Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 24, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 24, 2015

On February 24, 1803, the United States Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall decided the case of Marbury v. Madison, enunciating the principle of judicial review under which the Court has authority to review Congressional action and hold them unconstitutional.

In writing the decision, John Marshall argued that acts of Congress in conflict with the Constitution are not law and therefore are non-binding to the courts, and that the judiciary’s first responsibility is always to uphold the Constitution. If two laws conflict, Marshall wrote, the court bears responsibility for deciding which law applies in any given case.

Union troops under General George Thomas attacked Confederates led by General Joseph Johnston near Dalton, Georgia on February 24, 1864.

Casualties were light. Thomas suffered fewer than 300 men killed, wounded, or captured, while Johnston lost around 140 troops. The Union generals did learn a valuable lesson, however; a direct attack against Rocky Face Ridge was foolish. Three months later, Sherman, in command after Grant was promoted to commander of all forces, sent part of his army further south to another gap that was undefended by the Confederates. The intelligence garnered from the Battle of Dalton helped pave the way for a Union victory that summer.

The Atlanta Journal was first published on February 24, 1883.

On February 24, 1988, the United States Supreme Court held in the case of Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, that the First Amendment protects publishers against claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress where the plaintiff is a public figure being parodied by the publication.

Carly Fiorina in Atlanta Today; Ben Carson visited Gwinnett

Former Hewlett Packard CEO, 2010 Republican candidate for United States Senate from California and possible 2016 Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina will be in Atlanta today to speak to the Capitol Club lunch hosted by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. The lunch is at the Event Loft at Underground Atlanta, 50 Upper Alabama Street, Suite 007, Atlanta, Georgia.

Another potential 2016 GOP candidate, Dr. Ben Carson, spoke in Gwinnett County this past weekend. From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

“If everything continues to go as planned,” the political novice will announce a presidential exploratory committee in “the next few weeks.”

“It just kept building and building,” Carson said.

The presumed presidential candidate was at the Gwinnett Center on Saturday evening to speak at the Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation’s annual donor appreciation gala. His comments, made in front of a record-breaking crowd of 900, included medical anecdotes, parts of his own background and plenty of quips. They also followed a few familiar themes: a bashing of health care reform, stereotypes and a bit about “what all of us can do as Americans to fortify the future for those coming behind us.”

“We’re in the process of completely destroying any chance that (our children) will have for a reasonable future,” Carson said. “And that made me decide that maybe I should be speaking out more. Whether I run or not, I definitely need to speak out more.”

Carson believes he’s gained popularity because Americans are “responding to common sense.” He said his lack of political experience is actually a positive (“The people who have had a lot of experience have done a fine job, haven’t they?”) and took on another one of his favorite targets: the so-called “PC police.”

Under the Gold Dome Today

7:00am – 9:00am House Appropriations Subcommittees- FY 16 – 341 cap
9:00am – 10:00am House Rules Commmittee – 341 cap
12:00pm – 1:00pm Senate Rules Upon Adjournment – 450 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Interstate Cooperation Committee – 123 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Health & Human Services Committee – 450 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Science & Technology – Cancelled – 310 clob
1:00pm – 3:00pm House Pak Sub of Judiciary Non-Civil – 406 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Regulated Industries Committee – 506 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Sales Tax Sub of Ways & Means – 133 cap
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Energy, Utilities & Telecomm – 403 cap
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Urban Affairs Committee – 328 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Banking & Financial Institutions – 307 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Property & Casualty Sub of Insurance – 515 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Local Government Sub of Governmental Affairs – 606 clob
2:30pm – 3:00pm House State Govt Admin Sub of Govtal Affairs – 606 clob
2:30pm – 4:30pm House Judiciary Civil Committee – 132 cap
3:00pm – 3:30pm House Labor Mgmt Sub of Industry & Labor – 406 clob
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Natural Resources & Environment – 450 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Higher Education Committee – 310 clob
3:00pm – 4:00pm House Banks & Banking Committee – 341 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Veterans, Military, & Homeland Security – 125 cap
3:00pm – 5:00pm House Setzler Sub of Judiciary Non-Civil – 506 clob
3:30pm – 4:00pm House Workers Comp Sub of Industry & Labor – 406 clob
4:00pm – 5:00pm House Higher Education Committee – 403 cap
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Econ Dev & Tourism – Mezzanine 1
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Judiciary Committee – 307 clob
4:30pm – 6:00pm House Jacobs Sub of Judiciary Civil – 132 cap

Senate Rules Calendar for Legislative Day 21

SB 34 – Torts; provide immunity from liability; persons entering a parked motor vehicle; purpose of removing a child from motor vehicle; definitions (As Introduced) (Substitute) (JUDY-13th)

House Rules Calendar for Legislative Day 21

Open Rule

HB 217 – Investments; public retirement systems to invest in mutual funds, commingled funds, collective investment funds, common trusts, and group trusts; authorize (Substitute)(Ret-Maxwell-17th)

HB 256 – Georgia Firefighters’ Pension Fund; provide new definitions; provisions (Ret-Maxwell-17th)

HR 304 – Georgia’s technical schools, colleges and universities; expand gerontology and dementia education and training; encourage (HEd-Cooper-43rd)

Modified Open Rule

HB 199 – Timber harvesting; require notice only in an approved form; provisions (Substitute)(NR&E-Corbett-174th)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 206 – Uniform rules of the road; procedure for passing sanitation vehicles; provide (PS&HS-Harrell-106th)

HB 266 – Retirement and pensions; investment authority of local retirement systems; correct certain provisions (Ret-Battles-15th)

State House unveils tax cut plan

State Representative John Carson (R-Marietta) introduced the Take Home More Pay Act, which builds on the work by Senator David Shafer last year to put a permanent income tax cap on the ballot. Carson’s bill, House Bill 445, would ratchet down the top income tax rate from the current top marginal rate of 6% to 4% for the calendar year 2018. More from The Marietta Daily Journal,

The More Take Home Pay Act, House Bill 445, would gradually lower the income tax rate for individuals and businesses from 6 to 4 percent over a three-year period and raise the state’s sales tax from 4 to 5 percent. It would also allow the state to tax groceries, which are currently exempt from Georgia’s state sales tax.

Carson, flanked by House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) and House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal (R-Bonaire), said Monday he believes it is clear Georgians want tax reform.

“We’ve had resolutions, we’ve had reviews, we’ve had councils, we’ve had committees for years on this issue, and I’ve been part of them,” Carson said. “And there’s a lot of good, hard work that’s come out of those things. But I think people are not looking for more reviews and studies and commissions. What they’re looking for is leadership. What they’re looking for is reform.”

Carson said a family earning $48,000 per year, the median household income in Georgia, would save $400 annually from the decreased income tax rate. This would save families in Georgia a total of $2.5 billion in taxes, Carson said.

Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) said he would have a hard time supporting a bill that taxes groceries.

“I don’t think I could go back to the people in my community and explain why I think it’s a good idea to put a tax on the food on their table,” Wilkerson said.

Ralston dismissed the notion the tax reforms puts more burden on lower income individuals.

“I don’t think it’s regressive at all when it lets working families in Georgia keep more of their money, save their money so they can send their kids to college, so they can take care of their families,” Ralston said.

Carson’s bill would also implement a 7 percent service tax on direct broadcast satellite service and sets the rate for other telecommunications industries, including 5 percent for cable service and 5 percent for telecommunication services.

The bill would also eliminate a jet fuel sales tax exemption for Atlanta-based Delta Airlines, in addition to closing other tax loopholes, Carson said.

The Associated Press notes additional changes under Carson’s bill,

The bill would also raise Georgia’s general sales tax from 4 to 5 percent — which would also apply to downloaded content.

The proposed legislation would also establish a 5 percent grocery tax phased in between 2016 and 2019, and raise cigarette taxes from 45 cents to 65 cents between 2017 and 2019.

Regressiveness and the sales tax on groceries will, of course, be the liberal rallying cry against this bill. In fact, here’s a study that shows low-income Georgians will pay a higher percent of their income in state taxes at the current rates, via The Gainesville Times:

Georgia’s poorest residents will pay a larger share of their income this year in state and local taxes than the wealthiest earners, according to a new study from the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, a nonprofit Washington think tank.

That burden could grow as Republican lawmakers in the state legislature push for lower income tax rates while offsetting lost revenues with increases in sales taxes.

While the wealthy pay a higher percentage in state income taxes, the middle-class and poor pay more in sales and excise taxes. That means the cost of basic necessities, everything from food to gas, hits the wallets and purses of low-income families much harder.

“That is why the proportion is so different,” said Dewey McClain, a Democratic state representative from Lilburn and president of the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council, an AFL-CIO affiliate.

The poor also pay a larger percentage of their income toward property taxes, with homes often representing their single largest asset. Payroll taxes, which fund Medicare and Social Security, also weigh heavier on them.

Unlike the graduated federal income tax system — which is considered “progressive” because the more an individual earns, the greater percent of their income is taxed — state and local taxes are considered “regressive” because, for example, everyone pays the same sales tax rate.

Political conservatives argue that’s why sales and consumption taxes are fairer. Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gainesville, said he supports consumption taxes in favor of income taxes to pay for needed infrastructure and transportation projects.


The Shafer Amendment to the Georgia Constitution, Constitutional Amendment Number One on the 2014 General Election ballot passed with nearly three-quarters of voters in support.

Josh McKoon on Religious Freedom

Gov. Deal introduces Rural Health Stabilization Plan

Gov. Nathan Deal released the final report of recommendations from his Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee, which was created last April to identify and provide solutions for the needs of Georgia’s rural hospital community.

“When a rural hospital struggles, a community struggles,” said Deal. “Back in April we stood at a critical juncture for some of our state’s rural health care systems, and this committee was just one of the paths taken to ensure that Georgians, no matter where they live, have the ability to receive adequate care. These recommendations, a result of countless hours of dedicated analysis and review of a system that affects not only our citizens’ wellbeing, but also our local economies, will serve as a strong starting point toward providing high-quality health care throughout rural Georgia.”

Included in the recommendations is the establishment of a four-site pilot program, based upon an integrated “hub and spoke” model, to relieve cost pressures on emergency departments and ensure that the best, most efficient treatment is received by patients. The program aims to increase the utilization of new and existing technology and infrastructure in smaller critical access hospitals, Wi-Fi and telemedicine equipped ambulances, telemedicine equipped school clinics, federally qualified health centers, public health departments and local physicians. The four proposed hubs of initial implementation are Union General, Appling Health System, Crisp Regional and Emanuel Regional Medical Center.

“Just as a medical emergency can’t wait, neither can we wait to act upon these recommendations,” said Deal. “An additional $3 million will be allocated in this year’s budget to the State Office of Rural Health within the Georgia Department of Community Health to fund the necessary tools the four hubs need to effectively implement this pilot program. It is my hope that these efforts are not a temporary fix, but rather the beginning of a long-lasting road to recovery for our rural health systems.”

The committee, which included health care professionals, legislators, local officials and business owners, also recommended the maintenance of existing Certificate of Need laws to protect existing rural hospital infrastructure. Other legislative fixes include the expansion of the scope of practice for midlevel providers, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who could help bolster health care resources in rural communities.

“First of all, I want to thank the governor for listening to my concerns about the plight of rural hospitals and health care in rural Georgia and for creating this committee,” said Committee Co-Chair and state Sen. David Lucas. “Since April, we have worked to put together meaningful solutions to address these needs. On behalf of the entire Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee, I thank the Governor Deal and his staff for instituting programs to start the process of trying to address health care in rural Georgia.”

“The Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee tasked by Governor Deal has worked hard to achieve our goal of identifying and providing solutions for our state’s most challenging rural health care needs,” said Committee Co-Chair and state Rep. Terry England. “Together, with the support of the General Assembly, the Governor’s Office and state agencies, we are committed through these recommendations to improve our rural hospitals, and by extension, the quality of life of all Georgia citizens.”

Deal makes appointments

Yesterday, Gov. Deal appointed J. Kelly Brooks to the Superior Court for the Waycross Judicial Circuit. The Governor also appointed Col. Jesse Simmons as Assistant Adjutant General of the Georgia Air National Guard.

Finally, Deal signed an Executive Order to implement “Ban the Box” hiring policies, which removes questions about criminal history from the first stage of the state employment application. Criminal background information and checks may still be used in employment decisions by the state, but removing questions from the first stage will allow otherwise qualified applicants to be judged on their individual merit rather than weeded-out initially. The Order follows a recommendation by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform.

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