Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for February 25, 2014


Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for February 25, 2014

The first prisoners of war were moved to Andersonville on February 25, 1864.

On February 25, 1870, Hiram Rhoades Revels (R-Missippi) was sworn in as the first African-American Congressman in history.

In 1867, the first Reconstruction Act was passed by a Republican-dominated U.S. Congress, dividing the South into five military districts and granting suffrage to all male citizens, regardless of race. A politically mobilized African American community joined with white allies in the Southern states to elect the Republican party to power, which in turn brought about radical changes across the South. By 1870, all the former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union, and most were controlled by the Republican Party, thanks in large part to the support of African American voters.

On January 20, 1870, Hiram R. Revels was elected by the Mississippi legislature to fill the Senate seat once held by Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy. On February 25, two days after Mississippi was granted representation in Congress for the first time since it seceded in 1861, Revels was sworn in.

On February 25, 1876, the first Georgia state law against abortion was passed.

On February 25, 1999, Johnny Isakson was sworn into Congress from the Sixth District, a seat vacated by the resignation of then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Under the Gold Dome Today

The House and Senate calendars have been down since at least 4 PM yesterday, so we don’t know what’s going on today. Par for the course.

Senate Rules Calendar

SB 397 – Autism; provide for certain insurance coverage of autism spectrum disorders; definitions; limitations; premium cap (As Introduced) (Substitute) (I&L-8th)

SB 343 – Education; provide no high school which receives funding under the “Quality Basic Education Act”; shall participate in sponsor interscholastic sport events conducted by any athletic association (As Introduced) (Substitute) (ED&Y-53rd)

SB 167 – Education; declare certain actions void ab initio relating to adoption of certain curricula (As Introduced) (Substitute) (ED&Y-3rd)

Senate Bill 167 is one of the major anti “Common Core” bills.

House Rules Calendar

Modified Open Rule
HB 449 Agency records disclosure; change certain provisions relating to 9-1-1 calls (Substitute)(Judy-Gravley-67th)

HB 566 Motor vehicles; temporary transporter license plates available to permit
mechanics to test drive certain vehicles being serviced or repaired; make (Substitute)(MotV-Pak-108th)

HB 643 Georgia Civil Practice Act; general provisions governing discovery; change provisions (Substitute)(Judy-Willard-51st)

HB 761 Public Retirement Systems Standards Law; definition of annual required contribution; change references (Substitute)(Ret-Riley-50th)

HB 776 Courts; information provided to compile state-wide master jury lists and county master jury lists; clarify (Judy-Atwood-179th)

HB 803 Law enforcement agencies; develop policies addressing how peace officers shall negotiate their encounters with domesticated pet animals; require (Substitute)(PS&HS-Benton-31st)

HB 804 Trial proceedings; relating to testimony of a child ten years old or younger by closed circuit television and persons entitled to be present; repeal provisions (Substitute)(JudyNC-Lindsey-54th)

HB 938 Gwinnett County; office of chief magistrate; provide nonpartisan elections (IGC-Efstration-104th)

HB 939 Gwinnett County; office of probate judge; provide nonpartisan elections (IGC-Efstration-104th)

HB 947 Labor and industrial relations; payment of wages by credit to prepaid debit card; provisions (I&L-Clark-98th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 504 Motor vehicles; failure to use safety belts may be admitted into evidence under certain circumstances; provide (Substitute)(Judy-Pak-108th)

HB 731 J. Calvin Hill, Jr., Act; enact (Substitute)(CR-Welch-110th)

HB 825 Alcoholic beverages; fruit growers licensed as farm wineries obtain license authorizing production of distilled spirits and fortified wines pursuant to certain conditions; permit (RegI-Houston-170th)

HB 826 Crimes and offenses; carrying weapons within certain school safety zones and at school functions; change provisions (Substitute)(JuvJ-Setzler-35th)

HB 872 Evidence; privileged communication between law enforcement and peer counselors under certain circumstances; create (PS&HS-Rogers-10th)

HB 965 Georgia 9-1-1 Medical Amnesty Law; enact (Substitute)(JudyNCCooper-43rd) (AM# 33 1393)

Structured Rule
HB 412 Revenue and taxation; option to taxpayer to receive bills or subsequent notices via electronic transmission; provide (Substitute) (W&M-Harrell-106th)

HB 755 Ad valorem tax; revised definition of forest land fair market value; provisions (Substitute)(W&M-Powell-171st)

HB 782 Facilitating Business Rapid Response to State Declared Disasters Act of 2014; enact (Substitute)(W&M-Williamson-115th)

More from Sam Moore

State Rep. Sam Moore (Macedonia), who was on the receiving end of blistering criticism over a bill he dropped in his first weeks under the Gold Dome took to the well yesterday to apologize. Sort of.

On Monday, Moore told lawmakers it was a “rookie” mistake.

“Although my intent was pure and my mistakes were honest, I am ultimately responsible for all of my actions,” he says.

Moore apologized for any embarrassment the bill caused to his district, the state, and his supporters.

He did, however, put blame on Republican leaders for not mentoring him when he only came into office days before.

“Not a single member reached out to me on HB 1033 prior to signing up to speak at ‘the well’ last Friday,” he says.  “Those who spoke publicly aired what should have been a quiet, private, constructive conversation the night before.”

Moore also blamed the media.

“If I had known that the media would be looking at my legislation, I probably wouldn’t have dropped any of my bills without additional consultation,” he says.

House Speaker David Ralston told reporters afterwards, he was not impressed with Moore’s apology.

“I think that to blame a failure… on other people is sort of mind-boggling to me,” he says.

Tom Baxter, writing for the Saporta Report has some thoughts on Moore’s first days.

t’s interesting that the denunciations were aimed at this bill, and not another introduced by Moore which would outlaw no-knock warrants and give people the right to use deadly force against law enforcement officials who don’t knock. Lowering the threshold for when it’s okay to shoot a police officer is a pretty radical step.

But especially in a viral world, nothing could strike deeper fear in the hearts of most politicians than the idea of being identified with a bill to loosen the rules for sex offenders in an election year. Republicans from Speaker David Ralston down to freshmen denounced Moore for the offensive bill. State GOP chairman John Padget even chimed in with a press release, lest there be the suggestion that any corner of the GOP sanctioned such an idea.

In the past, many of the bomb-throwers were religious conservatives, willing to short-circuit the system to force action on abortion and other issues. Moore, who recently won a special election for the seat held by the late Calvin Hill, is from a younger, more libertarian-leaning generation, and it was clear when he took to the well Monday morning to explain himself that this was a different sort of bomb-thrower than most of his elders were used to.

…I started dropping bills as fast as Legislative Council could draft them.  I was afraid that if my bills were dropped after Crossover Day, then they would not be vetted in the Committee process.  I wanted my legislation vetted in Committee so I could start the conversation, learn from the process, improve my legislation with sage feedback, and push my legislation ‘for real’ the following year after I had learned the system.”

He had “no idea,” Moore said, that anyone beside the committee members assigned to the bill would be looking at it.

As I read the full three-page text of Moore’s statement, in which he frequently refers to his opponents, I was reminded of a story, usually attributed to Washington, DC about a young member of the House who refers to members of the other party as “the enemy” within earshot of a senior colleague. The older member takes the younger aside and brusquely instructs him that the members of the House who are in the other party are not the enemy. “The Senate is the enemy,” he concludes.

The first step in redemption is repentance, and my preacher frequently tells us that repentance is about turning away from temptation. Continuing to think of one’s fellow House members as “opponents” and blaming them for one’s shortcomings doesn’t seem the best way to get started on the road of political redemption.

That said, I am hopeful this is the last I will feel moved to discuss the events of last week.

Let us know how that works out

Yesterday, I read a report by David Pendered in the Saporta Report that Mayor Kasim Reed is leading a delegation of business-types to Silicon Valley to seek to attract more venture capital to Atlanta’s burgeoning tech industry.

The Atlanta delegation hopes to attract investment and the interest of companies including Google, Facebook and Cisco, according to a statement released by Reed’s office.

There’s no promise that, even with California start-up money, Atlanta will become home to a future version of the WhatsApp deal. But Reed certainly is promoting the city as a future tech hub.

“Atlanta has long been a city that welcomes and nurtures talent, entrepreneurship, and innovation,” Reed said in the statement. “I am confident that this trip will enable us to position our city as an ideal location for long-term tech investments and ensure that Atlanta’s technology sector continues to grow and thrive.”

“Atlanta is one of the most attractive cities in the United States for Silicon Valley investors,” [John] Yates said in the statement. “We have the ingredients venture capitalists seek – major universities, talented entrepreneurs, leading incubators and active angel investors. And two-thirds of VC investment last year was in areas where Atlanta is a leader – information technology, healthcare and financial services.”

However, just 5 percent of all venture capital investment goes to the southeast, according to the statement. That said, metro Atlanta is ranked 12th in the nation in terms of tech start-ups, according to the release.

Is Georgia’s Depression-era regulatory regime part of the problem with attracting venture capital? Walter Jones, writing for Morris News and published in the Savannah Morning News, as well as other Morris ventures, bring us this.

The moment of applying pressure on the accelerator of a Tesla sedan suggests instantly that it is not the usual luxury car, and its upstart manufacturer doesn’t sell them the usual way.

If its engineers revel in what’s been called “disruptive technology,” its marketing managers are trying just as hard to disrupt the industry’s traditional distribution system of a network of franchised dealers. To succeed, they have a team of lobbyists buttonholing Georgia legislators for test drives so they can pitch reasons to support House Bill 925.

The bill is part of a trend in this year’s General Assembly session in which young companies seek novel ways of reaching customers that conflict with decades-old laws that lock in traditional business models. The trend includes microbrewers, online limousine services and solar-power installers.

Tesla Motors prefers to sell its electric cars through its own stores than the franchised dealers other automakers use. The technology is so novel and expensive that buyers typically require six visits to learn enough to become comfortable buying a $60,000 car that only goes 300 miles at a stretch, even if it can get there very quickly. Dealers strive to ensure customers don’t leave in the car they arrived in on the first visit.

“The question, in my mind, is should government be legislating a business model,” Tesla’s Diarmuid O’Connell told the House Motor Vehicle Committee. He’s the vice president of corporate and business development.

But the Georgia Auto Dealers Association had John B. Prince III testify about his 48 years running dealerships in Tifton, Albany, Valdosta and Douglas for eight vehicle brands.

“The franchise system is a proven and cost-effective distribution system,” he said, explaining that competition keeps prices so low he takes a loss selling new cars and that bumping into customers in his hometown encourages him to give good service.

In the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee, a similar proposal is under consideration. HB 874 would amend the 41-year-old law that assigns each of the state’s 95 electric utilities its own geographic monopoly. The bill would allow companies, like those with financial backing from Google and others, to essentially lease the rooftops of private property to install solar panels paid for by providing electricity to the property owner with the balance being sold to the utilities.

The scene shifts to other committees considering allowing microbrewers to sell packaged beer outside of the legally mandated wholesaler system and weighing legislation that determines whether the smartphone-enabled ride-matching services Uber and Lyft can compete with licensed taxicabs.

Defenders of the status quo argue that the laws that have evolved over the years not only protect companies from unlimited competition but also consumers from bad actors.

“If you are a for-hire driver, there are certain things in Georgia that’s always been expected: background checks, that you have liability insurance, and you’re paying your sales taxes,” Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, told WSB-AM about why he sponsors HB 907 to require Uber and Lyft conform to taxicab laws. “You don’t want sex offenders and pedophiles driving out there and picking up the public.”

These same battles are going on in legislatures across the country.

For many Georgia legislators these bills present a challenge. On one hand, they think of themselves as being supportive of business and the notion that competition breeds innovation which lowers price and expands consumer choice. On the other hand, the existing businesses say these new threats will hurt them and their employees.

Sen. Josh McKoon, the sponsor of the microbrewers’ legislation, Senate Bill 174, acknowledges the validity of arguments made by opponents of his bill.

Even though he is sponsoring one of the “disruptive” bills, McKoon reflects the feelings of many of his colleagues when he talks about incremental change. After all, the state motto is “Wisdom, Justice and Moderation.”

“Does that mean that we, in an overnight manner, junk an existing system? Probably not because that, in and of itself, creates a lot of market distortion,” he said. “I think we have to figure out where we ultimately want to go, and then develop a gradual path to get to that end point.”

There appears to be what I refer to as an informal “geek caucus” in the State House, led by State Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville) and Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek) as two of the visible members. The two and their like-minded cohorts appear to be free market-driven and enamored of new technology. I suspect it’s no accident that Brockway and Dudgeon are both Georgia Tech grads.

Brought together by these ideologies of free markets and technological innovation, the Representatives have been at the forefront of legislation like House Bill 925, of which Brockway is a co-sponsor, that seeks to open Georgia’s automotive market to allow more car sales by Tesla Motors, and HB 176, the BILD Act, which seeks to encourage the build-out of wider broadband wireless coverage in Georgia. Both Brockway and Dudgeon have announced they are seeking reelection this year and Georgia will be well-served with their leadership on removing impediments to free markets and technological innovation in Georgia.

IRS targeting 504(c)(4) groups in new regs

Congressman Tom Price writes in the Washington Examiner that proposed new restrictions on 501(c)(4) organizations are aimed at silencing critics of President Obama’s policies.

the Obama administration intends to unilaterally modify the tax code in further efforts to silence political speech.

In November, the IRS announced that it would completely transform the 501(c)(4) classification used by groups organized for the purposes of “social welfare.”

From veterans’ organizations to civic education programs, many important nonprofits fall under this designation.

These nonprofits are allowed to participate in the political process, within limits, and typical activities include voter education, advocacy and holding town halls. Many free market groups file under this classification.

The new rules would virtually halt such activities. Plus, the IRS would require 501 (c)(4) non-profits to pay taxes, knowing full well that these groups cannot afford to do so.

Their intent is to force groups into reclassifying under a different category of the tax code, as 527 non-profits. The 527 groups are not taxed on their donations, but they are required to disclose their donors to the Obama administration.

Conservative groups would be forced to choose: Change their classification to a 527 non-profit and open up their donors to abuse at the hands of Washington bureaucrats, or shut down all-together because they can’t afford the taxes levied against them if they remain a 501(c)(4) organization.

Unsurprisingly, such changes to the IRS code won’t affect a key Democrat political beneficiary — labor unions.

These groups, while nearly identical to 501 (c)(4) non-profits, fall under the 501 (c)(5) classification. Their regulations would remain untouched in this IRS overhaul, so they would be free to continue politicking as they have in years past.

Sadly, this is just the latest in the never-ending saga of Obama’s executive overreach and use of the federal government to punish those with whom he disagrees.

Public engagement and the Republican resolve are critical to fighting it. Together, we can stop this government abuse.

One of the groups concerned about how these rules would affect their mission is the Faith and Freedom Coalition. They have made it easier to fight these rules targeting conservatives and Christians by signing up at their website, to add your voice to their comments on the proposed rules.

Campaigns and Elections

Two quick notes: Heath Clark is running for State House District 147 against incumbent Willie Talton in the Republican Primary. From WMAZ:

Calling himself a conservative Republican who “wants to represent Jesus in the way he goes about things,” Heath Clark said Wednesday he got into the race because he believes Georgia’s conservative Republican principles are being neglected.

That’s especially true, Clark said, when lawmakers deal with financial matters. For example, Clark said when lawmakers get more money than anticipated, they spend it instead of returning it to taxpayers.

Talton, a retired chief deputy in the Houston County Sheriff’s office, has held the seat 10 years. If both candidates qualify as expected, they’d meet in the May 20 Republican primary.

“I’ve met Willie. I like Willie as a person,” Clark said. “I think he served the community well as a law enforcement officer. But I disagree with some of the votes he’s made.”

Michael Opitz announced this morning that he will run for Cobb County Commission District Three against incumbent JoAnn Birrell, who is seeking reelection. Joseph Pond, well-known for advocating for backyard chickens, previously announced his challenge to Birrell.

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