The Two Georgias Are Now Five Georgias

This week’s Courier Herald column:

This is the second in a series. The introductory column can be found here.

During the 1980’s, the Director of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension Service Tal DuVall published a study on “Two Georgias”, highlighting the growing disparity between a prosperous and growing metro Atlanta, and a mostly rural “other Georgia”. It was not well received by then Governor Joe Frank Harris. Enough so that Mr. DuVall wasn’t around long enough to publicize his ideas. That credit is generally given to Doug Bachtel.

It’s never been politically popular to acknowledge that there is more than one Georgia. Whether standing in downtown Atlanta on Peachtree Street, a farm outside of Dublin Georgia, a beach on Tybee Island, or tying up to a dock in Blue Ridge, we’re all presumed to be politically equal. From the perspective of those that govern us, we are all equal in the eyes of the state.

Economically and politically, the various regions of Georgia can only be considered equal when viewed through the distortion of a political lens. The economic disparity can be proven through statistical data of income and sales tax receipts, and through the distribution of Medicaid and SNAP dollars. The political disparities often change with the topic, depending on how the legislators within each region choose to caucus on an issue.

Georgia politics is not the same as it was thirty years ago when we debated and pretended to ignore that there were two Georgias. We’re now a state of ten million people and growing. We’re the eighth largest state in the country, and in less than a generation we’ll likely be the fifth. The political party in power in statewide offices and with near super-majorities in the legislature is different.

We’re no longer a state of two Georgias. In political and economic reality, there are at least five Georgias. Continue reading “The Two Georgias Are Now Five Georgias”

Yarbrough: Adoption Law Update Fiasco a Rancid Sausage; Cagle and Shafer Implicated in Disgusting Creation

Dick Yarbrough is the latest to weigh in on the debacle that killed Rep. Bert Reeves’ adoption law update on the last day of the 2017 session of the Georgia General Assembly. His words aren’t kind, nor should they be. I’ve seen us lose more good and necessary legislation (locally and federally) to purposefully-toxic amendments than I want to count, and here is yet another.

We’re all familiar with Senator William Ligon’s role in this process. In fact he rightfully bears the brunt of the blame for the sad end to the legislative session in which the update on Georgia’s adoption laws was sent back to committee for “further study” because a small group couldn’t have their RFRA amendment attached to it. Never mind that Governor Deal had already demanded a clean bill and seemed ready to veto any bill with the amendment attached.

But as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s political team points out this morning, Yarbrough spreads the blame and includes details of that final night in the session that look mighty unflattering for one man seeking higher office in 2018 and another who is probably going to also run for a higher office. Here are the key sentences:

But as time dwindled down to the wee moments before adjournment, Senate President Pro Tempore David Shafer, who is making noises about running for lieutenant governor, threatened to have Rep. Reeves thrown off the Senate floor for trying to encourage senators to pass his bill. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is obviously running for governor, seems to have taken a pass on the whole matter. As the session ended, the Senate “recommitted” the bill for more study, effectively killing two years of hard work by Rep. Reeves.

Continue reading “Yarbrough: Adoption Law Update Fiasco a Rancid Sausage; Cagle and Shafer Implicated in Disgusting Creation”

Georgia’s 2015 House Redistricting Headed to Court

In 2015, the Georgia General Assembly reworked seventeen House districts’ boundaries through H.B. 566. A lawsuit filed Monday alleges that the changes in Districts 105 and 111 violate the Voting Rights Act because lawmakers diluted black voting strength with the changes in order to protect incumbents. The suit asks a three-judge panel to review the changes and redraw the two districts.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

The lawsuit says the changes increased the percentage of white voters in Chandler’s district to about 53 percent in 2016 elections, compared to 48 percent. Black voters went from 32 percent to 30 percent. The suit says the changes increased the percentage of white voters in Strickland’s district to 58 percent in 2016 elections, compared to 56 percent. Black voters went from 33 percent to 31 percent.

Both Republicans were re-elected to their seats last year over black Democrats.

Continue reading “Georgia’s 2015 House Redistricting Headed to Court”

2019 Starts Now

This week’s Courier Herald column:

There’s a certain cadence of the calendar for those who work in the politics and policy fields in the state of Georgia. We’re all familiar with the 40 days’ rush of the Georgia General Assembly that begins in early January and, if at all possible, ends before Masters week. It’s a time of long days, even longer nights, and little rest.

There’s usually a brief lull where a lucky few are able to go over to Augusta and look at some of the prettiest azaleas in the world, or go virtually anywhere else and be left alone for a few days. Many of us are tired of being around other people by then, and of pretending to have to enjoy the company of others that really just want something from us.

It’s now been two weeks since the gavels in the Capitol signaled Sine Die. Sergio Garcia has his first ever green jacket. Easter eggs have been hidden. Most of them have been found. And thus, those that work on the 40-day session of passing laws get back to work now. Continue reading “2019 Starts Now”

John Pezold Declines Run For Re-Election

State Representative John Pezold (R-Columbus) has decided to end his tenure in the State House when his current term is up. He announced his intentions this morning via Facebook.

“Since 2013 I have had the incredible honor of representing my family, friends and neighbors in the Georgia House of Representatives. After lengthy consultation with my family and friends, it is with a grateful heart that I am announcing that I have decided to not seek reelection next year. My family has been incredibly supportive during my time in office. However, with my children growing older and my professional responsibilities increasing, the time is right to step away from public office and devote my full attention to them.

“Representing you in Atlanta has been the honor of a lifetime and a responsibility I do not take lightly. When I made the decision to run in 2012, I committed to you to advocate for open, honest, transparent, and limited government. I’m proud of my fight for those causes and will continue that fight through the end of the 2018 legislative session.”

Pezold is the second Columbus area legislator to announce that he will not seek re-election. State Senator Josh McKoon will also be stepping aside, presumably for a statewide run for an unspecified office.

It’s Not About The Yacht Owners

This week’s Courier Herald column:

The members of the Georgia General Assembly left Atlanta at the end of March with quite a few tax proposals left sitting on their desks, rather than sending them on to the Governor’s. Under consideration was a bill that would have cut the top income tax rate marginally while increasing some taxes on lower wage earners, and a bill that would have cut the taxes paid on leasing while increasing the title transfer fee on used cars to a value closer to their true market rate. Those bills died.

A bill that passed, however, eliminate sales and use tax on repairs, upgrades and retrofits of large yachts. How large? Think closer to Rodney Dangerfield’s character’s from Caddyshack Al Cervick’s yacht, and less Judge Smail’s much more economy sized boat. For repairs to be tax exempt, they must reach $500,000. That’s a lot more than a scratch on an anchor.

The press and other ritual stone throwers haven’t been terribly kind to this bill. In today’s populist fueled political environment, it seems almost tone deaf to give a tax break to the rich owners of luxury yachts. That’s the current narrative surrounding this legislation.

Let’s quickly dispel this line of thinking. This bill isn’t for the yacht owners. Continue reading “It’s Not About The Yacht Owners”

Gabe Sterling Enters Race For Fulton County Chairman

Sandy Springs City Councilman Gabriel Sterling has entered the race to become Fulton County Commission Chairman. The current Chairman, John Eaves, is running for Mayor of Atlanta. Sterling joins longtime Fulton/Atlanta politico Robb Pitts in the quest to replace Eaves.

Of note, this sets up a partisan contest for control of the Fulton County Commission. Continue reading “Gabe Sterling Enters Race For Fulton County Chairman”

Doug McKillip To Challenge Regina Quick For Athens House Seat

Former State Representative Doug McKillip is planning to take his former seat back. Our friend Tim Bryant of Athens’ WGAU tweets the following:

Quick unseated McKillip in 2012 by less than 100 votes. With a little over a year until the next votes will be counted, it will be interesting to watch if Quick has consolidated her GOP base, or if McKillip can earn at least 100 of those votes back.

Rep Bert Reeves Pulls No Punches On Senate’s Failure To Pass Adoption Bill

The following is a Facebook post from Representative Bert Reeves, (R-Marietta) and is posted with his permission.  (I’ll note that I reached out to him after reading it, he did not request it.)  Reeves was the primary sponsor of HB 159, an effort to streamline Georgia’s adoption process and update Georgia’s code and procedures for the first time in 27 years.  You can read background on the politics involved from Jim Galloway at the AJC here.

Reeves pulls no punches in the text below after a few introductory paragraphs on the session in General.  There’s apparently more to come.  In the mean time, understand that there are quite a few legislators and others under the gold dome that aren’t terribly happy that some decided to play 2018 politics early, using foster children as pawns in their game of ambition.

Post Legislative Session Recap (Take 1, with more to come…)

Facebook friends, I’ve taken a few days to cool down and let the dust settle before writing this. Many of you have called, texted, emailed, and messaged, so I wanted to put this out there for now, then completely unplug myself politically and enjoy a much needed spring break with my family. I will write again, probably sometime next week, with many more details and on some things that I believe need to be said, regarding my adoption bill and how and why it died around 1 AM on Day 40. Continue reading “Rep Bert Reeves Pulls No Punches On Senate’s Failure To Pass Adoption Bill”

Senate agrees to House sub for cannabis without THC rollback

The Georgia Senate has agreed to the House substitute of this year’s cannabis oil expansion with less than 12 hours remaining in the 2017 legislative session.

Senate Bill 16, sponsored by State Senator Ben Watson & State Representative Allen Peake, expands the list of conditions eligible for cannabis oil, a substance derived from marijuana that is not smokeable. In addition to end stage cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s disease and sickle cell in end stages, all of which are permitted under current law, the bill added the following conditions:

  • Tourette’s syndrome, if severe
  • Autism spectrum disorder if a person is at least 18 years of age
  • Autism spectrum disorder if autism is severe and person is under 18
  • Epidermolysis bullosa
  • Alzheimer’s disease, severe and end stage
  • Acquired immune deficiency syndrome, severe or end stage
  • peripheral neuropathy, severe or end stage
  • certain instances of hospice care

Continue reading “Senate agrees to House sub for cannabis without THC rollback”