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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 21, 2016

Lyman Hall was elected to the Continental Congress on March 21, 1775 from St. John’s Parish; the next year he would sign the Declaration of Independence as a representative from Georgia.

On March 21, 1941, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed legislation establishing the Eastern Standard Time Zone as the only Time Zone in Georgia. Prior to that, Georgia observed two different time zones.

On March 21, 1965, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. led more than 3000 protesters in a march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery.

On March 21, 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

Georgia Governor and United States Senator Herman Talmadge died on March 21, 2002.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia General Assembly has two final working days in the 2016 Session. Tomorrow will be Day 39, with the 40th and final legislative day on Thursday.

Among the legislation still to be finalized in the legislature, according to the Gainesville Times,

Lawmakers still must pass a final state budget for the financial year starting July 1.

Approving a budget is the only constitutionally required measure that must be passed before the close of the session, and negotiations are expected to include debate over a spending plan that would increase salaries for thousands of state employees and teachers and give state retirees a one-time boost.

Both chambers have voiced support for Deal’s recommendation to allocate $300 million to local school districts. These funds are intended to end furloughs and lengthen school years after cuts during the recession.

A constitutional amendment setting English as the “official” language of Georgia has failed to make it out of House committee. Sponsoring Sen. Josh McKoon said the hope was to get a floor vote in the House after receiving 39 votes in the Senate. The legislation needs two-thirds support to pass the House.

A bill to set a flat state income tax rate of 5.4 percent requires House agreement to become law. The Senate has passed the measure. Critics argue that the adjustment in tax rates would only serve to help those in higher tax brackets. The decrease would lower the state’s maximum income tax rate down from 6 percent.

Deal and his staff have remained wary of any tax cut proposal, concerned about harming the state’s bond rating and ability to borrow money. Deal also has made it a priority to build up the state’s “rainy day” fund before his final term in office ends.


After last week’s suprise withdrawal by State Rep. Tom Weldon (R-Ringgold), which left DeWayne Hill as the only candidate for State House District 3, the Catoosa County Republican Party is asking the Georgia GOP to reopen candidate qualifying to allow others to run for the seat.

Delegates to the Catoosa County Republican Party Convention voted Saturday to ask state Rep. Tom Weldon to formally withdraw from the race, assuming that is still his plan. If Weldon does so, the Catoosa GOP will also ask Georgia’s Republican to reopen qualifying for Weldon’s seat in the May 24 primary election.

Weldon, R-Ringgold, submitted paperwork to run for re-election March 7. Dewayne Hill, a former Catoosa County commission, qualified to challenge him on March 11 — the last day to register to run.

On Thursday, Weldon told the Times Free Press he is going to bow out, leaving Hill with no competition.

Some Catoosa Republicans don’t like the idea of Hill running unopposed. Local party chairwoman Denise Burns said Saturday the field would be more crowded if people knew Weldon, an eight-year incumbent, was not going to run.

“Tom Weldon had a great deal of respect,” she said. “People generally viewed him as a valuable and competent representative. Based on that reputation, to challenge an incumbent is a very daunting task. Lots of people would have considered running for this seat [if they knew it was open].”

The county leadership will ask the state’s Republican leadership to send a certified letter to Weldon, asking him to formally withdraw at the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office within three days — if Weldon still plans to exit.

Assuming his decision holds, the county GOP will [ask] the state party to re-open the qualifying period for Weldon’s seat. That’s allowable if a candidate dies or the incumbent withdraws.

An arrest on two charges of aggravated assault can certainly derail a campaign for local office still. From the Bainbridge Post-Searchlight,

Ryan Shirley announced today that he will suspend his campaign for Decatur County Tax Commissioner.

“The goal of my campaign to be Decatur County’s next Tax Commissioner was always to better the community where I was born and raised and currently raise my children,” Shirley said in a released statement. “My desire is to try to leave Bainbridge a better place so my children will want to raise their families here.”

Shirley cited his recent arrest on two counts of Aggravated Assault as a factor in his decision to suspend the campaign.

“Unfortunately, I have been presented with a legal issue that must be taken very seriously,” Shirley continued. “I quickly realized that I do not have the ability to fight for the future and well-being of my family and successfully complete a campaign for Decatur County Tax Commissioner. For this reason, I have decided to suspend my campaign. While I can assure everyone that I will be exonerated of these charges, my energies will be divided while I continue the legal process. I cannot in good faith, ask for public support when I realize I cannot be completely focused on my campaign.”

The National Football League has decided that taking millions of dollars of tax money from Georgia isn’t enough – they want to dictate whether Gov. Deal signs religious liberty legislation or vetoes it. From Fox News,

The NFL came out against a proposed religious exemptions bill in Georgia Friday, saying the deal could have an effect on the Super Bowl selection process for 2019 and 2020.

Atlanta is one of the finalists for the next two league title games to be awarded, along with New Orleans, Miami and Tampa. The city is considered a clear favorite because of its new retractable-roof stadium that is set to open next year. However, the religious exemptions bill could change all of that.

“NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.”

This week, lawmakers also approved the elimination of $10 million in state sales taxes on Super Bowl tickets if Atlanta lands the game.

The city had hosted the game two times, in 1994 and 2000.

Seriously, does anybody remember the last time Georgia hosted the Super Bowl? Speaking of “tolerance,” among the things the NFL has been accused of tolerating: domestic violence by players.

Secured entrances and video cameras are among the expenditures driving new school spending, according to the Macon Telegraph.

As Middle Georgia school systems identify projects for their districts, usually through sales tax initiatives, safety and security measures are often a priority.

Bibb and Houston counties are eyeing camera systems, intrusion alarms and other measures, and all that came after Peach County decided to build an entirely new high school partially in response to security concerns.

“The safety and security of our students is always our first priority,” said Mike Kemp, Bibb County’s assistant superintendent for technology services.

Kemp’s department is overseeing the installation of camera systems in classrooms, which started with Ballard-Hudson Middle School. While the cameras have other functions, they’ll work with pre-existing surveillance systems in the hallways and building exteriors to further tighten up the facilities.

Baldwin County is among those beefing up school security with E-SPLOST proceeds.

Local school officials are moving forward on critical need projects that were contingent upon the passage of the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST) extension.

With voters’ approval in last November’s election, the current 1 percent sales tax for education will be extended for an additional five years.

The extension for the school system is for a $37.5 million collection cap or five years, whichever comes first.

In an effort to better protect Baldwin County’s students, teachers and staff, the local public school district is preparing to implement major upgrades to school security by utilizing the 1-cent sales tax funds.

During a board retreat at Central Georgia Technical College, Baldwin County school board members, district personnel, and administration met with representatives from the architecture and engineering firm Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood (GMC) to discuss plans for additional security features at each school facility.

Improvement suggestions made by Bell for Baldwin’s public schools and the board of education building were more secure vestibules, magnetic strip recognition entry devices, buzzer controlled locked doors and additional security cameras, among other features.

Peach State Presidential Politics

If you thought the awarding of delegates from Georgia to the Republican National Convention was finished, you might be surprised that this weekend’s Georgia Republican Party County Conventions continued the selection process. From the AJC Political Insider,

The most interesting portion of the [Cobb County Convention] was an information session with Randy Evans, a Republican National Committee member from Georgia – who elaborated on a post he sent us yesterday, on what’s likely to happen in Cleveland. And what’s not.

On his existing trajectory, Evans said, billionaire Donald Trump is likely to enter Cleveland 75 or 100 short of the 1,237 needed for outright nomination.

However, should the current three-man GOP race whittle itself down to two candidates, Evans said, things change. Most of the remaining states that award delegates proportionally have an “escape” clause. If a single candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, then the awarding of delegates shifts from proportional to winner-take-all.

“It’s ‘way more likely than not that we end up with a presumptive nominee. It’s not that I know some inside secret. It’s that I know how the process that I designed actually works,” Evans said.

Another issue the RNC is likely to take up at its April meeting is the status of delegates belonging to candidates who have suspended their campaigns. “There’s a genuine debate on the rules committee, as to how a suspended candidacy or a terminated or withdrawn candidacy operates to release their delegates.

Randy Evans also made an appearance on FoxBusiness, discussing the convention and how delegate binding works.

And the Wall Street Journal discusses what happens to bound delegates whose candidates have withdrawn from the campaign.

WSJ Delegates Candidate Withdrawn

The number-crunchers at note that higher Republican Presidential Primary turnout and lower Democratic turnout won’t necessarily impact the November General Election.

[H]istory suggests that there is no relationship between primary turnout and the general election outcome. You can see this on the most basic level by looking at raw turnout in years in which both parties had competitive primaries. There have been six of those years in the modern era: 1976, 1980, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008.

As first written up by PolitiFact, the party that had higher turnout in the primary won the national popular vote three times and lost three times. If you look at the Electoral College, the party that had the higher turnout in the primary won four times. That can hardly be described as predictive.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that Republican turnout is higher than Democratic turnout this year. Hillary Clinton is a commanding front-runner on the Democratic side, while the front-runner on the Republican side has earned only one-third of the vote and less than half the delegates allocated so far. Voters are turning out for the more competitive contest.

My impression from the DeKalb County Republican Convention was that there were not a whole lot of new people participating – maybe a handful of newbies – though that might reflect very low turnout for the DeKalb Convention. It appeared that attendance was down significantly from prior years, and that many of the Ron Paul/Liberty members were not in attendance – meaning those who came in 2012 or 2014 because of that movement, not those who were already embedded in the County party. But I did see this on a delegate:



Adoptable Georgia Dogs for March 18, 2016

Cobb St Pitties Day

Cobb County Animal Shelter is celebrating “St. Pittie’s Day” with reduced adoption fees for all Pit Bull-type dogs. We’ve chosen some of their beauties who caught our eye.

Candy Spice

Candy and Spice are adorable girls. They are playful and well behaved with cute faces. They were both brought to the shelter as strays on 1/9/2016 and they are smaller than they appear in their pictures. They are both about 2 years old and Candy is 61 lbs and Spice is 48 lbs. Candy and Spice are both current on their vaccines, heartworm tested negative and they will be spayed and microchipped, when adopted. They are sharing run 59 and Candy’s ID is 581576 and Spice’s ID is 581575. Candy is Tri-colored and Spice is Tan and White. Their run number could change, so please make a note of their ID numbers and ask for assistance if you don’t find them in run 59.

When calling the shelter about a cat or dog, please use THE ID NUMBER, the names are oftentimes made up by volunteers.

These beautiful pets and many others need a forever, loving home and are available for adoption from the Cobb County Animal Shelter.1060 Al Bishop Drive Marietta, Georgia 30008, call (770) 499-4136 for more information. Our Shelter hours for Adoptions are: Tuesday – Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., CLOSED Mondays and Holidays.

Here’s a video of Candy and Spice along with another friend. See how playful they are!


Here is Spice’s individual listing.


Here is Candy’s individual listing.


Look at that smile!

Cadillac is about 3 years old and 56 lbs – an American Pit Bull Terrier male who is sweet, calm, and handsome fella. He is quiet in his run at the shelter and he knows sit and stay.

Cadillac was brought to the shelter as a stray on 12/13/2015. He is current on his vaccines, neutered (12/20/2015), and will be microchipped when adopted. Sadly he has tested positive for heartworms, but with treatment should be good as new in no time. Please speak with your veterinarian for treatment options. Cadillac’s ID at the shelter is 581049 and he is in run 119. His run number could change, so please make a note of his ID number and ask for assistance if you don’t find him in run 857.

Asym Greer

Asym Greer is a year-old, 60-pound American Staffordshire Terrier mix male who was brought to the shelter by his previous owners on 3/15/16. He is very well behaved and will sit, stay and lay down when asked. Asym Greer is a playful boy who just really enjoys life and he wants to share that positivity and fun with you! He is current on his vaccines and upon adoption will be neutered, heartworm tested and micro chipped. Asym Greer’s ID # is 582819 and he can be found in cage 76. Come meet him today!


Fannie is a 5-year old, 25-pound Beagle mix girl who is available for adoption from the Cobb County Animal Shelter.

Her former family taught her to have nice manners and she will sit and stay when she is told. She looks as if she may have had babies in the past but will not have any more. She will be spayed, tested for heart worms and micro-chipped when adopted. She is waiting to meet her new furever friend in cage 301 in the small dog room. Her ID# is 582683.

When calling the shelter about a cat or dog, please use THE ID NUMBER, the names are oftentimes made up by volunteers.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 18, 2016

On March 18, 1766, the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, which required American colonists to purchase a stamp for every legal or printed document they obtained.  Revenue would be used to support the British army in America.

The Stamp Act led Patrick Henry to denounce King George III, the British Monarch at the time of the passage of the Stamp Act and the ensuing Revolutionary War; Henry’s later “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech to the Virginia Assembly at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, listed by Time magazine as one of the top ten speeches of all time. Henry later opposed adoption of the Constitution, arguing it was incomplete without a Bill of Rights; after the Bill of Rights was adopted, Henry was satisfied.

On March 19, 1916, the first American military air combat mission began in support of an incursion into Mexico under President Woodrow Wilson.

On March 18, 1939, the State of Georgia ratified the Bill of Rights, which were proposed 150 years earlier in 1789. Georgia initially declined to ratify the Bill of Rights arguing that the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution were unnecessary. Governor E.D. Rivers signed the joint resolution six days later, but under federal court decisions the ratification is marked as of the date the second house of the state legislature adopts the legislation (assuming a bi-cameral state legislature).

On March 18, 1942, the United States government, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, created the War Relocation Authority to “Take all people of Japanese descent into custody, surround them with troops, prevent them from buying land, and return them to their former homes at the close of the war.” More than 120,000 Japanese Americans, many of them citizens of the United States were moved from the west coast into concentration camps in the western United States.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, composed entirely of Japanese Americans, many of whose families were interned at the camps, became the most-decorated unit of World War II, with members being awarded 4,667 medals, awards, and citations, including 1 Medal of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 560 Silver Stars; eventually 21 members of the 442nd would be awarded the Medal of Honor. The late United States Senator Daniel Inouye, a member of the 442nd from 1941 to 1947, was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton for actions during WWII. First elected to the United States Senate in 1962, Inouye became President Pro Tem in 2010.

On March 18, 1947, Herman Talmadge surrendered the Governor’s office, ending the “Three Governors Affair.” Earlier this year, the General Assembly honored the late Governor Melvin Thompson, who was elected the first Lieutenant Governor of Georgia and became Governor at the conclusion of the Three Governors Affair.

On March 19, 1947, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in Thompson v. Talmadge on the “Three Governors Affair.” The Court held that the Georgia General Assembly lacked authority to elect Herman Talmadge as Governor, and that because of the death of Eugene Talmadge before he took office, no successor to Gov. Ellis Arnall was in place until the newly-elected Lt. Governor Melvin Johnson was sworn in and became Governor, succeeding Arnall.

On March 18, 1955, the Georgia Educators Association endorsed “equal but separate” schools for the races.

On March 18, 1961, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Gray v. Sanders, which arose from Georgia. Three politically-important results come from the case.

First, the Court held that state regulation of the Democratic Primary made the primary election a state action, not merely that of a private organization; thus, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies.

Second, the Equal Protection Clause requires that every vote be given equal weight in electing officials, often stated as the “one person, one vote” rule. In Georgia at that time, each County had between two and six “county unit votes”. As a result,

“One unit vote in Echols County represented 938 residents, whereas one unit vote in Fulton County represented 92,721 residents. Thus, one resident in Echols County had an influence in the nomination of candidates equivalent to 99 residents of Fulton County.”

Third, because the County Unit System gave the votes of some Georgians greater weight than that of others, it violated the Equal Protection Clause. The “one person, one vote” rule is one benchmark of redistricting.

On March 18, 1976, Governor George Busbee signed legislation recognizing the following official state symbols:

Staurolite – Official Mineral of Georgia
Shark’s Tooth – Official Fossil of Georgia
Clear Quartz – Official Gem of Georgia
Purple Quartz (Amethyst) – Official Gem of Georgia

I suspect samples of all of these can be found in the display cases on the Fourth Floor of the Georgia State Capitol.

On March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush announced the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in order to depose Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and eliminate the country’s ability to produce weapons of mass destruction.

March 18, 2014 was the 39th Day of the Legislative Session. It’s a wonder what the need to get out on the campaign trail will do for a Session.

In my post and email for March 19, 2014, I noted that Georgia has no Official State Dog and pondered what breed would be best. The last time it was voted on, in 1991, the Georgia Senate rejected the Golden Retriever on a 37-10 vote against. South Carolina’s official State Dog is the Boykin Spaniel, a breed developed for hunting in the Palmetto State and most commonly found there today.

This year, State Rep. Joe Wilkinson introduced HB 561 to name the “Adoptable Dog” as the Official State Dog of Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The General Assembly is not in session today, and for that reason as well as a heavy workload today, I’m taking a partial hiatus for the morning. I hope you enjoy the quick and abbreviated morning politics, and that you take advantage of the glorious weekend ahead.

State Rep. Tom Weldon (R-Ringgold) has withdrawn from his reelection bid, leaving a single candidate in the race for House District 3.

Former Catoosa County Commissioner Dewayne Hill has a clear path to the Georgia State Capitol.

State Rep. Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold, announced Thursday he will withdraw from the race for his District 3 seat in the May 24 primary election. The announcement came six days after the deadline to qualify for the election, leaving Hill with no competition as the challenger to Weldon’s post.

Weldon filled out the necessary paperwork to run for re-election on March 7. He said he had considered leaving politics for several months, though he did not make a decision until days after he qualified for the race. He said his work in Atlanta took away from time at his Ringgold law practice and with his family.

“I’m going to let Dewayne Hill have it,” Weldon said. “I’m withdrawing from the race. I expect to do that in the next couple of weeks.”

Hill is a cousin of state Rep. David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, the speaker of the House. Hill said the two of them are distant cousins, that his grandmother was a Ralston. But Hill said he had never met the speaker before becoming a Catoosa County commissioner and visiting the state legislators in Atlanta.

Weldon said nobody asked him to leave his seat. And he qualified to run despite his apprehensions because dropping out is always an option throughout the race. The opposite — deciding not to run, then changing his mind — is not possible after the deadline to qualify.

“Several things came together at one time,” Weldon said of his decision last week. “It came up at a time that coincided with the qualifications [deadline].”

The State House Governmental Affairs Committee voted to recommend passage of Senate Bill 378 by Fran Millar (R-DeKalb), which would eliminate the position of DeKalb County CEO after 2018. From the AJC,

The Georgia House Governmental Affairs Committee voted Wednesday to pass Senate Bill 378, which would allow voters to decide the issue in November. The bill could be considered by the full House of Representatives next week before returning to the Senate for final approval.

Sen. Fran Millar, the sponsor of the bill, said DeKalb’s government structure should be more consistent with other counties. DeKalb is the only county in Georgia with a CEO form of government.

“Ninety percent of people in DeKalb County know there’s been a problem with that (CEO) position,” said Millar, R-Atlanta. “This will place us on an equal footing with other counties with a professional county manager and an elected chair.”

The chairperson of the commission would be elected countywide but wouldn’t have a vote except to break ties. The chairperson, who would be paid $153,000, would be responsible for supervising the county manager, appointing committee members, calling special meetings and compelling commissioners to attend meetings.

The widow of a Marietta municipal employee will get nothing from the pension plan her late husband was fully vested in because he died in his final year of work before he retired.

Keith Brainard, research director of The National Association of State Retirement Administrators, said there is a lot of disparity in pension plans. But not paying a vested employee’s spouse when their other half dies?

“I am not aware of another public pension plan that does not provide a survivor’s benefit for active workers who have vested in their retirement plan,” he said.

The current pension plan has been in place since 1987 and many former employees of the city have decided to retire over the years when they reached the point they were retirement eligible, because they knew of the plan’s provisions,” said Lindsey Wiles, Marietta spokeswoman.

Like every city employee, Cosper was informed of his retirement options “and he chose to continue to work for the city,” she said.

I’d look for some legislative action on this next year because the same provision applies to Marietta police and firefighters.

If one of the city’s first responders dies, even in the line of duty, their spouses and children get no pension benefit, except for the tiny fraction the employee contributed.

Legislation from State Rep. Mike Cheokas (R-Americus) will expand the availability of advanced cancer treatments akin to those received by former President Jimmy Carter.

Under the new Georgia legislation, insurance companies would no longer be allowed to require patients to first try conventional cancer treatments before being prescribed immunotherapy drugs.

“Every Georgian with health insurance that covers cancer should have the same access to cancer drugs as President Carter,” the legislation states. The title of the bill is the Jimmy Carter Cancer Treatment Act.

The bill’s sponsor, State Representative Mike Cheokas, a Republican, represents Carter’s hometown of Plains and received permission from the former president’s office before attaching his name to the bill, the legislator said on Monday. The former president is a long-time family friend, Cheokas added.

Peachtree Ridge High School has moved its April 23d prom from Stone Mountain amid concerns over a pro-white rally being held at the park on that date.

Flowery Branch will have a new interim solicitor after City Council voted to remove the current Solicitor.

Macon-Bibb County’s legislative delegation shows signs of strain as the session heads toward a close next week.

State Reps. James Beverly and Nikki Randall, who are both Democrats, questioned a decision by some delegation members to hold a meeting in downtown Macon Thursday afternoon. State Reps. Bubber Epps, Allen Peake and Robert Dickey — all Republicans — were the only legislators to attend the meeting. Epps said it was an opportunity to discuss the session and some of the recent concerns raised by Beverly and Randall.

Beverly said he was unable to attend because he had a meeting with the Georgia Department of Transportation at the same time, but he questioned whether the meeting was necessary.

“The point of a meeting when there is no benefit to the people that I represent in Bibb County is kind of ludicrous,” he said. “It’s kind of too little, too late. Overall, I think we could have done a lot more for Bibb had we had meetings prior to the end of the session.”

Muscogee County may be in for a heated election for Sheriff as a former Captain in the Department who sued the incumbent announces her campaign for the office.

Former sheriff’s Capt. Donna Tompkins, who sued Sheriff John Darr for gender discrimination in 2013 and won, formally announced her candidacy for sheriff of Muscogee County today.

In a speech delivered on the Plaza Level of the Government Center, two floors below the Sheriff’s Office, Tompkins said that the time has come for a change in the office.

“We all know that there needs to be a change, and I’m that I’m the person who is best prepared to make that change,” Tompkins said. “There are considerable problems facing this sheriff’s office. Budget overspending, lawsuits, scandals, all of this has resulted in a diminished public confidence in the sheriff’s office.”

Tomorrow, delegate selection by the Georgia Republican Party opens for the process that will culminate in the election of delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. In Forsyth County, the meeting begins at 10 AM sharp at at South Forsyth High School.

Beginning at 10 a.m., attendees will select delegates to attend upcoming conventions and have a chance to hear from those in and seeking office.

Jason Mock, chairman of the local party, said there are many decisions to be made.

“Those individuals that are delegates [chosen by precinct last month] will vote on the slate for the delegates and alternates to the 7th Congressional District Convention, as well as the 9th Congressional District Convention, as well as the state convention that is going to be held in June,” Mock said.

District 9 includes north Forsyth, while south Forsyth is in District 7. The district conventions will take place in April, while the state convention is set for June 3 and 4 in Augusta.

Delegates could find that their involvement leads all the way to the Republican National Convention this summer in Cleveland.

For Cherokee County Republicans, the County Convention begins at the same hour at the Northside Cherokee Conference Center at the Bluffs, 1130 Bluffs Parkway in Canton.

Cherokee County Republican Party Chairman Rick Davies said all residents are welcome and agendas will be sent out to delegates and alternates with any additional rules and information prior to the event.

“Who we elect to represent us at the National Convention is of paramount importance given that the potential does exist, as small as it may be, for a brokered convention. Above and beyond that, we want everyone who has been involved to date to continue to stay involved because we need a large, diverse set of ideas to help improve the not only the local Republican Party but the national party and its overall structure and direction,” Davies said Thursday.

Bainbridge attorney Ryan Cleveland announced he will run for Superior Court Judge for the South Georgia Circuit, which includes Baker, Calhoun, Decatur, Grady and Mitchell Counties.

“We deserve to continue to have a judge that we can trust to treat everyone fairly,” said Cleveland. “Residents of our circuit need to be assured that everyone will be treated fairly and equally under the law, and not have the law being decided based on political connections or favors.”

“A judge should be held to the highest standards – both personal and professional. I have proudly served my community, my family and my clients with dignity and dedication. I will bring this same commitment to the bench.”

He is the current Decatur County Solicitor General and Bainbridge City Solicitor.

“I believe in our Constitutional principles,” said Cleveland. “In a day and age where our Second Amendment Rights are being threatened, we need judges who will stand up for our Second Amendment right to protect ourselves.”


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 17, 2016

On March 17, 1762, the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in New York City by Irish serving in the British army; the date commemorates the death of St. Patrick in 461. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah, Georgia was held in 1813.

On March 17, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed legislation granting African-Americans the same rights as whites for contracts, suits, inheritance, property, and punishments for violation of the law.

On March 17, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed a joint resolution of the state legislature to place a plaque on the wall of the Georgia Capitol commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the founding of Georgia.

On March 17, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation creating a commission to revise the 1877 Constitution of Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A pressure cooker combines heat and high pressure to reduce cooking time. It’s a good analogy for this year’s session of the Georgia General Assembly. The normal heat and pressue of the session are increased due to a shorter timeframe for legislative action, combined with early Primary elections in May and candidate qualifying in early March, which means that candidates feel more pressure to adjourn early to return home and launch their reelection campaigns for the May 24 Primary Elections. And it appears a larger number of incumbent legislators face electoral opposition this year than most.

The combination of heat and pressure may also remind some folks of the existence of perdition, as a number of politicians have been born again recently.

Which is probably the dynamic that leads us to the final adoption yesterday of House Bill 757, which was originally introduced by State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), but for which, like our Bible, many folks can rightfully claim to have authored part of. From Reuters,

The legislation, dubbed the Religious Liberty Bill, still has to be signed by Georgia’s Republican Governor Nathan Deal to become law. Deal has made clear that he will not sign a bill that allows discrimination, but his office did not immediately respond to request for comment on Wednesday night.

The Georgia bill, reworked several times by lawmakers amid criticism that earlier versions went too far, declares that no pastor can be forced to perform a same-sex wedding.

The bill also grants faith-based organizations – churches, religious schools or associations – the right to reject holding events for people or groups of whom they object. Faith-based groups also could not be forced to hire or retain an employee whose beliefs run counter to the organization’s.

Opponents say the bill could be used to deny services and discriminate against same-sex couples.

Mike Griffin, a lobbyist and spokesman for the Georgia Baptist Convention, applauded the bill’s passage. He said that while the bill did not give them everything they wanted, he added: “We feel we’ve advanced our protection of our First Amendment Right to religious freedom.”

“Our rights of religious liberty don’t end inside the four walls of a church,” he said.

In a late added amendment, the proposed law says that it cannot allow discrimination already prohibited by federal law, which opponents said could nullify some of its provisions.

Naturally a portion of the business community that resides on the Fortune 500 has begun complaining about the legislation.

Large corporations ranging from Microsoft to Atlanta-based Coca-Cola are urging the state to abandon the bill, while CEO Marc Benioff is speaking out against the proposed law and how it might impact his company’s investment in the state. Benioff, by the way, has experience in fighting against “religious freedom” bills, given that he was an outspoken critic of Indiana’s similar legislation, which was passed last year.

“We’re looking squarely at what’s going on in Georgia with House Bill 757, which means that we may have to reduce our investments in the state of Georgia,” Benioff said on a conference call with financial analysts last month.

The rise of legislation that permits business owners to refuse service based on their religious beliefs stems from a national push for gay and transgender rights, including the Supreme Court’s ruling last year that legalized same-sex marriage.

It’s unclear what will happen with the Georgia bill, given that Governor Nathan Deal has said he would reject any legislation that “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith.” Deal’s office didn’t return a request for comment.

And an excellent wrap-up from the AJC,

When introduced early this year, the bill originally promised pastors they could not be forced to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. The Senate, however, added language last month that would have allowed faith-based organizations and individuals to opt out of serving couples — gay or straight — or following anti-discrimination requirements if they cited a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction regarding marriage.

The changes unveiled Wednesday made more changes after both Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, objected to the Senate version. While the bill still says no pastor can be forced to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony, it adds language that says no individual can be forced to attend one.

The bill would protect faith-based organizations from having to rent or allow its facility to be used for an event it finds “objectionable.”

These organizations, which include churches, religious schools or associations, would not be required to provide social, educational or charitable services “that violate such faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.” However, the amendment says government can enforce the terms of a grant, contract or other agreement.

Faith-based organizations also could not be forced to hire or retain an employee whose “religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.”

Finally, it includes much of the language found federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which requires government to prove a “compelling governmental interest” before it interferes with a person’s exercise of religion.

However, it adds that it cannot be used to allow “discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law.”

Earlier this week, Adam Ragusea, formerly of Georgia Public Broadcasting, published perhaps the best piece I’ve read on the religious liberty issue in Georgia. It’s a lengthy interview with Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) that is worth reading in its entirety.

[Ragusea] Let’s go ahead and march through the major provisions of HB 757. To propose a state law that says religious leaders cannot be forced to perform a wedding with which they’re uncomfortable strikes me as extraneous. Isn’t it a settled matter of constitutional law that the government can’t tell pastors anything about how they should conduct their services?

[McKoon] Yes, I agree with you on that. When the “Pastor Protection Act” came over from the House, I took to the well of the Senate and I referred to it as the “Politician Protection Act.” Because that’s essentially what it is.

It’s one of these things that comes up when we have an issue that people are concerned about — this general subject of religious freedom. There’s a lot of concern about it all over the state. Or, in an election year, and you’ve got members that will face primary opposition, they want to be able to say, “I voted for a religious freedom measure.”

And so yes, I agree with you on that. The notion that any clergyman is going to be forced by government to conduct their religious ceremony in any way against his will is — that would never happen. And there’s no court that would order that.

If the pressure is on Republican legislators to return to their districts with conservative legislation passed, it probably applies also to legislation that cuts state taxes. From the AJC,

The Georgia Senate took another shot at reducing state income taxes Wednesday, voting to cut the top rate by 10 percent.

The Senate’s passage of a repurposed House Bill 238 on a 35-17 vote was the second effort its made in recent weeks to cut income taxes. The chamber approved a proposed constitutional amendment about two weeks ago that would lower the top rate if the state meets certain revenue projections and builds up reserves.

House Bill 238, which began as a tax break for expanding Atlanta’s aquarium, was converted into a 10 percent cut in the top state income tax rate — from 6 percent to 5.4 percent. It would also eliminate many deductions while keeping the full mortgage deduction for most Georgians. In addition, it would increase the personal exemption taxpayers can take and eliminate corporate net worth taxes.

Both the bill and the proposed amendment were sponsored by Senate Finance Chairman Judson Hill, R-Marietta.

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) took to the well yesterday to discuss legislation aimed at regulating the handling of rape kits by law enforcement and hospitals.

“At that [study committee] meeting, our conclusion was drawn, unlike the House’s version, that the backlog on rape kits was taken care of, and there was no need to be able to have to have legislation because [GBI Director] Vernon Keenan in the addition of a $2 million federal grant was taking care of the backlog of the kits. He also sent out a director to all the local governments.”

“It was the conclusion that the $2 million dollar grant – it’s very expensive to do these rape kits and we were very fortunate to be able to get that $2 million grant, and that grant went for the excessive backlog …. So in conclusion the Senate [decision] was to hold firm, we had an agreement with the Georgia Hospital Association, the Community Hospital Association, and the Rural Hospital Association, along with local law enforcement, along with [GBI] Director Keenan, that we would stand firm next year, to continue see if the infrastructure changes, the process that we are now implemented, that is being implemented successfully and that it continues to be that way.”

“The main problem that we found in these hearing that we had, was Grady Hospital and Fulton County. And the problem there was they [Grady] would call the Sheriff’s Department or the APD and they would not come and pick up the rape kits and deliver them to the GBI headquarters. So in essence we would be writing a law to change the whole state of Georgia for law enforcement officials in your local communtieis that are doing a good job because the one particular incident here in the City of Atlanta.

From the AJC,

Unterman replied that bill sponsor Rep. Scott Holcomb, an Atlanta Democrat, did not pay attention to work she did on the issue during study committee hearings that she chaired before the legislative session.

“It’s nothing personal,” said Unterman, who is from Buford. “I’m just taking the Senate’s stance that we had the study committee, and that was the recommendation and that was our agreement with the three hospital associations, with the (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) and with the Board of Regents.”

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) has gutted-and-filled a Senate bill passed last year and filled it with his legislation to expand medical marijuana in an attempt to circumnavigate the Senate committee system, according to Maggie Lee of the Macon Telegraph.

On Tuesday, a state House committee approved Republican state Rep. Allen Peake’s move to use Senate Bill 145 to carry his idea to let Georgians who have a handful of new diagnoses, including autism, possess liquid medical cannabis.

Senate Bill 145 passed the Senate last year but never got a House vote. Now, after Peake’s amendment, the bill says nothing about the state board, and only speaks to Georgia’s medical cannabis law.

The valuable thing about the bill from Peake’s point of view is that it already has approval from the Senate. So he’s hoping it will carry his medical marijuana language through the House and back to the Senate for quick agreement without the need for hearings there.

His move comes a day after state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said she will not hold a hearing on Peake’s original House Bill 722 before the session ends March 24. She said she heard criticisms of the bill and that her committee did not have time for it. She said she would like to work on the topic in the coming months.

The session has also seen fireworks over fireworks legislation. From the Macon Telegraph,

Some Georgia cities and counties might curtail late-night fireworks, but they will also see a fireworks tax used to pay for firefighting and other safety measures under bills passed by the state Legislature this week.

[T]he state Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would give cities and counties a new power to locally limit pyrotechnics to 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. If a city or county does not add a restriction, revelers can use fireworks from 10 a.m. to midnight on those days, just as they are allowed now.

The House already has approved a similar bill. The two sides have until the session ends on March 24 to send a compromise bill to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk.

Some critics, especially in more densely populated places, want local governments to have more power to restrict fireworks.

The state House also approved an idea similar to one that already has the Senate’s OK: to spend a fireworks excise tax worth about $1 million annually on trauma care, firefighters and 911 service.

Legislation to make the Houston County Clerk of Superior Court an elected position may have moved the recent Clerk to resign.

County Commissioner Gail Robinson confirmed Monday that State Court Clerk Kendra Simons submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Nathan Deal, effective June 30.

Simons had been missing work even before she was re-elected in 2014. Simons said at the time she had a medical issue with her neck and hoped to be able to return to work soon.

However, her absences have continued and Robinson said Simons has not worked in months. The county has hired the former State Court clerk to clear the backlog of cases.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer’s Joe Paull has written a primer on “How to get elected to the Muscogee County School Board,” that I can’t find much to disagree with.

Former board chairwoman and retired educator Mary Sue Polleys said, “The most important factor for a successful campaign is friends who believe in you and are eager to work as volunteers. Some of those friends need to be people who have run successful campaigns in the past in order to give good advice.”

• Form a campaign committee and establish a campaign schedule.

• Announce your candidacy as early as possible, especially if this is your first campaign or you haven’t been in a community leadership position, so you can get a jumpstart on fundraising and name recognition.

• Develop a strategy and a plan, wrapped around you main message. Determine steps for fundraising, budgeting, recruiting volunteers, advertising and social media. Consider getting professional advice, if your campaign can afford it.

• Implement the plan. Campaign committee should meet at least weekly to adjust the plan. Your calendar should include dates for forums, rallies, visits to organizations and neighborhood canvassing.

• If your race is for a district seat, try to visit every residence. If your race is for a county-wide seat, visit as many organizations as you can.

The two main criticism I have come in the last bullet point I excerpted. Rather than visiting every residence, I’d prioritize people who actually voted in a previous election like the one you’re in. By doing this, you can make it possible to spend more of your time talking to folks who will actually vote. If you’re running in a county wide race, by targeting voters or geographics strengths, door-to-door can be a core of your electoral strategy despite the larger district.

The two parts of campaigning that I think are given too little attention by many folks are (1.) budgeting, which is a continuous process of monitoring income and expenditures and adjusting your plan to reality; and (2.) doing the voter contact in as efficient a manner as possible. Remember: simple ideas are not always easy to implement.

The Next (Current) Phase of Presidential Campaigns

The New York Times has a great article on the importance of the delegate selection rules and how the Presidential race continues to play out in states like Georgia that have already voted for President.

With more than half the states having now held their nominating contests, Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz are quietly directing their attention to a second, shadow election campaign — one that is out of sight, little understood but absolutely critical if Republicans arrive at their national convention with Mr. Trump short of a majority of delegates.

This parallel campaign is to select the individual delegates who will go to Cleveland in July for what could be the first contested convention in American politics in more than 60 years. Chosen through a byzantine process in each state, most of the delegates will become free agents if no one wins a majority on the first ballot.

The mere prospect that delegates could deny Mr. Trump the nomination led him to predict Wednesday that violence could erupt in such a situation.

“I think you’d have riots,” Mr. Trump warned.

For Mr. Trump, the problem is that a delegate may be pledged to back one candidate, based on the results of a primary or caucus, but may be loyal to another.

Recruiting loyalists to run for delegate slots — often through a series of contests beginning at the precinct and county levels — favors campaigns with strong grass-roots networks and robust national organizations. Mr. Trump has been lacking in both, failing to win in caucus states like Iowa, Kansas and Maine where a ground game is important.

In the vast majority of the states, you can’t do this on the fly; you have to have laid the groundwork for months,” said Joshua T. Putnam, a political science lecturer at the University of Georgia. “By all accounts, the Trump campaign is not active in pushing their guys into those delegate slots.”

By contrast, Mr. Cruz, who has done well in caucus states, is seeking to get his supporters elected as delegates who are nominally pledged to Mr. Trump, but who would desert him after the first ballot.

“The Cruz campaign has been organized down to the district and county levels all the way across the country,” said Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party who has participated in meetings for the Cruz campaign about delegate selection. “You’re dealing with people who are party activists. They will trump the Trump loyalists in winning delegate slots.”

You’ll see this play out on Saturday as the Georgia Republican Party holds County Conventions and would-be delegates to Cleveland jockey to move forward to the next level in the delegate selection process.


Adoptable Georgia Dogs for March 17, 2016


Baker is a 3.5-year old, 60-pound Irish Wolfhound and Border Collie mix male who is available for adoption from Forgotten Paws Pet Rescue in Acworth, GA.

Baker is a sweet boy just shy at first. He has not had a lot of exposure to new things so he shies away from loud noises and strangers but once he knows you he is pretty exuberant about you. Baker loves to play and he loves to chase squirrels. Due to his high prey drive, he needs a 6 foot fence and a special walking harness for when he tries to chase something and takes off.


Friday is an adult male Irish Wolfhound and Terrier mix male who is available for adoption from Clover Run Rescue in Jefferson, GA.

Lana is a 3-year old, 87-pound adult female Irish Wolfhound mic who is available for adoption from Cherokee County Animal Shelter in Canton, GA.

Hi my name is Lana. I was brought to the shelter by my owners on March 8th. They were unable to care for me any longer. I am super sweet and lovable. I love to have fun and spend time with my people. If you are interested in visiting with me please ask a staff member for assistance.~Lana


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 16, 2016

On March 16, 1861, delegates in Savannah unanimously ratified the Confederate Constitution and voted to have a new state constitution drafted.

On March 16, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Illinois Democratic Primary. His spiritual successor President Barack Obama, from Illinois, would visit Carter’s home state of Georgia on March 16, 2012.

Under the Gold Dome











9:00 AM RULES 341 CAP



3:00 PM SPECIAL RULES- Canceled 515 CLOB


HB 54 – Tuition grants; children of officers killed in line of duty who attend University System institutions and meet certain requirements; provide

HB 65 – Education; local boards of education and certain charter schools to hold at least two public meetings on the proposed annual operating budget; require

HB 73 – Public officers; counties and municipalities provide by local law for district durational residency requirements; authorize

HB 100 – Education; date by which a child must reach a certain age in order to be eligible for enrollment in certain educational programs; change provisions

HB 229 – Domestic relations; grandparent rights to visitation and intervention to great-grandparents and siblings of parents; expand

HB 238 – Sales and use tax; tangible personal property used for or in renovation or expansion of an aquarium owned or operated by an organization which is exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of Internal Revenue Code; provide exemption

HB 513 – Pleadings and motions; procedure for claims asserted against a person or entity arising from an act which could be construed as an act in furtherance of the right of free speech or right to petition government for redress of grievances; revise provisions

HB 579 – Motor vehicles; operation of certain vehicles upon highways when used in connection with agricultural pursuits; provide

HB 691 – Municipal courts; removal of appointed judges under certain circumstances; provide

HB 726 – Excise tax; tobacco products; clarify certain charges

HB 736 – Special license plates; marine habitat conservation; provide

HB 737 – Code Revision Commission; revise, modernize and correct errors of said Code

HB 765 – Social services; board member appointments may include certain retired individuals; provide

HB 770 – Crimes and offenses; trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude; provisions

HB 779 – Crimes and offenses; regulate use of unmanned aircraft systems and images; provisions

HB 784 – Insurance; advertising and promotional items not exceeding $100 will not be considered an unfair trade practice; provide

HB 800 – Veterinarians; veterinarian-client-patient relationship; clarify scope

HB 801 – HOPE; include certain coursework in computer science as optional rigor requirements; revise provisions

HB 804 – Superior courts; fifth judge of the Clayton Judicial Circuit; provide

HB 825 – “Protecting Military Children Act”; enact

HB 831 – “Protecting Guardmen’s Employment Act”; enact

HB 851 – Local government; annual audit of financial affairs, books, and records of boards of trustees of county law libraries; require

HB 876 – Animals; license and surety requirements of livestock dealers and market operators; update

HB 884 – Insurance; company action level event to include a health organization with certain total adjusted capital levels; revise definition

HB 899 – Commerce and trade; tobacco product manufacturers; revise and add certain definitions

HB 902 – Hospitals and related institutions; educational information on influenza disease to residents of assisted living communities; provide

HB 910 – Health records; provisions relating to costs of copying and mailing patient records apply to psychiatric, psychological, and other mental health records; provide

HB 920 – Health; hospitals and related institutions; restrict civil actions against passive investors in nursing homes and intermediate care homes

HB 952 – “Georgia Professional Regulation Reform Act”; enact

HB 962 – Human Services, Department of; creation, appointment, removal, and duties of a kinship care enforcement administrator; provide

HB 991 – Ad valorem tax; property; change certain definitions

HB 1028 – Natural Resources, Department of; Environmental Protection Division; provide notice to affected localities upon certain events relating to permitted solid or hazardous waste facilities

HB 1037 – Community Health, Department of; certified nurse aide registry to nurse aides who provide services in private residences; expand

HB 1058 – Health; HIV and AIDS; revise various statutes

HR 1312 – Houston County; certain property currently dedicated as a heritage preserve; authorize the change of use


Modified Open Rule

HR 1253 – Local boards of education; instruction on dugout safety to youth athletes participating in baseball; encourage (Ed-Sharper-177th)

HR 1342 – Education; school children; request more recess time (Ed-Douglas-78th)

HR 1382 – Community Health, Department of; create and seek the counsel of a State Health Benefit Plan Customer Advisory Council; encourage (H&HS-Buckner-137th)

SB 243 – Georgia Judicial Retirement System; preservation of rights by certain persons; change certain provisions (Ret-Battles-15th) Hill-4th

SR 1027 – Joint Music Economic Development Study Committee; create (Substitute)(SRules-Reeves-34th) Mullis-53rd

SR 1038 – Joint Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Study Committee; create (Substitute)(SRules-Harrell-106th) Mullis-53rd

Modified Structured Rule

HR 1343 United States Environmental Protection Agency; withdraw the proposed Waters of the United States Clean Water Plan rule; encourage (Substitute)(NR&E-McCall-33rd)

SB 208 Stonecrest, City of; provide for a charter (Substitute) (GAff-Dawkins-Haigler-91st) Ramsey, Sr.-43rd

Legislative Affairs

Here’s your handy link to the list of bills signed by Governor Deal. In the past, the Governor’s Office has done a remarkable job of keeping it up-to-date.

Yesterday, Gov. Deal praised the General Assembly’s passage of House Bill 951, designating sales tax holidays for back-to-school and energy-efficient applicances. From the press release,

Gov. Nathan Deal today applauded the Senate for passage HB 951, which designates tax holidays for “back-to-school” shoppers as well as those purchasing energy efficient products. The bill also includes an economic development incentive aimed at helping Georgia attract major sporting events by waiving sales taxes on those tickets. The measure passed the House last month.

“Consumers across the state will benefit from the passage of this legislation,” said Deal. “I commend the General Assembly for their leadership on this issue and for their action on behalf of Georgians everywhere. This legislation not only provides tax relief for consumers and families, but will help make our state more competitive nationally. I’m confident that the economic impact of this legislation will pay dividends and further cement our reputation as a top state in the nation in which to live, raise a family and do business.”

That bill, as noted, includes the sales tax break for some sporting event tickets, designed to help Atlanta’s bid to host a Super Bowl.

The National Rifle Association has taken issues with concerns Gov. Deal raised about the Campus Carry legislation that has passed both chambers and is on his desk for signature or veto. From the AJC Political Insider,

The National Rifle Association  has weighed in with some harsh words for Gov. Nathan Deal. In an e-mailed statement, the powerful gun-rights lobbying group said:

“Governor Deal’s newfound concerns about this critical campus safety bill are baffling. Two weeks ago he said the existing argument against it ‘lacks validity.’  The evidence is clear, students are safer on campuses that allows law-abiding gun owners to protect themselves and their fellow students. We are urging our members and supporters in Georgia to contact Governor Deal and respectfully express their support for this campus safety bill.” – Catherine Mortensen, NRA Spokesperson

The NRA’s statement opens a rift between the gun rights group and the governor it supported in his 2014 re-election campaign. The group spent at least $610,000 on radio and TV ads, mailers and a phone bank backing Deal over former Atlanta state Sen. Jason Carter.

Likely a finely-tuned team of surgeons and nurses, the Georgia General Assembly is furiously transplanting the guts of dead bills into living donors.

The AJC Political Insider writes that Senate Bill 369, originally a bill about fireworks, has received the vital organs of a bill to allow Fulton County, excluding the City of Atlanta, to decide by referendum to levy a 3/4 penny sales tax for transportation improvements. From the AJC,

The bill would create two regions. The city of Atlanta would be allowed to levy, via a November referendum, a half-percent sales tax that would run concurrent with the present one-penny sales tax, in order to double down on rail in the city. Roughly $2.5 billion in projects could be financed, by one estimate.

North and south Fulton County, outside Atlanta, would be allowed to levy a five-year, .75 percent sales tax, also by referendum. Presumably that would be for roads and bridges. That means a .25 percent tax could be levied in the future, should north Fulton change its mind about rail.

Most importantly, the two-region strategy would eliminate the impasse that had been building over rail in Fulton County — with transit and anti-transit forces able to veto the proposal of the other.

House Speaker pro tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, has been in charge of this heavy, last-minute lift.

Expect a continuing parade of zombie bills, and sometimes-unwilling transplant recipients.

Senator Renee Unterman is being blamed for “killing” a bill that would create new rules for the handling of rape kits.

Senator Renee Unterman is chair of the committee that would have to bring the rape kit bill up for it to move to the senate floor. But she is denying requests for a hearing on the issue.

“Our finding shows that there was no reason to write a law that the state of Georgia had received a $2 million grant and the back log is not there,” Unterman said. “I’ve been asking that representative to show me where the back log is, show me where this rape kits are?”

CBS46 spoke with hospital officials at Grady Memorial Hospital who said this time in 2015 they had more than 1200 kits but now that number is down to 150.

I’ll suggest this: there is no question that Sen. Unterman has thoroughly investigated the issue. She held committee hearing on the issue of rape kit backlogs on December 7, 2015, January 6 and 8, and February 3 of 2016 to hear about the issue.

It has been suggested that “politics” is the reason for the bills demise. If you detect the whiff of electoral politics in the air, it may come down to two sources.

First, is that the bill was written and carried in the House by Democratic State Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-DeKalb), who is widely considered to be preparing for a run for Attorney General in 2018. If legislation is conceived by political ambition, it’s hard to complain when it fails in reaction to that legislators ambition. That the entire left-activist community is up in arms over the issue suggests that it was meant as a springboard for Holcomb, rather than as a solution to a problem that appears to be on the bring of being solved.

Second is the consternation our friends on the left that Senator Unterman remains the most-effective champion of pro-life legislation, including the passage by both houses of Senate Bill 308, which would allow state-funded grants to pregnancy resource centers.

Their outrage over this bill has painted a target on Senator Unterman.


Adoptable Georgia Dogs for March 15, 2016


Winifred (above, female) and Wesley (below, male) are part of a litter of five Beagle and Dachshund mix puppies who are available for adoption from Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah, GA.

These five babies were surrendered with their beagle mix mom. They are happy little babies that love to eat, play and sleep hard!



Sunny (above, female) and Midnight (below, male) are part of a litter of five Labrador Retriever and Hound mix puppies who are available for adoption from Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah, GA.

They are typical puppies, looking for mischief while stealing hearts. (Don’t let the sleeping photos fool you – it’s the only way to get photos of them that aren’t blurry!)



Adoptable Georgia Dogs for March 15, 2016


Julius is a 4-year old male Labrador Retriever and Boxer mix who is available for adoption from Ginny Millner Rescue Group in Atlanta.

He’s happy and enjoys playing with other dogs, though he might be too rambunctious for smaller dogs.


Brutus is a 7-year old male German Shepherd Dog who is available for adoption from Canine Pet Rescue in Dacula, GA.

He is playful….his foster dad says you would never guess he was a middle-aged guy. He is good with other dogs, kids and cats. He would LOVE a forever home of his own!


Roman is an adult male citizen Chihuahua mix who is available for adoption from Dolly Goodpuppy Society Inc in Barnesville, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 15, 2016

On March 15, 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated by a group of Senators.

On March 15, 1758, Georgia’s Royal Governor Henry Ellis signed legislation dividing the colony into eight parishes, primarily for religious administration, but with some parishes having secondary government functions.

On March 15, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge negotiated bank loans totalling $2 million dollars to keep the state’s public schools open.

On March 15, 1943, Sea Island was officially named as Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation designating the island that had informally been given several different names.

On March 15, 1980, USS Carl Vinson, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was launched at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. Vinson was the first Navy ship named after a living American.

Howard “Bo’ Callaway, the father of the modern Georgia Republican Party, died on March 15, 2014.

Under the Gold Dome Today














9:00 AM RULES 341 CAP







HB 54 – Tuition grants; children of officers killed in line of duty who attend University System institutions and meet certain requirements; provide (H ED – Orrock) (Waites)

HB 219 – Health; swimming pools; exempt certain privately owned pools from inspection and licensing requirements (AG&CA – Ligon) (Jones)

HB 588 – Controlled substances; possession of substances containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine and restrictions of sale of products containing pseudoephedrine; change provisions (HHS – Unterman) (Clark)

HB 649 – Georgia Lactation Consultant Practice Act; enact (HHS – Burke) (Cooper)

HB 727 – Fireworks; certain further regulations by counties and municipal corporations; provide (PUB SAF – Mullis) (Battles)

HB 739 – Elementary and secondary education; process for state approved instructional materials and content is optional; provide (ED&Y – Gooch) (Tanner)

HB 775 – Health; restrictions on sale and dispensing of spectacles; provide (HHS – Unterman) (Ehrhart)

HB 777 – School buses; drivers use cell phones in a similar manner as a two-way radio (PUB SAF – Harper) (Dudgeon)

HB 811 – Banking and finance; update, modernize and streamline numerous Code sections; revise provisions (B&FI – Kennedy) (Williamson)

HB 815 – Meat inspection; inspection and regulation of certain avian meat products and facilities; provide (AG&CA – B. Jones) (Rhodes)

HB 884 – Insurance; company action level event to include a health organization with certain total adjusted capital levels; revise definition (I&L – Martin) (Taylor)

HB 951 – Sales and use tax; admissions to major sporting events, create exemption (ED&T – Miller) (Nimmer)

HB 979 – Crimes and offenses; assault and battery; increase the punishment committed upon hospital emergency department and medical services personnel (JUDY NC – Unterman) (Caldwell)

HB 1036 – Eminent domain; construction of petroleum pipelines and the environmental permitting requirements; change certain provisions (RI&U – Stone) (Hitchens)


Modified Open Rule

SB 206 – Counties and Municipal Corporations; revise provisions relating to water liens; procedures (Substitute)(Judy-Atwood-179th) Ligon, Jr.-3rd

SB 335 – Retirement; permissible investments in commingled funds and collective investment funds; revise provisions (Ret-Maxwell-17th) Black-8th

SB 336 – Retirement; permit governing bodies of municipal corporations to enact plans by resolution in addition to ordinance (Ret-Maxwell-17th) Black-8th

SR 730 – Coastal Regional Commission; encourage to support implementation of the Coastal Georgia Greenway (NR&E-Jones-167th) Ligon, Jr.-3rd

Modified Structured Rule

SB 193 – Crimes and Offenses; family violence battery; change penalty provisions (Substitute)(JudyNC-Ballinger-23rd) Bethel-54th

SB 263– Law Enforcement Officers; provide governing authority; employs sworn police officers who are P.O.S.T certified; policies; disability in line of duty (PS&HS-Caldwell-20th) Thompson-14th

SB 269 – Counties; require local governing bodies; provide certain entities with certification of compliance with Code section; condition of funding (Judy-Petrea-166th) Stone-23rd

SB 331 – Courts; causing a child to be conceived; violating certain prohibitions relating certain offenses; additional ground for terminating parental rights (Substitute)(Judy-Strickland-111th) Thompson-14th

SB 364 – “Quality Basic Education Act”; annual teacher, principal, and assistant principal evaluations; revise provisions (Substitute)(Ed-Nix-69th) Tippins-37th

SB 402 – Drug Abuse Treatment and Education Programs; provide for a moratorium on the issuance of new licenses to narcotic treatment programs (Substitute)(RegI-Weldon-3rd) Mullis-53rd

SR 558 – General Assembly; proceeds of excise taxes on sale of fireworks; funding of trauma care -CA (W&M-Battles-15th) Mullis-53rd

SR 954 – Public Property; granting of nonexclusive easements for the construction, operation, and maintenance of facilities, utilities, roads; 16 counties (Substitute)(SProp-Dunahoo-30th) Jeffares-17th

Legislation and Local Issues

The House bill that would open medical marijuana to more users in Georgia has stalled out in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee due to a split in the supporters of liberalized rules. From the Macon Telegraph,

“I’ve committed to the families that I’ll work with them next year,” said state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. As it stands now, the bill would need approval from her committee for a Senate vote, but she said Monday she will not schedule one.

She said the families she heard from are split on the bill.

“Some of the families wanted to wait until next year until you could get a broader scope. … I know there was a lot of conflict,” Unterman said.

Campus Carry passed the State Senate last week, but is running into signs that it might need to be tweaked to earn the Governor’s signature. From GPB,

The “Campus Carry” bill is headed to the desk of Gov. Nathan Deal. After heated debate, HB 859 passed in the state Senate Friday with a vote of 37-17.

The bill would allow licensed gun owners to carry concealed handguns on public college campuses. However, it would not allow the weapons in athletics facilities or student housing, which includes fraternity and sorority houses.

Gov. Deal signaled his support for the measure earlier this year. The legislation, first introduced by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), passed in the state House in February.

If signed by Gov. Deal, as expected, Georgia would become the ninth state to allow for the carrying of concealed weapons on public college campuses.

Greg Bluestein of the AJC writes that Gov. Deal indicated some problems with the Campus Carry bill.

Gov. Nathan Deal wants substantive changes to a measure that would allow college students to carry concealed guns onto campuses, suggesting Monday that he might veto the controversial proposal if lawmakers don’t take a second crack at it.

The governor’s office said in a statement Monday that he wants lawmakers to consider exempting on-campus child care centers from legislation that would legalize firearms at all public colleges in Georgia and address his concerns about high school students who are joint-enrolled in college courses on campuses that allow firearms.

He also said that universities and technical colleges should have discretion to set their own rules regarding whether to allow firearms at disciplinary hearings and faculty and administrative offices.

“Addressing these issues is an important step in ensuring the safety and freedoms of students, faculty and staff in our institutions of higher learning throughout our state,” said the statement from Deal’s office, which didn’t use the word “veto” but implied it nonetheless.

Keep an eye out for movement on increased funding or a new funding source for MARTA.

Gwinnett County DOT is holding a series of six meetings for public input into its updated Comprehensive Transportation Plan. The first meeting is 6-8 PM Tuesday at Bogan Park Community Recreation Center, 2723 Bogan Road, in Buford and the second meeting will be 10 AM to noon on Saturday at Shorty Howell Activity Building, 2750 Pleasant Hill Road, in Duluth.

The Harlem Globetrotters opened a new headquarters in Peachtree Corners.

The Harlem Globetrotters officials made Gwinnett County their new home on Monday with a ribbon cutting ceremony at their new headquarters in Peachtree Corners.

And, true to form, the team made Monday’s red, white and blue gathering an entertaining event with a mixture of humor and dazzling ball-handling skills.

In one lighthearted moment, Berkmar grad Alex “Moose” Weekes, feigned concern when team president Howard Smith turned toward him with an oversized pair of scissors in hand. The joke was a reference to fact that Weekes’ trademark look is his big hair, which is the inspiration behind his nickname.

“Hold up now, no, no, no, no, no,” Weekes told Smith.

Congressman Barry Loudermilk had good things to say about House Speaker Paul Ryan when he spoke to the MDJ.

Loudermilk said new House Speaker Paul Ryan was frustrated by the same issues and has handled the position much differently. And Congress, he said, has a new atmosphere with Ryan in the speaker post.

“We’ve got an issue with the budget coming up, and it’s a tough issue,” Loudermilk said. “As one who believes that our debt is one of the biggest issues we’re facing, it’s going to be tough to get to a yes on this budget. They understand that. So I sat in Paul Ryan’s office for two hours the other day, myself and several conservatives. Not arm-twisting, discussing. … That never used to happen.”


Adoptable Georgia Dogs for March 14, 2016

House Bill 561, which would name “the Adoptable Dog” as the official state dog of Georgia is stuck in the Senate Government Oversight Committee. In order to get unstuck, please consider emailing State Senator Bill Heath (R-Bremen) or call his office at (404) 656-3943 and politely ask that he schedule a hearing for Senate Bill 561.

Let me say that again: if you contact Sen. Heath, please ask politely – most legislators respond better to being asked politely.

Here are the points I would make:

1. Encouraging dog adoptions will reduce the cost on county and municipal governments that currently spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on caring for and then euthanizing unwanted dogs and cats.

2. No new state agency is created, no rules or regulations are added, and no fines, fees, or taxes are levied.

3. This is conservative legislation that costs the taxpayers no money and helps local and municipal governments reduce their tax burden and do a better job.

4. Sincerely thank whomever you email or speak to for taking the time to hear your concerns and for working to make Georgia better.




This adult female Black Labrador Retriever mix was found stray and will be available for adoption from the Walton County Animal Shelter in Monroe, GA.


This sweet adult female Yellow Labrador Retriever mix was found stray and will be available for adoption from the Walton County Animal Shelter in Monroe, GA.


Noah is a little 3-pound, 7-week old Beagle and Terrier mix puppy who is expected to get no larger than 12-15 pounds. Noah is available for adoption from Walton Animal Guild Inc. in Monroe, GA.