Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for March 29, 2017

29
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for March 29, 2017

Charles Wesley, hymnist, and brother of Methodist founder John Wesley, died on March 29, 1788 in London, England. Charles Wesley served as Secretary to James Oglethorpe and as a Chaplain at Fort Frederica on St Simons Island. This past Sunday, his hymns were played in churches across the globe, including Christ the Lord Is Risen Today and Rejoice, the Lord Is King.

On March 29, 1865, Federal troops under General Ulysses S. Grant began the Appomattox campaign.

On March 29, 1937, Georgia Governor Eugene Talmadge signed legislation imposing the first state tax on distilled spirits in Georgia.

If made in another state and imported into Georgia, distilled spirits were taxed at 80 cents per gallon and alcohol at $1.60 per gallon – or at fractional amounts for smaller containers. If made in Georgia, distilled spirits were taxed at 40 cents per gallon and alcohol at 80 cents per gallon.

On March 29, 1973, the last American troops left Vietnam, ending United States engagement in the war.

Tonight, friends and family will gather at the 1818 Club at 7:30 PM to celebrate the life of Jon Richards.

The gathering at the 1818 Club is expected to draw a diversity of people ranging from elected officials to journalists, Gwinnett community leaders, as well as Richards’ friends and family. His family will receive guests beforehand, starting at 7 p.m.

Richards had long been a presence in Gwinnett political circles, including being heavily involved in the county’s Republican Party. He also continued attending some local events — such as Chairwoman Charlotte Nash’s State of the County Address in February — while battling cancer.

At the same time, Richard was also a popular member of the press corps at the State Capitol, receiving applause from senators when he visited earlier in the session.

Gwinnett County Sens. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville, David Shafer, R-Duluth, Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain, Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain, and Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, honored Richards’ life by filing a resolution recognizing him on Friday.

The news of Richards’ death brought reactions on Twitter from officials at various levels of governor, including Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice and current and former state legislators.

“May God rest his soul,” Deal wrote.

The earlier resolution honoring Jon and naming him an “honorary Georgia native” was Senate Resolution 539. A new version sending condolences was introduced yesterday as Senate Resolution 558.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections

The Joint House and Senate Education Committee meets today at 10:30 AM in room 606 of the CLOB to hear two presentations.

After yesterday, in the tradition of Jedediah Springfield and Whacking Day, the 39th Legislative Day of the Georgia General Assembly will be known as “Rat Stomp Day.”

On the third floor of the Capitol, a large rat skittered across the floor outside the Senate Chamber, drawing screams from young children and a single well-placed stomp from a Senate doorkeeper. Now, the rat’s brother has opened a Twitter account.

Later, in the evening, we were treated to an early Festivus, in which the Lieutenant Governor aired the Senate’s grievances against the House, noting Senate legislation that languished in the lower chamber. Among the bills notably delayed were Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2.

The House would go on to vote twice against Senate Bill 1, leaving it ineligible for another shot at passage.

The first vote on passage of Senate Bill 1, one of that chamber’s top priorities for the year, was 85-83. It takes 91 votes to pass a bill in the House. After a procedural vote to revive the bill, the House then voted 84-83 to pass SB 1.

That measure is now dead, although it can be added to another measure before lawmakers quit for the year on Thursday.

“Less than one week after a deadly terrorist attack struck London, and in the wake of countless acts of terrorism at home and abroad, 83 members of the House declined to approve a measure to enhance Georgia’s defense against potential terrorist threats,” [Lieutenant Governor Casey] Cagle said. “I will not give up on protecting our citizens and we can never subject the safety and security of Georgians to political gamesmanship.”

SB 1 would classify a crime as “domestic terrorism” if it is a felony that causes bodily harm or death, or the disabling or destruction of “critical infrastructure” that results in major economic losses. It would also have to be proven the crime was intended to intimidate residents or to change public policy.

Shortly after SB 1 failed the second time, the Senate adjourned until Thursday morning.

Earlier in the day, the Senate passed House Bill 280, the Campus Carry legislation.

The proposal would allow anyone 21 and older with a state-issued permit to carry a concealed handgun on campus.

Hoping to win Deal over, lawmakers retained exemptions included in last year’s measure — fraternities, sororities, other student housing, and athletic facilities — and added new exemptions: for on-campus preschools and buildings where high school-age students attend classes.

In his sweeping veto last year, Deal signaled that his opposition to permitting concealed handguns on the state’s public campuses was deeply rooted. Citing legal precedent, he referenced Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s opposition to guns on the University of Virginia campus, as well as U.S. Supreme Court opinion by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, which described schools as “sensitive places” under the Second Amendment.

Senate Amendments to HB 280 mean that the House will vote to agree or disagree with the Senate version. An agree vote by the House would send the legislation to the Governor’s desk, while a disagree would send it to a conference committee of three House members and three Senators.

The Senate also amended and passed House Bill 329, the original version of which would have flattened Georgia’s income tax rates to 5.4 percent.

The Senate bill, which passed 38-16 along party lines, would reduce the income tax rate in Georgia from the current maximum of 6 percent to 5.65 percent. While that’s not far from the rate set by the House bill, senators made other changes that will have to be worked out with the House.

Besides lowering state income taxes, the House bill would establish a flat tax rate of 5.4 percent. But a flat tax actually would raise taxes on low- and middle-income Georgians, according to an analysis by Georgia State University cited by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome.

The Senate bill would keep the current graduated system, setting the lowest tax rate at 1 percent. It also would increase the exemption Georgia taxpayers currently receive by $300, indexed to inflation.

With Georgia’s economy humming along, state government can afford to reduce taxes, Hufstetler told his Senate colleagues.

“We have had a good increase in revenue,” he said. “We have a record fund balance now.”

House Bill 338 by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) passed the Senate and is headed to the Governor for signature.

About four months after voters rejected Gov. Nathan Deal’s amendment to take over failing schools, a similar piece of legislation is heading to his desk.

Tuesday, the Georgia House voted 133 to 36 to approve the latest version of House Bill 338, authored by state Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville. The Senate passed the measure Friday.

House Bill 37 by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) addresses potential sanctuary campuses and was passed by the Senate.

The Georgia Senate passed the bill on Tuesday by a vote of 37-16.

If signed by the governor, Ehrhart’s bill would revoke all state funding, including scholarship and research grants, if a private college in Georgia became a “sanctuary campus” to protect undocumented students.

Sanctuary campuses are colleges and universities who have said they will not provide student information to federal immigration authorities.

“You must follow the law,” Ehrhart, a Powder Springs Republican, told the MDJ after his bill passed the Senate on Tuesday afternoon.

There are no sanctuary colleges in Georgia, and Ehrhart’s bill would keep it that way.

The House adopted Senate Bill 16 in a compromise version, expanding the use of medical cannabis in Georgia.

“While this bill does not go as far as many of us would like, it does add six more conditions to the already successful program in our current law and this will allow many more hurting Georgians to benefit from medical cannabis oil as an option,” said state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, presenting Senate Bill 16 to the House on Tuesday. The House approved it on Tuesday by a vote of 167-4.

The diagnoses that would be added are: “severe” autism for people under the age of 18; autism for people ages 18 or older; severe or end-stage cases of Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS or peripheral neuropathy; severe Tourette’s syndrome; or any case of the painful skin disease epidermolysis bullosa. It would also open the registry to people in hospice.

The bill is a compromise with the state Senate, which passed a bill which would have added only autism and would have lowered the cap on THC. The state House approved a bill with more diagnoses and left the 5 percent THC cap untouched.

State Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, authored the original Senate Bill 16 and has said he expects the Senate will approve the compromise, which also leaves the THC cap at 5 percent.

Gwinnett County Commissioners are in Athens this week for strategic planning meetings.

Gwinnett Tax Commissioner Richard Steele notes that Saturday is the last day to apply for a homestead exemption if your situation has changed.

Sixth District

University of Florida Professor Michael McDonald crunched the numbers on early voting so far in the Sixth District and it looks bad for Republicans.

The Club for Growth is airing a new TV ad attacking Republican Karen Handel in the Sixth District.

It’s a $250,000 ad buy on Atlanta cable, according to a Club source, and is scheduled to run through the initial April 18 election. If none of the 18 candidates receives a majority of the vote in the jungle primary, the top two finishers, regardless of party, will move on to a June 20 runoff. The conservative outside group endorsed one of Handel’s 10 GOP opponents, businessman Bob Gray, on March 14.

The 30-second ad, entitled “Trees,” highlights Handel’s spending record as Georgia secretary of state and Fulton county commissioner (since she doesn’t have a legislative voting record).

It’s the first negative ad against Handel that mentions her by name. Previous ads made references to career politicians and one featured an elephant wearing a pearl necklace.

As a former statewide officeholder and with two other unsuccessful bids for statewide office, Handel started the special election with the highest name identification. While Gray has improved his standing with his own ads, someone (or some group) likely needed to dethrone Handel first for a Republican other than Handel to make the runoff.

All 18 candidates for the Sixth District are invited to debate today at 11:30 AM at Cobb Energy Centre.

Former Democratic candidate for Attorney General Ken Hodges will run for an open seat on the Georgia Court of Appeals in 2018, according to the AJC.

The former Dougherty district attorney signed on former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss to chair his campaign. And his campaign treasurer is Edward Johnson, the court’s former chief judge.

“The people of Georgia deserve fair judges who bring a diverse and broad range experience to the bench,” said Hodges. “That’s exactly what I’ve done throughout my legal career representing Georgia families and businesses, and that’s exactly why I’m running to serve on the Georgia Court of Appeals.”

 

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