Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for February 12, 2014

12
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for February 12, 2014

Today is Georgia Day, celebrating the founding of the Thirteenth Colony on February 12, 1733.

After years of planning and two months crossing the Atlantic, James Oglethorpe and 114 colonists climbed 40 feet up the bluff from the Savannah River on this day in 1733 and founded the colony of Georgia.

George II granted the Georgia trustees a charter for the colony a year earlier. The trustees’ motto was Non Sibi Sed Allis—not for self but for others. Georgia would be a philanthropic and military enterprise that would provide the “worthy” poor a new start and serve as a buffer between Spanish Florida and the English colonies.

The trustees prohibited slavery and large landholdings….

Congress enacted the first fugitive slave law, on February 12, 1793 requiring states to return runaway slaves to their owners, even if the state in which the slave was captured did not permit slavery.

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky.

On February 12, 1867, the editor of the Milledgeville Federal Union expressed dismay at the rapidity with which Atlanta was growing and basically everything about Atlanta.

“Atlanta is certainly a fast place in every sense of the word, and our friends in Atlanta are a fast people. They live fast and they die fast. They make money fast and they spend it fast. They build houses fast, and they burn them down fast… . They have the largest public buildings, and the most of them, and they pass the most resolutions of any people, ancient or modern. To a stranger the whole city seems to be running on wheels, and all of the inhabitants continually blowing off steam.”

George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was performed for the first time on February 12, 1924. The piece was written for solo piano and jazz band.

On February 12, 1999, the United States Senate voted 55-45 against convicting impeached President Bill Clinton on a charge of perjury. Senator Paul Coverdel voted guilty and Senator Max Cleland voted not guilty. On the second charge of obstructing justice, Coverdell and 49 other Republicans voted guilty and Cleland joined 49 other senators in voting not guilty. A two-thirds vote of the Senate is required to convict a President, so Clinton was acquitted on both counts.

Georgia State Government Closed Today

Governor Nathan Deal signed an executive order closing most of state government today, except for those directly involved in preparations for, and response to, the ice storm that has enveloped much of north Georgia and Metro Atlanta.

The legislature will be IN ADJOURNMENT Wednesday, February 12 – Sunday, February 16. The Senate will reconvene on Monday, February 17, at 10:00 a.m. Rules will meet at 8:00 a.m. that morning to set the calendar for the day. The target date for the legislature to adjourn for the year, Sine Die, has been moved to March 20th. March 3d will be Crossover Day, the deadline for legislation to pass at least one house of the General Assembly to be eligible for final passage this year.

Medical Marijuana bill to be revamped?

State Rep. Allen Peake has said that his HB 885 will likely require changes if it is to pass and help children who might benefit from medications derived from cannabis.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said he was unsure of the specific changes needed to House Bill 885 that would give Georgia children, who have no other treatment options, the opportunity to receive therapeutic cannabidiol to treat their seizures.

Peake’s efforts, though, drew support from the vast majority of people who packed the hearing room, including parents who tearfully testified their children suffer multiple seizures a day.

Physicians who testified at the House Health and Human Services Committee hearing agreed that the therapeutic oil, which does not have the psychoactive qualities of typical marijuana, has proved effective in providing relief from seizures, but needs more thorough study.

The legislation is scheduled for another hearing Thursday.

Earlier this week, the House heard testimony on the issue of medical marijuana for children suffering from intractable seizures.

Monroe County mother Janea Cox pleaded for her daughter’s life at the first hearing on a new medical marijuana proposal.

“I’m going to lose my child if this drug is not approved,” said Cox, whose daughter Haleigh is the inspiration and namesake for House Bill 885, by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon.

“We’re going to break up my family,” a tearful Cox said while her child was a few miles away at Children’s Hospital of Atlanta at Egleston, where she has been for more than 50 days since a severe attack that caused her to stop breathing for several minutes.

Peake’s bill would open a door for Georgians to access to a liquid medicine derived from cannabis for treatment of severe seizure disorders.

“It has extremely low levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the part that makes you high,” said Peake, and is “low in CBD,” or cannabidiol, a therapeutic compound.

“I would posit this is not marijuana. This is an extract from a chemical from a plant,” said Dr. Michael Greene of Macon, speaking for the Medical Association of Georgia.

The association adamantly opposes recreational marijuana but favors Peake’s bill, saying it includes adequate safeguards and is narrowly enough written.

“If you have a family member with this, your family is consumed with this,” said Greene. And some of the other treatments for severe epilepsy, he said, include drastic measures like severing some of the connections in the brain.

I have been adequately convinced that the blanket prohibition on medicines derived from marijuana does not serve the public interest and that, at the very least, a program along the lines of that suggested by Children’s Healthcare is warranted.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta said it can support a plan by Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, if it mandates that cannabis oil is available only as part of an Institutional Review Board-approved clinical study; if there is sufficient control of the manufacture and distribution of the product and if safety measures are established, according to a statement released to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In its statement, Children’s said “there has not been enough evidence-based research around the use of (cannabis oil) studying its safety and tolerability in children with seizure disorders and thus should not be used generally.”

The hospital system goes on to say, however, that it is “in support of legislation that would allow clinical research by academic institutions to further investigate this compound for the treatment of intractable seizures in children.”

Here is my two-cents on an issue that has been raised. A number of folks have stated their apprehension that allowing the limited medical use of compounds derived from cannabis could be a step down the road toward legalizing recreational marijuana use. Here’s why I don’t think that’s a problem.

Last week, Philip Seymour Hoffman overdosed on heroin, a dangerous and illegal recreational drug derived from the opium poppy. Heroin is a curse on modern society, but no one has suggested outlawing morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, or any of the other widely-used and beneficial medications that are also derived from the opium poppy. Nor have we seen a widespread movement to legalize recreational heroin, even in California or Colorado.

Recreational marijuana is illegal in Georgia for good reasons that appear to be getting better as the potency of the product has increased. A new study from Columbia University’s school of public health suggests that traffic fatalities caused by marijuana use have tripled over the last ten years, and that the combination of alcohol and marijuana increases the risk of a fatal crash thirteen times.

But outlawing beneficial medications because they come from the same plant as a recreational drug is no longer sufficient in my opinion to justify a blanket prohibition on research or heavily-restricted use of beneficial medications. The idea that the legislature, once it starts down the road of allowing the use of medically-necessary drugs, cannot halt itself before legalizing recreational use is laughable.

An issue touched upon in the Children’s Hospital statement, and in the House testimony remains: how could such a medication be legally produced and controlled with safeguards to prevent its diversion to possible other uses? More from the Macon Telegraph story:

The elephant in the room is the (federal Drug Enforcement Agency),” said Rick Allen, director of the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency.

He’s in charge of overseeing prescription drugs in Georgia as they pass through the hands of pharmacists, doctors and researchers.

He noted that the only marijuana farm the federal government considers legal is its own patch at the University of Mississippi, which is used for federally approved cannabis research.

But if it’s not Mississippi cannabis or a UK-approved CBD-rich medication with federal approval, it’s no good, Allen said.

“The drugs from Colorado could not come into Georgia legally,” he said. “Nobody wants a raid from the DEA.”

“Our biggest challenge so far is how do we get medical cannabis to Georgia,” Peake said.

In other states, trials are going on with a CBD-rich medicine, but there is more demand than supply for those programs. And if a doctor in Georgia wanted to start research, it’s not clear how long it would take to get started.

Indeed, even for a CBD-rich pediatric anti-seizure medicine that doesn’t have FDA approval, there’s a line more than 2,000 people deep, said its Colorado Springs, Co.-based manufacturer Joel Stanley.

Children have a right to safe medicines, not “impure, unsafe, experimental drugs,” said Rusche, president and CEO of the Atlanta-based anti-substance abuse organization National Families in Action.

Karen Tinker, a mother of an epileptic son, also wants to go slow.

“I don’t want to condone reckless trial and error,” she said at Monday’s hearing. She’s sticking with medicines that have been researched for side effects and interactions.

“I don’t want my son to be a guinea pig,” she said.

In November, Florida will vote in a statewide referendum on whether or not to allow a medical marijuana program administered by the state.

Medical marijuana is not likely the biggest problem for Georgians when it comes to healthcare. Access to care, especially in rural areas is a major issue for many. Maggie Lee, with the Macon Telegraph yet again tells us about it:

In large areas along a stretch of the state from Macon to Milledgeville and on to Augusta, it can be a long drive for people having a heart attack to get to an emergency room. And pregnant mothers living far from a hospital correlates with higher rates of premature births.

Rural residents are more likely to die of heart attacks that could be stabilized or stopped in the right kind of facility. And unless a would-be mother drives as much as an hour or more, she will not get regular prenatal care either, part of what leads to risky early births, health officials said.

State Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon, has started studying rural issues since being elected to a Senate district that covers all or part of seven counties. He was surprised when he looked into access in Twiggs, Wilkinson, Hancock and Washington counties. Washington County does have a hospital.

In rural Georgia, “you’ve got hospitals that have already closed. You have more that might close,” he said.

He has filed a bill that would make it easier to open what he’s calling “stabilization centers”: tiny three- or four-bed facilities to aid people in emergencies before sending them on to a hospital.

The bill would exempt such centers from proving to the state there’s a demand for them, and they could keep afloat by getting a “certificate of need.”

A hearing on the bill is likely next week, but it has run into opposition and questions about how to pay for it.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the next year’s “Big Budget,” and it will move to the floor of the House. From the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s analysis of the FY2015 state budget:

Gov. Nathan Deal’s $20.8 billion fiscal 2015 budget proposal cleared its first hurdle Tuesday when the Georgia House of Representatives’ budget committee sent it to the full House with a unanimous voice vote.

The governor’s budget would increase state spending by $807 million over the fiscal 2014 budget lawmakers adopted last spring. Approximately 40 percent of that additional spending would go toward education.

Deal vowed during his annual State of the State address last month to restore all of Georgia’s school districts to the full 180-day calendar and end teacher furloughs. School districts across the state took those cost-cutting steps after the Great Recession put a huge dent in local property tax collections, even as they were losing state aid each year.

The budget would also give Georgia teachers and state employees 1 percent raises. Most state workers haven’t had a pay increase since 2008.

Holy awkward timing! After school bus drivers were among those heralded as heroes for making sure their kids got home safely in #Clusterflake1, the Georgia State House passed legislation making them and other seasonal school employees ineligible for unemployment during their months “off.” This may end up costing local school systems more if they have to pay seasonal employees year-round in order to retain them.

Events Calendar

Netflix and Amazon Prime – on my couch.

 

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