Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 22, 2014

James Edward Oglethorpe was born in London, England, on December 22, 1696. He was elected to Parliament, where he worked on prison reform and had the idea of a new colony where “worthy poor” Brits could be sent. In 1732, Oglethorpe was granted a charter to create a colony of Georgia in the new world.

On December 22, 1775, the Continental Congress created the Continental Navy.

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony premiered on December 22, 1808 in Vienna, Austria.

Governor George Gilmer signed legislation that prohibited teaching slaves or free African-Americans to read or write on December 22, 1829.

Martha Bulloch and Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. were married at Bulloch Hall in Roswell, Georgia on December 22, 1853. Their son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. would later be elected President of the United States.

On December 22, 1864, General William T. Sherman wired to President Abraham Lincoln from Savannah, Georgia,

His Excellency President LINCOLN:

I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.

W.T. Sherman,
Major General.

From the Savannah Morning News, an African-American perspective on Savannah’s role in the Civil War.

First Bryan Baptist Church, known as Third African during this time, was the only church sitting in the middle of the battlefield.

As citizens fled the city of Savannah out of fear, officers of First Bryan refused to close the church’s doors.

Alexander Harris, a deacon of the church, was a Confederate soldier. Deacon Harris understood First Bryan Baptist Church’s defenseless position and led officers of the church down to the Confederate defense line for the city at the Ogeechee Canal to request that the church be saved from destruction.

Dr. William Pollard, an officer of the church, lived on Bryan Street across from First Bryan Baptist Church. As Sherman’s army came down Bay Road, Dr. Pollard gave the captain one of the torches that was used for light in the front of the church.

The captain used the torch so the army could see their way into the city. Gen. Sherman summoned Dr. Pollard and gave him the assignment of contacting all Afro-Americans in Savannah to request that they gather in Greene Square on Jan. 1 for the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Garrison Frazier, a retired minister and First Bryan’s eighth pastor, was the spokesman for the leaders of the Afro-American churches and minsters who met with Gen. Sherman and U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.

The Rev. Ulysses Houston, First Bryan’s ninth pastor, and officers of the church Deacon Andrew Neal and the Rev. Alexander Harris were in attendance.

The Rev. Ulysses Houston was elected to the Georgia Legislature while he still was the ninth pastor of First Bryan Baptist Church. He asked the legislature to establish Georgia State Industrial and Agriculture College, now known as Savannah State University.

First Bryan Baptist Church was constituted in 1788 is located on the oldest piece of land owned by African-Americans in the United States.

One Way to Give Today

After the murder of New York Police Department officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, the Silver Shield Foundation announced it would pay for the education of the two sons of Officer Ramos, as it has done for thousands of other children of Officers who died in the line of duty.

[Late New York Yankees owner George] Steinbrenner started his foundation in 1982 after seeing a news account of four children flanking their mother and folding an American flag at the funeral of their father, an NYPD officer who had been killed in the line of duty.

“Who’s going to take care of these kids,” Steinbrenner asked his friend, former Olympian Jim Fuchs, who would run the foundation until his death, also in 2010. “We are.”

The foundation, now run by Fuchs’ daughter Casey, has paid for the educations of thousands of children of fallen NYPD, FDNY, state police and Port Authority workers in the tri-state area, as well as 700 children who lost a parent in the terrorists attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

You can donate online to the Silver Shield Foundation.

Georgia Politics

My latest column in TownHall.com looks at the idea being promoted by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp for a “SEC Presidential Primary” on March 1, 2016.

2016 Southern States Primary Corrected

More than just an SEC affair, it’s shaping up as a Southern Super Tuesday.

Eric Tanenblatt, a Republican strategist in Georgia who held leadership roles in Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns and George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign, said, “an SEC primary in early March will definitely put the south in the national spotlight. However, as we have seen in the past, the field will be a lot smaller after the primaries and caucuses occur in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.”

After that winnowing process in the early states, on March 1, as many as 564 delegates from Texas (155) and Florida (100), Georgia (76), Tennessee (58), Alabama (50), Mississippi (40), and Arkansas (36) will be allocated among the remaining candidates. Based on 2012 Republican delegate allocation of 2286 convention seats, those states represent nearly a quarter of the delegates up for grab in the entire Republican primary process.

Under RNC rules, delegates in these states will be awarded proportionally among candidates according to each state’s rules. This too has implications for how candidates will campaign in these states.

“Given the new national party rules, an early March primary date will take away the guarantee of winner takes all primaries. There will be a lot of targeting done by campaigns as proportionality of delegates will be the name of the game,” said Tanenblatt.

Many within the socially conservative wing of the GOP see a Southern Super Tuesday as a way to put their own stamp on the eventual nominee. But it also means that no candidate can take all of the delegates by winning slim majorities in these states.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Sally Q. Yates, who currently serves as United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, will be appointed Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice.

In her 22 years as a prosecutor in Georgia, Yates has experience in a wide variety of cases, specializing in public corruption . She was the lead prosecutor in the Atlanta prosecution of Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph.

“She did a phenomenal job putting that difficult, complicated case together,” said former FBI director Louis J. Freeh, who worked with Yates on the Rudolph investigation and has known her for 20 years.

“She’s remarkably talented and has a solution to every problem,” Freeh said in an interview. “Her biggest fans are the FBI street agents, the DEA agents, the postal inspectors and the Secret Service. Everybody sings her praises. And she has no ego. She would rather be writing a sentencing memo than get up and have a press conference.”

Yates also oversaw the prosecution of former Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Fanning-Lasseter and former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer; Yates personally tried former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell on federal corruption charges and led the investigation of former Fulton County Commissioner Michael Hightower that led to his pleading guilty to bribery.

Jack Kingston continued his farewell tour with a stop in St Simons Island to pin the Purple Heart on Staff Sergeant Jaime Perez.

As he has done numerous times, Kingston pinned a medal on Perez, in this case a Purple Heart awarded to Perez for his injuries suffered in Iraq when his convoy was hit Feb. 23, 2007, by rocket propelled grenades.

Kingston thanked Perez for the honor of letting him pin the medal on him.

“After another 22 years, I’m out of work,’’ Kingston told Perez. “To end my career doing this is one of the greatest honors you can give me.”

Kingston spoke of attending memorial services at Fort Stewart, the headquarters of the 3rd Infantry Division, in which Perez served. Generally, there are two or three families who have lost loved ones, he said.

“If you really want to see the face of war, see the faces of survivors,’’ he said.

With Perez’s wife, Melanie, and daughter, Yashira, watching, Kingston pinned the Purple Heart on Perez.

Perez, who came from Puerto Rico and now lives in Hinesville, spoke glowingly of what it means to be in the American commonwealth.

With his war done, Perez said the country can’t shrink from the battle.

“We can’t do this. We can’t back up,’’ he said. “If I had to do it again, yes. I would not hesitate.”

Our heartfelt thanks to Staff Sgt. Perez and his family.

A plan by the Chatham County Superior Court to handle major cases faster appears to have been successful.

Now as Karpf’s two-year term in the Major Crimes Division ends and he prepares to resume his duties in the other crimes division and domestic cases, Karpf said he is confident the plan adopted by the court is working as designed.

“I am always reluctant to claim victory, but I am satisfied we have accomplished what we set out to accomplish,” Karpf said.

For example, the recent trial of Norman Smart in the June 7 slaying of his wife at their Wilmington Island home was disposed of during the first week of December — an almost unheard of crime-to-disposition time frame.

“You never saw (such quick) trial of a case like that before,” Karpf said. “We’re trying them in a pretty timely fashion, and that is important.”

The Cobb County Board of Commissioners has asked the General Assembly for raises for themselves and about 20 other local officials, but State Sen. Judson Hill (R-Cobb) thinks the legislature shouldn’t be setting local salaries, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

In Cobb County, about 20 positions have salaries controlled by the Statehouse, including judges, the Board of Commissioners and various staffers. On Thursday, the Board of Commissioners approved sending a resolution to the Legislature stating the county has budgeted for these positions to receive a merit-based raise of up to 3 percent in the coming year should the Statehouse decide to adjust those salaries.

“That item was a message to the legislators that there’s money set aside for the other elected officials that may desire to go after a raise that has to be administered through local legislation,” said Cobb Chairman Tim Lee.

State Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb), chairman of the Cobb Legislative Delegation and the Senate Finance Committee, said it would be “wise” for Cobb’s delegation to review the process in the coming session.

“Many (members) of the Cobb County Delegation believe that it’s not our role to be approving or denying salary increases for a select group of county employees,” Hill said. “However, under old local legislation dating back 20-plus years ago, the Cobb County Delegation was required to do so, unlike, perhaps, every other county in the whole state.”

Hill said he doesn’t think the legislators should be the ones to make the decision for offices other than those required by the Georgia Constitution, such as the county’s sheriff or Superior Court judges.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the role of our delegation unique to Cobb County. If the Cobb County Commissioners want to provide pay raises for their employees, then I believe that they and those who supervise them are best suited to assess that, not somebody who’s distanced from the day-to-day operations of their agencies.”

Former State Sen. Hardie Davis was elected Mayor of Augusta in May, but takes office next month, meaning his predecessor has had a seven-month lame duck status.

“Having early elections, then not taking office until the following year complicated the issue of having individuals sitting in office knowing that they would not return,” Davis said. “I think the term is lame-duck status.”

Davis, who is completing his second full term in the state Sen­ate, said he expects the Gene­ral Assembly to tackle the issue by making start dates for the newly elected earlier after it convenes Jan. 12.

By then, Augusta will have inaugurated its first black mayor since the city and Richmond Coun­ty consolidated in 1996. (Ed McIntyre was elected mayor in 1981 before consolidation.)

Davis also has mostly avoided the local spotlight since the election and instead worked to assemble a transition team and committees to prepare for his term.

“We’re targeting a February timeframe to have all that work done and an associated report done toward the end of February,” he said.

His limited involvement in city government since winning the election has been stymied by the Augusta Commission, which declined to include his requests to fund additional staff and expanded office space on the remodeled Municipal Building’s second floor.

Davis said he hoped for further conversation with the commission about making “Augusta the best place it can be” in the new year.

Warner Robins municipal offices will be shuffled around as Mayor Toms decides how to use two buildings the city bought across the street from City Hall.

Bibb County offices are also moving, as the Macon-Bibb consolidation takes effect.

Georgia Charter Schools Association will begin a Charter School “incubator” to help prepare school administrators.

The charter school incubator, New Schools for Georgia, is designed to particularly assist charters in their infancy, often their most challenging time, by helping them establish effective governing boards, boost financial sustainability and develop clear missions.

“It’s (incubator) going to significantly help with the quality of our charter schools, which is good for kids,” said Lou Erste, associate superintendent for policy and charter schools at the Georgia Department of Education. “We need higher quality (charter school) applications if we want to have higher quality schools.”

Georgia has 115 charter schools, close to 4 percent of the schools in the state; five years ago, the number was 110. Charter advocates and state education officials say the number of charter schools should be higher.

“I’ve seen a number of charter schools that have opened and run for a few years and then just basically faltered because they were unable to focus on their mission and vision,” said Allen Mueller, executive director of the new incubator, who previously was director of innovation for Atlanta Public Schools where he helped authorize the creation of charter schools in the district. “They were unable to … focus on serving kids because they were too busy trying to figure out how to deal with facilities or how to run a board meeting or how to deal with open records requests or how to hire good staff.”

The AJC profiles “Travelin’” Joe Gerrard, the Brigadier General who will take over command of the Georgia National Guard.

 

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 18, 2014

The British ship Mayflower landed at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts on December 18, 1620.

MayflowerHarbor

Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley who founded Methodism, and one of the great hymn-writers, was born on December 18, 1707. Wesley accompanied James Oglethorpe to Georgia in 1736.

The first national day of thanksgiving was observed on December 18, 1777 commemorating the American victory over the British at Saratoga the previous month.

Congress wrote, “It is therefore recommended to the Legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES, to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for solemn THANKSGIVING and PRAISE; That at one Time and with one Voice the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor”.

On December 18, 1834, Governor William Lumpkin signed legislation chartering the Georgia Methodists Conference Manual Labor School at Oxford, Georgia, which would later become Emory College in 1836 and Emory University in 1915.

On December 18, 1865, U.S. Secretary of State William Seward issued a statement verifying the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed slavery in the United States.

The office of Superintendent of Public Education and Georgia Schools was created on December 18, 1866 when Gov. Charles Jenkins signed legislation passed by the General Assembly; on December 18, 1894, Gov. William Atkinson approved a resolution for a Constitutional Amendment to make the State School Commissioner elected statewide.

Georgia Politics

Governor Nathan Deal has appointed Dean C. Bucci to Paulding County Superior Court.

Congressman Phil Gingrey, who is being retired after an unsuccessful run for the United States Senate, is donating his official papers to Kennesaw State University.

Gingrey served as Georgia’s state senator from 1999 to 2003 and was a three-time chairman of the Marietta School Board prior to becoming senator. He was elected representative of Georgia’s 11th District in 2002 and continues to serve in that position since he took office in 2003.

Gingrey’s donated records include thousands of documents covering his positions on various national issues and will be open to public research in KSU’s Department of Museums, Archives and Rare Books.

“Kennesaw State is honored to be the recipient of Rep. Gingrey’s official papers, and we take great pride in knowing that we have been entrusted with this important part of our state’s and the nation’s historical record,” [University President Daniel] Papp said in a press release.

(more…)

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 17, 2014

France formally recognized the United States as an independent nation on December 17, 1777.

General Ulysses S. Grant expelled all Jews from his military district, which covered parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky on December 17, 1862. President Lincoln ordered Grant to rescind the order.

President William McKinley visited Savannah, Georgia on December 17, 1898. While there, McKinley attended church at Wesley Monumental Methodist Church and visited Georgia Agricultural and Medical College (now Savannah State University) and the Seventh Army.

On December 17, 1902, legislation changed Georgia’s state flag changed to include the coat of arms on the blue band.

Flag_of_the_State_of_Georgia_(1902-1906).svg copy

On December 17, 1944, Major General Henry C. Pratt ordered the end of the imprisonment of American citizens of Japanese descent in prison camps.

WTBS began broadcasting under new call letters on December 17, 1976 and uplinked its programming to satellite to become “America’s Super Station.”

National Politics

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced yesterday that he is considering running for President. From his statement:

As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.

In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.

In the coming months, I hope to visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul went up almost immediately with Google ads that display when you search for “Jeb Bush.”

Hours after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced he would “actively explore” a run for the White House, the political action committee for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who appears certain to announce a bid for the Oval Office in the coming months, took out a Google search ad on his name, with a not-so-subtle dig at the more moderate Republican.

“Join a movement working to shrink government. Not grow it,” the ad states, with a link to RandPAC, Paul’s longstanding federal leadership committee, and a page asking supporters to give their email address and zip code to “Stand With Rand.” Bush announced Tuesday he would form a similar leadership committee in January. His Facebook announcement didn’t include any attempts to gather data on potential donors or supporters.

Paul’s PAC recently hired on Texas digital strategist Vincent Harris and his firm, Harris Media, in preparation for a 2016 run. Harris had also done work for another likely 2016 contender, Sen. Ted Cruz.

Later Tuesday, RandPAC added a second ad to its digital buy, implicitly attacking Bush’s strong defense of the Common Core education standards. “We need leaders who will stand against common core,” the search ad stated….

Last night, Paul said the former Governor’s support for Common Core would cause trouble in the GOP Primary.

“I think most conservative Republicans think that education should be more at the local and state level. So yeah, I think it will be a big problem,” Paul told The Washington Post in a brief interview in the Capitol.

The Orlando Sentinel has an editorial about Bush that says more about the writer’s view of Republicans than about Jeb.

Jeb Bush is a union-busting, school-voucher-promoting, tax-cutting, gun-loving, Terri Schiavo-interfering, hard-core conservative.

What makes Bush different from a lot of the other candidates is that he’s also sane.

And somehow, in our increasingly extreme society, sane is now mistaken for moderate.

Especially when it comes to Republican presidential campaigns.

If you’ll recall, the 2012 GOP primary was like the Island of Misfit pols. Everyone ran way right and became the front runner for about 15 minutes … until people actually heard them speak.

An ABC News poll released yesterday shows Jeb Bush in first place in a Republican Primary field without Mitt Romney.

Fourteen percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are registered to vote support Bush for the GOP presidential nomination. In a matchup assuming that Mitt Romney doesn’t run, that puts Bush numerically first, but not by a meaningful margin. Paul Ryan has 11 percent support, Rand Paul 10 percent, and six others have 7 or 8 percent apiece.

Having 14 percent support means that 86 percent of leaned Republicans aren’t Bush backers. Still, he has major name recognition, and some advantages in his support profile.

Chief is the fact that he does better among mainline Republicans, who are most apt to participate in primaries. Bush has 19 percent support in this group (compared to Ryan’s 14 percent). Among GOP-leaning independents, by contrast, Bush’s support declines to 9 percent. Paul has 15 percent among those independents; Christie, 10 percent.

Bush may have challenges in the strongly conservative wing of the party; his support ranges from 18 to 15 to 12 percent among moderate, somewhat conservative and very conservative leaned Republicans, respectively. On either side of him among very conservatives are Ted Cruz, with 14 percent support, and Scott Walker, with 10 percent.

If Romney were to run again, the poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that Bush would slip to the next tier: When included in the mix, Romney has 21 percent support, vs. 10 percent for Bush, 9 percent for Paul and 8 percent for Ryan.

NewJersey.com suggests that Bush’s early announcement will affect Garden State Governor Chris Christie’s potential bid.

Christie, who’s mulling a 2016 presidential bid, could lose a portion of his expected donor base and faces a tougher challenge putting together a seasoned team if Bush also pursues the Republican Party’s nomination. Not to mention, they say, Bush would cut into Christie’s moderate Republican base.

“I don’t think Christie doesn’t run,” said Ed Rollins, a Republican consultant who led Ronald Reagan’s successful 1984 campaign. “I just don’t think he’s going to get all that Bush money.”

A segment of the same donors expected to line up behind Bush would likely otherwise find themselves in Christie’s camp, said Rollins, arguing Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — another possible GOP presidential hopeful – stand to be harmed the most by a Bush candidacy.

“The Bush family organization is still a national organization and he can probably put a campaign together quicker than anybody,” he said. “Christie doesn’t inherit anything and he has to prove that he’s a viable candidate.”

“It’s a big deal,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of political history at Princeton University. “This is the one person who probably worries (Christie) the most.”

Speaking of polls, Mark Blumenthal of Huffington Pollster offers some advice on reading the tea leaves polls of 2016 matchups.

These early readings require many disclaimers: Sample sizes are typically small, with roughly 400 interviews for each party, and the polls often include those who either identify or “lean” to a party rather than trying to nail down the likely primary and caucus electorate. Initial support is also tenuous, reflecting little more than a reaction to the most familiar names listed.

Jonathan Bernstein writes in Bloomberg View that we should “Ignore those [2016] Polls.”

You know my answer: Ignore those polls!

OK … mostly ignore the polls. They are worth paying attention to only to the extent that party actors care about them.

But by themselves early polling numbers are almost useless. Voters aren’t engaged this early. The surveys are measuring only name recognition and, to a lesser extent, vague impressions of the candidates who are well known.

I would also argue that a spate of news stories like the Jeb Bush stories yesterday and today can bounce the numbers simply by reminding folks that a particular candidate exists and juicing name recognition in the short term.

It appears that the CRomnibus bill may have also helped the cause of medical cannabis, via a prohibition on federal interference with state marijuana laws, according to Huffington Post,

Over the weekend Congress passed the “cromnibus,” an end of year federal spending bill designed to fund most of the government through 2015. The bill contains the bipartisan Rohrabacher-Farr medical marijuana amendment prohibiting the Justice Department from spending any money to undermine state medical marijuana laws.

For the first time, Congress is cutting off funding to federal medical marijuana raids and saying no one should be arrested for complying with their state’s medical marijuana law.

Georgia Politics

“Certificate of need.” Remember that term, as it will be a hotly-contested but sometimes under the radar fight at the 2015 Session of the Georgia legislature. From Walter Jones at Morris News,

A lawyer for physicians and the companies argued that a 1979 state law reducing competition between health care providers is outdated and results in monopolies that keep prices artificially high.

“The problem is that if we force all the business to go to that one provider, all of us are paying more money,” said Victor L. Moldovan of McGuireWoods.

Hospital executives say they depend on the law that requires a state certificate of need before any health facility can open. Removing it would jeopardize an estimated 19 rural hospitals that are on the verge of closing, such as Putnam General Hospital in Eatonton.

“You take all the requirements off of hospitals to be open 24/7 and never being able to turn away a patient like these treatment centers enjoy, then our costs will go down,” said Gregory Hearn, the CEO of Ty Cobb Health­care System in Royston.

“Health care is changing, and hospitals are going to have to change, and physicians are going to have to change,” said Rep. Sharon Cooper, the chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Committee.

An op-ed by an Orthopedic Surgeon in the Augusta Chronicle discusses the issue in the context of the local community’s healthcare needs.

The Certificate of Need (CON) movementwas started because of a federal mandate in the Health Planning Resources Development Act of 1974. All 50 states were required to have mechanisms in place to review (and if necessary, restrict) hospital capital expenditures for buildings and equipment. The federal mandate was repealed in 1987, and 14 states have dropped their CON programs.

Georgia’s program continues, but not without controversy.

The CON programs were designed in an era of fee-to-service, in which hospitals were on a mission to increase their services with the promise of ever-more profits. The world of medicine changed in the 1980s and payments became prospective in nature with diagnosis-related groups and managed care contracts. Hospitals have been forced to run more like businesses, and the need of protective government regulations of investments and growth have become less relevant.

Virtually everyone agrees that the CON system in Georgia (and everywhere else) is cumbersome, expensive and often unfair. The debate centers around eliminating it or improving it. To date, efforts to reform the system have been ineffectual.

Kyle Wingfield of the AJC puts a libertarian spin on the issue,

It’s yet another way in which there is nothing like a free market, or even market-oriented approach, to health care in Georgia. One presentation to legislators Tuesday described Georgia’s CON law as the fifth-most restrictive in the nation. The incumbents in the hospital industry will fight many changes, but there were some indications of openness to some changes from some industry representatives Tuesday.

Senator-elect David Perdue spoke to The Federalist Society and discussed his view of the balance of powers in our three branches of government.

Perdue focused on themes of debt and spending reduction but also addressed his upcoming role as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The senator-elect said he anticipated at least one U.S. Supreme Court vacancy would arise during his upcoming six-year term.

“I’m not a lawyer, but I hope to bring to that committee just a common-sense approach,” said Perdue, who has spent his career in business and was CEO of Dollar General.

Noting several judges were in the room, Perdue continued, “I believe you go back to the Constitution, and you uphold what our founders had in mind to begin with, not what somebody in 1912 thought it meant or what some judge felt in 1998, but what did the founders really believe. I personally take a very hard stance about an activist judge. I’m sorry, but they shouldn’t create law.”

He added that the president shouldn’t, either, saying “that’s what happening right now with executive orders and regulatory mandate.”

In case you missed it, state officials continue to say that transportation funding will be an important issue this year.

Transportation will be a focal point for the upcoming legislative session, state officials said at meetings in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody on Dec. 15.

“Only 5 percent of our budget goes toward transportation and that’s just not enough in this metropolis that was basically created on the backs of transportation,” Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), whose district includes a portion of Sandy Springs, told members of the Rotary Club of Sandy Springs during its legislative roundtable.

Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) said that more money is needed to spend on transportation. “Finding the way to do that is going to be the $64,000 question,” he said.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 16, 2014

On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty, led by Patriot Sam Adams, boarded three British ships in Boston harbor and threw tea worth $700,000 to $1 million in today’s money into the water in what came to be known as the Boston Tea Party.

Boston Tea Party

Governor George Towns signed legislation on December 16, 1847 to build a State School for the Deaf and Dumb. The institution now known as the Georgia School for the Deaf was begun with a log cabin, $5000 from the legislature and four students and is still in operation in Cave Spring, Georgia.

On December 16, 1897, Gov. William Atkinson signed legislation recognizing June 3, the birthday of Jefferson Davis, as a state holiday.

On December 16, 1944, a German counterattack in the Ardennes region of Belgium created a “bulge” in Allied lines with particularly difficult fighting near the town of Bastogne. During the Battle of the Bulge, 89,000 Americans were wounded and 19,000 killed in the bloodiest battle fought by the U.S. in World War II. National Geographic has an interesting article published for the 70th Anniversary of the Battle.

President Jimmy Carter announced on December 16, 1976, that he would name Andrew Young, then serving as Congressman from Georgia’s Fifth District, as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

The last few days we’ve been reading and hearing a lot about the recovery of a time capsule placed in the Massachusetts Capitol in 1795 by then-Governor Sam Adams, Paul Revere, and William Scollay.

The box, which was discovered during building maintenance, is expected to be completely unearthed by Thursday afternoon.

But this isn’t the first time the capsule has surfaced. The Boston Globe reported that the box was discovered amidst emergency repairs to the building in 1855, and was returned to its spot following the construction, remaining unopened.

The new capsule will be taken to the Museum of Fine Arts by conservators, who will X-ray it before it is opened next week. The condition of its contents is currently unknown.

Earlier this year, another time capsule from 1901 was discovered inside the wooden lion statue on the Massachusetts Capitol.

A hundred and thirteen years ago citizens of the city of Boston put together a time capsule. The governor was involved, the mayor was involved, the local paper. They loaded it up with letters, news articles and photographs, it was a big deal. They hid it in a copper box and hid the box in the statue of a lion on top of the old Massachusetts state house. Then it was forgotten. Fast forward a century and no one knew the time capsule was still there. Until a descendent of the copper smith who sealed it up found a letter mentioning it. It turned out a Boston Globe story from 1901 detailed its contents, noting they should, quote, “prove interesting when the box is opened many years hence.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Qualifying closed last week for the January 6, 2015 Special Election in House District 120 in Greene, Oglethorpe, Putnam, Taliaferro, and Wilkes Counties:

Debbie Bartlett
Party: Republican
Age: 63
Occupation: CEO of Georgia Nurses Association
Qualified Date: 12/09/2014

Jesse Copelan
Email: [email protected]
Party: Republican
Age: 73
Occupation: Senior State Court Judge
Qualified Date: 12/08/2014
Website: www.copelanforstatehouse.com

Gary Gerrard
Email: [email protected]
Party: Republican
Age: 62
Occupation: Attorney
Qualified Date: 12/08/2014
Website: www.gerrardforstatehouse.com

Jesse Johnson
Email: [email protected]
Party: Republican
Age: 37
Occupation: Realtor/Forester
Qualified Date: 12/08/2014
Website: www.friendsofjessejohnson.com

Trey Rhodes
Party: Republican
Age: 39
Occupation: Financial Advisor
Qualified Date: 12/08/2014

Maria Saporta writes that the Chamber of Commerce will again oppose the Religious Freedom Act expected to be introduced by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) and Same Teasley (R-Marietta).

Richard Anderson, the outgoing chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the CEO of Delta Air Lines, removed any doubts during his comments at the organization’s annual meeting on Dec. 2.

“If that means we need to stand up to a legislature that wants to treat gays and lesbians in a different way, we have to stand up to that,” Anderson said.

Specifically Anderson was referring to bills introduced last session by state Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) and state Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The bills, which died in committee, would have allowed companies to discriminate against gays and lesbians based on religious freedom.

When the Arizona legislature passed a similar bill, several major conventions and sporting events — such as the Super Bowl — threatened to cancel. The governor of Arizona ended up vetoing the legislation.

The issue apparently is not dead in Georgia. Sen. McKoon has said he plans to reintroduce his proposal during the 2015 session which convenes in January.

Major companies, such as Delta, AT&T, Home Depot, UPS and The Coca-Cola Co. as well as key business and civic organizations, including the Metro Atlanta Chamber, fought hard to kill the legislation last year.

“We will still be opposed,” Anderson said of Delta. “The Chamber will be too.”

Gary Wisenbaker writes for Valdosta Today that the Chamber misinterprents the RFRA.

A previous version was opposed by some business interests as well as the Georgia Municipal Association because they felt it would legalize discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and deny them access to needed services.

A plain reading of the legislation, however, says otherwise.

McKoon’s bill simply restricts the right of any governmental entity to “substantially burden a person’s civil right to exercise of religion” unless it can show that the burden is necessary to further a “compelling governmental interest”. Uprooting discrimination on the basis of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, what have you, is a well-established “compelling governmental interest”. Further, the burden must be the least restrictive means of alternative means to protect that interest.

Under this law, the government is barred from passing a law or imposing a regulation that interferes with one’s religious beliefs unless that law or regulation can pass a “strict scrutiny” test. It addresses government power and the free exercise of religion; it is not a law promoting or protecting acts of private discrimination.

Some critics take the position that it would hinder business and corporate recruitment in Georgia. Tell that to Texas, a state with a similar law on the books which continues to experience exponential economic growth.

Some on the left take the position that religious freedom laws and legislation set a “dangerous precedent”. They can be used to discriminate against the LGBT community, prevent women from accessing birth control, and prevent people from escaping domestic violence, according to Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham.

They also take the position that the Constitution does much the same thing, hence the need for “hate crime” and “hate speech” legislation as well as ordinances extending the rights of identified groups. And the left, in deference to their proclivity for “identity politics” will use state action to advance not only their agenda but silence any opposition.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Baptist Convention is coming out with a petition in support of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who was suspended for 30 days by Mayor Kasim Reed.

n response to the recent 30-day suspension of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran by Mayor Kasim Reed, the GBC’s Public Affairs Committee is initiating this petition. The committee has issued its own statement defending the Fire Chief and is calling on Reed to:

Acknowledge Chief Cochran’s First Amendment Rights.
Make a public apology for the suspension and grief it has caused the Chief and his family.
Restore Chief Cochran’s pay and reputation as an honorable Fire Chief.

GBC is requesting Christians and people of faith across Georgia to sign the related petition calling upon Mayor Reed to reverse his decision as outlined in the three areas listed above.

The text of the petition reads:

Mayor Kasim Reed,

The following signatures are of Georgia Baptists and others across the state of Georgia who are deeply troubled by your decision to suspend Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran and your complete disregard for his First Amendment rights. In your statement, you speak of making Atlanta “a more welcoming city for all of her citizens-regardless of their…religious beliefs.” It is unfortunate that you did not extend that regard to your Fire Chief who has an impeccable reputation in Atlanta and across the nation.

Senate Committee Assignments

In January, David Perdue will begin his Senate service with seats on the following committees:

Agriculture
Budget
Foreign Relations
Judiciary
Special Committee on Aging

Perdue hailed the Ag Committee assignment in a press release:

“Georgia has a long tradition of representation on the Senate Agriculture Committee. I am humbled and honored to serve in this capacity. Agriculture is a strategic industry, not only for Georgia but for our nation, and I will work to keep it growing. I want to help Georgia’s farmers continue to produce and sell Georgia grown products and ensure that we remain an agricultural leader in the future.”

Senator Johnny Isakson will chair not one, but two Committees:

Veterans Affairs, Chair
Ethics, Chair
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Finance
Foreign Relations

State Rep. Scot Turner (R-Cherokee) has introduced either the most-cynically named or the most Ameriawesomely-named bill, The American Heritage Celebration Act (HB 15), which would allow a greater variety of fireworks to be sold in Georgia, basically legalizing the sale of any fireworks allowed under federal law.

Turner has also pre-filed HB 14, the Fiscal Accountability Act, which would require legislative action for any local authority or government wishing to accept federal funds.

Three people showed up to speak to the Cherokee Legislative Delegation – any time you’re outnumbered by legislators, you should start looking for the nearest door or window.

The meeting, which was initially set to take place Wednesday after Delegation Day but was rescheduled for Friday night, gave residents a chance to speak directly to the Cherokee County Delegation.

Four of the eight members of the delegation attended the meeting at the Town Lake Hills Clubhouse in Woodstock: Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Macedonia), Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), Rep. Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock) and Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs).

West Georgia Technical College met with their legislators to discuss the College’s priorities during the coming Session.

State senators Mike Dugan and Josh McKoon, State representatives Kimberly Alexander, Randy Nix, Matt Ramsey, Lynn Smith and State Representative-elect Bob Trammell Jr. heard presentations from WGTC President Steve Daniel and local industry guests who supported the College’s initiatives.

Also in attendance were liaisons from Sen. Saxby Chambliss’s office, Sen. Johnny Isakson’s office and Rep. Lynn Westmoreland’s office, and officials from the Technical College System of Georgia, including Assistant Commissioner Laura Gammage.

WGTC President Steve Daniel explained the College’s $8.4 million portion of a $72 million total request from the Technical College System of Georgia. The TCSG request would renovate labs in the highest demand instructional programs across the state. Many of these programs are included in the Gov. Nathan Deal’s Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant and are listed as areas of greatest need by Georgia employers.

The TCSG is proposing the request for inclusion in Governor Deal’s Fiscal 2016 budget, which lawmakers will consider during next year’s legislative session.

WGTC’s request includes over $1.7 million to renovate labs in transportation and logistics, over $2.6 million for labs in health sciences and over $3.2 million for labs in trades, industrial and manufacturing programs.

Hall County’s legislative delegation heard local concerns:

“The concern I have in what I heard in testimony is there’s still a lot of concern out there on the Common Core standard,” said state Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville. “… I think the teachers are comfortable with it. Are they all comfortable with it? I can’t answer that.”

The debate has continued to swirl regarding the teaching standards employed by Georgia and 44 other states.

“It could be a continued spin down for public education, and you will see a boost in homeschooling and possibly a boost in private schools,” Rogers said.

Another topic Rogers has heard about was recent assessments on more than 6,000 properties resulting in higher tax bills.

“Whether we need to revisit that or not, I don’t know yet,” Rogers said.

When meeting with Hall County commissioners, Rogers and the delegation was asked to make the “hard decisions” regarding possible state tax increases, with Rogers rebutting about raising the millage rate for county property owners.

With SPLOST VII and other tax options floating locally, Rogers said there will probably be some tax legislation on the horizon under the Gold Dome.

The Augusta-Richmond County legislative delegation met with the public and with judges,

One of the big topics was Sentinel Offender Services. Delegates spent about an hour talking about the private probation company, which has been under fire in recent months. The Georgia State Supreme Court recently ruled that a law allowing private probation companies to partner with courts is legal.

“We will be looking at a new bill, I understand on the tolling portion of the sentinel, I am not certain what that will be, I have not seen it, but we will take a deep look at that,” said Representative Barbara Sims.

Within the budget, transportation is at the top of the list.

Richmond County voters approved the transportation sales tax last year, but it’s not the same story for other counties in Georgia.

“We are continuing to have roads constructed and maintenance, but I understand that in January and February of this coming up year, there will be no projects let in the State of Georgia, now we are an exception that fortunately for us,” said Sims.

“We know that medicinal marijuana is going to be coming back up, that fits into GRU because we know the Governor wants GRU to be a part of that process so that’s going to be important, that goes to economic development,” said [Senator-elect Harold] Jones.

State Court Judge Richard Slaby discussed the issue of “tolling” probation sentences.

The Georgia Supreme Court last month determined that although privatized probation wasn’t illegal, tolling sentences for misdemeanor and city ordinance violations was.

Slaby, who recently represented the State Court in its effort to have Sentinel’s contract renewed by the Augusta Commission, said the proposed bill would restore the ability to toll sentences and enforce probation terms.

“The new bill would give us all those same abilities that we had prior to the department of corrections forgoing supervision,” Slaby said to a panel that included Democratic state Reps. Wayne Howard, Brian Prince and Gloria Frazier; Democratic Sen. Harold Jones and Republican Rep. Barbara Sims.

Jim Wilbanks has been sworn in as a Superior Court Judge for the Conasauga Judicial Circuit , which comprises Murray and Whitfield Counties.

Wilbanks won the seat this past summer, beating out sitting judge David Blevins in a runoff in July. Willbanks won with 60 percent of the vote after none of the three candidates for the spot — Scott Helton was third — claimed more than 50 percent in the general election in May.

The Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce will hold a Campaign Academy 101 on February 4, 2015.

GAC Chairman Bruce Allred said he believes the program takes a significant step toward creating even more productive relationships with legislators. “Pro-business policy is crucial for our community, and we want to ensure that our business leaders have the very best chance possible for being elected into positions which will influence legislation affecting our area,” he said in a news release.

Allred acknowledged the importance of state and federal representation familiar with South Georgia. “With most of the voting population being located above Macon, we are working to make sure that the voices of our community are still heard by preparing local leaders for positions of even greater influence.”

The Savannah Morning News reports that Right Whales have been sighted off the Georgia coast, as they return to warm waters to give birth.

Flying 16 miles east of Cumberland Island on Saturday, researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spotted not only the first whale but also the first calf.

The mother whale has no nickname, unlike many right whales. She’s just number 2145, identified by the unique pattern of white markings on her head. Researchers do know, though, the 24-year-old female is an experienced mama, having given birth at least four times before.

Her calf joins a population estimated at about 450 individuals, making North Atlantic right whales among the most highly endangered of the large whales. Right whales were hunted to near extinction by the early 1900s because their slow-moving, shore-hugging habits and tendency to float when dead made them the “right” whale to kill.

Congratulations to Sydney Goad, a senior at Newnan High School, who set two new national records in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting at the American Open Weightlifting Championships in Washington DC.

The Newnan High senior established two new national marks for the 17-under division, winning the event with records of 64 kilograms in the snatch (141 pounds) and for overall total after adding a clean-and-jerk of 82 kg (180.77 pounds) while competing in the 48kg division.

It also may have given Goad even more initiative to think of a potential run toward the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, where she could join both her mom Robin (top-five finisher at the 2000 Games in Sydney) and father Dean (a top placer at the Pan-Am Games) as an international standout in the sport.

Just as impressive, she’s a top student at Newnan High, according to school principal Chase Puckett, while also handling five-day weekly training schedule in addition to competing at the highest level with the GymCats varsity gymnastics team. Goad qualified for last year’s All-Around at the GHSA Championships while reaching the state meet in her first three years of varsity competition.

Weightlifting, however, could be the sport where Goad may have the brightest future after having been named the nation’s best female lifter in the 16-17 year-old age group.

Her success in the sport has made her a contender for the 2016 Summer Games.

For those of you who don’t follow Olympic Weightlifting, which would be pretty much everyone, Georgia is a hotbed of strong women Olympic Weightlifters with Coffee’s Gym in Marietta and 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Cheryl Haworth from Savannah.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 15, 2014

On December 15, 1791, Virginia ratified the Bill of Rights, giving the first ten Amendments a three-quarter majority required to become law.

President George Washington died at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799. Here’s an article about the nation’s mourning for our first President.

The Congress, in session at the capital of Philadelphia when Washington’s death was announced, immediately adjourned. The House of Representatives assembled the next day and resolved to shroud the Speaker’s chair in black and have members wear black during the remainder of the session. On December 23, John Marshall speaking for the joint committee of both houses, presented five points that became the foundation for the United States’ first “state” funeral. Resolutions structured mourning events around public commemorations that fostered unity and a sense of national identity among grieving Americans.

On December 15, 1859, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown signed legislation outlawing public execution of criminals. The previous day he signed legislation prohibiting slave owners from freeing their slaves on the owner’s death.

President William McKinley addressed the Georgia General Assembly on December 14, 1898.

McKinley_at_Atlanta2 McKinley Atlanta SM

On December 14, 1939, a parade was held through downtown Atlanta with stars from Gone With the Wind and the Junior League held a ball that night. The next day, December 15, 1939, Gone With the Wind held its world premiere at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta.

President Jimmy Carter announced on December 15, 1978 that U.S. diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China would begin on January 1, 1979.

The United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee released a report on Dcember 15, 1998 that recommended impeachment against President Bill Clinton and introduced H.Res. 611.

Georgia Politics

The Macon-Bibb County Commission is like a spurned suitor, unable to understand that no means no, voting to ask the legislative delegation to reduce required budget cuts from 20 percent to 10.

The resolution asks the Macon-Bibb legislative delegation to reduce the budget cut mandated in the consolidation charter from 20 percent to 10 percent. It passed with no opposition. Commissioner Virgil Watkins was absent.

But Tuesday morning commissioners received a letter from state Rep. Bubber Epps, a Dry Branch Republican who is chairman of the Macon-Bibb delegation, saying the delegation won’t act on the request because commissioners can get around the budget cut themselves with a 6-3 vote.

Epps quoted the city-county charter, which says commissioners can exceed the budget limit by up to 25 percent if there are public safety needs or “extreme economic circumstances.”

(more…)

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 12, 2014

Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the Constitution on December 12, 1787.

Guglielmo Marconi completed the first transatlantic radio transmission from Cornwall, England to Newfoundland on December 12, 1901.

Jimmy Carter announced he would run for President of the United States on December 12, 1974.

Dickey Betts, guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, was born on December 12, 1943.

The United States Supreme Court released its decision in Bush v. Gore on December 12, 2000, stopping manual recounts of contested ballots in Florida.

A new historical marker commemorating the end of Sherman’s March to the Sea was unveiled yesterday at Madison Square in Savannah.

The marker was the second erected by the Georgia Historical Society to observe the 150th anniversary of Sherman’s march through Georgia.

The first one was unveiled in Atlanta on Nov. 12 in a small ceremony on the grounds of the Carter Presidential Library, a quiet, tree-studded sanctuary that was the site of Sherman’s departure from Atlanta along a nearby road.

Georgia Politics

Congratulations to Derrick Dickey, who has been named Chief of Staff (Leo McGarry) to Senator-elect David Perdue and will split his time between Atlanta and Washington, DC. Megan Whittemore, who joined the Perdue campaign in August, will serve as the Senator’s Communications Director (Toby Ziegler).

Congressman Phil Gingrey was dinged by the House Ethics Committee. (more…)