Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 25, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 25, 2015

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

The United States Congress pass the Legal Tender Act on February 25, 1862, allowing the government to pay its bills with paper money it printed.

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

As of the time of this writing, the House and Senate plan to convene today at 10 AM for Legislative Day 22 and to convene on Thursday for LD 23.

Governor Deal has declared a state of emergency beginning at 2 PM today for 50 counties, including Fulton, where the State Capitol is located.

Gov. Nathan Deal this evening ordered state government offices in the affected areas to close at noon [today] and declared a state of emergency for disaster preparedness starting at 2 p.m.

This may affect legislative committee meetings scheduled today and we won’t attempt to prognosticate whether Session will be changed from tomorrow.

8:00am – 9:00am House Appropriations Committee – 341 cap
12:00pm – 1:00pm Senate Rules Upon Adjournment – 450 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm House Interstate Cooperation – 415 clob
1:00pm – 2:00pm House Academic Innovations Sub of Education – 403 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Public Safety Committee – 310 clob
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Insurance & Labor Committee – 125 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Education & Youth Committee – 307 clob
2:00pm – 2:30pm House Elections Sub of Govtal Affairs – 406 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Retirement Committee – 515 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Defense & Vets Affairs – 415 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Finance Committee – mezz 1
2:00pm – 3:00pm House State Properties Committee – 403 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate State Institutions & Property – 125 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Judiciary Non Civil – 307 clob
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Transportation Committee – 450 cap
3:00pm – 5:00pm House Fleming Sub of Judiciary Civil – 403 cap
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities – 310 clob
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate State & Local Gov’tal Ops – Mezz 1

Senate Rules Calendar Unavailable

House Rules Calendar

Modified Structured Rule

HB 59 – State tort claims; waiver of sovereign immunity for declaratory judgment or injunctive relief; provide (Substitute)(Judy-Willard-51st)

HB 85 – Alcoholic beverages; sale or furnishing to patients or inmates of Central State Hospital and sale or possession near or upon the grounds; change certain provisions (RegI-Harrell-106th)(AM# 36 0490)

HB 211 – Controlled substances; Schedule I, III, and IV; change certain provisions (JudyNC-Broadrick-4th)

HB 261 – Alcoholic beverages; sale during certain times on Sunday in commercial service airports owned or operated by a municipal governing authority; provide (Substitute)(RegI-Harrell-106th)

Carly Fiorina at Underground Atlanta

John Roberts of Fox News was also there yesterday, and he wrote of the event,

Fiorina spoke in Atlanta at a luncheon hosted by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. It marked at least the second time in as many months she has gone hard after Clinton; Fiorina previously criticized Clinton during an address last month at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines.

On Tuesday, Fiorina said that despite Clinton’s extensive travel as secretary of state, “every place in the world is more dangerous today than it was six years ago.”

She also went after Clinton over recent reports on how the Clinton Foundation had lifted its own ban on foreign donations, and potential conflicts of interest that could arise from that should Clinton run for the White House.

“Really? This is the best we can do is to have yet another decade of campaign finance scandals?” Fiorina said.

Later Tuesday, Fiorina supporters announced they were launching a SuperPac entitled Carly for America to “help lay the groundwork for a potential presidential candidacy.”

Here’s where she delivers the “like Hillary Clinton, I have traveled thousands of miles…” line.

I asked her about Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s “SEC Primary,” and she said,

“I personally think the SEC Primary is a really good idea. It’s not going to effect what decision I make [whether to run], but it will affect, obviously, how I run, if I choose to run, so I’m really privileged to have a chance to be here today.”

I also asked about the very small number (1, I think, Martha Roby in Alabama) of female Republican Members of Congress in the Deep South states.

“Our party needs to be as diverse as the nation we want to represent, the regions we want to represent, so, half our nation is women now, 53 percent of our voters are women now, ultimately, of course, we need all types of people to get engaged.”

Kemp Capitol Club Swag

Here’s some more information on the Kemp Capitol Club and how to join. Nice swag. Note that the Kemp Capitol Club cannot accept new members while the General Assembly is in Session as statewide elected officials are prohibited from raising funds during that time.

Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Committee Vote

State Rep. Allen Peake’s House Bill 1 passed the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee yesterday on a unanimous vote.

 The revised House Bill 1, sponsored by state Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), would set up a process whereby patients with one of eight diagnoses, and a recommendation from a doctor, would register for cannabis oil use with the state Department of Public Health.

An individual, or that person’s caregiver, would be issued a registration card from Public Health that would allow them to possess the cannabis oil. (Possession would remain illegal for the general public.)

Peake said with the eight diagnoses – down from 17 in an earlier proposal – as many as 500,000 people in the state could be helped.

The eight diagnoses are cancer, ALS, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, fibromyalgia and Parkinson’s disease.

The University of Georgia’s Red and Black has more on the bill,

Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) pushed for a bill legalizing the in-state production of medical marijuana in Georgia earlier this year but later compromised to form a bill that would allow certain Georgia residents to carry in small amounts of medical marijuana — up to 20 fluid ounces of cannabis oil — and not be criminalized, according to Grant Thomas of Rep. Peake’s office.

“Possessing any more than that would be a felony,” Thomas said.

Medical marijuana still cannot be manufactured in Georgia, so residents in need must travel to other states and smuggle the marijuana back. This poses an issue for other states because it is illegal to take marijuana outside of state lines. There is however a company in Colorado who would ship medical marijuana to Georgia families if the bill gets signed into law, Thomas said.

“Any of those people would first have to obtain a registration card from the Department of Public Health upon getting a recommendation from their physician,” Thomas said. “That keeps the doctor-patient relationship.”

The bill still has to pass through the Rules Committee and the House to get approved, and it will then move to the Senate. Thomas said the bill is expected to pass overwhelmingly in the House but not so quickly in the Senate.

“There has been talk that the Senate wants to take out a lot of the conditions and lower the THC level, so we’ll see,” Thomas said.

And the Associated Press weighs in,

Originally, the bill listed 17 conditions eligible for treatment with small amounts of cannabis oil, but that was whittled down to eight by its sponsor, Republican Rep. Allen Peake of Macon, who said it would have had no chance of passage in the House, much less the Senate.

“Still, we got eight diagnoses (in the bill) that will cover 500,000 people in the state,” said Peake after the measure was approved in a room in the Capitol packed with bill proponents. “It’s a very positive step in the right direction. This is a good thing for our citizens.”

Peake predicted the bill would pass the House Rules committee and the full House this week.

Katie Harrison, 34, of Gillsville in Hall County, sat through the hearing with her son, Hawk, 2, on her lap. She said he had a brain hemorrhage at 3 weeks and has had frequent seizures ever since.

“I will have to move out of state if this doesn’t pass,” she said. “I’m here to fight for every child this oil can help.”

Peake said at least 17 Georgia families have moved to states where the oil is available, and Harrison said she will too if “I have to.” She said her son has been treated with the oil in California and “it worked, reducing seizures and their severity.”

Peake sought to calm fears that “we could be headed down a slippery slope” to Colorado-style legalization of marijuana use. The bill calls for THC percentages of no more than 5 percent, “a THC level low enough that if it has some psychoactive effect, it will be very minimal.”

“An individual would have to get a recommendation from his physician saying that they had a designated diagnosis and the doctor recommends cannabis oil for that individual,” Peake said. “They would then obtain a registry card with the Department of Public Health, which would give them immunity for possession of the cannabis oil.”

House Bill 122, to repeal the Hipster Lifestyle Electric Vehicle Tax Credit has come back to life like Frankenstein’s monster hooked up to a recharging station. From the AJC:

Legislation ending Georgia’s lucrative tax credit for the purchase of electric vehicles was resurrected Tuesday in a House subcommittee under curious circumstances.

House Bill 122, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, was voted down in the same Ways and Means subcommittee last week. But when the panel convened again Tuesday, it was announced that HB 122 had only been “tabled” last time, which is legislative-ese for being postponed.

After the bill was un-tabled it quickly passed by unanimous voice vote. No Democrats were present.


A bill for Sunday Sales during the Savannah St. Patricks Day weekend passed out of committee.

The Regulated Industries Committee required little discussion to unanimously approve House Bill 340 introduced by Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, and cosponsored by the entire local delegation. The Savannah City Council requested it to allow bar owners the same opening hours as restaurants that serve alcohol since they are allowed to sell it on Sundays and bars normally aren’t.

Supporters are hoping to pass it through the House and Senate in time for Gov. Nathan Deal to sign it before this year’s holiday. The governor was willing to do that last year, even though he normally signs bills months after the legislature adjourns.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis would like to enhance the stature and powers of the Mayor’s Office under the city charter.

Davis launched a debate about amending the city charter and enhancing mayoral powers with a bang Friday, with the 10-member commission then unaware of his wishes and uninvited to the news conference where he revealed them.

At a Tuesday meeting of South Augusta Pride and Progress, Davis defended his request to expand the mayor’s office budget and a recent trip to Washington, D.C., where he said he helped secure $3 million in reimbursement for cleanup from last year’s ice storm.

The mayor’s office needs an additional $150,000 “not to pad my pocket” but to hire a communications officer and additional administrative support to handle the many requests already on file from his first 50 days, Davis said.

“I firmly believe in a strong mayor form of government,” he said. “You know who to blame, who to hold accountable. It’s perfectly clear where the buck stops.”

Davis told [audience members] to sign petitions and write letters, or more importantly, call members of the Augusta legislative delegation, naming reps. Barbara Sims, Gloria Frazier, Wayne Howard, Brian Prince and Earnest Smith and sens. Jesse Stone, Bill Jackson and Harold Jones.

Best ever day of on-the-job training? Watching stuff get blown up at the Richmond County, Georgia Sheriff’s Office training range.

During the first day of class Monday, about 30 FBI agents from across the country gathered at the Richmond County sheriff’s training range to watch things explode. The explosions ranged from Hollywood-syle “ooh and aah” blasts to the homemade kind. Agents observed the different effects of various chemicals and combinations and even the smells the explosions made.

“People like this class because it’s a good balance of classroom and getting out,” said Richard Stryker, a supervisor special agent. “Most people like getting their hands dirty.”

Stryker said the training is an advanced version of what agents get from the FBI academy and is more specifically directed at those interested in evidence collection.

By the end of the weeklong class, the agents will learn how to respond to different types of explosions, what types of evidence to look for and collect and how to re-create the scene. The ultimate test is when instructors use a vehicle bomb and ask the agents to respond and investigate.

Macon-Bibb County Commission may consider property tax hikes in order to balance the budget.

Facing a shortfall of perhaps $10 million in the upcoming annual budget, Macon-Bibb County commissioners heard several options Tuesday for making the numbers work.

They included possible tax increases to partially offset the promised removal of the remaining Macon property tax. Specifically, Mayor Robert Reichert said a resolution to dedicate an additional mill of property tax to health care, economic development, museums and arts programs and paratransit will be presented to commissioners soon.

The Georgia Sierra Club is asking the General Assembly for more transit dollars in the proposed Transportation Tax bill.

The Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club has called on lawmakers to make “substantial, ongoing funding for transit a centerpiece” of the bill, which has passed a state House committee and now is headed to a committee where House and Senate members can hash out differences.

“Although sponsors have made some changes to the bill, it currently does not include a significant funding stream for mass transit or other alternatives to sitting in traffic,” states a Sierra Club news release.

“Support for transit in Georgia is at an all-time high,” said David Emory, the Georgia chapter’s chairman.

He noted Clayton County residents voted to join MARTA with a historic 74 percent in favor, and recent polling in the 10-county Atlanta region “shows transit garnering more support than any other option, including road expansion.”

With the bill, “legislators have a critical opportunity to craft a truly balanced funding plan that reflects Georgians’ growing demand for real transportation choices,” Emory said.

The Sierra Club wants more changes, including opening the state gas tax so it is dedicated to all transportation purposes; establishing criteria for road spending that emphasize preservation and maintenance over expansion; and treating alternative-fuel vehicles fairly.

The bill now being considered would eliminate Georgia’s tax credit of up to $5,000 for electric vehicle purchases.

Perhaps they don’t understand that the vast majority of the money in the Transportation Tax bill will go to maintenance and repair of existing infrastructure. The Sierra Club and others interested in the Transportation Tax Bill may get a second bite at the billion dollar apple when HB 170 returns to the House Transportation Committee.

A plan to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue for transportation was sent back to its committee Tuesday, a move the bill’s sponsor said will allow for further changes.

Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, sponsor of House Bill 170, said he has revisions ready to be made and that the bill could reach the House floor as soon as Monday.

HB 170 has already undergone major changes since it was first introduced in late January. Most of the changes deal with how cities and counties tax motor fuel. Left intact is a plan to replace the state’s sales tax on gasoline with a 29.2 cents per gallon excise tax.

Capitol insiders with direct knowledge of the coming changes, who were not authorized to speak on the record, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the changes are designed to please both the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia. GMA has been a vocal critic of the bill, while ACCG at one point endorsed it but later raised new concerns.

Roberts told the AJC his committee will likely meet Wednesday to consider the changes. That would put the bill before the Rules Committee on Thursday for possible floor debate Monday.

At the time of this writing, the House Transportation Committee scheduled for 3 PM today is cancelled. Check back for more as the day goes on.

John Boyer, the husband of former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer, pled guilty to federal mail fraud charges stemming from the scheme he allegedly hatched to defraud county taxpayers.

John Boyer, 62, was charged with conspiring to commit mail fraud. Elaine Boyer pleaded guilty to similar charges back in September 2014.

Prosecutors say false invoices were submitted to Elaine Boyer’s officer for services done by a supposed political advisor. Those services were never done, according to prosecutors. Boyer used the invoices to authorize payments to the advisor, mailing about 35 checks for about $80,000 for the consulting services never performed.

John Boyer is accused of telling the advisor to deposit that money into a personal account of the Boyers.

Last month, Elaine Boyer’s sentencing was postponed again so that prosecutors could continue to follow up on information she gave them while cooperating in exchange for a sentencing recommendation.

I suspect this isn’t the last fruit of her cooperation and will not be surpised when more subpoenas, indictments, and/or guilty pleas come out.

Gissendaner Execution Postponed

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter told the Gwinnett Daily News that the execution of Kelly Gissendaner is likely to be postponed because of the weather.

“I was notified in the car on the way home (from the clemency hearing) that the execution had been delayed, probably until the first of next week,” Porter said.

If that happens, the execution would still fall into the seven-day window prescribed in the order scheduling Gissendaner’s death.

Attempts to contact the attorney general’s office for confirmation were unsuccessful Tuesday night. A Department of Corrections spokesman could also not be reached for comment.

In case you care, I oppose the death penalty because I distrust our government’s ability to plow snow, much less determine who is guilty and not guilty to a standard that would make me comfortable giving the government this power.

Marc Hyden of Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty was in Georgia earlier this week, sharing similar concerns.

Valentine’s Day Gone Wrong

When you blow off Valentine’s Day with your girlfriend, this may happen to you.

When an Athens man returned home from a trip on Monday he reportedly found a bag of dog feces on his bed and his home trashed by his girlfriend, who he said was mad because he chose to not be with her on Valentine’s Day.

The woman reportedly left various notes in the house, including one that was left with the bag of feces and another that said the man had skeletons in his closet. That note was attached to a closet in which the man stored a collection of animal bones.

The woman, a 34-year-old Waffle House employee, admitted that she damaged the home in order to “get back” at the man for leaving her at his home with no money to pay bills, according to the report.

The man said the damage occurred sometime after he left his home on Feb. 14 for a fishing trip to Florida with his son.

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