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

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

On March 2, 1807, the Congress passed legislation outlawing the importation of slaves from Africa or anywhere outside the United States.

On March 2, 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico.

Texas Flag 1836-39

The United States Congress passed the first Reconstruction Act on March 2, 1867.

On March 2, 1874, Gov. Smith signed legislation allowing anyone fined for a criminal conviction to arrange for a third party to pay the fine in exchange for the convict’s labor.

On March 2, 1950, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the beginning of construction of Buford Dam, which would create Lake Lanier.

President Lyndon B. Johnson attended ceremonies at Lockheed in Marietta for the first C-5A aircraft to come off the assembly line on March 2, 1968. President Johnson’s remarks can be read here.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

8:00 AM HOUSE NAT’L RESOURCES & ENVT 606 CLOB

10:00 AM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY 403 CAP

11:00 AM House Kelley Sub Jud’y Civil 132 CAP

1:15 PM SENATE RULES 450 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER ED 403 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUD’Y 307 CLOB

4:00 PM House Industry and Labor Sub 506 CLOB

5:00 PM HOUSE INDUSTRY AND LABOR 506 CLOB

The General Assembly has no session today, convening on Friday, March 3, 2017 for Legislative Day 28, which is Crossover Day.

The Georgia State House passed House Bill 338 by Rep. Kevin Tanner yesterday to provide assistance to failing school systems.

House Bill 338 garnered a vote of 138-37, with support from Republicans and Democrats.

“I think it’s been built across party lines,” said the bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville.

Minority leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, encouraged members of her party to support it.

“We’re talking about the future of our children,” Abrams said.

The element of the bill that perhaps is most appreciated by the former referendum opponents is the recognition that poverty is, as Tanner put it, “a barrier to education.” The bill includes no specific funding to help targeted schools but lawmakers are working on companion legislation that would create an innovation grant fund for them.

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the state’s largest teacher advocacy group, did not support the bill but also didn’t oppose it and praised Tanner for a “good-faith effort” in seeking input from educators.

From the Associated Press:

“We have an opportunity today to stand united,”’ Tanner told House members. “Is this a perfect silver bullet to fix public education in Georgia? No. Is there such a thing? No.”

“I sympathize and I agree with those who say it’s still not far enough, that we need more resources invested,” Abrams said.

But she called the bill “a step in the right direction.”

Governor Nathan Deal praised the House’s passage of HB 338.

“I applaud the members of the House of Representatives who demonstrated their commitment to improving education outcomes for Georgia’s most vulnerable students,” said Deal. “Rep. Kevin Tanner worked tirelessly with House and Senate leadership, education committee chairmen and other stakeholders to produce this critical and bipartisan legislation. I’m grateful for their cooperation and collaboration on behalf of Georgia students. This is a critical step forward for improving Georgia’s education system for current and future students, families and communities. I look forward to its passage in the Senate and signing HB 338 into law.”

Maggie Lee of The Macon Telegraph writes,

An important feature, [Tanner] said, is a focus on two areas that cause schools to fail: leadership and “external factors.” External factors mean things in a community that are barriers to learning, including poverty, lack of internet access, poor economic development and jobs and lack of transportation.

The bill requires the turnaround officer to have top-level experience at public schools and the hiring of “turnaround coaches.” And those leaders will look at a community’s “external factors.” They will also be able to help schools apply for state grants for things like extra reading programs for young children who start school unable to read very well.

The state House’s highest-ranking Democrat, Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, opposed the 2016 plan but supported Tanner’s bill.

“By adopting HB 338, we will begin to do our jobs,” the Atlanta lawmaker said. She said she agrees with people who say the state needs more investment in its schools, but that the bill is a good first step.

However, most of the “no” votes came from Democrats, including two from Macon-Bibb.

“An issue as significant as schools should be voted on by the general public. So if you’re going to change it, if you really want to have local input, then you should let local folk vote on that,” said state Rep. James Beverly, just after his “no” vote.

From The Marietta Daily Journal:

While the funding sources are different, state Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, who voted against the bill, said both proposals are about controlling public education and not helping students.

“This bill is purely a power shift to the Governor’s Office — whoever that governor may be,” Wilkerson said. “We’re basically back doing the Opportunity School District.”

Nine of Cobb’s 15 representatives supported the legislation. Wilkerson, Rep. Sheila Jones, D-Atlanta, Rep. Michael Smith, D-Marietta, and Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, voted against the measure. Rep. Matt Dollar, R-east Cobb, was marked absent.

State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-west Cobb, chair of the Senate Education Committee, said the Senate is in “general agreement with the overall structure and intent of the bill” although “I’m sure there’s going to be some changes that are made in the Senate.”

In HB 338, the chief turnaround officer will be able to select an undisclosed number of struggling schools for the state to intervene in and hire “turnaround coaches” who will perform on-site evaluations at the schools.

The turnaround coaches will work with local school districts to address the struggling school’s challenges — poverty, safety, lack of transportation options and mental health — and conduct individual assessments of low-performing students, according to the bill.

The chief turnaround officer could also hire third-party companies to help with the on-site evaluations, at the expense of the state.

From The Gwinnett Daily Post:

In Gwinnett, Board of Education members and a long-time teacher have expressed concern about HB 338.

“The issue you are trying to address is too complex for a single proposed solution,” Bay Creek Middle teacher Tim Mullen wrote in an email to members of the Georgia House Education Committee.

“The problem of failing schools is much more complex than any simple solution you are trying to implement,” Mullen wrote. “The problems in failing schools are everywhere — the problem is that they are concentrated in select areas and the causes are magnified to a point of dysfunction.”

Mullen’s comments followed a discussion by the Gwinnett School Board where Dr. Robert McClure said the measure would take away representative government because local officials wouldn’t be allowed to make decisions about their schools.

McClure said the state spends a lot of money on education, and should be involved in the decisions of how that money’s spent as it relates to local school board’s responsibility of the money.

“If that includes, in his opinion, the dismissing of a Board as appropriate, I just think that it’s fundamentally wrong to dismiss them and have them appointed by the governor,” McClure said. “I would assume the governor would fee similarly that if the President of the United States decided the governor of the state of Georgia was doing a lousy job and he was going to figure out some way to similarly dismiss him and replace him with another governor.

“I think he would find that contrary to the process of elections and representative government that we hold dear.”

A statement from [the Professional Association of Georgia Educators] said it was pleased that the bill had bi-partisan support, but there are two “significant issues” that require further attention.

“The first and greatest concern for Georgia’s educators are the unspecified accountability measures which are to be determined by another agency outside of the Georgia Department of Education,” the statement said. “The second is the line authority of the Chief Turnaround Authority to the state Board of Education rather than the elected state school superintendent.”

From the Augusta Chronicle:

“I’m not opposed to everything in the bill,” Richmond County Board member Jack Padgett said. “Parts are definitely understandable. Some of our schools have been failing for a long time and I have no problem with (the state) coming in and helping out.”

According to Padgett, members of the Richmond County School Board took part in a conference call last week with Angela Palm, director of legislative services for the Georgia School Boards Association. They have another conference call with Palm scheduled for Monday.

“My biggest concern is the state gaining total control,” Padgett said. “I’m against that. I’ve always believed that a local system understands more about their schools than an appointed (superintendent) from Atlanta.”

House Bill 239 by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) passed the Staet House Wednesday and would flatten state income tax rates.

The House voted 126-40 for House Bill 329, which would set the state income tax rate for all Georgians at 5.4 percent. The state currently has a graduated system, with rates starting at 1 percent and rising fairly quickly to 6 percent.

The bill would also create an earned-income tax credit for low-income Georgians to make up for the higher rates they would pay, and it would eliminate a provision in state law that allows Georgians who itemize their deductions when they fill out their tax returns to write off their state income tax payments.

“It seems like it’s always been talked about,” said Jay Morgan, a longtime GOP activist and lobbyist. “It’s one of those bumper-sticker issues people want to be associated with, particularly people who might want to run for higher office.”

When asked how it will do in the Senate, state Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Atlanta, the chamber’s Finance Committee vice chairman, said, “I would think it has a good chance.”

Kelly McCutchen, the president of the conservative Georgia Public Policy Foundation and a longtime proponent of the change, said the bill’s chances in the the Senate should be “outstanding.”

“Usually the push for this has come from the Senate,” McCutchen said. “I would think the chances of getting tax reform this year are the best I have seen in a decade.”

The Newnan Times-Herald editorial board opines about the flat tax contained in HB 329.

The measure, House Bill 329 by Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, creates a flat tax for Georgia with a top rate slightly lower than the current maximum. Conservatives have long advocated for a flat tax at the federal level, and this state initiative can serve as an example to Congress.

It is pro-growth, simplifies Georgia’s tax system and erases North Carolina’s competitive advantage by matching their top rate.

To keep from giving a moderate tax cut to the highest-income Georgians at the same time as a tax increase for the low-income earners who are currently in the 1-5 percent tax brackets, Powell borrows an idea from President Richard Nixon to create an earned-income tax credit. The left-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, an Atlanta think tank, has long advocated for an earned-income credit as a way to shield the poor from crushing taxation.

House Bill 51 by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) would require that rape allegations reported to college officials report the allegations to law enforcement and hold off on investigating until LEO are finished.

“This is about safe campuses for all of our students. This is about moms and dads. This is about their children, their education and careers. This is legislation that protects children on college campuses,” said bill sponsor Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs.

“It’s a balance between the rights of the victim and the rights of the accused,” he said, repeatedly telling colleagues that under the current system those accused of sexual assault don’t enjoy due process rights when the allegations are handled by college and university officials who can suspend or expel them

Despite Ehrhart’s assurances, Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, said she still thought House Bill 51 — though different from its original version — would hurt victims assaulted on college campuses.

“This bill — although it started out as sledge hammer in the delicate process of the way we treat sexual assault victims — is still a hammer on victims’ rights,” Oliver said. “I’m glad we put down the sledge hammer. But I urge you not to proceed with a hammer into very difficult situations.”

From the Associated Press:

Laura Dunn, executive director of a national victims’ advocacy group called SurvJustice, questioned supporters’ argument that law enforcement will appropriately handle cases of sexual assault on campuses.

“You really have to be completely detached from the issue of sexual assault to even suggest law enforcement is somehow better capable,” Dunn said. “We have cases all the time where survivors go to the police first and nothing is done; no report is filed, there’s no follow-up.”

Republican Rep. Regina Quick of Athens, home to the University of Georgia campus, co-sponsored the bill and argued that it strikes a balance between accuser and accused.

“There are stories on both sides of this issue that will make you weep,” Quick told members. Then, quoting Aristotle, she added, “The law is reason free from passion.”

From the Rome News-Tribune:

Coomer said the bill was amended to address the concerns and he expects it to pass.

“It essentially allows the victim to make a confidential report. She, or he, can get counseling, support and assistance without having to go public,” Coomer said.

“There have been cases where the victim would make allegations, go out of the picture, and the university would take over the process and prosecute,” Coomer said. “The alleged perpetrator wouldn’t be allowed counsel, to give evidence or to face the victim.”

[State Rep. Eddie] Lumsden, a retired Georgia State Patrol trooper, said universities don’t have the ability to conduct the kind of investigation law enforcement can.

“The accused has not necessarily been getting legal due process before the schools take action,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been concerned about.”

House Bill 71 by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) addresses “surprise billing” by medical providers and has run into resistance in the House, being deferred twice from a final vote.

Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Carters­ville, the majority whip, said it could be tweaked before it’s presented.

“We wanted to have a little time to take in some opposing views,” Coomer said. “We have a big caucus with lots of different ideas, and it’s our job to come up with the best solutions to serve the most people.”

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, called HB 71 “a really bad bill” that would likely send many healthcare providers to other states.

“It says every physician has to be in-network, but the insurance companies decide what the (reimbursement) rates are,” he said. “I’m glad the majority of the House didn’t support it today. I hope we can get together and pass a fair bill.”

Four of his amendments are in Senate Bill 8, which passed that chamber, 52 to 0, and crossed over to the House. It requires the use of the independent FAIR Health database to set reimbursement rates.

“This was formed in New York … because the insurance company database worked like a Volks­wagen. When you check­ed it, it was good, but when you used it, it was bogus,” Hufstetler said. “If we use this, customers don’t get caught in the middle between the providers and insurance companies.”

House Bill 65 by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) passed the State House yesterday.

“This is an expansion of what has been so far a very successful program allowing more hurting Georgians to potentially benefit from medical cannabis oil,” said state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, just before the state House passed his House Bill 65 by a vote of 165-6.

It would open the state registry to people who have AIDS or HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, autoimmune disease, the painful skin disease epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy, Tourette’s syndrome or those who are in a hospice program. People could also join the registry earlier in the course of treatment for cancer; Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS; multiple sclerosis; Parkinson’s disease; and sickle cell disease.

The state Senate wants to expand the registry only to people who have autism. They also want to cut the THC cap in Georgia-legal medical cannabis from 5 percent to 3 percent. THC is the main chemical in cannabis that causes a high. The state House and Senate must come to agreement if medical cannabis law is to be changed this year.

Valdosta State University students, faculty, and staff will protest House Bill 280, which would allow some concealed carry by license holders on college campuses.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) met with a group of liberals and they spoke and listened to each other respectfully. Imagine that.

In a time that senators and representatives decline to meet with constituents and constituents march, chant, yell, and raise signs from frustration, the pattern was broken last Saturday morning in Gainesville’s District 9 offices of Representative Doug Collins.

Doug Collins showed up with staff and met with 14 people who did homework with the support of many at home who contributed research. The discussion lasted approximately 90 minutes after introductions were made. There were differences between the point of views expressed. No surprise. Constituents and Congressman were from two very different ways of thinking about the role of government. However, the discussion included both listening and time to deliver points of view.

Senator Johnny Isakson (R) will hold a telephone town hall meeting tonight.

Isakson was unable to schedule any town hall meetings last week because he is continuing to recover from back surgery he underwent late last month at an Atlanta hospital, according to his office. According to news reports, Isakson has been working with physical therapists, and plans to return to Washington, D.C., within the next few days.

In Washington, the House Armed Services Committee heard about cyber warfare.

The panelists’ testimony reinforces the national defense needs of which Fort Gordon and Augusta University are actively moving to provide. The U.S. Army Cyber Command is in the midst of moving its headquarters from Fort Belvoir, VA and has already activated a number of units here.

“The Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center, as well as Augusta University’s designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security are critical to ensuring America’s cyber force can continue to hone their skills in the ever-changing environment of cyberspace, and will help the CSRA become the cyber hub of the southeast,” said Rep. Rick Allen, R-GA.

“In order to field the threats of today and tomorrow, we must ensure our cyber capabilities are running on all cylinders by providing our military with the necessary resources and investment,” the Augusta congressman said.

The completion of the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center is forecast for late-summer, 2018 and the Army Cyber Command Complex at Fort Gordon could have more than 1,200 soldiers and civilian contractors by late 2020.

A Radical Vegetarian Terrorist allegedly drove into a chicken truck.

A Comer woman was arrested last week after she intentionally hit a chicken truck on Georgia Highway 72, according to a Madison County Sheriff’s report.

The woman told the deputy “she was a vegan and hit the truck due to it being a chicken truck,” officers said.

The collision occurred Feb. 21 along a stretch of highway in Hull, where the truck driver reported a red car hit the side of his truck and when he hit his brakes, the car again hit the side of the truck, however, this time the impact caused the car to spin in the highway.

She was charged with obstruction, hit and run, aggressive driving and DUI.

Sixth Congressional District

Consider all the hype about how Democrat Jon Ossoff supposedly could win in the Sixth District and ask yourself when you heard the same things being said. Well, in 2016, the Atlanta news media, National media sources, pollsters you’ve never heard of, Democratic operatives, and Washington DC commentators said Hillary had a chance of winning Georgia.

And in 2014, the same story with Democrat Michelle Nunn against Republican David Perdue and Democrat Jason Carter against Republican Governor Nathan Deal.

This is the same tactics and will yield the same results. Republicans will win the 6th Congressional District handily.

But this is funny.

From TheHill.com,

A super PAC aligned with House GOP leadership launched a $1.1 million TV and digital ad campaign to needle a Democrat running for an open Georgia House seat.

The ad paints Jon Ossoff as a “30-year-old frat boy” and features video footage from his college days.

The ad questions his credentials as a former national security staffer, cutting together footage of Ossoff claiming to have five years of national security experience with scenes of him playing drinking games at a college party.

The ad buy is the first significant spending from an outside GOP group in the special election to fill Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s former seat in the north Atlanta suburbs.

The spot targeting the millennial congressional candidate went viral on social media and will run in the Atlanta media market from Thursday until the April 18 primary.

“It is sad that the hope of the Democratic Party rests on a 30-year-old frat boy who has spent his adult life living outside of Georgia’s 6th District playing dress-up with his drinking buddies,” said CLF executive director Corry Bliss.

“The truth is Jon Ossoff simply isn’t being honest with Georgia voters — and if you like Jon Ossoff playing Han Solo, just wait until you see what we release next.”

It’s worth noting that Corry Bliss, Executive Director of the SuperPAC running the ads was Karen Handel’s campaign manager in her 2010 gubernatorial bid.

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