Pre-America’s Birthday MRs

July 1, 2015 9:00 am

by Ed · 4 comments

These MRs are from me. And they are mere minutes away from the greatest non-religious holiday (4th of July) in our calendar. Coincidence? No. (It works somehow).

“Razz” by Sounds from the Ground

  1. Could the 4th of July get any better? Yes, it is the Grand Depart of the greatest annual sporting event, the Tour de France. 
  2. With all the talk of Confederate monuments, you missed your chance to view what is easily the coolest one in existence. Unfortunately I am in that group. :( 
  3. Surprise, surprise! Creative Loafing’s Editorial Board doesn’t like the Confederate Battle Flag. 
  4. $800,000 upgrade for Moore’s Mill Road in the works–or is it? 
  5. AAA likes the new gas tax. 
  6. Cliff Oxford tells entrepreneurs to be civic-minded after selling their business. 
  7. Be sure to vote for Georgia State in this year’s ESPY Awards in the best upset category. (Did Southern get nominated? No? Didn’t think so.)
  8. GSU coach Ron Hunter now going to serve as coach for Team USA in basketball. (Was a UGA/Tech coach granted such an honor? No? Didn’t think so.)


GA. Rep. Barbara Sims (R-Augusta) has announced that she will not run for re-election for House District 123, though she will complete her current term ending January, 2017. She has been in office since January, 2007.

Sims is currently the Chairman of the State Properties Committee and Secretary of the Economic Development and Tourism Committee, while also serving on the on the Appropriations, Rules, Transportation, Health and Human Services and Science and Technology Committees.

Rep. Sims:

“Serving the citizens of Augusta/Richmond and Columbia counties has been an honor. I will continue to keep their best interests at heart as I conclude my time in the House. I am proud of what we have accomplished in continuing to make Georgia a better place for our children and grandchildren.”

Speaker David Ralston:

“Representative Barbara Sims has been an invaluable member of the House and our Republican majority caucus. She has shown the courage and the wisdom to do what is best for Georgia, and I thank her for her continued service to the citizens of her district and our entire state. Her character and integrity reflect the highest ideals of public service.”

In an email sent out a few minutes ago, Wright McLeod, former Republican candidate for U.S. Congress from GA-12, announced that he is running for the seat:

“Good Evening Friends,

I’m in! This morning Barbara Sims announced she is not running for the Georgia House of Representatives District 123 seat. The race begins now!

More to follow… Happy 4th!”


In a new front in the “Conflagration,” State Representative LaDawn Jones (D-62) has called for Georgians to avoid the state-owned Stone Mountain Park over the 4th of July weekend until the Confederate battle flag that flies near its entrance is removed. From her press release:

State Representative Jones believes that Georgians can show their demands by keeping their money away from the park during the Fourth of July Festivities at Stone Mountain Park including the Laser Show Spectacular. “Due to the large carving, Stone Mountain will always be a memorial to the Confederate soldiers and the Civil War. We can never change the fact that Stone Mountain was where the KKK was reformed in 1915 and grew from dormancy to millions of members. However, we can stop giving credence to this type of hate by removing the flags that fly at the bottom,” says Representative Jones.

The location is filled with a history of being closely related to the Ku Klux Klan and continues to fly several versions of the Confederate Flag at the entrance of the walking trail for the mountain. “I support an individual’s rights to self-identify with the history of the flag but I find it inappropriate that the State continue to allow this flag to fly over any building, park or property that is in anyway supported by the State.” Stone Mountain Memorial Association, which is a State of Georgia authority operates and is responsible for Stone Mountain Park which is operated by the Herschend Family Entertainment Group. Jones took a photo of the flags as she walked through the park and educated her nieces and nephews of the park’s history back in April. It was not until the recent events in Charleston that she saw growing support for an issue that has long caused her concern.

“Residents don’t need to hold mass picketing, we simply need to not participate at all in the celebration at the Mountain. It is that simple. Just don’t go. Our absence will be felt if all the black and brown faces along with those who do not tolerate hate of any kind stay away from Stone Mountain,” says Jones. There are a number of other firework shows throughout the metro area. Jones sent letters to the Hershend Family and the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. The Herschend Family quickly responded and directed Jones to the SMMA who has yet to respond to her inquiries. Jones says she avoided the park for years but by the urging of friends she exercised at the park but she was always bothered by the flags. “The Charleston shooting immediately reignited my distain for the Confederate Flag and all places that flies over. The Charleston murderer and others like him are empowered every time they go somewhere where the State endorses the hateful message that the flag displays. Conversely, hardworking, taxpaying citizens are consistently embarrassed by the lack of respect given when that flag that represents the likes of the KKK on State Property.” Jones often speaks to Georgia residents who are new to the south that do not know the history of Stone Mountain and are always shocked to learn the horrible history.

One wishes the Klan had been reformed, instead of re-formed, in 1915. Because it was not, one acknowledges Representative Jones’ distain.

Movements against the popular attraction, which boasts the largest bas-relief carving in the world (a depiction of Confederate Generals Lee and Jackson and President Davis), is not new. In 2013, a petition was launched to remove the sculpture from the mountain face. Before the 1996 Olympic Games, Rep. Tyrone Brooks pointed to the mountain as a symbol of the hollow promise of “The City Too Busy to Hate” and Georgia’s New South image.

Fear not. As commentators on this site have pointed out, it is inconceivable that the sculpture, a genuine and magnificent work of art, will be sandblasted away. Georgia elected officials are not the Taliban. But flying the Confederate battle flag on state grounds, even as an acknowledgement of history in a place haunted by it, looks to be an increasingly testy proposition.


Let’s just admit that most of us will be well into Holiday Mode on Friday.  Heck, “some” of us may be today.

So what to do about that?  Let’s have WGST Peach Pundit Radio Tuesday!

Jon Richards, Stefan Turkheimer, and me will join Sully noon to 1pm today for our weekly edition of Peach Pundit radio.  We’ve had a lot of news over the last week, with a bit of breaking news coming this week for us to cover.  Tune in to 640AM or follow this link here at noon and prepare for your Tuesday to just get better and better as we ease you toward your Independence Day celebration.



With the ink barely dry on the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, some Georgia legislators are contemplating possible measures dealing with the ramifications of same-sex marriage. In an extended look in Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution about how the decision affects the religious, legal, business and political spheres, State Senator Josh McKoon of Columbus is quoted as saying:

“There’s going to be a flurry of religious liberty measures that are a reaction to this decision,” said state Sen. Josh McKoon, a Columbus Republican who sponsored SB 129 and sides with opponents of gay marriage.

McKoon and others also expect legislation that would dramatically change how marriage licenses are issued in Georgia. One proposal making the rounds would enable a religious or secular leader to issue a marriage certificate that can then be recorded with a probate judge. In that way, no government official is actually issuing a license.

“That would free government officials of the responsibility of making that decision,” McKoon said. “And it gets the government totally out of the marriage business.”

McKoon is the author of Senate Bill 129, the religious liberty bill that stalled in the House Judiciary Committee over whether language to prohibit discrimination should be included. You can expect to see that bill brought up again in 2016.

Other possible legislation that could be considered is presented in a Facebook post by Senator William Ligon of Brunswick. While the main purpose of the post is to promote a screening of the movie One Generation Away, which stresses the importance of fighting for religious liberty, it also contains the Senator’s statement on the Supreme Court ruling. In part:

In the immediate future, however, state officials will need to determine how we protect the religious rights of government employees who in good conscience cannot perform a same-sex marriage ceremony. We will need to consider how to protect our business people, who have sincerely-held religious beliefs about marriage, from being targeted by same-sex marriage advocates trying to bully them into providing wedding services. We need to consider what type of message on the topic of marriage is packaged within the curriculum that is taught in our public school system. We need to find ways to protect college and university students from being kicked-out of their chosen field of study, such as counseling, because of their sincerely-held religious beliefs on marriage and sexuality. These are very real and immediate concerns that must be addressed during the next legislative session.

The next legislative session starts on January 16th, just more than six months away, although work on bills can continue during the summer and fall.


Last week’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that expanded the fundamental right of marriage to all same-sex couples was historic. For years, LGBT rights advocates worked tirelessly to end state discrimination and their labor bore fruit in an eloquent and readable opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Some vestiges of government-backed discrimination, however, remain and must be swiftly addressed.

It is time we strip discriminatory primary schools in Georgia of their tax-exempt status and state benefits.

First, let’s turn to the historical precedent for this move. The Internal Revenue Service in 1970 initiated a policy that tax-exempt statuses would no longer be conferred on private educational institutions that discriminated on the basis of race. At the time, Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, prohibited the admission of applicants that were in interracial relationships, banned students from marrying a person of another race, and punished those that advocated for interracial marriage. The IRS determined that Bob Jones’ policies ran counter to the underlying policy aims of tax-exempt law— to bolster charitable organizations that benefit of society. Subsequently, it stripped Bob Jones of its tax privileges.

Bob Jones challenged the IRS’ action and sued claiming the University’s religious freedom rights were violated. In 1982, the Supreme Court rejected Bob Jones’ claim noting, “racial discrimination in education is contrary to public policy.” This fundamental principle, of course, had been true of public schools since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. The Bob Jones decision further expanded this basic tenant of the American social contract to private higher education.

In Georgia today, hundreds of religious schools in Georgia ban openly LGBT students. These schools are operating segregated institutions that deprive young LGBT Georgians access to quality education. Discriminatory schools impose harmful stigmatization on these young people and demonstrate to their peers an unacceptable level of tolerance for anti-LGBT animus. As LGBT children are often vulnerable to adverse mental health issues stemming from exposure to bias, humiliation, and ridicule, these private schools inflict a tremendous amount of untold harm. Swift action on the part of the IRS to strip anti-LGBT schools of tax benefits is warranted.

Worse yet, well over 100 of these private schools recieve state government collected scholarship funds. In this sense, the government advances anti-LGBT religious schools’ discriminatory policies by doubly subsidizing them. In 2015 and in wake of Obergefell, this simply cannot stand. While it would be condemnable in any event that a school would ban a class of persons from its student body, the government must never fund it. Full stop. The Georgia General Assembly must pass legislation next session prohibiting the use of government sponsored scholarship funds to discriminatory institutions.


2016 begins tomorrow, at least as far as Georgia’s fiscal year goes, and that means a slew of new laws passed during the 2015 legislative session take effect as well. Some you’ll notice right away, and others, not so much. One of the ones that will affect Georgians immediately is House Bill 170, otherwise known as the Transportation Funding Act of 2015.

You’ll notice HB 170 in three major areas. First of all, the way the gas tax is calculated will no longer be sales tax based. Instead a 26 cent excise tax will be imposed, meaning that prices should rise by 7 cents a gallon, according to this story by 11 Alive. For a driver with a 20 gallon tank, that means a little less than a buck and a half additional per fill up will be contributed to help maintain the Peach State’s roads and bridges.

Think you can avoid the tax increase by purchasing an electric vehicle? Unless you purchase your Leaf today, you will no longer receive a $5,000 Georgia tax credit to offset the purchase price, much to the dismay of the environmentally correct. In addition, electric vehicles will be subject to a $200 annual registration fee, which is intended as a substitute for the gas tax not paid by the electric vehicle driver. And if you still feel like driving an electric car after all that, a separate law lets Tesla Motors sell and service their cars from additional locations, without being restricted in the number sold in the state.

The third way HB 170 can affect you is a new $5 per night fee on hotel rooms. And that tax is a big concern to hoteliers in middle Georgia, according to this story in the Macon Telegraph. [click to continue…]


In 1966, the National Organization for Women, the United States’ largest feminist organization, is founded. 1971 brought ratification of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, reducing the voting age to 18. And in 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in Bowers v. Hardwick that states can outlaw homosexual acts between consenting adults. On to the reads! [click to continue…]


Ben Harbin Resigning From House

June 29, 2015 20:41 pm

by Charlie · 4 comments

The summer of the Special Elections tour rolls on, now with a stop in Evans, Georgia.

Ben Harbin will be leaving the House to take a job with Southern Strategy Group.  The ever present and intrepid James Salzer of the AJC has details:

Harbin, R-Evans, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he is joining Southern Strategy Group, which currently has two lobbyists in Georgia and represents several health care clients, including the Medical Association of Georgia.

Under state law, Harbin can’t lobby in Georgia during the upcoming year’s legislative session. The General Assembly has a one-year waiting period, meaning legislators can’t resign and then immediately begin lobbying their ex-colleagues.

Harbin was elected in 1994 and served as House appropriations chairman after the GOP took over the chamber in the mid-2000s. Harbin was replaced by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, about a year after he took over the chamber’s leadership in 2010. But Harbin has continued to serve on several committees, including appropriations and the tax-writing Ways & Means panel.

According to Salzer’s article, Harbin’s resignation will be effective tomorrow.

Y’all feel free to speculate on who will likely head to center court for the jump ball to replace Rep Harbin.  Early word is that Doug Duncan – Columbia County Commissioner & Vice Chairman of the State Workforce Investment Board will take a hard look at the opening.

Meanwhile, best wishes to Rep Harbin as he approaches the next chapter of his endeavors.


Apparently, the Georgia Building Authority, which governs the grounds of the capitol, has decided that the governor’s discomfort with new technology is more important than the economy of this state.

Folks have been flying drones around the capitol and the Governor’s mansion, the AJC reported today. Capitol police lack the statutory authority to restrict drone usage on state property. So the building authority passed a resolution today banning the use of drones at the governor’s mansion.


And the capitol.

Well, OK.

And anything within five miles of the capitol heliport.

Wait. What?

Gentlemen. That’s more or less the entire city of Atlanta. It’s part of Decatur. It covers Piedmont Park and Centennial Olympic Park. It includes the entire urban campus of Georgia Tech, where an entire school of aerospace engineering students is counting on a job at firms that are almost certainly building drones. The area around Marietta — which is a fertile territory for aerospace startups — is already under a drone ban of sorts because of the airport.

I am enraged. Georgia has a local cluster of aerospace startup firms like Adaptive Flight and Aerotonomy, thanks to the Georgia Tech Research Institute and the influence of Delta Airlines and Lockheed Martin. UPS is flirting with drone development as part of its long-term vision. These are good jobs. And they will go to places with leaders who understand the ramifications of new aeronautic technology, like San Jose, Austin and Chicago.

I question the authority of … well, the Authority … to issue a sweeping rule like this at all, never mind doing so as an unelected body without meaningful public comment. After this rule, I say: enforce it, if you can. Go out to the park, or to Georgia Tech, and shut down amateur drone operators because there’s a helipad two miles away. Do it. I want to see you get sued for it, so that the limits of this rule making power can be properly tested in court.


On Tuesday June 23rd, Governor Deal expressed his long-standing position on the Sons of Confederate Veterans license plates. “I’m not going to ask them one way or another what to do,” said the governor regarding proposals that the General Assembly eliminate specialty plates featuring the Confederate battle flag.

Shortly thereafter, he called reporters back and noted that a redesign could proceed without any legislative approval. From the governor:

As I have said before, many interest groups in Georgia are able to express personal views on specialty plates, and I support the ability of these groups, including the Sons of Confederate Veterans, to express their views. I have tried to govern as a consensus builder, and I believe we can reach a resolution agreeable to all sides through a redesign of the plate.

Georgia has faced down this controversy before, has found solutions that brought people together instead of dividing them and has come through those debates a more united people. I know we can do that again. Georgia celebrates its diversity, its commitment to equality for all and its tolerance of all viewpoints.

By Friday, Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Lynne Riley ordered a re-design and a temporary suspension of the plates.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans plate, along with the Confederate battle flags that fly near the Alabama and South Carolina state capitols and the observance of Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia, has attracted controversy since white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine in Charleston’s historically-black AME Emmanuel Church. Eloquent voices have linked the celebration of our Confederate past and white supremacy (also this one.) The nature of history, the effects of continued remembrance, and the essence of American liberty have been thoughtfully and thoroughly debated.

But if anyone wants to know why Georgia will redesign its battle flag bumper tags, it’s probably this. Courtesy of Dalton:

[Warning: What follows is 4th-quarter-against-Auburn, Mama’s-washing-your-mouth-with-vinegar language]

(H/T The Blaze and Slate):


In an unanimous vote, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the Cobb County Superior Court’s ruling that the Cobb County Board of Commissioners could legally approve the issuance of $397 million in bonds for the new Braves stadium. The bonds would be issued by the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority.

T. Tucker Hobgood, Richard Pelegrino, and Larry Savage, all of Cobb County, had challenged that the bonds needed approval from voters through a referendum before they could be issued. Both the Cobb County Superior Court and the Georgia Supreme Court disagreed.

Justice David Nahmias in today’s opinion:

“We conclude that the intergovernmental contract is valid; that the issuance of the bonds will not violate the Georgia Constitution’s debt limitation clause, gratuities clause, or lending clause or Georgia’s revenue bond laws; and that the process used to validate the bonds was not deficient. We therefore affirm the trial court’s judgment validating the stadium project bonds.”

“We do not discount the concerns [Hobgood, Savage and Pellegrino] have raised about the wisdom of the stadium project and the commitments Cobb County has made to entice the Braves to move there. But those concerns lie predominately in the realm of public policy entrusted to the County’s elected officials for decision, not in the realm of constitutional or statutory law.”

“If the stadium deal does not fulfill the high expectations that have been set for it, there may be a significant political price to pay for those who negotiated and signed onto it. But under the law of Georgia as construed in the precedents of this Court, we cannot say that the trial court erred in validating the bonds or that the validation process was deficient.”


After a tumultuous week of discussions about removing statues in Georgia and elsewhere, Gov. Deal has announced the selection of Andy Davis (Henry County) as the sculptor of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. statue. Davis has been a full-time sculptor since 1999 and has produced works of Ray Charles, Truett Cathy, Patrick Henry, and several others.

The statue will be placed at the northeast quadrant of the Capitol overlooking Liberty Plaza. The AJC reports that the statue is expected to cost approximately $350,000 and should be completed in the next 6-7 months.

Rep. Calvin Smyre (Columbus), the Dean of the Georgia General Assembly, was chosen by Governor Deal earlier this year to both lead the effort and also to “act as liaison between the state, the King Estate, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Advisory Council, and the Georgia Arts Standards Commission.” This morning, Rep. Smyre presented the decision on the sculptor to the Georgia Building Authority board. [click to continue…]


This week’s Courier Herald column:

Last week the US Supreme Court upheld subsidies for those purchasing insurance through the federal healthcare exchange under the Affordable Care Act. Many have and will continue to expound upon the facts of the case and the circuitous route the Supreme Court has taken to continue to help Congress write and re-write a law based on facts established as an after the fact matter of convenience. These are now merely academic exercises.

The reality of the situation is that the Affordable Care act is now the effective law of the land. With the current Republican congress lacking sufficient leverage to make a lame duck President acquiesce to major changes, the status quo will likely remain for the remaining years of Obama’s term.

It is highly unlikely that any potential Republican president with a Republican Congress would repeal a healthcare law that most Americans now in some way rely upon to receive their health insurance without time to phase in some sort of replacement. As such, the earliest opponents of Obamacare could hope to see any major changes implemented would likely be January of 2018.

Before the ruling, congressional Republicans had nervously begun to ask themselves if they would be prepared to allow millions to lose their subsidies to pay for their insurance in order to gain the leverage needed to extract major concessions in health care policy from the President. They can now continue to maintain their aggressive posture while allowing the law to remain on the books. In the mean time, the problems will continue to be pushed down to the state level where options are few and real solutions are sparse. [click to continue…]


My Strange Journey

June 29, 2015 9:00 am

by Will Kremer · 4 comments

Special elections are strange. They produce strange strategies, strange talking points, and strange candidates. It’s a sprint rather than a marathon meaning there is no rest. Despite their strange nature, they have produced tremendous legislators whom otherwise might have lost in a regular election. For all intents and purposes, special elections are political wildcards.

One could say their strange nature lured me into running in the House District 24 special election. All four candidates were allotted approximately one month to convince voters where to place their trust. With turnout expected at 1 per cent of all registered voters, every minute counted. I had three days to pray, soul-search, and discuss the election with confidants and friends before I hit the ground running. To be honest, it was terrifying.

If I could turn back the clock, despite the uncertainties and difficulties, I would undoubtedly run again. [click to continue…]