Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 4, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 4, 2015

On February 4, 1789, George Washington was unanimously elected by the Electoral College as the first President of the United States; Washington’s runner-up John Adams served as Vice President. Washington would repeat the feat four years later on February 4, 1793.

On February 4, 1801, John Marshall took office as Chief Justice of the United States. Marshall continued to hold the post of Secretary of State until March 4th. In one of American history’s rich ironies, Marshall, who served at the same time in the judicial and legislative branches of the federal government, would write the Court’s opinion in Marbury v. Madison, establishing the supremacy of the Supreme Court in matters of applying the Constitution through judicial review and establishing the doctrine of separation of powers. Marshall would serve during the terms of six Presidents.

On February 4, 1861, the Provisional Confederate Congress convened in Montgomery, Alabama, where it would draft a Constitution for the Confederate States of America, beginning with a near-verbatim copy of the United States Constitution.

On January 4, 1976, the Georgia Senate approved a resolution previously passed by the State House proposing a Constitutional Amendment to allow Governors of Georgia to serve two consecutive terms and voters approved in November 1976. Then-Governor George Busbee won reelection in November 1978, and since then Democrat Roy Barnes is the only Georgia Governor to not win reelection. Thus we are able to say, “Four More Years for Governor and Mrs. Deal.”

Happy birthday to Congressman Sanford Bishop, who shares this date with the late Rosa Parks (b. 1913), German theologian Dietrich Bonhoffer (b. 1906) and Facebook, which turns eleven years old today.

Irregularly Scheduled Programming


Tonight at 7 PM, I’ll be joining host Bill Nigut and fellow panelists Liz Flowers and Greg Bluestein to discuss today’s events at the Georgia General Assembly. Tune in on your local GPB station.

My latest column at makes the case for calling March First 2016 the “Waffle House Primary,” instead of the “SEC Primary” because social conservative voters may be “scattered, smothered, and covered,” splitting their votes between several candidates, while the establishment coalesces behind someone like Jeb Bush. Will this leave room for a pro-marijuana legalization candidate? Check it out, please.

WABE notes that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has a “Waffle House Index,” which uses the status of local WaHos to gauge the severity of conditions in an area.

The 24-hour restaurant chain prides itself on serving its customers at all hours of the day, seven days a week. And FEMA caught on to this. They discovered that if a Waffle House was closed after a storm, then that meant things were really bad.

“It just doesn’t happen where Waffle House is normally shut down,” said Philip Strouse, FEMA’s private sector liaison for the Southeast.

Strouse said Waffle Houses are able to bounce back relatively quickly after a natural disaster, and have a good sense of what their statuses are in a community.

“They’re sort of the canary in the coal mine if you will,” he said.

Green means the restaurant is open as usual, yellow means it’s on a limited menu, and red means the restaurant’s closed.

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00am – 9:00am House Natural Resources & Env – 506 CLOB
12:00pm – 1:00pm Senate Rules upon adjournment – 450 Capitol
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Insurance & Labor – Cancelled – 125 CAP
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate HHS – Pharmacy Sub – Senate Mezzanine 1
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Public Safety – Cancelled – 310 CLOB
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Education – 307 CLOB
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Approp – Criminal Just Comm – 341 CAP
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Approp – Fiscal Mgmt Sub – 310 CLOB
1:30pm – 2:30pm Setzler Sub of House Judy NC – 132 Capitol
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Approp – Public Safety – 341 CAP
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Budget & Fiscal Oversight – 506 CLOB
2:00pm – 3:00pm House State Properties – Cancelled – 403 CAP
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Education – 606 CLOB
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Finance – Senate Mezzanine 1
2:30pm – 3:30pm Senate Approp – Agriculture Sub – 307 CLOB
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Transportation – Cancelled – 450 CAP
3:00pm – 4:00pm House Education – 606 CLOB
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate State Institututions & Prop – 123 CAP
3:00pm – 4:00pm House Judy Fleming Sub – 216 CAP
3:00pm – 4:00pm House Joint Retirement – 403 CAP
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Judiciary Non-Civil – 307 CLOB
3:30pm – 4:30pm Senate Approp – Gen. Govt Sub – 310 CLOB
3:30pm – 4:30pm Senate Approp – Transportation Sub – 341 CAP
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Regulated Industries – Cancelled – 310 CLOB
4:00pm – 5:00pm House Jacobs Sub of Judy Civil – 132 CAP
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate State & Local Govt – Senate Mezzanine 1

Today, the Senate will discuss Senate Bill 53 by Sen. Greg Kirk, sunseting part of an earlier act with respect to licensed professional counselors. The State House will take up House Bill 57 by State Rep. Mike Dudgeon to allow some third-party financing for consumer solar arrays.

Senate Finance Chairman Judson Hill sent a column discussing the state budget, with some interesting figures.

We will adjust both the current FY 2015 ($20.8 billion) budget as well as consider and pass the FY 2016 ($21.1 billion) budget. This 2015-16 GA State Budget link takes you to documents to view a more detailed description of Governor Deal’s proposed 2015 Amended and 2016 state budget.

Several FY 2016 Budget Highlights presented in the Governor’s Budget

1.      $280 million for the K-12 QBE Formula is intended for systems to pass on to teachers as furlough replacement or pay raises for teachers.

2.      $16.7 million in Lottery funds for a 3% increase in the HOPE scholarship in public and private colleges to keep up with tuition increases.

3.      $139.8 million to fund the Annual Required Contribution for Employees Retirement, Teachers Retirement and Public School Employees Retirement Systems.

4.      $149.1 million in new funds for Medicaid growth and Affordable Care Act compliance, and voluntary case management for the Age, Blind and Disabled population.  Offset by reductions totaling $179.4 million in PeachCare and Medicaid costs and an increase in the federal match.

5.      $239.6 million to fund growth in K-12 enrollment and teacher pay scale recognizing 1.35% increase in enrollment this past year.  Georgia’s schools now educate 1.72 million students.

6.      $800 million in bonds including $230.0 million for K-12 school construction, $197.7 million for Regents projects, and $19.8 million for Technical Colleges.

Supporters of legalizing medicinal cannabis rallied at the Capitol yesterday. From the Newnan Times-Herald:

There were six speakers at the rally, who told the stories of their struggles with illnesses that could be helped with CBD oil. One woman had tried to get help for her daughter, but her daughter died.

Another speaker was Dale Jackson of Troup County, who is the Third District chairman for the Georgia Republican Party. Coweta is part of that district.

House Bill 1 originally would have set up a tightly-regulated system for producing CBD oil, which is taken orally, in Georgia. It has since been changed to only offer immunity for those who have obtained the oil elsewhere. Now the debate is over what conditions should be eligible for the immunity.

At the Judiciary Committee hearing, members heard from those who have been treated with CBD oil and those who need it, as well as from law enforcement representatives, who are against the bill.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said the district attorneys support low-THC CBD oil for children with seizure disorders. “However, HB1 in its current form cannot be supported by the prosecutors of this state,” he said.

“We do not support the expansion of medical marijuana in this state. Whether you call it cannabis oil or smokable marijuana, we believe that this increase in the THC level is essentially the bottom of the slippery slope – that this bill as written will legalize liquid marijuana in the state.”

Today, I’ll be watching domestic sex trafficking bills. Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford-Go Wolves!) will present Senate Bill 8 and Senate Bill 7, to the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee at 3 PM in Room 307 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building.

State Representative Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) will hold a press conference to discuss the Safe Harbor Act/Rachel’s Law will take place 30 minutes after adjournment of House floor proceedings.

The Safe Harbor Act/Rachel’s Law legislation for the treatment and prevention of child sex trafficking  will enhance criminal and civil penalties for offenders charged with pimping, pandering and keeping a place of prostitution. The legislation will also propose a constitutional amendment to address the connection between the adult live entertainment industry and the illicit sex trafficking of minors. If approved by Georgia voters, the “Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund” would be established to provide for rehabilitation and prevention for child victims of sexual exploitation.

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners voted to ask the General Assembly for the power to institute a $5 fee in the local State, Magistrate and Probate courts in order to pay for the transition to electronic records.

DeKalb County Acting CEO Lee May is asking Governor Nathan Deal to name a temporary commissioner because May will not simply resign his Commission seat and allow his constituents to vote on his successor.

This is at odds with the truth. In fact, District 5 is represented by Lee May, who also holds the title of interim CEO – it’s Washington-style doublespeak to suggest that D5 is unrepresented, since they also elect a Commissioner to a Super-District.

As a Republican voter in DeKalb County, I hope Governor Deal doesn’t fall for this ploy. To the extent that legislation is being blocked by deadlocks on the Commission, it’s to the advantage to homeowners as it also prevents to continuing uptick of County spending and property taxes. If Lee May wants District Five to elect a Commissioner, his path is simple: resign his District 5 Commission seat – no action by Governor Deal is required or warranted. The issue is that May wants to name his own successor by influencing the Governor rather than allowing the voters to decide.

Politics Across Georgia

Brad Raffensperger won the Special Runoff Election for State House District 50 in Johns Creek, Fulton County, beating his fellow former City Council member Kelly Stewart by 52.76% to 47.24%. Interestingly, voter turnout in this race was up to 2860 ballots cast against 2,454 in the Special Election last month.

In House District 120, Trey Rhodes took 53.37% of the vote to 46.63% for Jesse Copelan, becoming the new State Rep.-elect. In this district, turnout was down nearly 10% from 5,574 votes in the January Special Election to 5,054 ballots cast yesterday. I suspect this has to do with folks who voted for their home county candidate in January but didn’t return because neither of the runoff candidates was local to them. I’ll be looking at this a little bit.

Travis Sakrison has been named by Gov. Nathan Deal to the Superior Court for the Coweta Judicial Circuit, comprising Coweta, Carroll, Troup, Heard, and Meriwether Counties. Deal also named Chris Phelps as Superior Court Judge for the Northern Judicial Circuit, comprising Elbert, Franklin, Hart, Madison and Oglethorpe Counties and J. Kelly Brooks as Superior Court Judge for the Waycross Circuit, which includes the “Breakfast Counties” of Bacon and Coffee, along with Brantley, Charlton, Pierce, and Ware.

In addition to the two seats in DeKalb that will be appointed soon, Gov. Deal will also have the opportunity to appoint a new Cobb County Chief Magistrate as Chief Magistrate Judge Frank Cox has submitted his resignation, effective February 28, 2015.

Cobb County Republicans will elect a new County Chair this weekend, with Rose Wing leading an all-star team that also incudes Justin Tomczak, arguably the state’s best Republican field operative. Jason Shepherd is also considering running – he’s a great guy and he’s got the mom jeans thing going. I wouldn’t care to choose between Rose and Jason as they would both bring great qualities to the office, but the full slate Rose has put together would probably garner my vote if I lived in Cobb. Of course, a minivan and mom jeans would probably also get my support if I lived in Cobb County.

Milledgeville Mayor Richard Bentley has resigned his seat citing health problems.

He has been on medical leave since October, with acting Mayor Jeanette Walden filling in. Bentley, who won a third term in 2013, sent a letter to Walden and other city aldermen that said he would step down effective immediately.

“Due to my recent medical crisis and the resulting difficulties involving my former business, I consider this action to be in the best interest of my family and our great City,” he wrote.

Walden remains acting mayor pending aldermen’s approval. In a news release acknowledging Bentley’s letter, Walden said he will be missed. She also expressed appreciation for his service and hoped for his continued recovery.

Kennesaw City Manager Steve Kennedy was fired by City Council and still showed up for work the next day.

After voting to fire Kennesaw City Manager Steve Kennedy at a meeting Monday night, a few City Council members said they were surprised and confused on why he showed up to work the next day.

The City Council voted 4-1, with Tim Killingsworth opposed, to not renew Kennedy’s contract with the city. His contract ended Dec. 31, but the council delayed a month before making a decision Monday.

Yesterday, Mercedes-Benz USA announced it will build a headquarters campus near the interchange of GA-400 and Abernathy in Sandy Springs to house roughly 600 employees. When Gov. Deal visited England recently, it appears he was courting yet another luxury automaker, Jaguar.

Georgia is making a major push to land a factory from British auto giant Jaguar Land Rover, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

Four people with knowledge of the situation said Gov. Nathan Deal and state economic development commissioner Chris Carr met with representatives of the luxury automaker during a secretive trade mission to the United Kingdom last month.

Jaguar Land Rover did not confirm its interest in Georgia, but said in a statement that it “has ambitions to expand its international manufacturing footprint,” noting its recent factory opening in China and a plant under development in Brazil.

Sprinter Vans, a corporate cousin under parent company Daimler AG, has reportedly scouted Georgia as part of its plan to expand North American manufacturing. Cannon declined to comment on that.

Here’s your political reality wakeup call: a poll finds that 75% of Millennials are unable to name even one of their United States Senators. Republicans are outnumbered 22-29 by self-identified Democrats, while Independent/Don’t Know is the 800-pound gorilla at 49%. On the generic ballot test, Democrats take 48% while Republicans garner 35%.

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