Archive for February, 2012

A raw debate over abortion at the state Capitol

The House on Wednesday passed its first major anti-abortion legislation in several years, shrinking the time a woman has to seek the procedure. From my AJC colleague Christopher Quinn:

The legislation, House Bill 954, also would tighten medical exemptions for terminating pregnancies and require any abortion performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy be done in a way to bring the fetus out alive. The measure is commonly referred to as a “fetal pain” bill and says that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, therefore the state has an interest in protecting it.

The language of the debate was more than emotional. On the GOP side, the central debate is over Georgia Right to Life’s refusal to recognize rape, incest and the life of the mother as exceptions in the abortion debate.

Unlike some national groups, GRTL recognizes only the life of the mother as an exception – and a strict interpretation at that.

In this instance, there was an advantage to being in radio. Audio allows a certain …

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A leadership purge in the tea party movement

Last week, the Tea Party Patriots celebrated the third anniversary of the movement in a style familiar to revolutionists everywhere.

It conducted a purge.

Day-to-day control of the influential grassroots organization, according to the co-founder who says he was shoved to the side, is now in the hands of Jenny Beth Martin. She is a Cherokee County resident who – as the tea party movement began – had been reduced to cleaning her neighbors’ houses to earn money for her family.

The event, if not the outcome, was entirely predictable. Every world-stirring revolt — whether led by Washington, Napoleon or Mao — has had to wrestle with the same problem: How to stoke the idealistic fervor of a movement while adapting to the practical facts on the ground.

In the case of Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest such groups in the nation, the details remain scarce. Efforts to contact Martin have been unsuccessful. Most of the information comes from an email sent by TPP co-founder Mark …

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Attorney in ‘birther’ action jumps into state Senate race

State Rep. Mark Hatfield, who raised eyebrows as the attorney in an effort have the name of President Barack Obama stripped from next Tuesday’s presidential primary ballot, became the first Republican to announce that he’ll seek the Senate seat now occupied by Greg Goggans, R-Douglas.

Goggans, citing economic pressures, has decided not to seek a fifth term in the Senate.

Hatfield, who has feuded with the leadership of House Speaker David Ralston, was drawn into the same district as state Rep. Jason Spence, R-Woodbine, in the last redistricting session.
From Hatfield’s press release:

“I will be running for the Senate to provide conservative, independent leadership for South Georgia,” said Hatfield.

Hatfield will be running in the newly-reconfigured Senate District 7, which includes all of Ware, Coffee, Bacon, Pierce, Atkinson, Ben Hill, Irwin, Atkinson, and Berrien counties, and a portion of both Charlton and Tift counties.

Hatfield has represented large portions of …

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Your morning jolt: Rick Santorum, Ann Romney headed to Georgia

We know that Newt Gingrich, who avoided the Republican presidential contest in Michigan, will be at the state Capitol this morning.

We know that Gingrich has declared a win in Georgia, which he once represented in Congress, to be crucial to his GOP presidential campaign.

What we didn’t know is whether a win-hungry Rick Santorum, deprived of victory in Michigan by Mitt Romney last night, will put all his eggs in Ohio and seek a post-industrial rematch with Romney. Or might he concentrate on the South?

We’re told this morning that the former Pennsylvania senator, who has a foray into Tennessee today, will be in Dalton at 8 a.m. Thursday for a rally outside City Hall.

Atlanta, GA – Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum will visit Georgia tomorrow morning, beginning with a manufacturing plant tour and a Town Hall meeting in Dalton. Santorum will then head toward Atlanta, holding an 11 a.m. rally at the Atlantic Aviation hanger, 240 Airport Road, at Peachtree Dekalb …

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A lottery-fueled gambling complex in Norcross?

This just arrived from Greg Bluestein and the Associated Press. Charlotte Nash, the chairman of the Gwinnett County Commission, said she is “intrigued” by the proposal:

A developer is betting that Georgia residents are ready for a gambling facility, and he’s unveiled plans to build a sprawling new complex near Atlanta that he hopes can give a jolt to the state’s economy and infuse the popular HOPE scholarship program with much-needed cash.

Dan O’Leary [said] Tuesday he wants to build a $1 billion entertainment complex near Norcross that includes a towering hotel, a spacious theater and a game floor with 7,500 video lottery machines.

Gambling proposals have emerged in recent years in Georgia and other states hard-hit by the economic downturn. It’s been a tough sell in Georgia, where conservative groups and legislators fear it could erode family values and lead to increases in crime and divorce.

O’Leary said the development could funnel $350 million each year to the …

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A sign that guns-on-campus push may fall short

Just finished a conversation with state Senate Rules Chairman Don Balfour, R-Snellville, who asked his chamber today to delay action on SB 350, his bill to require law enforcement to return weapons used in crimes to their owners – at least, the innocent ones.

Let’s say a pistol stolen in a burglary is later used to rob a convenience store. Under this measure, ultimately, that piece would be returned to its legal owner. Not a big deal.

The bill is more significant for what it doesn’t contain. Four years ago, Balfour was a key figure in the business-backed fight against a bill pushed by the National Rifle Association that would have allowed legal gun-owners to keep firearms in locked cars on their employers’ parking lots.

It was a very large fight, very nasty, pitting property rights against gun rights. Balfour was the fellow who applied the coup de grace to the legislation.

But in the four years’ since, the Senate rules chairman has had a change of heart – the …

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Your morning jolt: GOP contest prompts an unexciting stream of early votes

Updated at 8:15 p.m. to correct numbers offered today by the secretary of state’s office:

If early voting is any clue, the GOP presidential contest is setting Georgia ablaze — like a wet matchstick.

According to Secretary of State Brian Kemp, 86,426 advance and absentee votes have been cast thus far.

In 2008, there were 247,897 early ballots cast. Now, assume that 50 percent of those votes four years ago were cast in the Democratic party, which had a contested nomination.
And assume that all of the early votes this year are Republican in nature.

Even so, this would be a 30 percent decline in Georgia early voting over ’08. Last year, the Legislature curtailed the advanced voting period. Even so, the difference is startling.
If nothing else, the current number is evidence that none of the four GOP candidates has an extensive ground game in Georgia.

A new Georgia poll of the GOP presidential primary was rolled out by 11Alive/Survey USA on Monday, showing Newt Gingrich …

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Newt Gingrich gets another check from Vegas billionaire

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich will have at least some cash to get him through next week’s Super Tuesday vote. From the Associated Press:

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson has given another “substantial” contribution to an independent group supporting Republican Newt Gingrich, helping the group launch new TV ads in seven states where the former House speaker hopes to resurrect his struggling presidential campaign.

The super PAC Winning Our Future received a donation from the Las Vegas billionaire similar to two separate $5 million contributions Adelson and his family donated previously, according to a person familiar with the contribution. The person was not authorized to discuss the donations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The committee will air TV ads beginning Tuesday in Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee, four “Super Tuesday” states voting March 6 where Gingrich hopes to rejuvenate his campaign. The super PAC …

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Nikki Haley vetoes S.C. bill to block dredging of Port of Savannah

Gov. Nikki Haley has become quite popular. In Georgia, anyway. From the Associated Press:

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Monday vetoed a bill that lawmakers had passed unanimously in their efforts to undo a permit allowing Georgia to expand its Savannah port.

The measure would retroactively suspend the Department of Health and Environment Control’s ability to make dredging decisions in the river shared with Georgia. Legislators hoped it would strengthen their case in court and supporters of the measure expected the veto to be overridden.

The action “amounts to unconstitutional legislative overreaching into an agency’s ruling,” Haley wrote in her four-paragraph veto message. Additionally, she wrote, it “reflects a fundamental misunderstanding about the administrative process.”

She writes that only DHEC can issue the water quality certifications and notes a 2010 opinion from former Attorney General Henry McMaster. Such opinions don’t carry the weight of …

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Four PSC members want to oust Tim Echols from chairmanship

Open revolt has broken out at the Georgia Public Service Commission.

We told you this morning that a Senate committee at 4 p.m. this afternoon will take up SB 483, which would allow the five-member PSC to return to its former practice of choosing its own chairman, rather than rotating the position. It’s very likely that Echols would be ousted on passage.

At first glance, language in the bill would permit the current PSC chairman, Tim Echols, to serve out his year-long rotation in the position. But then his four colleagues – and let us use the term very loosely – sent a letter to members of the state Senate that says this:

We believe the time has come to renew discussions of how the Georgia Public Service Commission elects its leadership. Last year a bill to amend the current procedure was introduced but did not receive approval.

However, clearly we at the Public Service Commission need leadership continuity and accountability. In the business world, no company changes …

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