By Charlie

When You Come To A Fork In The Road, Take It

Late on the evening of February 13th 2007 I got a little wild hair to create a name – Icarus – and make a somewhat smart assed comment on a blog I had been reading for months. Almost 9 years later and after switching to my real name I find that I’ve been Editor In Chief for over five years. Until today.

When it’s time to move on, it’s time to move on. And it is that time.

Peach Pundit has been a great platform for me. A journey that began as an anonymous commenter on a somewhat raucous blog that was mostly a back room of Georgia politics turned into being the editor of a publication that is now a mainstream news source. I couldn’t have planned this journey if I had tried. Nor would I have wanted to. It’s been a good run.

Many times I’ve been asked what Peach Pundit is. I’ve always avoided being specific. Peach Pundit has always been what it is in the eye of the reader, the beholder. I can define why I’m here. Every other contributor or commenter has had to decide why they participate for themselves.

What it has become for me is a platform where motivated volunteers from across Georgia’s political spectrum – from an Occupy Atlanta organizer to a card carrying Freedom Caucus apologist – can discuss the issues that affect Georgians where we live in a civil and respectful tone.

I’ll admit I’m a bit proud of what we’ve become. I also remain keenly aware of why I chose the name Icarus.

I’m not leaving for greener pastures or a direct path to upward mobility. The days of what Peach Pundit was are gone, and nothing dynamic will ever stay the same. Blogging in 2016 is not the same as blogging in 2007. I do have future plans that I will not use this space or site to announce or promote. Instead I wish to thank Erick and Clayton for the opportunity, and to all of the members who have made Peach Pundit the community that it was and is for all of these years.

Peach Pundit began for me as a new beginning when I wasn’t expecting one. The next chapter is waiting to be written. I’m looking forward to it.

And I am grateful to most of you. Others, not so much.*

*Kidding**

**Mostly

And So It Begins. Again.

This week’s Courier Herald column:

With the dawn of the new year brings us another 40-day session of the Georgia General Assembly. Some of the process will follow a familiar routine. But there’s always a wrinkle or three to keep things fresh.

This will be the second time in recent history that qualifying for legislators will occur during session, with primaries for state and local offices to be held in May. In order for those who will stand for re-election to return to their districts and campaign (as well as be able to raise money – something prohibited when the legislature is in session), few are expecting the session to extend past the end of March.

As a bonus, Georgia will host a presidential preference primary about the time the legislature hits high gear. Presidential politics – and highly charged partisan rhetoric – will dominate the political news cycle this year. That doesn’t mean that this will be a “do nothing” legislative session. It just means that you may have to work harder to find out how legislation of substance is moving.

Education will take up a good bit of the legislative energy over the next three months. The Governor’s Commission on Education Reform has released eighty some-odd pages of recommendations to improve the return on investment state taxpayers make on K-12 students. The suggestions regarding funding reform have garnered the most headlines and perhaps signal one of the larger fights of the session. Read more

Remembering Linda Womack

A friend of mine posted the following video on Facebook, which is a tribute to longtime Capitol lobbyist Linda Womack. The video features several friends and co-workers as well as her sister talking about the person who Linda was, and in the process, demonstrate what a lobbyist should be. When done correctly the job of being a lobbyist is honorable and noble. Linda epitomized that, and will be missed.

Out With The Old

This week’s Courier Herald column:

The original opening of this column started by saying that 2015 is mercifully coming to an end. Given that many of those reading this in a newspaper this week are in areas that have flooded or are flooding, it appears instead that 2015 is not going quietly. Thoughts and prayers are extended to those affected by the weather.

As we prepare to turn the page and look toward the new year, we must also prepare to put last year behind us. The past is done. Today is what we have. It is only the future that is in our power to change.

With that in mind I’d like to revisit one of the major Georgia news stories of 2015. After 15 seasons Mark Richt is no longer on the sidelines for the University of Georgia. Gone also are his Offensive and Defensive Coordinators. Even the interim coach tapped for the bowl game, Bryan McClendon, will be headed out of Athens as soon as the team returns from Jacksonville. The changes are sweeping and thorough.

The reaction to the announcement was somewhat predictable. The calls from the fans for heads to roll were replaced by grumbles from an equally loud corner of the fan base that couldn’t understand how one of Georgia’s winningest head coaches was being let go.

Such often the case when a there is a high profile leadership change in any organization. Change is never easy. In the transition period, existing chasms and rifts are exposed and have the opportunity to grow deeper. Division has the opportunity to entrench itself with the opportunity to sew discord well into the future. Read more

The History of Festivus

Because someone neglected to include the important historical context of Festivus in his post (and thus he’ll never be admitted to the cool kids’ sock club), I offer the following at the request of regular commenter Dave Bearse:

Pop Your Bubble For Christmas

This week’s Courier Herald column:

As my regular readers know, I spend a lot of my time – perhaps even too much – on politics. Others who also professionally or personally do the same dominate my social media feeds. Too many of my personal interactions involve the topic and those involved in it.

Once upon a time there was a saying for those in Washington that became obsessed with politics and spent all of their time around those who also let their personal and professional lives revolve around it. They were said to be trapped in the “beltway bubble”.

The rise of the internet and social media have extended the bubbles which now have no geographic boundaries. We’ve been able to segregate ourselves into groups of people that think, act, and are like us. We are able to quickly find others who will reinforce what we believe, and cheer us along as we diminish those who attempt to offer a different perspective. No matter how serious or trivial the issue, we can quickly have our beliefs affirmed. Read more

WGST Peach Pundit Radio – Final 2015 Edition

Looking at the calendar, it appears this is the last Friday that is not a holiday remaining this year.  Thus, TGIF.

Today Stefan Turkheimer, Mike Hassinger, Jon Richards and myself will look back and look ahead at the Georgia and national political scene.

There’s news on a congressional spending plan, and it doesn’t include help for Alabama and Florida to steal Georgia’s water.  Which is nice.

Donald Trump doesn’t really want to kill journalists or Muslims.  We think.  We’ll take one last opportunity to set the Presidential race for the final pre-season polls.  When we come back in January, Iowa will be in full GOTV prep mode.

Jon Richards has been working on Brian Kemp’s plan to give away free stuff at tax payer expense.

I would say “viva la credit monitoring”, but Josh McKoon wants an amendment that would prohibit that.

And I’ll probably start with a word on the holidays themselves.  Because at my house, “war on Christmas” is usually fought with dinner table psy-ops.

Tune in at noon on 640AM WGST for some or all of the above, or listen live at this link right here.

GA Delegation Opposes Language In Omnibus Regarding Water Wars Dispute

A new front is opening in the ongoing dispute over the use of Georgia’s water in Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River basin. Senator Richard Shelby has inserted the following language in the omnibus spending bill that is working it’s way through Congress and is expected to pass before Christmas:

“Federal water usage violations.-DOJ is directed to report to the Committees on Appropriations, not later than 60 days after enactment, on notifications of violations of Federal water contracts involving multi-State river basins it has received since 2005. The report should explain how DOJ processed such notifications, provide details on any planned enforcement response, and describe plans to handle future notifications of violations.”

The Georgia delegation sees this language as an attempt by Alabama and Florida to escalate the issue via litigation at the federal level rather than to have the issue solved via interstate compact. A solution that is strongly suggested by the Southern Legislative Conference, which includes the legislators/legislatures of all affected states as members.

Congressman Doug Collins highlights the problems during questioning in the following YouTube video:

Collins notes that all 16 members of the Georgia Delegation (both parties, both chambers) are opposed to this language being included. It’s possible that if the language is not removed, the Georgia delegation could block vote against the omnibus spending bill.

Updated:  Governor Deal has issued the following statement:

“The omnibus spending bill currently being considered by Congress includes a multi-state basin provision that would be devastating to Georgia businesses and families. Gov. Deal asked for, and received, the strong support of our congressional delegation to blunt this harmful component of the legislation.

“Having served in congress, I know how difficult my request was and I am so proud of how tirelessly our delegation has worked to advance and protect the interests of Georgians,” Deal said.”

Meanwhile, Daniel Newhauser of National Journal says the show of Georgia’s solidarity appears to be working:

Trump Has New Allied SuperPAC With GA Ties

Georgia political consultant Seth Weathers left the employ of Donald Trump’s campaign after one month.  But he still has Trump – and the mass of disaffected voters following in his wake – on his mind.  From ozy.com:

But this 31-year-old Southerner with a classic bootstrap tale isn’t satisfied being just another Trump groupie. One month into the job, he quit, and he’s about to make news as early as this week by forming a new super PAC, Will Not Bend. Weathers, distancing himself from the Donald, says its focus will be to merely “bring out unconventional Republican voters” against Hillary. But really, whose supporters are less traditional than Trump’s? And the money from this committee could be the final touch to push Trump over the finish line. “This is going to be great for Trump,” a person close to the Trump campaign told OZY under condition of anonymity.

Super PACs are not allowed to give funds directly to a candidate — not since the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which ruled that super PACs can spend unlimited money on strategy, advocacy and all other elements of the giant machine required to power someone into office, except handing the dough directly to a Hillary or a Jeb. But it’s no secret which super PACs are putting millions of dollars into whom; indeed, nearly all of the presidential candidates today have one or more super PACs supporting them — except for Trump, who has bragged in just about every Republican presidential debate about funding his own way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. When OZY reached out, Trump press secretary Hope Hicks reiterated that the billionaire has denounced all existing super PACs “that were claiming to support” him. (The campaign declined to return messages seeking comment on Weathers.)

But Weathers has his own plans, ones that are not limited to landing Trump in the Oval Office. He’s going national — far from this dimly lit, leather-cushioned Alpharetta cigar bar, which he describes as “where you go if you’re a 30- or 40-something Republican and want to bite into a bloody steak.” This is an easy fiefdom to rule, comfortably conservative, friendly and local in a red state. Weathers wants more. Months away from a primary, almost a year to the general, he isn’t willing to admit what he’s dreaming of — a job in the administration? A career as a Washington strategist? “If I say it out loud,” he says, “it won’t come true.”

OK Trump voters. Tell us again that Trump is funding his own campaign and is going to stop business as usual politics in Washington.  Or that Trump is shutting down his allied SuperPACs.  Or, perhaps like the Constitution, principle is something you can suspend temporarily until we figure it all out.

The Return Of Snuggles?

I’ll just start by asking this question: Who are these people walking around saying “What we need to fix the problems in DeKalb County is another shot for Vernon Jones”? From WGCL TV 46:

While in office, Jones stirred up some controversy of his own. He was accused of excessive spending and was sued for racial discrimination. Still, the former CEO didn’t rule out the possibility of a return to politics and running for DeKalb County CEO.

“I think if Vernon wants to run again and he feels he has something to offer this county then he should do it,” DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton said.

Commissioner Nancy Jester opposes the idea and said Jones put a down payment on some of the problems the county is facing today.

“I don’t think that he’s the right fit,” Jester said. “The cityhood movement was also something that I think people often times will say came from frustration in dealing with his administration.”

I’ll now answer my first question.  I’m guessing it’s Vernon Jones.  Y’all tell me in the comments if there’s more to this than a coalition of 1.

Fox News And Chill?

OK, at the risk that things may have become to serious around here, (and actually because I spent the last 3 days on a run to the NC coast and back and haven’t caught up with what I’ve missed), I leave you the following. It’s 2.5 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back. OPEN THREAD:

Grand Old Party of Two by Aaron Chewning

"Fox News and chill?" Turn up your volume! Easily the catchiest video EVER using GOP pick up lines.3 of my clients are in this video. 2 you can see. 1 you can hear.Link to Aaron's YouTube video at the end.

Posted by Van Baird State Farm Agent on Monday, December 14, 2015

Beware Of Cafeteria Constitutionalism

This week’s Courier Herald column:

Last week is one that I will never get back.

I’m ready to admit it was a wasted effort.  Between online postings at PeachPundit.com and far too many phone, email, and in-person conversations – as well as a radio and TV news appearance – much of the week was dedicated to Donald Trump’s call for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the country.

Before he walked back his position to mean only immigrants and those seeking temporary visas, his spokesperson had clarified that Trump’s position – issued in writing and thus not a verbal gaffe – was for  “everyone” including American citizens living abroad.

At its crux, using religion as the determining factor is the problem of Trump’s original statement.  The U.S. of course has the right to alter immigration patterns as a matter of national security.  It’s quite debatable to determine how and what screening measures should be used.  It’s a bigger problem for the federal government to implement a religious test.  It’s blatantly unconstitutional to do so to American citizens.

Religious freedom, above all our constitutional protections, is one our country was founded upon. It includes the freedom of all religious people.  This means the freedom to not practice religion as well.  When the government sets the precedent that it can regulate our travel or anything else based on our religion, we’ve given up these rights for all.

I stand by this without equivocation.  What follows is no attempt at that, but instead should demonstrate this is part of a wider problem. Read more

WGST Peach Pundit Radio – 12-11-15

This week in Peach Pundit radio you’ll be treated to the insight (ok, rants) of Mike Hassinger, Stefan Turkheimer, and me.

What are we going to rant about?

Donald Trump sucked up much of this week’s political oxygen by suggesting that we should have a religious test for those allowed into our country.  As usual, once the firestorm was started he walked back his statement.  But it’s a pattern, and many of us this week have said enough. Trump doesn’t speak for me as a Republican. The primary will say whether he speaks for the party.

Not to be outdone for outlandish statements to get a headline, the President of the Georgia Federation of Teachers decided the best way to throw cold water on the flourishing charter school movement was to compare it to murder.  Hilarity did not ensue.

What else happened?  Well, Donald Trump successfully managed to keep anyone from talking about the President’s Oval Office address where he suggested that a secret list maintained by the government that isn’t subject to due process should determine who has guns.  Or that one Democratic candidate for President says guns should be confiscated via executive order.  Is this election really going to be a choice between which constitutional rights are invalidated in the name of safety?

Other topics up for grabs?  The Atlanta Metro Chamber laid out their priorities at their annual meeting/luncheon yesterday.  In: Transit:  Out: RFRA without a clear non-discrimination clause. Speaker Ralston is not amused with the Department of Revenue and their interpretation of Craft Brewery rules.  Dean’s BBQ in Jonesboro says they’ve reached the end of a long and tasty road.  The $1.1 Billion dollar GA 400/I-285 interchange redesign was apparently picked up by GDOT at a Black Friday sale.  Allen Peake says let’s grow medical marijuana here.  The Governor still says no.

That’s a potential preview. Actual show at noon on 640AM WGST may vary.  Tune in on your radio or listen live here.

Ralston To DOR: Fix Craft Brewery Tour Rules Or We Will

There are those that believe the “three tiered system” is really a “third rail” of Georgia politics. House Speaker David Ralston suggests they are wrong. And is not so subtle to the DOR in this suggestion. The AJC reports:

“I was disappointed in what the Department of Revenue did, because I think that thwarted the legislative intent of that legislation,” Ralston said. “And I would like to see them eliminate the need for legislative action, if they would go back and revisit that, because if they don’t, we may have to.”

Legislation adopted earlier this year gave craft brewers the ability to sell facility tours and give away their product afterward — a kind of backdoor way to actually sell their beer directly to customers, something brewers have long sought. After Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill into the law, the state Revenue Department enacted rules governing the tours. Those regulations allowed brewers to create different tour packages at different price levels.

But months later, on Sept. 25, the department issued a “bulletin” saying while brewers can offer different levels of tours, the price differences cannot be based on the value of the beer. Many breweries, however, had already begun doing just that, based on the original rules the department issued in late June and on their understanding of lawmakers’ intentions.

Let me help the DOR translate this if there’s any ambiguity: It’s a really nice agency you have there.  Would be a shame if something happened to it.

Hopefully we won’t have to write about this unpleasantness throughout the session, presuming the Department of Revenue does the right thing here.