Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023


U.S. House of Representatives

The year ahead

Sure, there are no elections for federal or statewide offices in Georgia this year, but that doesn’t mean that the 2023 political calendar is bare for Coastal Georgians. Far from it.

Rep. Buddy Carter’s pursuit of the chairmanship of the powerful House Budget Committee soon will be decided, perhaps as soon as this week, writes The Current’s Craig Nelson, in a brief look at some of the notable dates on the calendar.

On Thursday, Roger Moss will be sworn in as the new president of the Savannah-Chatham County school board. Moss won a four-year term thanks to support from voters from across the political and ideological spectrum.

Now comes the hard part: how to juggle all the competing interests of his supporters over how to educate our children and the role of parents in the classroom, new battlefronts in the nation’s cultural wars.

There’s the new session of the Georgia General Assembly, which begins next Monday. After bingeing on midterm election spending last year, Brian Kemp and lawmakers in the Republican-controlled legislature and governor’s office will battle over who wins and who loses in what is expected to be a belt-tightening budgeting exercise.

Then there are municipal elections, which will be held across Coastal Georgia this fall. Voters in Savannah, for instance, will choose a mayor and city council members.

Finally, two long-running legal processes will culminate, probably in the first six months of this year, that could roil Georgia’s political landscape significantly.

Fulton County prosecutor Fani Willis will decide whether to bring charges against former President Donald Trump and his allies, some of them Georgians, who tried to overturn his narrow 2020 election loss in Georgia.

Also, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule, in the case of Moore v. Harper, on the extent to which states can set guidelines for voting and elections.

Last but not least, looming around the corner is the 2024 presidential election and the start of presidential primaries in 13 months — yes, 13 months. Georgia, as a battleground state, is expected to play an important, if not pivotal, role in both. Look for presidential wannabes to start popping up across the state. One possible candidate — Kemp — is already here.


Chatham County Commission members announce revenue-sharing agreement, Savannah, Dec. 27, 2022. (Left to right) Bobby Lockett (3rd District), Tanya Milton (5th District), Chester Ellis (chairman), Helen Stone (1st District), Kenneth Adams (8th District).

While we were away

Bad omen: With a year-end deadline looming, the head of the Chatham County Commission and the mayors of Savannah and the seven other municipalities that make up the county agreed last week on a new, 10-year revenue-sharing agreement.

A deal was expected — failure to reach an accord would have meant the loss of sales tax revenue to both the county and the municipalities. But the contentious negotiations that required a mediator’s intervention bode ill for reaching another revenue-sharing agreement and dealing with the transportation grid and other challenges that posed by the region’s skyrocketing growth, the commission chairman, Chester Ellis, told reporters at the commission’s offices in downtown Savannah.

“I hope that what happened . . . never happens again,” Ellis said, describing the “us versus them attitude” that consumed the negotiations, which he blamed on the mayors.

Burton announces for DA: Citing a television report that described a large number of plea deals brokered by Chatham County District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones, Anthony Burton on Dec. 20 announced his candidacy for her job next year, calling her a “total and complete failure.” A former assistant district attorney for Chatham County, Burton ran for the post of judge in Chatham County’s Recorder’s Court in the May 2022 primary but came in third in a three-way race. Jones has not said if she’ll seek reelection.

Brunswick prosecutor pleads not guilty: The arraignment of former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson on charges she meddled in the police investigation of the murder of Ahmed Arbery in 2020 has been postponed. The office of Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr later said Johnson had waived arraignment and had pleaded not guilty to the charges. Superior Court Judge John R. Turner hasn’t set a trial date.  

Rep. Carter, Georgia’s U.S. senators pull in millions in earmarks: “Bringing home the bacon” has a special place in American political life and lore. Lawmakers routinely condemn the federal budget and the lack of transparency and accountability in cobbling it together, usually in a last-minute rush when outside eyes are too weary to scrutinize every line item. The lawmakers then boast how they’ve obtained a piece of the “pork” for the folks at home.

Case in point: The $1.7 trillion funding package passed by the U.S. House and Senate in late December and signed into law by President Biden on Dec. 29.

Coastal Georgia Congressman Buddy Carter was one of 200 Republican House members who voted against the 4,155-page bill. Nevertheless, it contains $22,280,000 in earmarks he requested.

Some $8 million of the amount goes to Pooler, where Carter served as mayor for nine years. Three-quarters of the $8 million is designated for roadwork, the rest for the expansion of Pooler’s wastewater treatment plant. Carter’s single biggest “get” — $5.68 million — goes to a program at Georgia Southern University labeled “soldier performance and readiness.”

Also, Carter joined Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in obtaining another $6.46 million in earmarks. With Ossoff alone, he procured the largest single earmark attached to his name: $8.7 million for land acquisition at the Cumberland Island National Seashore.

The behind-the-scenes bipartisanship in bringing federal funds to Georgia contrasts with Carter’s strident political messaging that usually casts Democrats like Warnock and Ossoff in unfavorable light. Last week, for instance, he tweeted a GOP fundraising appeal with his “Buddy Carter: Republican for Congress” logo that featured images of the masked Warnock and Ossoff alongside the caption, “Stop socialism in Georgia!”

Earmarks are a way for individual members of Congress to request funding for a project directly during the budget process and according to the Office of Management and Budget, “circumventing the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Administration to control critical aspects of the funds allocation process.”

In November, House Republicans voted 158-52 behind closed doors to oppose an amendment by Republican Tom McClintock that would ban earmarks. It isn’t publicly known how Carter voted.


ICYMI

‘Sole state’: “How Georgia’s new Medicaid work requirement program will work” by Capitol Beat’s Rebecca Grapevine: “After years of legal wrangling, the countdown to the July 1, 2023, launch date of Georgia’s Medicaid work requirements program is underway. The new plan – officially called Pathways to Coverage – will require enrollees to complete 80 hours of work, education, job training, or community service per month to get Medicaid health insurance. Many will also have to pay a monthly premium. Once the program begins, Georgia will be the sole state with work requirements for Medicaid. Adults between ages 18 and 64 who earn less than 100% of the federal poverty level – and who are not otherwise eligible for Medicaid – are the targeted group. For 2022, the federal poverty level was $13,590 for a single person and $27,750 for a family of four. Though exact numbers are difficult to calculate, it’s expected that the Pathways program will provide insurance to only a small percentage of the 1.3 million Georgians without health insurance.”

Curriculum wars“State of America’s Libraries: Special Report — Pandemic Year Two” by the American Library Association: “In 2021, libraries of all types stepped up to meet the needs of their communities as they responded to the impacts of a second year of the global pandemic. Library staff in every state faced an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals. Most targeted books were by or about Black or LGBTQIA+ persons.”


Budgets, education, Trump: What to watch on the 2023 political calendar

Carter starts 5th term, Burns gets promotion, Chatham board gets a new president

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New laws for new year affect food trucks, tax credits, online sales

The food truck legislation does away with a current requirement in Georgia law that food truck operators obtain a permit and inspection in every county where they do business.

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Millions of Georgia adults, children may be re-evaluated for Medicaid eligibility in 2023

The Georgia Department of Human Services and Department of Community Health are asking low-income families currently enrolled in Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids to update their contact information in the state’s public health insurance portal, Georgia GateWay. If they don’t, they could lose coverage in 2023.

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Georgia bases land priority projects in national defense bill

State’s congressional delegation had to mount a lobbying campaign to save the Combat Readiness Training Center in Savannah, an Air National Guard facility for military pilots the administration was threatening to close. It received full funding for the coming year.

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Economists: Port of Savannah to weather expected recession well

As “essential infrastructure,” ports are expected to fare well in 2023 even if a recession hits, according to Fitch Ratings.

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Analysis: 1 in 5 children in poverty in Georgia, 8 states that haven’t raised minimum wage

Raising the minimum wage would not lead to as fast or drastic an improvement, but a 2019 Congressional Budget Office analysis found that increasing the amount to $15 an hour would lift more than 500,000 children from poverty. And the Economic Policy Institute estimated in 2021, that if Congress passed a $15 minimum wage increase by 2025, up to 3.7 million people wouldn’t have to live […]

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Craig Nelson is a former international correspondent for The Associated Press, the Sydney (Australia) Morning-Herald, Cox Newspapers and The Wall Street Journal. He also served as foreign editor for The...