Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 30, 2015

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Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 30, 2015

On March 30, 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was formally adopted, granting the right to vote to African-American men after a sufficient number of the states ratified it.

With the adoption of the 15th Amendment in 1870, a politically mobilized African-American community joined with white allies in the Southern states to elect the Republican Party to power, which brought about radical changes across the South. By late 1870, all the former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union, and most were controlled by the Republican Party, thanks to the support of African-American voters.

In the same year, Hiram Rhoades Revels, a Republican from Natchez, Mississippi, became the first African American ever to sit in Congress. Although African-American Republicans never obtained political office in proportion to their overwhelming electoral majority, Revels and a dozen other African-American men served in Congress during Reconstruction, more than 600 served in state legislatures, and many more held local offices. However, in the late 1870s, the Southern Republican Party vanished with the end of Reconstruction, and Southern state governments effectively nullified the 14th and 15th Amendments, stripping Southern African Americans of the right to vote. It would be nearly a century before the nation would again attempt to establish equal rights for African Americans in the South.

The same day, Robert E. Lee arrived in Augusta, Georgia on his way to Savannah.

Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived in Georgia on his last trip to Warm Springs on March 30, 1945.

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot outside a hotel in Washington, DC by John Hinckley.

On Friday, March 27, 2015, Gov. Nathan Deal signed an Executive Order to begin the implementation of House Bill 1, which allows use of medical cannabis extract for treatment of eight conditions.

“This executive order is the first step in bringing home families who’ve sought relief elsewhere and for providing new medical solutions for Georgians suffering from debilitating conditions,” Deal said. “I’ve instructed the Georgia Composite Medical Board and the Department of Public Health to begin taking immediate steps ahead of this law’s enactment. At the same time, law enforcement, health care providers and other stakeholders should make appropriate preparations.”

“While we want to treat suffering patients and bring children home as quickly as possible, it is critical that we take every precaution to safeguard private health information and ensure the security of the new patient registry. In the coming days, these agencies will continue providing updates and further guidance to patients and the public.”

Under this legislation, the Georgia Composite Medical Board will draft a patient waiver and a physician certification form. Upon completion, the forms will be available to patients meeting the specified criteria through DPH. Once certified by the appropriate health care provider, patients will be provided with documentation allowing for possession of low-THC cannabis oil.

“I look forward to the day when I can sign this legislation into law – a day that is coming soon,” Deal said. “While many advocates dedicated countless days to this worthy cause, Rep. Allen Peake deserves special recognition for his selfless devotion to these affected families. He provided both the hand that guided our General Assembly and the shoulder that many families leaned on. Today, we’re beginning to reap the harvest of that hard work. Soon, families will be reunited and more Georgians will gain access to the treatment they require. I’m proud to see Georgia leading in this way.”

“I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Governor Deal and his staff for seeing this legislation through and making it a priority in the General Assembly,” said Peake (R-Macon). “I commend Governor Deal for taking the initial steps today to prepare our state for HB 1 to become law very soon. I continue to look forward to that day when this bill is signed and our Georgia families can finally come back home.”

Under the Gold Dome Today

2:00 PM Joint Ind. and Labor/Ins. and Labor 406 CLOB
4:00 PM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 406 CLOB
11:00 AM Senate Rules 450 CAP

Religious Freedom Bill – Future Uncertain

Senate Bill 129 by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act remains in limbo. Last week, after passing out of a House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee stronger than it went in, the subcommittee’s amendments were stripped in the full committee. It appeared over the weekend that the full committee might meet again, giving the bill another shot at life, but the scheduled meeting was canceled.

At this point in the Session, legislators and lobbyists have identified possible “vehicles for their bills” – any legislation that has passed one house and deals with the same code section as legislation that has hit a dead end. One potential vehicle for a revival of SB 129 is House Bill 59, by House Judiciary Committee Chair Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), which happens to be in the Senate Judiciary Committe, which is chaired by McKoon. Keep an eye out for a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting being scheduled.

Senate Bill 63 – The Craft Beer Jobs Bill heads back to the Senate after being passed by the House after some tinkering with the bill’s langauge.

Senate Bill 101 by Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) passed the House and Senate after a compromise that enacts a 25-foot buffer zone around saltwater marshes.

Lawmakers from coastal districts have been pushing for the bill since the end of the last legislative session when the state determined it had no legal basis for imposing buffers for more than a decade. They are designed to prohibit any kind of construction in the buffer zone so that the natural vegetation can serve as a filter to block rainwater from washing pollutants like petroleum and fertilizer into the marshes which serve as breeding grounds for many seafood species. Negotiations have been difficult in that period because environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, the Georgia Conservancy and the Center for a Sustainable Coast wanted few exceptions while business groups such as the Georgia Chamber of Commerce wanted less red tape.

Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, who sponsored the bill in the House, told his colleagues the back and forth was exhausting.

“With all of the consternation over the last few months for all of our coastal delegation, it’s been about as fun as slamming your head with a car door. So, we’ve had a ball with this thing,” he said sarcastically. “It also tells you what we think about our marshes.”

House Bill 57 by Rep Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek) passed the Senate and will allow third-party financing of home solar panels.

Senate Bill 139 by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla), which would prohibit local governments from banning plastic shopping bags, failed in the State House by a 67-85 vote after passing the Senate.

Yet another proposal for casino gambling has surfaced, this time in the form of a Constitutional Amendment proposed by State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah).

A resolution was introduced in the State House of Representatives by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) this week to call for a Constitutional amendment referendum on the establishment of casino resorts. If approved by voters, the amendment would set up a way for local communities to approve such resorts.

The resolution would divide the state into five casino licensing regions. Gwinnett County would be in the 68-county Licensing Region 1, which would be allowed to have only two casino licenses issued at any given time. The other regions would only be allowed to have one license issued at any time. In all, up to six casino licenses would be issued across Georgia at any time.

No casino would be allowed to open in a community without first being approved by voters in that area.

Taxes and licensing and regulatory fees generated from the casinos would be earmarked to pay for pre-kindergarten programs, tuition grants, scholarships, operations for whichever body will oversee the casinos and treatment programs for gambling addicts. The resolution’s co-sponsors include Reps. Carl Rogers (R-Gainesville), Ben Harbin (R-Evans) and Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna).

I just don’t see anything to allow casino gambling in Georgia being signed into law by Gov. Deal. Of course, a Constitutional Amendment doesn’t require the Governor’s signature, but it does require a 2/3 majority in both houses of the Georgia General Assembly, and I don’t see that happening either.

Elections

Governor Nathan Deal won’t be on the ballot in 2016, but his “Opportunity School District” legislation will be in the form of a referendum to approve the creation of an OSD for failing schools. The Marietta Daily Journal looks at the ballot measure that will be before the voters,

Voters will answer the following yes or no question: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) voted against the bill and said the wording of the ballot measure is too vague.

“It’s going to say, ‘Do you want to let us help you fix failing schools?’ Who’s going to vote against that?” Wilkerson said. “The only way a constitutional amendment fails is if it has the word ‘tax’ in it.”

As it stands now, Wilkerson said he expects it to pass the resolution because it doesn’t explain what would be approved, noting how different it is from when people run for office.

And the AJC’s Greg Bluestein looks at what a campaign might look like,

The governor’s allies are preparing a campaign in support of the plan, which would create a new statewide school district to take control of some of Georgia’s most distressed schools. School groups, Democratic heavyweights and other opponents are readying their own counteroffensive against the 2016 ballot question.

The result will likely be a multimillion-dollar campaign financed partly by big donors that will flood airwaves and websites with flashy advertisements just in time for the presidential election. And both sides will seek to learn from the last contentious ballot question, a 2012 initiative that let Georgia approve charter schools.

That campaign, fueled by millions of dollars in out-of-state cash, was a proxy fight over a broader question of whether parents should have more choice. It passed with 58 percent of the vote, thanks partly to a surge of support in Democratic-leaning counties.

Opponents are mustering their own attacks. Critics, including the Georgia Association of Educators and the Georgia School Boards Association, can call on their tens of thousands of supporters to knock on doors and call voters. And Democratic Party of Georgia head DuBose Porter said his allies will be ready with their own campaign.

“The DPG stands by our educators and leaders in the House and Senate who opposed this bill,” Porter said. “We do not believe that Governor Deal — who has shown such a complete disregard for education and its funding — should be tasked with the sole responsibility of rehabilitating Georgia’s struggling schools.”

 

Advance voting and early voting by mail begins today in the District 7 runoff for Augusta Commission, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The two candidates in the runoff to complete resigned Commissioner Donnie Smith’s term said they had been reminding voters not to overlook the April 14 runoff after the bustle of Masters Week.

“We’re trying to spur the voters, make sure they know there’s an election going on,” said Sean Frantom, the development director for Ronald McDon­ald House Charities of Au­gusta, who garnered 43.7 percent of the vote in the March 17 election.

Louis “Hap” Harris, the appointed interim commissioner who received 36.5 percent of the vote, said he was “six months already trained” and hoped voters exercise their “precious and paid-for by a lot of people” right to vote in the runoff.

State Rep. LaDawn Blackett Jones (D-Atlanta) will not run for reelection to the State House after her current term.

The Marietta City Council will vote at its April 8, 2015 meeting on holding a referendum to allow voters to register their approval or disapproval of term limits for City Council without actually accomplishing anything.

The city’s Judicial/Legislative Committee voted last week to advance Mayor Steve Tumlin’s proposal to solicit citizen input on imposing term limits for future council members and mayors.

The committee, which is chaired by Councilman Philip Goldstein and includes Councilmen Stuart Fleming and Andy Morris, voted 2-0-1, with Morris abstaining, to advance the topic to the council’s April 8 meeting for a full council vote.

Tumlin’s referendum is similar to a proposal Fleming made in early March, which would limit future mayors to two terms for a total of eight years in office, and future council members to three terms for a total of 12 years in office.

Tumlin proposed a nonbinding advisory referendum so voters may voice their opinion on the subject, which seemed to appease the majority of the council.

 

Gov Deal Signs Executive Order Haleigh Photobomb

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