U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Savannah, on Tuesday said the state Legislature, whose members include at least one Republican opponent, acted in a short-sighted manner when it approved a measure to require businesses – including farmers – to use a federal data base to screen out illegal immigrants.
The most salient points of H.B. 87 have been placed on hold by a federal judge while the right of a state to enforce federal immigration laws is hashed out in court.
In a series of interviews with Capitol reporters in Atlanta, designed to shine statewide attention on his south Georgia effort to survive in a newly drawn, heavily rural district, Barrow declared that he could support a federally mandated E-Verify program – but only if it applied to all states. Several are now moving through Congress, he said.
Barrow has already picked up one Republican opponent, state Rep. Lee Anderson of Grovetown, a farmer who supported passage this spring of H.B. 87.
The congressman, who has been drawn out of his Savannah residence, said state lawmakers neglected rural Georgia’s need for seasonal workers. “That’s where the summer vacation came from,” he said.
”The problem with doing it at the state level is that it creates a tremendous competitive disadvantage vis a vis your neighbors.
“Folks will immediately respond. The idea that E-Verify can’t work has sort of been belied by the facts on the ground. Folks have responded to this, the fact that it’s on the horizon, in a dramatic way. It has had a dramatic effect. So it does show this kind of thing can work.
“But counties in the next state are laughing all the way to harvest. We’ve got crops rotting in the field. It’s not that undocumented aliens have left. They’ve gone some place where the pickings are easier.
“There’s no question that, if it’s going to be meaningful, if it’s going to be effective, it needs to be done at the federal level. What the state has proved is that it can work, it can deter, it can put the fear of discovery and enforcement in people, and actually cause them to respond accordingly.
“But what they’ve done is simply move a very short distance. But shorter than the distance they moved to get here in the first place.”
In a subsequent interview with the Associated Press, Barrow referred to H.B. 87 as a “ham-handed” piece of legislation.
In this morning’s Savannah Morning News, columnist Tom Barton points out that Republicans have given Barrow another campaign issue – a wrist-slap to a textile company suspected of polluting the Ogeechee River that flows through his new (and old) district:
King America Finishing, located along the Ogeechee in Screven County, faced whopping fines of up to $91 million for apparent violations of the Clean Water Act that date back to 2006.
Briefly, the Chicago-based company expanded its operations in 2006, but failed to get the required permits. State EPD inspectors discovered unauthorized discharges during inspections after the May fish kill, which zapped about 38,000 fish beginning just downriver from the King America discharge line.
The state could have taken the company to the woodshed. Instead, everyone cozied up in a boardroom.
The EPD, which is run by F. Allen Barnes, a lawyer who most recently worked as a partner in the environmental section of the giant King & Spalding law firm in Atlanta, reached a deal with King America’s attorney, Lee DeHihns, who does high-end, environmental-type legal work for another big Atlanta firm, Alston + Bird.
The result? King America will fork over just $1 million — an embarrassingly tiny amount.
One sign that the settlement has Republicans blushing is the following Tweet from former Senate president pro tem Eric Johnson, a Savannah resident:
Memo to the Georgia EPD: Don’t let King Finishing reopen until the owners can drink the water going into the Ogeechee River.
State Democrats will hold a press conference in Atlanta this morning, presumably to raise the names of state Sens. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, and William Ligdon, R-Brunswick, as the supervisors of a state-paid African-American secretary who has received a settlement check for $80,000. State Sen. Donzella James, D-Red Oak, did so last night with Lori Geary of Channel 2 Action News:
Today’s Chattanooga Free Press reports that, for the first time in a decade, Atlanta has shown interest in a high-speed rail line to Chattanooga, chipping in roughly $250,000 for a study related to the proposed bullet train:
Asked if he had heard that Delta Air Lines had encouraged Atlanta to drag its feet relating to high-speed rail in the past, [Joe Ferguson, who oversees the high-speed rail project for Chattanooga's Enterprise Center] said he had never heard conversations about that.
Also asked if the issue of a potential water deal permitting Georgia to access the Tennessee River was in play, the longtime rapid-raid advocate said he had never heard current Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed or his key staff people raise that idea.
That latter idea, by the way, has in fact been broached by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.
The AJC’s Politifact Georgia today takes a look at the assertion by John Sherman of the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation that Beltline backers in the city of Atlanta wildly overspent for a small piece of land in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider