Allen Peake Releases Details of Proposed Medical Marijuana Legislation

State Rep. Allen Peake of Macon will file legislation that both expands the list of conditions under which patients can obtain medical marijuana and permits for the first time the cultivation of the plant for medical purposes in the state of Georgia. Details of the legislator’s plans were first reported by Atlanta’s 11 Alive. From their story:

In the new legislation, Peake aims to add Alzheimer’s, Epidermolysis Bullosa, Aids, Tourette’s syndrome, and intractable pain. Intractable pain will be the most controversial because it will allow the greatest number of patients to have access to cannabis.Currently, there are 465 patients on the medical marijuana registry in Georgia.

As part of the legislation, Peake is also pushing for a limited number of licensed growers to provide the state’s patients with medical cannabis. Peake foresees anywhere from two to six licenses being issued depending on a number of qualifying factors.

Following the passage of H.B. 1 during the 2015 session, Peake led a study committee over the summer that looked into expanding medical marijuana usage in the Peach State. That committee ended up making no recommendations. Governor Deal has indicated he is not in favor of in-state cultivation of medical marijuana.

On Tuesday, Peake released a video in support of his proposed legislation.

Bill Would Prohibit Legislative Conference Committee Members from State Employment for Two Years

You might call it the “No More Jay Roberts Promotions” bill.

Roberts was chairman of the House Transportation Committee during the 2015 session, and managed to shepherd House Bill 170 through both House and Senate, and fulfilling a goal expressed by Governor Deal, Lt. Governor Cagle, and Speaker Ralston during the early days of the session. A month after the end of the session, Roberts was nominated by Governor Deal to run GDOT’s planning department, replacing Toby Carr.

Under Senate Bill 256, prefiled on Monday by Senator Josh McKoon of Columbus, an offer like Roberts had would be prohibited for two years after a legislator serves on a conference committee. From the bill’s text:

No member of the General Assembly who serves on a conference committee shall be eligible for employment in state government, other than as an elected official, for a period of 24 months immediately following such member’s service on such conference committee.

Roberts, of course, served on the conference committee that produced the final version of the bill that was voted on during the penultimate day of the 2015 session.

Athens-Clarke County Commission Will Consider an Anti-Discrimination Resolution at Tonight’s Meeting

The Athens-Clarke County Board of Commissioners will consider a resolution designed to combat discrimination in the county’s bars at its meeting tonight. The resolution, which is expected to pass, comes after reports of discrimination against racial and sexual minorities in bars serving the University of Georgia population, as a story in the Athens Banner Herald explains:

The action by commissioners Mike Hamby, Kelly Girtz and Andy Herod, who enjoy wide support among their colleagues, comes on the heels of a couple developments late last year on the downtown bar scene. In October, a bartender “cheat sheet” including instructions for making a racially insensitive drink — a “N*****ita” containing tequila and watermelon juice — was discovered in General Beauregard’s, an East Clayton Street bar. Shortly after that, the results of an anonymous online survey conducted through the University of Georgia’s Student Government Association, comprising anecdotal evidence of discriminatory admissions practices at downtown bars, were shared with Commissioner Allison Wright, whose district comprises most of the UGA campus.

The dozens of incidents detailed in the survey, some dating back two years, described some bars’ use of “dress code” and “private event” exclusions to keep ethnic minorities and homosexuals out of their establishments.

The resolution itself “condemns unlawful discrimination in any form and hereby call upon all businesses serving the public within the boundaries of Athens-Clarke County to act in a non-discriminatory fashion with regard to race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, citizenship, age, disability, or pregnancy.” The resolution expresses the support of the county mayor and commission of any investigations into incidents of alleged discrimination that violate federal, state or local non-discrimination laws.

The resolution also directs the Clarke County attorney and county administrator to make recommendations for possible changes to local ordinances that would support the commission’s non-discriminatory values. The resolution specifically contemplates changes to the county’s alcohol licensing laws so that an alcoholic beverage licensee could have its license suspended or revoked if the licensee was found to be in violation of discrimination laws at the federal, state, or local level.

Morning Reads for Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Good morning! School is back in session, so now the break is really over. Or it’s just beginning, depending on who you ask.

Reads!

  • Earlier this month, the Washington Post political team sat down with Donald Trump and Ben Carson at each candidate’s DC-area home:
    • Trump: Interviewers described it as, “A nearly 90-minute one-man channel surf that landed on, among other topics, golf, the polls, whether he planned to drop out of the presidential race, what he’s afraid of, whether he’s a nice person, the media, the media and the media.”
    • Carson: The candidate offers proof that he’s not weak by saying, “A weak person doesn’t have all of these honorary degrees. Most people of accomplishment have one, maybe two or three honorary degrees at most. It’s the highest award that a university gives out. I have 67. That’s probably not indicative of a weak person who doesn’t get things done.”
  • The New York Times overviews President Obama’s anticipated moves on gun control.
  • WABE prognosticates how Atlanta’s neighborhoods will continue to evolve in 2016.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports how more Americans are looking to faith-based organizations for their health insurance coverage.
  • Georgia lawmakers vote now, read later. It’s tradition!
  • In the AJC, Maureen Downey (from her new location on the front page of the Metro section) kindles the conversation on merit pay for teachers.
  • Also from the AJC, hateful talk is protected by the first amendment. But hate talk accompanied by criminal activity is a whole other story.
  • The City of Atlanta quietly made a $9 million Beltline payment to Atlanta Public Schools.
  • From CityLab, one congressman wants to preserve our right to pee – freely.
  • WSAV covers the pending legislative conversation about whether firefighters in Georgia should carry guns.
  • The world didn’t know it needed a George Costanza-themed bar. Thank you, Australia!
  • NYC CFA remains DOA.

And below the fold, if you’re willing to wait for it –

Read more

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

Ronnie Mabra will not seek reelection

Ronnie Mabra announced today that he will not seek reelection. His reasons are below. He will be missed in the legislature for good humor, thoughtful advocacy, and sartorial splendor.

After much discussion and praying with my family, I announce that I will not seek re-election as State Representative for House District 63.  As many of you know my son, Ronald E. Mabra III (Remiii) was born in September.  Dawn and I appreciate all of the phone calls, emails, and other congratulatory messages as we welcomed our first child into this world.  Remiii’s birth has changed our lives in so many wonderful ways and as a family we are doing some restructuring.  Dawn has decided to return to school.  She has always dreamed of becoming a physician and I am very proud that she has enrolled in a Masters Program at Morehouse School of Medicine.  I am very fortunate to have a loving wife that has supported me while I was building a law practice, while I ran for public office, and as I have served the people of District 63.  It is now time I be by her side as she pursues her dreams.  This means taking an extremely active role in raising our son while she continues her education. 

Read more

Sen. McKoon Files Bills Affecting Transportation Funding Act Revenue

State Senator Josh McKoon of Columbus has prefiled several bills that if passed, would roll back some of the taxes that came with the passage of House Bill 170, last year’s major transportation funding bill. The measures have to do with the hotel tax and the excise tax on fuel that is paid by governmental entities.

The House – Senate conference committee that reconciled the two versions of the bill decided to add a $5 per room per night fee on most hotel stays that was estimated to raise $150 million annually. Those in the lodging industry were not happy. Senate Bill 252 repeals the fee completely, without another revenue source specified to make up the shortfall.

Senate Bill 253 exempts counties, municipalities, and school districts from having to pay the excise tax on vehicles they operate, including school buses. Senate Bill 251 serves the same purpose, but does not include counties and municipalities. The two measures address a concern by local governments that they are now being charged the excise tax on fuel purchases from which they were previously exempt.

Legislative leadership previously indicated a desire to mot make changes to the Transportation Funding Act until after it had been in effect for a full year, meaning changes to the funding formula would not be considered for the 2016 session.

The First Morning Reads of 2016

It’s the first Monday of 2016. For most of us, that means it’s time to go back to work, so, buckle up and welcome to the new year. And don’t forget, the 2016 legislative session starts a week from today.

The GOP presidential race in 2015 was divided into two parts: Before Trump and After Trump. Here’s how it went down, through the eyes of the candidates.

If you think America has never had a politician like Donald Trump, think again. He’s one of a long line of populists going back to William Jennings Bryan.

Is it any wonder, then, that white Republicans are the angriest Americans?

And speaking of angry, these white guys are angry enough to put #OregonUnderAttack.

Twice, Latinos were promised a path to citizenship if they voted for Democrats. It hasn’t happened. Will the third time be the charm?

Meanwhile, a new push by the Obama administration to deport Central American immigrants in the country illegally targets at least 11 families, including one living in Norcross.

If you think Speaker Paul Ryan is a RINO Muslim because the Omnibus passed, you should read this.

Supreme Court Justice Scalia: Government can support religion over nonreligion.

New Orleans has a streetcar named Desire. In Atlanta, some call ours a streetcar named Undesirable.

A Delta pilot feels the Christmas spirit, and returns to the gate to pick up a family trying to get to their father’s funeral.

The Southeastern Conference sets a new record with 8 bowl game wins.

Another Big Data Breach Releases Personally Identifiable Voter Information

A little over a month after it became known that the social security numbers, drivers license numbers and dates of birth of more than six million Georgia registered voters were sent to news organizations and political parties in what is known as the Peach Breach, a much bigger database of voter information was discovered in the wild. Databreaches.net reported that a database with 191 million records containing voter information was available publicly on the internet. After this report, public access to the database was removed.

While the information in the database didn’t include social security or drivers license numbers like the Peach Breach did, it did include dates of birth, phone numbers, email addresses and possibly more. Is this significant? Or as was pointed out in a tweet, is it no more than someone accidentally leaking Facebook?

A story in this morning’s New York Times tries to answer that question. In addition to talking about how voter information is aggregated and used by political campaigns, it talks about how the information can be used for less noble purposes:

Big data advocates argue that what is in most voter files is nothing more than the White Pages of a phone book augmented with party affiliation and voting history (not which candidate people voted for, but whether they voted.) But for privacy experts, that alone, especially when compiled in one place, is cause for concern.

“Simply by digitizing the data, collecting it in one place, making it freely available in one place — it’s a Christmas gift for thieves,” said Neal O’Farrell, the executive director of the Identity Theft Council. “I interviewed an identity thief, and he said credit card numbers are for chumps. It’s much easier to get caught. The cybercriminals really want to know who you are. And voter information and any kind of information that fills in all the blanks makes it easier for phishing, for social engineering, and for extortion.”

There is no doubt that this type of data has become essential to modern political campaigns. Democrats and some others use NGP/Van to aggregate voter data and enable voter contact. NationBuilder is a popular tool used by a wide variety of candidates and organizations to build support. And don’t forget that the voter data exposed in the Peach Breach except for personally identifiable information is required by Georgia law to be made available to those willing to pay a fee.

Many people, myself included, are willing to provide personal information to social media sites like Facebook in order to be able to enjoy social media. Plenty of people use a Kroger Plus Card or other shopper card to get discounts at retail while providing a wealth of personally identifiable information about what we purchase and use on a daily basis. And while the benefits can be great, there are also risks, as not only the unauthorized release of voter information but the legally required distribution of voter records shows.

Closing Out 2015, Trump Support Remains Strong

If you had asked the Peach Pundit editors at the beginning of the year who would be leading the Republican presidential candidate race in Georgia as its residents prepare to sing Auld Lang Syne to close out 2015, none of us would have guessed Donald Trump. After all, an Insider Advantage poll taken in early February had Jeb Bush in the lead with 22% of the vote, followed by Scott Walker at 17%, and Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee sharing 16% each. The Donald was way back at 2%.

How things have changed. Walker, of course, dropped out of the race. A mid-December poll by WSB TV has Bush at 4.8%, Carson at 6.7% and Huckabee barely registering at 1.9%. The leader, of course, is Donald Trump with 43% of the vote.

One potential reason why Trump is a popular candidate in the Peach State is put forth this morning by Nate Cohn, writing in an Upshot column for the New York Times. In it, Cohn says Trump’s biggest support comes from areas where Democrats vote Republican, and in a state like Georgia, where over the past 20 years, many Democrats–including some current Republican state legislators and even Georgia’s governor–have moved to the Republican Party.

Quoting Cohn’s story:

But during the Obama era, many of these voters have abandoned the Democrats. Many Democrats may now even identify as Republicans, or as independents who lean Republican, when asked by pollsters — a choice that means they’re included in a national Republican primary survey, whether they remain registered as Democrats or not.

Mr. Trump appears to hold his greatest strength among people like these — registered Democrats who identify as Republican leaners — with 43 percent of their support, according to the Civis data. Similarly, many of Mr. Trump’s best states are those with a long tradition of Democrats who vote Republican in presidential elections, like West Virginia.

Cohn is using data from a large nationwide survey to back up his conjecture. It’s not quite a poll. It eliminates people who are undecided about who they would vote for, and targets likely Republican voters in November. But, he does provide a breakdown of estimated Trump support by congressional district. Based on that analysis, Trump’s biggest base of support in the Peach Stare is in congressional districts 3, 9, and 11, represented by Lynn Westmoreland, Doug Collins, and Barry Loudermilk, with 39% support. Next is the Buddy Carter’s 1st district with 38%, Rob Woodall’s 7th District with 37%, Tom Price’s 6th District with 36%, Austin Scott’s 8th District with 35%, and Sanford Bishop’s 2nd District with 34%.

The 5th District, held by John Lewis and the 13th District, held by David Scott each have 33% of the estimated Trump vote. Rick Allen’s 12th District and Tom Graves’s 14th District have 32%, and the districts with the least Trump support at 30% belong to Hank Johnson’s 4th District and Jody Hice’s 10th District.

In the heat of the summer, there were predictions that Trump’s popularity would fade going into the new year. With the Iowa caucuses a month away and the SEC primary 61 days from today, Trump remains as strong as ever.

Morning Reads – Thursday, December 31, 2015

On this date in 1955, General Motors became the first U.S. corporation to earn more than one billion dollars in a single year.

Peaches

Jimmy Carter

Sweet Tea

Liberty Drum 

Olens: Governor Deal Cannot Block Syrian Refugee Resettlement

Following the November terrorist attack in Paris, Governor Deal issued an executive order that was intended to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia. In an interview with reporters earlier this month, Deal indicated he might file a lawsuit against the feds to prevent Syrian resettlement, and would order a defense by the state against any federal lawsuit arising from the state’s unwillingness to aid in the resettlement process.

However, Governor Deal also asked Attorney General Sam Olens to issue an opinion on whether Syrian refugee resettlement could be blocked. That opinion was issued today. In it, Olens said that blocking refugees from a specific country was not permissible under the law:

Essentially, and to the extent it is read most broadly, the scope of the executive order is limited by two things: (1) federal law and the Supremacy Clause and (2) the terms of its voluntary agreement with the federal government to participate in, and accept federal funding relating to, the Refugee Resettlement Program. I am unaware of any law or agreement that would permit a state to carve out refugees from particular countries from participation in the refugee resettlement program, no matter how well-intended or justified the desire to carve out such refugees might be. Accordingly, it is my official opinion that both federal law and the State’s agreement to act as the state refugee resettlement coordinator prevent the State from denying federally-funded benefits to Syrian refugees lawfully admitted into the United States.

In his opinion, Olens indicated he shared the governor’s concerns, and hoped that the federal government would do its best to scrutinize incoming refugees.

[T]he executive order responds to serious concerns about recent terrorist attacks linked to the ongoing conflict in Syria, concerns that legitimately extend to the current federal process for reviewing and accepting refugees from Syria into the United States and, more specifically, into the State of Georgia. I share those concerns and similarly hope that the federal government will take all necessary and appropriate steps to assure that all refugees, regardless of country of origin, be carefully scrutinized to ensure the safety of our citizens.

The governor’s office is reviewing Olens’s opinion.

How Conservative Does A Latino Need To Be?

DeKalb State Court Judge Dax Lopez’s nomination to the federal bench is being held up, according to Daniel Malloy in the AJC, because US Senator David Perdue, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, believes that the opinions of convicted felon DA King and professional huckster Phil Kent carry more weight than those of genuine, long-time conservatives. Lopez, by all accounts a sharp attorney with a fine legal mind, once sat on the Board of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, an organization that doesn’t support rounding up all illegal immigrants and sending them home.

While GALEO has opposed immigration restrictions and advocated for a path to citizenship, Lopez “abstained from GALEO’s policy votes and fundraising,” and resigned entirely once he was nominated to the federal bench.

From Malloy: “The judge is a Republican and a member of the conservative Federalist Society. He volunteered for Bob Barr’s successful run for Congress as a Republican in 1994. Lopez was first appointed to the Georgia bench by David Perdue’s cousin. (That would be Governor Sonny Perdue, a Republican.) And the counsel for Perdue’s Senate campaign, Josh Belinfante, served on the panel convened by the senators to vet potential nominees that sent Lopez’s name to the White House.”

That sounds like exactly the kind of conservative an organization like GALEO needs to be effective or credible. They should recruit a dozen more like Judge Lopez to their board. But GALEO isn’t Lopez. And Lopez ain’t GALEO.

Dax Lopez was born in Puerto Rico, grew up in Cobb County and graduated fourth in his class at McEachern High school in Powder Springs. He graduated from Vanderbilt and Vanderbilt Law School, where he served as president of the Vanderbilt Bar Association and as an editor on a legal journal. He clerked for a federal judge appointed by Ronald Reagan. Read more

Morning Reads Recapping a Year of Greatness

So completes yet another year of my Morning Reads–each one elevated every reader to a new level of greatness by coming into contact with me. You’re welcome.

“Thirteen” by Big Star. The older I get the more I appreciate #1 Record. Even though so much is about being an adolescent, you realize how frivolous and serious it was to be young.

  1. For too long the Lust List has been inaccurate. Namely that I haven’t been included. Be on the right side of history and change that.
  2. Be careful with how you recycle in Atlanta.
  3. No, Joe Gebbia, monorails are not a good vision. 
  4. Poor People in the Deep South are On their Own. 
  5. “In Georgia, the state with the sharpest decline, only seven percent of poor families with children in the state receive welfare, compared with 98 percent in 1994.”
  6. South Carolina realizing the high price tag of doing the right thing by deemphasizing the Confederacy. What could this mean for Georgia as we crawl into the 21st century?
  7. How states, including Georgia, with growing numbers of Hispanics are doing all they can to prevent the new majority from taking over. 
  8. Southern Comfort won’t die! 
  9. Seriously, if Atlanta can’t support a place like SoCo, we’re no longer a Southern town.
  10. Charis bookstore, a favorite haunt of PP regulars, selling its L5P home. 
  11. The world’s largest sale of humans took place in Savannah–but you’d never know it. 
  12. In light of our recent wacky weather, get detailed info from 100 weather monitoring stations throughout our great state here.