Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 12, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 12, 2015

On January 12, 1775, St. Andrews Parish on the Georgia coast passed a series of resolutions that included approving the actions of patriots in Massachusetts, three resolutions critical of British government actions, and a renunciation of slavery. The resolutions also appointed delegates to a provincial legislature at Savannah and urging that Georgia send two delegates to the Continental Congress to be held in Philadelphia the next year.

Marvin Griffin of Bainbridge was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia on January 11, 1955.

After Republican Bo Callaway won the popular vote but fell short of a majority, the General Assembly elected Lester Maddox, the second-place candidate, as Governor on January 10, 1967 and he was inaugurated that day.

Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia on January 12, 1971.

The first inauguration of Governor Joe Frank Harris was held on January 11, 1983.

During a snowstorm, Governor Nathan Deal was inaugurated in the State Capitol for his first term in office on January 10, 2011

Georgia History Today

State Representative Michael Caldwell offers this scripture to begin the 2015 Session of the General Assembly:

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?

1 Kings 3:9 (New International Version)

And we offer in response,

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves….

Philippians 2:3-4 (New International Version)

Today’s ceremonies begin with a Prayer Service at Mount Paran Church at 9 AM, which you can also watch via live stream on the Church’s website.

With predictions of rain this afternoon, the inauguration of Governor Nathan Deal has been moved inside the Capitol. Guests with tickets to the inaugural will be seated in various locations inside the Capitol and other nearby buildings.

Early plans included ringing Georgia’s copy of the Liberty Bell to begin the ceremony. We don’t know if that will still take place.

Deal Inaugural Locations

The Georgia House of Representatives will gavel into Session at 10 AM. All legislators should remove any donation links, buttons, or pages from their websites, as members of the General Assembly are not allowed to accept contributions once Session has begun. Both chambers should adopt a resolution scheduling at least the next legislative day of Session.

What We’re Watching this Session

The Budget – the only legislation required by the state Constitution is the yearly budget. First, we’ll also see a Supplemental Budget to “true up” last year’s budget, reconciling the revenue predictions made in the legislature and the realities of state income. Then they’ll move onto the next Fiscal Year’s “Big Budget.”

Last year seems to have seen Georgia’s economy and state revenue picking up steam. While that’s good, the austerity cuts made over the past decade have left many needs in state and local government deferred. Those deferred expenditures are coming due, from maintenance of existing roads and bridges and state buildings, to raises for many employees, it will feel like everyone in the Capitol has a hand out. More requests will likely be denied than granted.

Transportation Funding – the Chambers of Commerce have made clear that their highest funding priority is transportation infrastructure, citing a study that shows roughly 1 billion to 1.5 billion in annual spending needs. It appears that the Chambers are poised to back increased funding, with the Georgia Chamber endorsing an increase in the federal gas tax.

The Chamber supports efforts to preserve the solvency of the Federal Highway Trust Fund.  Should Congress not successfully address this critical transportation funding measure, Georgia will see reduced and delayed reimbursements for needed transportation projects, putting some at risk for completion.  While the federal gas tax, currently 18.4 cents per gallon, has been the traditional source of revenue, it has struggled to keep pace with expenses as vehicles have become more fuel-efficient.    Both reauthorization of federal funding and an increase in the gas tax is necessary to keep our highways and transit systems efficient for transportation and commerce.


Tomorrow morning, bright and early, the Georgia Chamber will discuss state legislative priorities at their annual Eggs & Issues Breakfast.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (invited), Governor Nathan Deal, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and House Speaker David Ralston will provide a preview of the 2015 legislative agenda at this year’s event. Maggie Bridges, Miss Georgia 2014, will sing the National Anthem and Andy Stanley, Senior Pastor of North Point Community Church, will lead the invocation.

If your organization has two extra tickets for the Breakfast available, we’d consider taking them off your hands.

Medical Marijuana – State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) has become the patron saint of all who suffer from illnesses that might be alleviated by medicinal cannabis. Earlier versions of his bill would have allowed the CBD-rich cannabis oils not only for children with seizures, but also to adults and expanded the diagnoses for which it would be available. Governor Nathan Deal has announced he will support a more-limited version of Peake’s bill.

Channel 2 political reporter Lori Geary talked exclusively with the governor Friday about the new bill that would mean big relief to families with children who suffer from seizure disorders.

Deal told Geary he supports Peake’s efforts to offer immunity from prosecution for the families in those states who want to return home to Georgia with the medicine.

“It’s an important step. We recognize it may not be the last step,” Deal said.

In a statement from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s spokesman Ben Fry, he said, “The Lt. Governor believes that by working cooperatively the General Assembly can find a responsible solution that will provide much needed relief to the children and their families afflicted by these terrible conditions.”

A new poll from the Atlanta-Journal Constitution found that 84 percent of registered voters support the legalization of cannabis oil.

It appears that Peake will scale back his legislation to meet the Governor’s policy preferences.

Its sponsor, State Representative Allen Peake, says after lengthy discussions with Governor Nathan Deal, the bill will no longer include a model to grow and distribute medical cannabis in the state.

“Ideally, I would have liked to see both the immunity language and the grow model in this bill but the fact that we are getting full immunity and protection from prosecution for possession for families to have access to cannabis oil is a huge win and it will allow Georgia families to come home,” Peake told 13WMAZ.

Peake says Deal was clear they needed further research into a better regulatory system before Deal would sign off on the bill.

“It’s not as fast as I would’ve liked, but we had to do something that would pass the Governor’s desk,” Peake said Saturday.

The bill includes full immunity for those who bring back medical cannabis legally obtained from other states.

Beer and a ride home – we don’t drink alcohol, but if we did, it would be either Georgia-made Richland Rum or some locally-produced craft beer. Then we’d get a safe ride home via Uber or Lyft.

I’ve written more extensively about Georgia’s laws for beer and people distribution here.

Uber 20

Disclaimer: if you sign up with Uber using my code, your first ride up to $20 will be free, and I’ll get a free ride too. That’s not a special deal I’m getting for including this in my morning email – if you sign up for Uber, you can get the same deal when your friends sign up using your code.

Jim Galloway writes in the AJC Political Insider blog that Auto Dealers are going to be fighting Tesla this session.

Traditional car dealers are in the midst of a legal fight to push Tesla, the fledgling California electric car company, out of Georgia. Never mind that metro Atlanta is one of the hottest markets for electric vehicles in the nation.

Signs point to a parallel battle in the General Assembly. Last week, the National Automobile Dealers Association began trolling for sympathetic lawmakers. While Georgia dealers say they have “no plans” to revisit an anti-Tesla bill that failed last year, Tesla is preparing a defense. It has already hired one of the top lobbying firms in Atlanta.

Most Georgia car buyers don’t realize that their purchases are guided by state laws that presume a two-tiered system: Manufacturers sell to independent franchise owners, who sell to consumers. You can’t buy a Ford or Chevy or Nissan or Toyota directly from the manufacturer.

Tesla breaks that mold. It has no franchisees, and thus, the company maintains, Georgia’s restrictions on direct sales to consumers shouldn’t apply. The company does, however, currently observe a 150-car annual limit set by the state on “custom design” vehicles.

GADA spokesman Chip Lake says the fight isn’t over technology. “Automobile dealers are very supportive of electric vehicles. There are dealers all over the state that sell electric vehicles,” he said. “Auto dealers just believe Telsa is not complying with state law.”

That last paragraph is the real money-quote, not for the content of the statement, but for the fact that political consultant Chip Lake has been engaged to help the auto dealers protect their pocketbooks.

Healthcare Systems – This is a complex set of issues that all resolve to the question of money. Rural hospitals have been closing due to funding shortfalls. In addition, some rural communities have limited access to medical professionals, particularly when their population is highly dependent on federal programs whose reimbursement rates are in the range of 50 cents on the dollar. Certificates of Need for some new facilities require a healthcare provider to prove to the state government that their proposed service is necessary. The CON requirement may stifle some medical facilities and prevent lower cost options to some communities, but supporters say it’s necessary to protect existing healthcare facilities from competition that doesn’t have the same mandates. These issues will be tough nuts to crack, and no one expects any one-shot solution.

We’ll be discussing other issues in coming days. Stay tuned.

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