Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 4, 2016


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 4, 2016

Georgia delegates convened in Augusta on May 4, 1789 to approve a new state Constitution and consider amendments.

One year and one day after General Sherman began the Atlanta campaign, on May 4, 1865, Atlanta surrendered. On the same day, the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan River in Virginia and into the Wilderness.

One year after that, on May 4, 1865, the last meeting of the Confederate cabinet convened in the old Georgia State Bank Building, which was located at the site of the present-day Wilkes County Courthouse in Washington, Georgia.

On May 4, 1970, National Guard members shot into a crowd of protesting studenets, killing four and wounding nine others on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.

Happy Star Wars Day! May the Fourth Be With You!

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal broke out his Veto pen in a big way yesterday, of the Georgia General Assembly. Following are the bill numbers:

House Bill 757 “Religious Liberty”

House Bill 59, waiver of Sovereign Immunity

House Bill 216, workers’ compensation for firefighters diagnosed with cancer

House Bill 219, allowing some pools to opt-out of state inspections

House Bill 370 waiving fines on some ethics violations from January 1, 2010 – January 10, 2014

House Bill 659 for greater transparency of school finances

House Bill 726 regarding taxing tobacco products

House Bill 779 regulating drones

House Bill 859 “Campus Carry”

House Bill 916 regarding Medicaid provider audits

House Bill 1060 firearms housecleaning bill

Senate Bill 243 expanding eligibility for the Judicial Retirement System to Legislative Counsel

Senate Bill 329 allowing students who achieve their high school diploma by obtaining a technical college diploma or two technical college certificates to become eligible for the HOPE Scholarship

Senate Bill 355 opt-out procedures for some student testing requirements

Senate Bill 383 regarding advertising for agritourism facilities

Gov. Deal also used the line-item veto to strike one item from HB 751, the state budget, and several pieces of non-binding information.

So far, the most controversial of the newly-announced vetoes is that of Campus Carry. Deal released a lengthy veto statement on HB 859:

Some supporters of HB 859 contend that this legislation is justified under the provisions of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution which provides in part that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Identical words are contained in Article I, Section, I, Paragraph VIII of the Constitution of the State of Georgia. It would be incorrect to conclude, however, that certain restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms are unconstitutional.

In the 2008 case of District of Columbia v. Heller, United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, writing the opinion of the Court, reviews the history of the Second Amendment and sets forth the most complete explanation of the Amendment ever embodied in a Supreme Court opinion. While the subject matter of HB 859 was not before the Court in the Heller case, the opinion clearly establishes that “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Justice Scalia further states that “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on…laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings…”

Perhaps the most enlightening evidence of the historical significance of prohibiting weapons on a college campus is found in the minutes of October 4, 1824, Board of Visitors of the newly created University of Virginia. Present for that meeting were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, along with four other members. In that meeting of the Board of Visitors, detailed rules were set forth for the operation of the University which would open several months later. Under the rules relating to the conduct of students, it provided that “No student shall, within the precincts of the University, introduce, keep or use any spirituous or venomous liquors, keep or use weapons or arms of any kind…”

The approval of these specific prohibitions relating to “campus carry” by the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and the principal author of the United States Constitution should not only dispel any vestige of Constitutional privilege but should illustrate that having college campuses free of weapons has great historical precedent.

If the intent of HB 859 is to increase safety of students on college campuses, it is highly questionable that such would be the result.

I have today issued an Executive Order directed to the Commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia and the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia, requesting that they submit a report to me, the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the House by August 1, 2016, as to the security measures that each college within their respective systems has in place. I hereby call on the leaders of the municipalities and counties in which these colleges are located, along with their law enforcement agencies to review and improve, if necessary, their security measures in areas surrounding these colleges. Since each of these municipalities and counties receive significant revenue by virtue of the location of these colleges in their jurisdictions, I believe it is appropriate that they be afforded extra protections.

Since much of the motivation for HB 859 is the commission of crimes involving the use of firearms on college campuses, I suggest to the General Assembly that it consider making the unauthorized possession and/or use of a firearm on a college campus an act that carries an increased penalty or an enhanced sentence for the underlying crime.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston issued a press release responding to Deal’s veto of HB 859:

I am deeply disappointed by Governor Deal’s decision to veto House Bill 859 – the Campus Safety Act.  While I respect the Governor and his right to act as he has, I believe this measure is sound and reasonable.  This bill was thoroughly debated.  At no time before final passage by the Senate were any concerns raised that were not addressed.

“At a time when our Second Amendment rights are under attack, I believed and still believe that it is very important that we do all that is necessary and proper to strengthen our constitutional protections.  Georgians should not be required to give up their constitutional rights when they set foot on a college campus.

“This is not the end of this discussion.  I will continue to defend and protect the rights of law-abiding Georgians under our Second Amendment.

“I want to again thank Rep. Rick Jasperse, Rep. Mandi Ballinger, Rep. John Meadows and Rep. Alan Powell for their leadership and tireless efforts on behalf of this bill.”

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle also issued a statement:

“The General Assembly saw fit to craft a measure that allows adults over 21 with a concealed weapons permit to lawfully carry on college campuses, and passed a measure that would provide students with a greater sense of security. I anticipate you will see continued efforts to increase safety on college campuses.”

Greg Bluestein of the AJC writes that the veto of HB 859 may pose risks to Deal’s agenda going forward.

The veto carries political consequences for the governor. He has already alienated many in his party’s base with his “religious liberty” veto — Republicans in grass-roots meetings across the state expressed their deep disappointment with Deal, and one group moved to “censure” him — and now he’s enraged another group of reliable Republicans.

As a term-limited governor with no further political ambitions, he has the freedom to defy his party’s base with a veto. But it is likely to make it harder for Deal to carry out the linchpin of his second-term agenda: a 2017 push to “revolutionize” how the state’s education system is funded.

“Those two bills have attracted more attention than pretty much any attention we’ve had in my previous years as governor, and both represent very divided opinions,” Deal said before his decision. “This has not been an easy year to be governor.”

Kathleen Foody and Ryan Philips of the Associated Press write about how the veto may affect Deal in the final years of his second term.

It’s not clear how the contentious decisions will shape Deal’s relationship with the legislature. Supporters of both bills already vow to return with similar proposals next year.

Deal will lead the state through the end of 2018 and plans to focus on an overhaul of education in Georgia, including the state’s method for funding schools.

The Tennessean took a look at differences between the Volunteer State Campus Carry legislation that Gov. Bill Haslam allowed to take effect without his signature and the legislation vetoed by Deal.

“I have long stated a preference for systems and institutions to be able to make their own decisions regarding security issues on campus, and I again expressed this concern throughout the legislative process this year,” Haslam said in a statement. “Although SB 2376 does not go as far as I would like in retaining campus control, the final version of the bill included input from higher education and was shaped to accommodate some of their concerns.”

“I don’t walk away from bills,” [Deal] said. “I either sign them or veto them.”

The response from Deal is markedly different than Haslam’s approach to Tennessee’s campus carry bill, but the two measures have significant differences.

Tennessee’s law, which takes effect in July, allows full-time faculty, staff and other employees of public colleges and universities who have handgun-carry permits to carry weapons on campus. Guns could also not be brought into a stadium or gymnasium during school-sponsored events or in meetings regarding discipline or tenure.

The Georgia bill would have allowed anyone 21 or older, including students, with a valid permit the ability to carry anywhere on a public college campus, including inside classrooms. Guns would have still been prohibited in dorms, fraternity and sorority houses and at athletic events.

Both pieces of legislation required permit holders to conceal their weapons.

Congresswoman and Chair of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz told BuzzFeed News that Donald Trump as the Republican nominee could put Georgia in play for Democrats this year.

“If you look at Georgia, for example, Obama got 45% of the vote,” she said. “The demographics have changed in Georgia, and minority populations — both African-American and Hispanic — are growing there.”

Trump could galvanize the electorate in ways Democrats never really thought possible just a few cycles ago, Wasserman Schultz said, and the Democratic Party has the resources and the message to battle Trump across the country.

Trump’s supporters have said his coalition includes disaffected Democrats who could put Rust Belt states and reliable blue states like Michigan in play for the GOP. Many Republican elites fear a Trump nomination all but seals the election for the Democrats, however.

“With a nominee as extreme and bigoted and as misogynist as Donald Trump is, you know you not only have the opportunity for us to turn out voters that maybe would have been sitting on the sidelines in those minority communities the he’s alienating, but also who we have the potential to win over from the Republican side,” she said. “Or, who will stay home because they can’t bring themselves to vote for a nominee like him. So with those dynamics, in a state like Georgia, in a state like Arizona, for example, [Democrats could do well],” [said Wasserman Schultz].

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