The blog.


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.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 14, 2016

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879.

S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, was born on March 14, 1921.

Elvis Presley played the Fox Theater in Atlanta on March 21, 1956.

The largest traffic accident in Georgia history occurred on March 14, 2001 on I-75 in Catoosa County, involving 125 cars, injuring 39 people and killing 5.

Happy Birthday to Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives David Ralston.

Under the Gold Dome Today


8:15 AM APPROPRIATIONS Conference Committee – Joint 403 CAP
















9:00 AM RULES 341 CAP


1:00 PM Fleming Sub Judiciary Civil 132 CAP



2:00 PM Academic Achievement & Curriculum Sub 406 CLOB





HB 421 – Retirement and pensions; officers employed by Department of Community Supervision shall be entitled to certain disability benefits; provide (PUB SAF – Kennedy) (Nimmer)

HB 508 – Appellate court judges; age of eligibility for certain benefits; decrease (RET – Black) (Fleming)

HB 509 – Georgia Palliative Care and Quality of Life Advisory Council; create; provisions (HHS – Harbin) (Petrea)

HB 555 – Courts; provide reporting of certain statistics regarding juveniles seeking abortions without parental notice; provisions (HHS – B. Thompson) (Chandler)

HB 635 – Judges of Probate Courts Retirement Fund; increase number of years of mandatory contribution; provisions (RET – Black) (Epps)

HB 676 – Accountability, Change Management, and Process Improvement Act of 2015; enact (S&T – Martin) (Brockway)

HB 725 – “Child Abuse Records Protection Act”; enact (HHS – Bethel) (Cantrell)

HB 747 – Motor vehicles; safe operation of motor carriers and commercial motor vehicles; update reference date to federal regulations (PUB SAF – Harper) (Rogers)

 HB 768 – Handicapped persons; ABLE program establishment to use tax exempt accounts to pay for qualified expenses of eligible individuals with disabilities; provisions (FIN – Millar) (Hawkins)

HB 871 – “Georgia Lemon Law”; consumer fees forwarded to the Department of Law for deposit in the new motor vehicle arbitration account; require (SJUDY – Dugan) (Dickey)

HB 887 – Courts; parental rights; prioritize placement of a child with an adult or fictive kin qualified to care for such child (HHS – Unterman) (Efstration)

HB 965 – “The Honorable Jimmy Carter Cancer Treatment Access Act”; enact (I&L – Bethel) (Cheokas)


Modified Open Rule

SB 274 – Budget in Certain Counties; repeal Act approved March 2, 1953 (SP&CA-Willard-51st) Albers-56th

SB 302 – Insurance; require health carriers to maintain accurate provider directories (Substitute)(Ins-Taylor-173rd) Martin-9th

SR 876 – Joint High-Speed Broadband Communications; create (SRules-Tanner-9th) Gooch-51st

SR 955 – Property Conveyance; authorizing 8 counties (Substitute) (SProp-Dunahoo-30th) Jeffares-17th

Modified Structured Rule

SB 262 – Courts; when a judge, judicial officer, grand juror; may be disqualified by being related by consanguinity/affinity to a party; provisions (Substitute)(Judy-Welch-110th) Stone-23rd

SB 278 – Criminal Offenses; increase the penalty provisions; pimping and pandering (JudyNC-Efstration-104th) Unterman-45th

SB 316 – Bingo; remove the daily permissible prize limitation while preserving the weekly permissible prize limitation (Substitute)(RegI-Powell-32nd) Gooch-51st

SB 350 – Taxation on Consumer Fireworks; dedicate moneys collected; trauma care, fire services, and local public safety purposes (Substitute) (W&M-Battles-15th) Mullis-53rd

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Three surprises emerged last week in the statewide elections for 2016. First is the number of challengers to Senator Johnny Isakson – two challengers on the GOP side, and three Democratic candidates/

Johnny Isakson (i)
Derrick “TMOT” Grayson
Mary Kay Baccallao

Jim Barksdale ($)
Cheryl Copeland
James Knox

The second surprise was the number of incumbent Members of Congress who are facing challengers. It’s easier to say that only Buddy Carter (1st CD), Jody Hice (10th CD), and David Scott (14th CD) are not facing challengers.

Second Congressional District

Sanford Bishop (D)(i)

Greg Duke (R)

Bobby Scott (R)

Diane Vann (R)

Third Congressional District Open Seat

Samuel Anders (R)

Mike Crane (R)

Drew Ferguson (R)

Chip Flanegan (R)

Richard Mix (R)

Jim Pace (R)

Arnall “Rod” Thomas (R)

Tamarkus Cook (D)

Fourth Congressional District

Hank Johnson (D)(i)

Victor Armendariz (R)

Fifth Congressional District

John Lewis (D)(i)

Douglas Bell (R)

Sixth Congressional District

Tom Price (R)(i)

Kurt Wilson (R)

Rodney Stooksbury (D)

Seventh Congressional District

Rob Woodall (R)(i)

Rashid Malik (R)

Eighth Congressional District

Austin Scott (R)(i)

Angela Hicks (R)

James Neal Harris (D)

Ninth Congressional District

Doug Collins (R)(i)

Paul Broun (R)

Roger Fitzpatrick (R)

Bernie Fontaine (R)

Mike Scupin (R)

Eleventh Congressional District

Barry Loudermilk (R)(i)

Hayden Collins (R)

Daniel Cowan (R)

Billy Davis (R)

William Llop (R)

Don Wilson (D)

Twelfth Congressional District

Rick Allen (R)(i)

Tricia Carpenter McCracken (D)

Joyce Nolin (D)

Eugene Yu (R)

Fourteenth Congressional District

Tom Graves (R)(i)

Allan Levene (R)

Mickey Tuck (R)

The third surprise was that the Democratic Party failed to field a candidate for the only other statewide election, the Public Service Commission seat held by Republican Tim Echols.

Tim Echols (i)
Kellie Pollard Austin
Michelle Miller

While we’re discussing Tim Echols, he recently led an “Unholy Tour” of Atlanta to highlight the prevalence of sex trafficking in Georgia.

Community activists and local lawmakers got an eye opening tour of metro Atlanta’s sex trafficking hot spots Wednesday night.

Organizers hoped to motivate those on board to take steps they say will save lives.

Former strip club dancer turned minister Kasey McClure was behind the bus tour.

“So many people have turned a blind eye and just say it’s not happening in our community, but it really is happening,” McClure said.

So much so, Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols asked McClure and her team at 4sarah to take the group of lawmakers and community leaders on a so-called “unholy tour” of prostitution and sex-trade hot spots in DeKalb and Fulton counties.

“In my heart I felt like, you know, this is something I could do, and I need to let people see that this is a blight on our state and our city,” Echols told [Channel 2 reporter Aaron] Diamant.<

On Wednesday night’s tour, freshman state Rep. Doreen Carter of Lithonia was on board.

“It’s heartbreaking. I’m a mom, and this is my community. This is where I grew up, and to see,” Carter told Diamant, saying she had no idea things had gotten so bad.

The troubling scenes are now motivating Carter to search for solutions.

“This definitely has touched me,” Carter told Diamant.

Echols has planned another “Unholy Tour for March 15th. I’m checking on whether any seats are available, and if you’d like to take the tour, please check back tomorrow.

The fourth surprise was that Republican State Rep. Joe Wilkinson (Sandy Springs) faces two challengers from within his own party. Deborah Silcox and Sandy Springs City Council Member Graham McDonald both qualified to take on Wilkinson. The irony is that Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul personally accompanied one of Wilkinson’s opponents, while Wilkinson is arguably the living individual most responsible for the existence of the City of Sandy Springs.


Adoptable Georgia Dogs for March 11, 2016


Poppy is a young female Rottweiler (or maybe Shepherd?) mix who is available for adoption from Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA.

Cocoa Macon

Cocoa is a young 6-week old female Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA.


Cassidy is a young, 6-week old female Labrador Retriever mis puppy who is available for adoption from Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA.



Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 11, 2016

On March 11, 1779, Congress created the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

On March 11, 1861, the Confederate Congress, assembled in Montgomery, Alabama, adopted the Constitution of the Confederate States of America. Today the original signed manuscript of the Confederate Constitution is in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries.

On March 11, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur obeyed the President’s order dated February 20, 1942, and left the Philippines.

On March 11, 2005, Brian Nichols shot and killed Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and court reporter Julie Brandau in the Fulton County Courthouse, leading to a lockdown of the state capitol and a number of nearby buildings. Nichols killed two more before taking a young woman hostage in Duluth; that woman, Ashley Smith, would talk Nichols into surrendering the next day. Nichols was eventually convicted for four murders and is serving consecutive life sentences.

Happy Birthday to former Governor Roy Barnes, who served from 1999-2003, and lost to Republican Sonny Perdue in 2002, and to current Governor Nathan Deal in 2010.

Under the Gold Dome Today





1:00 PM FINANCE Subcommittee A MEZZ 1




8:00 AM Fleming Sub Judiciary Civil 132 CAP


8:30 AM W&M Ad Valorem Tax Sub 133 CAP

9:00 AM RULES 341 CAP


HB 34 – Georgia Right to Try Act; enact (H&HS- H. Hill) (Dudgeon-25th)

HB 52 – Child custody; require parenting plans to be incorporated into final orders; change provisions (JUDY-McKoon) (Quick-117th)

HB 767 –Motor vehicles; add utility service vehicles to the “Spencer Pass Law”; provisions (Substitute) (PUB SAF-Gooch) (Powell-32nd)

HB 886 – Pharmacy licenses; employing mails or common carriers to sell, distribute, and deliver prescription drugs; revise a provision (H&HS-Watson) (Cooper-43rd)

HB 859 –Firearms; weapons carry license holders; carrying and possession of certain weapons in certain buildings or real property owned or leased to public institutions of postsecondary education; authorize (JUDY-Stone) (Jasperse-11th)


Modified Open Rule

SB 273 Clinical Laboratories; provide certain nondiagnostic laboratories not subject to state licensure as clinical laboratory (H&HS-Lott-122nd) Burke-11th

SB 277 “Protecting Georgia Small Business Act”; neither a franchisee/franchisee’s employee shall be deemed employee of franchisor (I&L-Shaw-176th) Albers-56th

SB 279 Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council; include Commissioners of Juvenile Justice/Natural Resources as voting members (PS&HS-Powell-32nd) Harper-7th

SB 347 ‘Georgia Captive Insurance Company Act’; provide extensive changes; provisions (Substitute)(Ins-Shaw-176th) Bethel-54th

Modified Structured Rule

SB 137 Property Insurance; expand the ownership restriction; value of the property covered against loss by fire (Ins-Shaw-176th) Harbin-16th

Structured Rule

Pursuant to House Rule 33.3, debate shall be limited to one hour on SB 308. Time to be allocated at the discretion of the Speaker.

SB 308 Positive Alternatives for Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program; establish; definitions; administration and duties (Substitute) (H&HS-Cooper-43rd) Unterman-45th

Legislation Today

Two pieces of legislation on the floors of the respective chambers today should garner significant attention.

The Senate will take up, and I believe pass, the “Campus Carry” bill by State Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper).

Earlier this week, Senate committee members approved a measure that would allow those with concealed carry weapons licenses to bring their guns onto school property.

The guns must remain concealed and would be barred from athletic facilities and student housing.

12th District US Congressman Rick Allen shared his thoughts on the proposed legislation.

“They’re good parts on both sides,” said Rep. Allen. “What we really have to do is provide a safe environment for people to attend school and to take a threat away.”

And from the Associated Press:

If signed into law, guns must remain concealed by the owner. Guns also would be barred from athletic facilities and student housing, including sorority and fraternity houses.

Critics of the measure say that allowing more guns on campus will only put students in harm’s way.

Rep. Rick Jasperse, a Republican from Jasper who sponsored the bill, says people licensed to carry guns should also be able to defend themselves on campuses.

And The Collegian offers some student and instructor opinion,

Students have shown both support and dissent for HB 859.

Rachel Quinlan, a Biology major at the Clarkston campus, said “I think this would make schools more dangerous. I walk home at night after class, for people to have guns it’s really scary. The pro to this is that people can protect themselves, there are more cons than I feel pros.”

“I don’t disagree with the bill. I don’t think much would change. I don’t think that the people who have guns are the problem, it’s the people who don’t have the license to carry. It should have restrictions on who carries weapons. I think that if you’re going to carry gun, you should have to register with the school and make sure you’re registered to carry a weapon,” said Alissa Cunningham, a Public Health major at the Clarkston Campus.

Many Professors deem guns on campus as dangerous and reckless. Assistant political science and criminal justice professor at Clarkston campus John Siler expressed his biggest concern that most students will not exercise this right with responsibility. “The thing that is scary for us is that when the students read this, they’ll just say ‘Hey, I can have a gun on campus!’ and disregard ‘if you have a permit,’” Siler said. Siler continued to explain that instructors’ safety would be in danger, “Professors often have to fail students, but sometimes students don’t take that too well,” Siler said. There have been robberies and shootings incidents on or near Georgia State University’s Atlanta campus. Siler explained that he understood that the incidents were an issue, but he did not approve of how the media escalated the students’ fears. “The media gets orgasmic when it comes to stuff on campus happenings,” said Siler, “Yes, the incident was near the campus, but that didn’t matter; the media just used it to hype things up.”

Legislation by Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) is likely to come before the House for a vote today.

Senate Bill 308, which cleared the House Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday, would establish a grant program through the state Department of Public Health to promote pregnancy and parenting services as alternatives to abortion. Under the legislation, pregnancy resource centers could not use grant funds to refer clients to clinics that provide abortions or counsel women to get abortions unless their pregnancies are life-threatening.

The state Senate passed the bill last month on a party-line 38-16 vote. The bill’s sponsor, Senate Health and Human Services Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said the legislation is a “positive alternative” to restricting access to abortions.

“What pregnancy resource centers do is offer the resources to make good decisions,” Unterman said. “Not only can they stay in business, but hopefully they can expand and decrease the number of abortions that we have in the state of Georgia.”

Unterman said she estimates there are 27,000 abortions each year in the state.

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) wrote in the Macon Telegraph about religious liberty legislation,

When Speaker David Ralston proposed the Pastor Protection Act last summer, I was proud that our party had a voice of reason. He understood that reaffirming the rights of our churches and our clergy didn’t mean doing so at the expense of other Georgia citizens. When Rep. Kevin Tanner introduced HB 757, it had thorough hearings in the House and was discussed through inclusive debate. It was amended along the way based on input from members of both parties. That’s why it passed the House unanimously.

I didn’t believe then nor do I believe now that the Pastor Protection Act was the end of the conversation. However, inserting the First Amendment Defense Act as the Senate did took a once bipartisan bill and made it toxic.

Candidate Qualifying

The list of Republican Senate incumbents facing challengers has grown to nine.

District Incumbent Challenger
9 P.K. Martin Tyler Hollifield
21 Brandon Beach Aaron Barlow
23 Jesse Stone Stephen Hammond
40 Fran Millar Paul Maner
45 Renee Unterman Todd Tyson
50 John Wilkinson Roy Benifield
51 Steve Gooch John Williamson
53 Jeff Mullis Lanny Thomas
54 Charlie Bethel Conda Lowery-Goodson

A notable absence from Qualifying so far is State Rep. Nikki Randall (R-Macon), who will not seek reelection.

Also making news for not qualifying is District Attorney for the Southern Judicial District J. David Miller.

He has served as DA for that past 20 years and says choosing not to run or re-election was one of the toughest decisions.

“Writing the press release was the hardest thing that I’ve done in a very long time. I love my job! I’m certainly not dissatisfied in any way,” explains Miller.

However, he says he’s not ready to retire just yet.

“I’ll explore my options. I would like to continue public service just not necessarily as the DA again,” Miller says, “Just because I could run again doesn’t mean I should run again.”

He has endorsed current Chief Assistant District Attorney Brad Shealy to be his successor.

Of Nazis and the Klan

Mike Griffin of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board drew strong rebukes from the well of the State House yesterday.

Mike Griffin, spokesman and lobbyist for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, urged Baptists to press legislators to act on a religious freedom measure that was filed in response to last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

“We must not let the government do to us what Hitler did to the pastors and churches of his day,” Griffin wrote in a post on a religious news site, the Christian Index.

“He got them to accept his protection from government action if they would agree to stay out of government. He basically said, ‘You take care of the church, and leave the government to me.’

“Pastors, this is happening before our eyes today!” he wrote.

“I was extremely sickened that someone would compare this legislative body to Hitler and Hitler’s Germany,” [House Speaker] Ralston told reporters Thursday.

From the House floor, Rep. Trey Kelley, R-Cedartown, demanded an apology.

Instead, Griffin defended his comments.

“My statement in question today was simply a warning of the historical dangers of the church not standing up for religious liberty,” he tweeted.

Ralston said it might be more productive for Griffin to advise Baptists to “listen to their pastors and read their Bible more, and listen to talk radio less.”

“I think that would be some good advice, rather than to do something as harmful to his cause as he did,” he added.

More from Griffin via Lori Geary at WSB:

Griffin says while referencing Hitler on the Christian Index Website, he was urging church goers to speak out on the issue. He says he was not referring to legislators.

“It’s historically accurate that Hitler did meet with pastors and did try to get the pastors to see his side,” Griffin said. “I think it may help us even more because it creates more attention to the importance that people are concerned about their religious liberty rights being infringed upon by government in general.”

He defended his post saying his reference to Hitler involved historical context, but he did remove those references.

“It’s getting in the last few days of the session, folks get a little sensitive to things being said,” Griffin said. “We did go back and take the Hitler phrase out because we definitely didn’t want to confuse the issue in any way because we want to stay on the historical context of what we were talking about.”

A statement by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board addresses the controversy,

This is in direct reference to Martin Niemöller’s, popular poem written in 1946, “First they came…” and his description of what occurred in Germany leading up to World War II. Pastors and the church did not stand up to the government to combat the rising discrimination against Christians, Jews, and other groups. In Niemöller’s example, the church did not stand up for its faith and speak up for members and the public. It is interesting to note that Niemöller was accused of “abusing the pulpit”, crimes against the State, ordered to pay a fine, and imprisoned for speaking out. In 2006, Rev. Mark Creech wrote the article “Who Shall Care for the Nation’s Soul?” in the Christian Post, using similar reference to Niemöller’s story.

On Thursday morning March 10th, nearly a week after posting, Mike Griffin was criticized from the Well of the House regarding his letter to Pastors. The inference of those remarks made by representatives was that Mike Griffin was speaking to, or about, the representatives themselves. In context, Mike’s audience was Georgia Baptist Pastors and leaders, in order to challenge the church not to be silent about spiritual convictions and to speak out in order to avoid the repeating of history. It is impossible to understand the content of the article, unless one understands that it was not directed at the general assembly, but a call to action for Pastors based on church history. [emphasis added]

We sincerely regret any misunderstanding of the intent of this article or its historical context. We should all rightly be held accountable for what we say, but not for what we do not say.

Indeed, Baptist leaders have been talking amongst themselves for years about their church’s failure to address the rise of Nazism in Germany, and to address it afterwards.

The 80th anniversary of a courageous stand by Christians in Germany who opposed Adolf Hitler also marks a sad chapter in Baptist history that festered four decades before Baptists voiced repentance.

In contrast to Christians who resisted Nazi evils, German Baptists “were just happy to be left alone, you might say,” historian Albert Wardin told Baptist Press. “And they were just happy to have the regime allow them to preach the Gospel within their churches. And so the German Baptists were not going to take any position that would counter any of the positions of the Hitler regime.”

German Baptists, however, since they were not part of the state church, stayed out of the discussion. Initially they viewed Hitler as a champion of religious liberty and his military conquests as a providential expansion of their field for evangelism.

Four decades later, lamenting their complacency and vowing to learn from the Confessing Church’s courage, German Baptists said they were “humbled by having been subordinated often to the ideological seduction of that time, in not having shown greater courage in acknowledging truth and justice.”

“The German Baptists, in their effort to achieve social respectability and to avoid being forced into a homogenized national church, failed to recognize that they were being used,” German theologian Erich Geldbach wrote in “Baptists Together In Christ,” a centennial history of the BWA.

Individual Baptists confessed their complicity with Hitler following the war. But not until 1984 did German Baptists formally express regret that they failed to support Bonhoeffer, Barth and others in the Confessing Church.

“Recognizing the evil at the beginning was more difficult than it appears today in retrospect,” Germany’s Baptists said at a European Baptist Federation Congress in Hamburg.

I hadn’t been aware of this chapter of Baptist history.

In my mind, the context is clear now and I understand that Griffin’s words did not compare the Georgia General Assembly to Nazis. That said, perhaps a greater sensitivity by everyone going forward to not just what they mean by their words, but how their words might be received, will help prevent a recurrence.

Of course, the civil discourse is almost never enhanced by references to Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan.

Now, the K-word is being trotted out in Bibb County, in a lawsuit accusing incumbent Sheriff David Davis of being in the Klan.

A former Bibb County sheriff’s deputy who announced his candidacy for sheriff this week has two pending lawsuits against his former employer. In one of them, he alleges that incumbent Sheriff David Davis is a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Davis, who is white, denies the allegation.

That is as far from the truth as it could absolutely be. … I think my record speaks for itself,” Davis told The Telegraph Wednesday. “I am offended by it, and it concerns me that someone would think that of me.”

At the heart of one of the suits, both filed in federal court last year, Timothy Rivers alleges that he was demoted due to his race and in retaliation for writing traffic tickets to “the wrong segment of peoples.”

Asked Wednesday what prompted his run for office, Rivers, a political newcomer, said, “To be honest with you, God gave me a vision two years ago. … I said, ‘Man, what if I was sheriff right now? There are so many things that we can change’. … Almighty God gave me that vision, ‘Hey, man, go forward’.”