Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for January 22, 2014

22
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for January 22, 2014

Medical Marijuana moving up

Medicinal use of marijuana is finding some supporters I would at one time (last week) have considered highly unlikely. From WSB-TV,

Channel 2 Action News has learned state lawmakers supporting medical marijuana could have a bill ready to go as early as this week that would make medical marijuana legal in Georgia.

Channel 2′s Lori Geary began reporting the issue weeks ago and talked to an unlikely co-sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Micah Gravley, a Republican from Paulding County.

He says when he was first asked about the issue he flat out refused, telling supporters of the issue he’s a conservative, Christian Republican.

Then he says the parents of 10-year-old Caden Clark reached out to him, “I have had a 180-degree change because I’ve seen how it can impact these kids and how it can impact these families who are now separated because one’s here in Georgia, the other one’s in Colorado.”

Tuesday, Gov. Nathan Deal said he’s not taking a stance on the issue but said, “I think there’s a strong case being presented by some of the families in some serious situations involving their children.”

till, the Christian Coalition remains firmly against any state law on medical marijuana.

The president of the group, Jerry [Luquire], told Geary that marijuana, in any form, is considered a Class 1 substance by the federal government, one of the most dangerous drugs. He says federal law trumps state law. He accuses the lawmakers supporting the bill of a conspiracy to break federal law.

Winston Jones at the (Carrollton) Times-Georgian spoke to their local legislators.

Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, said Monday that he’s not in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, as in Colorado, and he also is against a sweeping medical marijuana law. However, he did indicate he is open to looking at derivatives that might be medically useful.

“From what I understand, with the oil, the intoxicants have been removed,” Dugan said. “I’m willing to listen to that. I want some medical professionals to come forward and tell me what benefits it would have, and I’ll make a determination from that.”

He said states that have passed medical marijuana bills have suffered widespread abuse, and he feels Georgia doesn’t need that.

Sen. Mike Crane, R-Newnan, said so far, he’s seen only anecdotal evidence from personal stories, and he’s looking forward to hearing medical presentations.

“If the stories prove true, and we see remarkable results with certain candidates, this sounds like one more tool in the doctor’s cache of things that could relieve untold suffering for many,” Crane said. “There’s more discussions to be had, and I think we’re going to see that. It’s something I’m very concerned about, but very cautious. As we move forward, I’m going to take extreme caution on this issue.”

Rep. Randy Nix, R-LaGrange, said he wonders if there’s any other drugs that can do the same thing as the medical marijuana.

“If the answer is ‘no,’ then I’m willing to listen to the debate,” Nix said. “I would want it to be something in a pill or oil form, and legislation that would have a narrow scope of what was allowed. I won’t support legislation if it looks like people want to use it to get their foot in the door to support recreational marijuana. That’s my concern.”

Nix said if the drug works for children with seizures, maybe that’s the only thing for which it should be prescribed.

“I’m not heartless,” he said. “If that’s the only thing that will help these children, let’s figure out a way to do it, but let’s not use it as that door opener to fully legalize marijuana.”

Peachtree NORML and Georgia NORML, both pro-marijuana legalization groups, released a poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) on several ways of loosening Georgia’s marijuana laws. Here are some quotes from the release:

A new statewide poll shows that 62% of Georgia voters endorse eliminating criminal penalties for possession by adults of less than one ounce of pot, and replace it with a $100 civil fine, without the possibility of jail time. Further, more than half of all Georgia voters now support regulating the legal consumption and retail sale of marijuana for those age 21 and over.

In 2010, some 32,500 Georgians were arrested for violating marijuana laws, according to the FBI. That is the sixth highest total of any state in America.

Fifty -seven percent of voters supported legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. State
lawmakers have indicated interest in studying this legal option.

Here’s a question that will specifically interest some politicians.

Q5 If a candidate supported marijuana law reform, would that make you more or less likely to vote for that candidate in the next election, or would it not make a difference?

More likely……………29%
Less likely……………34%
Wouldn’t make a difference……………29%
Not sure…………….8%

A couple of things to note. First, if that question on reelecting a candidate who supports changing marijuana laws is accurate, it doesn’t tell the story most incumbents are likely interested in – the effect of a vote on their party’s primary voters. There are likely differences between Republicans and Democrats, and geographic differences between, say, a Metro Atlanta suburban or in-town district, and a strongly conservative rural district.

The second point I’d like to make, and one that has implications for polling beyond the issue of marijuana is that in this poll, Public Policy Polling found the partisan self-identification as follows:

Q8 If you are a Democrat, press 1. If a Republican, press 2. If you are an independent or identify with another party, press 3.
Democrat……………37%
Republican………….43%
Independent/Other……20%

I think that a 6-point lead for self-identified Republicans over Democrats is about correct. But that’s at odds with an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll that showed Democrats with a slight lead in party identification. A poll by InsiderAdvantage, where I have a part-time job sweeping floors and editing their website, put the differential at Republican +3 points.

A poll by PPP conducted in August showed Republicans +1, which I raised as an issue that caused me to question their head-to-head ballot questions that showed Michelle Nunn ahead of or tied with all of the major GOP candidates for United States Senate.

An October poll by PPP that showed Jason Carter at 40% versus Governor Deal at 44% also reflected an electorate evenly split between self-identified Democrats and Republicans - a scenario I refer to as “dreamland for Democrats.”

Part of what a pollster does, and what a discerning consumer of polling should do is to not place all your faith in any given poll, but to add the results of each poll into the mix as part of the context. And then compare that with your experiences in Georgia politics.

In 2010, competitive statewide race results ranged from Republican +9.3 to Republican +12.8, with Governor Deal beating Democratic former Governor Roy Barnes by 10 points. [In this instance I am discounting the 2010 races for U.S. Senate, SOS, Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor Commissioner, which were GOP blowouts.]

In 2012, Mitt Romney outpolled President Obama by nearly eight points and Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton beat Democrat Steve Oppenheimer by just under nine points.

So I feel safe in the following prediction: in 2014, the Republican electoral advantage in closely-contested statewide election will be in the range of Republican +6 to Republican +10. That’s after campaigning, but for now, any poll I see that doesn’t show a lead in GOP self-identification in the +3 to +6 range warrants a look at the crosstabs to see what’s going on.

Gold Dome Today

Today will be Georgia Right to Life’s “March for Life” at the Georgia State Capitol from 11:15 AM to 2 PM. Speakers will include Governor Nathan Deal, keynote speaker Pam Stenzel, and special guest speaker Dr. Robert White! Note that GRTL has directions for parking on their website too. Georgia Right to Life PAC has endorsed Meagan Biello in the runoff election for State Representative in House District 22, making her the only endorsed candidate in that race.


Legislative Calendar

Senate Rules – TBA, 450 CAP

10:00 AM Floor Session

1:00 pm
Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities Committee
Wed, January 22, 1pm – 2pm, 307 CLOB
Senate State & Local Governmental Operations Committee
Wed, January 22, 1pm – 2pm, 310 CLOB
House Appropriations
Wed, January 22, 1pm – 2pm or upon adjournment, 341 CAP
House Rules Committee
Wed, January 22, 2pm-3pm, 341 CAP

2:00 pm

Senate Health & Human Services Committee

Wed, January 22, 2pm – 3pm, 450 CAP

Senate Transportation Committee
Wed, January 22, 2pm – 3pm, MEZZ

3:00 pm

Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee
Wed, January 22, 3pm – 4pm, 307 CLOB

Kingston Collection

Since we mentioned the Limited Edition “Cotton Boll” logo t-shirt we saw from one of Jack Kingston’s past Congressional campaigns, we have been sent photos of some other Limited Edition Kingston swag. Here is the “Children of the Corn” logo.

Kingston Corn logo

And Ball One:

Kingston Baseball logoSm


Open Judicial seats in Gwinnett, Cobb

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Michael Clark has announced that he will retire February 28, 2014 to join a law firm. As his term is not expiring, Governor Nathan Deal will appoint a successor. If history is any pattern, the leading candidates to be named are either incumbent state legislators, or lower court judges, which open up an additional seat for appointment or election.

Cobb County Superior Court Judge James Bodiford also announced he will retire at the end of his term this year. The election to replace him is likely to be held May 20, 2014.


Probation Lifted for DeKalb Public Schools

The accreditation for DeKalb County Public Schools, previously placed on probation by SACS, has been upgraded to a status of “accredited warned.”

“The threat of the loss of accreditation is no longer imminent,” said Mark Elgart, whose agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, precipitated a crisis in December 2012 that led to the governor’s intervention. SACS placed DeKalb on probation and threatened to strip accreditation altogether if the school board and superintendent failed to address management concerns.

Gov. Nathan Deal replaced six of the nine school board members, just after the old board replaced the superintendent. DeKalb’s new leadership has made remarkable progress addressing the issues, Elgart said, but he said the work is far from done and that the elections May 20 for the nonpartisan school board are a major concern.

“The election is critical,” said Elgart, who is the president and chief executive officer of SACS’ parent company AdvancED. The agency’s opinions about accreditation influence a school district’s reputation, and by extension its graduates’ chances for college admissions and scholarships. That, in turn, affects the local economy, since public education is a key factor businesses consider when choosing where to locate.

“This community needs to pay close attention to whom they elect,” Elgart said. “Politics is one of the reasons the system got itself to this point.”

The school board fiasco has already become a launching pad for one deposed member, Nancy Jester, who is now seeking the state superintendent’s job. And the upcoming school board elections, which could feature comeback bids by one or more of the ousted board members, may inject another dose of politics.

 

Nancy Jester, Republican candidate for Georgia State School Superintendent, released a statement:

I am pleased to hear the DeKalb school system’s accreditation status has been upgraded from “probation” to “warned”.

I worked diligently to shine light on the poor fiscal management of DeKalb.  Some of my work was even cited in the SACS report from 2012.

Clearly DeKalb still has a long way to go.

Academic achievement and growth in many schools is unacceptable.  DeKalb’s graduation rate, at 58.9%, is far too low.

Of the 25 high schools in DeKalb, 8 have graduation rates below 50%, while only 4 have rates above 75%.  All four of these schools are specialty or magnet schools.

I appreciate that SACS finally recognized that DeKalb needed some sort of intervention.

The entire episode exposes the structural weaknesses in our state’s accountability model.  While SACS can provide a useful and supplemental service via their third party accreditation products, Georgia must not continue to abdicate it’s role in holding districts accountable for their results and financial management.

Jester also released in the last several days a map that shows per-pupil spending and graduation rates in Georgia and neighboring states. It’s worth taking a moment to look at.

JesterGradRatesPerPupilSpendingMap copy

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