Senate Resolution 80, sponsored by Republican William Ligon of Brunswick, was read in the Senate for the first time Wednesday morning. The resolution is a response to changes made in the College Board prescribed curriculum framework for Advanced Placement American History, and it fits nicely with the fifth goal of the Senate Majority Caucus, which is “Ensuring that the founding principles of our constitutional republic are taught to our students so that they are equipped for self-government and able to maintain their heritage of freedom.”

The resolution claims that

the framework presents a biased and inaccurate view of many important themes and events in American history, including the motivations and actions of seventeenth to nineteenth century settlers, the nature of the American free enterprise system, the course and resolution of the Great Depression, and the development of and victory in the Cold War.

It further states that the framework does not match the Georgia Performance Standards for social studies, and asks that he College Board return to the prior curriculum, which was aligned with the Georgia standards. Should the College Board not comply with the legislature’s request, the resolution contemplates having the state school board implement an alternative curriculum compliant with the Georgia standards, and asking the governor to work out reciprocal agreements with other states to honor the Georgia curriculum.

The controversy over the AP US History curriculum has been brewing for a while, especially in Gwinnett County. The AJC examined the situation in Gwinnett, and reported that for now, no changes are expected in the curriculum:

The A.P. course is designed not to simply test a student’s memory, but to measure critical thinking skills, Gwinnett officials say.

“We begin teaching that in the first grade,” Debbie Daniell, Gwinnett’s social studies director, said of some of the material critics say isn’t included in the A.P. course. “It is absolutely taught in our U.S. history courses, with rigor and depth of knowledge.”

The state’s new school superintendent, Richard Woods, recently said he wants to issue Georgia’s 123,000 fifth-graders pocket copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

“Students need to know about our Founding Fathers,” Woods said.

[click to continue…]

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::UPDATE::

The committee meeting to hear SB 44 has been canceled for today due to the fact that there was never an agenda set for today for the Higher Education committee, so I’m not sure where the folks at Asian Americans Advancing Justice (where we got the details of the meeting), but apparently there was a miscommunication at some point.

The Senate Higher Education Committee will hold a hearing on SB 44 at 3p in Room 310 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building right across the street from the capitol, introduced by Senator Nan Orrock (D-SD-36). That bill would offer in-state tuition to students who are covered under President Barack Obama’s executive order offering young illegal immigrants deferred deportation, a program referred to as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Asian Americans Advancing Justice group has issued this press release concerning today’s committee meeting:

Senate Bill 44, a bill intended to equalize tuition policies for citizens, eligible noncitizens, and beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will be considered by the Georgia Senate Higher Education Committee today, January 28, 2015 at 3:00 PM in Room 310 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, 18 Capitol Square. SW, Atlanta GA 30303 across the street from the Georgia Capitol.

“The time for action is now,” said Raymond Partolan, Advancing Justice – Atlanta’s Part-Time Outreach Coordinator and DACA recipient. “We need our friends and allies to pressure their elected officials to speak out in support of education equality for all. SB 44 would open so many doors for so many people.”

SB 44 was introduced by Senator Nan Orrock (D-36) on January 15, 2015. The bill had its first reading on January 26, 2015 and was referred to the Higher Education Committee by Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle.

This bill would apply to immigrants who have been accepted into President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants temporary deportation deferrals and work authorization for undocumented young people. These young people are seeking an opportunity to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities in the State of Georgia.

“Lowering financial barriers and promoting higher education for all isn’t just a human rights issue, but a proven component of positive economic growth,” said Helen Kim Ho, Advancing Justice -Atlanta’s Executive Director. “Equal access to higher education is a basic human right. Higher education also leads to higher income, which in turn leads to higher tax revenue. When states with large undocumented populations like California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington are already reaping the social and economic benefits that come with providing in-state tuition for more of its students, it’s imperative for our state to get right on this issue,” said Ho.

Currently, the University System of Georgia bars Deferred Action recipients from paying in-state tuition rates, which are considerably less than out-of-state rates. On June 9, 2014, Fulton County Superior Court Judge John Goger dismissed a lawsuit that sought to overturn that provision. The 39 plaintiffs now await the appellate decision of the Georgia Court of Appeals. SB 44 would accomplish, by legislation, what this lawsuit would have accomplished, had it been successful at the trial court level

Get your popcorn out. I’m sure it will be a fun meeting.

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On this date in 1850, Henry Clay introduced in the Senate a compromise bill on slavery that included the admission of California into the Union as a free state

Peaches

Jimmy Carter

Sweet Tea

Liberty Drum

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Georgia House leadership listens as Speaker David Ralston (at podium) and Transportation Chair Jay Roberts (far right) announce details of the transportation bill to be filed on Thursday.  Photo:  Jon Richards

Georgia House leadership listens as Speaker David Ralston (at podium) and Transportation Chair Jay Roberts (far right) announce details of the transportation bill to be filed on Thursday. Photo: Jon Richards

House Speaker David Ralston and House Transportation Chairman Jay Roberts held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to provide some details on the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, which will be filed on Thursday. The act will provide for $1 billion in funding for the state’s transportation infrastructure without a state tax increase, according to Roberts. For how this will happen, refer to Charlie’s post from earlier this afternoon.

In the press conference, Ralston noted that “doing nothing is not an option,” and released this statement to the press:

“Thursday morning, House Transportation Chairman Jay Roberts and others will introduce legislation which we believe will lead to bringing our state into the 21st century with our transportation policy.” said Speaker of the House David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). “I expect the bill to be thoroughly vetted as it goes through the legislative process. We welcome constructive discussion and debate. But the time to begin the process is now.”

“There has been a need for legislation to address our state’s transportation needs for several years now, and we can no longer ignore it,” said Rep. Roberts. “Throughout 2014 my colleagues and I who served on the Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding traveled to all areas of the state to get feedback on local and regional transportation needs. We have studied how to fund transportation in our state going forward, and I believe that this bill provides the best solution. I am proud to introduce this plan that does not involve a tax increase for our citizens. This is the beginning of a process and we are listening to any and all suggestions.”

You can listen to the press conference with Speaker Ralston and Chairman Roberts below.


 
Prior to the media event, the House Republican Conference met to learn about what would be announced to the press shortly thereafter. Off the record, several representatives said that while they liked what they heard at the briefing, they wanted to see the text of the bill and the budgetary impact before making any final judgments. Given that rumors of tax increases would be included in the proposal had been flying around the Capitol since the beginning of the session, they were encouraged that the bill appeared to be revenue neutral.

As of now, the text of the bill isn’t available on the House website. Once it is, we’ll bring it to you.

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Georgia House leaders are releasing details of the bill they will introduce to address Georgia’s statewide transportation infrastructure deficit, and the funding sources they intend to tap in order to address the problem.

Restructures Gas Tax:

The plan features a transition to change the formula from the current fixed 7.5 cents excise tax plus sales taxes to tax with a fixed excise tax of 29.2 cents, which by Georgia’s constitution is required to be allocated to GDOT. This number represents the average motor fuel tax Georgians have paid over the past four years, and thus is revenue neutral.

Currently Georgia’s sales tax on motor fuel breaks down as follows:

3% of sale goes to GDOT, which is required by our constitution to use the money on roads and bridges.

1% of the sale goes to the state’s general budget for non-transportation uses.

1-4% is taxed locally by referendum and may or may not be used for transportation uses.

By shifting these taxes from other sources to GDOT, roughly $800M currently taxed as a “user fee” will more closely match the source to use. In addition, Georgia currently loses out from long haul truck drivers who remit taxes to states based on excise taxes paid versus miles driven in each state. By shifting sales taxes to excise taxes, Georgia will reap an estimated $60M windfall from this program.

Preserves local revenues during transition:

In order to ease the burden of transition to local governments, taxes currently being collected locally on existing local option taxes may be grandfathered until the expiration of the existing SPLOST. Going forward, new SPLOSTS will not include motor fuels as part of their sales tax base.

Maintains adequate user fees going forward:

Because the value of the gas tax has been declining as fuel efficiency increases, the gas tax will be indexed annually going forward to CAFÉ standards – the fuel efficiency of cars on the road. By making the tax purely a flat excise tax, the volatility of the tax increasing while gas prices increase is removed.

New pathway for local funding:

In order to maintain local flexibility and control, counties and cities will each have the right to place up to 3 cents/gallon by vote of a city council or county commission. If the local governments wish to place additional cents on sales of gasoline a referendum from the local voters would be required.

All proceeds raised locally under this option would be required to be used on transportation projects. This would help counties and cities focus on local priorities, either on their own or by partnering with the state for major improvements, as Forsyth County recently did to expand GA 400 using a local bond referendum.

Transit & The Environment: [click to continue…]

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Hope for Ava’s Law

January 28, 2015 12:50 pm

by Teri · 12 comments

Today is Autism Day at the Capitol and dozens of families are there to raise awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and persuade their lawmakers to support SB1, Ava’s Law. Sine Die 2014 was devastating to supporters of both the autism and the medical cannabis measures, but the situation this year is – so far – looking up.

Many of the kids at the Capitol today will undoubtedly be wearing shirts that bring attention to ASD and the thousands of Georgia families who live daily with autism’s impact. It’s unlikely that any of the children today are wearing a shirt with the slogan, “I’m a Lil’ Job Killer!” – but that message was implicit when groups like Americans for Prosperity and the Tea Party Patriots recently fought against insurance coverage for ASD in Virginia. Those groups, along with the Chamber and the NFIB, have opposed measures like SB1 in nearly all of the thirty-eight states that have passed such legislation.

Despite the political clout of these groups, GOP support for SB1 appears unified, and advocates for Ava’s Law have every reason to believe that 2015 is their year. SB1 will provide coverage for ASD through age six, critical years for the intensive early intervention that can be life-changing for autistic children.

The majority of children with ASD, however, require treatment beyond age six, which is when they usually enter the public school system. On top of existing per-student annual costs, educating a child with ASD will add around $8,600 to that amount. For this reason, Senator Josh McKoon was right to assert last year that taxpayers would come out on top if SB1 passes.

Moving beyond the current session, Georgians will continue to benefit if the age cap in SB1 is ultimately eliminated. What other conditions exist that, like autism, are diagnosed by a physician and are treated by medical, psychological, and behavioral specialists, but are denied coverage once a patient turns a certain age? TriCare, the insurance for military families, has no age – or dollar limits – for their autism coverage, and in 2013, Governor Rick Perry signed legislation eliminating age caps for autism coverage in Texas (there’s a not-unreasonable $36,000 annual coverage limit). Many self-insured companies and governments, including the City of Atlanta, the City of Smyrna, Home Depot, and IBM already offer autism coverage to their employees, and providing that coverage hasn’t squelched their growth. The economic benefits to families living with autism, and to all Georgians, are ample reason to support SB1 and the families who have fought for this coverage.

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Earlier this week, the advocacy group Better Georgia, which was one of the loudest voices against Governor Deal’s re-election last year, published ads in the hometown newspapers of Rep. Sam Teasley and Sen. Josh McKoon, the sponsors of the religious liberty bills in their respective chambers. Teeing off on an op-ed in the Macon Telegraph written by Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke, the ads, and an accompanying online campaign, charge that passing H.B. 29 would allow child abusers to claim immunity from prosecution because of their religious beliefs.

McKoon and Teasley each claimed that the bill would not have the effects listed in the editorial, with Teasley taking to the well of the House Tuesday morning to assert that courts would decide that the state had a compelling interest in preventing child abuse should someone ever claim their religion allowed them to ignore child welfare laws. Under both the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and its Georgia cousin, the state must show that a law interfering with a person’s religious beliefs does so in the least restrictive way possible, and that the state has a compelling interest in enacting the law.

While the Governor hasn’t publicly advocated for the religious freedom bill, he has indicated in comments to reporters that he sympathizes with the bill’s aims. Tuesday evening, Deal spokesman Brian Robinson replied to a tweet by the AJC’s Greg Bluestein with this:

Tuesday was Atlanta Hawks day at the Gold Dome, with appearances in both the House and Senate chambers, along with a visit to the Governor’s office.

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Morning Reads for Jan. 28

January 28, 2015 3:01 am

by Ed · 11 comments

For those of you who enjoy WREK, a large part of that is due to Ed Martin. He died recently. I remember when I started listening to good radio and WREK, while good, was often not on the air. He changed that and you can still hear him on several station IDs. RIP.

“Hold On, Hold On” by Neko Case. 

Majority Leader Cowsert with DominiqueSpeaker David Ralston and Dominique

Tuesday was Atlanta Hawks Day at the Capitol, as State Representatives and Senators recognized Atlanta’s winningest team ever. Dominique Wilkins was the star attraction though, as he presented signed basketballs to House Speaker David Ralston (left) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert (right). Photos: Jon Richards

  1. Book two of the series of graphic novels describing Cong. Lewis time in the civil rights movement is a “must read”: Washington Post, Associated Press and A.V. Club.
  2. More tax dollars going toward Braves Stadium… and we’re just getting started.
  3. Cylcorama continues 150th Civil War anniversary festivities. 
  4. The holidays cost UPS $200m
  5. GA-based Rock-Tenn merging to form a $16b packaging company. 
  6. Legalizing it could put around $100m in Georgia’s coffers either through tax revenues or criminal justice savings.
  7. Grovetown hopes its criminals don’t want to look pretty in pink. 
  8. Kennesaw State is the pride of Georgia at the moment. 

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Georgia’s Seventh District Congressman Rob Woodall was named to the Highways and Aviation subcommittees of the U.S. House Transportation Committee, according to an announcement by Chairman Bud Shuster of Pennsylvania. Woodall is the only Georgian on the committee that will be charged with a finding a long-term solution to replenish the federal Highway Trust Fund.

In a prepared statement, Woodall said,

We have a fantastic opportunity in the 114th Congress to make real progress on the challenges facing our region, and transportation is absolutely one of them. Georgia is a natural leader on transportation in our region, and having a Georgia voice and advocate on the Committee in Washington will make a big difference for the State and for the nation.

There is much to do, but two of the most pressing legislative issues will be creating a long-term highway bill and a long-term aviation bill–both of which will flow directly through the Committee and the subcommittees on which I’m honored to serve. As the first voice for Georgia on this committee and on these issues in this decade, I am committed to long-term solutions that will help keep our State competitive and vibrant. Citizens deserve efficient, effective, and accountable federal highway and aviation programs, and 2015 is the year to provide those solutions.

In Georgia, a joint House-Senate Transportation Committee issued its final report at the end of 2014, offering several options for increasing transportation funding to accommodate maintenance and/or expansion of the state’s road systems. The Georgia House Transportation Committee is expected to incorporate some of these recommendations in a bill that is rumored to be dropped before the end of the week.

The amount of federal funding Georgians can expect from the federal government is a concern. As it stands, the state has not collected $367 million it expected to receive this fiscal year. The current authorization for the Highway Trust Fund expires May 31st, so a new bill will need to be passed by then. However, if as is typical in Washington, nothing is done until the last minute, state lawmakers won’t know the level of federal funding by the time they vote on their bill, presumably before the 2015 legislative session ends in April.

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Who’s got two thumbs and lives in the only city in Cobb County that will soon have Google Fiber?

Google Fiber announced today that they are expanding service to nine cities in metro Atlanta, bringing gigabit speed to the cities of Atlanta, Smyrna, Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, Decatur, Avondale Estates, Hapeville, East Point, and College Park. This includes homes and businesses within the city limits of each municipality; unincorporated areas aren’t part of the deal.

Google Fiber offers internet speeds beyond anything we’ve seen in Georgia, and this is a huge deal for economic development in every city announced today. Services will include internet and television, including a free level of internet service, and will utilize existing infrastructure like utility poles and underground conduits. The next step is for Google to continue working with each city to map out exactly how they’ll lay thousands of miles of fiber.

Perhaps most notable is what Google refers to as the “joint planning process” taken on by these cities during the past year. Representatives from each city – nearly entirely at the staff level – collaborated with a level of cooperation that we don’t hear about much in metro Atlanta. It’s something to keep in mind as the conversation continues on transportation and transit that involves actual highways, and not just the information superhighway. “There’s no end to the possibility!”

Smyrna’s press release is below; it’s pretty similar to what the other cities are putting out. [click to continue…]

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:: Update ::
Warren Lee Hill is dead. At 7:55 this evening, he was executed in Jackson, Georgia.

In a democracy, the responsibility for a government’s actions ultimately rest with its citizens. Tonight, a mentally disabled man was killed in our name.

Original post:

Tonight, our state will put Warren Lee Hill to death.

Peach Pundit has covered his case before. In 1986, he shot Myra Wright, his girlfriend, 11 times and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Four years later, he bludgeoned a fellow prisoner  (Joseph Handspike) to death with a nail-studded spike. The details of these murders aren’t in contention.

The nature of the man who committed them is. Based on the reports of seven doctors, Mr. Hill has an IQ of 70, placing him on the border of intellectual disability (formerly referred to as mental retardation.) Though four doctors have always maintained he was disabled, three others declared in 2000 that Mr. Hill was not disabled based on two interviews and six days of consideration. In 2013, those three doctors signed an affidavit affirming that Mr. Hill was intellectually disabled based on advances in behavioral psychology and new materials on his mental state. Yet state courts have ruled this reversal legally irrelevant because it is not based on new evaluations of Hill.

In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that the execution of “mentally retarded persons” is forbidden by the Eighth Amendment prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.” In May of last year, a 5-4 ruling expanded this decision by striking down Florida’s “bright line” policy that found anyone with an IQ north of 70 intellectually capable. Libertarian-leaning Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that “Intellectual disability is a condition, not a number. Courts must recognize, as does the medical community, that the IQ test is imprecise….”

Since a 1967 public school test, Mr. Hill’s mental capabilities have been questioned; he ranked in the bottom 2% of the population. Since 1991 (longer than I’ve been alive), Mr. Hill has lived under a death sentence. His last day has come and passed three times now, most recently in 2013 due to a court ruling on the chemicals involved in executions. Numerous individuals and organizations of stature have come out against his execution, including former President Carter, the GA Bar Association, the state NAACP chapter, the ACLU, the Council of Europe, the Archbishop of Atlanta, and, most importantly, the victim’s family, who were never consulted about the case.

In any other state, Mr. Hill’s condition would prevent his death. Based on the “preponderance of evidence” test used in death-mad states like Texas and Oklahoma, the four doctors testifying on his behalf would be more than enough to reduce his punishment to life without parole. The recanting of their testimony by the three doctors that testified for the state would put the matter beyond question. Yet Georgia’s standard for mental disability is the near-impossible “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

That standard clearly contradicts the spirit of the Court’s 2014 Hall v. Florida ruling cited above. Government has no power greater than the power to order death; recognizing that, the Supreme Court has limited that power in regards to those who straddle the line between the competent and those who have “the mental capacity of a child.” Better safe than cruel.

This morning, the Georgia Parole Board refused to grant clemency to Mr. Hill. On January 20th, the Georgia Supreme Court denied further hearings. Hill’s lawyers have made their final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping that they will grant a stay before his 7 P.M. execution. Given the court’s restrictive ruling in Hall v. Floridahis attorneys face a potential nightmare scenario: that his execution will be ruled illegal after his death.

Since at least the 1992 death of Ricky Ray Rector (who died so that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton could become president and famously saved the pecan pie from his last meal “for later”), mental deficiency and Southern executions have been tied in the national and international conscious. It shows up in Family Guy gags and lazy stand-up routines; it has become one of the region’s many clichés. Given our recent obsession with the state’s image and competitiveness, one would expect the state’s power structure to move against the execution if only to prevent the slew of news coverage. Indeed, Charlie has written that “Executing a man who is mentally disabled will not help Georgia maintain and preserve the option of a death penalty.  Quite conversely, it may speed its demise.”

Those who are not capable of understanding the consequences of their actions should not bear the ultimate punishment. Let us hope that the Supreme Court spares us this barbarism.

 

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What a coincidence. The day Rep. John Pezold of Fortson drops his bill to limit the amount of time law enforcement can retain records obtained by license plate readers, The Wall Street Journal has this on its front page:

WSJ Headline

Apparently, the federal government, and specifically the Drug Enforcement Agency has been spying on us. It’s apparently a big business, even outside government.

Rep. Pezold’s bill, House Bill 93, would limit the amount of time that information gathered by license plate readers operated by law enforcement agencies. Right now, there’s no limit to the amount of time that information can be retained.

Pezold tells me he’s seen other states with limits as short as 48 hours. Some require immediate destruction of the data if a lookup of the plate number doesn’t show evidence of a crime.

Pezold’s bill as filed won’t apply to the federal government, though. In his bill, a law enforcement agency is:

the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Transportation, and any other state or local public agency that is responsible for the prevention and detection of crime, local government code enforcement, and the enforcement of penal, traffic, regulatory, game, or controlled substance laws..

He tells me he hopes for a committee substitute that will amend the bill to cover the federal government’s capturing data in Georgia

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The University of Georgia was founded on this day in 1785, making it the oldest public university in the United States (quiet, Tarheels). Russian forces liberated Auschwitz in 1945, and this day has come to be celebrated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Morning reads after the jump… [click to continue…]

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You might have said it was Allen Peake day at the Gold Dome. Sure, the House honored the National Guard and celebrated Korean American Day. But for Rep. Peake, it was time to file House Bill 1, the 2015 version of Peake’s medical marijuana bill.

Surrounded by families of children who will benefit from medical marijuana, Rep. Peake answers questions at an afternoon press conference.  Photo:  Jon Richards

Surrounded by families of children who will benefit from medical marijuana, Rep. Peake answers questions at an afternoon press conference. Photo: Jon Richards

The morning started with Rep. Peake in the House anteroom, corralling other representatives to co-sign his bill. After the House convened, he took to the well to announce he would drop the bill later in the day, and then he prowled the floor asking for and getting the signatures of almost 100 co-sponsors, including Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones, Appropriations Chair Terry England and Rules Chair John Meadows.

The bill bears the signatures of almost 100 co-signers.

The bill bears the signatures of almost 100 co-signers.

At an early afternoon ceremony, Peake invited many families who will benefit from the bill’s passage to join him in the House chamber to deliver the bill to the House clerk. He handed the bill to a young child, whose father held her in his arms as he walked to the clerk’s desk to drop the bill.

At a press conference, Peake explained that he hoped the bill would be assigned to a committee on Tuesday, and that hearings would be held next week. Peake is pushing for quick passage in both chambers, and wants it on Governor Deal’s desk within a month. Noting that there are at least seventeen families who are medical refugees right now who could get relief as soon as the bill was signed into law, Peake said, “This is a big step.”

Some of the bill’s supporters were disappointed earlier in the month, when a plan to allow the manufacture of the low-THC oil in Georgia was scuttled, following a meeting between Peake and Governor Deal. This version of the bill will provide immunity to anyone possessing cannabidiol oil in the Peach State. The challenge, of course, is getting the oil from a state where it is permitted, like Colorado, back to Georgia. Peake has four options in mind that could get the oil to Georgia.

One option would be to get a manufacturer of oil with a very low THC content to ship it to Georgia. This might not be the most effective strain of the drug, but it would be better than nothing, and the manufacturer is awaiting approval of the immunity language in order to begin shipping it to here. Another option would be to get a manufacturer in a neighboring state to make the type of oil used in Colorado. Presumably with the oil legal in Georgia and the neighboring state, the only risk would occur when crossing state lines. A third option would be to have Governor Deal to pursue an exemption from the U.S. Department of Justice to exempt Georgia from the federal law banning marijuana.

The fourth option calls for civil disobedience, where Peake himself would travel to Colorado and bring the oil back himself. He stressed that he didn’t want the families of sick children breaking the law, though.

In the end, Peake admitted, the best solution would be for the U.S. Congress to take medical marijuana off its present Schedule 1 classification, a classification which says it has no medical purpose. And indeed, a bill to legalize a Charlotte’s web strain at the federal level has been introduced.

For Peake, maybe the second best thing would be to get his bill on the Governor’s desk. Despite a standoff with the Senate late last session that prevented the bill’s passage, Peake is optimistic. Based on the Senate Majority Caucus press conference earlier in the day, he may very well be justified in his optimism.

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Lt. Governor Casey Cagle talks about the majority caucus agenda, along with Senators Bill Cowsert, William Ligon and Charlie Bethel.  Photo: Jon Richards

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle talks about the majority caucus agenda, along with Senators Bill Cowsert, William Ligon and Charlie Bethel. Photo: Jon Richards

Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and Senate President Pro Tempore David Shafer were among the GOP lawmakers in the Georgia Senate Majority Caucus to outline the conference’s priorities in a Capitol press conference Monday morning. The caucus’s goals for 2015 are reflected in the first three numbered bills filed in the Senate, covering autism insurance, supporting career education, and protecting the state’s vulnerable children.

The caucus’s goals include helping young children with autism, providing opportunities for high school students ready to take college level courses, and continuing and expanding the protection of the state’s children. Other more general goals include pushing economic development and job creation, and ensuring students are taught the founding principles of the American republic, including American Exceptionalism.

Senator Charlie Bethel talked about Senate Bill 1, which would provide insurance benefits to the one in 68 children affected with an autism spectrum disorder. Saying that we “cannot turn a blind eye to a clear crisis,” Senator Bethel pointed out that it much cheaper and more effective to treat a child with autism as a young child rather than waiting until he or she enters school.

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle addressed the second goal of improving education for students who may be able to take college level or technical coursework before graduating from high school. Senate Bill 2 would make that possible, and would build on the success of the state’s college and career academy program.

Senate Bill 3, the Supporting and Strengthening Families Act, is sponsored by Sen. Renee Unterman. The purpose of the bill is to allow children in need of foster care to be handed over to someone other than a blood relative. The goals are to prevent maltreatment of children, to place fewer children on welfare and to support and stabilize the family.

It’s interesting to note that, except for opening remarks by Sen. David Shafer talking about the need to improve the state’s business environment by investing in transportation infrastructure, no mention was made of what is considered to be one of the most important issues facing the legislature this session. On the other hand, a bill reflecting the conclusions of the Joint Transportation Study Committee is expected to be introduced soon in the House, rather than the Senate. Given the theme of tying goals with specific legislation, perhaps that makes sense.

And, a press release announcing the initiatives had this:

The Majority Caucus also will use this session of the General Assembly to attract new businesses and promote job creation. Along with the proven tactics that have helped Georgia become the best place in the U.S. to do business, the Senate will work to improve the state’s infrastructure. This will ensure transportation issues do not interfere with businesses’ ability to transport goods and services and people have an easy ability to get to work, home, school, and church.

“Job creation remains our highest priority,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer (R – Duluth). “We want to keep Georgia a place where businesses want to locate and where people want to live, work, study, and worship.”

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