Georgia Elections: Early voting starts Monday for primary runoffs | www.ajc.com

Early voting gets underway Monday for Georgia’s July 22 primary runoff, with key congressional, state and local races still up for grabs. Here’s a reminder about how the state’s runoff system works and where you can find a place to vote. Don’t forget, winners move on to the Nov. 4 general election:

No do-overs

Because the state conducts an “open” primary, voters last month were able to pick their choice of ballots regardless of any political affiliation. Not so for the July 22 runoff. As a voter, you must stick with the party ballot you chose for the main primary May 20. (In other words, you can’t cast a Democratic ballot in the main primary and then vote in a Republican runoff.) Important: If you did not vote in the primary, you may still cast a ballot in the runoff. And you can pick the party ballot of your choice.

via Georgia Elections: Early voting starts Monday for primary runoffs | www.ajc.com.

Mayors of Atlanta and New Orleans: Uber Will Beat the Taxi Industry – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic

The car service Uber is fighting in cities all over America to end the regulatory capture enjoyed by the taxicab industry. According to the mayors of Atlanta and New Orleans, they’re going to win–but not before there’s a long, intense fight about regulations.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed put it this way:

I think they’re going to fight a 15 round fight, and I think that Uber’s going to win. And the taxicab industry is going to have to change and get more flexible.

But in the interim, they’re going to flat out fight it out, and mayors are going to be in the middle of it, because the taxicab industry is so old and staid and never had real competition, and now it’s being forced to innovate.

Uber has a real challenge. Uber has to maintain the level of quality that made Uber the brand it is today. And I think that at this point in the life cycle of that business, and that space, they haven’t had time to go out there and do 5 years and 7 years and 8 years to see, is your Uber experience the same. Because I had one the other day that was pretty close to a cab. So they’re going to have to fight that out. I know that I’m going to get a mean letter, Uber.

I love you.

via Mayors of Atlanta and New Orleans: Uber Will Beat the Taxi Industry – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic.

Georgia Regents to vote on same-sex marriage retirement benefits | www.ajc.com

The state Board of Regents will consider Monday whether to recognize same-sex marriages for participants in a University System retirement plan.

The vote, scheduled for a Monday meeting, would amend the Optional Retirement Plan to comply with federal tax rules. After a Supreme Court decision last year overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, the IRS issued new rules requiring recognition same-sex marriages in some qualified retirement plans.

via Georgia Regents to vote on same-sex marriage retirement benefits | www.ajc.com.

Nathan Deal on economy: ‘There are areas we can improve’ | Political Insider blog

The rankings that put Georgia as the top state to do business are likely to play an even greater role in Gov. Nathan Deal’s re-election campaign. But he said he won’t be presenting the state’s economy as a perfect package.

The governor said in an interview that two clear signs his economic policies are working are an unemployment rate that’s dropped and a rainy day fund that has swelled since he took office in 2011. But he concedes there’s a ways to go on other metrics, such as graduation rates and poverty levels.

“We know there are areas we can improve,” Deal said. “And many of the categories we rank low in are greatly accelerated by my interest in job creation. One of the best ways to eliminate poverty is to have someone in a great job.”

via Nathan Deal on economy: ‘There are areas we can improve’ | Political Insider blog.

DFCS chief: Georgia’s most disposable leader | www.ajc.com

In the war movie, the battle-scarred veteran limps away from the front as the fresh-faced recruit hurries to take his place in the foxhole.

Now imagine the war movie is actually the story of the director of the state Division of Family and Children Services.

Faced with the tragedy and scandal of a child who dies while under DFCS supervision, the governor (Democrat, Republican, doesn’t matter) appoints a new chief of the division — an insider, an outsider, a longtime veteran, a newcomer, etc. Then the unthinkable happens again: a child under the supervision of DFCS winds up murdered by his parents, and in the ensuing scandal the governor gives the DFCS director the heave-ho, and the cycle begins again.

Director of DFCS is perhaps the toughest, most impossible, most frustrating and, ultimately, shortest-lived job in state government. If you’re appointed to this gig, it may be time to start sending out résumés.

via DFCS chief: Georgia’s most disposable leader | www.ajc.com.

Why is the United States becoming more partisan? | Al Jazeera America

Inside Story: A third of Republicans see the Democratic Party as a threat to the nation’s well-being, and 27 percent of Democrats feel that way about Republicans. Aren’t these stark numbers?

Alan Abramowitz: The more ideologically consistent the voters are, the more they tend to dislike the other party. The Republicans tend to feel more antagonistic and strongly that Democrats are ruining the country. That may reflect the fact that there is a Democratic president, and that Democrats are more willing to compromise to achieve policy victories.

There is a parallel debate among academics about asymmetric polarization. That debate focuses on whether both sides are polarized, or Republicans have become more conservative. At the congressional level, there is no question that Republicans, particularly in the House, are more conservative than they were 30 years ago. Democrats are also more liberal, but that is mostly due to the loss of the conservative Southern wing.

Why did this all happen?

My view is that it reflects a combination of changes in American society that go back to the 1960s, and the response of political leaders to those changes as they have tried to construct responses to cater to their electoral coalitions. One key to this is the growing racial and ethnic diversity of the population. As that has happened, especially since the 1980s and 1990s, we have seen it have a very different impact on both parties. Democrats increasingly rely on the votes of racial minorities, and Republicans have become whiter. Racially conservative Democrats, in the South especially, but everywhere, have become Republican. In addition, the increasing secularization of America has provoked a backlash by socially conservative elements of society.

via Why is the United States becoming more partisan? | Al Jazeera America.

Georgia Public Policy Foundation responds to Supreme Court Ruling on Contraception Mandate

Atlanta – Kelly McCutchen, president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, hailed the ruling today by the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores and against the Obama Administration, over the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. both argued that the 2010 mandate violated their religious freedom. Both companies believe that certain forms of contraception induce abortion, which violates the religious convictions of their owners.

“We are pleased by the ruling, which extends the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom to millions of employers,” McCutchen said after the 5-4 ruling.

“Next, we hope to see an even broader victory for taxpayers: that the courts favor the rule of law in the case of the government’s arbitrary and unjustifiable position that the law’s ‘premium-assistance tax credits’ for state exchanges apply also to federally run exchanges.”

Congressman Kingston Reaction to Hobby Lobby Decision

Washington - Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) issued the following statement after the decision in ​Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.​:

“This is yet another reason why Obamacare should be repealed – it is unworkable. I am glad the court recognized private companies should not be forced to violate their religious convictions. Religious liberty is a bedrock principle of the United States and should be defended fiercely by those elected to uphold the Constitution.”

Congressman Kingston is the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee which oversees funding of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Attorney General Olens Applauds U.S. Supreme Court’s “Hobby Lobby” Ruling

Attorney General Olens issued the following statement regarding today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

“Religious liberty is a fundamental principle upon which our nation was founded. I applaud the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding this bedrock freedom, and I am proud to have joined an amicus brief supporting Hobby Lobby before the Court.”

The amicus brief can be viewed here.

Atlanta: Paulding airport would ‘breach’ land deal | www.myajc.com

The city of Atlanta once considered starting a second commercial airport on land it bought in Paulding County. Now it’s threatening to sue Paulding for trying to start its own.

In the latest obstacle for Paulding’s airport ambitions, Atlanta officials have sent a letter warning the county they might go to court to block plans for airline operations at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport.

Some Paulding residents say they were surprised by plans to commercialize their new airport, potentially increasing noise and traffic.

Their argument: Part of the Paulding airport sits on a chunk of land the county bought back from the city several years ago, and the city understood it would be used only for non-commercial aviation. Plans for airline flights are “a material breach of contract,” Candace Byrd, Mayor Kasim Reed’s chief of staff, wrote in the letter.

Paulding Commission chairman David Austin’s response? “It’s just B.S.”

He noted that the Atlanta mayor delivered a speech touting regionalism to the Paulding Chamber of Commerce in 2011, telling the audience Atlanta is not an enemy, but a friend.

Now, Austin says, “The moment we start having success out here, they turn on us like a rabid dog, and say, ‘You’re not entitled to success.’”

via Atlanta: Paulding airport would ‘breach’ land deal | www.myajc.com.