Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 3, 2016

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 3, 2016

In Today’s Politics, Campaigns, and Elections Update:

1. Under the Gold Dome

2. Public Servants Gone Wild

3. Georgia Elections

4. Peach State Presidential Politics – What’s next for Trump, Cruz, and Rubio

5. Nuke News

On February 3, 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting.

On February 3, 1887, Congress adopted the Electoral Count Act to clarify how Congress was to count electoral votes.

Electoral vote counting is the oldest activity of the national government and among the oldest questions of constitutional law. It was Congress’s first task when a quorum appeared in the nation’s new legislature on April 6, 1789. It has happened every four years since then. Yet, electoral vote counting remains one of the least understood aspects of our constitutional order.

The Electoral Count Act of 1887 (ECA) lies at the heart of this confusion. In enacting the ECA, Congress drew on lessons learned from its twenty-five previous electoral counts; it sorted through innumerable proposals floated before and after the disastrous presidential election of 1876; and it thrashed out the ECA’s specific provisions over fourteen years of sustained debate. Still, the law invites misinterpretation. The ECA is turgid and repetitious. Its central provisions seem contradictory. Many of its substantive rules are set out in a single sentence that is 275 words long. Proponents of the law admitted it was “not perfect.” Contemporary commentators were less charitable. John Burgess, a leading political scientist in the late nineteenth century, pronounced the law unwise, incomplete, premised on contradictory principles, and expressed in language that was “very confused, almost unintelligible.” At least he thought the law was constitutional; others did not.

Over the nearly 120 years since the ECA’s adoption, the criticisms faded, only to be renewed whenever there was a close presidential election. Our ability to misunderstand the ECA has grown over time. During the 2000 presidential election dispute, politicians, lawyers, commentators, and Supreme Court justices seemed prone to misstate or misinterpret the provisions of the law, even those provisions which were clear to the generation that wrote them. The Supreme Court, for example, mistakenly believed that the Supreme Court of Florida’s erroneous construction of its election code would deny Florida’s electors the ECA’s “safe harbor” protection; Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s hasty submission of his state’s Certificate of Ascertainment was untimely under the Act; and Democratic members of Congress framed their objections to accepting Florida’s electoral vote on the wrong grounds. Even Al Gore, the presidential candidate contesting the election’s outcome, misread the federal deadline for seating Florida’s electors.

Only the United States Congress could so obfuscate a matter as seemingly simple as counting that its Act remained undecipherable for more than one hundred years.

The Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by Delaware on February 3, 1913, giving the Amendment the requisite Constitutional supermajority of three-fourths of the states. The text of the Amendment reads, in its entirety,

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

President Woodrow Wilson died on February 3, 1924 in Washington, DC. Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia (pronounced Stan-ton) and spent most of his youth to age 14 in Augusta, Georgia. Wilson started practicing law in Atlanta, Georgia in 1882, leaving the next year to pursue a Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University. His wife, Ellen Louise Axson, was from Savannah, and they married in Rome, Ga in 1885.

On February 3, 1959, a chartered Beechcraft Bonanza carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson crashed near Mason City, Iowa, killing all aboard.

Jimi Hendrix recorded Purple Haze on this date in 1967.

Under the Gold Dome

Senate Committees

12:00 PM RULES — UPON ADJMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM REGULATED IND & UTIL. – CANCELED

1:00 PM PUBLIC SAFETY 125 CAP

1:00 PM EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM Joint HEALTH & HMN SVCS and HIGHER ED. 307 CAP

2:00 PM SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY 310 CLOB

2:00 PM DOT Delegations- CD 4 Senate Chamber

2:00 PM APPROPRIATIONS – Public Safety Sub 341 CAP

3:00 PM STATE INST & PROP – CANCELED

3:00 PM DOT Delegations-CD 11 Senate Chamber

3:30 PM Approp Gen’l Gov’t Sub 341 CAP

4:00 PM HEALTH AND HUMAN SVCS SUB 318 CLOB

4:00 PM FINANCE – CANCELED

House Committees

8:00 AM INSURANCE 606 CLOB

8:30 AM Trucks Weights Sub 415 CLOB

8:30 AM RULES 341 CAP

9:00 AM INTRAGOV’TAL COORD 403 CAP

1:00 PM Academic Innovations Sub 506 CLOB

1:30 PM Judiciary Non-Civil Setzler Sub 132 CAP

1:30 PM GOVENMENTAL AFFAIRS 606 CLOB

2:00 PM Appropriations Health Sub 406 CLOB

2:00 PM RETIREMENT 515 CLOB

2:00 PM BUDGET & FISCAL AFFAIRS 506 CLOB

2:30 PM Judiciary Civil Fleming Sub 403 CAP

3:00 PM SPECIAL RULES 515 CLOB

3:00 PM Approp Gen’l Gov’t Sub 415 CLOB

3:00 PM EDUCATION 606 CLOB

Senate Rules Calendar

SB 199 – Elections; provide for a definition; prohibit certain activities within close proximity to polling places (ETHICS-17th)
SB 273 – Clinical Laboratories; provide certain nondiagnostic laboratories not subject to state licensure as clinical laboratory (H&HS-11th)

House Rules Calendar

Modified Open Rule
HB 402 – Insurance; encourage employers to provide work based learning opportunities for students age 16 and older; provisions (Substitute) (I&L-Lumsden-12th)
HB 421 – Retirement and pensions; officers employed by Department of Community Supervision shall be entitled to certain disability benefits; provide (Substitute)(Ret-Nimmer-178th)
HB 690 – Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia; provide that certain law enforcement officers obtain creditable service in system under certain
conditions; provisions (Substitute)(Ret-Carter-175th)
HB 815 – Meat inspection; inspection and regulation of certain avian meat products and facilities; provide (A&CA-Rhodes-120th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 691 – Municipal courts; removal of appointed judges under certain circumstances; provide (Substitute)(Judy-Tanner-9th)
HB 801 – HOPE; include certain coursework in computer science as optional rigor requirements; revise provisions (Substitute)(HEd-Jones-47th)

Yesterday felt like Groundhog day for more reasons than being reminded by the media every 20 minutes that the Philadelphia rodent predicted an early spring. Yes, it was religious freedom day, with the Georgia Baptist Convention holding a Press Conference, followed by a group of rabbis and a liberal Methodist politician opposing them, then a group of Republicans who oppose Religious Freedom legislation.

From 11 Alive,

That list [of religious liberty bills] has become substantial over the last 13 days.

  • Two bills call themselves the religious freedom and restoration act, or RFRA.
  • Another would outlaw govermment overreach against religious expression
  • One is called the first amendment defense act.
  • One protects religious expression on the clothing of high school athletes.
  • One protects the religious liberties of students.
  • One protects florists and other businesses from forcibly participating in gay weddings.
  • Another, the pastor protection act, protects pastors from forcibly participating in gay weddings.

That last bill has the backing of a key House Democrat, Minority Leader Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta).

“I’m the daughter of ministers.  I think that’s an important conversation to be had. It’s also important to say that changing our evolving laws in our state are not going to fundamentally disturb our religious beliefs,” Abrams said, referring to the legalization of gay marriage.  “I think the rest of those laws, regardless of who introduces them, are dangerous because they open the door to discrimination and that should never be the posture of this legislature.”

But backers of the RFRA measures say they don’t discriminate.  “We have no desire to discriminate against anyone. The concern I have is that people of faith in Georgia are being discriminated against. And that needs to stop,” said Dr. Robert White of the Southern Baptist Convention during a rally inside the Capitol Tuesday.

DeKalb County Public Schools has regained its fully-accredited status with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). If Michael Thurmond runs for DeKalb CEO, I suspect he can take credit for helping lay the groundwork for this.

A South Carolina legislator says that carry permit reciprocity between the Palmetto State and the Peach State is one of the major issues his constituents mention.

North Augusta Rep. Bill Hixon wants his constituents to advocate for his gun-permit reciprocity bill, which would ease travel to and from Georgia for those with concealed weapons. It’s the No. 1 issue raised by the community, whether at church, at Publix, or at any public event, according to the lawmaker.

The North Augusta Republican introduced H. 3799 last March, which would mean both Georgia and North Carolina would recognize the concealed-weapon permits of South Carolinians. The House passed the bill 101-5 in April and sent it to the Senate, where it sits.

“I personally would urge the citizens of the counties who live in the border counties to call their sheriff and tell the S.C. Sheriffs Association to get out of the way of blocking this bill,” said Hixon, adding that, “all 46 sheriffs don’t agree,” with the association, which has expressed concerns. Indeed, counties that border the Savannah River have unique circumstances.

“We have many people that travel back and forth, Georgia folks and South Carolina folks, that are absolutely breaking the law every single day. And they don’t intend to,” said Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, “Do I remember when I cross the bridge to reach over and grab my glove box and lay it (firearm) on the seat? No. Who does that?”

Without a Georgia concealed-weapon permit, someone with a firearm must display it in plain view.

“Most of us don’t think that’s a very good idea,” said Taylor. “The whole idea of concealed is you’re not alarming anybody, you don’t see anybody, no one sees you.”

Public Service: You’re Doing it Wrong

Chatham County Commissioner Yusuf Shabazz received a sentence of 12 months probation, a $1000 fine, and will be required to complete a drivers education course after being found guilty of reckless driving.

Jacksonville, Georgia Mayor John Dopson was arrested for impersonating a police officer, as he drove a marked city police vehicle.

John Dopson, mayor of Jacksonville, population 140, was driving a Jacksonville police cruiser when he was pulled over Monday by Telfair County deputies, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Dopson declined to take blood and urine tests, “indicating the reason for his refusal was because he knew it would show positive for ‘weed,’” according to the statement.

In addition to the impersonation charge, he was charged with driving under the influence of drugs.

The sheriff’s office said it had been investigating the mayor for some time “in response to numerous complaints related to the daily personal use of a marked and equipped City of Jacksonville patrol car by an individual who possesses no law enforcement authority.”

Dopson was appointed mayor late last year even though he has been awaiting trial since last March on a felony aggravated assault charge, according to state court records. The Associated Press reported that Dopson was accused of pointing a gun at another man in an incident that was recorded on video.

Georgia Elections

Former State Rep. Delvis Dutton, who ran for Congress in 2014, will seek a return to the Gold Dome, running for the State House seat he previously held against its new occupant, Rep. Bill Werkhiser.

“I want to return to Atlanta to not only finish what I started with the Appeal to Heaven movement, but to continue to push for a state government that is transparent and accountable to Georgians.”

Dutton continued, “When I previously served in the legislature, I was committed to being a responsible steward of our tax dollars while leading a caucus of legislators in restoring our rights, fighting harmful legislation, and ensuring our district was well-represented. I have a proven track record of fighting for the 157th, regardless of the political cost.”

State Rep. Stephen Allison announced via Facebook that he will not run for reelection to the State House, choosing to return home.

A doctor, a lawyer, and a nurse walk into an election…. Lori Swim Greenhill, a Martinez nurse, announced her campaign for State House District 123.

Lori Swim Greenhill made a name for herself last year speaking out on behalf of homeowners affected by construction of the River Watch Parkway extension into Columbia County.

“You’ve seen me with my feet on the ground, working and advocating for the community,” Greenhill said to a handful of supporters Monday. “I think that’s what being a representative of the people is all about, being there for the people.”

“I’m more aligned with Republicans, but I’m very open-minded,” she said. “I listen to people and mull over what they have to say to reach the best solution.”

Evans attorney Wright McLeod and physician Mark Newton, who heads the emergency department at Doc­tors Hospital and owns a chain of urgent care clinics, are also pursuing the District 123 seat held by Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta, who is retiring.

Georgia elections officials have seen high numbers of new voter registrations in advance of this year’s Presidential election.

Officials from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office say they’ve seen nearly 55,000 voters register during the last seven days of open registration.

Muscogee County election officials have already seen a spike that will add to the already 85,000 plus active and registered voters in Columbus.

Kennesaw will hold a special election on May 24 to fill the City Council seat vacated by the child molestation guilty plea of former member Leonard Church.

The qualifying fee for the Post 3 seat is $360. The term ends Dec. 31, 2017.

Peach State Presidential Politics

I’ve written up my thoughts on Iowa over at Medium.com, and if you’re interested I hope you’ll take a minute to read it.

Those of us in the Peach State, where Secretary of State Brian Kemp coined the concept of a Southern Super Tuesday he dubbed “SEC Primary,” have seen much of Ted Cruz since his bus tour that began in Savannah before the RedState Gathering in Atlanta and continued afterwards to head south toward Newnan and Columbus ,Georgia before heading West through Alabama and much of the rest of the SEC states.

He was also back in Georgia in December with wife Heidi and their two girls as part of a fly-around. In the meantime, he’s piled up significant endorsements and built the best grassroots presidential campaign I’ve seen in twenty years of Republican politics here.

Iowa provided the proof of concept that a well-executed ground game, buttressed by sufficient media buys and all the latest and greatest in targeting can still win elections, even against what Newt Gingrich calls “the Kardashian model of social media” in Presidential politics.

The lesson Cruz can draw from Iowa is to continue building-out and refining the ground game that landed him the top slot in Iowa, while Trump may be trying to figure out how to effectively build a get out the vote machine starting months later than his rival.

WSB-TV spoke with some folks at the top three Republican campaigns in Georgia about building out their ground game headed toward March 1.

“We’re real excited about it,” [Cruz Georgia grassroots co-chairman Louie] Hunter told Channel 2’s Richard Elliot. “We’re doing the same thing here that we did in Iowa. We have county co-chairs, chairs and co-chairs in almost all 159 counties in Georgia.”

“Iowa’s behind him now, and now it’s on to New Hampshire and which I think Mr. Trump will do very well,” [State Senator Burt] Jones said.

“We’ve got a good ground game. We’ve got a lot of good folks coming to us every day to help support Senator Rubio and volunteer for his campaign, so we feel confident that we’re ready to roll,” [State Rep. Buzz] Brockaway said.

Farmers for Trump will hold a Rally on Thursday at 4:30 PM on Main Street in Sasser, GA. If you’re not sure where Sasser is, it’s a little bit northeast of Albany, in Terrell County. Population 279.

The Trump campaign is also opening additional offices across the state and will be holding a number of grassroots meetings.

CSRA TRUMP HQ GRAND OPENING
Friday, February 5 @ 1PM
4426 Washington Rd, Evans, GA 30809
For more information contact Pat Goodwin
706.829.1343, [email protected]

SOUTH GEORGIA TRUMP HQ GRAND OPENING
Saturday, February 6 @ 11AM
3380 B, North Valdosta Road, Valdosta, GA, 31605
For more information contact Barbara Schmader
229.242.1186, [email protected]

COASTAL TRUMP HQ GRAND OPENING
Friday, February 5 @ 10AM
1512 New Castle Street, Brunswick, GA
For more information contact Laura McKinley
912.912.399.0919, [email protected]

TRUMPROOTS TRAINING MEETING
Saturday, February 6 @ 10am 
Benton Lee’s Steakhouse
138 Benton Powell Rd
Uvalda, GA 30473
RSVP required with [email protected]

BARTOW MEETING
Cartersville Public Library
429 W. Main St.
Cartersville, GA 30120
February 6 @ 10AM

COBB MEETING
Cherokee Cattle Company
2010 Canton Rd.
Marietta, GA 30066
February 2 @ 7PM

DEKALB MEETING
Bambenelli’s
3202 Northlake Pkwy. NE
Atlanta, GA 30345
February 6 @ 12PM

DOUGLAS MEETING
Golden Corral
6975 Douglas Blvd.
Douglasville, GA 30135
February 4 @ 7PM

FULTON MEETING
Alpharetta Public Library
10 Park Plaza
Alpharetta, GA 30009
February 6 @ 11:30AM

GWINNETT MEETINGS
Golden Corral
4020 Buford Dr.
Buford, GA 30518
February 2 @ 7:30PM

Sweet Tomato
3505 Mall Blvd.
Duluth, GA 30096
February 3 @ 7PM

Johnboys
3050 Main St. W.
Snellville, GA 30078
February 6 @ 11AM

HENRY MEETING
Logans Roadhouse
20 Mill Rd.
McDonough, GA 30253
February 7 @ 5PM

NEWTON MEETING
Square Perk
1105 Church St.
Covington, GA 30014
February 6 @ 11AM

PAULDING MEETING
Dallas Public Library
1010 Memorial Dr. E.
Dallas, GA 30132
February 13 @ 10AM

High Energy

On the same day Georgia Power announced completion of a milestone in the construction of nuclear reactor 3 at Plant Vogtle, the Georgia Public Service Commisison voted to review nearly $1 billion in spending on the facility.

The detailed probe of what Georgia Power has spent is expected to take 14 months to examine the delays that have added nearly $1 billion to the Plant Vogtle expansion.

Commissioner Stan Wise pushed for the review now rather than waiting until the reactors are running because he said customers, investors and supporters of nuclear power needed to see a positive response by regulators.

Georgia Power wants the review, officials said. It will resolve questions investors have about who will get stuck paying for the overruns.

Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald announced that the construction delays should result in an immediate savings on customers’ monthly bills. He wants to repeal a state law that allows Georgia Power to charge customers during construction for a portion of the finance costs because he said it was supposed to end next month on the original completion date.

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