Author: Edward Lindsey

My Choices at the Republican State Convention

I guess it is my turn on Peach Pundit to list my choices for Georgia Republican Party Leadership this Saturday.

Chairman: John Padgett

Last year Republicans swept every constitutional office in Georgia including the hotly contested Governor’s race. We also maintained our overwhelming majorities in the General Assembly, won the open U.S. Senate seat, and defeated incumbent Congressman John Barrow. This was in a year that Georgia Democrats believed they would be coming off of life support, poured millions of dollars into the state, and fought hard to turn our state purple. It did not happen and a great amount of the credit for our success goes to our State Party and John Padgett.

Some have argued for new leadership by wanting to change the job description for the State Chair to the “State Grand Inquisitor” with responsibility for rooting out elected officials who do not pass a particular purity test. Personally, I do not want my party leadership to turn into party bosses deciding who is a good elected Republican. I want Georgia voters to make that decision in primaries and general elections.

If you do not like how elected Republicans are acting, run for office or support someone who you do like. The purpose of the State Chair is to keep Reagan’s Big Tent up and help elect Republican candidates the voters have nominated. John Padgett has done it in 2014 and will keep Georgia red in 2016.

Treasurer: Mansell McCord

Mansell has been a real workhorse for our party. For those who do not know him, let me give you a little background. His education includes an undergraduate degree in accounting, a law degree, and a graduate law degree in taxation.

Within the party, he has served three terms as Georgia’s 5th Congressional District Republican Chairman, and is a long-time member of the GAGOP Permanent Rules Committee, a member of the State Party’s Election Law Team since its inception, and a member of the Georgia GOP State Committee for more than 10 years. He has also served as the Republican Leadership of Georgia’s Administrative Vice Chairman. Federal Election laws and regulations are extremely complex, and understanding those rules and ensuring the Party’s compliance is not an entry level position.

Mansell has the educational and political background and experience to fulfill that role. Regardless of who you are supporting as a delegate on Saturday, I hope to see you in Athens.

Goodbye Harry. We Are Sure Going To Miss You.

My wife Elizabeth and I will watch the Kentucky Derby in subdued silence today, and I expect a tear or two will be shed. It will not be the same without Harry. I know we will not be alone in this sentiment because an awful lot of us lost one of our best friends yesterday.

harry geisinger and pat3Harry Geisinger loved life and lived an extraordinarily rich one. He had his first job when he was seven selling magazines door to door. He was a successful businessman, a Navy veteran, an expert on energy issues, a pioneer of the modern Georgia Republican Party, a candidate for Governor in 1974, the Administrator of the Southeastern Power Administration in the Reagan Administration, an avid sailor and horse race fan, and a Georgia State Representative for two remarkable stints in the General Assembly (1969-74 & 2005-15). Most importantly, he was a devoted and loving husband, father, and grandfather to his family and great friend to the rest of us.

In the Georgia General Assembly, you could always count on Harry for a warm smile, a pat on your back, and sound advice.  In 2005, Republicans roared into the majority of the Georgia House eager to change the world in a day. Harry, who was returning after a thirty year hiatus, however, recognized that even God took six days and had to rest on Day Seven. He urged us to think long term and to work to make sure that we got our actions right. Harry won some big battles like helping to create the City of Sandy Springs.  He was also recognized as an environmental leader by the Georgia Conservation Voters and fought valiantly to bring horseracing to Georgia. (And yes, he loved Kentucky Derby Day.)

Through successes and setbacks, I never saw Harry lose his cool, lash out in anger, or say a mean word about anyone. He was simply a class act and the best among us.

To his wonderful wife Pat and his beloved children and grandchildren, you are in all of our thoughts and prayers, and May the Peace of the Lord be with you.

 

 

Why we will miss Eva Galambos — The “Iron Lady” of Sandy Springs

Jon Richards posted previously about the passing  of Sandy Springs’ first mayor Eva Galambos.  Some folks, however, are worthy of two stories on the Front Page of Peach Pundit and Madam Mayor was certainly one of them.

Others like my friend Mayor Rusty Paul have touted Eva Galambos as Sandy Springs’ “Founding Mother.” While accurate, I prefer the term “Iron Lady.” Mayor Galambos led an extraordinarily full life. Her family had to flee from the Nazis in the 1930’s and settled eventually in Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia and earned a PhD in Economics from Georgia State University. She and her wonderful husband John had three children and six grandchildren.

Beginning in the 1970’s, she and a group of other civic leaders began the struggle to create the City of Sandy Springs. Many called it a foolish effort and powerful political opponents declared that “Pigs Would Fly!” before they allowed it to happen. Mayor Galambos was undeterred and optimistically kept up the fight for 30 years as the leader of the Committee for Sandy Springs.

As a freshman legislator in 2005 representing in part southeastern Sandy Springs, I was proud to sign on as a co-sponsor of the legislation to create the new city along with our House leaders in the effort Wendell Willard, Joe Wilkinson, and Harry Geisinger. Through the legislative process, Mayor Galambos insured that every aspect of the bill met her detailed oriented mind’s high standards. As a result of her efforts, an astounding 94% of voters approved the new city in June, 2005.

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State Elections Director Resigns — A Cautionary Tale

Today, the Secretary of State’s office announced that our State Elections Director tendered her immediate resignation after being asked to do so by Secretary Brian Kemp. After speaking with some election officials and experts, I would like to outline the apparent facts behind this action. They provide a peek into the technical world of voter role maintenance and a cautionary tale for public officials.

Under Georgia law, the Secretary of State’s office regularly removes inactive voters from the voter registration list. Basically, voters are removed from the list if they have not voted at least one time in the previous four elections. A voter that is dropped from the rolls can always re register.

Federal law permits this action but requires that it take place ninety days or more before an election. The Secretary of State’s Election Division removed 312,712 inactive voters from the registration rolls on February 19, 2014, prior to the deadline. However, a limited number of counties were apparently late getting their data to the Election Division. The end result was that the Director of the Elections Division permitted an additional 7,690 inactive voters to be removed six days after the federal deadline.

Upon discovery of the late removal, Secretary Kemp ordered an internal investigation and discovered that the Director of the Election Division had authorized the late removal. While there is no evidence that anyone but inactive voters were removed from the voter rolls, the law is the law. Therefore, Secretary Kemp asked for the immediate resignation of the State Elections Director and replaced her with an interim Director, Ann Hicks.

Former Democratic Secretary of State Lewis Massey has lauded this action of Secretary Kemp stating that Kemp made a “tough call but the right one.” I agree. Deadlines are put in place in election laws to try and insure that if administrative mistakes happen, they can be corrected before an election so everyone can exercise their right to vote.

This mistake was a stupid one and should not have happened but the action by Secretary Kemp should provide a strong deterrent to any state official stepping outside their authority on a matter as important as voter rights.

RFRA: Religious Freedom, Civil Rights, the Republican Party & Georgia

This is clearly RFRA Day on Peach Pundit.  Jon and Charlie have given you their perspective.  Let me now give you my additional thoughts and offer specific language for the General Assembly to consider in the waning hours of this year’s session, and why it important for the Republican Party and  Georgia to wed together Religious Liberty and Civil Rights.

As Charlie noted, it is perhaps ironic that in the midst of Holy Week for my fellow Christians that the Georgia General Assembly is closing out the 2016 session with one of the hottest remaining topics being the possible passage of a Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”). Today’s hearing has been cancelled but the debate is likely to continue until Sine Die on Thursday.  Should Georgia pass this bill, and, if so, should it also include language recognizing civil rights legislation as a critical state and local government interest?

As we have previously discussed here and here on Peach Pundit, I believe the answer is yes and yes. The recent activities in two other states – Indiana and Texas – highlight the practical political importance of including anti-discrimination protection in a state RFRA.

As pointed out by Jon, Indiana passed its version of RFRA recently and Republican Governor Mike Pence signed the bill into law last week. The Indiana Legislature originally stubbornly refused to include anti-discrimination language in its bill. Governor Pence, however, in reaction to a growing firestorm of criticism this weekend has already called for a new bill “clarifying the intent of the law.”  This morning Indiana legislative leaders, including the Indiana Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tempore, pledged to do the same.

When Texas passed its version of RFRA in 1999, it included specific language clarifying that the law would not affect federal, state, and local civil rights laws. This year, however, initiatives in the Texas Legislature were proposed to have a state constitutional RFRA passed that excluded anti-discrimination language. The result? The sponsor of the measure in the Texas House earlier this month abandoned his attempt stating: “While well-intentioned and narrowly crafted, it is the opinion of respected business leaders throughout the state that [the proposed constitutional amendment] may result in harming Texas businesses. I cannot and I will not support legislation, however well-intentioned, that would result in harming the job creators who are so very valuable to the Texas economy.” While there is still a similar measure in the Texas Senate, its remains stalled in a committee and the chances of getting 2/3 approval of the Legislature this year is between nil and none.

If we are to construct language in the Georgia RFRA that enhances the protections of religious liberty and recognizes that civil rights legislation is a critical governmental necessity in a pluralistic secular society, what should it look like? Here is one proposal:

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Saving RFRA: Compromise is not a Four Letter Word

“Come now, let us reason together.” Isaiah 1:18.

The Georgia Religious Liberty Restoration Act (“RFRA”) now sits motionless in the General Assembly’s House Judiciary Committee. Neither dead nor alive. Tabled by its proponents after an amendment they considered a poison pill was added to the bill.

Opponents of the bill (SB 129) are ecstatic. Supporters are seething and contemplating revenge. The issue is clearly not over, and whether it is confronted again this year before the end of the 2015 session or next January when the General Assembly returns, one thing is certain – we will deal with  this issue again.

Now is the time for cooler heads. Now is the time for people of good will on both sides to call for reason and compromise. Protecting religious freedom – a cornerstone of our republic — is critical, but to fail to also defend the civil rights of our people in a pluralistic secular society is unacceptable.

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Religious Freedom in Georgia — “Come Now, Let Us Reason Together”

In reading the printed words in the proposed Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 129), it is difficult to see on its face how it should alarm anyone. It simply says that religious freedom – a freedom enshrined in the First Amendment to our U.S. Constitution and Article I, Paragraph IV of the Georgia Constitution – shall require the Georgia courts to insure that any infringement of religion by the government takes place only when there is “a compelling governmental interest,” and the government utilizes the “least restrictive means of achieving that compelling governmental interest.”

Similar language was passed in the early 1990’s by the U.S. Congress to protect us against over-reaching federal action, and 19 States – red and blue – have subsequently passed similar laws as well.

So what is the harm?  Well, let’s take a hard look below the surface because as a legislator for ten years, I came to understand the importance of recognizing what is the motivation behind a bill, and as a lawyer, I am always concerned with unintended consequences.

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Measles Outbreak in the U.S.: How Poor Leadership + Bad Science = A Confused Public

From Yesterday’s Marietta Daily Journal Opinion Page

This week, a young child with measles arrived in Georgia from Kyrgyzstan via the Atlanta International Airport.  According to press reports, it is the eleventh case of measles in Georgia since 2002.  One measles case in our state is hardly a crisis, but it should cause us to reflect on the issues of the easy spread of communicable diseases, national immunization requirements, and political leadership.

According to a report in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, “Measles is the greatest vaccine-preventable killer of children in the world today and the eighth leading cause of death among persons of all ages worldwide.”   The World Health Organization reports that there were 147,500 deaths from measles worldwide in 2013 — mostly children under 5 years of age.  This number would have been far higher without an aggressive push for vaccinations between 2000 and 2013.  It is estimated that the death toll would have been 15.6 million worldwide without immunization.

Despite these facts, the percentage of children being immunized in the United States has actually dropped over this same period of time to well below the optimum rate of 92 to 94% experts believe is necessary to eradicate the disease.  When immunization rates were this high, the United States had no outbreaks of measles in 2000.  In 2014, the U.S. had 644 reported cases of measles.  In January of this year alone, we had 102 cases.  How did this happen?  Simple:  Poor Leadership + Bad Science = A Confused Public.

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Help Wanted: Transportation Leaders – Mere Negative Critics Need Not Apply

Today’s AJC column on Transportation

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.” – Excerpt from President Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena”

The Georgia General Assembly’s Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding recently published its findings calling for an increase in annual transportation spending of $1 to $1.5 billion. In doing so, it recognized that a strong transportation infrastructure lies at the heart of our state’s future success and we ignore its present weaknesses at our peril.

In response, the Georgia House leadership has placed on the table its transportation plan and the long knives of opponents have quickly emerged.  An alphabet soup of organizations are already cranking out their calls to respective members to oppose the plan including GSBA (Georgia School Board Association), GMA (Georgia Municipal Association), ACCG (Association of County Commission of Georgia), and, of course, the usual assortment of naysayer organizations who can collectively be labeled by the acronym CAVE (Committees Against Virtually Everything).

These organizations so far have one thing in common: they denounce the House Leadership plan on the table but offer few, if any, viable alternatives despite the fact that our transportation woes endanger our safety, dampen our quality of life, and impede our economic development.  It is time for these organizations to understand:

  1. Since almost half our roads and bridges are rated in fair or poor condition, this means our school children are riding on unsafe roads;
  2. Our city residents’ are stuck in some of the worst commutes in the country;
  3. Our economy in every county suffers without a strong transportation network when businesses cannot get the goods, customers, and employees they need to grow and prosper; and
  4. While government should not try to do everything, there are a few things it must do well – like transportation – and that cost money.

The Georgia House Leadership plan does the following:

  • Phases out the practice of allowing the state and local governments from diverting sales taxes collected on gasoline to their general funds for spending on non transportation items. This practice has crippled our ability to meet our transportation needs. Approximately $180 million in state gasoline taxes and $500 million in local gasoline taxes are diverted into state and local general funds each year and not directed exclusively to transportation. It is time for gas taxes to be viewed as a user fee and devoted exclusively to transportation.
  • Abolishes sales taxes on gasoline and replaces it with an excise tax that under our constitution must be used exclusively for transportation purposes. This provides security against future elected officials jeopardizing our long term transportation needs by siphoning off money for their short term pet projects.
  • Devotes $100 million in bonds to mass transit which is the state government’s first major investment in this vital part of our transportation needs.
  • Provides local governments with the ability to directly raise money for local transportation needs.
  • Imposes a $200 user fee on alternative fuel vehicles ($300 for commercial vehicles) to insure that these vehicle owners also pay their fair share toward transportation.

This plan is not perfect – few proposals ever are – and constructive criticism and debate at this point is valid and necessary  in developing the right transportation plan for our state.  Therefore, it is time for GSBA, GMA, ACCG, CAVE, and others to  offer more than “just say no” criticisms and offer meaningful alternatives if they do not like the one presently offered.

In short, we need at this moment a lot more women and men leaders who dare to enter President Roosevelt’s arena and “actually strive to do the deeds” needed to protect our future, and few less mindless critics who are merely “cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Edward Lindsey is a former Georgia State Legislator and Republican House Majority Whip.  He recently served as a citizen member of the General Assembly’s Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding.

***Update***

While several County Commission Chairmen and members have come out in opposition to the House Leadership transportation proposal, ACCG has corrected previous information I received and presently has only a neutral position.  I spoke with a representative of ACCG and he vowed that ACCG would come to the table with viable alternatives to their objections.  I applaud ACCG for this pledge and look forward to hearing its alternatives.

The meaning of Martin Luther King Day

Tim Darnell posted earlier Martin Luther King Jr.’s moving last speech the night before he died.  Let me add what may be described as the first eulogy of the slain civil rights leader.

On the night of King’s assassination, Robert Kennedy stepped onto the back of a flatbed truck in the heart of an Indianapolis ghetto and informed the crowd of the death of Dr. King.  Kennedy then delivered a moving call for calm and for each of us to honor Dr. King by seeking the best in ourselves and our country.  Kennedy would himself be struck down by an assassin’s bullet two months later.

Regardless of one’s race, religion, party or ideology, Kennedy’s moving testimony that horrible night is a reminder to us all of why we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. today.

 

Happy New Year — A Message from a Dark Past to Guide Our Future

Happy New Year. I interupt our normal political discourse for a brief moment of reflection which we can all use occasionally.

Below is the poem titled “New Year 1945” written seventy years ago by the great Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and Christian martyr Deitrich Bonhoeffer. He wrote this poem while in a Nazi military prison awaiting trial for his anti-Hitler actions. It is a wonderful message of hope for the new year written by a man who knew that his personal chances of survival were very thin. In fact, he was executed in April, 1945, by the Nazis only weeks before the end of the war. Read, reflect, and greet the coming year with hope and good will in your heart.

New Year 1945

With every power for good to stay and guide me,
comforted and inspired beyond all fear,
I’ll live these days with you in thought beside me,
and pass, with you, into the coming year.

The old year still torments our hearts, unhastening:
the long days of our sorrow still endure.
Father, grant to the soul Thou hast been chastening
that Thou hast promised the healing and the cure.

Should it be ours to drain the cup of grieving
even to the dregs of pain, at Thy command,
we will not falter, thankfully receiving
all that is given by Thy loving hand.

But, should it be Thy will once more to release us
to life’s enjoyment and its good sunshine,
that we’ve learned from sorrow shall increase us
and all our life be dedicate as Thine.

Today, let candles shed their radiant greeting:
lo, on our darkness are they not Thy light,
leading us haply to our longed-for meeting?
Thou canst illumine e’en our darkest night.

When now the silence deepens for our harkening,
grant we may hear Thy children’s voices raise
from all the unseen world around us darkening
their universal paean, in Thy praise.

While all the powers of good aid and attend us,
boldly we’ll face the future, be it what may.
At even, and at morn, God will befriend us,
and oh, most surely on each new year’s day!

Time Magazine’s Person of the Year — The Ebola Fighters

“Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:40

Time Magazine made an excellent choice this year in selecting as its 2014 Person of the Year the Ebola Fighters. In dark and confusing times, it always uplifts the heart to witness brave people rush to the front line of a crisis and lend a helping hand to their fellow man.

As a local connection to the story, recall that it was Phoenix Air out of Cartersville that flew the first two medical workers who came down with Ebola out of Liberia for treatment at Emory Hospital. The story of their evacuation from Africa to Emory can be found here.

Time for Georgia and Metro Atlanta to Step Up on Transportation

Let’s get real about transportation. We are at a crossroads. Do we step up and face our current challenge or do we allow this vital infrastructure to decay and fall further behind our present and future needs?

Georgia ranks forty-ninth in the nation in per capita transportation spending. In the Southeast, we spend only just over half what North Carolina and Virginia spend on transportation and 43% of what Florida spends even though we have more state road lane miles to maintain. Metro Atlanta also lags behind similarly sized metro areas in terms of transportation investment.   For instance, the Dallas region spends 280% more, the Phoenix region spends 150% more, and the Denver region spends 300% more than our Atlanta region on transportation.

The result?   Forty-eight percent of our state maintained roads and bridges are rated in either poor or fair condition. Metro Atlanta has been ranked 91st out of 100 among major metro regions nationwide for access to transit. Atlantans have one of the worst commutes in the nation with the average driver wasting on average over $900 in fuel per year sitting in traffic. Prospective businesses rank our transportation woes and our inability to address it as one of their chief concerns about moving to metro Atlanta.

In response to these concerns, the Georgia General Assembly created this year the Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Funding Infrastructure for Georgia and I was appointed as one of the two “citizen” members. Over the past four months we have met in Atlanta, Columbus, Tifton, Macon, Augusta, Savannah, Blue Ridge, and Rome, Georgia. We have listened to civic leaders, transportation experts, business executives, and everyday citizens explain not only the transportation problems facing our state but also possible solutions. Our charge is to make recommendations to the General Assembly before it convenes in January, 2015.

As our committee considers our solution options over the next month, we are mindful of the following realities brought out in our hearings:

  1. At a minimum, Georgia must immediately find additional transportation funding of $1 billion per year just to properly maintain our present transportation system, and in the long run we must also find another $1 billion + per year to meet critically needed future improvements;
  2. Greater flexibility and coordination between the state and local regions in Georgia are needed to allow our regions to assess and fast forward particularly critically needed transportation projects in their area;
  3. Public Private Partnerships and toll lanes and roads are a viable option for future improvements in some areas;
  4. As motor vehicles become more fuel efficient and electric cars more common, the present primary dependency on motor fuel taxes to fund transportation must be re evaluated;
  5.  At the same time, the present policy of allowing the state and local governments to divert sales taxes collected on motor fuel for non transportation purposes must also be reassessed;
  6. Greater coordination among metro Atlanta transit providers is required to make transit a viable transportation alternative in our urban and suburban area; and
  7. The following factors need to be adopted in determining which transportation projects should be at the top of the list for implementation: congestion mitigation; economic development; accessibility; safety; and environmental quality.

Throughout history, all great societies must continuously meet their infrastructure challenges or watch their earlier successes slip into the history books.  Atlanta and the State of Georgia are not immune to this reality. We are rightly proud of our past success but we desperately need to step up and respond to our transportation infrastructure shortcomings in order to maintain our status as a destination point for economic growth and for people seeking a higher quality of life.

Stay tuned on the Committee’s recommendations.

Giving Thanks for Our Blessings

It is easy for many to look at our country’s current state of affairs with such despair that they approach the future with trepidation and foreboding. For them, only a rose colored memory of the past offers joy for America. Nonsense.

It is true that we face resurgent adversaries abroad, exposed racial divides, a frustratingly slow economic recovery, and bitter political polarization. But we have overcome far greater perils and divisions before and we will prevail in these difficult times as well.

In our search for a better nation, let us not forget to count our blessings.

A new generation of young men and women in uniform – volunteers all – tempered by the horrors of 9/11 stand watch today over our safety around the globe. In doing so, they join an unbroken line of Americans stretching from Lexington to Afghanistan who have stepped into harm’s way.

The American ideals of individual liberty and rights derived from God were born in revolution, survived a bloody civil war, won out in two world wars, proved more powerful than our adversaries in the Cold War, and still offer the world its best hope in the 21st century against those forces who would slide mankind back into the Dark Ages.

Our strength, however, is not merely measured by our force of arms. We are among the most charitable people on Earth both to our own people and to our fellow men and women around the world. Wherever and whenever there is human tragedy or suffering, America rushes in with aid as we have recently in Africa to combat the Ebola crisis.

The racial strife unleashed by the events in Ferguson, Missouri should not allow us to forget how far we have come in the past fifty years. Jim Crow, fire hoses, and Governors standing in the doorways of schools or holding pick handles in restaurants are confined to the history books. We have a long way to go before we reach Martin Luther King’s dream but we should not forget the journey we have made together so far.

Our higher education is the envy of the world. Of the twenty top universities, seventeen reside in the United States. Over 17 million Americans are seeking higher education today. Among them, 57% are women and over 30% are minorities. The world’s best and brightest from around the world still clamor to come to the United States to learn and be a part of our future. These universities, colleges, and technical schools and the people they educate will fuel our future industries, technologies, and innovations.

For all of its all too apparent weaknesses in the news today, we still maintain a stable republic and a durable Constitution that has served our needs for over 225 years.

There is much to be done and tomorrow we should resume our struggle to meet the challenges before us together with the confidence and boldness that defines us as a great people. For today, however, let us count our blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!