Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for February 20, 2014


Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for February 20, 2014

On February 20, 1792, President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act, creating the United States Postal Service.

The act allowed for newspapers to be included in mail deliveries and made it illegal for postal officials to open anyone’s mail.

On February 20, 1970, Georgia ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote.The Amendment states:

Section 1. The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Seriously. 1970. Luckily ratification occurred when Tennessee approved adoption of the Amendment on April 18, 1920.

Interestingly, the only case in which the United States Supreme Court has addressed the Nineteenth Amendment arose in Georgia. Breedlove v. Suttles was a suit brought in Fulton County Superior Court concerning the poll tax. Here’s an excerpt:

The tax being upon persons, women may be exempted on the basis of special considerations to which they are naturally entitled. In view of burdens necessarily borne by them for the preservation of the race, the state reasonably may exempt them from poll taxes.

The laws of Georgia declare the husband to be the head of the family and the wife to be subject to him. To subject her to the levy would be to add to his burden. Moreover, Georgia poll taxes are laid to raise money for educational purposes, and it is the father’s duty to provide for education of the children. Discrimination in favor of all women being permissible, appellant may not complain because the tax is laid only upon some or object to registration of women without payment of taxes for previous years.

Privilege of voting is not derived from the United States, but is conferred by the state and, save as restrained by the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments and other provisions of the Federal Constitution, the state may condition suffrage as it deems appropriate.

It is fanciful to suggest that the Georgia law is a mere disguise under which to deny or abridge the right of men to vote on account of their sex. The challenged enactment is not repugnant to the Nineteenth Amendment.

Bless their hearts.

On February 20, 1974, Reg Murphy, an editor for The Atlanta Constitution was kidnapped and held until managing editor G. James Minter delivered $700,000 in ransom. I’m not sure if they’d pay 700 cents to get any employee back nowadays.

Senator Perdue’s Desk

An historically-minded reader asked me earlier in the year to find out about the desk that Senator David Perdue uses in the United States Senate Chamber. It’s pretty fascinating for those of us interested in Georgia politics.

The desks currently used in the Senate Chamber were first ordered in 1819 to replace earlier furniture that was destroyed during the War of 1812. Since the early 20th Century, a tradition has been followed of the occupant of each desk carving his or her name into the bottom of the desk drawer. Here’s what the inside of Senator Perdue’s desk looks like:

David Perdue Senate Desk

And the business end of Perdue’s desk, which is number XXXII.


Previous Georgians who have used this desk include Senators Richard B. Russell, Herman E. Talmadge, Sam Nunn, Zell Miller, and Saxby Chambliss.

For reference, here’s a map of the Senate floor, and you can click here to visit an interactive version.

Senate Chamber Map Perdue Isakson

Senator Perdue’s desk is in the back, right-hand corner of the chamber if you’re looking toward the rostrum. His neighbors are Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) to his right, and Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) to his left. I’ve also highlighted Senator Johnny Isakson’s desk, which also has an interesting list of previous users.

Under the Gold Dome Today

12:00pm – 1:00pm Senate Rules Committee Upon Adjournment – 450 cap
9:00am – 10:00am House Rules Committee – 341 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm House Jacobs Subcommittee of Judiciary Civil – 132 cap

Senate Rules Calendar for February 20, 2015, Legislative Day 19

SB 4 – Urban Redevelopment; provide for use of surface transportation projects; definitions; public contracts with private enterprises for completion (As Introduced) (Substitute) (ED&T-51st)

SB 72 – “Tanja’s Law”; provide measure of equivalency in punishment of crimes committed against police dogs in performance of their official duties (As Introduced) (Substitute) (PUB SAF-53rd)

House Rules Calendar for February 20, 2015, Legislative Day 19

Modified Open Rule

HB 160 – Game and fish; trapping of raccoons in certain counties; repeal a provision (GF&P-Dunahoo-30th)

HB 246 – Accountants; provide for powers and actions granted to other licensing boards; provisions (SBD-Knight-130th)

HB 298 – Certified process servers; sunset and legislative review provisions; repeal (Judy-Jacobs-80th)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 73 – Public officers; counties and municipalities provide by local law for district durational residency requirements; authorize (GAff-Turner-21st) Scholarships; provide public disclosure of certain records held by Georgia

HB 320 – Student Finance Commission, Georgia Higher Education Assistance Corporation and Georgia Student Finance Authority is not required; provisions (HEd-Williams-119th)

Structured Rule

HB 49 – Revenue and taxation; electronic service of certain notices; provide (W&M-Harrell-106th)

HB 63 – Georgia Employer GED Tax Credit Act of 2015; enact (Substitute) (W&M-Tanner-9th)

HB 202 – Revenue and taxation; provisions regarding ad valorem taxation, assessment, and appeal; provide comprehensive revision (Substitute)(W&M-Battles-15th)

Legislative Roundup

The Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act, SB 129, by Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) stumbled in the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, being tabled by a committee vote in which three Republicans sided with Democrats on the panel.

“I’m certainly disappointed people that are in the same political party would vote to stop legislation that people in the Republican Party clearly want us to move forward on,” McKoon said afterward, acknowledging that he expected neither the amendment nor the rebellion. “It’s disappointing.”

Cowsert, the second-most-powerful Republican in the Senate, made no apology. “There’s been a lot of misconceptions over the last few months that this was in some way a vehicle that would allow discrimination against anyone,” he said. “I wanted to make that clear that the government does have a compelling state interest to prevent discrimination and to protect our children.”

SB 129 uses much the same language as federal legislation passed by Congress in 1993 and signed by President Bill Clinton. It asserts that government has to show a compelling interest for why its policy should override an individual’s religious freedom.

Mike Griffin, who represents the Georgia Baptist Conference at the legislature, asked supporters of McKoon’s bill to contact the three Republican Senators who voted to table the legislation.

Please do not allow these Senators to get by with tabling the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 129) today in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Contact these Senators and respectfully ask them to vote SB 129 out of committee and without amendments!

[email protected] Phone: (404) 463-1366
[email protected] Phone: (404) 656-7454
[email protected] Phone: (404) 463-1314

Pray for the Lord’s leadership in this matter.

You can also show your support for Senator McKoon’s legislation by signing up at


As I predicted yesterday, Senate Bill 5, to allow the Savannah Port Expansion Project to move forward with federal funding, passed the House yesterday, becoming the first legislation passed by both chambers of the Georgia legislature this year.

“We typically don’t pass Senate bills until after Crossover, but this is so important,” said Rep Ron Stephens, R-Savannah.

For most bills, the House and Senate only consider measures proposed by their own members before the 30th day in the 40-day session. That’s because after that day, bills that don’t crossover to the other chamber are effectively dead for the year.

Judicial pay raises from the General Assembly have run into an impediment, according to the Atlanta Journal-Kardashian Constitution.

A key House budget panel has slowed legislation to give the state’s top jurists big pay increases after raising concerns that Superior Court judges in some parts of Georgia are already making $185,000-$200,000 a year.

The raises proposed for them could make them among the highest paid trial judges in the country, according to national salary surveys.

The raise package, sponsored by a bipartisan group of leading House lawyer-legislators, would cost the state about $6.2 million a year. The measure, House Bill 279, would raise the salary of Supreme Court and Appeals Court judges by 7.1 percent and the base state pay of Superior Court judges by just under 10 percent.

With county supplements, Superior Court judges in some circuits such as Augusta and Cobb County would be making almost $200,000 a year. Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, a member of the subcommittee, said at least one judge in Savannah already makes more than $200,000 a year because of various local supplements. Other Superior Court judges make only the state minimum, $120,000, or a little more.

House Bill 194 by Reps. Mark Hamilton (R-Forsyth), Ed Rynders (R-Albany) and others would create uniform early voting days and hours and has passed the House Committee on Governmental Affairs.

Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, is lead sponsor of a bill that would limit early voting to 12 days with a local option for a second Saturday or a Sunday vote among that period. The early vote would start on a prescribed Monday and run for either 12 consecutive days — to the second Friday after the start of the voting period — or start the Saturday before the first Monday and skip the Sunday voting period.

Local boards would determine whether to allow a four-hour voting period on that first Saturday or the Sunday after the first six days of consecutive voting. All other early voting days would be conducted over eight hours.

“Some of the concerns that arose (during the most recent early voting period) were clarity and uniformity,” Rynders said Tuesday evening. “There were complaints of some voters having more opportunities than others. For instance, in Fulton County last year, early voting was conducted for 19 straight days, including two Saturdays and two Sundays.”

“This legislation offers equal access statewide. The local control comes from each board of elections deciding whether they want to have a four-hour vote on that first Saturday or if they want to have it on the Sunday at the end of the first week. It also will provide a cost-cutting measure for smaller jurisdictions — like a Smithville — that must (by state law) have three employees at all precincts during early voting, even when there are frequently no voters.”

The State House passed legislation to change the age of eligibility for children entering first grade, according to the Gainesville Times.

The measure was approved by a 110-53 vote but could have a more difficult time getting the Senate’s approval due to opposition from many parents and some child advocacy groups.

The bill would require children to reach the age of 5 years on or before Aug. 1 to enroll in kindergarten for the 2017-18 school year. The cutoff date would be July 1 for children entering school in the 2018-19 year. The current cutoff date is Sept. 1.

Rep. Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta, said the new dates could result in a drop in kindergarten enrollment and possibly a reduction in teachers in some schools as a consequence. He also said parents may have to pay for child care due to new dates.

Mindy Bitterman, executive director of the Georgia Early Educators Alliance for Ready Students, said she was disappointed because the bill’s sponsors and proponents wrongly think older children will be more prepared.

The Muscogee County School Superintendent has criticized Governor Deal’s proposal to create an Opportunity School District.

The governor’s plan includes an option to convert those schools to charters, meaning they would remain publicly funded but have autonomy from the local school board.

“My initial reaction is not favorable,” Lewis said in an email to the Ledger-Enquirer. “There are currently some state charter schools that are underperforming and fall below those schools designated on the list. This does not indicate to me a successful model.”

Ten of the 141 Georgia public schools on the failing list are in Muscogee County.

Those schools qualify because they have scored less than 60 out of 100 points on the College and Career Readiness Performance Index the past three straight years. The CCRPI is the Georgia Department of Education’s accountability system, measuring a school’s progress and comparing it to others in the state.

Deal’s proposed law would create an Opportunity School District, which would allow the state to take over 20 failing schools each year. The state could control no more than 100 such schools at a time.

House Bill 16 by State Rep. Brian Prince (D-Augusta) passed out of subcommittee and will proceed to the full House Education Committee.

With a 6-2 vote Thursday, a Georgia House subcommittee advanced a bill that would allow students who attend magnet schools to play sports at the public schools they are assigned to.

The measure must be approved by the full House Education Committee before it can come up for a vote in the House.

Rep. Brian Prince, D-Augusta, said he sponsored House Bill 16 because parents at Augusta’s magnet schools complained that their children have a tough choice in deciding between athletics or academics.

Magnet schools focus on special areas such as science, math or the arts, but few offer contact sports. Students can choose to attend them rather than the school they are assigned based on where they live.

Prince fears that some children could short-circuit their professional careers to be able to play a few years of high school sports.

Local Government

Charlotte Nash, Chair of the Gwinnett County Commission, delivered her State of the County address yesterday.

“When I look into the future, I see a grown-up Gwinnett that has literally grown up in areas along our interstates and major thoroughfares where it makes sense,” Nash told a crowd that included county employees, elected officials and business owners.

Other parts of Nash’s vision include seeing Gwinnett Place as the “center of Gwinnett’s downtown,” creating a “booming entertainment and cultural arts district” around the Gwinnett Center and realizing booming gateways to the county at key entry points.

A large part of that future growth will be built on development already seen in the county. While the number of jobs available in Gwinnett last year set a new record, it also showed the county was back at levels not seen in nearly a decade. State labor figures showed the number of jobs in the county totaled “a little over” 326,000 last year, she said.

A chart presented during Nash’s speech showed the county’s previous peak was around 2007. The numbers dropped dramatically over the next few years before bottoming out in 2009 and 2010.

Since then, Gwinnett has been on a steady climb back toward pre-recession figures. That return to form was finally realized in 2014.

“We are a little ahead of where the number were just before the great recession,” Nash said after her speech.

Gwinnett County Schools are planning new magnets schools, with one focused on Health Sciences and one on International Business, Finance and Law.

The Georgia Department of Education  plans to offer both traditional math courses and “integrated” math.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods announced that the State Board of Education has approved new math courses that offer a traditional/discrete option so high schools will now offer either option.

“I have heard many times from students, teachers, and parents, that the lack of a traditional/discrete math option is an enormously troubling issue,” Woods said in a press release. “Today, thanks to the collaboration of the Governor’s office and State Board of Education, we have been able to resolve that issue in a way that offers a choice at the local level.”

“This is good news for Georgia’s educators, parents, and students,” State Board Chair Helen Rice said in the release. “These courses are a response to feedback from all of those groups — they are specific to the needs and responsive to the voices of Georgia’s students.”

Carrollton High School was recognized for the breadth of its Advanced Placement offerings in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math).

The City of Lula will hold a special election on June 16, 2015 to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Council member Vicky Chambers.

Macon-Bibb County will host a Poverty Summit on March 4, 2015 to consider ways to reduce poverty among area residents.

Georgia Congressmen Sanford Bishop (D-Albany) and Austin Scott (R-Tifton) toured the Ocmulgee National Monument and discussed legislation to expand the boundaries and designate the area a National Historical Park.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis hosted “Office Hours” at a Jason’s Deli to hear from local residents.

“A lot of folks won’t take the time to go to the Marble Palace,” Lindley said of Davis’ regular office downtown. “The fact that Hardie is going to take the time to get out and do neighborhood meetings means a lot.”

Davis said residents had been “very vocal about expressing their concerns” at the event.

Stacey Howell, retail district manager for Fifth Third Bank and a District 7 resident, said she liked the “personal” setting and the opportunity to talk face-to-face with the mayor about issues such as financial education.

Davis brought his staff to the deli, including student intern Sarabeth Budenstein, a senior at A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet High School.

A proposed ban on plastic shopping bags before the Tybee Island City Council continues to move forward.

Flowery Branch will receive $4.27 million out of a total $158 million projected to be collected as sales tax if Hall County voters approve the SPLOST VII on Tuesday, March 17, 2015.

I’m bummed I missed this: Presidential Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin spoke last night at Berry College.

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