Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 11, 2016


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 11, 2016

On March 11, 1779, Congress created the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

On March 11, 1861, the Confederate Congress, assembled in Montgomery, Alabama, adopted the Constitution of the Confederate States of America. Today the original signed manuscript of the Confederate Constitution is in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries.

On March 11, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur obeyed the President’s order dated February 20, 1942, and left the Philippines.

On March 11, 2005, Brian Nichols shot and killed Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and court reporter Julie Brandau in the Fulton County Courthouse, leading to a lockdown of the state capitol and a number of nearby buildings. Nichols killed two more before taking a young woman hostage in Duluth; that woman, Ashley Smith, would talk Nichols into surrendering the next day. Nichols was eventually convicted for four murders and is serving consecutive life sentences.

Happy Birthday to former Governor Roy Barnes, who served from 1999-2003, and lost to Republican Sonny Perdue in 2002, and to current Governor Nathan Deal in 2010.

Under the Gold Dome Today





1:00 PM FINANCE Subcommittee A MEZZ 1




8:00 AM Fleming Sub Judiciary Civil 132 CAP


8:30 AM W&M Ad Valorem Tax Sub 133 CAP

9:00 AM RULES 341 CAP


HB 34 – Georgia Right to Try Act; enact (H&HS- H. Hill) (Dudgeon-25th)

HB 52 – Child custody; require parenting plans to be incorporated into final orders; change provisions (JUDY-McKoon) (Quick-117th)

HB 767 –Motor vehicles; add utility service vehicles to the “Spencer Pass Law”; provisions (Substitute) (PUB SAF-Gooch) (Powell-32nd)

HB 886 – Pharmacy licenses; employing mails or common carriers to sell, distribute, and deliver prescription drugs; revise a provision (H&HS-Watson) (Cooper-43rd)

HB 859 –Firearms; weapons carry license holders; carrying and possession of certain weapons in certain buildings or real property owned or leased to public institutions of postsecondary education; authorize (JUDY-Stone) (Jasperse-11th)


Modified Open Rule

SB 273 Clinical Laboratories; provide certain nondiagnostic laboratories not subject to state licensure as clinical laboratory (H&HS-Lott-122nd) Burke-11th

SB 277 “Protecting Georgia Small Business Act”; neither a franchisee/franchisee’s employee shall be deemed employee of franchisor (I&L-Shaw-176th) Albers-56th

SB 279 Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council; include Commissioners of Juvenile Justice/Natural Resources as voting members (PS&HS-Powell-32nd) Harper-7th

SB 347 ‘Georgia Captive Insurance Company Act’; provide extensive changes; provisions (Substitute)(Ins-Shaw-176th) Bethel-54th

Modified Structured Rule

SB 137 Property Insurance; expand the ownership restriction; value of the property covered against loss by fire (Ins-Shaw-176th) Harbin-16th

Structured Rule

Pursuant to House Rule 33.3, debate shall be limited to one hour on SB 308. Time to be allocated at the discretion of the Speaker.

SB 308 Positive Alternatives for Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program; establish; definitions; administration and duties (Substitute) (H&HS-Cooper-43rd) Unterman-45th

Legislation Today

Two pieces of legislation on the floors of the respective chambers today should garner significant attention.

The Senate will take up, and I believe pass, the “Campus Carry” bill by State Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper).

Earlier this week, Senate committee members approved a measure that would allow those with concealed carry weapons licenses to bring their guns onto school property.

The guns must remain concealed and would be barred from athletic facilities and student housing.

12th District US Congressman Rick Allen shared his thoughts on the proposed legislation.

“They’re good parts on both sides,” said Rep. Allen. “What we really have to do is provide a safe environment for people to attend school and to take a threat away.”

And from the Associated Press:

If signed into law, guns must remain concealed by the owner. Guns also would be barred from athletic facilities and student housing, including sorority and fraternity houses.

Critics of the measure say that allowing more guns on campus will only put students in harm’s way.

Rep. Rick Jasperse, a Republican from Jasper who sponsored the bill, says people licensed to carry guns should also be able to defend themselves on campuses.

And The Collegian offers some student and instructor opinion,

Students have shown both support and dissent for HB 859.

Rachel Quinlan, a Biology major at the Clarkston campus, said “I think this would make schools more dangerous. I walk home at night after class, for people to have guns it’s really scary. The pro to this is that people can protect themselves, there are more cons than I feel pros.”

“I don’t disagree with the bill. I don’t think much would change. I don’t think that the people who have guns are the problem, it’s the people who don’t have the license to carry. It should have restrictions on who carries weapons. I think that if you’re going to carry gun, you should have to register with the school and make sure you’re registered to carry a weapon,” said Alissa Cunningham, a Public Health major at the Clarkston Campus.

Many Professors deem guns on campus as dangerous and reckless. Assistant political science and criminal justice professor at Clarkston campus John Siler expressed his biggest concern that most students will not exercise this right with responsibility. “The thing that is scary for us is that when the students read this, they’ll just say ‘Hey, I can have a gun on campus!’ and disregard ‘if you have a permit,’” Siler said. Siler continued to explain that instructors’ safety would be in danger, “Professors often have to fail students, but sometimes students don’t take that too well,” Siler said. There have been robberies and shootings incidents on or near Georgia State University’s Atlanta campus. Siler explained that he understood that the incidents were an issue, but he did not approve of how the media escalated the students’ fears. “The media gets orgasmic when it comes to stuff on campus happenings,” said Siler, “Yes, the incident was near the campus, but that didn’t matter; the media just used it to hype things up.”

Legislation by Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) is likely to come before the House for a vote today.

Senate Bill 308, which cleared the House Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday, would establish a grant program through the state Department of Public Health to promote pregnancy and parenting services as alternatives to abortion. Under the legislation, pregnancy resource centers could not use grant funds to refer clients to clinics that provide abortions or counsel women to get abortions unless their pregnancies are life-threatening.

The state Senate passed the bill last month on a party-line 38-16 vote. The bill’s sponsor, Senate Health and Human Services Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said the legislation is a “positive alternative” to restricting access to abortions.

“What pregnancy resource centers do is offer the resources to make good decisions,” Unterman said. “Not only can they stay in business, but hopefully they can expand and decrease the number of abortions that we have in the state of Georgia.”

Unterman said she estimates there are 27,000 abortions each year in the state.

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) wrote in the Macon Telegraph about religious liberty legislation,

When Speaker David Ralston proposed the Pastor Protection Act last summer, I was proud that our party had a voice of reason. He understood that reaffirming the rights of our churches and our clergy didn’t mean doing so at the expense of other Georgia citizens. When Rep. Kevin Tanner introduced HB 757, it had thorough hearings in the House and was discussed through inclusive debate. It was amended along the way based on input from members of both parties. That’s why it passed the House unanimously.

I didn’t believe then nor do I believe now that the Pastor Protection Act was the end of the conversation. However, inserting the First Amendment Defense Act as the Senate did took a once bipartisan bill and made it toxic.

Candidate Qualifying

The list of Republican Senate incumbents facing challengers has grown to nine.

District Incumbent Challenger
9 P.K. Martin Tyler Hollifield
21 Brandon Beach Aaron Barlow
23 Jesse Stone Stephen Hammond
40 Fran Millar Paul Maner
45 Renee Unterman Todd Tyson
50 John Wilkinson Roy Benifield
51 Steve Gooch John Williamson
53 Jeff Mullis Lanny Thomas
54 Charlie Bethel Conda Lowery-Goodson

A notable absence from Qualifying so far is State Rep. Nikki Randall (R-Macon), who will not seek reelection.

Also making news for not qualifying is District Attorney for the Southern Judicial District J. David Miller.

He has served as DA for that past 20 years and says choosing not to run or re-election was one of the toughest decisions.

“Writing the press release was the hardest thing that I’ve done in a very long time. I love my job! I’m certainly not dissatisfied in any way,” explains Miller.

However, he says he’s not ready to retire just yet.

“I’ll explore my options. I would like to continue public service just not necessarily as the DA again,” Miller says, “Just because I could run again doesn’t mean I should run again.”

He has endorsed current Chief Assistant District Attorney Brad Shealy to be his successor.

Of Nazis and the Klan

Mike Griffin of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board drew strong rebukes from the well of the State House yesterday.

Mike Griffin, spokesman and lobbyist for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, urged Baptists to press legislators to act on a religious freedom measure that was filed in response to last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

“We must not let the government do to us what Hitler did to the pastors and churches of his day,” Griffin wrote in a post on a religious news site, the Christian Index.

“He got them to accept his protection from government action if they would agree to stay out of government. He basically said, ‘You take care of the church, and leave the government to me.’

“Pastors, this is happening before our eyes today!” he wrote.

“I was extremely sickened that someone would compare this legislative body to Hitler and Hitler’s Germany,” [House Speaker] Ralston told reporters Thursday.

From the House floor, Rep. Trey Kelley, R-Cedartown, demanded an apology.

Instead, Griffin defended his comments.

“My statement in question today was simply a warning of the historical dangers of the church not standing up for religious liberty,” he tweeted.

Ralston said it might be more productive for Griffin to advise Baptists to “listen to their pastors and read their Bible more, and listen to talk radio less.”

“I think that would be some good advice, rather than to do something as harmful to his cause as he did,” he added.

More from Griffin via Lori Geary at WSB:

Griffin says while referencing Hitler on the Christian Index Website, he was urging church goers to speak out on the issue. He says he was not referring to legislators.

“It’s historically accurate that Hitler did meet with pastors and did try to get the pastors to see his side,” Griffin said. “I think it may help us even more because it creates more attention to the importance that people are concerned about their religious liberty rights being infringed upon by government in general.”

He defended his post saying his reference to Hitler involved historical context, but he did remove those references.

“It’s getting in the last few days of the session, folks get a little sensitive to things being said,” Griffin said. “We did go back and take the Hitler phrase out because we definitely didn’t want to confuse the issue in any way because we want to stay on the historical context of what we were talking about.”

A statement by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board addresses the controversy,

This is in direct reference to Martin Niemöller’s, popular poem written in 1946, “First they came…” and his description of what occurred in Germany leading up to World War II. Pastors and the church did not stand up to the government to combat the rising discrimination against Christians, Jews, and other groups. In Niemöller’s example, the church did not stand up for its faith and speak up for members and the public. It is interesting to note that Niemöller was accused of “abusing the pulpit”, crimes against the State, ordered to pay a fine, and imprisoned for speaking out. In 2006, Rev. Mark Creech wrote the article “Who Shall Care for the Nation’s Soul?” in the Christian Post, using similar reference to Niemöller’s story.

On Thursday morning March 10th, nearly a week after posting, Mike Griffin was criticized from the Well of the House regarding his letter to Pastors. The inference of those remarks made by representatives was that Mike Griffin was speaking to, or about, the representatives themselves. In context, Mike’s audience was Georgia Baptist Pastors and leaders, in order to challenge the church not to be silent about spiritual convictions and to speak out in order to avoid the repeating of history. It is impossible to understand the content of the article, unless one understands that it was not directed at the general assembly, but a call to action for Pastors based on church history. [emphasis added]

We sincerely regret any misunderstanding of the intent of this article or its historical context. We should all rightly be held accountable for what we say, but not for what we do not say.

Indeed, Baptist leaders have been talking amongst themselves for years about their church’s failure to address the rise of Nazism in Germany, and to address it afterwards.

The 80th anniversary of a courageous stand by Christians in Germany who opposed Adolf Hitler also marks a sad chapter in Baptist history that festered four decades before Baptists voiced repentance.

In contrast to Christians who resisted Nazi evils, German Baptists “were just happy to be left alone, you might say,” historian Albert Wardin told Baptist Press. “And they were just happy to have the regime allow them to preach the Gospel within their churches. And so the German Baptists were not going to take any position that would counter any of the positions of the Hitler regime.”

German Baptists, however, since they were not part of the state church, stayed out of the discussion. Initially they viewed Hitler as a champion of religious liberty and his military conquests as a providential expansion of their field for evangelism.

Four decades later, lamenting their complacency and vowing to learn from the Confessing Church’s courage, German Baptists said they were “humbled by having been subordinated often to the ideological seduction of that time, in not having shown greater courage in acknowledging truth and justice.”

“The German Baptists, in their effort to achieve social respectability and to avoid being forced into a homogenized national church, failed to recognize that they were being used,” German theologian Erich Geldbach wrote in “Baptists Together In Christ,” a centennial history of the BWA.

Individual Baptists confessed their complicity with Hitler following the war. But not until 1984 did German Baptists formally express regret that they failed to support Bonhoeffer, Barth and others in the Confessing Church.

“Recognizing the evil at the beginning was more difficult than it appears today in retrospect,” Germany’s Baptists said at a European Baptist Federation Congress in Hamburg.

I hadn’t been aware of this chapter of Baptist history.

In my mind, the context is clear now and I understand that Griffin’s words did not compare the Georgia General Assembly to Nazis. That said, perhaps a greater sensitivity by everyone going forward to not just what they mean by their words, but how their words might be received, will help prevent a recurrence.

Of course, the civil discourse is almost never enhanced by references to Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan.

Now, the K-word is being trotted out in Bibb County, in a lawsuit accusing incumbent Sheriff David Davis of being in the Klan.

A former Bibb County sheriff’s deputy who announced his candidacy for sheriff this week has two pending lawsuits against his former employer. In one of them, he alleges that incumbent Sheriff David Davis is a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Davis, who is white, denies the allegation.

That is as far from the truth as it could absolutely be. … I think my record speaks for itself,” Davis told The Telegraph Wednesday. “I am offended by it, and it concerns me that someone would think that of me.”

At the heart of one of the suits, both filed in federal court last year, Timothy Rivers alleges that he was demoted due to his race and in retaliation for writing traffic tickets to “the wrong segment of peoples.”

Asked Wednesday what prompted his run for office, Rivers, a political newcomer, said, “To be honest with you, God gave me a vision two years ago. … I said, ‘Man, what if I was sheriff right now? There are so many things that we can change’. … Almighty God gave me that vision, ‘Hey, man, go forward’.”


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