The blog.


NRA push on mental health: Solution or diversion? |

One week after a horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the country’s top gun lobbyist called for an aggressive reaction – against people with mental illness.

“The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters,” Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president and chief executive of the National Rifle Association, said in a Dec. 21, 2012, speech. The threat, LaPierre said, comes from “people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them.”

In the weeks afterward, LaPierre repeatedly cited a looming menace from people he called “lunatics” and “maniacs.” A nationwide database of mentally ill people, he said, would keep guns out of dangerous hands. He also suggested indicting the mentally ill, if necessary, to force them into psychiatric treatment.

At the same time, the NRA was waging a very different battle. It was pushing state legislatures, including Georgia’s, to ensure the right of gun ownership for a group normally excluded from firearms possession: the mentally ill.

The seemingly contradictory stances illustrates the fine line that faces the NRA and other gun-rights advocates: They feel compelled to offer solutions following mass shootings, while their reason for being is to promote and expand gun rights and gun ownership.

via NRA push on mental health: Solution or diversion? |


Lee votes to fund wife’s employer |

Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee will ask his fellow commissioners this week for a do-over, so he can change a vote he cast in favor of giving his wife’s employer, the non-profit MUST Ministries, an $85,000 year-end grant.

The county’s ethics law says elected officials can’t “participate, directly or indirectly,” in “any proceeding … vote … or any other matter involving an immediate relative or any interest of an immediate relative.”

After The Atlanta Journal-Constitution questioned Lee about the issue last week, the chairman announced he would ask the commission for a re-vote at its Dec. 9 meeting. Lee would not grant the AJC an interview for this story, but issued a statement that said he realized he should have abstained after the Nov. 25 vote, which provided MUST with unused HUD grant money in county coffers from the 2006-09 fiscal years.

via Lee votes to fund wife’s employer |


Business leaders to push agenda at Gold Dome |

Atlanta’s top business leaders are flexing their muscles ahead of the coming legislative session.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber, the driving force behind a failed regional transportation sales tax vote in 2012, is reviving a push for major infrastructure improvements. Some corporate giants are again opposing a “religious liberty” push they see as discriminatory. And business leaders want it known that metro Atlanta is welcome to foreigners and millennials.

“If something is going on in the public policy arena, we owe it to our members to take a stance, and hopefully in a very constructive and respectful way,” said Larry Gellerstedt, the Cousins Properties CEO and the Chamber’s incoming chairman.

The chamber has long been a bastion of fiscal conservatism, and Gov. Nathan Deal and other Republican leaders have enjoyed outspoken support from its leaders. It’s also been successful in changing the state’s flag and helping save Grady Memorial Hospital.

But the group’s clout has limits, especially in a statehouse where a tea party-influenced strain of conservatism has made it difficult to back anything that would raise new revenue.

Some GOP lawmakers say the Chamber misread the political dynamic when its powerful outgoing chairman, Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson, said this week that Georgia shouldn’t be “chicken” about tackling tough solutions, and that the business community should “stand up” to legislative leaders who threaten Georgia’s image.

Others are quick to note the business community’s power at the Gold Dome took a hit with the resounding defeat of the 2012 special transportation sales tax. An odd coalition of environmentalists, the NAACP and tea party types rallied voters against the bill in metro Atlanta.

via Business leaders to push agenda at Gold Dome |


More changes ahead for Georgia’s ethics agency |

fter a stinging audit and a staffing overhaul, the state ethics commission looks to a new year that could bring even more significant changes.

It’s been a tumultuous time at the state ethics commission, which has been mired in recent years by a number of lawsuits filed by former employees, personnel issues and allegations of outside influence with questions raised about its ability to ensure candidates, campaign committees, lobbyists and others are disclosing their financial activities as required by law.

Meanwhile, the commission has had 216 open complaints that have been pending an average of three years and has failed to consider a single complaint for a year and a half amid an employee turnover rate of 46 percent in the last two years.

That was all noted in an October audit conducted by the state that found the commission was not achieving its mission and noted commissioners had not provided adequate oversight of key personnel who, in turn, failed to ensure employees operated effectively. The audit describes the agency as an “unprofessional work environment” that was unable to ensure those required to file disclosures and campaign finance reports actually did so, that such filings were reviewed for accuracy and that cases were handled in a timely, consistent and thorough manner.

via More changes ahead for Georgia’s ethics agency |


Court ruling deals blow to welfare drug-testing law | Political Insider blog

An Atlanta federal appeals court struck down a Florida law mandating the blanket drug-testing of all welfare recipients, raising fresh legal doubts about a similar Georgia law.

A three-judge panel for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday concluded that Florida failed to prove any “concrete danger” justifying the need for suspicion-less drug testing for poverty aid recipients.

Georgia lawmakers this year passed their own bill that built in a screen for reasonable suspicion rather than attempt to test every welfare recipient. Critics called it political grandstanding and said it was doomed to fail a legal challenge.

Gov. Nathan Deal quickly signed the proposal, House Bill 772, into law. But his office immediately delayed the implementation until the appeals court ruled on the Florida case. At the time, Deal’s aides said they wanted to await guidance from the courts rather than risk another legal battle before the Florida case was settled.

It’s unclear what the state’s next move is now that the decision has been issued.

A separate part of Georgia’s law, which would have applied drug tests to food stamp recipients, has already been thrown out. The part of the law that applies to Georgia’s 16,000 welfare recipients has not.

The three-judge panel didn’t mince words when it came to the Florida law. It concluded that the suspicion-less drug-testing requirement for welfare recipients “offends the Fourth Amendment,” which protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures.

via Court ruling deals blow to welfare drug-testing law | Political Insider blog.


Southern Airways Express looking to expand |

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — With minutes to go before this Southern Airways Express flight is set to take off for Memphis, business traveler Harold Sloves couldn’t be more relaxed.

“It’s just extremely convenient,” he said. “You park right in front of the terminal, there’s no long security line, you don’t feel like cattle going through the airport.”

Southern is a scheduled public charter that sells by the seat, with direct flights from DeKalb Peachtree Airport to Destin, Memphis, Jackson and Oxford, Mississippi.

“It’s great. You come up, you show up 20 minutes before your flight, sign in, when everybody gets here, we go,” Sloves said.

Southern uses the Signature terminal on the north side of PDK. Valet and self-parking are free and there are no security checkpoints or airline baggage fees.

via Southern Airways Express looking to expand.


2014 Public Official of the Year: Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams has made history for several reasons. In 2011, with her installation as leader of the Democratic caucus in the Georgia House of Representatives, Abrams became the first woman ever to lead a party bloc in the Georgia General Assembly. She was also the first African-American to assume the top spot of either party in the lower chamber.

But Abrams took over a caucus in crisis. Eight Democrats in the House — including one who had just been elected to the No. 2 spot — switched to the Republican side following the 2010 election. The Republicans were close to controlling a supermajority. They got even closer the next year when Democrats lost more seats in subsequent redistricting. “My selection was heralded by defection,” Abrams says. “I very clearly framed my campaign and my leadership around the idea that we have to be good at being in the minority. It is not sufficient to simply be the opposition party lambasting the other side.”

That meant being willing to work with Republicans in the House, even as she tried to boost the size of the Democratic caucus.

Abrams walked that tricky line, for example, by supporting legislation championed by Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, to overhaul the state’s Hope Scholarship program. While she disagreed with the governor that the program should be based on merit rather than need, Abrams was able to convince Deal and a majority of Republicans to compromise on other parts of the bill. Ultimately, the two sides agreed, among other things, to include low-interest loans and preserve most funding for pre-K programs. “My fundamental philosophy,” she says, “is that my first job is to cooperate and collaborate with the other side whenever I can.”

But sometimes conflict is unavoidable. “When those ideological differences are evident and are necessary, it is insufficient to say simply say, ‘I don’t like what the other side is doing,’” she says. “We have an affirmative obligation to offer either an alternative or a cogent rebuttal that shows what they’re trying to do is wrong for Georgia.” In 2011, she gathered an unlikely coalition­ — including fellow Democrats, Tea Party activists and Southern Baptist leaders — and successfully fought Deal on a plan to cut income taxes and raise sales taxes. It worked. A narrower package of tax breaks passed with bipartisan support the next year.

via 2014 Public Official of the Year: Stacey Abrams.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 5, 2014

On December 5, 1765, the British ship Speedwell arrived in Savannah with supplies for implementing the Stamp Act.

Georgia voters approved a new state Constitution, the seventh in state history, on December 5, 1877; also approved on the statewide ballot was to keep the state capital in Atlanta instead of returning it to Milledgeville. Notably, Section II, Paragraph V of the 1877 Constitution read:

“Lobbying is declared to be a crime, and the General Assembly shall enforce this provision by suitable penalties.”

On December 5, 1933, the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Utah ratified the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, repealing Prohibition under the 18th Amendment. FDR ran for President in 1932 supporting repeal.

On December 5, 1941, ten state institutions of higher learning, including the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, lost their accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools due to political meddling by Gov. Eugene Talmadge.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today at 10 AM, the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners will hold a meeting to introduce Commissioner-elect Nancy Jester, who will be the only Republican on the County Commission.


Adoptable Georgia Dogs for December 5, 2014


Blaze is a one-year old female Yellow Lab mix who looks tough, but is sweet and tender as can be. She is a little nervous in the loud kennel, so she’ll snuggle into your lap.  In a quieter area she’s a social and friendly girl.  She interacted well with another larger dog and showed no aggression toward a cat.  She isn’t very big, just 45 pounds.  She has a cute corkscrew on the end of her tail. Blaze is available for adoption from the Walton County Animal Shelter in Monroe, Ga.


Zeke is a 4-year old, 70# Chocolate Lab who is available for adoption from the Walton County Animal Shelter in Monroe, Ga. He doesn’t really like it in the loud kennel and just sits in the corner. Maybe he wasn’t socialized too well, but he doesn’t show any aggression toward people or animals.  He is a bit reluctant to walk on leash indoors, but is much more comfortable outside and opens up more. He’ll wag his tail, come up to you, and walk on the leash when outside the kennel. He’ll do just fine with some socialization and TLC. He interacted with another dog and did fine. He did some sniffing and tail wagging, but was mainly disinterested.


Pope is a a 3/5-year old  greyhound/lab mix. He is the last dog from a litter of 12 that still needs a forever home. Pope is a SPECIAL NEEDS dog. He has Diabetes Insipidus. This means is that Pope drinks a LOT of water and pees a lot. His sugar levels are just fine. He is fat and healthy but he will need to be an outside dog. Pope is also heartworm positive but is receiving monthly Heartguard. He is very loving and wants to be somebody’s treasured companion. Pope is available for adoption from Helping Hands Humane Society in Crawfordville, GA.


Batman is a 3.5 year old male Black Lab and Hound mix who was picked up at Alexander Stephens State Park in Crawfordville in October 2009 after Helping Hands Humane Society got a call from the park rangers. He was SO emaciated that he was just skin and bones. When he crouched down, his bony legs jutted up over his body and he looked very much like a bat…hence the name. Batman has been in foster care and is now shiny and healthy. He is a lab mix, we estimate about 3 1/2 years old. He’s been an outside dog but loves to go on leash walks. He is a high energy dog and would love a BIG fenced yard in which to run. He is people oriented, gets along with his yard dog friends but doesn’t like cats. He may take a little while to get used to you but would be a devoted animal companion once you gain his trust.

Batman is available for adoption from Helping Hands Humane Society in Crawfordville, GA.


AUDIO – Senator-elect David Perdue About His Committee Assignments, First Legislative Issues, & What He Learned at Freshman Orientation

Your Washington Desk

Your Ga Pundit correspondent talking with Senator-elect David Perdue about his committee assignments, the first legislative issues in the new Congress, and what he learned at Freshman Orientation