Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 2, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 2, 2017

The first recorded reference to Groundhog Day was in 1841; the first Punxsutawney observance was in 1870.

The first recorded reference to Groundhog Day was in 1841; the first Punxsutawney observance was in 1870.

Atlanta City Council met for the first time on February 2, 1848.

On February 2, 1870, the Georgia General Assembly ratified the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

On February 2, 1932, Al Capone was sent to federal prison in Atlanta.

On February 2, 1988, the Georgia Senate ratified the 22d Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides that pay raises for Members of Congress shall not go into effect until the next term.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The United States Senate Finance Committee overcame a Democratic boycott to send the nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) as Secretary of Health and Human Services to a vote of the full Senate.

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee pushed President Donald Trump’s pick for health secretary through to the full Senate on Wednesday, bypassing Democrats who were boycotting the vote for the second day in a row.

GOP members of the committee suspended its rules – which typically require at least one member of both parties to be present for such a vote – to advance Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency would be responsible for overseeing the implementation of a Republican replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

The committee advanced Price’s nomination by a vote of 14-0.

“As Congress navigates the minefields of tax reform, health care reform and other vitally important matters, we need willing and competent partners to lead these crucial executive branch departments,” [Senator Orrin Hatch] said. “I believe these two nominees can and will provide the necessary leadership that will allow us to be successful in these many endeavors, and I look forward to their nominations being considered by the full Senate.”

A new Adjournment Resolution passed yesterday targets Sine Die, the final day of the state legislative session, for March 30, 2017.

Legislative Meeting Schedule – Day Twelve

8:00 AM SENATE HEALTH & HS – Healthcare Delivery Sub 450 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE APPROP EDUCATION-CANCELLED 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE NAT’L RES & ENV’T 606 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

12:00 PM HOUSE INTRAGOV’TAL COORD 403 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE REG INDU & UTIL – CANCELED 310 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY 307 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 406 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE & TECH 310 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HS 450 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE EDUCATION 606 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE APPROP HEALTH 341 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY (CIVIL) 132 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORATION 310 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE TRANSPORATION 506 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY – CANCELED 307 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 85 – Malt Beverages; provide for limited sale at retail by manufacturers (Substitute) (RI&U-17th)

SB 70 – Hospital Medicaid Financing Program; sunset provision; extend (FIN-49th)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule

HB 58 – Motor vehicles; reference date to federal regulations regarding the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles and carriers; update (MotV-Rogers-10th)

Georgia Politics

Senate Bill 85, which would expand craft brewers’ ability to sell their product, will be voted on in the Senate today.

“I am thrilled,” [State Rep. Michael] Caldwell said Tuesday morning. “It looks like we’re finally making some real steps forward toward craft beer freedom in Georgia this year.”

“The early indicators are that it has support on all sides,” he said, adding that the legislation represents a compromise between brewers and wholesalers in the state. “Georgia remains the only state in the union where wholesalers control every drop of beer.”

[Reformation Brewery CEO Spencer] Nix called the legislation “a great victory for Georgia beer.”

“We’ve been working toward this for years and the prospect of us being able to sell beer is beginning to set off a lot of dreams and visions in our heads,” he said. “We’ve been fighting for it for so long. It’s fun to be able to dream about what we can do now.”

Nix said the legislation, if signed into law, would be good for brewers and consumers alike.

“It’s going to be a lot less confusing because right now, it’s a game we’re having to play,” he said. “You buy a tour and get some samples.”

“That’s the beauty,” Caldwell said. “You’re not buying a tour anymore. You can actually show up and buy the beer.”

Senate Bill 70, renewing the hospital provider fee will be on the floor for a vote today by the full Senate.

“It’s a critical piece of the state budget. It’s one that reluctantly, in some ways, (we) support as a health system — WellStar loses in the neighborhood of $10 million annually through the provider fee,” Brandon Reese, executive director of government relations for WellStar Health System, told Cobb lawmakers at their legislative delegation meeting Wednesday. “But it’s sort of the best ‘bad idea’ to come up with as a collective body, us and you guys, to fill that budget hole.”

State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-west Cobb, said that he expected the legislation to earn Senate approval because the revenue from the bed tax is used to obtain federal funding necessary for the state to balance its budget.

“It has been passed twice, and I look for it to be passed again. It’s the most desirable of things that you don’t want to have to do. Because it accesses federal funds that are part of one of the largest expenditures in our state budget, you almost have to do that,” Tippins said. “We put $300-plus million in it and get a total of about $900 million. If you didn’t pass it, you’d have to be figuring out how to fill a $600 million void — that’s just the long and short of it.”

House Bill 51 by Rep. Earl Ehrhart would require colleges to report allegations of felonies to local law enforcement, but some advocates oppose the requirement.

A bill that would limit the ability of Georgia’s public colleges to investigate and punish those accused of rape on campus cleared a key House panel Wednesday by unanimous voice vote.

Two women who say they were sexually assaulted spoke against the measure at the state Capitol arguing it would discourage victims from coming forward.

“This bill will not protect the victims or the accused,” said Grace Starling, who is now in law school. “This is not right. We are scared of this legislation.”

That AJC story could use some additional fact reporting – the bill number and the name of the Committee (House Higher Education) are missing from it. Also, saying as a student, “We are scared of this legislation,” might not be the most effective way to address Rep. Ehrhart.

The Georgia House Medical Cannabis Working Group voted to move forward with HB 65, legislation by State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) to expand the availability of medical cannabis.

“I think we’ve seen over two years of the (medical cannabis registry) law being in place that the sky hasn’t fallen and that now would be a proper time to allow additional citizens to benefit from medical cannabis oil,” said state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, just after the state House Medical Cannabis Working Group heard public testimony about his House Bill 65.

The bill would for the first time open the state’s medical cannabis registry to patients who have AIDS or HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, intractable pain, post-traumatic stress disorder or Tourette’s syndrome. Georgians who have a medical cannabis registry card can posses a liquid made from cannabis.

The bill would also open the registry to people earlier in the course of treatment for some diagnoses. Right now, the registry is open to people who have a “severe” or “end-stage” diagnosis of cancer; Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS; multiple sclerosis; Parkinson’s disease; and sickle cell disease. Peake’s bill cuts the words “severe” and “end-stage.”

Georgians including veterans, parents and grandchildren testified about how they say medical cannabis helps them or their family members.

Cobb County legislators are asking for a meeting with County officials and Braves management to discuss the new stadium.

“I think we will have a meeting and probably try to find a date that Chairman Mike Boyce and Mike Plant (president, development for the Braves) can come and discuss where they are on the Braves traffic plan to keep the delegation informed as to what they may expect when ball season gets started,” said state Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-west Cobb. “I think the delegation will probably be asked questions about it, people will comment, and at least we will have had more exposure than not after the meeting.”

Tippins was selected by his peers Wednesday to serve as chairman of the legislative delegation in a midday meeting held in the Coverdell Office Building across from the Capitol. He succeeds state Rep. John Carson, R-northeast Cobb, who had suggested to Tippins that the county legislators meet with Boyce and Plant.

“Our objective is to have a good working relationship with both gentlemen,” Carson said. “I know Mike Boyce, and I look forward to getting to know him even better. I know he’s going to do a great job. We just want to have a working relationship and a line of communication … and I have a lot of faith in Mike Plant and the job he’s doing for the Braves.”

State Rep. David Stover (R-Newnan) is taking incoming fire from local leaders over allegations that he’s missed votes in the State House.

Rep. David Stover has missed the first four votes in the House of Representatives this legislative session, plus the formal swearing-in ceremony on the session’s first day, leading to some concern.

At least one local civic leader has been critical of the Palmetto Republican, whose office says he has been away from the capitol because of demands his occupation.

Stover asked the clerk of the House to submit a request to be excused from the votes, a formality that doesn’t require legislators to list a reason for their absences. House Speaker David Ralston granted the excuses along with those requested by other lawmakers, but Ralston’s office said at the time the speaker didn’t know where Stover was.

Stover did not respond to multiple requests by email and to his cellphone for a comment for this news story.

He reportedly also did not respond to messages left by some colleagues and by the president of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce. The group’s CEO, Candace Boothby, blamed Stover for leaving his constituents essentially unrepresented during the missed votes.

Georgia sheriffs are expressing concern over a pay gap between state-employed law enforcement officers and locally-employed after a 20 percent raise for state LEOs.

The raises, the governor said, were the result of watching some of the state’s best-trained officers leave for higher pay at other agencies or for local police departments.

However, many of Georgia’s sheriffs claim they are witnessing the same talent migration on the local level.

Coweta County Sheriff Mike Yeager says he has seen several deputies leave for jobs at the state and federal level after the county has spent a considerable sum to train and certify them to serve and protect locally.

“I talk to sheriffs in smaller counties whose jail officers make $9 an hour and deputies make $10.50. Frankly, I don’t see how they’re making it,” Yeager said. “Sure, public service work may not pay the best, but these people have passion for it, and we need to find ways to ensure better pay so we don’t lose them.”

“The bigger areas who have the budget and resources, they are able to address the issue of losing personnel to state and federal agencies,” said Terry Norris, executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association. “But for those other areas where you have the $10- and $11-an hour employees, it’s a phenomenally sad occurance to see.”

Following Deal’s announcement last year, the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association adopted a “local law enforcement compensation reform” effort to continue the conversation about pay and resources for officers who aren’t employed by the state.

A United States Court of Appeals upheld the district court ruling lowering the number of signatures required for third-party Presidential candidates to earn a spot on the Georgia ballot.

The one-sentence ruling, by a unanimous three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, adopted the “well-reasoned opinion” issued in March by U.S. District Judge Richard Story in Atlanta. Story had significantly lowered the number of signatures required for so-called “third-party” candidates to petition to get on Georgia’s presidential ballot — from tens of thousands to 7,500.

“I think it’s a great decision,” said Laughlin McDonald, the director-emeritus of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project. “The state put up no evidence whatsoever as to voter confusion or ballot overcrowding.”

A spokeswoman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, in response to the ruling, said, “We respectfully disagree with the decision, and we are currently reviewing our options for appeal.” If the state appealed, it would likely ask the entire 11-member 11th Circuit court to review the decision.

Roswell businessman Kurt Wilson has declared his candidacy for the Sixth Congressional District.

Kurt Wilson’s campaign, Kurt for Congress, has issued a Term Limit Pledge and invited all candidates in the likely Special Election to represent Georgia’s 6th Congressional District to sign on too.

The Term Limit Pledge Wilson brings forward limits a congressman’s service to 8-years, agrees to forgo the pension afforded Members of Congress, bans compensated lobbyist activity after serving and demands advocacy for a Constitutional Amendment tackling the term limit issue.

“Until we eliminate the career being elected to Congress represents and restore pure servanthood to Congress, tackling the onerous Federal Bureaucracy cannot take place,” says Wilson.

In response to broad support for a Constitutional Amendment restructuring the terms of Senators and Representatives and imposing term limits, candidate
Kurt Wilson is taking the lead to cause real change in Washington, DC. Unpopular among the political elite, term limits are a fundamental first step in rebuilding a servant based, responsive government. In October, Rasmussen Reports’ national telephone survey finds that 74% of Likely U.S. Voters favor establishing term limits for all members of Congress.

The pledge has been sent to each of the announced candidates seeking to replace Congressman Tom Price in a Special Election when he is confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Included in the pledge are the following stipulations:

  • I will serve no more than 8-years in the United States House of Representatives;
  • I will forgo the Lifetime Pension afforded to Members of Congress;
  • I nor any member of my immediate family will engage, for compensation, in activities described as “lobbying” of Congress or its Members for the rest of our/their natural lives; and,
  • I will advocate for a Constitutional Amendment restructuring the Terms for Representatives and Senators and imposing Term Limits on the same.

An Assistant City Attorney in Dunwoody resigned after allegations that he made inflammatory statements on Facebook.

Judge Jason Deal of the Superior Court for the Northeastern District was honored for outstanding judicial service by his peers at the annual meeting of the Council of Superior Court Judges of Georgia.

The United States Army’s 518th Tactical Installation Networking Company returned to Georgia after 9 months in the Middle East.

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