Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 17, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 17, 2015

The Trustees of the Georgia colony learned on April 17, 1737 that Spain had 4000 soliders and two warships in Havana, Cuba and was planning on invading Georgia or South Carolina. Thus began the rivalry between then-Spanish occupied Florida and Georgia. Floridians would have to wait until after the 1873 invention of blue jeans by Levi Strauss to develop their modern uniform of jean shorts.

On April 17, 1944, a fifteen-year old Martin Luther King, Jr., a junior at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, traveled to Dublin, Georgia to give a speech in a contest sponsored by the local black Elks club. During the bus ride to Dublin, King and his teacher had to give up their seats to white riders and stand for much of the ride. King won the contest, delivering his oration, “The Negro and the Constitution.”

On April 17, 1950, the United States Supreme Court dismissed South v. Peters, a complaint against Georgia’s County Unit System of elections.

Each county is allotted a number of unit votes, ranging from six for the eight most populous counties, to two for most of the counties. The candidate who receives the highest popular vote in the county is awarded the appropriate number of unit votes. Appellants, residents of the most populous county in the State, contend that their votes and those of all other voters in that county have on the average but one-tenth the weight of those in the other counties. Urging that this amounts to an unconstitutional discrimination against them, appellants brought this suit to restrain adherence to the statute in the forthcoming Democratic Party primary for United States Senator, Governor and other state offices. The court below dismissed appellants’ petition. We affirm.

On April 17, 1964, the Ford Mustang debuted at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. The world has been a better, if somewhat louder, place ever since.

Georgia Politics

Yesterday, Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 1, the Haleigh’s Hope medical marijuana legislation passed by the General Assembly.

The law took effect immediately upon Deal’s signature. Deal signed an executive order last month instructing state agencies, physicians and law enforcement officials to prepare for the law’s enactment.

“For the families enduring separation and patients suffering pain, the wait is finally over,” Deal said. “I applaud the efforts of the Department of Public Health and the Georgia Composite Medical Board to see that this legislation is implemented safely and in a timely manner. Now, Georgia children and their families may return home while continuing to receive much-needed care. Patients such as Haleigh Cox, for whom this bill is named, and others suffering from debilitating conditions can now receive the treatment they need, in the place where they belong: Georgia.”

Patients with the following conditions are eligible for medical cannabis oil under this law: cancer, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), seizure disorder, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s and sickle cell.

“Today, HB 1 officially became Georgia state law, and we can now begin the highly anticipated process of bringing our medical refugees back home to Georgia,” Rep. Allen Peake said. “I am extremely grateful to Gov. Deal for his continued leadership and for making this historic and monumental day happen. The true heroes, without which none of this would have been possible, are the families who fought courageously and tirelessly to see this legislation through to its passage.”

Moving forward, forms created by the Georgia Medical Composite Board may be obtained through the Department of Public Health (DPH). Once certified by the appropriate health care provider, patients meeting the law’s criteria will be provided with documentation allowing for possession of low-THC cannabis oil. DPH has already issued temporary cards to seven individuals and anticipates the permanent statewide system will be online in the coming weeks.

The law also codified the ongoing clinical trials at Georgia Regents University, which the governor set in motion last year through an executive order. Finally, the Commission on Medical Cannabis, created by HB 1, includes designated members and appointments to be filled by Deal. The commission will provide recommendations for consideration during the next legislative session. The appointment process is under way.

More from Maggie Lee for the Macon Telegraph,

At an Atlanta ceremony, Janea and Brian Cox, parents of Haleigh Cox, accepted an envelope from the governor containing the state’s first medical cannabis “card.”

It’s actually an interim document on state letterhead with a large, official stamp. It proves the Coxes have state permission to carry the cannabis-derived medicine that halts most of their daughter’s seizures.

A little while later Thursday, in a quieter side hallway, Janea leaned over Haleigh’s stroller and used a medicine dropper to squeeze a few drops of liquid into Haleigh’s mouth. It’s more than 95 percent olive oil, and the rest is extracted from a specially bred cannabis plant.

Deal said a lot of legislation comes from think-tanks or research, but this one came from the needs of families and children.

“I think this … has touched the hearts of the members of the General Assembly,” Deal said, his voice faltering. “It certainly has touched my heart, and I’m just pleased that we’re going to make a difference.”

Yesterday, Deal also appointed State Rep. Larry O’Neal as administrative law judge for the Georgia Tax Tribunal. This will open O’Neal’s seat for a Special Election to fill the remainder of his term. I believe the election will probably be held June 16, 2015, and if a runoff is necessary, that will be held July 14, 2015.

We heard rumors yesterday from two people in Warner Robins that Lawrence Walker, III will run for O’Neal’s House District 146 seat. Walker, III is an insurance agency owner and son of former Democratic House Majority Leader and current member of the Board of Regents, Larry Walker, Jr. The younger Walker has previously served as Chairman of the Perry Downtown Development Authority and serves on the Houston County Development Authority. A check of Walker’s vote history at shows him voting in Republican Primary elections as far back as 2004, with Democratic Primary votes in 2002.

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), the driving force behind HB1 announced he is running for the Majority Leader position opened by O’Neal’s resignation.

In an e-mail to Republican colleagues in the House, Peake said he would be resigning his majority caucus secretary/treasurer position and seek to become the new majority leader.

The majority leader job entails crafting, then passing, party priorities in a sometimes unruly GOP caucus.

Peake outlined several points in his email, including his skill set to best serve the caucus. He said his track record has shown he can get tough legislation passed, raise money for himself and for the caucus, and defend positions in public forums.

“The Majority Leader should help craft a policy vision for our members that we can all rally around and support, to move forward an agenda that is in line with our core Republican values,” he said.

Peake also said the majority leader should be prepared to fight for the caucus when attacked by Democrats and other “outside factions.”

Senator Josh McKoon writes in the AJC about the need for a Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the Peach State.

Did you know that in Georgia, an inmate in a federal prison has greater protection of his religious liberty than the average Georgia citizen?

This is because of a Supreme Court decision in 1990 that fundamentally changed the way courts look at religious liberty claims. Congress reacted swiftly to this decision, passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that ensured free exercise of religion cases were once again treated by courts in the same way free speech, free association and free press cases are handled, with the highest level of constitutional protection.

Some have argued this law is unnecessary; but one only has to open a newspaper or turn on a television to see reports of government trampling on free exercise rights: a Muslim woman in a Douglas County courtroom forced to choose between wearing her headscarf or being sent to jail for contempt of court; a Christian student organization kicked off campus at Savannah State University for holding a foot-washing ceremony, and a student at Sutton Middle School in Atlanta repeatedly denied the ability to start a religious student club.

We are seeing government hostility to people of faith right here in our state.

The real debate is between those of us who believe people of faith, or those with no faith at all, may live their entire lives according to those beliefs versus those who believe your religious beliefs may be acknowledged only within the privacy of your home or place of worship.

The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce has released a poll that apparently shows a majority of the county’s voters in favor of expanding MARTA to the suburbs.

The survey found 63 percent of likely voters support expanding MARTA into Gwinnett, with the strongest support coming from the southern portion of the county — District Two (70 percent favor) and District Three (65 percent favor).

And the majority of likely voters in Gwinnett support a 1 percent sales tax to fund the expansion.

Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research conducted the study, which had a sample size of 502 likely voters.

It’s worth noting that Wilson Perkins Allen was the pollster for David Perdue’s campaign in 2014 and they have been lavishly praised for their work there.

The AJC brings more on the poll and politicians’ reactions to it.

[Charlotte] Nash, the county chairman, said a poll does not convince her of the true level of support. Surveys that show even broad-based support cannot account for how vocal and convincing people who are actively opposed to an issue can be, she said. In the Chamber study, 41 percent of Republicans, 29 percent of Independents and 8 percent of Democrats said they were opposed to expansion.

The opposition to a 1 percent sales tax was higher, with 63 percent of Republicans, 46 percent of Independents and 17 percent of Democrats against it. For the poll, 502 likely voters were questioned. There’s a 4.4 percent margin of error.

Nash said instead of looking to expand MARTA, the county would be best served by asking broad questions about transportation.

“Instead of focusing on one mode or another, we should talk transportation need and mobility issues,” she said. “We really need to focus on the overall discussion.”

Bob Lundsten, who served as Chief of Staff for former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer, has been indicted on nine counts involving misuse of a county P-card.

Robert Lundsten was the chief of staff for disgraced county commissioner Elaine Boyer, who is headed to prison for stealing from the county.

A grand jury indicted Lundsten on Thursday on six counts of theft by taking and three counts of making false statements.

According to the indictment, Lundsten used county money to buy personal items at Kroger and the UPS Store, then told investigators the items he had purchased, such as snacks and drinks, were for the office.


Last week, Public Service Commissioner Stan Wise (R-Marietta) warned about some pitfalls for homeowners considering solar.

Study the offers. Beware of sales gimmicks that predict electric rates will rise 4 to 6 percent annually. Over the last 25 years, the average annual increase has been less than 2 percent for the state’s investor-owned electric utility. Ask for a good faith estimate of the kilowatt hours to be delivered by the system over time. Request plain language explanations of pricing terms over the life of the contract, warranties and operation and maintenance costs and responsibilities. The lowest cost option for solar arrays may not even be a lease, but paying cash or using a home equity loan and taking the 30 percent federal tax credit oneself.

Talk to real estate appraisers. Even if cost calculations suggest you will break even in 15 to 20 years, it may not be a good idea to install solar if you may move before then. Selling a home with a solar array may be a selling-point in some parts of California, but here in Georgia it can be a liability that harms resale value. Only a small universe of buyers are willing to have an array on their house, much less willing to assume a lease of older, less efficient equipment.

Be aware of restrictions. Some developments may require that solar arrays not be visible from the road. Considering the arrays perform best when facing south, this may limit your options. If you have trees that shade your home, your house may stay cooler with the shade and save you more money than if you cut the trees down for solar.

Add to those common-sense concerns an additional issue being seen in other states where homeowners have more rapidly adopted home solar.

Jeff Leeds says installing SolarCity’s panels on the roof of his home in the Northern California city of El Granada was the sorriest day of his life.

The latest surprise: a notice from his bank telling him that SolarCity had placed a lien on his home, and that his equity line of credit application could not proceed until the lien was removed.

“I was totally surprised by this and very pissed off,” Leeds said. “When I talked to the bank they told me it was a lien. I had to pay the bank a $48 fee for removal. They held me up from closing my loan to buy a vacation home so I had to borrow from another account. It cost me time in calls to both Wells Fargo and to SolarCity.”

SolarCity say it’s not a lien, but a “fixture filing” that stakes the company’s claim to the panels, which it owns if consumers have taken part in its popular lease program. Owning the solar electricity-generating system allows SolarCity to claim lucrative state and federal subsidies available only to system owners. SolarCity has received approximately $500 million in tax subsidies and grants over the years.

I don’t think these are solar-specific issues, but rather problems homeowners have seen with other types of home repair and improvement scams. In any case, be careful.

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