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Political Notes: February 2016

Peake Out As Floor Leader: State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), who championed the successful effort to allow the use of cannabis in Georgia for certain medical conditions, has left his post as a floor leader for Gov. Nathan Deal.

Peake and the governor have some differences on what’s next for medical cannabis in the state. At present, individuals who qualify can use cannabis oil but cannot buy it legally in Georgia; growing cannabis is also illegal in the state.

Peake has pre-filed a bill that would permit tightly regulated licensed growing operations in the state.


SEC Lineup: Georgia voters have no shortage of choices in the March 1 SEC primary – four Democrats and 13 (count ’em) Republicans.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced these candidates’ names were submitted by their respective parties: Democrats Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders and Michael Steinberg; and Republicans Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham (who has subsequently suspended his campaign), Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump.

Six other Southern states – Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia – are holding primaries on the same day.


Isakson Upbeat: Georgia’s senior U.S. senator, Johnny Isakson, says the omnibus appropriations bill Congress passed was a real boon for Georgia, largely because of the $21-million placeholder that was included for the Port of Savannah.

In a speech to the Atlanta Press Club, he said he is confident federal funds will be there for the project. “We need another $100 million, which we will get,” he said. “There may be other battles to be fought, but we are over the biggest hump.”

Ethics Commission Rulings Finally:   The state ethics commission, citing the statute of limitations, dismissed complaints that former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine took 19 different contributions in amounts over the state’s legal limit during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign but says it will move ahead on charges that he spent more than $200,000 in funds designated for runoff and general elections, even though he never ran in those races. Oxendine’s lawyer says he may appeal.

The case is significant because the commission spent several years as the poster group for ineffectual state government while doing very little in the way of ethics watch-dogging. The commission is now under new leadership, chaired by Hillary Stringfellow.


Student Success: It happens about as often as a total eclipse of the sun, but an outbreak of bipartisan support in Congress helped lawmakers pass the Every Student Succeeds Act, with the enthusiastic support of both of Georgia’s Republican senators. President Barack Obama signed it into law.

The new law replaces No Child Left Behind, which expired in 2007. According to Sen. Johnny Isakson, who was on the joint House-Senate Conference Committee for the bill, it “will help remove Washington mandates from education and instead allow those closest to students to set the agenda. Notably, the measure will end the previous federal over-reliance on standardized tests that has led to complaints of over-testing.”

Sen. David Perdue, the son of two educators, said, “this bill gives states and local school boards the ability to tailor academic standards to their students’ needs so they can help our children succeed.”


Identity Protection: The 6-million-plus Georgia voters whose personal information was inadvertently released by Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office can enroll in free credit monitoring and identity restoration services via the secretary of state’s website, sos.ga.gov, or by calling the agency’s hotline at 404.654.6045.

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