Political Notes: June 2014

Gun Law Signing: Gov. Nathan Deal took to the hills of North Georgia to sign HB 60, the Safe Carry Protection Act, a law that significantly increases the number of places where licensed gun owners can carry their weapons.

In Ellijay, flanked by Speaker of the House David Ralston, from nearby Blue Ridge, and jubilant gun law supporters – some of them visibly exercising their right to bear arms – Deal signed into law one of the strongest pieces of pro-gun legislation in the country.

It permits guns in bars, churches and some government buildings and allows school districts to arm some of their employees – leading opponents to refer to it as the Guns Everywhere Law.

It also stops law enforcement officers from asking to see permits of potentially unlicensed individuals carrying firearms.

The legislative debate and bill passage attracted a lot of national press attention, as did the signing. In a biting bit of satire, The New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz dubbed the measure the “We Make Florida Look Safe” Law.

As divisive as the law has been, it is unlikely to be an issue in the November governor’s race. Democratic candidate Sen. Jason Carter, from Decatur, voted for the bill in the General Assembly, describing himself as “an NRA Democrat.”

Child Welfare Reform: Responding to the deaths of children who were supposed to be under the protection of the Division of Family and Children’s Services, Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed a Child Welfare Reform Council that will review the department and make recommendations.

Community activist Stephanie Blank is the council chair. Members include juvenile court judges and representatives of law enforcement, social work, healthcare and nonprofits, as well as six members of the General Assembly: from the House, Reps. Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus), Valerie Clark (R-Lawrenceville) and Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), and from the Senate, Sens. Freddie Powell Sims (D-Albany), Burt Jones (R-Jackson) and Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody).

Rising Star: Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) is the winner of EMILY’s List’s Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award, given to recognize “courageous women who demonstrate commitment to community, dedication to women and families, and civic engagement.”

Abrams was selected for her leadership and accomplishments in the state legislature, where she is the first woman to lead either party and the first African American to lead the Georgia House. Other finalists included elected officials from California, New York, Colorado, Nevada and Ohio.

The award is named for former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was severely injured in a shooting at an Arizona shopping center in 2011.

In a press release, Abrams said she is honored and delighted to receive the award and called it “a humbling and exciting honor to represent the standards she [Giffords] has embodied.”

EMILY’s List is a national organization that works to elect progressive women to public office.

New Regents: Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Paul Bowers, president and CEO of Georgia Power, and Sachin Shailendra, president of SG Contracting in Atlanta, to serve on the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

Rossbacher Leaving: Southern Polytechnic State University President Lisa Rossbacher is leaving the post she has held since 1998 to become the next president at Humboldt State University, in Arcata, Calif., a part of the California state university system.

Active in the community, Rossbacher served as 2009 chairman of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Georgia State Chamber.

The Georgia Board of Regents has announced plans to merge Southern Poly with nearby Kennesaw State University. The combined institution will be called Kennesaw State and headed by KSU President Dan Papp.

Top Alumni: The family of Abit Massey, longtime lobbyist and executive director of the Georgia Poultry Federation, is the 2014 University of Georgia Alumni Family of the Year Award winner. The award recognizes a family that has demonstrated loyalty and service to the community, the university and the UGA Alumni Association. 

Massey and his wife Kayanne, a former Miss Georgia, have 18 family members who have attended UGA. Their son Lewis, a 1984 UGA graduate, is a former Georgia Secretary of State. 

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