The blog.

1
Apr

Deal: Bill paves the road ahead

Gov. Nathan Deal said today that the landmark transportation bill passed last night will give Georgia dedicated resources to maintain the state’s roads and bridges.

 

“Georgia’s legislators demonstrated leadership, foresight and courage last night as they took the tough but much needed steps to pay for our ever-growing transportation needs,” Deal said. “We faced obligations that could no longer be ignored, and current resources were simply not enough to preserve the infrastructure we need to get to work, to safely take children to school on buses and to keep the lifeblood of our economy pumping.

 

“Our state budget is able to meet our top priorities because we have a laser focus on creating and keeping good jobs in Georgia. Transportation is a huge point of concern for businesses that we court to Georgia, and addressing those needs is one of many tough tasks we must perform to rev up our jobs engine. In addition, this is simply a safety and quality-of-life issue for Georgians, who rightly want less time stuck in traffic and more time at home with their families.

 

“Unlike health care and education, there aren’t entitlement mandates that transportation spending keep up with the population growth in our state. The gasoline tax has long paid for our roads; it’s the most fair fee that you can create because those who use the roads are the ones who pay for them. But our gas tax has stayed the same since the early 1970s. Over that period of time, with inflation and the significant increase in fuel efficiency, drivers are paying significantly less per mile traveled. We not only lacked the resources for new transportation projects, but had also reached the point where we couldn’t afford to maintain the roads and bridges we already have.

 

“The benefits of these new projects will appear in full view. Georgians will soon see the road crews and the orange cones and smell the hot asphalt as it’s poured. That’s the short term. In the long term, they’ll drive on better roads and bridges, giving us not only a better ride but also peace of mind.

 

“I look forward to signing this legislation into law and seeing the Department of Transportation provide an excellent service to the people of this state.”

1
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 1, 2015

GaPundit Pro App Store 2015

In perhaps the most fitting historical tidbit ever, the United States House of Representatives first met on April 1, 1789 in New York City. Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania was elected the first Speaker of the House. Georgia’s first Members of Congress were James Jackson, Abraham Baldwin, and George Mathews.

On April 1, 1870, Robert E. Lee, President of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, arrived in Savannah, Georgia. Lee’s career in the United States Army began with his first assignment at Cockspur Island near Savannah. While in Savannah for the 1870 trip, Lee was photographed with former General Joseph E. Johnston, who was in the insurance business there.

Happy Birthday to Phil Niekro, who turns 76 today. Niekro pitched for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves for twenty years, earning five trips to the All-Star Game, five gold gloves, led the league in wins twice, and came in second in balloting for the Cy Young award in 1969. In 1997, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Ron Daniels has written up his thoughts on similarities between the fight today over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, and the 2001 fight over the Georgia state flag.

Then came along Roy. Governor Barnes, with the support of business interests, used every bit of political power he had and pushed a new flag design through the legislature in January 2001. The result was a cluttered design and very upset constituents.

Like the flag, RFRA seems to be drawing certain lines in the sand. Big business is afraid that it’s passage will drive businesses, jobs, and even science fiction conventions away from the Peach State. Progressives believe it will completely legalize discrimination and infringe on people’s right and liberties.

On the other side of the issue, RFRA’s supporters claim their intent is to preserve religious liberty and protect individual’s rights. Commentators are accusing Republicans of stabbing conservatives in the back. Religious leaders are upset and taking aim at anyone in their path.

RFRA is the first truly divisive issue to come through the legislature since my generation could vote. Will RFRA have the lasting impact that changing the flag had?

Governor Deal “My thinking has evolved” on medical marijuana

This is the second of what will be five clips from my interview with Governor Deal on Monday.

Sine Comatose

Sine die (sign-ee dye) is a Latin phrase used to denote the last day of a General Assembly session. As the Presiding officer of each chamber closes the year’s session, he declares that the chamber is adjourned sine die, meaning without specifying a day for the next meeting. It’s also used as a verb, as in, “we expect to sine die on Thursday around midnight.” Well, this year, Sine hasn’t died yet, but he’s not looking too good. Sine comatose is the Latin phrase used to describe how legislators, staff, reporters, lobbyists, and hangers-on feel and look today. It’s not dead, but it’s in the waiting room.

Capitol Sine Comatose Night

Transportation Tax Passed

For policy nerds, the Senate Democratic Caucus summary of the final Transportation Finance Act Conference Committee Report is as good a summary as I’ve seen.

Here are some of the highlights. Or lowlights, depending on your perspective.

•   26 cents per gallon excise tax on motor fuel
•  29 cents per gallon excise tax on diesel
•  Elimination of the Electric Vehicle Tax Credit
•  Currently, the excise tax has an escalator clause tied to the consumer price index, which sunsets in 2018 unless renewed
•  Electric vehicle tag fee of $200 per year and $300 per year for commercial
•  Extra fees for heavier trucks
•  $5 per night hotel/motel tax
•  Most counties not in a region that passed T-SPLOST would have the ability to levy a SPLOST for transportation

Not mentioned in the Senate Dems’ summary is a requirement for more transparency from the Georgia Department of Transportation. According to Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), who co-chaired last year’s Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Finance,

“We also put some accountability language in there. We’re asking the [Department of Transportation] to come over to the State House and Senate Transportation Committees every year and actually get their statewide transportation plan approved by the Transportation Committees. That’s never been done before, so there’s going to be more accountability, there’s going to be more transparency, more input from the General Assembly, not project specific, but more or less overall ‘what are you doing with the money, how are you spending it, and how do we prioritize it so that we get the biggest bang for the buck.’”

Senator Gooch said that the bill gets the state over the billion dollar goal that has been consistently mentioned as a benchmark by Gov. Deal if you add in $200 million for bonds that will be authorized.

An interesting twist in the hotel/motel tax portion of the bill is that it is required to be appropriated for transportation and the bill provides for the immediate repeal of the hotel/motel tax if the money is not dedicated for transportation. This is a way of sidestepping the general principle that an act of the General Assembly cannot bind the actions of future General Assemblies.

With that, I’m going to wrap up this abbreviated version of the morning news. I’m tired and brain-dead. We’ll have more analysis as we finish the Session, followed by a post-mortem next week.

Many folks will be disappointed by what some are saying is the largest tax increase passed by the General Assembly, but here’s my suggestion. We’ve got more than a year before elections, so there’s no rush to judge our elected legislators. I’d ask that after the session you call or email your State Representative or Senator and ask them about their vote. Or seek them out at your local county party meeting, GOP convention, Kiwanis or Rotary, and listen to what they say.

This was a hard vote for many who felt caught between a truly pressing need for repair and maintenance of roads and bridges, and their personal opposition for raising taxes. Casting difficult votes is part of the price of being in the General Assembly, and no member of either body takes that lightly.

So ask your legislators, listen to their responses, and ask yourself these questions:

1. Am I convinced that a pressing need exists for more money for transportation maintenance and repair?

2. What alternative can I come up with that’s more specific than simply saying to cut costs elsewhere?

If you decide you’re unconvinced by whatever your legislator says, by all means, criticize them, run against them, and/or support someone else for their seat. But I think we all owe it to them to hear them out.

Huckabee Waffles on Hashbrowns

Last night, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee spoke at a fundraiser in Dunwoody for Rainbow Omega, a Christian charity devoted to helping adults with developmental disabilities. DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester asked him about his interview earlier this year with GaPundit.

Huckabee said he loves the hash brown scattered smothered and covered but to stay healthy one must makes hard choices so waffles bacon and eggs stay but tomatoes replace the hashbrowns on his plate now. One sure sign of an impending campaign for higher office is the candidate going on a diet. Make of it what you will.

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Gooch HB 170 CCR 1280px

1
Apr

Adoptable Georgia Dogs for April 1, 2015

Griffon

Griffon is a 3-year old American Staffordshire Terrier mix. Griffon is a very smiley boy who loves being with humans. He can hardly contain his wiggles when you approach his kennel! This happy boy loves treats, pets, and hanging out with you. He is patiently waiting for the family he’s been dreaming about to adopt him. Come to the shelter today! His adoption fee includes his neuter, vaccinations, microchip, and more! For more information email [email protected] or visit the DeKalb County Animals Services, where he is waiting for his forever home.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a young female, about 6-9 months old, who weighs a little under 40 pounds and is saddled with the unfortunate title of Pit Bull. The Director of Walton County Animal Shelter has written a description of what it’s like bringing her into the shelter and trying to find her a home. She’s sweet and young and her story is heartbreaking. Take a look and learn about Cinnamon and what the folks who are trying to help dogs like her go through.

Cinnamon is available for adoption from Walton County Animal Shelter in Monroe, Ga, and is urgent.

Choc Choc

Chocolate’s owner was incarcerated and his sister had to bring her to the shelter. When she arrived, there were five kids, all under the age of ten, hanging on “Choc Choc” and kissing her goodbye. She was super sweet with those kids. When she got in the loud kennel, already being a timid and submissive girl, she was quite scared.  She was fine with some staff (females and those of the same ethnicity as her owner), slowly crawling toward a kind voice kneeling down in her kennel. But sometimes she was just too fearful with some of us (namely me, an ugly white guy with a baseball hat and big camera) and would try to nip when being leashed. But after over a week here, she has greatly improved. Now, she always runs to the front of her kennel with her tail gently wagging. She retreats a little bit when you enter her run, but gently comes and puts her head in your lap (even mine, the ugly white guy with the baseball hat!).  She did fine with her heartworm testing and vaccines. Unfortunately, she tested heartworm positive. But generous sponsors have already pitched in to cover that treatment!  She is a smaller sized girl, at just under 30 pounds.

Chocolate is available for adoption from Walton County Animal Shelter in Monroe, Ga, and is urgent.

 

Sable

Sable was picked up stray and her owner was notified was didn’t pick her up, and after ten days, Sable waits for a new home. An older Aussie girl, she’s sweet and calm, and has some skin problems and hair loss, but that may clear up when she’s in a home.

Sable is available for adoption from Walton County Animal Shelter in Monroe, Ga, and is urgent.

Jasper

“Jasper” is a great dog! A 1-year old, 50-pound Black Labrador Retriever mix. He is social and happy with people and is definitely your best friend. He did great interacting with a couple of other dogs in the shelter, even allowing one playful pup to romp with him and climb all over his back. He looks very healthy and tested heartworm negative. He was picked up stray 3/25/15 and no owner has come looking for him, so he is ready for a new home!

Jasper is available for adoption from Walton County Animal Shelter in Monroe, Ga, and is urgent.

1
Apr

Religious Freedom and Flags

Driving to visit my grandfather in rural Telfair County, I caught a glimpse of white midways up a power pole. Although the sign had been battered by the elements and faded by years of exposure, my mind instantly recalled the words formerly emblazoned on the sign: BOOT COLEMAN. I saw that sign a lot growing up as we traveled down the road. Yet, I only had a vague knowledge of the sign’s message and the controversy that surrounding the sign.

In 1956, in response to integration efforts, Governor Marvin Griffin signed legislation that added a Confederate battle flag to Georgia’s state flag. Casting aside any doubts as to the specific reason for this action, additional legislation passed that session sought to invalidate the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education and impeach Chief Justice Earl Warren. The 1956 flag remain unchanged for nearly half a century. Governor Miller mentioned changing the flag in 1992. But the idea never got through the legislature.

Then came along Roy. Governor Barnes, with the support of business interests, used every bit of political power he had and pushed a new flag design through the legislature in January 2001. The result was a cluttered design and very upset constituents.

I was a Freshman in high school at the time. As I recall, I was just beginning to wear contacts rather than glasses. My struggles in life were relatively minor compared to the battles brewing over the new flag. But I do recall seeing the signs that popped up all over my neck of the woods. Boot Barnes. Boot Coleman. The words were printed on white signs and bumper stickers, with the 1956 flag in the background. Barnes got the boot, Coleman didn’t. While it was only a decade ago, it seems like such a distant memory.  The ramifications of the flag debate are still being felt.

And as all of these memories flooded back into my mind, I couldn’t help but think of RFRA. I’m sure you’ve heard about RFRA by now. There is a significant likelihood that you are exhausted from RFRA dominating your newsfeed, inbox, or wherever you get your news.

Like the flag, RFRA seems to be drawing certain lines in the sand. Big business is afraid that it’s passage will drive businesses, jobs, and even science fiction conventions away from the Peach State. Progressives believe it will completely legalize discrimination and infringe on people’s right and liberties.

On the other side of the issue, RFRA’s supporters claim their intent is to preserve religious liberty and protect individual’s rights. Commentators are accusing Republicans of stabbing conservatives in the back. Religious leaders are upset and taking aim at anyone in their path.

And–from this millennia’s perspective–much like the initial flag change was pushed through the legislature, RFRA has been killed deftly. Throughout the session, legislators on both sides of the issue have faced concern from constituents on both sides of the issue. That won’t change. Some may get sent home after their term expires. That’s the nature of politics.

RFRA is the first truly divisive issue to come through the legislature since my generation could vote. Will RFRA have the lasting impact that changing the flag had? Possibly. But if anything, it does not seem that Georgia is poised to become a purple state. Two Democrats who coasted through primaries both lost statewide races handily last fall. On the other hand, some incumbent Republicans were ousted by more conservative primary challengers. Could RFRA be the start of a didactic dialectic shift in Georgia’s Republican Party? Maybe.

31
Mar

Gov. Nathan Deal “my thinking has evolved” on Medical Marijuana

31
Mar

Governor Nathan Deal on RFRA in 1993 and 2015

Continue Reading..

31
Mar

Adoptable Georgia Dogs for March 31, 2015

Roscoe

Roscoe is a young male cream-colored Labrador Retriever, about a year old, who has one ear that sticks up.

Roscoe adores people and yes he loves children! He also loves other dogs. What a sweet guy. He weighs in around 35 lbs so he is on the slim side. Roscoe loves his basket of toys and even “talks” to them. This fella will do best in a home with a securely fenced yard where he can safely run free.. He will make a wonderful pet for some lucky person or family. If you’d like to meet him, please let us know!

Roscoe is available for adoption from the Society of Humane Friends of Georgia in Lawrenceville, GA.

Bart

Bart is a young male Black Labrador Retriever mix who doesn’t shed much at all.

I love being around people and am very patient with kids. My foster family has 3 kids and I can even play with the 2 year old. I am almost completely housebroken, but I don’t have any formal training and need to learn my basic commands. I don’t pull too hard on a leash or beg at the table, and I always settle down nicely in my kennel. I love rawhides and playing ball, but mostly I just love to be loved!

Bart is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Forsyth County in Cumming, GA.

Frenchy

Frenchy is a young, 2-year old female German Shepherd Dog mix who loves to run. This sweet angel gets along great with other dogs and loves affection. She will give hugs and kisses, and enjoys playing outside with a squeaky toy or a canine companion. Frenchy is a very smart girl and will learn commands easily. She enjoys participating in Run Club here at the shelter, and snuggling with her kennel mates.Frenchy is spayed, microchipped, fully vaccinated, and heartworm negative. ELIGIBLE FOR DOG FOR THE DAY!! Frenchy is available for adoption from Fulton County Animal Services in Atlanta, Ga.

While you’re at it, check out the Fulton County Dog for the Day Program, which allows you to take a dog out to walk, play, or just hang out and snuggle. Think of it as a test drive for your new best friend.

 

 

 

 

31
Mar

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

On March 31, 1776, future First Lady Abigail Adams wrote her husband, John Adams, suggesting that a greater role for women be considered in the fight for Independence and establishment of the United States.

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

On March 31, 1889, Gustave Eiffel led a group of government officials and press to the top of the Eiffel Tower by foot. It would open to the public nine days later.

On March 31, 1976, the Georgia General Assembly adopted a joint resolution proposing a new Constitution of Georgia, which would be placed on the ballot for voter referendum on November 2, 1976.

Under the Gold Dome Today

7:30am House Insurance Committee – 506 clob
9:00am House Rules Committee – 341 cap

Senate Rules Calendar

HR 215 – Judge Ronald L. Newton Memorial Highway; Fannin County; dedicate (TRANS-51st) Ralston-7th

HB 429 – Insurance; no health benefit plan shall restrict coverage for prescribed treatment based upon insured’s diagnosis with a terminal condition; provide (Substitute) (I&L-54th) Stephens-164th

HB 192 – Local government; counties, municipal corporations, school districts, and consolidated governments be reimbursed for expenses only through submission of expense reimbursement requests; provisions (Substitute) (SLGO(G)-53rd) Powell-32ndContinue Reading..

30
Mar

Physicians Coalition against Expansion of Fireworks Laws in Georgia opposes HB 110

Physicians Coalition against Expansion of Fireworks Laws in Georgia

On behalf of the undersigned medical associations in Georgia, representing over 10,400 physicians in our state, respectfully ask you to oppose HB 110, a bill that would dramatically liberalize Georgia’s current fireworks laws. While some try to minimize the dangers of the full range of fireworks, the fact remains they pose considerable risk of injury to both children and adolescents, as well as adults.

Georgia currently has a sound, conservative fireworks law which appropriately limits the types of fireworks that can be sold in our state. This law has served to minimize the injury and harm that the more dangerous fireworks which this bill would allow, can do to our children and adult citizens.Continue Reading..

30
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