The blog.

14
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 14, 2020

Charlie Rotts n Pups Rescue

Charlie is a young male Plott Hound mix who is available for adoption from Rotts ‘n Pups Rescue in Douglasville, GA.

Charlie is an exceptional puppy! Just over a year old, neutered, and healthy. He has a strong sense of humor and all about play!! Being a Plott Hound and true to the nature of the breed, he love to chase ANYTHING that moves and needs a secure back yard with a sturdy high fence. He is an adept climber and will easily scale a chain link enclosure, so a stockade fence is advised., If you do elect to keep him behind a climbable fence, supplementing this with an Invisible Fence collar should do the job.

Charlie has a good personality and plays well with other dogs. He would not do well in a household with cats since he is likely to see them as something to be chased. He loves kids and can definitely out play them! They will be tired long before he is!!

Daisy Rotts n Pups Rescue

Daisy is a female Hound (or Labrador Retriever) mix who is available for adoption from Rotts ‘n Pups Rescue in Douglasville, GA.

Daisy is about 6 years of age, spayed, and fully vaccinated. She weighs about 60 pounds. Daisy gets along well with other dogs close to her size. She is likely to chase cats and small dogs.

She loves people and kids and will play all day if you let her!!

Zuri Rotts n Pups Rescue

Zuri is a female Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Rotts ‘n Pups Rescue in Douglasville, GA.

Zuri is a 18 mo. old yellow lab mix who was abandoned by her family at a local animal hospital. She is house trained and good in cars and on a leash. Zuri is high energy and would need an active ADULTS ONLY home with a yard and possibly another dog of her size to play with. Zuri is very protective and makes a great alert dog.

14
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 14, 2020

On May 13, 1607, English settlers founded the first permanent English settlement in America, at Jamestown on the James River. This led to the first English-language politics in America:

Dispatched from England by the London Company, the colonists had sailed across the Atlantic aboard the Susan Constant,Godspeed, and Discovery. Upon landing at Jamestown, the first colonial council was held by seven settlers whose names had been chosen and placed in a sealed box by King James I. The council, which included Captain John Smith, an English adventurer, chose Edward Wingfield as its first president.

Lyman Hall arrived in Philadelphia as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress on May 13, 1775.

Delegates to the Constitutional Convention began assembling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 14, 1787, the designated starting day. Because a large number of delegates had not arrived the opening of the Convention was moved to May 25.

On May 14, 1791, George Washington addressed the Grand Lodge of Georgia Masons in Savannah.

On May 13, 1798, a Constitutional Convention adopted the Georgia Constitution of 1798.

On May 14, 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left St. Louis, Missouri to explore the Northwest United States from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.

The United States declared war on Mexico on May 13, 1846.

Georgia Whigs, led by Governor George Crawford, Alexander Stephens, and Robert Toombs, criticized the war for raising divisive questions about slavery in the territories. Georgia Democrats, led by Howell Cobb and Herschel Johnson, staunchly supported the war and states’ rights afterward. Because Whigs, nationally, appeared to be antislavery, Georgia Whigs lost the governorship in 1847. The Compromise of 1850 temporarily settled the slavery question in the territories, but the moderating influence of Georgia’s Whigs dissolved in the heated rhetoric of states’ rights in the 1850s. The next war would find Americans fighting Americans.

The first fighting at Resaca, Georgia took place on May 13, 1864 and Union forces marched into Dalton. On May 13, 1864, 257 cadets from the Virginia Military Institute camped at Mt. Crawford near Harrisonburg.The next day they would continue their march to New Market, Virginia.

On May 14, 1864, the VMI Corps of Cadets marched 15 miles and camped overnight at Mt. Tabor, near New Market, Virginia. The next day they would march into history.

On the same day, the Battle of Resaca was fully engaged in Northwest Georgia.

On Saturday, May 14, the fighting at Resaca escalated into a full-scale battle. Beginning at dawn, Union forces engaged the Confederates along the entire four-mile front. In the early afternoon Schofield’s Army of the Ohio attacked the sharply angled center of the Confederate line. The assault was badly managed and disorganized, in part because one of Schofield’s division commanders was drunk. As the Union attack unraveled and became a fiasco, Johnston launched a counterattack on Sherman’s left flank. The counterattack collapsed, however, in the face of a determined stand by a Union artillery battery. In the evening Union forces pushed forward and seized the high ground west of Resaca, which placed the bridges leading south from the town within artillery range and threatened Johnston’s line of retreat.The following day Sherman renewed his assault on the Confederate center.

Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Atlanta History Center’s original production “37 Weeks that Changed Georgia” chronicles the Battle of Resaca in this week’s episode.

On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

On May 13, 2005, the Pentagon Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommended the closing of Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Fort Gillem in Forest Park, the Naval Air Station in Marietta, and the Naval Supply Corps School in Athens.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order 05.12.20.01, to require road tests for people who got their drivers license while in-person testing was suspended.

From FoxNews:

Thousands of Georgia teens who got their driver’s licenses without taking a road test during the coronavirus pandemic will have to take one after all, the governor said Tuesday.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a waiver on April 23 allowing drivers, 16 to 18 with a learner’s permit, to upgrade to a provisional license. They had to provide an affidavit from a parent, guardian or driving instructor indicating they’d completed at least 40 hours of supervised driving.

But Kemp issued a new executive order Tuesday that said “the on-the-road test was only temporarily suspended.” He said teens awarded licenses during the age of social distancing must complete a road test by Sept. 30 in order to keep the license.

“Anybody that has gotten a driver’s license that hasn’t taken the test — even though they met the criteria of so many hours on the road, and been to driving school, or had your parents verify that — they’re still going to have to come back and take the driver’s test,” the governor said at his COVID-19 briefing, according to Fox Carolina.

Governor Kemp also issued Executive Order 05.12.20.02, further moving to refine regulations on social distancing and requirements for businesses to reopen. That order was issued along with an update on state efforts to combat COVID-19.

Click here to read the text of the Governor’s remarks.

Click here to watch the video of the update.

From WSB-TV:

The governor is making changes that allow restaurants to inch closer to normal. Restaurants can now allow 10 patrons per 300 square feet of public space and dining rooms. Square feet includes dining space, bar areas and patios but not hallways and bathrooms. Restaurants can allow party sizes up to ten people now, that’s an increase from a maximum of six. The previous lengthy list of restaurant rules remains in place.

Bars, nightclubs, live performance venues and amusement parks like Six Flags over Georgia will remain closed through May 31.

The new executive order expands the number of people allowed in a single classroom at a childcare facility from ten to twenty, as long as the staff-to-children ratio set by the Department of Early Care and Learning are maintained. Childcare facilities must adhere to the state’s 13 minimum, mandatory criteria that includes employee screening and frequent sanitation.

Day camps are defined as organized, supervised recreational, athletic or instructional activities held between school years. Day camps can resume starting May 14 if they meet 32 mandatory criteria. Overnight camps are not allowed.

Gov. Kemp toured temporary medical units at Floyd Medical Center in Rome, according to the Rome News Tribune, and will spend part of Friday in Gainesville, including the temporary medical pods stationed there, according to AccessWDUN.

Kemp’s first stop will be at the Fieldale Farms facility at 1540 Monroe Drive. State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John King will join Kemp on the tour of the poultry plant.

In the early afternoon, Kemp and King will visit a community COVID-19 testing site outside La Flor de Jalisco at 425 Atlanta Highway. The specimen collection and facial mask giveaway event is a project of the Gainesville Against COVID-19 Task Force, a group that was established to specifically offer help to Hall County’s Latino residents.

The governor and King will wrap up the day at Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s Gainesville campus where they will tour a mobile medical pod, one of four that have been set up in Georgia to handle coronavirus patients who may require hospitalization but who do not require ICU care.

Kemp said yesterday during the COVID-19 update that Hall County should continue working to prevent the further spread of the virus, according to the Gainesville Times.

At a May 12 press conference at the state Capitol, he said John King, the state’s insurance commissioner, and Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, had worked with community members and local officials to address the spread in Gainesville and Hall County, particularly with the area’s Latino community. He said the state’s work addressing other hot spots informed the work in Hall.

“It was a fairly contained environment, and so really through those processes and that work that we had done dealing with the Albany situation and other places like Upson County and Carrollton and the Rome and Cartersville area, we were able to jump on that very quickly, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.

State Economist Jeffrey Dorfman said the state government may need to spend half it’s rainy day fund to close out the current fiscal year, which ends after June, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Between $1 billion and $1.5 billion in reserves may be needed to plug the gap in the fiscal 2020 budget, close to half of the $2.7 billion total in Georgia’s “rainy-day” reserve fund, said State Economist Jeffrey Dorfman.

Speaking with state lawmakers Wednesday, Dorfman cautioned that it’s still early in the ballgame to say precisely how much emergency reserve spending may be necessary. The state last month saw a drop in revenue of nearly $1 billion compared to April 2019, and that shortfall is expected to plunge further in the coming months.

Dorfman also said the state is likely short about $1.35 billion in income tax receipts delayed until July 15 due to coronavirus. Those revenues should be recouped once collections roll in after the delayed filing deadline, he said.

On Wednesday, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, said the agency cuts will be stiff but that Georgia will bounce back.

“It’s going to be a little bit different and still be a little bit difficult for a little bit,” England said. “But we’re going to get through it.”

House Speaker David Ralston issued a letter on May 12 on the latest efforts to determine how to reopen the legislative session. From the Speaker’s letter:

[W]e will now plan to transition staff back to their offices on Monday, June 1. In-person committee meetings may now resume on Tuesday, June 2. The 2020 legislative session will resume on Thursday, June 11.

Virtual committee meetings are ongoing and may continue at the discretion of the committee chairmen. Bear in mind voting on legislation, whether the meeting is virtual or in-person, may not take place until the legislative session officially resumes. However, committees may continue to hear testimony on legislation and discuss policy issues.

Click here to read the report of the House Committee on Reopening.

The AJC reports that the Senate may not agree to the House-proposed date for reopening the legislature.

Ralston has told House members the session will resume June 11. Duncan, after initially calling for lawmakers to return Thursday, now says the session should resume June 15 after all lawmakers and staff have been tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Some committees started holding virtual meetings last week.

Though no final decisions have been made, groups in each chamber are working separately to develop guidelines for how business will be conducted for the remaining 11 legislative workdays of the 40-day session.

Recommendations include limiting the number of entrances to the Capitol and legislative office building, installing temperature scanners, turning away those with body temperatures higher than 100.4 degrees, and encouraging, but not requiring, those entering the building to wear masks.

Here’s my favorite quote from that AJC article, and one that I’m considering having embroidered on a belt and wall hanging:

A legislative session is an environment that is ripe for passing infectious diseases.

The Usual Suspects are teaming up to oppose the Secretary of State’s administration of this year’s Georgia elections. From the AJC:

The Voter Empowerment Task Force will monitor fraud investigations, collect reports from voters and share voter education information.

Its members include the voting rights group Fair Fight Action, the Georgia NAACP, the Black Voters Matter Fund and the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda.

“Georgia has a long history of voter suppression and intimidation,” the Voter Empowerment Task Force said in a statement. “We will not sit idly by as the state’s top elections official abuses the power of his office to intimidate voters through a partisan collection of prosecutors.”

Some in the federal government question whether Georgia’s healthcare system can withstand a second COVID wave, according to NPR.

A slide prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for an interagency briefing last week said Georgia’s intensive care unit beds were 79% full on May 6, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Data suggest that Georgia may have limited healthcare capacity margin to respond to a future surge in critically ill patients,” reads the slide, which is marked “NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION.”

Georgia Tech professor Pinar Keskinocak said she is not surprised by the HHS assessment that the state may run out of ICU beds.

“That’s very much in line with our predictions as well,” said Keskinocak, who leads a team modeling several potential scenarios for the future of the coronavirus in Georgia. “In most of those scenarios, we found that there would be shortages.”

Keskinocak’s modeling team at Georgia Tech determined that hospitals in the state would run out of beds for COVID-19 patients before mid-August in all but two of the 14 local hospital regions — even if 60% of Georgians did a good job at staying at home when they or their household members felt sick. The Georgia Tech group has shared its projections with the state’s Department of Public Health.

Data published by the state were slightly more optimistic about hospitals’ bed capacity there. The same day it was reported at the federal briefing that 79% of Georgia ICU beds were full, according to CDC data, the state reported the figure at 73%. As of Tuesday, the CDC reported that 71% of Georgia’s ICU beds were full; Georgia said 66% as of Monday. According to Georgia’s data, the portion of Georgia critical care beds that are full has hovered around 70% since April 14, the earliest date for which the state has reported such numbers.

ICU beds in the 12-county hospital region just south of Atlanta were 89% full on May 11, state data show. Most of the other regions bordering Atlanta were over 70% full.

In the region home to Atlanta and the CDC’s headquarters, nearly 2 in every 3 critical care beds were occupied.

But other places in Georgia have more wiggle room. Hospitals in southeast Georgia still had more than half of their ICU beds available May 11. The state had witnessed more than 34,000 total confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 1,400 deaths as of Tuesday, May 12.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson is looking into whether the city can require face masks, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“Folks are walking around like we’re not living in the middle of a pandemic,” Johnson said Tuesday during his weekly news conference to discuss Savannah’s ongoing response to the coronavirus crisis.

To increase face mask use among Savannah residents, the mayor recently instructed City Attorney Bates Lovett to research legal options that would impel anyone in public to wear one.

Johnson also announced the launch of a “Resilient Savannah” initiative to explore ways for city businesses to restart operations while abiding by comprehensive measures to prevent further COVID-19 spread.

To assist Savannah restaurants that lack sufficient space to offer dine-in services while adhering to social distancing guidelines, a new municipal proposal calls for closing certain downtown streets and parking spots so eateries could set up sidewalk tables.

The Technical College System of Georgia will receive $12 million in funding from the federal government to train workers who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the AJC.

Georgia will also receive $260 million in federal funds to help with COVID-19 testing, according to GPB News.

Sen. David Perdue said this CARES Act funding will allow Georgia to expand its testing capacity and test as many people as possible, even asymptomatic individuals.

“As we continue to gradually reopen the economy, we must ensure our healthcare system has the testing capabilities and resources necessary to identify and contain COVID-19,” Perdue said.

Atlanta Public Schools has released a revised 2020-21 school year calendar, though COVID-19 may force further changes, according to the AJC.

The DeKalb County Board of Education may be forced to consider furloughing employees or making other budget cuts due to the COVID-19 impact, according to the AJC.

The district could need $1.18 billion to operate for the upcoming school year, officials said during the DeKalb County Board of Education’s monthly meeting on Monday.

Gov. Brian Kemp has called for a 14% cut to school budgets, Superintendent Ramona Tyson said during the meeting, saying that equated to approximately $76 million for the district. Emergency funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, through which the district will receive about $34 million so far, will help with shortfalls, district officials said.

“These are unusual circumstances in unusual times,” Tyson said.

The tentative budget projections include funding to quickly make sure students have necessary technology to work from home as classroom shutdowns due to the coronavirus exposed weaknesses in virtual learning systems across the country.

In discussing potential cost-saving measures, officials said the district would save $3.5 million for each teacher furlough day and about $500,000 for a central office staff furlough day.

 The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will reopen some Savannah River recreation facilities Friday, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The gradual reopening of recreation areas will vary depending upon the ability to ensure visitors and Corps of Engineers staff remain safe and can reduce the spread of coronavirus, according to a release. Before facilities are opened, a thorough cleaning of restrooms, showers and other common-use items will be conducted.

Multiple boat ramps, including Scott’s Ferry, Mt. Pleasant, Keg Creek at Thurmond Lake, will reopen Friday. Below Dam South Carolina will also reopen , while multiple campgrounds, Modoc, Ridge Road, Petersburg, Windfield and Hawe Creek, will reopen Monday.

At Hartwell Lake, Watsadler, Paynes Creek, Springfield, Coneross, Oconee Point, Crescent and Twin Lakes campground will reopen Monday with restroom/shower house occupancy limited to two. Water is available in restrooms.

12
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 12, 2020

Molly Washington Wilkes Animal Shelter

Molly is a 7-8 year old female Redbone Coonhound mix who is available for adoption from the Washington Wilkes Animal Shelter in Washington, GA.

Chucky Washington Wilkes Animal Shelter

Chucky is a 2.5-3 year old, 80-pound male Basset Hound and Lab mix who is available for adoption from the Washington Wilkes Animal Shelter in Washington, GA.

Stormy Washington Wilkes Animal Shelter

Stormy is an 8-month old, 58-pound mixed breed female dog who is available for adoption from the Washington Wilkes Animal Shelter in Washington, GA.

12
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 12, 2020

On May 12, 1740, Georgia forces under James Oglethorpe took Fort Diego in Florida from the Spanish and mocked the defenders’ jean shorts.

The worst American defeat of the Revolutionary War occurred at Charleston, South Carolina on May 12, 1780. American Major General Benjamin Lincoln, who surrendered that day would later accept the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia.

On May 12, 1789, the Society of St. Tammany was founded in New York and would grow to a dominant home for political bosses. Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics remains one of the best historical versions of how political machines worked.

George Washington visited Georgia on May 12, 1791. From Purysburg, South Carolina, Georgia officials escorted Washington on a barge twenty-five miles down the Savannah River to Savannah, where he would stay four days.

On May 12, 1864, Confederate General Joseph Johnston pulled his Army of Tennessee and Georgia back to Resaca, Georgia. In Virginia, Major General John B. Gordon saved the life, or prevented the capture of, General Robert E. Lee at Spotsylvania. After the war, Gordon would serve as Governor of Georgia and United States Senator.

On May 12, 1864, the Virginia Military Institute Corps of Cadets awoke in Staunton, where they had marched from Lexington 18 miles the previous day; after another 19 miles headed north up the Shenandoah Valley, the would make camp at Mt. Crawford, near Harrisonburg. The cadets ranged in age from fifteen to twenty-five years.

On May 12, 1970, Georgia National Guard troops were mobilized to end race riots that had broken out the night before in Augusta. On that same day, Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, my father’s favorite player as a youth, hit his 500th home run.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp is receiving kudos for his handling of COVID-19 from an editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

Remember two weeks ago when politicians and media pundits were condemning Georgia’s decision to deviate from the lockdown consensus and allow various businesses to resume operations?

Not only has the virus curve flattened in the Peach State. Data from the last 14 days show a welcome trend of declining new cases and deaths. And Georgia even has an answer for the crowd that demands more testing before unlocking liberty. Television station WSB in Atlanta reports:

Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday afternoon that all Georgians can get tested for coronavirus if they want, even if they’re showing no symptoms of the virus.

Let’s hope for more good news out of Georgia and for greater respect for Dr. Toomey’s efforts. Nationwide, perhaps the Georgia model can inspire people to resume necessary activities. A slew of news today demonstrates the horrendous costs of overreaction.

Governor Kemp and the Usual Suspects will give an update today at 4 PM at the Capitol.

At the Georgia State Capitol, Governor Kemp, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency Director Homer Bryson, and Georgia National Guard Adjutant General Tom Carden will give a briefing on COVID-19.

The briefing will be live streamed at facebook.com/GovKemp or gpb.org/coronavirus.

The AJC Political Insider writes that Gov. Kemp is likely to extend the remaining restrictions in place.

Gov. Brian Kemp is likely to announce Tuesday that he will keep bars and nightclubs shuttered until the outbreak subsides.

The governor is expected to extend restrictions announced in early April that closed bars, nightclubs and live performance venues. He’s also set to renew safety requirements for other businesses that are scheduled to expire Wednesday.

On Monday, he touted data that showed a declining use of ventilators and critical care hospital beds since May 1 – the day the shelter in place was eased.

“This data shows that we are headed in the right direction in our battle with COVID-19,” he said.

Gov. Kemp has ordered flags on state buildings flown at half-staff this Friday in observation of Peace Officers Memorial Day (EO 05.11.20.01).

State Senate Rules Committee Chair Jeff Mullis (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia) met with colleagues and staff to discuss reopening procedures for the senior chamber, according to a press release.

Sen. Jeff Mullis (R – Chickamauga) and other members of the Senate Committee on Administrative Affairs held a meeting in order to discuss procedures on how to safely resume legislative activity at the Capitol.

“While we still do not have a definitive date on when the legislative session will resume, we know that once we do, it will be vital we have plans in place to ensure it is done in the safest manner possible,” said Sen. Mullis. “As we begin to brainstorm the possible ways this can be accomplished, the health and safety of Capitol employees and visitors will remain our top priority. We also must remain mindful that decisions we make as legislators have an impact statewide and those in our communities are depending on us for sound leadership. I am confident that this committee, along with input from relevant Capitol employees, will find innovative ways to effectively resume our legislative business while minimizing the potential for health and safety concerns.”

The 2020 legislative session was suspended indefinitely on March 13, 2020, due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The State House Education Committee will hold a virtual meeting today at 11:30 AM. Click here for the Agenda.

The State House and Senate Joint Appropriations Committee will hold a virtual meeting on Wednesday at 11:15 AM. Click here for the Agenda.

House Speaker David Ralston has appointed a committee to address tort reform legislaiton, according to the Rockdale and Newton Citizens.

House Speaker David Ralston has appointed 15 House members to an ad hoc committee that will consider legislation seeking to make significant changes in Georgia’s civil justice system, including a bill introduced into the House this week, the chamber’s first tort reform measure of the 2020 legislative session.

“For the last seven years in a row, Georgia has been named the best state in the nation in which to do business,” Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said in announcing the formation of the Special Committee on Access to the Civil Justice System. “Any legislation which may negatively impact our business climate and limit access to our civil justice system must be carefully considered.”

The new committee will be chaired by House Majority Whip Trey Kelley, R-Cedartown.

Speaker Ralston also asked that the Senate pass hate crimes legislation already passed by the House, according to the AJC.

Ralston said he would “challenge and implore” Senate lawmakers to pass the hate crimes bill already adopted by his chamber, House Bill 426, “with no delay and no amendments” when the session resumes in June.

“The time for being silent ended last week,” Ralston said. “It’s time to do what’s right. It’s going to take some leadership and some courage, but I think it’s time to act.”

Asked why House lawmakers shouldn’t consider any changes to the measure, which is tied up in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ralston said it would be “counterproductive” to revisit legislation that narrowly passed his chamber a year ago.

“It’s a good time to remember that the power of the majority in a legislative body carries not only opportunity but responsibility,” said Ralston. “Sometimes, exercising the responsibility demands some courage and bold leadership. Last week, we came to a point where we’re called upon to be responsible.”

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton has issued the previously announced order continuing the Judicial State of Emergency through June 12, 2020, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Harold Melton, who earlier extended the original March 14 until May 13, said the latest extension was needed because “most court facilities are not prepared to comply with social distancing and other public health requirements to safeguard the health of litigants, lawyers, judges, court personnel, and the public during extensive in-court proceedings or proceedings involving a large number of people.”

Court officials have “determined that the statewide judicial emergency order should be extended, with some clarifications and modifications as well as directions regarding efforts to resume court operations in a manner that protects public health.”

And he said based on public health recommendations, “until further order, all courts are prohibited from summoning new trial jurors and grand jurors and from conducting criminal or civil jury trials.

“Grand juries that are already impaneled or are recalled from a previous term of court may meet to attend to time-sensitive essential matters, but these grand juries should not be assembled except when necessary and only under circumstances in which social distancing and other public health guidance can be followed. ”

Click here to read the order for yourself.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is asking the GBI to investigate local officials’ handling of the Ahmaud Arbery shooting, according to a press release.

Attorney General Chris Carr yesterday formally requested the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), led by Director Vic Reynolds, to conduct an investigation related to the conduct of the District Attorneys of the Brunswick and Waycross Judicial Circuits in the Ahmaud Arbery case. This case involves the deadly shooting of Mr. Arbery in Glynn County, Georgia on February 23, 2020 within the Brunswick Judicial Circuit.

“When a district attorney is unable to take on a case due to a conflict, our office must appoint another prosecutor to handle the case,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “Unfortunately, many questions and concerns have arisen regarding, among other things, the communications between and actions taken by the District Attorneys of the Brunswick and Waycross Circuits. As a result, we have requested the GBI to review in order to determine whether the process was undermined in any way.”

It is the responsibility of the Attorney General under O.C.G.A. § 15-18-5 to appoint a prosecutor when a district attorney’s office is disqualified from a prosecution. The law provides that the Attorney General can only perform that function when notified of a conflict by either a district attorney or the presiding judge. These appointments require that the Attorney General be provided with correct and sufficient information and the purpose of the investigation requested is to determine whether that occurred in this case.

This office will be providing any information or assistance that the GBI may require in furtherance of this investigation.

A copy of the letter is available at law.ga.gov.

The Georgia Department of Revenue has extended car tag deadlines, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

All vehicle registrations that expire between March 16 and June 14 have been extended through June 15. This extension applies to all annual registrations, including personal passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, vehicles registered in the International Registration Plan (IRP) and Temporary Operating Permits issued at the time of a vehicle purchase. Registrations that expired before March 16 do not qualify for this extension.

“While I have extended this deadline to give Georgians more time to register a new vehicle or renew current vehicle registrations, I strongly encourage taxpayers, especially those whose registrations were originally due in March and April, to register or renew as soon as possible and not wait until June 15,” stated Revenue Commissioner David Curry.

In accordance with state law, the revenue commissioner may extend the tag deadline since there has been a presidentially declared disaster.

I assume we’re still required to get emission inspections.

State and local governments continue working to educate Hispanic residents on COVID-19 precautions, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

While Latinos make up just less than a third of [Hall County’s] population, they represent half of positive coronavirus tests at Northeast Georgia Health Systems and 44% of coronavirus positive admitted patients, said Dr. Antonio Rios, chief physician with the Northeast Georgia Physicians Group.

As of 1 p.m. Monday, Hall County had reported 2,026 confirmed coronavirus cases and 29 deaths — the county has the highest case per capita rate in north Georgia.

Even now, the Northeast Georgia Medical Center is expected to reach full staffing capacity May 22, taking into account all coronavirus positive patients and 30% of patients awaiting test results.

Various barriers to information and care have prevented state officials from effectively spreading precautions in Hispanic communities. Advocates say lack of information in their language has made the community vulnerable.

Common multigenerational households make social distancing nearly impossible if someone gets sick, Rios said, and with many living paycheck to paycheck, missing work is not an option.

Hall County Schools are slow-walking their budget process in the face of funding uncertainty, according to the Gainesville Times.

During a Monday evening meeting, the school board approved a spending resolution that will push the school district’s budgeting decisions back to July 27.

The decision comes in response to guidance from state legislation advising all state-funded agencies to expect a 14% decrease in funding. The cutback would account for a loss of around $22 million in school funds, according to Hall County superintendent Will Schofield.

“We have such spotty information in terms of what state revenues are going to look like,” Schofield said. “We believe that the legal arm that is available to us, which is to pass a spending resolution, a continuation of the FY20 budget if you will, for an additional month while we get more information when the legislature gets back in session, when they start getting more estimates from OPB, is the wise thing to do.”

Candidates for the Tenth Congressional District seat being vacated by the retirement of Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger) answer a question from the Rome News Tribune.

The district covers the counties of Walker, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Whitfield, Floyd, Polk, Gordon, Haralson, Murray and Paulding, and part of Pickens County.

Running in the Republican primary are John Barge, Ben Bullock, Kevin Cooke, John Cowan, Clayton Fuller, Marjorie Greene, Andy Gunther, Bill Hembree and Matt Laughridge.

The winner will face Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal in the Nov. 3 general election.

The party primaries are scheduled for June 9 and early voting starts Monday.

Dougherty County has spent around $500,000 dollars on COVID-19 response so far, according to the Albany Herald.

“We expended probably at least close to $500,000 in dealing with COVID-19 (for) emergency and protective measures, meaning preparing for and responding to COVID-19,” County Administrator Michael McCoy told commissioners. “For example, we purchased foggers (disinfecting) machines. We have had to pay overtime. We have purchased PPE — personal protection equipment.”

“We have also had to purchase other supplies in response to this pandemic that created expenses that we otherwise would not have experienced if COVID-19 had not popped up on the radar.”

Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree is self-quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Roundtree got tested Wednesday at Fire Station No. 1,received his results Friday evening and has quarantined and worked from home since. He decided to get tested to show the importance of doing so to combat the virus.

“I wanted to show, one, the test is important and then, when it came back positive, let you know how it can affect anybody,” he said.

As a precaution, staff at the sheriff’s office administrative building is scheduled to get tested Tuesday.

“I have my laptop, and of course I can be (reached) by text or by phone,” he said. “As long as I don’t develop any symptoms or anything, there is no need to do a change in command order.”

He said if he develops symptoms that require him to be medicated or bedridden, or affect his mental and physical capacity in any way, then a change of command order will be done. Roundtree said Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton would take over in his absence.

A Chatham County State Court Judge is testing videoconferencing to keep some court functions operating, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham County State Court Judge Greg Sapp on Friday, May 1, held a civil hearing with several attorneys but with extreme social distancing.

Sapp, alone in his chambers at the Chatham County Courthouse, heard arguments and ushered the lawyers in a pending suit via video conference, largely uninterrupted by technical glitches.

And to ensure the public’s access to public hearings, the entire proceeding was captured on a livestream through Youtube.com and was simulcast into Courtroom 1-A, Sapp’s courtroom on the first floor of the courthouse where new technologies were incorporated in the design.

“It’s a public proceeding, that’s the whole point,” Sapp said on Monday, May 4.

Hall County Probate Court will begin processing weapon carry permits again, according to the Gainesville Times.

Beginning 8 a.m. Thursday, May 14, the court will resume processing new and renewal applications while limiting the number of people in the courthouse.

Applicants are asked to print and complete the checklist before arriving at the fifth level of the Hall County Courthouse parking deck.

“There will be information there and an employee of the court will be able to assist you with reserving your spot in line and ensuring you are ready to proceed. We will ask that you remain in your vehicle for your safety and the safety of others,” according to the new Probate Court guidelines.

Chief Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin signed an amended security order May 4 allowing Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputies to screen those entering the courthouse with an infrared thermometer and ask questions related to COVID-19 symptoms. Those entering the courthouse are also required to wear a mask covering the nose and mouth.

Gwinnett County will continue the public schools meal service after GCPS ends it this week, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The county government and school system are working together to transition from the meal service program that the district has run for the last two months to the county’s expanded Summer Meals program. The school system’s program ends Friday. The county’s Summer Meals program will begin the following Monday.

“It is the common goal of the Board of the Commissioners and the Board of Education to assist families and make sure children receive nutritious meals during this challenging time,” Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlotte Nash said. “For some kids, this may be the only meal they get that day. The Board of Commissioners especially want to recognize the school board’s efforts to feed children during the digital learning days just ending and the work they will do when their meals program picks up again in June.”

The Summer Meals program is sponsored by the nonprofit group, Georgia Nutritional Services Inc., and is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program. Georgia Nutritional Services will provide the vendor for the meals, county officials said.

Hall County government will start reopening public functions, according to AccessWDUN.

County Administrator Jock Connell addressed the Hall County Commission at its work session, saying the time had come. “Now we are approaching two months of many of our facilities being closed to the public…but we are now approaching a point where it is time to begin thinking about reopening our facilities to the public.”

“That will happen one week from today,” Connell said. “But I would caution you that on May the 18th the doors are not just going to open and it will be back to normal.”

“It will be a very methodical opening; it’ll probably be deemed by some to be a slow opening; and even though some facilities will open on May 18, there will other facilities that will not open for two to three weeks…they will be phased in over that two to three to four week period.” Connell added.

11
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 11, 2020

The Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia is doing virtual adoptions, according to The Brunswick News.

Adoptions have been a little lower than average, she said, but that’s really not bad taking the COVID-19 outbreak into account. A total of 50 pets were adopted through the virtual system within the first two weeks of its debut.

“It’s been an overwhelming response since we started doing this,” Schlegel said.

s restrictions on business and public interaction are lifted, Schlegel said the humane society will reevaluate every week whether to open the main shelter back up.

“Every Wednesday is the day we do a conference call with a the medical team and the adoption folks and we talk about how it’s going,” Schlegel said.

Virtual adoptions are done by appointment only. Humane society personnel bring the animals out to the new owners rather than letting anyone inside, and Shlegel said they make sure to verify they’re handing them off to the right people.

“We’ll schedule the appointment to pick up the animal and will take it out of the shelter and to their car,” Schlegel said.

The humane society is also still running its pet food bank, recently stocked with supplies from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, she added.

Glynn County Animal Control also received food from GEMA, which is also giving it out to pet owners in need.

Sundance Humane Society South Coastal GA

Sundance is an 8-year old male mixed breed dog who is available for virtual adoption from The Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia in Brunswick, GA.

Peach Humane Society South Coastal GA

Peach is a young female Terrier and Labrador Retriever mix who is available for virtual adoption from The Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia in Brunswick, GA.

Cha Cha Humane Society South Coastal GA

Cha Cha is a young female Hound and Retriever mix puppy who is available for virtual adoption from The Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia in Brunswick, GA.

11
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 11, 2020

Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart was mortally wounded on May 11, 1864 at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, near Richmond.

On May 11, 2011, Newt Gingrich announced via Twitter that he would run for President. Two days later, I caught up with Newt at Fincher’s Barbecue in Macon for a brief interview the day he was scheduled to speak to the Georgia Republican Party State Convention.

Happy Birthday to Minnesota, which became a state on May 11, 1858. Y’all talk funny.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is the voter registration deadline for the June 9 elections, according to AccessWDUN.

Georgians have until the end of the day Monday to register to vote in the June 9 elections.

Among races on the ballot that day will be primary elections for president, U.S. Senate, U.S. House and the state House and Senate. Some local races are also on the ballot.

Citizens can register online, including anyone who has moved, is new to the state or has recently turned 18. Non-citizens, people convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude or people found mentally incompetent by a judge can’t register.

People can check their registration status, request an absentee ballot or find polling places at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.

For more information on voter registration, including online registration, click here to visit the Secretary of State’s website.

Yet another federal lawsuit is asking to require that absentee ballots postmarked by election day should count toward the elections, according to the AJC.

The lawsuit challenges a Georgia law that requires absentee ballots to arrive in county election offices by 7 p.m. on election day. Ballots that show up late are discarded, as in 2018 when about 3,800 ballots weren’t counted because they were received after election day, according to state election data.

Filed by the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group, the lawsuit came Friday as the number of Georgia voters who have requested absentee ballots for the June 9 primary rose to a new high of nearly 1.3 million.

I find it hard to argue against that, given that mail appears to be moving glacially these days.

Precinct closure is becoming a problem ahead of the June elections, according to the AJC.

Some churches, senior centers and fire stations are shutting their doors because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving Georgia voters with fewer places to cast their ballots in the June 9 primary.

Polling places have closed across Georgia, but especially in Fulton County, where more than 30 locations told election officials they’re unwilling to host voters on election day.

The loss of precincts leaves fewer options for voters, increasing the danger of groups gathering to vote in fewer places.

Voting locations in churches are the most vulnerable.

Churches normally serve as 35% of the state’s precincts, but many of them have closed to both parishioners and the public to help prevent the spread of the coroanvirus, according to a statewide analysis of polling places by the Georgia News Lab, an investigative reporting partnership among Georgia universities and GPB News. An additional 27% of precincts are located in schools or municipal buildings, which are more likely to remain open for voting.

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order 05.08.20.01, suspending the requirement that  renewals for Georgia carry permits be made within 30 days of the expiration. Here’s the money quote:

ORDERED: That the requirement under Code Seciton 16-11-129 that renewals of weapons carry licenses and renewal licenses must be applied for within thirty (30) days after the expiration of such licenses, is hereby suspended for weapons carry licenses and renewal licenses which expire between February 13, 2020 and June 12, 2020

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED: That applications for renewals of such weapons carry licenses and renewal licenses shall be considered to be for a renewal license if the holder of such weapons carry license or renewal license applies within 120 days after the expiration date on the face of license, and that if the Public Health State of Emergency is Extended, then this provision shall apply to any weapons carry license or renewal license that expires during the Public Health State of Emergency

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has asked for a federal investigation of local officials in the Ahmaud Arbery case, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Georgia’s attorney general on Sunday asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the handling of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who authorities say died at the hands of two white men as he ran through a neighborhood.

“We are committed to a complete and transparent review of how the Ahmaud Arbery case was handled from the outset,” Attorney General Chris Carr said in a statement. “The family, the community and the state of Georgia deserve answers, and we will work with others in law enforcement at the state and federal level to find those answers.”

Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes will lead the prosecution of the alleged killers of Ahmaud Arbery, according to the AJC.

Holmes will become the third prosecutor assigned by the state to the Arbery case. Tom Durden, DA of the Atlantic circuit, will step aside. Last week Durden announced he would ask a grand jury to consider criminal charges against Greg and Travis McMichael. The duo cornered Arbery, with the help of third man, as the 25-year-old jogger ran through their subdivision just south of Brunswick.

Brunswick DA Jackie Johnson recused herself, having once been Greg McMichael’s boss. The 64-year-old was charged with felony murder and aggravated assault after he was arrested along with his on last Thursday night.

The case was then assigned to George Barnhill, who is now a subject, along with Johnson, of a federal probe into their investigation of the Feb. 23 fatal shooting.

Last June [Joyette Holmes] became Cobb’s first female and African-American district attorney after Gov. Brian Kemp appointed her to replace Vic Reynolds, who took over as GBI director.

Holmes will face voters for the first time this fall, running as a Republican. Before becoming a judge, Holmes served as a prosecutor under Reynolds and Cobb County Solicitor General Barry Morgan. She’s also operated her own law firm.

In-person Early Voting for Gwinnett County residents begins May 18 for the June 9, 2020 election, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

There will be 18 days of early voting in Gwinnett County ahead of the June 9 primary election.

Under the scheduled approved this past Tuesday, early voting will begin May 18 at the county’s elections office located at 455 Grayson Highway, Suite 200, in Lawrenceville, and the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds located at 2405 Sugarloaf Parway in Lawrenceville.

Both polling locations will be open almost every day until June 5. The only day the polling sites will be closed is May 25, which is Memorial Day.

The elections office will open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The fairground polling site will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Both locations will be open from noon until 7 p.m. on Sundays as well.

Four satellite voting locations will open for seven days, starting May 30….

State Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville) plans to introduce legislation to name a state park in Reidsville after the late Senator Jack Hill, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“Senator Hill has been a close friend, mentor and an incredible statesman not only to this area, but the entire state,” said Werkheiser, chairman of the House Industry and Labor Committee. “His wisdom and leadership will be greatly missed. The naming of this park will be a reminder for generations of his contributions to this great state.”

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, Majority Leader Jon Burns, R- Newington and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, all voiced their profound respect for Hill and his legacy and their support for the name change.

“Sen. Hill and his wife, Ruth Ann, loved to walk and spend time in this beautiful park in Reidsville,” Burns said. “Jack knew this piece of heaven on earth was one of God’s garden spots. He would be very pleased and honored by adding his name to the park.”

Mark Williams, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, also supports the name change.

“Chairman Hill was a selfless champion for the state of Georgia and its timeless natural and historical resources for nearly three decades,” Williams said. “It is hard to find a greater legacy of someone who prioritized the past, current and future successes of the Department of Natural Resources. We are proud to cement the legacy of the good chairman from Reidsville by naming his hometown state park in his honor.”

The Board of Regents has approved a schedule of pay cuts and furlough for staff, according to the Statesboro Herald.

A regents’ vote Thursday morning “provides authority” for the system-wide budget cutting plan, according to the headline of the University System’s news release.

“Any action related to staffing reductions and furloughs will be based on the final budget appropriation to be approved in June,” the announcement stated. “The Board’s approval allows institutions and the system office to respond to the state’s request for a plan to reduce spending by 14% starting July 1.”

After first referring to what the regents’ vote “allows,” and then to provided “guidance,” Thursday’s University System of Georgia announcement indicates things that the universities and colleges will be required to do, particularly in regard to furlough days.

“The Board’s guidance, to be reflected in each campus plan, requires faculty and staff at all 26 USG colleges and universities as well as the (system staff) to take a minimum number of days of unpaid time off depending on their salary range, with the exception of those with the lowest base salaries,” the release stated.

Whitfield County Public Schools are planning for the 2020-21 school year amid great uncertainty, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

All high school students have personal technological devices for online learning, which began in mid-March due to the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, [Assistant Superintendent Karey Williams] said. In addition, the year’s final batch of choice board packets have been sent out to families. Choice boards contain various assignments curated by teachers. This academic year ended Friday for seniors and will end Friday, May 15, for all other students.

Whitfield County Schools has already begun forming various plans for the start of the 2020-21 academic term, Williams said. No one knows yet whether staff and students will be able to make a full return to buildings, or if distance learning will be necessary, or if it will be a blend of the two.

The Rome Board of Education is expected to vote on a measure to move forward under the current budget uncertainty, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Rome City School board will meet Tuesday afternoon to likely vote on a resolution to operate under the Fiscal Year 2020 budget as well as likely discussing contingency plans going into the next year.

The board is expected to vote on a continuing resolution to operate under this year’s budget until a new budget is passed later in the summer, said Superintendent Lou Byars.

The difficulty of this time is they don’t know what their budget will be. Gov. Brian Kemp has directed all state agencies, including the schools, to prepare for 14% of their budget to be cut.

Chatham County District Three candidates replied to questions from the Savannah Morning News in lieu of face-to-face meetings.

8
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 8, 2020

Lucas Save A Life Savannah

Lucas is a 4-year old, 21-pound male Basenji and Italian Greyhound mix who is available for adoption from Save-A-Life in Savannah, GA.

Lucas has mid speical needs and gets 1/8th of a prednisone every 2nd day to keep his lungs clear. He runs and plays with the other dogs without any coughing. He behaves like a typical young dog. He is quiet, gentle, and timid. He is easily startled like all IGs. Lucas is looking for an adult home with a family wanting a loving, quiet, undemanding companion.

Jaxon Sterling Save A Life Savannah

Jaxon Sterling is a 2-year old, 57-pound male Shepherd and Lab mix who is available for adoption from Save-A-Life in Savannah, GA.

Jaxon is active, adores water, and is happy and enthusiastic. He needs an active person who wants to interact with their pet. He is great with the smaller dogs, cats, and even puppies. He is too active for small toddlers but does well with older children, 9+ years old. He is gentle with quiet children. He is an amazing snuggler. and loves having his tummy rubbed. This boy enjoys sharing your recliner or couch for tv time and then will move to your bed with you when it’s time to sleep.

Jax is smart with a friendly personality and does well with other dogs. He knows basic commands and goes for walks on a leash every evening. He is neutered and up to date on vaccines. Jax must have a home with a large yard and a tall ( 6 to 8 foot) fence. Another active playmate would be wonderful.

Piney Save A Life Savannah

Piney is a year-old, 26-pound male Brittany Spaniel and Beagle mix who is available for adoption from Save-A-Life in Savannah, GA.

Piney does well with the other dogs. He is trained to sleep in a crate and is good all night. He needs socializing, meeting and learning to trust new people. Taking a treat with you on his walks and asking strangers to pet him will go a long way. It has been difficult during these times to work with him in public. Piney is looking for an active family who enjoy long walks and a loving companion.

8
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 8, 2020

Savannah received news of the battle at Lexington on May 10, 1775, leading to a raid of British gunpowder for the colonial effort. On the same day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Second Continental Congress met.

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.

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.

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.”

On May 10, 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured by Union troops near Irwinville, Georgia.

On May 10, 1869, a ceremonial “Golden Spike” was driven in Promontory, Utah, symbolizing completion of a transcontinental railroad line joining the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad.

The first observance of Mother’s Day was May 10, 1908 at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia.

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.

On May 9, 1977, the Grateful Dead played at Buffalo War Memorial Auditorium.

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 at the official state amphibian.

On May 10, 2006, Georgia State School Superintendent Linda Schrenko, a Republican, pled guilty to federal charges of fraud and money laundering, beginning a streak of Republican State School Supers to leave office under a cloud.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp is urging all Georgians to be tested for the coronavirus, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp urged all Georgians to schedule an appointment for coronavirus screening regardless of whether they have symptoms, as the state continues to expand testing for the disease even as the rapid growth has exposed new strains.

With the state no longer facing crippling shortages of key supplies, Kemp said Thursday that the capacity for testing now outstrips the public’s demand in the weeks after he began to reopen parts of the economy. That has stressed area labs, however, struggling to keep up with record numbers of tests.

Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the head of Georgia’s Department of Public Health, emphasized that the widespread testing of Georgians without symptoms is “particularly important” as the state beefs up its contact tracing program to track the disease’s spread.

From WSB-TV:

“Right now, we have more than 60 testing sites with more supply than demand,” Kemp said.

He also talked about efforts to form a new task force among community leaders in Gainesville to slow the spread of the hot spot there.

Kemp also reiterated that if the numbers start going back up drastically, he’ll consider shutting the state down again.

“If we see the numbers turn in a different direction than we like to see, then we’ll take further action,” Kemp said.

Governor Kemp also spoke about the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, according to NBC News.

“Earlier this week, I watched the video depicting Mr. Arbery’s last moments of life. I can tell you it’s absolutely horrific and Georgians deserve answers,” Kemp said.

The governor said he’s been in contact with Vic Reynolds, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who announced Wednesday that his agency had joined the investigation.

“I have full confidence in Vic Reynolds and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation,” Kemp said. “I know that they will be working around the clock to thoroughly and independently investigate Mr. Arbery’s death to find the truth.”

The governor said he called for a GBI probe “right after seeing that horrific video.”

“I’ve told Director Reynolds to follow the facts, follow the truth and to administer justice,” Kemp said. “I have no doubt in my mind that it will be fair and that Director Reynolds and this seasoned team that he has of investigators will work very quickly, but they will also be very thorough, and they will go wherever the truth takes them.”

Arrests followed, and GBI Director Vic Reynolds said more could come, according to the AJC.

Thirteen hours after a Glynn County father and son were arrested for the murder of a young black jogger, GBI Director Vic Reynolds told reporters another arrest could be forthcoming.

Reynolds confirmed the harrowing video capturing Ahmaud Arbery’s death on Feb. 23 was made by William Bryan, who had helped Greg and Travis McMichael corner the 25-year-old as he ran through the Satilla Shores community just south of Brunswick.

“We’re investigating everyone involved in the case, including the individual who shot the video,” Reynolds said.

Travis McMichael, 34, and his father Greg McMichael, 64, below, were arrested early Thursday night at their homes just outside of Brunswick. They were booked into the Glynn County Jail on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault, a stunning turn of events in a case that had been investigated for more than two months.

State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) called for passage of House Bill 426 as part of a response. From the AJC:

State Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, chairman of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, is the author of House Bill 426. He has called on Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and the state Senate to pass the measure “as soon as possible.”

Governor Kemp said he’s open to hate crimes legislation, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp signaled he’s open to legislation that imposes additional penalties on hate crimes as advocates demand its passage amid outrage over the shooting death of an unarmed African-American jogger near Brunswick.

The governor said in a statement that “conversations about legislation are already underway, and we will work through the process when the General Assembly reconvenes” in June, though he stopped short of endorsing the proposal.

The measure passed the Georgia House last year by a 96-64 vote with the support several influential suburban Republicans. But it stalled in the state Senate, held up by conservative critics who say they’re skeptical about the need for additional penalties for crimes that already carry hefty sentences.

Gov. Kemp also got a tattoo featuring a bulldog that says “Keep Choppin’” haircut at Tommy’s on W. Paces Ferry, according to the Patch.

The first Albany COVID patients have been moved into the state-provided mobile hospital facilities, according to the Albany Herald.

“The hospital unit was built on our property, but this was completely a state project,” Phoebe Health System CEO/President Scott Steiner said Wednesday morning. “The idea was to have such a facility available in the event of any type of pandemic. Of course, when the idea surfaced to build the facility four to six weeks ago, our reaction was, ‘Yes, we’ll take any help we can get.’ We wanted to expand bed capacity. At that time, we didn’t know if this pandemic was going to go on indefinitely.

“Obviously — thankfully — there is not as great a need now, but moving COVID patients to this facility allows us to open the capacity at the main hospital. I hope we don’t have to use this facility very long, but it’s comforting to have it in place in the event there is any kind of super surge with the virus.”

Construction workers, aided by Georgia National Guard personnel, hurriedly worked through a punch list of last-minute details Wednesday morning, and around noon health care staff started arriving.

“I was allowed to pick a team that will work with the patients here on this excellent project, and I was allowed to select the best of the best,” Med Surge Supervisor Tamilia Lowery of Tallahassee, Fla., said as RNs Taylor Bishop of Savannah and Kari Brown and Mariela Escalera of Gainesville arrived.

Georgia’s unemployment growth outpaces that of most other states, according to the AJC.

Georgia’s Department of Labor has processed jobless claims for nearly one in three workers since mid-March, a far-higher rate than the U.S. average, as the coronavirus hammers the state’s economy.

The state agency said Thursday it processed 228,352 claims for benefits last week, bringing the total to 1.6 million over the past seven weeks, or 31% of Georgia’s workforce.

By comparison, 33.5 million Americans filed claims over the same time, representing just 21% of the nation’s workforce.

The state has greater-than-average numbers of workers in food and accommodation, retail and wholesale trade and in the corporate sector, said economist Roger Tutterow of Kennesaw State University. “It’s got to be the industry mix. But having said, that, I’m not convinced that accounts for all of it.”

Economist Tom Smith of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School said that three-quarters of Georgians work for companies of 10 employees or fewer. “They are at the forward edge of this and they are very susceptible to the disruption.”

I wonder if the ability to file for partial unemployment accounts for part of the disparity.

Medicaid eligibility is also growing due to unemployment and economic losses, according to Georgia Health News.

Georgia data indicate that the economic crisis caused by the pandemic has begun to have an effect on enrollment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

As COVID-19 ravaged the state over the past two months, new Medicaid and PeachCare enrollment in Georgia has increased 38 percent, versus the same period of time in 2019.

There were also smaller increases in January and February. But over March and April, the state programs saw 88,000 new enrollees, as compared with 64,000 in those months last year.

Talk about being caught between the hammer and anvil.

Thursday’s virtual Appropriations Committee meeting was also a horror show of an economic catastrophe. From the Dalton Daily Citizen News:

Budget writers have been anticipating a large hit to the economy after the new coronavirus (COVID-19) shuttered much of the state and April tax revenue numbers released Wednesday showed just that — with economists predicting worse to come.

Jeffery Dorfman, state fiscal economist, said he can’t answer the question of when the economy is going to go back to “normal,” but one thing is clear: the rebound of the state’s economy is dependent on consumers.

“For our economy to get back to normal it’s going to require consumers to be confident again,” he told lawmakers during their virtual meeting Thursday.

Polls still show widespread fear of using public transit, going to malls and taking vacations, he said. According to state numbers, tax collection for the hospitality sector has decreased by 56%, restaurants and food service by 27% and general retail purchases by 50%.

But April tax collections really only give a picture of what has happened since mid-March.

“May should be worse,” Dorfman said. “Because it’s really April collections when we were shut down for pretty much the whole month.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service:

Dorfman, the state economist, told lawmakers Thursday the full impacts of the crisis are tough to predict since the only comparable historical event was the Spanish Flu of 1918, for which he said there is not much useful data.

Instead, lawmakers should plan to see a continuing downward trend in revenues through at least this month in sales taxes and for much longer when it comes to corporate tax collections, with businesses poised for months of diminished profits, Dorfman said.

“We don’t really have a good idea based on history of how this is going to go,” Dorfman said. “Hopefully, in the weeks and months to come, we’ll get a better idea as we experience this together.”

The worst economic data is expected to come after Memorial Day (May 25) when officials will learn how bad tax collections were during Georgia’s mandatory shelter-in-place period last month, said Kelly Farr, director of the state Office of Planning and Budget.

Appropriations chiefs urged calm and courage as lawmakers hash out the budget. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, who assumed the role following the death of former budget guru Sen. Jack Hill last month, said Georgia’s budget experts have already set to figuring out solutions.

“We’re in a time that’s going to require a lot of us to pull together and work together,” said Tillery, R-Vidalia.

Restaurant and school closings are troubling Georgia farmers, according to WABE.

About 50% of the crop in the state typically goes to food service, according to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and it’s not easy for growers and wholesalers to quickly pivot to get crops meant for restaurants into grocery stores instead.

“There’s plenty of supply. Plenty of supply,” said Gary Black, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture. “It’s just, is it packaged correctly, or is there going to be enough demand particularly when upward of half of that market is food service?”

He said he could see this problem coming because Florida is a few weeks ahead of Georgia with its harvest season, and it happened there first.

“It was almost as if we, you know, we had the tidal wave sound the alarms,” he said. “Unfortunately, I think they kind of got hit in the middle of it.”

Black said there are some potential solutions, like rural hospitals talking about coming together to buy Georgia produce, and a marketing campaign launched by his agency encouraging people to buy Georgia produce.

Pass-fail options for University System of Georgia students is a hot topic, according to the Savannah Morning News.

[L]egislative Democrats stepped up the heat on the University System of Georgia Wednesday to let students forced off campus by coronavirus to opt in to a pass-fail grading system for the spring semester.

A group of Democratic state representatives held an online discussion of the issue featuring several students who have led the charge for pass-fail. With the deadline for professors to turn in grades looming next week, time is of the essence.

“We don’t think it’s too late if the [university system Board of] Regents would lift the handcuffs from the universities,” said Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, who hosted Wednesday’s discussion on Facebook. “It’s never too late to do the right thing.”

More than 10,000 students have signed a petition during the past several weeks asking the Regents to allow a pass-fail grading option. Student governments at the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia State University have passed resolutions supporting the proposal.

Cell phone data shows Georgia’s much-touted reopening drew customers from neighboring states, according to the AJC.

A week after the Peach State allowed hair salons, barbershops and other businesses to turn on their welcome signs, a staggering 62,440 additional visitors flocked there daily in hopes of patronizing businesses still shuttered in their home states due to the coronavirus.

The data, reported by University of Maryland researchers, reveals that the bulk of out-of-towners came from surrounding states including Florida, Alabama and South Carolina.

“It’s exactly the kind of effect we’ve been worried about,” Meagan Fitzpatrick, an assistant professor with UMD’s School of Medicine, told The Washington Post after reviewing the findings. “This isn’t an unpredictable outcome with businesses opening in one location and people going to seek services there.”

Local governments are facing new issues as employees return to work and offices are reopened, according to the AJC.

Across Georgia, local governments are trying to decide if the time is right to go back to the office — and if so, how to do it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have recommended guidelines, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution, leaders say.

“There has been a lot of discussion around how do we bring people back and get working but without exposing anyone to the virus or increasing liability because of that exposure,” said Felicia Franklin Warner, a commissioner in Clayton County, which tentatively plans to open its offices Monday.

The Georgia Municipal Association has created guidelines for cities that are ready to reopen city halls. The group recommends cities encourage social distancing, such as moving desks so people have more space between them; stagger lunch breaks and working hours; and rotate weeks that employees are in the office or working remotely. They also suggest governments prohibit handshakes, use video or teleconferencing instead of meeting in person and have a plan for what to do if an employee is exposed to, or diagnosed with, COVID-19.

Henry County reopened its offices May 4, one of the first to do so in metro Atlanta. To facilitate social distancing, half the county’s employees are coming in on odd-numbered days and half on even-numbered days. Staffers have their temperatures taken before being allowed in the building — those with fevers are sent home or to testing sites if suspected of having the coronavirus — and masks are required at all times.

And instead of holding in-person meetings, employees will continue to use Zoom or other meetings software to reduce contact, spokeswoman Melissa Robinson said.

It’s an interesting story worth reading in its entirety if you’re totally bored interested in local government.

Savannah-Chatham County public schools are going month-to-month on budgeting, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Normally, the budget is proposed in the spring and presented to the board with enough time for board review, hearings, public comment, and passage before July 1. However, “the COVID-19 pandemic has created a pause of the [2020-21 fiscal year] legislative session and the state of Georgia’s budget cycle,” according to a spending resolution announcement that was read into the record by Kurt Hetager, district chief public affairs and administrative services officer.

“Subsequently, anticipated revenues for local school districts are unknown at this time,” he said.

Because of this unique situation, the board voted to authorize the superintendent to spend funds from the budget beginning July 1 on a monthly basis to continue operations. The action is within the purview of the superintendent’s duties as written in the board’s bylaws, available at sccpss.com, stating that the superintendent is also treasurer of the board.

Lanier County Superior Court ordered the name of Kenton F. Moore Jr. be restored to the ballot, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The court ordered Kenton F. Moore Jr. be put back on the ballot in upcoming elections, overturning a March 30 decision by the Lanier County Board of Elections and Registration to take him off the ballot.

Moore qualified to run March 5, but incumbent Sheriff Nick Norton challenged his qualifications. A hearing before the elections board was held March 13, but the meeting was adjourned until later on the grounds that “proper notice” had not been given to the candidates, court papers show.

The board met again March 30 “after timely notice” and heard evidence. The challenge involved a check for $51.51 Moore wrote in 2003 to an auto parts store which was returned for insufficient funds, court records show.

“As it should be, the decision is now left to the voters of Lanier County and we are thankful that the court understood that the decision is best left to the voters,” said Sam Dennis, an attorney who represented Moore.

Doug Flanagan, Augusta Judicial Circuit Juvenile Court Judge, has died, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Glynn County Board of Education voted to hire Scott Spence as the new county superintendent, according to The Brunswick News.

Augusta Commissioner Bill Fennoy bought a house outside the district he serves and applied for a homestead exemption, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

7
May

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for May 7, 2020

Chester Emanuel County Humane Society

Chester is a young male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Emanuel County Humane Society in Swainsboro, GA.

Chester is dog friendly and very playful.

Lacy Emanuel County Humane Society

Lacy is a young female Labrador Retriever and Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Emanuel County Humane Society in Swainsboro, GA.

Macy Emanuel County Humane Society

Macy is a young female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Emanuel County Humane Society in Swainsboro, GA.

7
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 7, 2020

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.

Happy Birthday to Bill Kreutzman, one of the drummers for the Grateful Dead. On Kreutzman’s 31st birthday, the Dead played at Boston Garden. The next night was the legendary Cornell show.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp will deliver an update on COVID-19 at 3:30 PM today:

At the Georgia State Capitol, Governor Kemp, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency Director Homer Bryson, Georgia National Guard Adjutant General Tom Carden, and Augusta University President Dr. Brooks Keel will give a briefing on COVID-19.

The briefing will be live streamed at facebook.com/GovKemp or gpb.org/coronavirus.

Georgia state tax revenues fell by nearly 36 percent against last March, according to a press release from the Governor’s office.

The State of Georgia’s April net tax collections totaled nearly $1.84 billion for a decrease of $1.03 billion, or -35.9 percent, compared to April 2019 when net tax collections totaled $2.87 billion. Year-to-date net tax collections totaled $19.23 billion for a decrease of nearly $680 million, or -3.4 percent, compared to the previous fiscal year (FY) when net tax revenues totaled $19.91 billion.

Changes within the following tax categories for April are largely attributable to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the shifting of payment deadlines related to Motor Vehicle, Corporate Tax, and especially Individual Income Tax have had a profound impact on typical state revenue collection activity, resulting in the dramatic reduction of April and year-to-date FY 2020 tax revenues as outlined below.

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for April declined by $732 million, or -46.2 percent, down from April 2019 when net Individual Tax revenues totaled roughly $1.58 billion. Individual Income Tax refunds issued – net of voided checks – decreased by $253.6 million or -44.3 percent. Individual Income Tax Return payments decreased by $830.9 million, or -88.9 percent, from last year. Individual Withholding payments for the month were up $15.4 million, or 1.6 percent, over last year. All other categories, including non-resident income tax payments, were down a combined $170.1 million.

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections totaled $995.7 million for the month, which was a decrease of roughly $107 million, or -9.7 percent, compared to April 2019. Net Sales and Use Tax declined by $82.4 million, or -14.3 percent, compared to FY 2019, when net sales tax totaled $574.6 million. The adjusted Sales Tax distribution to local governments totaled $491.4 million for a decrease of $33.4 million, or -6.4 percent, from April 2019. Lastly, Sales Tax Refunds increased by nearly $8.8 million compared to FY 2019.

Corporate Income Tax: Net Corporate Income Tax collections decreased by nearly $219.1 million, or -70.6 percent, compared to FY 2019 when net Corporate Tax revenues totaled $310.4 million. Corporate Income Tax refunds – net of voids – decreased by $11.6 million, or -51.4 percent, from last year. Corporate Income Tax Estimated payments received were down $122.7 million or -64.5 percent. Corporate Income Tax Return payments decreased by $99.4 million or -78.3 percent. All other Corporate Tax types, including S-Corp tax payments, were down a combined $8.6 million.

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections increased by $80.3 million, or 50.9 percent, compared to FY 2019 on the strength of larger than ordinary, one-time settlement payments resulting from ongoing audit activities.

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees fell by roughly $16.3 million, or -43.4 percent, in April while Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections declined by $22.7 million, or -30.7 percent, compared to FY 2019.

That is the story, along with related budgetary issues, to drive Georgia politics for the next 18 months, if not longer.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Members of the Georgia House Appropriations Committee will be confronted with those dismal revenue numbers when they meet Thursday for the first time since the 2020 General Assembly was suspended in mid-March because of COVID-19.

The state is facing an estimated budget shortfall for fiscal 2021 of $3 billion to $4 billion. Working with state Senate budget writers, the House panel will have to find ways to cut spending across the board by 14%, far deeper than the 6% reductions Gov. Brian Kemp ordered last summer to address slow revenue growth that was plaguing the state well before the coronavirus pandemic began.

From GPB News:

In an interview with GPB News last week, Kemp said the upcoming budget process would be “brutal” and that no agency would be spared from cuts in spending.

“Now this is going to be a brutal budget environment that we’re in,” he said. “In Georgia, we have a constitutional amendment that says we have to balance our budget, so we can’t spend more than we take in. So these cuts are going to the bone unless something happens with federal funding.”

This morning, the Georgia State House and Senate Appropriations Committees met jointly in a virtual meeting. You may click here if you are a glutton for punishment wish to watch the video of the meeting.

From the AJC:

Having just listened to details of the $1 billion fall in state revenue collections last month, House Appropriations Chairman Terry England closed the first legislative meeting since mid-March by stating the obvious.

“There is not a whole lot of positive news in this at all,” said England, a Republican from Auburn, who served in the same role through the tail end of the Great Recession.

One example of what the new pandemic recession means for state government was made clear before the House and Senate Appropriations committees held their virtual meeting Thursday: The Georgia Board of Regents approved a plan giving University System of Georgia leaders the authority to furlough employees, with those earning higher salaries taking larger cuts.

In the legislative meeting, Kelly Farr, the director of the Office of Planning and Budget, told lawmakers that state tax collections could go from bad to horrific over the next few months. The $1 billion drop in April was based in part on sales numbers for March.

The state didn’t start shutting down because of the coronavirus until the second half of that month. So next month’s report — which will include April sales — will likely be worse.

The decline in revenue means the state will have to dip heavily into its $2.7 billion rainy day reserve to pay for this fiscal year’s $27.5 billion budget, Farr said. This fiscal year ends June 30.

Dalton has created a local COVID stimulus program using federal grant funds. From the Dalton Daily Citizen News:

[Local business owner Austin] Culp and some two dozen Dalton business owners have applied for the city’s Small Business Stabilization Forgivable Loan Program. The program is funded with $150,000 from the $255,543 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money the city received under the CARES Act that was signed into law by President Donald Trump in March as well as $50,000 in unused funds from the city’s Minor Home Repair Program.

Community Development Block Grant is a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program targeted at urban areas with low incomes and high poverty that funds anti-poverty efforts, infrastructure construction and programs to reduce blight.

The city program will provide loans of up to $15,000 to for-profit businesses with 50 or fewer employees that can demonstrate that revenue has decreased 30% or more due to the pandemic and the related shutdown. The loans must be used to rehire or retain workers. The loans will be forgiven after two years if the owner meets all the requirements.

The loans will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Businesses that receive the funds are required to submit monthly reports to the CDBG program office providing proof that they have used the funds for retention/rehire of low-moderate-income employees,” said Dalton Chief Financial Officer Cindy Jackson. “If proper reporting is not submitted, then the funds will be due back to the city.”

Andrew Turnage will serve as the Executive Director of the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, according to the Saporta Report.

“I think he is clearly qualified and I’m pleased to see that he has relationships in place with legislative persons already so that he should be able to hit the ground running,” said Dr. Judith Rochon, a Kaiser Permanente psychiatrist and a member of the commission, speaking at its short phone meeting.

Turnage said in a press release soon after the meeting that the commission’s one goal is to get families linked up with cannabis oil that’s low in THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

“Think about families that have struggled to have their basic needs met during this pandemic. We have families in Georgia that have struggled for years to get this basic need, low-THC oil, and our task will be to ensure that they receive it,” Turnage said.

The state Legislature already set some boundaries. Up to six licensed companies to grow cannabis in secure greenhouses and manufacture a liquid that’s low in THC, the compound in marijuana that causes a high.

The liquid will be available via some number of retail locations to Georgians who have a medical cannabis card.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is rethinking the return of staff, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is adjusting its return to work plan for employees after teachers and staff raised concerns about going back to work during the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic.

Among the changes is the decision to no longer require teachers and some staff to return to their schools. Principals, assistant principals, office staff, custodians and School Nutrition Program staff will continue their current work schedules, however.

“GCPS leaders received feedback on the plan from teachers and others who shared concerns about returning to the work site at this time,” district spokeswoman Sloan Roach said. “That feedback led district leaders to consider adjustments to the return-to-work sites plan.”