Archive for March, 2012

Your morning jolt: Bill would ban protests at all private homes

The change doesn’t show up on the Internet version of the bill yet, but we’re told that the House Rules Committee last night altered SB 469 so that it would ban demonstrations at or near all private residences in Georgia.

The bill originally applied a “right to quiet enjoyment” of one’s residence only to those involved in disputes with labor organizations. (The bill, drawn up by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, would also require union members to give annual approval to a dues check-off.)

Pickets targeted at any home – whether belonging to corporate CEO, union executive, crack dealer, child molester, or even newspaper columnist – would be off-limits under the latest version of the bill. Which, according to one constitutional scholar we talked to, has a much better chance of surviving a court challenge.

On a related note, from Walter Jones with Morris News Service:

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams told members of the Atlanta Press Club in a Tuesday speech that the rush job …

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Election package becomes collateral damage in ethics fight

Some things are so well planned that things can’t possibly go right.

HB 899, carried by state Rep. Buzz Brockway, was a package of non-controversial housekeeping changes to the state’s election laws requested by Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

It was one of many bills dealing with elections.

But coincidentally, the state’s elections laws and ethics laws are grounded in the same code section. Which apparently troubled some state lawmakers. They decided to bundle together everyone’s legislation into a single package, to make sure that no naïve, do-gooding soul would attempt to tack on an ethics reform package that might be embarrassing to kill.

As Mark Twain said, “Put all your eggs into one basket, and then watch that basket.” Except they didn’t.

The now-omnibus election bill included a provision that would have shifted voting for Augusta-Richmond County council from the general election to the summer primary. From a Democratic climate to a Republican one.

Senate Democrats lined …

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Abortion bill dies — and it’s the Senate’s fault, says House speaker

HB 954, the bill to shorten the period of time in which a woman could seek an abortion, died this afternoon – a major defeat for pro-life forces. And House Speaker David Ralston just made sure everyone understood: It was the Senate’s fault.

The Senate substantively changed the bill on Monday, including an exception for “medically futile” pregnancies. The House refused to budge this afternoon, and Senate Republicans couldn’t persuade enough of their number to back off.

Said the speaker:

”This bill left this house as a structured proposition, the Senate amendment constituted an automatic disagree. It has gone back to the Senate. They have insisted on their substitute to the bill.

“The chair is not of the opinion that the Senate has the resolve at this time to deal with this bill. So at this point, there will not be a committee on conference appointed.”

In other words, Ralston can argue that he was on the side of Georgia Right to Life, but was thwarted by stubborn, more moderate …

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Study of ethics doesn’t need outsiders, lawmakers say

Throughout this legislative session, which is about to come to an end, the topic of additional ethics legislation – specifically, a ban or cap on gifts that lawmakers can receive — has been the unwanted guest at the dinner party.

A guest who had already been shown the door – and this morning was kicked to the curb.

Expectations had already been reduced to a simple study committee contained in SR 1220, introduced by a lone sponsor, state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus. From his legislation:

….there is created the Senate Study Committee on Georgia Ethics and Accountability to be composed of nine members to be appointed by the President of the Senate as follows: five members of the Senate and four members of the Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform. The President of the Senate shall designate one of the appointees to serve as chairperson of the committee. The chairperson shall call all meetings of the committee.

This morning, the Senate Rules Committee, chaired by Don Balfour, …

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Your morning jolt: Cash-starved Newt Gingrich charging $50 per photo

Aside from the shedding of reporters, other signs of a Newt Gingrich death spiral include this from the National Journal:

HOCKESSIN, Del. — In a sign that his campaign is in need of fresh funds, Newt Gingrich on Monday began charging $50 to have a photograph taken with him following a campaign speech to Republican groups here in the northernmost part of the state.

And this from the Raleigh News & Observer:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s campaign swing to North Carolina on Wednesday has been canceled, his campaign has confirmed.

There were no details available on why he had changed his plans.

Gingrich had been scheduled to make some appearances in Raleigh as part of the lead up to the May 8th primary. The change of plans was abrupt. His campaign sent out a schedule at 1 p.m. Sunday that listed a trip to North Carolina. But by Monday morning, the visit was canceled.

In Atlanta, a bill to repay the federal government cash borrowed to pay unemployment benefits – largely …

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Senate Republicans balk, complicate passage for anti-abortion bill

A bill to shorten the period during which women may seek abortions passed the state Senate this evening, but not before 13 Republican state senators joined Democrats to substantially change it – raising the possibility that it might not pass before the Legislature adjourns on Thursday.

The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Doug McKillip, R-Athens, who switched parties 18 months ago. If he recommends it, the House would likely accept the changes, sending the bill quickly to the governor.

But Dan Becker, president of Georgia Right to Life, said he will encourage McKillip not to do so, increasing the chances that the bill could get bogged down in the last-minute dickering between the two chambers.

Despite warnings from Senate sponsor Renee Unterman, R-Buford, that amendments were intended to kill the bill, Senate Republicans joined Democrats to make two substantial changes. One was an effort to protect physicians hit with civil suits as a result of the legislation.

But Becker said …

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Herman Cain’s assault on bunnies

Now freed from the social confines of an American political candidate, Herman Cain is showing us just who he really is – a videographer with a streak of weird to rival Tim Burton. First there was the goldfish – now this:

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

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Judge tosses libel suit by former GOP candidate for governor

A Henry County Superior Court judge has thrown out a libel suit filed by former Republican candidate for governor Ray McBerry against the mother of a 16-year-old with whom Berry had an affair while he was a high school teacher.

Here’s the order by Judge William Ison.

Before McBerry jumped into politics, the student’s mother, Linda Pittman, successfully lobbied to have his teaching license suspended. During the 2010 campaign, she referred to him as a “child molester” on her Facebook page.

In arguments made earlier this month, John Rains, Pittman’s attorney, argued that, as a political speech, such language was protected by the First Amendment.

Pittman’s attorney also argued that, given McBerry’s low reputation in the community, the former candidate for governor qualified as a “libel-proof plaintiff.”

Berry also filed suit against the southwest Georgia writers of a now-defunct political blog. It’s not clear what impact the judge’s ruling has on them.

- By Jim Galloway, Political …

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Joining the ‘hoodie’ protest

State Sens. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, and Lester Jackson, D-Savannah, before they headed out to the Trayvon Martin protest just getting underway at the state Capitol:

Jim Galloway/AJC

Jim Galloway/AJC

Small note: The hoodies worn by the senators were only a recent fashion conversion. Price tags were still attached.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

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17 House Republicans targeted as RINOs on abortion

Peach Tea PAC, the tea party organization created this winter as a means of reestablishing the clout of religious conservatism in the Capitol, today published a list of 17 “in-name-only” House Republicans it intends to target in the July primary.

Most, but not all, of the Republicans named voted against — or did not cast a ballot for — HB 954, the bill to shorten the period during which women can seek abortions, even if the fetus is non-viable. The Senate will take up the bill this afternoon.

Among other reasons cited for opposition: Support for HB 630, a measure to eliminate discrimination in public hiring by sexual orientation or gender identity; support for this summer’s transportation sales tax referendum; and opposition to ethics reform. The group says HB 630 would “legalize sex acts that are now crimes in Georgia.” The measure has not moved this session.

“The following members have displayed a willingness to depart from the conservative principles that form the bedrock …

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