The Jolt: No vaccine ‘passport’? No problem, says Kemp

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Credit: Brynn Anderson

Credit: Brynn Anderson

Around the nation, businesses and political leaders are considering requiring digital proof of vaccination against the coronavirus to travel, attend sporting events and return to a semblance of normal life.

Gov. Brian Kemp served notice on Tuesday that he won’t support so-called “vaccine passports” in Georgia, saying in a tweet that “the decision to receive the vaccine should be left up to each individual.”

The idea has fast become a charged political debate, with Republican officials and lawmakers scrambling to block government officials from requiring a vaccine passport.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday waded into the battle, becoming the latest GOP leader to issue an executive order that bans state or local governments from requiring proof of vaccination.

The Biden administration has said it won’t require Americans to carry a credential, and that there won’t be a federal vaccination database or a federal mandate requiring citizens to obtain a proof of vaccination.

But some businesses and schools are moving forward with their plans. Several universities have said they’ll require students to prove they’ve been inoculated in the fall, and some sports teams plan special sections for the vaccinated.

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Former President Donald Trump never, ever, ever will let Gov. Brian Kemp off the hook.

That was the takeaway from the second consecutive critical statement he issued about Georgia’s election law in a day, this one saying Kemp should have eliminated no-excuse absentee ballots and imposed more restrictions to voting.

We’ll spare you the details of the letter, which was riddled with falsehoods, but you can read it here.

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As the fallout continues from Major League Baseball’s decision to move the All Star Game from Georgia to Colorado to protest Georgia’s new election law, another famous Georgia-based sporting event is trying to move ahead without fanfare: The Masters.

One of your insiders reports that so far, Georgia faith leaders aren’t yet calling for a full scale boycott of the sponsors for the storied golf tournament.

“Bishop Reginald Jackson said Tuesday he will wait until after a planned virtual meeting with the executives of some of Georgia’s biggest firms to decide whether to move forward with the boycott.”

“Hopefully, we won’t have to give the signal,” said Jackson, the bishop of the AME Sixth Episcopal District. “We want these companies to speak out publicly against this legislation, to use their lobbying resources to fight voting restrictions in other states and to publicly support federal legislation to expand voting rights.”

In the meantime, the Wall Street Journal reports on the approach of the club’s members, including a few famous Georgians:

“So far, Augusta National, its high-profile members, the tournament’s biggest corporate sponsors and even broadcasters have handled the situation and its convergence with the Masters with the same sound heard when golfers stand over a putt: silence.”

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While Cobb County is still reeling from the loss of the MLB All-Star Game, the Denver Post details how local politicians in Colorado swooped in to take advantage of Georgia’s loss.

“(Colorado Gov. Jared) Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock lobbied to land the game and touted the economic benefits of having it in Denver, which Hancock estimated would result in an economic impact north of $100 million.

“This is a big relief win for our economy here in Colorado," Polis said. “This is a pivotal turning point, not just for our return to normalcy (from COVID) but to highlight Denver and Colorado, nationally, showing some of the most amazing talent coming to Colorado."

“MLB said it chose Denver because the city had already submitted a plan to host a future All-Star Game and could quickly gear up for this year's game.

“This all moved very quickly," Hancock said. “What usually takes months or a matter of years to happen, happened in a matter of days."

- The Denver Post

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The AJC’s stellar new City Hall reporter, Wilborn Nobles, is keeping tabs on former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and his ongoing flirtation with a comeback bid.

Once a surefire candidate for U.S. Senate or another statewide office, Reed was sidelined by the federal corruption probe into his administration. Now he’s openly talking about a return to politics.

In the latest “Pro Politics with Zac McCrary” podcast, Reed said he has yet to decide if he wants to challenge Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who he endorsed in 2017. But he didn’t close the door on the idea.

“I still love politics,” said Reed, “and I love Atlanta.”

Bottoms, meanwhile, is facing mounting competition.

Aside from City Council President Felicia Moore, the incumbent also drew a challenge from Sharon Gay, a high-powered Dentons attorney who will likely try to build a coalition that includes some of the city’s Buckhead crowd. Progressive City Councilman Antonio Brown is also considering a run.

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Speaking of Mayor Bottoms, on Tuesday she signed an executive order intended to counteract some of the changes baked into Georgia’s controversial new election law.

The order directs Atlanta’s chief equity officer to train city staff on the details of the new law and create a plan to inform residents about changes to how they’ll vote in the future, Nobles reports.

“This Administrative Order is designed to do what those in the majority of the state legislature did not—expand access to our right to vote,” Bottoms said in a statement announcing her administrative actions.

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The Republican National Committee has launched its first paid advertising in Georgia of the 2022 election cycle, part of a six-figure ad buy also targeting voters in Arizona, Nevada and New Hampshire on S. 1, new federal voting legislation under consideration in the Senate.

The spots focus on U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and other incumbents and claim that the proposed federal overhaul would “eviscerate common sense voter I.D. laws” and hand over too much power to the federal government.

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Twitter said it made a mistake when it temporarily suspended U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s account over the weekend. The Associated Press reports that the Rome Republican was locked out on Sunday, the second time such an error had happened to her in a three-week span.

The suspension came after Greene tweeted about Easter and shared an anti-abortion message.

“We use a combination of technology and human review to enforce the Twitter rules across the service,” the company said in a statement to the AP. “In this case, our automated systems took enforcement action on the account referenced in error.”

Meanwhile, another Georgia conservative also faced a Twitter suspension, but this time the company looks like its standing by its actions. Former candidate for Congress, Angela Stanton King, saw her account deactivated after she posted an expletive-laden and anti-transgender rant.

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While Gov. Brian Kemp and Republican lawmakers touted a modest state income tax cut for many Georgians when it passed last month, the General Assembly left town without considering a bigger tax break for out-of-work Georgians.

Our AJC colleague James Salzer has more:

“The latest federal COVID relief bill waived federal income taxes on up to $10,200 of jobless benefits that the unemployed got in pandemic plagued 2020. Georgia House Minority Whip David Wilkerson, D-Austell , urged his colleagues to do the same thing, waiving state income taxes.

“Georgia's income tax rate is graduated and the top state income tax rate is 5.75%. Wilkerson said such a waiver would save the unemployed hundreds of dollars in taxes, as opposed to the about $60 married couples would save in House Bill 593, the bill lawmakers passed during the session. But there was never serious public talk among the Republican majority of passing the tax break Wilkerson proposed.

“According to H&R Block, Georgia is one of 13 states not offering a tax break on unemployment benefits received last year. The others are partially or fully excluding the benefits from state taxes, while a few states don't have income taxes, so the issue is moot."

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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A tribute from the dean of Georgia’s congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, to the dean of Florida’s, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died Tuesday at age 84. (Like Congressman John Lewis, Hastings succumbed to pancreatic cancer.)

Bishop’s statement: “I am deeply saddened by the loss of my colleague, my brother, and my friend of longstanding, Congressman Alcee Hastings. His was a life well-lived. He used his incredible skills, talents, and wit in his lifelong fights for good and justice against evil and injustice. He was authentic, brutally frank, but always a powerful advocate for marginalized humanity. My wife Vivian and I send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Patricia, his other family, staff, and all who mourn his loss.”

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The weeks after a General Assembly session always bring news of big plans for legislators, frequently a run for higher office.

The Dalton Daily Citizen-News has a different kind of news about state Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, who is moving forward with plans to build a new hotel in downtown Dalton. Carpenter says the boutique hotel will be located across the street from two restaurants he already operates in Dalton. He plans to call the hotel The Carpentry.

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