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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 12, 2016

Today is Georgia Day, celebrating the founding of the Thirteenth Colony on February 12, 1733.

After years of planning and two months crossing the Atlantic, James Oglethorpe and 114 colonists climbed 40 feet up the bluff from the Savannah River on this day in 1733 and founded the colony of Georgia.

George II granted the Georgia trustees a charter for the colony a year earlier. The trustees’ motto was Non Sibi Sed Allis—not for self but for others. Georgia would be a philanthropic and military enterprise that would provide the “worthy” poor a new start and serve as a buffer between Spanish Florida and the English colonies.

The trustees prohibited slavery and large landholdings….

Congress enacted the first fugitive slave law, on February 12, 1793 requiring states to return runaway slaves to their owners, even if the state in which the slave was captured did not permit slavery.

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky.

On February 12, 1867, the editor of the Milledgeville Federal Union expressed dismay at the rapidity with which Atlanta was growing and basically everything about Atlanta.

“Atlanta is certainly a fast place in every sense of the word, and our friends in Atlanta are a fast people. They live fast and they die fast. They make money fast and they spend it fast. They build houses fast, and they burn them down fast… . They have the largest public buildings, and the most of them, and they pass the most resolutions of any people, ancient or modern. To a stranger the whole city seems to be running on wheels, and all of the inhabitants continually blowing off steam.”

On February 13, 1941, Gov. Eugene Talmadge signed legislation that proposed a Constitutional Amendment changing the 2-year terms for Governor and other statewide Constitutional Officers to 4-year.

On February 13, 1956, Gov. Marvin Griffin signed legislation adopting a new state flag incorporating the Confederate battle flag.

On February 12, 1999, the United States Senate voted 55-45 against convicting impeached President Bill Clinton on a charge of perjury. Senator Paul Coverdell voted guilty and Senator Max Cleland voted not guilty. On the second charge of obstructing justice, Coverdell and 49 other Republicans voted guilty and Cleland joined 49 other senators in voting not guilty. A two-thirds vote of the Senate is required to convict a President, so Clinton was acquitted on both counts.

On February 13, 2007, United States Congressman Charlie Norwood (R-Augusta) died at home.

On February 14, 2012, we published the first edition of the GaPundit daily political news, featuring dogs. We originally thought that the dogs would be temporary until enough people complained about them that we felt the need to go to once a week. We were surprised that the adoptable dogs have become the signature of GaPundit’s otherwise-political offerings and our greatest success. With you help, we estimate we’ve saved about 70 dogs during the past two years, based on reports from readers. Thank you!

Two years ago, on February 12, 2014, most of Georgia state government was closed by Executive Order because of an ice storm.

On February 10, 2015, on the anniversary of the United States House of Representatives passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation proclaiming February as Black History Month.

Under the Gold Dome

Today, the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee meets from 9:30 AM to noon in Room 406 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building. They are scheduled to hear testimony, but not vote on, House Bill 772 by Rep. Allen Peake (Medical Cannabis) and House Bill 941 by Chairman Rich Golick (Review of incidents involving law enforcement use of deadly force).

The State House passed the Pastor Protection Act unanimously.

Georgia lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill explicitly stating that religious officials can refuse to perform gay marriages, their first significant action on a variety of proposals creating legal exemptions for same-sex marriage opponents.

Supporters of the “Pastor Protection Act” acknowledge that religious leaders already have that protection under the U.S. Constitution, but argue it will reassure them following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year legalizing gay marriage.

The court’s decision has prompted at least eight bills that would create exemptions for opponents of the marriages in Georgia, one of more than 20 states where lawmakers have introduced such proposals.

The Georgia bill shielding religious officials moved quickly through the House with backing from the chamber’s top Republican, House Speaker David Ralston, and little resistance from gay-rights advocates and business leaders who have opposed broader bills.

“I hope that the passage … will ease the concerns that some have expressed that last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision would threaten the independence of places of worship and the actions of clergy,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, the leading LGBT rights advocacy group in the state. “I can relate to the fears of discrimination because the LGBT community is not currently protected by any nondiscrimination laws on a state or federal level.”

An old story has a veteran House member counseling a younger colleague that members of the other party aren’t the enemy, but the opposition. “The Senate is the enemy,” is both the punchline and a truism of legislative politics. Yesterday, the Georgia General Assembly illustrated this dynamic.

You can watch the story on WSB-TV.

Senate Bill 308 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and others was passed by the Senate yesterday on a party-line vote and heads to the State House. From the AJC report:

The Georgia Senate approved an effort Thursday to make state grants available to dozens of pregnancy resource centers across Georgia, something the legislation’s sponsor said was a “positive alternative” to restricting women’s access to abortions.

Senate Bill 308 would create a grant program through the state Department of Public Health that promoted pregnancy and parenting efforts at these centers. The bill would require the department to ensure none of the money was used to counsel women to get an abortion unless necessary to prevent her death. The money also could not be used to pay for an abortion or for referrals to clinics that provide abortions.

During an emotional hour-and-a-half-long debate in the chamber, the bill’s sponsor, Senate Health and Human Services Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said there are about 70 pregnancy resource centers statewide and that their objective is to encourage a live birth. “They do a fabulous job because they offer alternative services other than abortion,” said Unterman, who estimates that there are about 27,000 abortions each year in Georgia. The bill would require the state to track how many women seek an abortion after receiving services from the centers.

Unterman identifies as an anti-abortion advocate and has actively pushed a number of abortion bills in her 17 years at the Capitol, including helping to write a 2007 law requiring an ultrasound or sonogram be offered before an abortion is performed in Georgia.

Democrats opposed Unterman’s new proposal, saying it allowed the state to fund what state Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, called “biased organizations” that may not employ doctors or anyone with medical experience that some women need to see for health reasons. State Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, said she worried the centers may provide “false advertising” or “misleading information” about their services.

Senator Unterman also recently introduced Senate Bill 352 to regulate online fantasy sports contests that include an entry fee and cash prize, commonly referred to as “fantasy sports websites.” Again from Kristina Torres at the AJC.

Unterman called the legislation a “consumer protection” effort, saying an estimated 1.5 million people play daily fantasy sports in Georgia.

Notably, she wrote the bill to differentiate daily fantasy sports from gambling — something Georgia bans other than in lottery games and slot-like machines known as coin-operated amusement machines.

“This is a game of skill, that you are actually following and researching the players and teams, versus just going in and plopping down $3 for a lottery ticket and the computer generates the numbers,” Unterman said.

Peach State Presidential Endorsements

Former Georgia Republican Party Chairman Alec Poitevint has endorsed Marco Rubio for President. I questioned on Twitter last night how much an AJC headline reading “Marco Rubio picks up another establishment Georgia Republican endorsement” helps in the era of Outsider David Perdue, whose 2014 campaign Poitevint chaired, and Donald Trump.

Is Alec Poitevint “the ultimate insider in Georgia’s Republican Party,” as the AJC called him, or is he “the original ‘outsider’ in Georgia politics,” as Perdue 2014 Campaign Manager Billy Kirkland said? I’d argue that he’s both.

When I worked at the Georgia Republican Party in 1991 or 92, Alec Poitevint was chair, and he since chaired the GAGOP during much of the 2000s and managed the 2012 Republican National Convention. That last credential arguably makes him an “insider” at the national level, at least. During the 1990s, the Georgia Republican Party was an insurgent minority party made up of definitive outsiders.

Since the early 2000s, when Alec led the party to takeover state government in Georgia, roles have switched. David Shafer, who served as Executive Director of the GAGOP in those early years now sits in the office closest to the floor of the State Senate, where he serves as the chambers elected President Pro Tem.

At some level we’re arguing about the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin.

Speaking of outsiders and insiders, Donald Trump’s campaign has released a list of endorsers:

Today Donald J. Trump for President Inc. announced the endorsements of dozens of Georgia officials including that of his first statewide elected official, Public Service Commission Chairman Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, Jr.

Mr. Trump stated, “It is my great honor to receive these coveted and influential endorsements from tremendous people in the state of Georgia. I have visited many times and had great crowds and poll numbers. I look forward to being in Georgia again soon and working with each of these local leaders to Make America Great Again.”

McDonald served 20 years as a State Representative in the Georgia Legislature and also served as a commissioner in Jackson County, served on the Board of Managers of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, and volunteered as a Firefighter for the city of Commerce for 35 years. He joins the campaign as a Statewide Co-Chair.

McDonald said, “Mr. Trump is a proven leader with unparalleled success. He has the capabilities to make our country stronger and better than ever before. I am proud to endorse his candidacy for President of the United States along with many other community leaders here in Georgia.”

Former State Representative Mitchell Kaye will lead the local elected officials coalition.

We’ve also got a huge list of incredible winners endorsing Trump, the biggest list of endorsers ever. You’re going to love it.



Adoptable Georgia Dogs for February 11, 2016

Bandit Vienna

Bandit is an adult male Great Pyrenees & German Shorthaired Pointer Mix who is available for adoption from Flint Humane Society in Vienna, GA.

Hi, I’m Bandit. I am a very good looking dog and I am intelligent, too. I am ready for you to teach me what you want me to know. I am gentle and kind. I love people and other dogs. I have not been around cats. My breed is usually not a cat loving type, but I could be the exception. I am a confident dog and I respond well to positive reinforcement. My shelter staff loves me, but I have not been loved like I need. I am a very affectionate dog. I don’t get to give my love and loyalty back to a family. It is my time. Please take me home with you.

Bandit Winder

Bandit is an adult male Border Collie & Labrador Retriever Mix who is available for adoption from Pup & Cat Co. in Winder,GA.

Bandit is a cute little guy, only guessing his breed of Border Collie/Lab mix and about 30#. He is timid and shy but in no way aggressive because of it and is somewhat bewildered at being relinquished, along with his buddy Bella. He met with an unfortunate turn in his life, his person dying and wife unable to care of him. He has such great potential because of his sweetness and take patience and time will come around quickly to most any situation.


Reynolds is a young male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Orphan Annie Rescue in Atlanta, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 10, 2016

On February 11, 1733, the first military formation in Georgia was held, as male colonists assembled with their muskets.

On February 11, 1776, Georgia Royal Governor Sir James Wright escaped from house arrest in Savannah to a waiting British warship HMS Scarborough.

Burt Reynolds was born on February 11, 1936 in Lansing, Michigan, though some accounts say Waycross, Georgia. Beginning with Deliverance, filmed along the Chattooga River in North Georgia in 1972, Georgia rose to number three in the nation for film production while Reynolds’s star rose to prominence. Other Reynolds movies filmed in Georgia include The Longest Yard, Gator, Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run, and Sharkey’s Machine.

Under the Gold Dome

Senate Committee Meetings


1:00 PM Insurance and Labor 450 CAP

2:00 PM Judiciary – CANCELED 307 CLOB

3:00 PM Transportation – CANCELED 125 CAP

3:00 PM Judiciary Non-Civil 307 CLOB

House Committee Meetings

TBD Floor Session (LD 20) House Chamber – 10:00AM

8:00 AM Approp Higher Ed Sub 506 CLOB

8:00 AM NAT’AL RES. & ENV’T 606 CLOB

8:30 AM Juvenile Justice Ballinger Sub 515 CLOB

9:00 AM RULES 341 CAP

1:00 PM Juvenile Justice Efstration Sub 415 CLOB

1:30 PM Judiciary Non-Civil Pak Sub 505 CLOB

2:00 PM Judiciary Civil Setzler Sub 406 CLOB


Senate Rules Calendar

SB 115 – Physician Assistants; authorize a physician to delegate to physician assistant the authority to prescribe Schedule II controlled substances (H&HS – Hufstetler)

SB 158 – Consumer and Provider Protection Act; provide certain consumer and provider protections regarding health insurance (I&L – Burke)

SB 271 – Mental Health; provide reasonable standards for providing patients notice; admission to an emergency receiving facility (H&HS – Unterman)

SB 308 – Health; Positive Alternatives for Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program; establish; definitions; administration and duties (H&HS – Unterman)

House Rules Calendar

Modified Open Rule

HB 193 Life Insurance Consumer Disclosure Model Act; enact (Substitute) (Ins-Rogers-29th)

HB 219 Health; swimming pools; exempt certain privately owned pools from inspection and licensing requirements (Substitute)(SP&CA-Jones-167th)

HB 821 “Military Spouses and Veterans Licensure Act”; enact (SBD-Williams-168th)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 811 Banking and finance; update, modernize, and streamline numerous Code
sections; revise provisions (Substitute)(B&B-Williamson-115th)

Structured Rule

HB 769 Ad valorem tax; certain watercraft held for sale or resale; make permanent an exemption (W&M-Hawkins-27th)

HB 822 Sales and use tax; energy used in agriculture; revise definition (W&M-Coomer-14th)

HR 1198 Natural Resources, Department of; Environmental Protection Division1; review its regulations providing for the protection of underground drinking water; encourage (Substitute)(NR&E-Smith-70th)

Legislation & Local Issues

Yesterday, Franklin Graham drew a capacity crowd, filling Liberty Plaza across the street from the State Capitol. Here’s what it looked like:

Capitol Franklin Graham Panorama

Continue Reading..


Former Peachtree City Mayor Harold Logsdon announces for HD 72

Peachtree City, Georgia — Former Peachtree City Mayor Harold Logsdon (R) today announced his candidacy for Georgia’s 72nd House District seat to replace Representative Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City).

“We need proven conservative leadership to succeed Rep. Ramsey in our state’s capital, and I’m confident my 38 years with the National Guard, 36 years with BellSouth, and full-term as Mayor of Peachtree City will enable us to achieve conservative legislative success,” said Logsdon. “Rep. Ramsey will be a tough act to follow; he’s done an exceptional job while in office. However, I believe I am up to the challenge to represent the 72nd District.”

Raised on a farm in Kentucky, Logsdon learned the value of commitment and hard work at an early age. As a high school senior, he enlisted as a private in the National Guard.Continue Reading..


Adoptable Georgia Dogs for February 10, 2016


Dobby is a 4-year old, 10-pound male Chihuahua who was owner-surrendered and is available for adoption from Walton County Animal Control in Monroe, GA. He is neutered and current on vaccinations.

Walton Aussie

987071 is an adult male Australian Shepherd/Catahoula Leopard Hound mix who is available for adoption from Walton County Animal Control in Monroe, GA. He was picked up stray after his owner died.


Kutie is a 9-month old female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from Walton County Animal Control in Monroe, GA. She is housebroken and said to be good with kids, dogs, and cats. She reminds me of my coonhound mix, Dolly, who has a very similar coat, eyes, and pinkish nose.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 10, 2016

On February 10, 1787, the Georgia House of Assembly named William Few, Abraham Baldwin, William Pierce, George Walton, William Houstoun, and Nathaniel Pendleton to the Constitutional Convention called to revise the Articles of Confederation at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

On February 10, 1861, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi received word that he was chosen as President of the Confederate States of America.

On February 10, 1972, David Bowie made his first appearance as Ziggy Stardust.

Under the Gold Dome

Senate Committee Meetings

8:30 AM Health Care Delivery HHS Sub 122 CAP


1:00 PM Public Safety – CANCELED 125 CAP

1:00 PM Regulated Ind and Utilities 310 CLOB

1:00 PM Education & Youth 307 CLOB

2:00 PM Health and Human Svcss 450 CAP

2:00 PM Interstate Cooperation 125 CAP

2:00 PM Science and Technology 310 CLOB

3:00 PM Higher Education 307 CLOB

4:00 PM Special Joint Com Rev Structure Mezz

House Committee Meetings

TBD Jud’y Non-Civil Setzler Sub132 CAP (upon adjournment)

TBD Floor Session (LD19)House Chamber – 10:00AM


8:00 AM Approp Econ Dev Sub 506 CLOB

9:00 AM RULES 341 CAP

1:00 PM W&M Pub Fine & Policy Sub 133 CAP




2:00 PM RETIREMENT – Canceled 515 CLOB





3:00 PM Appropriations Public Safety Sub 515 CLOB

Senate Rules Calendar

HB 750 – Supplemental appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016 (As Passed House)(Substitute) (APPROP-4th) Ralston-7th

SB 262 – Courts; when a judge, judicial officer, grand juror; may be disqualified by being related by consanguinity/affinity to a party; provisions (As Introduced)(Substitute)(JUDY-23rd)

House Rules Calendar

Modified Open Rule

HB 635 – Judges of Probate Courts Retirement Fund; increase number of years of mandatory contribution; provisions (Substitute)(Ret-Epps-144th)

HB 659 – Education; provide transparency of financial information of local school systems and schools; provisions (Substitute)(Ed-Belton-112th)

HB 840 – Conservation and natural resources; rules and regulations used to establish criminal violations; change provisions (Substitute)(GF&P-Stephens-164th)

HB 844 – Georgia Firefighters’ Pension Fund; insurance premiums subject to taxation; update certain provisions (Substitute)(Ret-Maxwell-17th)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 509 – Georgia Palliative Care and Quality of Life Advisory Council; create; provisions (Substitute)(H&HS-Petrea-166th)

Structured Rule

HB 726 – Excise tax; tobacco products; clarify certain charges (W&M-Tanner-9th)

Legislation & Local Issues

Today at noon, Franklin Graham is holding a rally as part of his Decision America 2016 at Liberty Plaza across the street from the State Capitol.

Legislation by State Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) would effectively adopt the federal civil rights standards and apply them under Georgia law. Democrats led by State Rep. Taylor Bennett attempted to insert LGBT as a protected class.

A House Judiciary subcommittee voted 6-4 to defeat an amendment from state Rep. Taylor Bennett, D-Brookhaven, to bar discrimination in Georgia based on “religion, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or veteran’s status.”Continue Reading..


Sam Olens: U.S. Supreme Court Halts EPA’s Unlawful Power Plan

Attorney General Sam Olens offered the following statement regarding today’s Supreme Court decision blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing its illegal and unprecedented Power Plan until the court challenge concludes.

“This is a victory against an out of control Environmental Protection Agency. We will continue to fight this executive overreach which will put Americans out of work and drive up the cost of electricity for consumers.”

25 States challenged the EPA’s power plan on Oct. 23, 2015, the day it was published. The states argue the EPA exceeded its authority by double regulating coal-fired power plants and forcing states to fundamentally shift their energy portfolios away from coal-fired generation among other reasons.

Those joining Georgia in seeking a stay Jan. 26 with the Supreme Court were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, , Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming, along with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Mississippi Public Service Commission, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.


Early Voting for the March 1 SEC Primary in Georgia

County Name
Grand Total
BEN HILL224466
Grand Total116767882000026928224

Continue Reading..


Adoptable Georgia Dogs for February 9, 2016


Devan is a 2-year old male Terrier mix who is available for adoption from Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA. Devan looks like he’s comforting his little friend Katie. I think these two would probably be great to adopt together if you’re looking for a nice pair of dogs.


Katie is a 14-week old German Shepherd mix female who is available for adoption from Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA.


Chum is an 18-month old male tricolor Beagle who is available for adoption from Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA


Donavan is a 5-year old male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 9, 2016

On February 9, 1825, the United States House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams as President of the United States, despite his having received fewer popular votes than Andrew Jackson. Congress voted for the President after no candidate received a majority of electoral votes in the 1824 election.

The 12th Amendment states that if no electoral majority is won, only the three candidates who receive the most popular votes will be considered in the House.

Representative Henry Clay, who was disqualified from the House vote as a fourth-place candidate, agreed to use his influence to have John Quincy Adams elected. Clay and Adams were both members of a loose coalition in Congress that by 1828 became known as the National Republicans, while Jackson’s supporters were later organized into the Democratic Party.

Alexander Stephens was elected Vice President of the Confederate States of America on February 9, 1861.

On February 9, 1926, the Atlanta Board of Education voted to prohibit teaching evolution in the Atlanta Public Schools.

On February 9, 1964, the Beatles debuted in America on The Ed Sullivan Show.

On Friday, February 12, 2016, the Georgia Archives in Morrow will display’s Georgia’s copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Royal Charter that created the colony in commemoration of Georgia’s founding on February 12, 1733.

On Jan. 18, 1777, the Continental Congress met in Baltimore, Md., and ordered that copies of the Declaration of Independence be printed and sent to each of the 13 states. The states were directed to make the Declaration a part of their official records. Georgia’s copy was officially entered into the records on March 2, 1777.

Today, the Declaration is protected with Georgia’s other “birth documents,” which are the Royal Charter that created the colony in 1733 and Georgia’s 1788 ratification of the U.S. Constitution, the document that made Georgia a state. All are kept in a high-security vault where a constant temperature and humidity are maintained to ensure their long-term survival.

The Georgia Archives has limited public viewing of its copy of the Declaration in order to mitigate the fading, deterioration and other damage caused by frequent exhibits.

The Georgia Archives is at 5800 Jonesboro Road in Morrow. For more information, visit or call 678-364-3710.

Under the Gold Dome

Senate Committee Meetings


1:00 PM Ethics 307 CLOB

1:00 PM Government Oversight 125 CAP

2:00 PM Retirement 310 CLOB

2:00 PM Judiciary 307 CLOB

2:00 PM State and Local Gov’t Ops 125 CAP

3:00 PM Banking and Finance 310 CLOB

4:00 PM Judiciary Non-Civil 307 CLOB

House Committee Meetings

8:00 AM Approp Econ Dev Sub 606 CLOB

8:00 AM Approp Gen’l Gov’t Sub 403 CAP

9:00 AM RULES 341 CAP



1:30 PM W&M Tax Reform Sub 133 CAP


2:00 PM Health Human Svcs 606 CLOB

2:00 PM W&M Sales Tax Sub 133 CAP


2:00 PM Ins Admin/Licensing Sub 515 CLOB

3:00 PM Pub Safety Homeland Sec 406 CLOB

3:00 PM Local Government Sub 515 CLOB

3:00 PM HB 872 Sub 403 CAP

3:30 PM Approp Gen’l Gov’t Sub 415 CLOB

4:00 PM Elections Sub 515 CLOB

Senate Rules Calendar

SB 255 – Garnishment Proceedings; modernize, reorganize, and provide constitutional protections (As Introduced) (Substitute) (JUDY-23rd)

SB 307 – Public Roads; provide for definitions relative to advertising (As Introduced) (Substitute) (TRANS-21st)

HB 742 – Revenue and taxation; Internal Revenue Code; define terms; incorporate certain provisions of federal law into Georgia law (As Passed House)(FIN-32nd) Knight-130th

House Rules Calendar

Modified Open Rule

HB 483 State symbols; shoal bass as official state native riverine sport fish; designate (GF&P-Buckner-137th)

HB 697 Unsolicited merchandise; solicitors to receive from consumers affirmative assent to continued receipt of certain merchandise following a free trial before charging; require (Substitute)(A&CA-Kirby-114th)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 739 Elementary and secondary education; process for state approved instructional materials and content is optional; provide (Substitute)(Ed-Tanner-9th)

HB 765 Social services; board member appointments may include certain retired individuals; provide (GAff-Powell-171st)

HB 866 Insurance; multiple employer self-insured health plans; exempt from premium taxes (Ins-Blackmon-146th)

HB 870 Quality Basic Education Act; high schools that receive state funding cannot participate in an athletic association which prohibits religious expression on clothing of student athletes; provide (Ed-Strickland-111th)

Legislation & Local Issues

Renee 34side

Yesterday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 278 by Sen. Renee Unterman, increasing penalties for people found guilty of the crimes of pimping and pandering. From the AJC’s Janel Davis,

[S]econd and subsequent convictions for the crime would be a felony and carry a punishment of between one and ten years in jail for victims 16 and older. For convictions involving victims younger than 16, the penalty would be ten to 30 years in jail and a maximum fine of $100,000.

The bill, approved 53-0 by the Senate, takes the work Georgia has done combating child sex trafficking a step forward, said Unterman, R-Buford.

Today, the House will consider HB 870 by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), which addresses the issue of high school athletes with religious expressions on their uniforms. From Neighbor Newspapers,

In the state Legislature, Henry County delegate District 111 State Rep. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, said he wants to “prohibit discrimination” by the Georgia High School Association.

A bill … proposes to use the purse strings of the Georgia Department of Education to vacate the association’s membership.

If passed, all schools receiving funding through the Quality Basic Education Act of 1984 – basically, all public schools in Georgia – will have to resign from the association

Strickland said he wrote the piece of legislation because Community Christian School and Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy in Stockbridge, which are in his district, “use the same cross country track but are not allowed to even have practice meets together” due to association rules.

“I was approached about the inability of our local private schools to play scrimmage matches this past fall and agreed to help,” he said.

[A]nother provision bars schools that receive state funds from participating “in athletic associations that prohibit religious expression on the clothing of student athletes.”

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) continues to try to move forward with legislation to expand the diseases for which cannabidiol oil is prescribale and to enable in-state cultivation and processing, according to Maggie Lee with the Macon Telegraph.

Peake’s House Bill 722 would allow the state to license up to six medical cannabis cultivators. Each license holder could grow the plant and manufacture liquid or pill treatments for Georgians who have any of 17 diagnoses.

Peake, R-Macon, said the point of his bill is to get the compounds into the hands of seriously ill Georgians.

But after two hours of being examined by a panel packed with lawyers, Peake said there are parts of his bill that he will need to work on in the coming days.

Members of the committee who were hearing the bill poked holes in its language. Among other things, they suggested that the diagnosis of “intractable pain” might be open to abuse and that patients might cause legal problems for employers who want to comply with the state’s drug-free workplace program.

Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk said the bill is hard to swallow. The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association opposes cultivation in the state.

“We already have a number of guidelines that are used for prescription drugs and controlling that. However we see that doctors and patients abuse that daily, and we deal with it every day on the street. … To only add something else to that issue is a grave concern,” Sisk said.

13WMAZ in Macon has more on Sheriffs’ objections to in-state cultivation.

Peach County Sheriff Terry Deese went with some members of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association to speak in opposition of the bill. He says his biggest concern is how law enforcement would regulate it.

Deese says their counterparts in Colorado call it a “nightmare.”

“When we were convinced there was some medical use for sick children, naturally, we want the medicine to be used for the people that need help,” he explains. “But last year, that bill was increased by adding other illnesses, and this year it’s migrated into more illnesses, and now into grow houses.”

Peake, however, says those concerns are unwarranted and the legislation will not lead to recreational use.

“I believe there is a little bit of overreaction as far as the security concerns given the limited number of facilities that will be growing medical marijuana in our state,” says Peake.

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners could increase their pay to as much as $45,000 per year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The consensus was reached to increase the salaries, which could go up to as much as $45,000 per district commissioner, during a short, informal work session on Monday morning. The increase would not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2017, after this year’s elections for three commission seats has been held, and would only affect the four district commission seats.

Chairman Charlotte Nash proposed the increase, but emphatically told her colleagues that she did not want her own position’s salary increased. The chairman’s salary of about $50,000 has not been changed in decades, and Nash said she felt it was inappropriate for her to accept a raise when she is also on the county’s retirement rolls.

“Since I’m already drawing a retirement check, it did not feel right to me to accept a raise,” Nash said. “That’s just my stance on it … I don’t want the district commissioners to be held up from getting an increase because of me, though.”

The commission is set to vote on the increase at its 2 p.m. business meeting on March 1. Whether the commissioners actually adopt a $45,000 salary for themselves remains to be seen, because they left the door open to possibly adopt a lower rate.

The Augusta Commission is set to renew a controversial contract with private probation provider Sentinel Offender Services, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The private contract costs the local government nothing up front, but it gives the for-profit company exclusive access to Augusta probationers, to whom it charges monitoring fees and leases monitoring equipment, such as a continuous alcohol monitoring bracelet that costs offenders $11 per day.

The company has been named in more than a dozen civil rights lawsuits across the state. On Monday, the Geor­gia Supreme Court heard arguments in a case involving a Glynn County man jailed on a warrant obtained by Sentinel months after his probation sentence had expired.

As they did in 2014, Au­gusta commissioners heeded the elected judges’ opinion on keeping Sentinel.

“Most of the judges are for it, and who are we going to turn it over to?” Mayor Pro Tem Grady Smith said. “Who ought to know better about it than anybody? Not me, that’s for sure.”

Campaigns & Elections

Holly Veal announced she is running for Henry County District Attorney. Also running is McDonough attorney Matthew McCord.

Yesterday, I went to Tucker Recreation Center, where early voting is underway. At shortly after noon, 45 ballots had been cast, and there was no wait. Here’s the Republican sample ballot: you may note that several candidates who dropped out of the race still appear on the ballot.

Sample Ballot Georgia Early Voting 2016

As of the most recent Secretary of State’s absentee voting files, here are the DeKalb County votes so far

Total: 1540
In-Person: 325
Electronic: 146
Mailed: 1069

By Political Party
Democrat:  972
Republican:  558
None:  4
Non-Partisan:  6

And Gwinnett County, which has 5% higher turnout so far than DeKalb.

Total: 1617
In-Person: 180
Electronic: 77
Mailed: 1343

By Political Party
Democrat:  434
Republican:  1142
None:  34
Non-Partisan: 7

I should note that a Mailed ballot does not mean it has been returned yet, just that it has been issued.

The Marco Rubio campaign held a press conference with Congressman Austin Scott at the Georgia State Capitol yesterday.

Austin Scott Marco Rubio Press Conference

Senator P.K. Martin also spoke to the press conference.

PK Martin Rubio Country

As did Rep. Buzz Brockway.

Buzz Rubio2

The Rubio campaign also released an updated list of Georgia endorsements.

The list is headed by Republican U.S. Reps. Lynn Westmoreland of Grantville and Austin Scott of Tifton.

The list of Rubio’s endorsements was broken down into early supporters including Georgia Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta, and state Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, majority whip in the Georgia House of Representatives. Among those listed as “new” supporters were state House Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, and veteran Georgia Reps. Tom Rice of Norcross and Chuck Martin of Alpharetta.

Scott, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Rubio has been a strong advocate for the U.S. military. He criticized GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas for voting repeatedly against military appropriations bills before the Armed Services panel.

“It was Sen. Rubio who helped get the money back … after President Obama cut the military,” Scott said.

Greg Bluestein of the AJC has more on the Rubio endorsements.

Among Rubio’s newest supporters are state Sen. Rick Jeffares and longtime state Reps. Howard Maxwell and Gerald Greene. Also on the list were a handful of prosecutors, including Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds.

“Marco Rubio has the strength to restore our military might, destroy ISIS, protect Israel, and secure our homeland,” said Reynolds in a statement. “I’m excited to join his effort to build a New American Century.”

They join a growing core of supporters that also include Rep. Austin Scott, Rubio’s Georgia chair, and state Reps. Geoff Duncan, Michael Caldwell, Chuck Efstration, Buzz Brockway, Trey Kelley and Bert Reeves.

Here’s the full list of Rubio’s latest pickups:

Marco Rubio’s Georgia Leadership Team:

State Representative Gerald Greene, Cuthbert
Cobb County DA Vic Reynolds
Cherokee County DA Shannon Wallace
Paulding County DA Dick Donovan
Douglas County Assistant DA Ryan Leonard
Senator Rick Jeffares; Chairman of Senate Regulated Industries
Representative Howard Maxwell; Chairman of House Regulated Industries
Mayor Teresa Philyaw, Hiram
Councilman Brandon Hembree, Sugar Hill

It was a well-timed event, garnering broadcast news time in Atlanta on the day that in-person early voting for the March 1 Presidential Preference Primary kicked off, though I’m not certain in a post-David Perdue world how helpful a headline like “Georgia GOP establishment rallies around Rubio” really is.