Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 9, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 9, 2015

After two days of exchanging letters with his Union counterpart, Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee agreed to meet and make arrangements for the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. At 2 PM on April 9, 1865, Lee and Grant met in a private home owned by Wilmer McLean at Appomattox Court House, Virginia and Lee agreed to the surrender of his army.

Lee was resplendent in his dress uniform and a fine sword at his side. Grant arrived wearing a simple soldier’s coat that was muddy from his long ride. The great generals spoke of their service in the Mexican War, and then set about the business at hand. Grant offered generous terms. Officers could keep their side arms, and all men would be immediately released to return home. Any officers and enlisted men who owned horses could take them home, Grant said, to help put crops in the field and carry their families through the next winter. These terms, said Lee, would have “the best possible effect upon the men,” and “will do much toward conciliating our people.” The papers were signed and Lee prepared to return to his men.

An excellent account of the laying down of their arms on April 12, 1865, by the Army of Northern Virginia was written by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

On April 9, 1968, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta held the funeral for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. More than 100,000 mourners reportedly showed up for the funeral, which could accomodate only 800; 200,000 mourners followed the mule-drawn hearse to Morehouse College.

Bill Signings

Bill Signing Pens

Gov. Deal broke out his bill-signing pens yesterday for House Bill 397, revising the State Soil and Water Commission, and Senate Bill 190, dealing with “bona fide coin operated machines.”

Greg Bluestein of the AJC writes about what the Soil and Water Commission changes will mean,

It shifts the commission from a stand-alone agency to one that’s overseen by the Department of Agriculture. It also gives the governor more leeway to appoint whomever he chooses to its board rather than limiting his picks to the elected supervisors of the state’s 40 soil and water districts.

The agency drafts the state’s manual that outlines how to control erosion and prevent more dirt and runoff from seeping into Georgia’s waterways, and environmentalists worry that the changes could give Deal too much control over the commission.

Deal says the changes are crucial to recruiting new high-profile economic development prospects. He told the Georgia Farm Bureau in February that it would help straighten out “contradictory” environmental guidelines that he said could lead to litigation and threaten major deals.

The AJC Political Insider column suggests that Deal is likely to sign House Bill 110, which would allow consumer sales of some fireworks that explode.

Under House Bill 91, signed last week, up to 9,000 former high school students who didn’t graduate because they failed part of a test that is no longer required for graduation will be able to petition for a diploma.

Public Defender Standards Council

Congratulations to Bryan Tyson, the new Executive Director of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council. Bryan was one of Georgia’s finest election lawyers at Strickland Brockington Lewis, LLP and previously worked at the Georgia General Assembly and in Washington, DC for Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Senoia).

Last month, Gov. Deal reappointed State Senator Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton) and State Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville) to the Legislative Oversight Committee for the Public Defender Standards Council.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution names Winners and Losers

The AJC has taken it upon themselves to christen winners and losers for the 2015 Session, labeling Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) a loser. Kind of a cheap shot based, in my opinion, more on the newspaper’s unstated adoption of the Chamber of Commerce agenda that makes Georgians’ religious freedom second to the sale of sugar water.

Compare that to 2012, after the legislative defeat of McKoon’s ethics legislation, which the AJC clearly favored. They practically nominated McKoon for sainthood then.

The alliance’s man on the inside is McKoon, who ignored the advice of senior lawmakers and pushed his own bills to cap lobbyists’ gifts to lawmakers and increase funding to the state ethics commission.

McKoon’s bills went nowhere, and even his attempts to get a hearing fell flat.

McKoon’s crusade provoked grumbling from more experienced members of his own caucus. McKoon heard it, but he said he is comfortable with the choices he’s made.

He said he believes his legislative colleagues work hard and are not corrupt, but the public’s trust in government is so low that action must be taken.

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s once-proud flagship newspaper redesigned its website to feature cheesy clickbait, like the story titled, “Russian company selling ad space on women’s breasts,” which gets more prominent placement on the front page than the most recent state politics story about the Hotel/Motel tax.

The AJC has done some fine work and some of their reporters continue to do so. No one else spotted the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal, and that was an epic series of reports. Stories like that make me willing to pay for access to their premium content. Unfortunately, they’re making business decisions that make it difficult to find the product they sell, actual Georgia news, behind a bunch of internet click-bait designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

You couldn’t ask for better product placement

You’ve probably seen the story going around about the guy from Savannah who got into a motorcycle wreck and ended up in a coma. Doctors recommended to his wife that she remove life support, but she refused and three years later he woke up. State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) noted on Facebook that the first thing Matthew Davis asked to eat after waking up was a “buffalo chicken wrap from Cheddar’s.” I suspect he may get a delivery soon as Peake is co-owner of the Cheddar’s franchises in Georgia.

The family is raising funds for rehabilitation and other expenses online.

We’ll file this one in the Allen Peake section as well, as Peake’s passion to bring Georgia’s “medical refugees” home was a prime mover in this year’s session of the legislature. Tom Spigolon of Neighbor Newspapers writes about one of those families.

Kim Clark said it may be time for her family to come home to Paulding County.

The Colorado resident and mother of 11-year-old epilepsy sufferer Caden Clark said the Georgia General Assembly’s action to approve legislation this year that will help her son by decriminalizing possession and use of a marijuana-derived drug treatment in Georgia “is remarkable.”

Clark, a Paulding native, said she was convinced state lawmakers would never approve such legislation before she moved her family to Colorado Springs in late 2013 in a last-ditch effort to seek access to medicinal hemp oil for Caden, who suffers from an extreme form of epilepsy.

“When we pulled out of town, there was no hope of coming back,” she said. “I feel a sense of restoration – I’m proud of my state.”

Lawmakers were convinced after seeing the potential for stopping the suffering of young children statewide, she said.

“These children captured the hearts of the Georgia Legislature,” Clark said from her home in Colorado.

Clark and her two sons, Caden, 11, and Jackson, 14, moved to Colorado Springs in 2013 to gain legal access to hemp oil, a treatment derived from the non-psychoactive part of the marijuana plant. Seventeen other Georgia families also moved to Colorado for the same reason, she said.

The Clarks’ story has been well-documented in metro Atlanta after two years of efforts by District 67 State Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville, of Paulding County and others to gain approval of the legislation.

Kim Clark is married to a longtime Atlanta police officer, Chris Clark, who stayed behind to keep his job and his family’s insurance coverage.

Uber hammered

An Uber driver’s car was impounded when he tried to pick up a passenger at the Atlanta airport.

Rich Thomas said he called Uber using the app on his phone but according to an Atlanta police report when he got in the driver’s car an officer stopped and cited them.

Thomas says he was confused when APD’s vehicle for hire enforcement stopped the Uber driver picking him up on March 25 at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

“The officer told him you’re not supposed to pick people up here at the airport. I’m going to have to give you a ticket and impound your vehicle,” Thomas said.

An airport spokesperson told Channel 2’s Amy Napier Viteri that all commercial vehicles need credentials and permits to pick up at the airport and added in a statement, “Companies that are operating illegally will be cited and their vehicles impounded.”

An Uber representative sent Viteri a statement about the issue saying:

“With the recent passage of a sensible, modern regulatory framework for ridesharing through the Georgia Legislature, we are eager to engage Atlanta airport administrators in a constructive dialogue that paves the way for more consumer choice.”

I’m going to go ahead and guess that the authorities are not super-interested in promoting consumer choice at the airport.

In Toronto, (that’s Canada, btw), Uber set up breathalyzer kiosks where drinkers could take a breathe test to earn a free ride home on the ridesharing service. It’s like the adult version of those carnival strength games. Will “free Uber drunk” enter the urban dictionary?

A lobbying juggernaut created

Who are we fooling, McKenna Long & Aldridge is already a lobbying juggernaut, but they announced yesterday a merger with Dentons US to form the world’s largest law firm. After the merger, the combined Government Relations operation will include:

·         Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont and Chair of the Democratic National Committee;

·         Ron Kaufman, former White House Political Director under President George H. W. Bush;

·         Gordon Giffin, former US Ambassador to Canada;

·         Eric Tanenblatt, former Chief of Staff to Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue and senior advisor to the late US Senator Paul     Coverdell;

·         Anthony Williams, former Mayor of Washington, DC;

·         Four former US Congressman; and

·         Four former state attorney generals.

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