Political Notes: April 2014

Snubbed: Nobody was very happy with the news that President Obama’s budget will not include funding to dredge the harbor at the Savannah Port. Deepening the port   is one of the few things Georgia Democrats and Republicans have agreed upon lately.

The news came, inconveniently for Democrats, on the very day that State Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur) was qualifying to run for governor and Democratic Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn was making an appearance with Vice President Joe Biden, who was in town and had previously offered assurances that federal funding was a done deal.

Gov. Nathan Deal quickly announced that Georgia will go ahead with the harbor project on its own. Nunn called upon President Obama to proceed with the funding and took a couple of shots at Washington inefficiency.

Common Ground: Even as some legislators were pushing a bill to halt implementation of the Common Core Standards in Georgia’s public schools (SB 167, which ultimately died in a House committee), a group of heavy-hitters from business and education joined forces to show their support of the standards, which cover reading, writing and math for K-12 students.

Better Standards for a Better Georgia Coalition, spearheaded by the Georgia Chamber and the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, makes the economic development case for Common Core Standards.

Shan Cooper, chair of the partnership and vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Marietta plant, said in a statement, “We believe the standards will both help companies like ours find qualified employees and ensure that more Georgians are able to find quality jobs.”

“These core standards have been designed to enable students to graduate from high school prepared for post-secondary education or the workplace,” says Susan Bell, chair of the chamber’s education and workforce development committee and managing partner of the Atlanta office of Ernst & Young (EY).

Other coalition members include the University System of Georgia, Technical College System of Georgia, 100 Black Men of Atlanta, Georgia Bio, Georgia Association of Educators, Georgia School Boards Association and Georgia School Superintendents Association.

Yu To House Race: Augusta businessman Eugene Yu’s decision to abandon his GOP Senate primary campaign in favor of a run for Congress in the 12th District means he will be vying for Democrat John Barrow’s seat – along with three other Republicans: John Stone, Rick Allen and State Rep. Delvis Dutton (R-Glennville). That’s a somewhat less crowded, less clamorous and less expensive field than the GOP Senate primary race, where Congressmen Phil Gingrey, Paul Broun and Jack Kingston, former Secretary of State Karen Handel and businessman David Perdue are all campaigning hard.

Big Guns: Among those lined up in opposition to HB 875, which would allow guns in houses of worship and on college campuses, were the Roman Catholic Bishops of Georgia.

“As pastors, we see too many examples of the anguish of families, friends and neighbors of victims of violence to which access to dangerous weapons contributes,” Atlanta’s Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said in a statement. “The proliferation of guns in our society is not the answer to the tragedies that we have witnessed all too often.”

No Medal Taxes: Just when you thought there was no bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill, a strange-bedfellows group of senators, including Georgia’s Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican, found unity on the matter of Olympic medals. The group including Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) co-sponsored a bill that would exempt U.S. athletes from taxes on any medals brought home.

Southern Super Tuesday? Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has proposed a Tuesday, March 1, 2016, Super Presidential Preference Primary that would include Georgia and several other Southeastern states.

Under Republican National Committee rules, four states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – have a lock on February primary or caucus dates, but Kemp believes a common March 1 primary date in multiple southern states could give the South a strong voice in the nominating process. A press release from his office notes the South’s major population increase in recent years and says it “should be reflected in the Presidential Preference Primary Process.”

Dead In The Water: A bill that would have banned drivers’ licenses for immigrants who were brought to this country as children died in the Senate on Crossover Day. Bipartisan opposition to the measure, seen as particularly harsh and punitive, was led by State Sen. Tommie Williams (R-Lyons).

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