The blog.


Religious Freedom and Flags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Governor Nathan Deal on RFRA in 1993 and 2015

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Adoptable Georgia Dogs for March 31, 2015


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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






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

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

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

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

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

Under the Gold Dome Today

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

Senate Rules Calendar

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

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

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


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

Physicians Coalition against Expansion of Fireworks Laws in Georgia

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

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


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

On March 30, 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was formally adopted, granting the right to vote to African-American men after a sufficient number of the states ratified it.

With the adoption of the 15th Amendment in 1870, a politically mobilized African-American community joined with white allies in the Southern states to elect the Republican Party to power, which brought about radical changes across the South. By late 1870, all the former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union, and most were controlled by the Republican Party, thanks to the support of African-American voters.

In the same year, Hiram Rhoades Revels, a Republican from Natchez, Mississippi, became the first African American ever to sit in Congress. Although African-American Republicans never obtained political office in proportion to their overwhelming electoral majority, Revels and a dozen other African-American men served in Congress during Reconstruction, more than 600 served in state legislatures, and many more held local offices. However, in the late 1870s, the Southern Republican Party vanished with the end of Reconstruction, and Southern state governments effectively nullified the 14th and 15th Amendments, stripping Southern African Americans of the right to vote. It would be nearly a century before the nation would again attempt to establish equal rights for African Americans in the South.

The same day, Robert E. Lee arrived in Augusta, Georgia on his way to Savannah.

Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived in Georgia on his last trip to Warm Springs on March 30, 1945.

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot outside a hotel in Washington, DC by John Hinckley.

On Friday, March 27, 2015, Gov. Nathan Deal signed an Executive Order to begin the implementation of House Bill 1, which allows use of medical cannabis extract for treatment of eight conditions.

“This executive order is the first step in bringing home families who’ve sought relief elsewhere and for providing new medical solutions for Georgians suffering from debilitating conditions,” Deal said. “I’ve instructed the Georgia Composite Medical Board and the Department of Public Health to begin taking immediate steps ahead of this law’s enactment. At the same time, law enforcement, health care providers and other stakeholders should make appropriate preparations.”

“While we want to treat suffering patients and bring children home as quickly as possible, it is critical that we take every precaution to safeguard private health information and ensure the security of the new patient registry. In the coming days, these agencies will continue providing updates and further guidance to patients and the public.”

Under this legislation, the Georgia Composite Medical Board will draft a patient waiver and a physician certification form. Upon completion, the forms will be available to patients meeting the specified criteria through DPH. Once certified by the appropriate health care provider, patients will be provided with documentation allowing for possession of low-THC cannabis oil.

“I look forward to the day when I can sign this legislation into law – a day that is coming soon,” Deal said. “While many advocates dedicated countless days to this worthy cause, Rep. Allen Peake deserves special recognition for his selfless devotion to these affected families. He provided both the hand that guided our General Assembly and the shoulder that many families leaned on. Today, we’re beginning to reap the harvest of that hard work. Soon, families will be reunited and more Georgians will gain access to the treatment they require. I’m proud to see Georgia leading in this way.”

“I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Governor Deal and his staff for seeing this legislation through and making it a priority in the General Assembly,” said Peake (R-Macon). “I commend Governor Deal for taking the initial steps today to prepare our state for HB 1 to become law very soon. I continue to look forward to that day when this bill is signed and our Georgia families can finally come back home.”

Under the Gold Dome Today

2:00 PM Joint Ind. and Labor/Ins. and Labor 406 CLOB
11:00 AM Senate Rules 450 CAP

Religious Freedom Bill – Future Uncertain

Senate Bill 129 by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act remains in limbo. Last week, after passing out of a House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee stronger than it went in, the subcommittee’s amendments were stripped in the full committee. It appeared over the weekend that the full committee might meet again, giving the bill another shot at life, but the scheduled meeting was canceled.

At this point in the Session, legislators and lobbyists have identified possible “vehicles for their bills” – any legislation that has passed one house and deals with the same code section as legislation that has hit a dead end. One potential vehicle for a revival of SB 129 is House Bill 59, by House Judiciary Committee Chair Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), which happens to be in the Senate Judiciary Committe, which is chaired by McKoon. Keep an eye out for a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting being scheduled.

Senate Bill 63 – The Craft Beer Jobs Bill heads back to the Senate after being passed by the House after some tinkering with the bill’s langauge.

Senate Bill 101 by Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) passed the House and Senate after a compromise that enacts a 25-foot buffer zone around saltwater marshes.

Lawmakers from coastal districts have been pushing for the bill since the end of the last legislative session when the state determined it had no legal basis for imposing buffers for more than a decade. They are designed to prohibit any kind of construction in the buffer zone so that the natural vegetation can serve as a filter to block rainwater from washing pollutants like petroleum and fertilizer into the marshes which serve as breeding grounds for many seafood species. Negotiations have been difficult in that period because environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, the Georgia Conservancy and the Center for a Sustainable Coast wanted few exceptions while business groups such as the Georgia Chamber of Commerce wanted less red tape.

Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, who sponsored the bill in the House, told his colleagues the back and forth was exhausting.

“With all of the consternation over the last few months for all of our coastal delegation, it’s been about as fun as slamming your head with a car door. So, we’ve had a ball with this thing,” he said sarcastically. “It also tells you what we think about our marshes.”

House Bill 57 by Rep Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek) passed the Senate and will allow third-party financing of home solar panels.

Senate Bill 139 by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla), which would prohibit local governments from banning plastic shopping bags, failed in the State House by a 67-85 vote after passing the Senate.

Yet another proposal for casino gambling has surfaced, this time in the form of a Constitutional Amendment proposed by State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah).

A resolution was introduced in the State House of Representatives by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) this week to call for a Constitutional amendment referendum on the establishment of casino resorts. If approved by voters, the amendment would set up a way for local communities to approve such resorts.

The resolution would divide the state into five casino licensing regions. Gwinnett County would be in the 68-county Licensing Region 1, which would be allowed to have only two casino licenses issued at any given time. The other regions would only be allowed to have one license issued at any time. In all, up to six casino licenses would be issued across Georgia at any time.

No casino would be allowed to open in a community without first being approved by voters in that area.

Taxes and licensing and regulatory fees generated from the casinos would be earmarked to pay for pre-kindergarten programs, tuition grants, scholarships, operations for whichever body will oversee the casinos and treatment programs for gambling addicts. The resolution’s co-sponsors include Reps. Carl Rogers (R-Gainesville), Ben Harbin (R-Evans) and Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna).

I just don’t see anything to allow casino gambling in Georgia being signed into law by Gov. Deal. Of course, a Constitutional Amendment doesn’t require the Governor’s signature, but it does require a 2/3 majority in both houses of the Georgia General Assembly, and I don’t see that happening either.


Governor Nathan Deal won’t be on the ballot in 2016, but his “Opportunity School District” legislation will be in the form of a referendum to approve the creation of an OSD for failing schools. The Marietta Daily Journal looks at the ballot measure that will be before the voters,

Voters will answer the following yes or no question: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) voted against the bill and said the wording of the ballot measure is too vague.

“It’s going to say, ‘Do you want to let us help you fix failing schools?’ Who’s going to vote against that?” Wilkerson said. “The only way a constitutional amendment fails is if it has the word ‘tax’ in it.”

As it stands now, Wilkerson said he expects it to pass the resolution because it doesn’t explain what would be approved, noting how different it is from when people run for office.

And the AJC’s Greg Bluestein looks at what a campaign might look like,

The governor’s allies are preparing a campaign in support of the plan, which would create a new statewide school district to take control of some of Georgia’s most distressed schools. School groups, Democratic heavyweights and other opponents are readying their own counteroffensive against the 2016 ballot question.

The result will likely be a multimillion-dollar campaign financed partly by big donors that will flood airwaves and websites with flashy advertisements just in time for the presidential election. And both sides will seek to learn from the last contentious ballot question, a 2012 initiative that let Georgia approve charter schools.

That campaign, fueled by millions of dollars in out-of-state cash, was a proxy fight over a broader question of whether parents should have more choice. It passed with 58 percent of the vote, thanks partly to a surge of support in Democratic-leaning counties.

Opponents are mustering their own attacks. Critics, including the Georgia Association of Educators and the Georgia School Boards Association, can call on their tens of thousands of supporters to knock on doors and call voters. And Democratic Party of Georgia head DuBose Porter said his allies will be ready with their own campaign.

“The DPG stands by our educators and leaders in the House and Senate who opposed this bill,” Porter said. “We do not believe that Governor Deal — who has shown such a complete disregard for education and its funding — should be tasked with the sole responsibility of rehabilitating Georgia’s struggling schools.”


Advance voting and early voting by mail begins today in the District 7 runoff for Augusta Commission, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The two candidates in the runoff to complete resigned Commissioner Donnie Smith’s term said they had been reminding voters not to overlook the April 14 runoff after the bustle of Masters Week.

“We’re trying to spur the voters, make sure they know there’s an election going on,” said Sean Frantom, the development director for Ronald McDon­ald House Charities of Au­gusta, who garnered 43.7 percent of the vote in the March 17 election.

Louis “Hap” Harris, the appointed interim commissioner who received 36.5 percent of the vote, said he was “six months already trained” and hoped voters exercise their “precious and paid-for by a lot of people” right to vote in the runoff.

State Rep. LaDawn Blackett Jones (D-Atlanta) will not run for reelection to the State House after her current term.

The Marietta City Council will vote at its April 8, 2015 meeting on holding a referendum to allow voters to register their approval or disapproval of term limits for City Council without actually accomplishing anything.

The city’s Judicial/Legislative Committee voted last week to advance Mayor Steve Tumlin’s proposal to solicit citizen input on imposing term limits for future council members and mayors.

The committee, which is chaired by Councilman Philip Goldstein and includes Councilmen Stuart Fleming and Andy Morris, voted 2-0-1, with Morris abstaining, to advance the topic to the council’s April 8 meeting for a full council vote.

Tumlin’s referendum is similar to a proposal Fleming made in early March, which would limit future mayors to two terms for a total of eight years in office, and future council members to three terms for a total of 12 years in office.

Tumlin proposed a nonbinding advisory referendum so voters may voice their opinion on the subject, which seemed to appease the majority of the council.


Gov Deal Signs Executive Order Haleigh Photobomb


Adoptable Georgia Dogs for March 30, 2015


Jaffar is a young male Jack Russell Terrier who is available for adoption from Augusta Animal Services in Augusta, Ga.


Sounder is an adult male Treeing Walker Coonhound who is available for adoption from Augusta Animal Services in Augusta, Ga.


Riley is a young adult female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Augusta Animal Services in Augusta, Ga.


Governor Deal on Executive Orders implementing HB1

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Gov. Deal sign Executive Order to begin HB1 implementation

Gov Deal Paper HB1

Gov. Nathan Deal today signed an executive order directing state agencies to begin preparations for enactment of H.B. 1, legislation that will allow the use of cannabis oil for eight medical conditions. Deal will sign the bill after the session to ensure that no conflicts arise with other pieces of legislation.

“This executive order is the first step in bringing home families who’ve sought relief elsewhere and for providing new medical solutions for Georgians suffering from debilitating conditions,” Deal said. “I’ve instructed the Georgia Composite Medical Board and the Department of Public Health to begin taking immediate steps ahead of this law’s enactment. At the same time, law enforcement, health care providers and other stakeholders should make appropriate preparations.”Continue Reading..