Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 4, 2016


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 4, 2016

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.

Under the Gold Dome

Senate Committee Meetings





2:30 PM Health Care Delivery Sub – HHS 122 CAP




4:00 PM NAT’L RES. & ENV’MNT 450 CAP

House Committee Meetings


8:00 AM Approp. Econ. Dev. Sub 506 CLOB

8:30 AM Judiciary Non-Civil Setzler Sub 132 CAP

9:00 AM RULES 341 CAP

12:00 PM Tags & Title Sub 606 CLOB

1:00 PM Approp. Human Res. Sub 403 CAP

1:00 PM Approp. Education Sub 606 CLOB

1:30 PM Jud’y Non-Civil Pak Sub415 CLOB

1:30 PM Resolutions Sub on Transport. 506 CLOB




3:00 PM Judiciary Civil Caldwell Sub 132 CAP

Senate Rules Calendar

SB 230 – ‘Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act’; enactment (Substitute) (H&HS-52nd)

House Rules Calendar

Modified Open Rule

HB 593 Low-voltage Contractors, Division of; require continuing education; authorize (Substitute)(RegI-Hawkins-27th)

HB 730 Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council; commissioner of juvenile justice as a voting member; add (Substitute)(JuvJ-Powell-32nd)

HB 747 Motor vehicles; safe operation of motor carriers and commercial motor vehicles; update reference date to federal regulations (MotV-Rogers-10th)

HB 800 Veterinarians; veterinarian-client-patient relationship; clarify scope (A&CA-Jasperse-11th)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 228 Sheriffs; collect and deposit certain fees; provide (Substitute) (Judy-Jones-167th)


At least eight pieces of legislation seeking to expand the state’s protection of religious liberty have been dropped in the offering plate legislative hopper.

SB 129 by Sen. Josh McKoon, the original Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

HB 218 by Rep. Sam Teasley, the Preventing Government Overreach on Religious Expression Act.

HB 837 by Rep. Ed Setzler, the “other” Religious Liberty Restoration Act.

SB 284 the First Amendment Defense Act of Georgia by Sen. Greg Kirk.

HB 756 by Rep. Kevin Tanner to protect certain sellers of goods and services against infringement of religious freedom.

HB 757 the Pastor Protection Act by Rep Kevin Tanner.

HB 816 by Rep Billy Mitchell, the “Georgia Student Religious Liberties Act of 2016.”

HB 870 the Quality Basic Education Act by Rep. Brian Strickland, which would protect students’ ability to make religious expressions on their clothing.

Somebody asked me during the preachers’ press conference at the Capitol what I expect to come from the offering of religious liberty legislation. I asked him what has changed since last year. He said, “nothing,“ and I replied, “that’s what I expect to happen here – nothing but more noise on both sides of the debate.

After his first attempt at a MARTA bill that would allow even higher sales taxes to pay for expanding MARTA’s rail footprint was shunted into a siding,  Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) took a second bite at the apple, introducing another bill to do the same thing.

The new bill filed Wednesday afternoon, SB 330, effectively replaces SB 313, which Beach filed on Monday. The two versions are nearly identical, Beach said. The only real change is some added language that requires development around new MARTA stations to be subject to local zoning requirements.

The main reason for filing the new bill was to correct what Beach said was an error in the committee assignment. The former bill had been assigned to the State and Local Government Operations Committee. As AJC columnist Jim Galloway pointed out earlier this week, that committee is chaired by Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, who has been a vocal opponent of MARTA rail expansion in North Fulton. Transit supporters privately worried that it would not get a vote in that committee.

Beach said he expects the new bill will have a first read tomorrow, and then be assigned to the Transportation Committee. Beach said that’s where the bill always belonged.

Yesterday, I was invited by a prominent Republican activist to join a Facebook group called “Citizens Against Increasing Taxes & MARTA Expansion.” That group only has 24 members this morning, but I’d say it’s probably only the beginning.

Also skeptical about a MARTA tax increase are some DeKalb elected officials, who never met a tax hike they didn’t like, unless it threatens their own planned tax hike.

Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May and the DeKalb Board of Commissioners recently drafted a letter saying the county “has been placed in a very awkward posture” because a vote on raising MARTA sales taxes could conflict with the county’s infrastructure sales tax proposal.

The county plans to ask voters to decide in November whether to add 1 cent per dollar to their sales taxes to pay for roads, public safety facilities and other infrastructure through a special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST).

If a half-cent per dollar proposal to fund MARTA’s growth were also on the ballot on the same day, that initiative could undermine the SPLOST effort, according to the county’s letter.

“Unfortunately, the proposed half-penny competes with our top sales tax priority to advance a 1-cent SPLOST referendum in November 2016 to meet the basic essential needs of our constituency — crumbling roads,” said the Jan. 26 letter, which was addressed to MARTA CEO Keith Parker and MARTA’s board.

A bipartisan poll by The Mellman Group and McLaughlin & Associates asked Georgia respondents a question about casino gambling:

More than eight-in-ten (84%) want the chance to decide the casino issue in a referendum, while only 14% believe Georgia’s state legislature should decide itself whether or not to allow casinos to operate. Democrats (82%) and independents (83%) join Republicans (86%), conservative Republicans (87%), white evangelicals (86%), GOP primary voters (88%) and lower turnout primary voters (85%) in wanting Georgia’s state legislature should allow the people to allow casinos to operate in Georgia’s state legislature

Georgians are ready and willing to approve casino gaming in the state. Nearly six-in-ten (57%) say they would vote “yes” on a constitutional amendment to allow local jurisdictions to approve casinos that would help fund HOPE. This is nearly double the number who would vote against the plan (29%).

Support is highest among Democrats and minorities, but also reaches majority or plurality levels among Republicans (+12 net yes), Republican primary voters (+14), conservative Republicans (+2), white evangelicals (+8) and whites (+18).

The Georgia House of Representatives passed legislation by State Rep. Jan Jones (R-North Fulton) that will give HOPE scholarship recipients a GPA bump for some science, technology, engineering, and math courses.

Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton, says the change will encourage students to take such classes and pursue jobs in fields that need skilled employees. Hope Scholarship recipients must maintain a grade point average of at least 3.0 to keep receiving help for college tuition.

Jones says some students may have avoided the courses due to fear of losing their scholarship eligibility.

She says the Board of Regents, which oversees state colleges and universities, will determine the courses eligible for the added weight.

Legislation sponsored by State Rep. Don Parsons attempts to put another Constitutional Amendment on the November 2016 ballot.

Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta) and Rep. Virgil Fludd (D-Tyrone) on Thursday introduced Marsy’s Law for Georgia to elevate crime victims’ rights to the state constitution.

“In Georgia, people convicted or accused of crimes have constitutional rights, but their victims do not,” said Parsons. “In 2010, I sponsored and passed a bill that put comprehensive victims’ rights into state law. In these six years, we’ve shown we can prioritize the needs of victims and their families without putting an undue burden on the criminal justice system. We know it works; now it’s time to join the majority of states by putting victims’ rights in the state constitution.”

“The highest rights in our society are embedded in our constitution,” noted Fludd, Democratic Caucus chairman. “Marsy’s Law gives victims the same rights as the criminals who harmed them, and the support they and their families need during a stressful, scary legal process. In 2016, Georgians can vote to bring our state in line with more than 30 other states that already have enshrined the rights of victims in their most sacred legal documents. I’m sponsoring this legislation because I believe victims deserve – at the very least – rights equal to those who victimize them.”

Click here for more information on Marsy’s Law in Georgia.

Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz is leaving the state agency, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Georgia Ports Authority board made the announcement Wednesday morning in a special meeting. They also unanimously accepted the nominating committee’s recommendation to appoint Griff Lynch, the ports’ chief operating officer, to succeed Foltz as executive director.

“During his tenure at the Georgia Ports Authority, Curtis oversaw our ports’ consistent and rapid growth,” Gov. Nathan Deal said Wednesday. “I’m grateful for his efforts on behalf of our state and am confident that Griff Lynch will continue moving our ports and Georgia forward.”

Foltz, 55, has been with Georgia Ports for 12 years, moving into the top spot in 2009 when then-executive director Doug Marchand retired. His salary for fiscal 2015 was listed at $637,355.

“Curtis Foltz has led the GPA to achieve great things over the past six years as executive director and the six years prior as chief operating officer,” said board chairman Jim Walters. “Under his leadership the GPA has achieved record cargo growth, modernized its terminals and developed operational practices that increased efficiency, improved safety and focused on environmental stewardship.

Peach State Presidential Politics

Blamestorming speculation over the source of rumors that Ben Carson would drop his presidential bid after Iowa have fixated on a young Republican from Georgia.

According to a tweet that is spreading far and wide, first reported by Politistick, the Rubio campaign was pushing the story ‘hard’ that Carson was dropping out of the race too.

The tweet is by a guy named Conrad Close who seems to be an avid Rubio supporter based on his tweets, and says he is a “Conservative journalist and comms guy fighting to make a difference for God and Country. Managing Editor, OUTSET. Occasionally tries to save the world.” on his Twitter profile.

Close later addressed the question, saying that he “was not in Iowa. That tweet was based off what I saw on Twitter. Nothing more.”

If he had been trying to start something, it would have been a brilliant tactical trolling move – the hubbub got Trump and Carson fighting against Ted Cruz, which likely helps Marco Rubio.

The bigger question is why the Carson campaign (and every other Presidential campaign) wasn’t doing a better job of (a) communicating their candidate’s travel plans in a way that didn’t easily play into the idea that he would leave the race; and (b) monitoring Twitter during the caucuses and refuting inaccurate comments about their candidate.

Jim Galloway of the AJC Political Insider points us to this article from the Tulsa World, which describes a problem faced by Trump in Iowa that will likely resurface as the Presidential race turns South.

White evangelicals made up 65 percent of GOP caucus participants, and Trump won only 21 percent of them, compared to 34 percent for Cruz. Marco Rubio ran third in Iowa, also with 21 percent of the evangelical vote.

Trump, who has identified himself a Presbyterian, had worked to gain evangelical support but stumbled along the way.

Trump has drawn support from some high-profile evangelicals, including Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. and the Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the 11,000-member First Baptist Church, Dallas.

If you’re wondering how the Iowa caucus with its traditional first in nation status came to be seen as make or break for Presidential campaigns, you can thank, in part, Jimmy Carter.

By 1976, when both parties held their caucuses, the world was watching Iowa. “As the curtain raiser on the nominating process,” TIME noted, “the Iowa precinct caucuses stood to give one candidate a publicity bonanza and a jump on his rivals.” And sure enough, they did: Jimmy Carter, then Governor of Georgia, devoted himself to campaigning in the state and came away with about a quarter of the vote, which was more than twice as much as his nearest rival. Though their mathematical impact of those delegates was slim, the support for Carter made a difference for an outsider candidate—so much so that he made it all the way to the White House.

Iowans and the rest of the nation had figured out that their once-sleepy caucuses had become a major part of the American political scene.

Speaking of Jimmy Carter, the former President and Georgia Governor said if he had to choose between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, he’d choose Trump.

“I think I would choose Trump, which may surprise some of you,” the former Democratic president said during an appearance at Britain’s House of Lords on Wednesday afternoon. He was asked who he would pick for the GOP nomination.

“The reason is, Trump has proven already he’s completely malleable,” Carter explained. “I don’t think he has any fixed [positions] he’d go the White House and fight for. On the other hand, Ted Cruz is not malleable. He has far-right wing policies he’d pursue if he became president.”

When I read that yesterday, my first reaction was that I could hardly imagine how Jimmy Carter could do more damage to Trump than to endorse him. Apparently Cruz agrees, according to a Wall Street Journal story.

Sen. Ted Cruz is happy that rival Donald Trump received one endorsement: a nod from former Democratic President Jimmy Carter.

During a campaign event Wednesday night, Mr. Cruz referred to the comments with glee.

“Get the video, I want the video. I’m going to pay to air Jimmy Carter attacking me,” Mr. Cruz said to a crowd of several hundred gathered at a school here.

Rick Santorum has dropped his presidential bid and endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has also dropped out of the Presidential campaign to concentrate on his reelection to the Senate. Mike Huckabee has folded his campaign as well.

Huckabee won the 2008 Georgia Republican Presidential Primary. In 2012, Santorum came in third in Georgia’s Presidential Primary behind former Speaker Newt Gingrich and eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (R-Senoia) will endorse Marco Rubio for President today.

Rubio now has been endorsed by more members of Congress than Jeb Bush.

Sen. Rubio (R-Fla.) bagged six endorsements in quick succession, including the coveted support of South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, which will help him in the Palmetto State primary Feb. 20.

Rubio now has 32 endorsements to Bush’s 31 — a blow to the former Florida governor and yet another sign that the GOP establishment is consolidating around Rubio before next week’s New Hampshire primary as its best hope to defeat outsiders Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Rubio’s Wednesday endorsement from Pennsylvania Rep. Glenn Thompson tipped the junior senator over Bush….

The swing behind Rubio hurts Bush, who had been selling establishment support as one of his key advantages. Endorsements have historically been a strong predictor of the nominee, and Bush was trying to position himself as the serious – even inevitable – alternative to Trump and Cruz.

State Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), formerly supporting Sen. Rand Paul, has now endorsed Ted Cruz.

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