Vote NO on Amendment 2 – Against the children, for the $tripper$

Georgians have four proposed Constitutional amendment questions on their November ballots this November. I’ve already belabored the point of voting NO on Amendment 3 regarding the dissolution of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, but there is another of equal importance: Amendment 2 for the Safe Harbor Act.

What it will do:

  • The Amendment will allow the state of Georgia to impose a $5,000 annual tax, a 1% of the gross revenue for the company – whichever is greater, on adult entertainment establishments.
  • The money collected will be directed to a NEW bureaucratic commission responsible for funding victim rehabilitation.
  • Georgia’s civil forfeiture practices will be expanded as law enforcement agencies will be able to seize additional assets of accused persons prior to a conviction.

A little background:
The legislation, and the enabling bill to place the measure on the ballot, was passed in 2015.  I wrote about the legislation extensively beginning from the day it dropped, I was working at the Capitol at the time. Continue reading

Sens. Kirk and Fort Wrap Up Religious Liberty Debate Tour in Tifton

Senators Greg Kirk and Vincent Fort wrapped up their series of debates over religious liberty Thursday night with an appearance in Tifton. While the various religious liberty bills from the 2016 session were brought up, the goal of the debates, according to Senator Kirk, was to offer each side of the debate an opportunity to express their point of view on where the line should be drawn between the right of someone to freely exercise their religious beliefs and the right of someone else to be free from discrimination.

The debate began with Senator Kirk explaining that his bill, the First Amendment Defense Act, was a response to the 2015 Obergefell decision by the Supreme Court sanctioning same-sex marriage. Its purpose was to allow those who maintain that marriage is between a man and a woman to express their belief without having to worry about government action against them. As written, Kirk said, the measure would not only protect a faith based adoption agency from being forced to complete an adoption for a same-sex couple, it would also protect a hypothetical same-sex adoption agency from being required to let heterosexual couples adopt from it.

Senator Fort pointed out that the 501-C3 corporations that the First Amendment Defense Act protects from government intervention are non profits who are subsidized by government by virtue of not having to pay taxes. As such, the government would be complicit in discrimination caused by a faith based organization’s refusal to serve a same-sex couple. The FADA, according to Fort, would have permitted a license to discriminate in Georgia. Continue reading

Isakson Honors Rep. Westmoreland in Floor Speech

Sen. Johnny Isakson honored Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R, GA-3) from the Senate Floor on Thursday. Isakson recognized Westmoreland’s many years of leadership in the U.S. House, while also noting some of his professional accomplishments prior to joining Congress. Sen. Isakson also took a few moments to share a little about Westmoreland’s family, including his 47 years of marriage to his wife Joan.

Westmoreland will retire from Congress in January after serving six consecutive terms. He is serving on the House Financial Services Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Select Committee on Benghazi, and the Steering Committee in his final term.

Drew Ferguson (R), who was endorsed by Westmoreland in the GOP primary runoff, faces Angela Pendley (D) in November to replace Rep. Westmoreland.

A transcript of Sen. Isakson’s remarks can be seen after the break.

Continue reading

Trump Leads Clinton by Six in Likely Voters Poll

Fifty percent of likely Georgia voters support Donald Trump while 44% support Hillary according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll of four swing states.

As you might imagine, there are “huge” gender and racial gaps between the two candidates.

Trump’s performance here in Georgia mirrors the broader national trends of the past few days with Trump improving against Clinton in multiple polls. A Monmouth University poll released on Monday had Trump leading Clinton 45-42 in Georgia.

Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll said:

“Leads for Donald Trump in Georgia and Iowa and a virtual tie in Colorado plus a 6-point lead for Clinton in Virginia represent a major improvement overall for him in these states…Another key to how the race has changed is the measure of each candidates’ ability to keep their respective bases in line. Throughout the campaign, Clinton has been able to get more Democrat support than Trump’s Republican support. That has now changed a bit and in Georgia and Iowa, Trump does better on that score. Worth noting is that Trump has an edge among independent voters, often the key swing constituency, in all four of these states.”

Georgia-specific analysis:

Hillary Clinton’s 4-percentage point edge among Georgia women likely voters can’t overcome Trump’s 21-point lead among men. Men go Republican 55 – 34 percent, as women go Democratic 45 – 41 percent.

The racial gap is huge among Georgia likely voters: White voters back Trump 72 – 16 percent, while non-white voters back Clinton 73 – 14 percent.

Trump gets 43 percent of independent voters, with 40 percent for Clinton and 14 percent for Johnson. Republicans back Trump 90 – 3 percent, as Democrats back Clinton 86 – 4 percent.

“Georgia is on Hillary Clinton’s mind as her razor-thin edge among women is eclipsed by Donald Trump’s huge lead with men,” Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll said.

Tom Graves Introduces Legislation to Reform Congress’s Budgeting Process

We’ve covered in some detail Senator David Perdue’s year-long effort to change the way Congress develops its annual budget, and appropriates funds for each fiscal year. One result of this effort was the introduction of the Accurate Accounting Act in the Senate earlier this year.

On Thursday, 14th District Rep. Tom Graves introduced a matching House version of the Accurate Accounting Act, calling for zero based budgeting, showing the true cost of the Social Security program, and increasing accountability by requiring the General Accountability Office to produce reports on the effectiveness of mandatory spending programs that are not subject to the regular appropriations process. In a statement, Rep. Graves said,

Washington’s budget process is broken. It’s only worked four times in the past 40 years. We can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different result, which is why I introduced this bill. It creates a new, more honest framework in which Washington’s budgeting process would take place. The reforms would help control costs and give Americans a clear view of the country’s financial picture, much of which is hidden by the current budgeting process. While the bill doesn’t fix every problem, it’s an important first step. My hope is that these changes spur far greater reforms that balance the budget and solve our national debt crisis.

This isn’t the first time Graves has introduced a zero based budgeting proposal. While serving as a state representative in the Georgia House, he championed the idea, introducing legislation in 2009 that eventually became law in 2012.

Meanwhile, as the start of a new fiscal year begins on Saturday with the likely passage of a continuing resolution, Senator Perdue is using the occasion to stress the need for his budgeting proposals. “Once again, we are witnessing a complete breakdown of the budget and appropriations process,” Perdue said in a statement. “Enough is enough, it is time for the greatest governing body ever conceived – the United States Senate – to start acting like it. Congress cannot continue to legislate from crisis to crisis. We cannot allow the budget and appropriations process to come to a grinding halt every year. We cannot allow gridlock to prevent funding the federal government on time. We certainly cannot afford a temporary fix that does not produce real results for the American people.”

Gov. Deal Appoints Review Commission: Mayor Indicted on Child Molestation

Governor Nathan Deal has issued an executive order appointing a review commission to investigate a recent indictment made against the City of Dawson Mayor Christopher Wright.

The 26 year-old mayor was indicted on 5 counts: aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, child molestation, rape, and statutory rape on June 7th, 2016.

The indictments followed an investigation that involved the prosecution and conviction of three other individuals: Milton Johnson of Terrell County, Takieya Johnson of Dawson, GA, and Erica Soilberry-Johnson of Columbus, GA. A victim implicated Wright while testifying during the trial.

A local news source, WALB Channel 10 reports that Wright was also cited for impersonating a police officer on July 16th.

Gov. Deal has appointed Attorney General Sam Olens, Mayor Annette Norman of the City of Baconton, and Mayor Bill McIntosh of the City of Moultrie to the review commission. According to the order, the commission will “determine whether or not the indictment relates to and adversely affects the administration of the office of the Mayor by Mr. Wright such that the rights of the public are adversely affected.”

The commission has 14 days to submit a written report and official recommendation for or against Mr. Wright’s suspension.

Morning Reads for Friday, September 23, 2016

State Board of Education Supports Fixing Failing Schools

To the question “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?” Georgia’s State Board of Education unanimously says “yes.” Apparently they understand that if it’s broke, you’re supposed to fix it. From the release: 

“The State Board of Education is focused on one thing, and that’s the education of Georgia’s children,” said SBOE Chairman Mike Royal. “The creation of the Opportunity School District will allow the state to rescue children from these chronically failing schools. The status quo clearly isn’t working. It’s time for a change in our education system.”

Keep in mind that there are about 68,000 Georgia students that are trapped in schools that have failed to meet Georgia standards for at least three years. We’ve heard much from local school boards and teacher organizations who think their brand of control is more important than providing those children a quality education. This question will probably be the most debated topic on the ballot this year, unless those opposing the OSD refuse to offer any alternatives to it, and merely continue to whine about local control.

Find out more about the Opportunity School District here. Email any questions you have to [email protected], or put your suggestions in the comments if you prefer. The complete announcement is below the fold.  Continue reading

McIntosh County Board of Education in complete distress

Down here in rural Georgia, I spend my days cracking open local governments in an effort to shed light on what’s going on behind closed doors. Most days, people come to me with tips, and today someone came to me with an email chain that could quite possibly change the course of some pending litigation down in McIntosh County.

The McIntosh County Board of Education is amidst a firestorm relating to the removal of Barry Lollis as McIntosh County Academy principal, allegations of hazing by football players in the presence of school employees, and alleged misuse of funds in the Athletic Booster Club account, but Thursday brought to light that not all McIntosh County players are in line with the Board.

Provided to me as part of my real job Thursday morning was an email sent by Board of Education attorney Richy Braun to Superintendent Dr. John Barge and McIntosh County School Board members with regard to the lateral move of Barry Lollis. The decision stemmed from an initial email sent by School Superintendent Dr. John Barge.

Lollis was unexpectedly demoted to an alternative school two weeks ago after serving as the principal of the high school in McIntosh County for just four weeks. Lollis has a history of reforming high schools around the state, including those in Putnam, Chatham, and Oconee counties. Continue reading