Subscribe to Georgia Tipsheet's agenda-setting morning news digest, the Morning Tipsheet.
Peake to chair cannabis oil commission
2 days ago

Peake to chair cannabis oil commission

When the General Assembly decriminalized cannabis oil last month for the treatment of a handful of acute medical conditions, lawmakers stopped short of allowing the marijuana derivative to be locally cultivated and produced — which means those qualifying patients wishing to use the substance must risk purchasing the extract elsewhere and trafficking it through states in which it remains illegal.

Because the oil contains low levels of THC, the euphoric chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects, it may be shipped from out of state. However, it remains a federal crime to transport cannabis oil across state lines, so those Georgians whose conditions require higher levels of THC than those permissible to be shipped must risk breaking the law.

But on Tuesday Gov. Nathan Deal appointed state Rep. Allen Peake—who muscled “Haleigh’s Hope Act,” named for a 5-year-old Forsyth girl with a severe form of epilepsy, through the state legislature—to chair a special state commission to explore in-state production models for the oil.

The panel will deliver recommendations to the governor on how best to foster local production while not also fostering the recreational use of marijuana.

The legislation’s champion in the upper chamber, state Sen. Renee Unterman, and Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black were also tapped for the commission. Read More

Rubio in GA: deporting undocumented immigrants not ‘feasible,’ ‘reasonable’
3 days ago

Rubio in GA: deporting undocumented immigrants not ‘feasible,’ ‘reasonable’

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio soft pedaled his earlier calls for comprehensive immigration reform in an interview Saturday in Georgia even as he criticized any attempt to deport those undocumented immigrants already living in the country as neither “feasible” nor “reasonable.”

Rubio, who spoke at the state Republican Party’s annual convention in Athens before raising campaign cash in suburban Atlanta, told the Marietta Daily Journal that he does not support amnesty for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in America but said the nation lacks any serious enforcement mechanism for immigration laws.

“We do need to improve our ability to enforce our immigration laws, because one of the reasons why we have an illegal immigration problem is because we don’t have mechanisms to effectively enforce our laws, particularly the visa overstays,” Rubio told the paper when asked why he believed local immigration hardliners were so wary of his campaign.

“[N]ot a single person in the Senate or House who has opposed any of these immigration efforts has ever proposed or come up with a way of how we’re going to round up and deport 12 million people,” he said. “It’s just not a feasible thing and the American public won’t tolerate it.”

Rubio also defended his view that providing a merit-based path to citizenship for those already here was not blanket immigration. From the newspaper’s transcript of the interview:

MDJ: “Deportation aside, what you described … basically amounts to a path to citizenship. And a lot of conservatives down here in Georgia see that as tantamount to a blanket amnesty. How would that position help your chances of winning the primary down here?”

Rubio: “Well, I don’t know about that. I certainly don’t believe that’s a blanket amnesty. A blanket amnesty is where you decide, ‘OK, if you meet a certain criteria we’re going to give you something in exchange for nothing, we’re going to forgive what you’ve done.’ That’s not what I’ve described. I’ve described a process whereby people who meet a certain criteria, meaning they’ve been in this country a decade or longer, would have to come forward. They would have to pass a background check, and you can make that background test as strict or as lenient as you want. I believe that it needs to be stricter and not more lenient. They’ll have to pay a fine as a consequence of violating the laws. They’ll have to learn English and they’ll have to start paying taxes. In exchange for all that, the only thing they would get is a work permit, and that’s all they would have for at least a decade or longer, and then at some point after that period of time has expired, the only thing they would be allowed to do is apply for a green card. They would have to do it just like anybody else would, including people who are here legally or people that are abroad. And that would also take a significant period of time. Some people argue that all they should ever be allowed to have is a work permit. If that’s the best we can do, I could support a proposal like that. I just certainly don’t believe that it’s good for the country to have 11 or 12 million people here who are here permanently and can never become Americans. But if the only way forward is to limit it to the work permit for the rest of their lives as a consequence of violating their laws that’s certainly better than what we have now.” Read More

The pink elephant in the room
3 days ago

The pink elephant in the room

By  •  Local

Georgia Republicans on Saturday overwhelming approved a resolution backing of a divisive religious liberty proposal, which critics warned could be used as license to discriminate against gays and lesbians, even as the party elected its first openly gay man to a senior statewide position.

The resolution–a largely symbolic show of support among the grassroots for the failed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which cleared the state Senate but stalled in the House after non-discrimination language deemed a “poison pill” was introduced–was approved without debate, by a large majority and on a voice vote, during the party’s annual convention last weekend in Athens.

Republican activists in 11 of the state’s 14 congressional districts had earlier endorsed the proposal but the dramatic ease with which it cleared the state convention surprised some.

But despite the measure’s perception as anti-gay, delegates also anointed an out-gay man as one of the party’s principal officers.

Mansell McCord, a longtime GOP activist and former chairman of the Georgia Log Cabin Republicans, was elected treasurer of the Georgia Republican Party, edging out Gwinnett County GOP Treasure Brittany Marmol in a 770-596 vote.

McCord claimed the support of the five past state chairmen — and the two primary sponsors of the religious freedom bill.

“You need a man of unimpeachable integrity,” state Sen. Josh McKoon said of McCord before delegates voted. “You need someone who understands the complexity of campaign finance law. And you need someone who has been dedicated to the conservative movement for decades.”

McCord’s sexuality wasn’t a hallmark of the campaign–it wasn’t a fixture of his literature nor was it mentioned on the floor–and some delegates even mistakenly believed he was the husband of female candidate Debbie McCord, who was elected second-vice chair on the same day of balloting.

But cultural conservatives, aware but nonplussed by McCord’s earlier LGBT activism, mostly shrugged at his ascension Saturday.

“The state party has spoken. I’m good with that,” Virginia Galloway, a spokeswoman for Ralph Reed’s Christian conservative group Faith and Freedom, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The great thing about [McCord] is that he doesn’t make a big deal of it.” Read More

Watch your back, South Carolina: Georgia has your number
6 days ago

Watch your back, South Carolina: Georgia has your number

A trio of presidential wannabes will address the Georgia Republican Party’s annual convention Friday in Athens, catering to local conservative activists in a manner unseen for decades as local party elders attempt to position the state as a new power player in the looming nominating contest.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie set off the junior cattle call at a Friday breakfast, telling delegates that he’s been able to advance a conservative reform agenda despite the roadblocks erected by a Democratic legislature.

“In a state like mine, I don’t have the luxury of having a Republican legislature,” he said. “You don’t have the option to stand in the corner, hold your breath and wait for the world to turn. You’ve got to make the world turn.”

The bombastic governor hasn’t formally announced a bid for the White House but has been touring the early nominating states and making key hires, including a pair of well-regarded aides that were rolled out Friday by his would-be campaign.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is slated to speak mid-afternoon while Sen. Ted Cruz will deliver the keynote address as delegates dine on a rubber-chicken dinner.

A measure of the state’s sudden popularity on the nominating circuit is borne of Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s campaign to forge a unified southern Super Tuesday—the “SEC primary”—in which the deep south states, generally overlooked in presidential contests, would flex some muscle by holding their primaries in tandem.

Still, some of it is simply the result of coincidence.

Erick Erickson, the editor in chief of the popular conservative blog RedState who’s been called “the most powerful conservative in America,” calls Georgia home. And it’s his home that Erickson has selected as the site for RedState’s annual confab this year.

Already Govs. Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and Jeb Bush and Rubio* have committed to attending the event, to be held in Atlanta in Augusta, as well as former HP CEO Carly Fiorina. Others, like Cruz, are likely to ultimately attend the gathering.

But whether by design or dumb luck, aggrieved Georgia Republicans are finally getting their moment in the limelight. Read More

Jacobs, bane of RFRA, leaves General Assembly for judgeship
1 week ago

Jacobs, bane of RFRA, leaves General Assembly for judgeship

The Republican lawmaker responsible for administering the “poison pill” that killed a controversial religious freedom proposal in Georgia was appointed to a state judicial post Wednesday by Gov. Nathan Deal.

State Rep. Mike Jacobs, whose inclusion of non-discrimination language in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act during a committee hearing effectively froze the measure, was named a state court judge for DeKalb County by the governor yesterday.

Cultural conservatives grumbled that Jacobs would face a primary challenge over his role in the religious liberty debate last session, but the Sandy Springs GOPer has long been eying a judicial appointment and associates say his decision to leave the legislature was not motivated by a potential challenger — on the right or left.

Already three names in are in the mix to succeed him: Republicans Catherine Bernard, who unsuccessfully challenged Jacobs in last year’s primary, and J. Max Davis, the Mayor of Brookhaven; as well as Democratic activist Matthew Weiss. Read More

Ga. strip clubs to sue state over new victims fund tax
2 weeks ago

Ga. strip clubs to sue state over new victims fund tax

A lawyer representing adult entertainment venues says his clients will sue Georgia over the state’s new anti-trafficking law, which provides for a victims fund that is financed in part through a new tax on the red light establishments.

Governor Nathan Deal on Tuesday signed the Safe Harbor Law, which sets strict penalties for those convicted of human trafficking and creates a new state fund to cover healthcare, housing, and counseling bills for victims of the sex trade.

The cost of the new fund will be covered by charging pimps a $2,500 fine and fixing an annual $5,000 operating fee on strip clubs, though the question of whether the clubs will pay into the fund will be decided next year by voters.

Atlanta attorney Alan Begner, whose practice represents nearly two-thirds of strip clubs in the capital city, said he could “certainly guarantee the law will be challenged,” but couldn’t specify the number of petitioners who’d bring suit. At issue, he said, is the club owners’ protected speech.

“Nude dancing is protected under the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions, and speech cannot be taxed,” he told Atlanta NPR affiliate WABE Wednesday. Read More

Sale of fireworks in Ga. legal July 1
2 weeks ago

Sale of fireworks in Ga. legal July 1

Governor Nathan Deal on Tuesday green lighted the commercial sale and regulation of fireworks in Georgia.

The new law, which cleared the General Assembly only hours before the legislative session expired, will take affect July 1 — in time for Independence Day celebrations across the state.

All of Georgia’s neighbors already allow for the sale of fireworks, though previous attempts to legalize their sale locally bombed amid opposition from health groups and public safety officials.

Deal, on Tuesday, said he believed the debate this year was less incendiary because of safety carveouts included in the bill. The new law requires those businesses or nonprofits selling fireworks to be licensed by the state and pay a $5,000 fee, which will be used for public safety purposes.

“People in our state are crossing state lines and buying fireworks,” Deal said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We have so many neighbors around us that already authorize the sale of fireworks, I think this just made sense. And I think we have taken every precaution we can to try to eliminate any injuries associated with it.”

The bill’s champion, House Transportation Committee Chair Jay Roberts, said he believes new law will create a cottage industry with some 1,500 new jobs. Read More

Scandal-plagued Dem. sheriff involved in shooting
2 weeks ago

Scandal-plagued Dem. sheriff involved in shooting

By  •  Local

The controversial sheriff a suburban Atlanta county gut shot a woman Sunday night and is now refusing to cooperate with local law enforcement investigating the incident.

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill shot the woman, a real estate agent whose name has not been released, at a model home in Lawrenceville. The woman remains in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

The incident occurred outside of Hill’s south Atlanta jurisdiction. When local police arrived, Hill refused to answer any questions and left the scene, citing special privileges as sheriff.

Sunday’s shooting isn’t the first occasion in which Hill has come under review by fellow law enforcement. In 2013, he was indicted on 32 charges of racketeering, corruption, and theft by taking.

Despite the indictment, Hill, a Democrat, was renominated and elected by voters in the majority-black, working class suburb. He was later found not guilty by jury trial after his renomination. Read More