bindi arrived at the shelter on 4/28 because he was on an adventure and lost his way. He is very cute, shy, sweet, playful, attentive, obedient and loves the attention of his person while he patiently waits for his new home. Bindi would love to have an active family that will include him on grand adventures. He is a smart baby as he knows how to sit all by herself which is awesome! He may know more and would be the perfect student if someone would take the time to teach him. With your PATIENCE, love and guidance, he is going to need you now more than ever. Can you please help him get of this shelter so he can live the best life possible? Please come see this beautiful baby soon and get to know him more. Bindi is just 6 months old and weighs about 27lbs. Please be sure that you are prepared, committed and willing to be able to take care of him properly. In his 6 months of life, he has never had someone to show him how to be the best pup he can be. The volunteers know he can be so please be the one who saves this precious baby’s life so he can live it fully.

Chip is a young male Chihuahua mix who is available for adoption from the Cobb County Animal Shelter in Marietta, GA.

My name’s Chip, and I’ve got a tale to wag about. You see, life threw me a curveball when my owner got into some trouble, and suddenly I found myself in need of a new home. But hey, every dog has their day, right? And I’m hoping that today might just be mine!

Let me paint you a picture: I’m a 1.5-year-old bundle of joy with a tan and white shiny coat that’s sure to turn heads wherever I go. At a dainty 16 pounds, I may be small, but my heart is mighty! I’m not neutered yet, but don’t worry, that’ll be taken care of before I come home with you. Plus, all my shots are up to date, so you can rest easy knowing I’m healthy as can be.

Now, let’s talk personality. Adorable? Oh, you betcha! But that’s just the beginning. I’ve got a charm that’ll melt even the frostiest of hearts, and a love for treats that knows no bounds. But don’t worry, I’ve got manners too – I’ll take those treats gently, with a wag of my tail and a twinkle in my eye.

But here’s the real kicker: I LOVE going for long walks. Seriously, put a leash on me and watch me go! And the best part? I could be house trained because I keep my cage spotless. Pretty impressive, right?

So what do you say, friend? Ready to make me the happiest pup in the world by giving me a forever home? Come meet me at cage #517, and let’s see if we’re a match made in doggy heaven. My ID is 657180, but you’ll know me by my wagging tail and irresistible smile.

7
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 7, 2024

George Washington attended the first inaugural ball on May 7, 1789 on Broadway near Wall Street in New York.

Washington arrived at the ball in the company of other American statesmen and their wives. That evening he danced with many of New York’s society ladies. Vice President John Adams, members of Congress and visiting French and Spanish dignitaries, as well their wives and daughters, joined in the festivities. Eliza Hamilton, wife of Alexander Hamilton, recorded her impressions of the ball in her memoirs, noting that the president liked to dance the minuet, a dance she thought was suited to his dignity and gravity.

On May 7, 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant disengaged his Army of the Potomac from fighting against General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, ending the Battle of the Wilderness.

Although the Wilderness is usually described as a draw, it could be called a tactical Confederate victory, but a strategic victory for the Union army. Lee inflicted heavy numerical casualties (see estimates below) on Grant, but as a percentage of Grant’s forces they were smaller than the percentage of casualties suffered by Lee’s smaller army. And, unlike Grant, Lee had very little opportunity to replenish his losses. Understanding this disparity, part of Grant’s strategy was to grind down the Confederate army by waging a war of attrition. The only way that Lee could escape from the trap that Grant had set was to destroy the Army of the Potomac while he still had sufficient force to do so, but Grant was too skilled to allow that to happen. Thus, the Overland Campaign, initiated by the crossing of the Rappahannock, and opening with this battle, set in motion the eventual destruction of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Therefore, even though Grant withdrew at the end of the battle (which is usually the action of the defeated side), unlike his predecessors since 1861, Grant continued his campaign instead of retreating to the safety of Washington, D.C. The significance of Grant’s advance was noted by James M. McPherson:

[I]nstead of heading north, they turned south. A mental sunburst brightened their minds. It was not another “Chancellorsville … another skedaddle” after all. “Our spirits rose,” recalled one veteran who remembered this moment as a turning point in the war. Despite the terrors of the past three days and those to come, “we marched free. The men began to sing.” For the first time in a Virginia campaign the Army of the Potomac stayed on the offensive after its initial battle.

May 7, 1864 saw some of the first fighting in the Atlanta campaign, northwest of Dalton, Georgia.

Keith Richards recorded the first version of the guitar riff that would become “Satisfaction” early in the morning of May 7, 1965 before passing out.

Jimmy Carter’s Presidential campaign received a boost on May 7, 1976 when he received the personal endorsement of the President of the United Auto Workers.

On May 7, 1996, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell responded to the FBI Report that ranked Atlanta the most violent city in the nation. Campbell would succeed in replacing headlines about Atlanta’s violent crime by substituting headlines about official corruption.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Voters in Muscogee and Harris counties go to the polls today in a Special Runoff Election for House District 139, according to WTVM.

The race is a runoff between Sean Knox and Carmen Rice.

April’s election resulted in a runoff between Knox and Rice as neither candidates reached a majority of the votes.

“I anticipated that it would end in a runoff,” Rice told News Leader 9 in April. “We have four people in the race, just statistically that’s what’s going to happen so we’re just going to get busy, and keep doing what we’re doing and connect with the people of 139 and just have a positive mindset moving forward.”

“People did come out and voted for me a lot of people gave a lot of effort to help get our campaign moving with great direction, so gratitude is my first thought,” Knox told us in April. “There’s more work to do and I’m excited about that.”

The winner of this race will represent House District 139 until the end of the year.

Whitfield County had 904 voters during the first week of advance in-person voting, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Whitfield County Supervisor of Elections Shaynee Bryson said 904 people voted last week in the general primary and nonpartisan elections. That was the first week of early voting for the May 21 elections and included voting on Saturday.

For comparison, 850 voted in the first week of advance voting in the 2022 general primary and nonpartisan elections.

“We are expecting higher turnout in the coming weeks, the closer we get to Election Day on (May 21),” she said.

The 14th Congressional District Georgia Republican Party censured State Rep. Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton), according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The Georgia 14th Congressional District Republican Party at its annual convention in Rome recently censured state Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, for being the sole Republican in the state House of Representatives to vote against the Georgia Criminal Alien Track and Report Act.

That bill, which requires local law enforcement agencies to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, passed both the state House and Senate and was recently signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp.

In March, Carpenter was censured by the Whitfield County GOP at its annual convention for his vote on that bill as well as speaking out in support last year for a 10-year intergovernmental agreement between Whitfield County, Whitfield County Schools and the city of Varnell that allows a tax allocation district to help fund high-end commercial development at Patterson Farms.

The resolution censuring Carpenter by the district Republican Party calls the Georgia Criminal Alien Track and Report Act “a modest bill” and notes that Carpenter was the only Republican in the state House to vote against it. It calls Carpenter “wildly out of touch on the illegal immigration issue with most voters in the 14th Congressional District.” That district includes Whitfield and Murray counties.

“I think we ought to support our sheriffs and police officers, not penalize them for not being immigration experts,” Carpenter said in March after being censured by the county GOP. “I’m also concerned as a person who represents a 52% minority district that Hispanics and other people of color could be profiled.”

Carpenter does not have an opponent in the May 21 Republican primary, and no Democrat qualified to run against him in November.

Governor Brian Kemp will sign the FY 2025 state budget today, according to the AJC.

As the annual Capitol bill-signing season winds down Tuesday, Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to ink a $36.1 billion state spending plan for the coming fiscal year that includes raises for 300,000 educators and state workers, plus more money for law enforcement, education and mental health programs.

The raises are included in the budget for fiscal 2025 — which begins July 1 and was approved by lawmakers on the final day of the 2024 legislative session in March.

State tax collections have been slow for the past year. But the state is sitting on $16 billion in “rainy day” and undesignated reserves, so Kemp and lawmakers have backed higher spending since the session began in January.

State spending has grown from about $26.6 billion in fiscal 2020, the last budget plan approved before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, as tax collections flowed in during the economic uptick that followed. Revenue stalled out in fiscal 2024, and it is not expected to gain much momentum next year.

Last year Kemp vetoed or told state agencies to disregard about $240 million in spending approved by lawmakers. It is unclear if this year will bring a repeat, although the governor’s office and General Assembly budget writers seemed to work together more smoothly during the 2024 session.

Former Congressman John Barrow (D) filed a federal lawsuit after the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission said he can’t continue to campaign on abortion rights, according to the AJC.

Former U.S. Rep. John Barrow filed a federal lawsuit Monday to block the state’s judicial watchdog agency from seeking misconduct charges against him for centering his campaign for a seat on the Georgia Supreme Court on a pledge to support abortion rights.

The lawsuit came days after the Judicial Qualifications Commission informed the former Democratic lawmaker he was facing a complaint for pledging to “protect” abortion rights against a 2019 Republican-backed state law that restricts the procedure.

In the five-page letter, the agency said Barrow had the right to state his views on partisan or disputed issues. But it said he violated the Judicial Code of Conduct by making “misleading” pledges to protect selected rights and promises about “highly sensitive cases” likely to come before the state’s top court. It urged him to immediately change his campaign message.

Barrow’s lawsuit challenging the code said he is “suffering irreparable harm” from the complaint ahead of the May 21 vote. It asked a federal judge to block the judicial agency from sanctioning him on grounds that it violates his free speech rights.

It’s the latest development in one of the most unusual — and closely watched — Georgia judicial races in a generation as Barrow challenges Justice Andrew Pinson, who was Gov. Brian Kemp’s surprise 2022 pick to fill a vacant seat.

He is bucking convention by treating the nonpartisan contest like a political campaign, telling audiences he supports abortion rights because, as he said at a North Fulton County Democrats forum, “politicians shouldn’t be making your personal health care decisions.”

“I’m a judge, not a politician,” said Pinson, who was appointed to the bench by Kemp after serving as the state solicitor general. “Folks understand that what makes a good judge doesn’t really have to do with partisanship or politics.”

Barrow’s legal challenge takes aim at the complex code that governs judicial candidates and bars them from making false or misleading statements, or accusations with “reckless disregard.”

Under the code, a three-person committee of the judicial agency is set up each election year to review allegations of misconduct. It can then refer complaints about judicial candidates to a full investigative panel, which has the power to reprimand, censure, suspend or remove a judge. The committee’s May 1 letter to Barrow pressed him to revise his messages, ads, website and other materials or face penalties.

Other judicial leaders have raised sharp concerns about Barrow’s approach. A letter signed by five former Georgia Supreme Court justices and 10 past presidents of the State Bar of Georgia encouraged voters to “demand that our judges be nonpartisan and refrain from making public commitments about how they will decide cases and issues.”

Elected officials are weighing-in on student protests, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Gov. Brian Kemp – Georgia’s governor was quick to condemn the protests, denouncing demonstrators as “radicals,” and claiming protestors have been “terrorizing” fellow Jewish students.

“College campuses are designed to be places of learning and often civil discourse, but in Georgia, they will never be a safe haven for those who promote terrorism and extremism that threatens the safety of students,” he wrote in an official statement.

“We will respect the right to peacefully protest, but those who choose to make the unwise decision to use our college campuses to intimidate, make threats, promote violence, or in any other way break the law will be met with the full force of the law and brought to justice.”

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones – The state’s lieutenant governor also strongly condemned the student protests, labelling them “antisemitic and illegal.”

“We will not allow pro-terrorist radicals and liberal anarchists to invade Georgia’s campuses,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “These criminals have only one goal: disruption.”

Jones also used the protests to slam Vice President Kamala Harris, denouncing her silence on the issue and urging Georgians to re-elect Donald Trump.

“It is imperative that we put President Trump back in the White House and combat this antisemitic hatred,” he said in a statement.

Attorney General Chris Carr – Georgia’s attorney general thanked police for arresting protestors, and condemned leaders at other universities for their response to student demonstrations.

“We’re not New York or California,” Carr posted on X. “We won’t stand by while people illegally occupy our schools and threaten and intimidate our students.”

Georgia Senate Special Committee on Investigations Chair Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) said they may subpoena Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to compel her testimony before them, according to Atlanta News First via WALB.

“She’s a key part of the investigation that her viewpoints are valued by us,” said state Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens). “We need to hear what she has to say and her explanation of what she thinks are the appropriate rules ought to be going forward so we don’t have this kind of scandal give Georgia a black eye.”

On Friday, the committee reconvened after state lawmakers earlier this year charged it to determine if Willis engaged in any financial misconduct in her investigation and subsequent historic indictment of former President Donald Trump.

Before the committee meeting, Willis herself was defiant. Appearing at a community event with Fulton County Superior Court Clerk Ché Alexander at K&K Soul Food, Willis condemned the committee.

“Isn’t it interesting when we got a bunch of African-American DAs, now we need daddy to tell us what to do,” Willis said . “So y’all can go put that in your sound bite for today, but today I am here so I can reach my community, and this is really messing up my business.”

From 11Alive:

Willis hired a special prosecutor, Nathan Wade, for the election interference case pending against former President Donald Trump and his co-defendants. She later admitted to having a romantic relationship with Wade — who has since stepped down from the case.

The special committee is investigating accusations of misuse of funds for the hiring of Wade.

Among those who testified Friday was Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts, who said he would support a potential law change as it relates to oversight of the district attorney expenses.

“There’s times when you just disagree with what’s on the books and that’s where I find myself in,” said Pitts.

The panel is expected to produce a report at the end of its investigation that could feature proposed changes to state law or budgeting to the DA’s Office. The panel’s chairman, State Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), revealed they have invited Willis to their hearings and if forced, they plan to subpoena her.

“She’s a key part of the investigation and her viewpoints are valued by us. We need to hear what she has to say and her explanation and what she thinks the appropriate rules ought to be going forward so that we don’t have this kind of scandal giving Georgia a black eye in the future,” said Cowsert.

From Fox5Atlanta:

After the committee chairman threatened to subpoena Willis, she told FOX 5’s Rob DiRienzo at a news conference on Monday he couldn’t.

“First of all, I don’t think they even have the authority to subpoena me, but they need to learn the law,” she said.

“First of all, I don’t think they even have the authority to subpoena me, but they need to learn the law,” she said.

The committee chairman, State Sen. Bill Cowsert, told FOX 5 in a phone interview following Willis’ news conference that he maintains that the committee has the legal power to compel her testimony.

He said she could be held in contempt if she refuses to cooperate.

“I sure hope it doesn’t get to that,” Cowsert said.

Later in the day, Lt. Gov. Burt Jones all but dared Willis not to show.

“If subpoenaed by the Committee, she will be required to appear, or she will be in violation of Georgia law,” Jones said in an email. “This is what treating everybody evenly looks like, even if DA Willis doesn’t like being held accountable.”

Cowsert said the committee, which held its third meeting last week, could issue the subpoena in a matter of months.

From Georgia Recorder:

Willis cannot be sanctioned by the Senate committee, but it can issue subpoenas for her to turn over evidence and to testify under oath. Former Gov. Roy Barnes, who declined Willis’ offer to serve as special prosecutor in 2021 in the case against Trump,,

On Monday, Willis questioned whether the special committee had the legal authority to compel her to testify.

Willis cannot be sanctioned by the Senate committee, but it can subpoena her to turn over evidence and to testify under oath. Former Gov. Roy Barnes, who declined Willis’ offer to serve as special prosecutor in 2021 in the case against Trump, attended Friday’s hearing with plans to serve as legal counsel for Willis if she is subpoenaed.

Cowsert asked Fulton County Attorney Soo Jo if she agreed with his interpretation of the state law, which would seem to imply that Willis would need permission from the County Commission in order to hire an independent contractor such as Wade.

According to Jo, previous court rulings have interpreted the law as allowing district attorneys to appoint and determine compensation for special assistant district attorneys without the county board’s consent.

She also said disputes over finances and control usually turn into a tug-of-war between constitutional offices and local elected officials, who set the budget but must also cover shortfalls and legal ramifications.

“I do believe there are some practical and legal challenges for all counties and elected officials who are in and in between state where you have independence, but you depend on the county for finances,” Jo said.

Cowsert on Friday recommended state legislators consider implementing a statewide policy that addresses tensions between county commissioners and constitutional officers over how much discretion and autonomy they should have.

“We need to have a state law that provides ethical guidelines for prosecutors, for sheriffs, for clerks of court, for tax commissioners,” Cowsert said. “They are not county officers, but they need to have accepted norms of conduct and ethical guidelines. It’s our job in the state government to come up with that from the state level.”

Pitts said that the Fulton commission should be able to have more control since the board sets the multimillion dollar budgets.

A Georgia Court of Appeals is expected to render a ruling by May 13 whether to grant a motion by Trump and several of his co-defendants asking the court to review Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee’s decision to allow Willis to remain on the case following Wade’s resignation. In the March 3 ruling, McAfee wrote that Willis actions showed a tremendous lapse in judgment but that the defense was unable to prove there was conflict of interest that warranted dismissing the case.

Savannah released a statement in response to Attorney General Chris Carr’s assertion that the city’s new gun law is void, according to WTOC.

You may remember last month, City Council passed an ordinance requiring that gun owners in Savannah lock their firearms in compartments and are out of sight when in parked cars.

The City released this statement in response to A.G. Carr’s letter saying, ”In order to address the increasing amount of unsecured firearms stolen from unlocked vehicles the City of Savannah unanimously enacted this new ordinance. We certainly encourage our citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights, but this ordinance remains in effect and will continue to be enforced.”

The new ordinances are also facing legal challenges here locally.

Last week gun carrier Clarence Belt of Jesup filed a lawsuit against the City of Savannah over the new gun ordinances, also claiming they are preempted by state law.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson is pushing back against critics, claiming the new rules aim to lower the number of stolen guns.

He says 83 percent of firearm thefts came from unlocked vehicles last year.

“Sue us. We’ll go to the Supreme Court and let the United States Supreme Court say,” said Mayor Johnson. “The gun ordinance doesn’t go anywhere. So, sorry.”

A city spokesperson says they encourage citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights, but the ordinance will continue to be enforced.

From the Associated Press via the Moultrie Observer:

Carr’s letter foreshadows a likely court battle over whether city governments like Savannah’s can impose gun safety measures that have received little support in a state legislature dominated by Republicans. A lawsuit filed in Chatham Count Superior Court last week by a man described as frequent visitor to Savannah asks a judge to halt enforcement of the city’s gun ordinance.

Mayor Van Johnson, a Democrat and a former police officer, has previously said the ordinance aims to make gun owners act responsibly without infringing on their Second Amendment rights. He did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment made to a City Hall spokesperson.

According to Savannah police, there were 244 guns reported stolen from vehicles last year and 203 of them were taken from unlocked cars. Police have reported a similar number so far this year, with 56 of 69 thefts coming from unlocked cars.

In his letter, Carr noted that Georgia courts have struck down prior gun restrictions imposed by local governments. He cited a 2007 ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals that overturned a Coweta County ordinance prohibiting firearms at sports fields and other recreational facilities operated by the county.

Carr’s letter warned city officials they could face civil liability for enforcing it.

“Given this concern alone, it appears that the City should give immediate consideration to rescinding its approval” of the gun ordinance, Carr said.

The United States Department of Transportation awarded a $15 million dollar grant to electrify part of the truck fleet at Georgia’s ports, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A California-based clean-energy infrastructure company will put a $7.8 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration toward development of a 23-megawatt truck-charging center in Garden City. The facility will accommodate up to 120 electric versions of the trucks that move freight between the terminals and an ever-expanding array of adjacent warehouses and distribution centers.

Meanwhile, a $7.5 million grant to the GPA will support a four-year pilot project to replace more than 600 jockey trucks at the Port of Savannah with models using “renewable” diesel.

Renewable fuel, which can be mixed with traditional diesel, still pollutes when burned but has a smaller carbon footprint over its lifecycle because it is produced from raw materials such as used cooking oil and animal fat waste rather than refined from extracted oil.

The truck purchase is the next step in the port’s decade-long effort to reduce the use of “dirty” diesel. That transition has focused primarily on electrifying major equipment once powered by fossil fuels, said Joanne Caldwell, GPA’s director of Risk Management and Sustainability.

“The current fleet of 34 electric-powered ship-to-shore cranes are equipped with integrated generators to capture power while lowering boxes,” Caldwell noted. “In this way, the cranes produce enough energy to power themselves for 18 minutes of each operating hour.”

GPA now is installing 15 all-electric rubber-tired gantry cranes at its Garden City Terminal West facility. Another nine are already in use at the Savannah Transload Facility, just upriver of the main Garden City Terminal.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners are moving their meetings to address security concerns, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Meetings of Athens-Clarke County’s mayor and commission are being moved from City Hall, 301 College Ave. in downtown Athens, to the nearby Clarke County School District headquarters, 595 Prince Ave., as plans for increasing security at City Hall are being developed and put in place.

The venue change will remain in effect through this month and June. Commissioners will, as has become their practice, take a break from meetings in July.

The venue change for commission meetings, along with the adjustments to public comment procedures, come a little more than a month after a local ersatz rabbi, 54-year-old Richard Camden Pace, had to be subdued and tased by an Athens-Clarke County police officer during a public comment period at the commission’s April 2 meeting.

Pace was arrested and charged with felony obstruction of a law enforcement officer and disorderly conduct in the incident, during which he loudly addressed the commission and refused to sit down after his allotted 3 minutes of public comment had ended.

The incident with Pace, along with other recent disruptive incidents during commission meetings in City Hall, including loud calls for the resignation or recall of Girtz, Sheriff John Q. Williams, and District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez, prompted the mayor to introduce the subject of controls over public comment at the county commission’s day-long retreat on Friday. The discussion did not appear on the agenda issued in advance of the retreat.

The City of Tifton lost $50,000 dollars to a cyberscam, according to WALB.

“Electronic activity has been great and made a lot of our life more convenient, but it has added a layer of things you have to watch out for. This happens to be one of those,” Tifton’s Director of Communications Stacey Green, said.

The city of Tifton was a recent victim of cyber theft. The city was scammed out of nearly $50,000 after a business they normally work with was impersonated by cybercriminals.

“They contacted us and said ‘Hey, can y’all change this to an electronic payment instead of a check?’ We were like yeah sure because it was in reference to a legitimate invoice,” Tifton’s Director of Communications Stacey Green said.

Green says that after they canceled the original check and sent the electronic payment they were contacted by the legitimate company and realized they had been scammed.

Four Republicans are running the the Primary Election for the Second Congressional District, according to the Albany Herald.

Michael Nixon, Wayne Johnson, Regina Liparoto and Chuck Hand are vying to face Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. in the November general election.

Two Republican candidates are running for Floyd County Sheriff, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Robbie Whitfield, a veteran local law enforcement officer, is challenging incumbent sheriff Dave Roberson in the Republican primary, and Roberson has the financial edge. There is no Democratic candidate so the winner of the May 21 primary will appear alone on the November general election ballot.

Whitfield reported $5,402 cash on hand compared to $71,306 for Roberson as early voting is continuing through May 17 at the Floyd County Election Center in Rome, Thornton Recreation Center in Armuchee and Anthony Recreation Center in Garden Lakes.

Georgia State House District 140 will choose between two Democratic candidates with no GOP opposition in November, according to WTVM.

On May 21, residents who live in Georgia’s District 140 will have the opportunity to choose between two democrats vying for the state representative seat. Incumbent Teddy Reese is running against Nia Williams, who are both Democrats. There is no Republican challenger.

If Reese wins, he said he will focus on Medicaid expansion and keeping his promises.

‘’The next two years I plan to keep my focus on our veterans,” he said. “We have so much that our veterans need here, and ours in our city, and our state and I believe we can do more. I’m also going to keep my focus on education. I have been a strong component for education for our children making sure that they have the resources that they need to be successful within the classroom, so that they when they leave the classroom they’re just as successful.’’

Early voting is already underway, while election day is Tuesday, May 21.

Former Rincon City Council member Damon Rahn is running for Chair of the Effingham County Commission, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Effingham County was once a bedroom community of Savannah but with a population of more than 70,000, the county is growing at rapid speed. Damon Rahn, an IT infrastructure analyst for Georgia Power, says he is the “right man” to lead the county as it anticipates continued growth. On March 4, Rahn announced his bid for chairman of the Effingham County Board of Commissioners.

“With our strategic location to I-95, I-16, dual rail access and excellent school systems, we are a prime target for development,” said Rahn. “As a county, we need to know our worth and really look at whom we decide to partner with in our community.”

Rahn said his experience in the political realm, having served on the Rincon City Council and the Effingham Industrial Development Authority, is what sets him apart from running mate Alex Long, owner of Lawrence Alexander Homes among other construction-related businesses.

Former Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R-Forsyth County) writes he is voting for Joe Biden for President, according to CNN via the Albany Herald.

ormer Georgia Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan on Monday said he will vote for President Joe Biden in November, arguing former President Donald Trump “has disqualified himself through his conduct and his character.”

“Unlike Trump, I’ve belonged to the GOP my entire life. This November, I am voting for a decent person I disagree with on policy over a criminal defendant without a moral compass,” Duncan, a CNN contributor, wrote in an opinion piece published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Duncan criticized fellow members of his party, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, calling it “disappointing to watch an increasing number of Republicans fall in line behind former president Donald Trump.” “This mentality is dead wrong,” he added.

One of the year’s first sea turtle nests was located on Jekyll Island, according to The Brunswick News.

“Out of the islands that receive nests, Jekyll Island is the only semi-developed barrier island to receive a nest,” said Davide Zailo, research program manager at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

Data gathered by the Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative indicate the nesting loggerhead population has been increasing by around 4% each year since the 1990s, Zailo said.

While nesting rates are now relatively high, a predictive model developed by the University of Georgia suggests a leveling off at current nesting rates for the next 20 years or so. Female loggerheads only begin nesting at around 30 years old, and the slowdown is predicted based on low nesting rates in the early 2000s.

Zailo linked nesting today to the innovation of the turtle excluder device, or TED, which was certified by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 1989 and is now required on all shrimping vessels. It allows for shrimpers to continue their work while redirecting turtles outside their nets.

“These devices are made of metal bars and mesh that fit inside the neck of a trawl net,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. “While shrimp pass between the bars to the back of the net, turtles and other larger animals bump against the metal grid and escape through a flap in the mesh.”

In 2023, a total of 217 sea turtle nests were laid on Jekyll Island and 3,479 statewide, Zailo said. It was below the record-breaking numbers in 2022 but better than expected, coming in as Jekyll’s second-busiest nesting season since 1990, when consistent recording of nesting data began.

“Jekyll Island had the most nests for a semi-developed barrier island in Georgia (in 2023),” Zailo said. “This is likely due to a combination of Jekyll Island’s sea turtle education programs, conservation messaging, strong lighting ordinance — one of the most stringent in the United States pertaining to sea turtle nesting — and areas of undeveloped beachfront.

“Our commitment to protecting sea turtles includes reducing light disturbances from hotels and residential areas along the beach, using red lights at night to avoid turtle disturbance and the protection of nests from predators.”

Another fact Zailo found interesting is that the Georgia coast is seeing more unique turtle visits as opposed to the same turtles returning every year, a phenomenon he largely attributes to ongoing protection and conservation by agencies like the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and the Jekyll Island Authority.

6
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 6, 2024

Squirrel (Pen 201) is a 5-month old, 33-pound (for now) Shepherd mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Luc (in foster) is a 7-year old, 65-pound (for now) Terrier mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Joey (Pen 224D) is a 6-year old, 20-pound Shepherd mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

6
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 6, 2024

Georgia and American History

On May 6, 1789, the Constitutional Convention in Augusta, Georgia adopted a new Georgia Constitution.

Jefferson Davis spoke in Savannah, Georgia on May 6, 1866.

Davis … defend[ed] the South’s cause in the Civil War, stating, “In 1776 the colonies acquired State sovereignty. They revolted from the mother country in a desperate struggle. That was the cause for which they fought. Is it a lost cause now? Never. Has Georgia lost the State sovereignty which … she won in 1776? No, a thousand times no.” Davis’s fiery remarks were captured by reporters for the New York Times and other northern newspapers.

Because of the national attention generated over his visit to Alabama and Georgia, Davis took a more conciliatory tone in a speech that evening, noting, “There are some who take it for granted that when I allude to State sovereignty I want to bring on another war. I am too old to fight again, and God knows I don’t want you to have the necessity of fighting again… . The celebration today is a link in the long chain of affection that binds you and the North together. Long may it be true.”

On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first person to break the four-minute barrier for running the mile.

For years, so many athletes had tried and failed to run a mile in less than four minutes that people made it out to be a physical impossibility. The world record for a mile was 4 minutes and 1.3 seconds, set by Gunder Hagg of Sweden in 1945. Despite, or perhaps because of, the psychological mystique surrounding the four-minute barrier, several runners in the early 1950s dedicated themselves to being the first to cross into the three-minute zone.

At 6 p.m., the starting gun was fired. In a carefully planned race, Bannister was aided by Chris Brasher, a former Cambridge runner who acted as a pacemaker. For the first half-mile, Brasher led the field, with Bannister close behind, and then another runner took up the lead and reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 3 minutes 0.4 seconds, with Bannister at 3 minutes 0.7 seconds. Bannister took the lead with about 350 yards to go and passed an unofficial timekeeper at the 1,500-meter mark in 3 minutes 43 seconds, thus equaling the world’s record for that distance. Thereafter, Bannister threw in all his reserves and broke the tape in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. As soon as the first part of his score was announced–”three minutes…”–the crowd erupted in pandemonium.

A “sub-four” is still a notable time, but top international runners now routinely accomplish the feat. Because a mile is not a metric measurement, it is not a regular track event nor featured in the Olympics. It continues, however, to be run by many top runners as a glamour event.

On May 6, 1984, Spinal Tap played a “comeback show” at CBGB’s in New York.

On May 6, 1996, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Atlanta was the most dangerous city in America.

Parliament-Funkadelic were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio on May 6, 1997.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Glynn County saw low voter turnout in  the first week of in-person advance voting, according to The Brunswick News.Continue Reading..

3
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 3, 2024

C3PO is a young male mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from Public Animal Welfare Services in Rome, GA.

R2-D2 is a young male mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from Public Animal Welfare Services in Rome, GA.

Louise is a young female mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from Public Animal Welfare Services in Rome, GA.

Rip VanWinkle is a young male mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from Public Animal Welfare Services in Rome, GA.

Blossom is a young female mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from Public Animal Welfare Services in Rome, GA.

3
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 3, 2024

May 3d is National Widow’s Day.

Georgia delegates convened in Augusta on May 4, 1789 to approve a new state Constitution and consider amendments.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest led troops who captured raiders near Rome, Georgia who were intent on disrupting the Western & Atlantic Railroad on May 3, 1863.

General William Tecumseh Sherman began the Atlanta Campaign on May 3, 1864 with troops marching from Tennessee toward Catoosa Springs, Georgia.

The Battle of the Wilderness began on May 5, 1864, between the Army of the Potomac, led by General Ulysses S. Grant, and the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee.

One year and one day after General Sherman began the Atlanta campaign, on May 4, 1865, Atlanta surrendered. On the same day, the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan River in Virginia and into the Wilderness.

One year after that, on May 4, 1865, the last meeting of the Confederate cabinet convened in the old Georgia State Bank Building, which was located at the site of the present-day Wilkes County Courthouse in Washington, Georgia.

On May 2, 1886, Jefferson Davis left Atlanta, headed to Savannah.

Savannah officials had successfully solicited Davis to attend a variety of special ceremonies and events being planned in Savannah. On the way, the train stopped briefly in Forsyth and Macon, where the ex-Confederate president was greeted by crowds and spoke briefly from the back of his train. Although he didn’t leave the train, Davis would return to Macon the following year for a more formal visit.

On May 5, 1886, Jefferson Davis attended a public reception at Savannah, Georgia’s City Hall.

Boston Red Sox pitcher Cy Young threw a perfect game against the Detroit Tigers on May 5, 1904.

Margaret Mitchell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Gone With the Wind on May 3, 1937.

On May 2, 1939, Lou Gehrig benched himself as the Yankees took the field against the Detroit Tigers, ending his streak of 2,130 consecutive games. Gehrig died on June 2, 1941 of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

Alan Shepard, Jr. became the first American in space on May 5, 1961, making a 15 minute sub-orbital flight that reached an altitude of 115 miles, during which he experienced about five minutes of ‘weightlessness.’ He was launched in the 2,000-lb. capsule Freedom 7 from Cape Canaveral, Florida… The flight traveled 302 miles at a speed relative to the ground of 4,500 mph. The mission was named Mercury-Redstone 3, or Freedom 7.

On May 4, 1965, the Rolling Stones played a show at Georgia Southern.

The British band played in Hanner Fieldhouse to an overflow crowd of more than 3,500 people, according to a retrospective by Jim Hilliard in the Statesboro Herald. The gym’s capacity was about 1,500.

Hilliard said organizers figured they could sell 1,800 tickets at $2.50 each, which would be enough to pay the band and have some money left over for expenses.

The Stones had played on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Sunday, May 2, and advance ticket sales were brisk the Monday and during lunch Tuesday, the day of the concert.

Hilliard said he signed the contract booking the Stones on behalf of Sigma Epsilon Chi fraternity. The contract called for the new fraternity to pay the band $3,000 for the appearance. Hilliard said he got a $1,500 loan from First Bulloch Bank to make the deal happen.

The Stones were expected to take the stage at 8:30 p.m. and play for at least an hour, but Hilliard had lined up three front bands, and “it proved to be a fatal flaw in plans for the concert,” he said in his retrospective.

The noise was deafening as the original Stones lineup — Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts — hit the stage nearly an hour late.

Jagger and the other band members were “openly hostile” at having to wait so long to play.

On May 4, 1970, National Guard members shot into a crowd of protesting students, killing four and wounding nine others on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.

The Weather Channel began broadcasting from Cobb County, Georgia on May 2, 1982.

On May 4, 2003, I had the fortune of marrying the first Mrs. GaPundit. Happy Anniversary.

United States forces killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011.

For tomorrow, Happy Star Wars Day! May the Fourth Be With You! 

A new state historical marker commemorates John Wesley Gilbert, the first black archaeologist, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

A state historical marker honoring John Wesley Gilbert, the first Black archaeologist, was unveiled Thursday for Paine College students, faculty and local government and academic dignitaries.

Gilbert, Paine’s trailblazing first graduate, embraced his lifelong passion for learning from his Richmond County home to the ancient ruins of Greece and back again.

“I think today speaks to the legacy that Mr. Gilbert left as far as being the first of many,” said [Jordan] Johnson, now Augusta’s District 1 commissioner and a former Paine student. “I hope this marker will not only serve as a way for us to honor his legacy, but also as a way to encourage the next generations to leave their marks on their communities, whether that’s through public service, business or any other venture.”

The Georgia Historical Society erected the double-sided marker on Druid Park Avenue in front of Paine’s Gilbert-Lambuth Chapel, named for Gilbert and missionary Walter Russell Lambuth, who in 1911 began mission trips to the Belgian Congo and founded a church and school that still operates there today.

It’s a fascinating story, and the biography of John Wesley Gilbert may soon find its way to my “to read” stack.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Retired Houston Judicial Circuit Chief Judge George Nunn, currently serving on Senior status, upheld the Bibb County Board of Elections’s decision disqualifying two candidates for Sheriff, according to 13WMAZ.

Ron Rodgers and Marshall Hughes were disqualified back in March by the Bibb County Board of Elections. The Board said they failed to complete the necessary steps to run by the deadline.

For almost two hours, attorneys for Hughes, Rodgers, and the county argued their cases before Judge George Nunn, previously chief judge out in Houston County. While he retired in 2016, he was appointed to the case because all Bibb County Superior judges recused themselves.

Immediately after the hearing, the judge thanked everybody for sharing their arguments but ultimately decided the Bibb County Board of Elections did not make an errors in disqualifying them.

Part of the reason the board disqualified the men in March was they didn’t submit their fingerprints on time despite signing an oath saying they would.

Macon-Bibb County’s attorney William Noland argued they had no excuses not to know about the deadline.

“Both candidates acknowledged it’s on the state secretary’s website. It tells you… all the qualifications,” Noland said.

He also said a board of elections employee emailed the candidates about it. One candidate said it went to spam, and the other said they didn’t see it.

Unless both Hughes and Rodgers successfully appeal before the May 21 Primary Election, Bibb County voters will chose from four candidates for sheriff. On the ballot are incumbent Sheriff David Davis, Chris Patterson, DeAndre Hall and Christopher Paul.

Some Bibb County voters received ballots including the wrong Commission district election, according to 13WMAZ.

Some Bibb voters in District 6 are getting District 9 ballots by mistake, according to the Bibb County Board of Elections.

Thomas Gillon with the Board of Elections says they are trying to fix the issue “as fast as we can.”

He says when you get your ballot, make sure you review it carefully. If any names seem out of place or unfamiliar, call a worker over to look over it and it will be corrected.

If you’re voting in District 6, the names on your ballot should be George Thomas and Raymond Wilder.

The District 9 names are Brendalyn Bailey, Greg Turner, Thomas Hudson, and Renoalda Scott. So if you see any of those names on your ballot voting for District 6, you need to call a worker to replace it.

However, if you’ve already cast your vote  with the wrong district number, it cannot be corrected.

Sticker shock: a project budgeted for under $1 million dollars now to cost $7 million. Projects under the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax in Glynn County are now costing much more, according to The Brunswick News.

During a quarterly update review of ongoing SPLOST projects Wednesday, county officials explained why the Hornet Drive/South Palm crossing drainage outfall project budgeted for $800,000 is now estimated to cost $7 million.

The county is seeking grants to help pay for the project.

“Somehow that was greatly underestimated,” Assistant County Manager John Gentry said.

He said county engineers should be involved early to provide more accurate estimates on the cost of projects.

County Manager Bill Fallon said the purpose of the meeting was to show the progress of projects funded by the 1% tax.

Fallon said the goal is to get all the 2016 SPLOST projects “off the books.”

Five officers from Valdosta State Prison were arrested and charged, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

All five of the Valdosta State Prison officers were charged with conspiracy to commit a felony, while other charges range from sexual assault by persons with authority to trading with inmates, a statement from the Georgia Department of Corrections said Thursday.

The probe — Operation Skyhawk — uncovered the use of drones to bring contraband into Georgia prisons, a statement from Gov. Brian Kemp’s office said.

More than $7 million in illicit goods were confiscated across the state, including methamphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine, marijuana, drones, weapons and cellphones, the governor’s statement said.

Altogether, the 150 suspects face more than 1,000 charges. The governor’s office described the contraband gang as involving civilians, inmates and prison staff members.

“The success of ‘Operation Skyhawk’ should be a reminder to anyone — inside or outside our prisons — that we have zero tolerance and will take swift action against those who threaten the safe operations of our facilities and the safety of the public,” said GDC Commissioner Tyrone Oliver.

Governor Brian Kemp signed ten pieces of legislation to support law enforcement and first responders, according to a Press Release.

Forsyth, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp, accompanied by First Lady Marty Kemp, Speaker Jon Burns, Attorney General Chris Carr, Commissioner John King, members of the General Assembly, and other state and local leaders, signed a sweeping package of legislation, including HB 130, designed to strengthen public safety and provide support to first responders.

HB 130, sponsored by Representative Matthew Gambill, signed by Representatives Bill Hitchens, Bill Werkheiser, Eddie Lumsden, and Yasmin Neal, and carried in the Senate by Senator Bo Hatchett, allows the Georgia Student Finance Commission to repay up to $20,000 in student loans held by a full-time peace officer who completes 5 years of service. To be eligible, you must either have been appointed as a full-time POST-certified public state, or local officer on or after January 1, 2024, or be an existing officer currently enrolled and pursuing a Criminal Justice degree for at least one year.

In addition to HB 130, this legislative package strengthens Georgia’s ban on sanctuary cities, empowers POST certified jailers, cracks down on criminals who introduce contraband into our prisons, engage in drive-by shootings, or “SWAT-ing,” and ensures supplemental illness-specific insurance benefits are offered for first responders suffering from PTSD as a result of a line-of-duty traumatic event that prevents them from carrying out their duties.

“Georgians have witnessed the disastrous impact lawlessness is having on communities across the country,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “Thanks to the work of our legislative partners in the General Assembly, we are able to once again send the message that such lawlessness will find no safe haven in Georgia. I am proud to sign legislation that boosts our recruitment of law enforcement officers, makes our communities safer, and provides our judicial system with even tougher tools to bring violent offenders to justice.”

Along with HB 130, Governor Kemp signed nine pieces of legislation included below:

HB 1105, sponsored by Representative Jesse Petrea, signed by Representatives J Collins, Josh Bonner, Emory Dunahoo, Matt Barton, and Rick Jasperse, amended by Representative Houston Gaines, carried in the Senate by Senator John Albers, and made a priority by Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones and Speaker Jon Burns, codifies existing procedures for jails to determine the nationality and immigration status of confined individuals and requires the Department of Corrections and sheriffs to report on the illegal immigrants in their custody.

SB 37, sponsored by Senator Randy Robertson, signed by Senators John Albers, Bo Hatchett, Carden Summers, Kay Kirkpatrick and Lee Anderson, and carried in the House by Representative J Collins, allows sheriffs who serve in more than one court to receive a court supplement for up to two courts, allows the Governor, a county sheriff, or a chief of police to request the use of the newly converted GPSTC law enforcement unit, and allows jailers who have been certified by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council to have arrest powers within the jail or its guard lines or if a person surrenders themselves at the jail.

SB 63, sponsored by Senator Randy Robertson, signed by Senators Steve Gooch, Matt Brass, Jason Anavitarte, John Kennedy, and Frank Ginn, and carried in the House by Representative Houston Gaines, adds 30 offenses to the definition of “bail restricted offense,” establishes that individuals and entities cannot post more than three cash bonds per year, requires entities that solicit donations for the purpose of securing the release of persons to submit to the same requirements as professional bail bondsmen, and amends various statutes pertaining to the bail forfeiture process to reduce instances in which a surety must forfeit a bond.

SB 159, sponsored by Senator Randy Robertson, signed by Senators John Albers, Kay Kirkpatrick, and Larry Walker, carried by Representative Steven Sainz, and prioritized by Speaker Jon Burns, increases penalties for providing prohibited items to inmates, with stronger penalties for those who work in the facility and provide contraband and for using an unmanned aircraft to take photos of a place of incarceration with the intention to commit a crime.

HB 1058, sponsored by Representative Lauren McDonald, signed by Representatives Bill Hitchens, Alan Powell, Eddie Lumsden, J Collins, and Carter Barrett, carried in the Senate by Senator Randy Robertson, and advocated for by the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, Colonel William Hitchens, serves as the annual motor carrier update.

HB 1193, sponsored by Representative Lauren McDonald, signed by Representatives Bill Hitchens, Eddie Lumsden, Soo Hong, and J Collins, and advocated for by the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, Colonel William Hitchens, standardizes the use of flashing or revolving amber lights across code sections.

HB 451, sponsored by Representative Devan Seabaugh, signed by Representatives Gregg Kennard, Bill Hitchens, Houston Gaines, Beth Camp, and Derrick McCollum, and carried in the Senate by Senator Randy Robertson, requires that all public entities in Georgia offer supplemental illness-specific insurance benefits – either self-insured or by an insurer – for first responders who are clinically diagnosed by a qualified diagnostician with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of their exposure to line-of-duty traumatic event(s) that prevents them from completing their occupational duties. This bill is also known as the “Ashley Wilson Act” – named after a Gwinnett County police officer, whose partner died as a result of gun shot wounds suffered in the line-of-duty.

SB 421, sponsored by Senator Clint Dixon, signed by Senators John Albers, Kay Kirkpatrick, Randy Robertson, Kim Jackson, and Ed Setzler, carried in the House by Representative Matt Reeves, and prioritized by Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, adds a drive-by shooting that damages a building to the offense of criminal damage in the first degree, creates the offense of drive-by shooting, and increases penalties for transmitting a false alarm, commonly referred to as “SWAT-ing.”

SB 10, sponsored by Senator Emanuel Jones, signed by Senators Harold Jones, Gloria Butler, John Albers, Valencia Seay, and Donzella James, and carried in the House by Representative Yasmin Neal, creates a penalty for facilitating a drag race and increases penalties for operating a vehicle while drag racing or laying drags.

Governor Kemp extends his appreciation to all of those whose diligent work and efforts led to him being able to sign these bills today.

From WALB:

“If people are not breaking the law, then they dont have to worry about this. But for people who are breaking the law, the reason the General Assembly is doing this and I support it is because of habitual violators. Our men and women in law enforcement are chasing the same people over and over again. I’m making sure that these habitual violators are left in jail because local judges are letting people out with a get-out-of-jail-free card,” said Kemp.

Opponents said the bill would roll back changes that were passed almost unanimously in 2018 under then-Gov. Nathan Deal. That law allowed judges to release many people accused of misdemeanors without bail.

When the bill was passed, a spokesperson for the ACLU of Georgia said, “Cash bail systems hurt people who cannot afford to pay and do not make communities safer. The state of Georgia is moving backward in terms of people being equal before the law regardless of how much money they have.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service:

House Bill 1105, which the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed primarily along party lines, requires local sheriffs and the Georgia Department of Corrections to notify the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) when they have a suspected illegal immigrant in custody.

The bill gained momentum after Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student, was murdered on the University of Georgia campus in Athens. A 26-year-old Venezuelan man allegedly in the country illegally has been charged with the crime.

“The Biden administration has failed in its duty to secure our southern border, and as a result, we do not know who is entering our country or where they are going,” Kemp said during a bill-signing ceremony at the Georgia Public Training Safety Center in the city of Forsyth.

“In Georgia, we will do everything in our power to ensure criminals are not allowed to walk free and terrorize our communities.”

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who made the bill a priority, said banning no-cash bail will keep Georgians safe.

“We will not allow criminals to roam free in our streets,” he said.

Governor Kemp also signed a package of workforce legislation, according to a Press Release.

Columbus, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp, accompanied by First Lady Marty Kemp, members of the General Assembly, and state and local leaders, signed multiple pieces of legislation, including HB 982, that will provide a boost to Georgia’s diverse and top-tier workforce talent pool.

HB 982, sponsored by Representative Matthew Gambill, signed by Representatives Matt Dubnik, Chris Erwin, Chuck Martin, Soo Hong, and Farooq Mughal, and carried in the Senate by Senator Bo Hatchett, came as a result of work done by the Joint Study Committee on Dual Enrollment for Highly Skilled Talent at Younger Ages which was chaired by Sen. Matt Brass and Rep. Matt Dubnik, and directs the State Workforce Development Board to create the state’s high demand career list. With several existing lists across state government, this designated list will eliminate confusion among stakeholders, educators, and agencies.

“Every job creator who calls Georgia home and every prospective company looking to expand tells me that, along with our business-friendly environment and reliable infrastructure, it is our people that make Georgia special,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “I could not be prouder of the growth we are witnessing across the state and the amount of opportunity that is being created with it. But every new job created requires a hardworking Georgian to fill it, and thanks to our partners in the General Assembly, we are once again able to take forward-thinking action that keeps our state positioned as a model for the nation in developing our workforce for the jobs of today and the economy of tomorrow.”

Along with HB 982, Governor Kemp signed seven pieces of legislation included below:

HB 970, sponsored by Representative Robert Dickey, signed by Representatives David Knight, Chris Erwin, Katie Dempsey, Danny Mathis, and Bethany Ballard, and carried in the Senate by Senator Billy Hickman, changes the funding structure for the REACH scholarship so that now for each $10,000 scholarship, $9,000 will come from the state and $1,000 will come from the participating school system. The bill also adds victims of human trafficking as a qualified group for the scholarship.

SB 440, sponsored by Senator Matt Brass, signed by Senators Elena Parent, Clint Dixon, Gloria Butler, Rick Williams, and Freddie Powell Sims, carried in the House by Representative Matt Dubnik, and prioritized by Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, simplifies the accelerated career pathway and allows students engaged in that pathway to receive dual enrollment funding for more than 30 credit hours.

SB 497, sponsored by Senator Billy Hickman, signed by Senators John Albers, Jason Esteves, and Sonya Halpern, carried in the House by Representative Soo Hong, and prioritized by Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, increases the number of allowed apprenticeships under the High Demand Apprenticeship Program and directs TCSG to create a pilot Public Service Apprenticeship Program.

SB 384, sponsored by Senator Billy Hickman, signed by Senators John Albers, Sonya Halpern and Jason Esteves, carried in the House by Representative Lehman Franklin, and prioritized by Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, creates the State of Georgia as a Model Employer (GAME) Program. This program is intended to assist state agencies with the recruitment, hiring, and retention of qualified individuals with disabilities. Elements of the GAME program shall include, but not be limited to, the following: provision of training and technical assistance for state agency human resources personnel and hiring managers for the recruitment, hiring, advancement, and retention of qualified individuals with disabilities; assistance with the implementation plans of reasonable accommodations by state agencies under the ADA; and the development of evaluation forms and reports for the purpose of data collection and analysis relating to individuals with disabilities employed by state agencies.

SB 354, sponsored by Senator Larry Walker, signed by Senators Brian Strickland, Jason Anavitarte, Kay Kirkpatrick, Kim Jackson, and Steve Gooch, carried in the House by Representative Ginny Ehrhart, and prioritized by Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, removes the licensure requirement to provide the services of ‘blow-dry styling’, washing hair, or applying makeup. This will not apply to any services that change the color or structure of the hair, including cutting hair, applying dyes, bleaching, or use of chemicals.

SB 373, sponsored by Senator Larry Walker, signed by Senators Jason Anavitarte, Kay Kirkpatrick, Brian Strickland, Sonya Halpern, and Elena Parent, carried in the House by Representative Alan Powell, and prioritized by Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, requires the Board of Marriage and Family Therapists to issue an expedited license by endorsement to any individual moving from another state that has a current valid license to practice in that state and is in good standing with that state.

SB 195, sponsored by Senator Larry Walker, signed by Senators Kay Kirkpatrick, Frank Ginn, Ed Harbison, and Tony Anderson, carried in the House by Representative Bethany Ballard, and prioritized by Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, among other things, makes Georgia the 3rd state in the country to join the Social Work Licensing Compact. Once seven states have joined, the compact becomes functional and will facilitate interstate practice of social work services.

Governor Kemp extends his appreciation to all of those whose diligent work and efforts led to him being able to sign these bills today.

Governor Kemp signed House Bill 181 by State Rep. Rick Townsend (R-St Simons Island) to restrict kratom sales, according to The Brunswick News.

A two-year effort by state Rep. Rick Townsend to tighten restrictions on a stimulant and pain reliever that’s available without a prescription came to fruition Thursday.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 181, legislation regulating kratom, into law at the Capitol in Atlanta during a brief ceremony attended by Townsend, R-St. Simons Island, and families affected by kratom.

The regulatory measure sets the minimum age to purchase kratom at 21, requires sales clerks to store all kratom products behind the counter and mandates that the manufacturer of its products be properly identified and the contents and strength properly labeled.

The final version of HB 181 bears little resemblance to the bill Townsend first introduced as a freshman lawmaker during the 2023 session of the General Assembly. The original legislation sought to classify kratom as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, casting it in the same category as LSD, heroin and ecstasy, all of which are illegal to possess in Georgia.

Concerns voiced by veterans and professionals suffering from injuries who claim kratom helps ease their pain, coupled with pressure from lobbyists, paved the way to the current bill.

“A lot of big money was behind kratom,” Townsend said.

Townsend got involved with the state legislation last year at the urging of constituents who have been adversely affected by kratom.

From WRDW:

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, prohibits the sale of kratom to anyone under 21 and says it must be kept behind a counter or in a display area that is only accessible to store employees. It also limits the concentration of kratom’s main chemical components in products sold in Georgia, imposes new labeling requirements and adds penalties for violations.

Extracted from the leaves of a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, kratom is used to make capsules, powders and liquids. It’s often sold in gas stations or smoke shops, marketed as an aid for pain, anxiety and drug dependence.

State Rep. Rick Townsend, a Republican from coastal Brunswick, sponsored the legislation after he was contacted by Anne and Larry Rogers, a couple in his district whose son Wes died after using kratom.

“It shook me pretty hard,” he said of that phone call, which prompted him to do research on kratom. His initial plan was to try to ban it, he said, but he eventually settled on adding regulations.

“This is a joyous day, but it’s not a joyous day because we’ve lost loved ones because of it. But at least right now we can try to save some others in the process,” Townsend said at a news conference after the governor signed the bill. He was joined by the Rogerses and two other families who say they lost loved ones who used kratom.

State legislators representing Bulloch County reviewed the past session, according to Grice Connect.

Building a better Bulloch together was the title of a luncheon hosted on Thursday, May 5, 2024 by Morris Bank. The event held at The Venue’s at Ogeechee Technical College, was the second year the panel included the Bulloch County Georgia legislative delegation in addition to Senator Blake Tillery, Appropriations Chair.

“We live in a pretty cool place with lots of good things happening here.  The reason for this is because of leaders and citizens who are engaged in our communities.  I am proud to lead a house led by common sense conservatives and that is the policy you see come out of the house,” said Speaker [Jon] Burns.  “I agree with Senator Hickman on no issue being more important than literacy for our state.  My wife Dayle, a former principal, has joined me in this effort as well.”

“It is good to see so many community leaders here today.  It is humbling to see what the leaders of this community have done to make our community so desirable.  I have been to alot of countries in the world.  There is no community like this one. None more generous, service oriented and with a better sense of servant leadership.  We are all very fortunate to live here,” said Representative [Lehman] Franklin.

“Healthcare remains a focus for me. Statesboro is a hub for healthcare regionally. We have been working on a number of things to help enhance what you are doing here that will help provide better access to quality, affordable healthcare for all Georgians,” said Representative [Butch] Parrish.

“I remain focused on improving student reading numbers and literacy rates in Georgia. As Chair of Higher Ed and Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and Higher Ed I am involved with decisions that impact 50% off the annual state budget. Shaping the future of our children is important to our communities and states continued success,” said Senator [Billy] Hickman.

“It is an exciting time in Georgia. Over the past four years we have invested heavily in education and infrastructure while maintaining a very physically conservative budget that positions us well for any downturn that we may see as a state,” said Senator Blake Tillery.

Democrats criticized Governor Kemp’s refusal to consider full expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, according to the AJC.

Democratic leaders of the Georgia Senate on Thursday lambasted Gov. Brian Kemp for his decision not to fully expand Medicaid to poor Georgia adults.

“This political gamesmanship and obstinance has horrific real world consequences for the hundreds of thousands of Georgians who remain uninsured and unable to access quality, affordable health care,” said Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic caucus.

The Democrats also challenged statistics that Kemp laid out to defend his position, saying that they were false.

Kemp is holding off on fully expanding Medicaid to all Georgia adults in order to work for the success of his own Medicaid program, called Georgia Pathways to Coverage.

Estimates vary, but perhaps 290,000 Georgia adults remain uninsured because Georgia has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — to cover all its poor. Instead, Kemp devised a tailored solution that he forecasted would insure 90,000 Georgians. However, only 4,000 have enrolled since the program launched last July.

Kemp has said his Pathways program will encourage people to work and move up in life. In order for people to enroll, they must prove they’re working or doing certain activities, such as volunteering for a registered nonprofit. But not all types of work count. For example, working to care full-time for a disabled relative does not count. People who are too disabled to work but haven’t been federally declared disabled also don’t qualify.

Sen. Michelle Au, a Democrat from Johns Creek who is also a physician, said Kemp’s rejection of Medicaid expansion after the legislative session ended was a “thumb in the eye” to those who had worked in good faith during the session, including Republicans. The efforts resulted in Kemp approving a study commission on the issue.

“I honestly don’t know what this commission is supposed to do now,” Au said. “Because we’re basically admitting that this was all talk.”

Savannah Police Department launched an app to allow citizens to submit complaints online, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Savannah Police Department (SPD) has implemented a feature on its mobile app that allows citizens to send in complaints and compliments about SPD officers.

The reporting system, which went live on April 3, can be accessed through the Savannah Police app. In the bottom-right corner of the app reads a widget, “Internal Affairs Online Reporting.” After clicking that, citizens are directed to give a “new complaint” or “new compliment.”

After clicking one of those two options, citizens are directed to provide their first and last name, though they can also opt for anonymity. Citizens can also include their phone number or email if they want to be directly contacted about the status of their complaint or compliment. Citizens are provided a reference number to track the status. Citizens must provide a summary of the incident, limited to 4,000 characters and, if possible, the officer’s name and additional witnesses.

In a press release, Gunther said, “This implementation marks a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to strengthen transparency and accountability within our department. By providing the public with direct access to pertinent information, we are fostering a culture of openness and trust, essential elements in our mission to serve and protect the Savannah community.”

I thought the app to complain about everything, including people you don’t know walking on the public streets, already exists and is called NextDoor.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee received support from Governor Brian Kemp and former Governor Roy Barnes, according to the AJC.

The two were the star guests at a Thursday fundraiser for McAfee that raised more than $40,000 for his election campaign. The judicial seat will be on the May 21 ballot.

The judge, who presides over former President Donald Trump’s election interference case, faces a challenge from civil rights attorney Robert Patillo. His other opponent, Tiffani Johnson, was disqualified by an administrative law judge.

Kemp, who appointed McAfee to the bench, and Barnes are among a bipartisan — and nonpartisan — cast that has endorsed the judge.

Others include former Georgia Supreme Court Justices Harold Melton and David Nahmias, former Republican Attorney General Sam Olens and Democratic state Sen. Jason Esteves, who was also on hand at the fundraiser.

Some Augusta area leaders hosted a “Vote Yes” rally, according to WJBF.

“This is positive inclusive uplifting and about bringing people together on common ground show me another political campaign in this nation like this at this point in time that’s what’s drawing people in,” said Deke Copenhaver, former Mayor of Augusta.

Copenhaver says giving the Augusta mayor a vote during all commission matters could help end delays in making important decisions.

“So when you think about it the actions of local government the mayor and the commission have more of impact on your daily lives than anything that happens in Washington, so this is particularly for younger voters I want them to be excited about this.”

He also says it gives people the opportunity to use their voices when voting.

“I expect for them to get psyched up and vocal because it’s been 28 years since the citizens of Augusta had the opportunity to weigh in on government functions.”

Liberty County Sheriff Will Bowman faces three Democratic challengers in the May 21, 2024 General Primary and a Republican in November, according to WSAV.

For the primary, Bowman — who is the county’s first African American sheriff — is being challenged by three members of his own party.

Democrats Kevin Hofkin, Keith Jenkins, and Gary Richardson are all looking to unseat him.

The winner will face Republican Gary Eason in November.

WSAV did reach out to all the candidates for an interview; none were available or we did not hear back.

Three candidates are running for Mayor of LaGrange, according to WTVM.

The election, came two months after the city’s first Black mayor, Mayor Willie Edmondson passed away.

Back in February, LaGrange City Council voted to hold a special election on May 21 to select a new mayor.

This was a few days after the death of Edmonson. Quay Boddie currently serves as Mayor Pro Tem.

In LaGrange, there will also be special elections on the ballot, to include the mayoral race.

There are three candidates on the ballot vying for residents’ support, Jim Arrington, Dr. Israel Barsh, and Chalton Askew.

The Dalton Daily Citizen News interviewed the Republican candidates for Whitfield County Commission District 2, incumbent Robby Staten and challenger Christian Phillips.

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller faces challenger Shekita Maxwell, according to the Macon Telegraph.

First-term Mayor Lester Miller faces his first reelection battle this year as he seeks another term leading Macon-Bibb County.

Miller is one of only two candidates who have qualified for the mayor’s race ahead of the May 21 election, with his opponent being Shekita Maxwell.

Because the race for mayor of Macon-Bibb County is a non-partisan election, the race will be decided on May’s Election Day rather than the General Election in November. The new term will begin Jan. 1.

Dougherty County District Attorney Gregory Edwards faces primary election challenger Elizabeth Gibson, according to the Albany Herald.

Gregory Edwards has been Dougherty County’s DA since 2008 and was re-elected without opposition in 2012, 2016 and 2020. In May’s primary election, Elizabeth Gibson, a local attorney who previously worked in the DA’s office, is contesting Edwards.

Atlanta City Council is working on their proposed $853 million dollar FY 2025 budget, according to the AJC.

The Fiscal Year 2025 general fund budget being proposed by the mayor’s office is up $63 million from the current budget, making it the largest in the city’s history, according to the mayor’s office. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens has already outlined his spending priorities for council’s consideration.

In a letter sent on Wednesday, Dickens said the city’s total projected revenue for the new fiscal year starting July 1 reaches about $2.75 billion. He requested that council members OK more than $24 million in new spending on programs to help scout and retain employees as well as more than $29 million more to boost public safety.

“This budget reflects our shared vision of Atlanta as a City of Opportunity for All,” Dickens said in a statement. “As Atlanta’s influence expands on the global stage, it’s imperative that we prioritize critical investments in our infrastructure, residents, and employees.”

The increased public safety budget would buy new radios for police and fire vehicles along with other equipment for $19.4 million; add to the city’s police’s body-camera maintenance and video storage capabilities for $5.3 million; and improve maintenance of the citywide surveillance camera system for $2.1 million.

The proposed FY25 budget also includes a massive $30 million toward capital improvements to build two new fire stations, modernize Atlanta’s municipal buildings and “address years of deferred maintenance.”

Tripp Cofield was named the next President and CEO of the Georgia Banker’s Association, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Tripp Cofield has been elected by the Georgia Bankers Association Board of Directors as the association’s incoming President and CEO when the longtime current leader, Joe Brannen, retires on July 15, 2024.

In making the announcement, GBA Board Chairman Rhodes McLanahan, chief executive officer of First American Bank and Trust Company, Athens, said, “I have gotten to know Tripp over the last 15 months since he joined GBA as part of our management succession plan. His thoughtful and intelligent approach to solving complex problems, complemented by his engaging leadership style and years of experience focusing on state and federal legislative and regulatory policy, makes him the right leader for the association. I’m excited about the future of our industry and our association and confident Tripp and the GBA team will successfully lead us forward.”

“It’s an incredible honor to be chosen by the Board of Directors to lead the Georgia Bankers Association. Our organization was founded in 1892 on the belief that in union, there is strength, and bankers speaking with one voice could wield a mighty influence. The years I’ve spent in the legislative and regulatory arenas have led me to believe those words are as true today as they were all those years ago. The Georgia banking industry does a wonderful job serving its customers and communities, and I very much look forward to working alongside the talented team at GBA, our exceptional volunteer leaders, and bankers across the state to serve our industry and share our story,” said Cofield.

He served as a Legislative Fellow for the U.S. House of Representatives before joining the staff of U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) as Legislative Counsel and House Budget Committee Associate. His issue portfolio included health care, financial services, taxation, trade, labor, and budget.

Prior to joining GBA, Cofield also served as the National Policy Counsel for the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation and Vice President for Government Relations for the Georgia Hospital Association.

1
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 1, 2024

Snoozer (Pen 173) is a 10-month old male Boxer mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Pen 213 is the temporary home for this 4-month old male mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Marigold (Pen 176) is a 4-year old, 82-pound female Terrier mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

1
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 1, 2024

May is ALS Awareness month. I’ll probably mention it a couple times more this month.

On May 1, 1707, the Act of Union with England, passed by the Scottish Parliament brought together England and Scotland and made the Union Jack the official flag of Great Britain.

1200px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg copy

The Second Confederate National Flag was adopted on May 1, 1863.

Flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America_(1863-1865)

On May 1, 1886, Jefferson Davis visited the Benjamin Hill monument at Peachtree and West Peachtree Streets in Atlanta, having arrived the previous day. On May 2, 1886, Jefferson Davis left Atlanta, headed to Savannah.

Savannah officials had successfully solicited Davis to attend a variety of special ceremonies and events being planned in Savannah. On the way, the train stopped briefly in Forsyth and Macon, where the ex-Confederate president was greeted by crowds and spoke briefly from the back of his train. Although he didn’t leave the train, Davis would return to Macon the following year for a more formal visit.

On May 1, 1971, “Joy to the World,” by Three Dog Night was the #1 song in the nation.

Kennesaw, Georgia City Council adopted an ordinance on May 1, 1982 requiring each household to own a gun and ammunition.

(a) In order to provide for the emergency management of the city, and further in order to provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants, every head of household residing in the city limits is required to maintain a firearm, together with ammunition therefore.

(b) Exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of households who suffer a physical or mental disability which would prohibit them from using such a firearm. Further exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of households who are paupers or who conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms as a result of beliefs or religious doctrine, or persons convicted of a felony.

On May 1, 1991, Rickey Henderson broke the major league baseball stolen base record on the same day that Nolan Ryan, the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball, recorded his seventh no-hitter.

The official state tartan of Georgia was designated on May 1, 1997.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested Manchester City Council member Tameka Lowe, according to WTVM.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested Councilor Tameka Lowe who goes by “Meka” at her business around lunchtime Tuesday. Lowe was booked into the Meriwether County Jail on two charges, false swearing and violation of oath by a public officer.

Councilwoman Lowe posted a $750 dollar bond after spending about six hours at the Meriwether County Jail.

News Leader 9 waited outside of the county jail for Lowe once she was released. She says the arrest was a full circle moment for her, referencing a time when she went in the community to let people know her platform.

The 46-year-old was taken into custody by the GBI for allegedly falsifying statements.

“I was there but honestly, is that the worst that could happen to me today, it was not.” [said] Tameka ‘Meka’ Lowe.

“She would never do anything to violate that trust, to violate that oath, it’s just totally surprising to see that we would be here,” said Nell Rush Wilkins, Lowe’s aunt and former Manchester City Councilwoman.

Wilkins, who Lowe replaced as a councilor after Wilkins ran for Mayor, says she believes this arrest comes after someone internally tipped off officials.

“Who called the GBI with allegations and how do you charge someone saying they violated public oath if they’ve never been found guilty,” said Wilkins.

On February 8, 2024, the Manchester Police Department asked the GBI to investigate allegations that a City Councilwoman falsified her criminal history record information on election paperwork.

According to the GBI, Lowe provided false information on a Notice of Candidacy and Affidavit when she applied to run for a vacant Manchester City Council position. She allegedly then falsely swore to the City of Manchester Oath of Public Officer after being elected to the City Council position.

Both Grier, Wilkins and other supporters say Meriwether County Law enforcement, Manchester police, and city officials should be held more accountable, especially in small towns.

“It’s Meka today, but who will it be tomorrow,” said Wilkins, ”If we don’t speak up now, every time we bring someone in that will stand for us and speak for us like Tameka…the same thing will happen again.”

“I will do the work whether I got to do it in city hall from a jail cell, in the streets, in the neighborhoods, the work still is still going to get done and I will not be silenced,” said Lowe. “I’m not sure what’s going to come about, due to these circumstances, if I will remain in office as a public servant where I was charged fighting for you. If it’s God’s will that that will no longer be possible, I will go from public servant to community servant, so instead of fighting for you I will fight with you.”

Yet another candidate cries foul after his signs were removed from public property. From 13WMAZ:

On the first day of advanced voting in the nonpartisan election, Macon Water Authority incumbent Desmond Brown cried foul that his campaign signs were pulled up from around Macon Mall, the new location of the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections.

“We have a right to campaign. We are outside of 150 feet,” Brown said Monday as he waved to cars along Mercer University Drive.

He stood on the sidewalk beside his sign which was placed on the other side of the right-of-way marker.

Signs are prohibited in the right-of-way and within 150 feet of a polling place.

Candidates are accustomed to signs being permitted at most polling places, but property owners must grant permission, according to Georgia law.

Macon-Bibb County Elections Supervisor Tom Gillon said things were different when the office was in a rented building at the old Westgate Mall property.

“Property owners can decide for themselves whether or not they want the signs there,” Gillon said in an email to The Macon Newsroom.

“The signs at Westgate were OK because the owners didn’t mind or weren’t aware of them.”

That is not the case at Macon Mall.

“Since the mall is public property no signs are allowed,” UDA Executive Director Alex Morrison told The Macon Newsroom in an email.

“Hull Property Group also does not allow signs on their property. We’ve been enforcing this from Day 1.”

“The UDA is Macon-Bibb,” Brown said. “You cannot be biased, Alex, and prohibit us because the mayor refuses to put out campaign signs. That is so unethical.”

Mayor Lester Miller publicly announced he was not putting out signs this campaign because of his “Clean Streets Matter” campaign and persistent issues with signs illegally being placed in rights-of-way.

Brown said he feels that the county is infringing on his right to campaign.

“In my opinion, it’s blatant abuse of authority,” he said.

On April 20, he spent about an hour placing about 50 of his signs and those of mayoral candidate Shekita Maxwell around the perimeter of Macon Mall on the morning of the Boombox Fest with Moneybagg Yo & Glorilla.

“You know I was going after that 420 young Black vote, and Shekita Maxwell was going after that 420 Black vote,” Brown said.

County work crews took up signs, which cost up to $9 a piece, he said.

His supporters invested in his campaign and their money was wasted when signs were thrown away, he said.

“How dare you say you don’t want signs?” he said. “Signs have been a part of campaigning for decades.”

John Mulherin, Hull Property Group’s Vice President of government relations, told The Macon Newsroom that unsolicited signs are not allowed at any of the 35 malls they own and operate and will be taken down.

“If we did not, these properties would be overrun with signs and that does not comport with the standards we have set for the look of our properties. We consider these signs as litter and immediately remove them,” Mulherin stated in an email. “Candidates for political office in Macon, or their volunteers, are more than welcome to wave their signs at the Macon Mall but the placement of signs is not allowed.”

If you’re paying $9 each for yardsigns, having them removed from public rights of way isn’t you’re campaign’s biggest problem.

The Fourteenth District Georgia Republican Party , according to the AJC.

Some of state Sen. Colton Moore’s allies aren’t happy he was banned from the House floor during the 2024 legislative session for dissing the late Speaker David Ralston on a day when Ralston’s friends and family were honoring his legacy.

The 14th District GOP is trying to pass a resolution condemning House Speaker Jon Burns’ “egregious” actions against Moore. R-Trenton. It could be debated at the state party’s May convention.

The nonbinding resolution would commend Moore, who was previously exiled from the GOP Senate caucus, for “speaking the truth” about Ralston. And it demands that the House reverse the ban.

Don’t hold your breath. When Burns made the announcement that the combative senator was officially non grata, the speaker got a standing ovation from the entire House chamber.

Judges in Macon recused themselves from hearing a lawsuit by a candidate for Sheriff challenging his disqualification by the local Board of Elections, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Superior Court judges of Macon are stepping aside from lawsuits filed by two sheriff candidates, recusing themselves from hearing the cases, according to an order filed last week.

The request states that the judges are disqualifying themselves from hearing the cases of candidates Marshall Hughes and Ronald Rodgers to ensure there is “confidence, integrity and impartiality” in the cases. All five judges have asked Judge W. James Sizemore Jr. of the judicial circuit that oversees the judicial court in Macon to appoint a judge outside Bibb County.

The order was signed by Chief Judge Philip T. Raymond, Judge David L. Mincey III, Judge Jeffery O. Monroe, Judge Connie Williford and Judge Ken Smith.

“All Judges of the Macon Judicial Circuit have determined that they are disqualified from hearing the above-mentioned case,” the judges wrote in their order.

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday signed a package of bills to support the agrucultural industry, according to a Press Release.

Valdosta, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp, accompanied by First Lady Marty Kemp, Lieutenant Burt Jones, Speaker Jon Burns, Commissioner Tyler Harper, members of the General Assembly, and other state and local leaders, signed a package of legislation focused on supporting Georgia’s ever growing agricultural industry and improving security against foreign adversaries.

Among other things, included in this package is legislation that tackles ownership of agricultural land or land near military installations by certain individuals acting as an agent of a foreign adversary, alleviates high input costs for our farmers and ranchers, protects children from misleading and dangerous marketing, and increases the penalty for livestock theft.

“As valued members of our state’s number one industry, Georgia’s farming families deserve our enduring support as they face unprecedented challenges, including having to navigate disastrous federal energy policies, attempts by foreign adversaries to acquire farm land, and theft of property,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “We are tackling these challenges head on, and I want to thank our legislative partners for their work on these important issues.”

While the package is primarily focused on agriculture-related issues, it also addresses career burnout among healthcare professionals and goes after those who are distributing fentanyl-laced medications or controlled substances.

Governor Kemp signed nine pieces of legislation included below:

SB 420, sponsored by Senator Jason Anavitarte, signed by Senators Russ Goodman, Bill Cowsert, and Steve Gooch, carried in the House by Representative Clay Pirkle, and advocated for by Commissioner Tyler Harper, prohibits the ownership or acquisition of agricultural land or non-residential land within a radius of a military location by a nonresident alien acting as an agent of a government designated as a foreign adversary, entity domiciled/majorly owned in certain countries, or governments of countries designated as a foreign adversary by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

SB 340, sponsored by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick and carried in the House by Representative Joe Campbell, adds diesel exhaust fluid (for agricultural uses only) to the Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption (GATE) – alleviating high input costs for our farmers and ranchers.

HB 827, sponsored by Representative Tyler Paul Smith, signed by Representatives Robert Dickey, Clay Pirkle, Rob Leverett, and Leesa Hagan, and carried in the Senate by Senator Russ Goodman, increases the penalty for livestock theft and awards Title 16 law enforcement authority to the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) and includes language from HB 1164 relating to criminal trespass involving a wild animal that is contained in a cage, enclosure, etc.

SB 494, sponsored by Senator Sam Watson, signed by Senators Randy Robertson, Kay Kirkpatrick, Russ Goodman, and Freddie Powell Sims, carried in the House by Representative John Corbett, and advocated by Commissioner Tyler Harper, makes changes to the framework for hemp regulation in Georgia to allow the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) to have greater oversight and enforcement power and adds labeling, packaging, and marketing requirements to protect children from misleading and dangerous marketing.

SB 436, sponsored by Senator Sam Watson, signed by Senators Russ Goodman, Lee Anderson, Larry Walker, and Frank Ginn, and carried in the House by Representative Chas Cannon, expands the use of farm-use vehicles.

HB 455, sponsored by Representative John LaHood, signed by Representatives Sharon Cooper, Mark Newton, Deborah Silcox, and Tremaine Teddy Reese, and carried in the Senate by Senator John Albers, requires that professional programs established to address career fatigue and wellness in healthcare professionals are not obligated to report information on individual cases to the respective licensing boards unless they are determined to not be competent to continue to practice or are a danger to themselves or others.

HB 1335, sponsored by Representative John LaHood, signed by Representatives Trey Rhodes, Noel Williams, Houston Gaines, and Dale Washburn, and carried in the Senate by Senator Ben Watson, adjusts staffing requirements in personal care homes, assisted living communities, and memory care centers by ensuring that no fewer than two on-site direct care staff are present on the premise at all times with at least one staff person on each floor. If the personal care home has implemented a medical alert system and each resident is provided a wearable device that connects to such system, then the staff person may move about the premises as necessary.

HB 906, sponsored by Representative Bill Yearta, signed by Representatives Penny Houston and Clay Pirkle, and carried in the Senate by Senator Carden Summers, provides for an additional superior court judge to the Tifton Judicial Circuit to be appointed by the Governor for a term beginning July 1, 2024, through December 31, 2025. The position will then become elected.

Named after Austin Walters, SB 465, sponsored by Senator Russ Goodman, signed by Senators Bo Hatchett, Blake Tillery, Larry Walker, and Lee Anderson, carried in the House by Representative James Burchett, and advocated by the Walters Family and O’Kelley Family, targets those involved in distributing fentanyl-laced medications to unknowing consumers by creating the offense of aggravated involuntary manslaughter for persons who manufacture or sell an apparent controlled substance that contains fentanyl and cause the fentanyl overdose death of another. The bill also establishes a criminal penalty for unregulated persons to possess a pill press, tableting machine, encapsulating machine, or other materials used to manufacture controlled or counterfeit substances.

Governor Kemp extends his appreciation to all of those whose diligent work and efforts led to him being able to sign these bills today.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

With a flourish of pens, Georgia’s governor signed a number of bills into law during a visit to Valdosta Tuesday, ranging from an anti-fentanyl law spurred on by a Lowndes County family’s tragedy to a law restricting foreign ownership of Georgia agricultural land.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper said the bundle of laws would greatly support rural Georgians and the state’s agricultural community.

Among the bills signed into law by Kemp:

— Senate Bill 465, known as “Austin’s Law,” creating the offense of aggravated involuntary manslaughter, allowing the conviction of anyone who causes a death by manufacturing or selling a substance containing fentanyl, a synthetic opioid up to 50 times more powerful than heroin.

Austin Walters of Lowndes County died Sept. 9, 2021, after swallowing a Xanax pill he purchased on the street, his father, Gus Walters, said. He didn’t know it had been spiked with fentanyl, which is not a Xanax ingredient, Gus Walters said.

No arrest was ever made, even though evidence was gathered pointing to a suspect, Walters said in an earlier interview with the Times.

“At the time, the authorities thought they couldn’t arrest the guy for anything more than a misdemeanor,” he said, “because there weren’t any laws that dealt with fentanyl.”

Austin Walters’ family gathered around the governor as he signed the bill into law. Austin’s Law provides for penalties of one to 10 years in prison for offenders.

— SB420, which would prohibit sale of Georgia farmlands to agents of foreign powers, including land within 10 miles of a military base.

Although the bill does not mention any foreign power by name, Harper specifically mentioned China and the Chinese Communist Party during his speech Tuesday.

From WALB:

Department of Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper said the laws will impact tax policies in agriculture, operations of the Hemp program, and penalties on cattle theft. It will also ensure foreign entities are not able to purchase farmland needed for local farming.

“The legislation that we at the Department of Agriculture and our friends in the general assembly, that the governor signed into law today goes a long way in moving the ball in the right direction to continue to protect, promote and ensure our farm families across Georgia are successful which in turns allows agriculture to be successful which allows the state to be successful,” Harper said.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle:

Kemp touted the economic development successes his administration has brought to rural communities throughout the Peach State since taking office in 2019.

“The vast majority of the jobs and the vast majority of the investment that have been created by these great private-sector companies … have been located outside the metro-Atlanta counties, creating opportunities for Georgians to succeed no matter what their zip code,” the governor said during a ceremony in Valdosta.

One of the bills Kemp signed Tuesday is expected to help nurture hemp farming in Georgia, a fast-growing industry.

Senate Bill 494, which passed the General Assembly with strong support, establishes licensing requirements for growing hemp as well as manufacturing and selling low-THC hemp products. It also limits the possession and sale of hemp products to adults at least 21 years of age.

“This bill makes changes to the framework for hemp regulations in Georgia … ensuring products are safe for our consumers,” Kemp said.

The governor also signed several bills not related to agriculture, including legislation named in honor of Austin Walters of Valdosta, who died of a fentanyl overdose in 2021 at the age of 30. Senate Bill 465 makes it a felony to manufacture or sell any substance containing fentanyl that causes a death.

“Austin’s Law will help save the lives of Georgians by fighting back against the criminals that traffic in these deadly substances,” said Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who presides over the Senate. “Today’s signing of Austin’s Law marks a pivotal moment in our efforts to help end this deadly epidemic.”

Barrow County mailed tax assessment notices to property owners, according to AccessWDUN.

The Barrow County Tax Assessors office will mail their property assessment notices today to all owners of real estate property, including land and any improvements. Personal property notices such as aircraft, boats and business equipment and inventory will also be mailed out today, May 1st.

Barrow County assessors are reminding property owners that the mailing is not a bill, but an estimate of taxes based on home value.

Barrow citizens can print current and prior year assessments from the county’s “qPublic” link for appeals, or you can file by mail or in person at the Assessor’s office on North Broad Street in Winder.

The Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office hired four new Assistant District Attorneys, according to The Brunswick News. The Brunswick Judicial Circuit serves Appling, Camden, Glynn, Jeff Davis, and Wayne Counties.

The Dalton Board of Education voted to hire Steven Craft as their new Superintendent, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Craft’s contract calls for a three-year term concluding on May 15, 2027.

The contract states Craft will be paid an annual salary of $195,000 in equal monthly installments and “shall receive a percentage increase in his salary equal to any percentage increase received by administrators in the Dalton City School District.”

The contact may be renewed, extended or renegotiated at any point during the next three years as long as the terms and conditions are met and in compliance with existing state law.

“I was fortunate to start working for Dalton Public Schools last April and then move to this unbelievable community in July,” Craft said. “Over the past year, my wife and I have fallen in love with Dalton. This community has welcomed us with open arms, and we are truly thankful for that. We are excited to continue to be a part of this incredible community and what this future holds.”

Sea Turtle nesting season begins today, according to WTOC.

Sea turtle nesting season starts Wednesday and there are certain things you should avoid doing to make sure this season is a successful one.

It is so important for anyone visiting the beaches this summer, whether you live here or not, to know what to do during nesting season so hatchlings can make it out to the ocean when they’re supposed to.

There are three big things to do – leave the beach flat, clean, and dark.

Alli Williford, the program director at the Tybee Island Marine Science Center says that leaving the beach flat and clean is critical to make sure that sea turtle mothers can make their nests comfortably. It also makes sure that nothing gets in their way.

The other big thing – keep the beach dark at night.

Williford says that nesting mothers use light from the moon to find their nesting habitat, and eventually, that’s how she and the hatchlings make it back to the water.

If there’s white light from an artificial source, that could be catastrophic for the turtles.

”If we’re walking around with our iPhone light on our flashlight or just any kind of white light, it’s going to mimic that moonlight, and they’re going to get very disoriented. and they might end up going higher up the beach. Hatchlings might not be able to make their way back to the water but instead head towards the parking lots on Tybee, so they need to be able to find their way using that white light, and if they see our white light they’re gonna get really confused and not go where they need to be going,” said Williford.

So far, there’s no nests on Tybee yet.

Williford says that they’ll usually see them start to pop up in late May. Williford also says it’s important to keep the beach flat, dark, and clean even before we have any eggs just to make sure mothers can nest properly.

Officials with the Tybee Island Marine Science Center say they’re expecting fewer nests this year than they did last year but that’s no reason to panic.

That’s the natural cycle of nesting season.