Georgia

The Jolt: Atlanta neighborhood group attacks airport takeover bill as ‘naked power grab’

Over at Atlanta City Hall, there’s a political rule of thumb that’s often breached more than observed: Don’t tick off neighborhoods.

Republicans in the state Capitol are about to see what happens when you do.

Crossover Day is Thursday. On the state Senate calendar is SB 131, the bill that would authorize a state takeover of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Its author is state Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson.

The Northwest Community Alliance describes itself as a “unique coalition of northwest Atlanta neighborhoods and “neighborhood friendly” developers and businesses.” Geography says the group includes a healthy number of Republicans.

The NCA does not always side with Atlanta mayors, but it does now. This note from Mike Koblentz, who chairs the group, came our way last night:

By a unanimous vote the NCA Board has voted to oppose the state’s attempted takeover of Hartsfield-Jackson. The NCA, over 15 years, has rarely jumped in on political issues, but felt this is such a naked power grab by the state, that this attempt needs to be resisted at every level, including at the grass roots.

The NCA does not put out this statement lightly. Developers, corporations and neighborhoods need to join together and fight this move. Atlanta has successfully operated the airport for generations and, given how Atlanta is the economic engine for Georgia, and the airport plays a primary role in this booming economy, we say hands off.

The NCA calls for [the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board], individual [Neighborhood Planning Units], all major corporations, non-profits, elected officials at every level, the editorial pages of Atlanta’s print media, online media and local television to support the council, City Council President Felicia Moore and Mayor Bottoms in thwarting this maneuver.

The NCA neglected to include nuns and orphans in its extended call to arms – an oversight likely to be corrected in the next draft. But you get the gist.

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In today’s print column, we noted Monday’s approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee of SB 150, a bill that would prohibit those convicted of family violence misdemeanors from possessing a firearm. The Senate Rules Committee has placed 37 bills on tomorrow’s Crossover Day calendar. At this moment, SB 150 isn’t one of them.

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You know by now that, on Tuesday, Senate Democrats and a handful of Republican colleagues allied to defeat a measure to use taxpayer funding to send public school students to private schools.

What infuriated some of the supporters is that two of the chamber’s top Republicans helped ensure its loss.

The first is Senate President pro tem Butch Miller of Gainesville. He declined to comment.

The second is Majority Leader Mike Dugan of Carrollton, one of three Republicans who didn’t vote. He blamed a function at City Hall. Also not voting: State Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga, leader of the agenda-setting Rules Committee.

They weren’t the only Republicans to break party lines. Jack Hill of Reidsville, who voted for the measure in committee, opposed it on the floor. So did several others, including Tyler Harper of Ocilla and Dean Burke of Bainbridge.

The backlash was immediate. Erick Erickson railed against the “no” votes on WSB Radio. And Cole Muzio of the conservative Family Policy Alliance said the vote sent a message that the “political pressure of the public institutions outweighed the interests of Georgia children.”

There’s a chance the bill could be voted on again on Thursday’s crossover deadline. But it’s unlikely.

It failed 25-28, meaning that it needs to gain at least four votes. We’re hearing that some supporters are reluctant to back it a second time, feeling the heat from public school advocates.

He’s not running: State Rep. David Clark, R-Buford, led his press conference on Tuesday with a lengthy attack on House Speaker David Ralston and ended it by announcing he would not be running for an open Seventh District congressional seat.

Clark has become the most outspoken GOP critic of Ralston since The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News examined his use of legislative leave privileges to delay dozens of criminal cases he was handling in his private practice.

Clark encouraged his GOP colleagues to “stiffen their spines” by joining the 10 House Republicans who have signed onto his resolution calling for Ralston to resign his post.

Moreover, Clark said Ralston’s leadership was to blame for last year’s sweep of suburban defeats across the northern suburbs of metro Atlanta – and could imperil the party’s hold on the Georgia House next year. Democrats, he added, will be eager to paint him as a “toxic bogeyman” and tie him to every GOP candidate on the ballot.

“The same way Georgia Republicans tie Democrats to Nancy Pelosi,” he said, by way of explaining.

Clark’s political analysis of the 2018 midterms may need some work, given that poll upon poll indicated that the Nov. 6 vote was a backlash against President Donald Trump. And 2020 is likely to have the same dynamic.

Even so, Clark explained his lack of interest in joining an already-crowded field to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, by saying he’d rather stay under the Gold Dome to “clean up this mess.” Asked whether he’d challenge Ralston for the job of speaker in 2020, Clark was noncommittal.

One candidate who is running for Congress is Rachel Kinsey. The Democrat announced her bid to challenge U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, in the nearby 11th District. The Woodstock small business owner unsuccessfully challenged state Sen. Bruce Thomas, R-White, last year. She will announce her upcoming campaign at a Thursday event in Canton.

Loudermilk was easily reelected last year in his Bartow and Cherokee-based suburban district with nearly 62 percent of the vote.

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Call it a trade: Republican state Rep. Chuck Efstration of Dacula introduced legislation this week that shifts conservative-leaning territory to his House district — and some left-leaning areas to his next-door neighbor, Democratic state Rep. Donna McLeod of Lawrenceville.

House Bill 564 would protect two incumbents in competitive Gwinnett territory. Efstration won by fewer than 2,000 votes in November, the first time he’s faced a Democrat since his 2013 special election win.

McLeod is in more comfortable territory. After narrowly losing her race in 2016, she captured about 58 percent of the vote in November against Republican Donna Sheldon.

Still, Democratic leaders must think the trade off is worth it: Veteran Democratic state Rep. Calvin Smyre of Columbus and other party leaders joined the measure.

The ACLU of Georgia was among the left-leaning critics who said the redrawing of lines was a selfish act that left voters hanging out to dry.

“Our democracy only works when our legislators reflect the values, diversity and priorities of the people they represent,” said Andrea Young, the ACLU director.

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Brian Kemp’s name wasn’t on the press release blasted out by U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath’s office on Tuesday evening, but it’s clear the Republican governor is the inspiration behind the Marietta Democrat’s newest piece of legislation.

The Election Official Integrity Act seeks to bar senior state election officials from participating in federal campaigns.

“Just like it would be wrong to have a player referee a game, it’s wrong for election officials to participate in federal campaigns,” McBath said.

Democrats slammed Kemp for refusing to step down as secretary of state while running for Georgia governor last year. During the campaign, Kemp pointed to others who stayed in the job while running for higher office and argued that county officials were in charge of counting and processing vote totals, not the secretary of state. He stepped down days after the election.

McBath’s language is also included in a broader elections overhaul the House is expected to pass on Wednesday. That bill, which would require automatic voter registration for federal elections, expand early voting and set aside money for states to bolster their election infrastructure, is expected to die a swift death in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Loudermilk called the measure the “largest overreach of federal authority on the state’s authority possibly in the history of the United States” in a speech before the Georgia Senate on Tuesday.

"I trust you much more than I trust federal bureaucrats to ensure we have an equitable voting system,” Loudermilk said.

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On Sunday, in a speech to a crowd gathered in a black church in Selma, Ala., Hillary Clinton said the absence of crucial parts of the Voting Rights Act contributed to her defeat to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential contest.

Her reference was to a 2013 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down the portion of the VRA that required the U.S. Justice Department to “pre-approve” changes to voting laws made in states with a history of racial discrimination in voting.

A Washington Post fact-checker has awarded Clinton four Pinocchios. The paragraphs that matter:

It was the first presidential election since the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, Clinton noted. This “made a difference in Wisconsin,” she said. Total voter registration declined in Georgia once this law was gone, she added…

Wisconsin was not one of the states covered by Section 4 when the court ruled in 2013, so, right off the bat, Clinton’s claim that this “made a difference in Wisconsin” is unfounded. Georgia was covered by Section 4, but Clinton’s claim that total voter registration declined in that state from 2012 to 2016 is false; it increased.

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