Busy day under Gold Dome as session winds down

  The penultimate day of the 2017 legislative session was a busy one as many key bills met their fate Tuesday for better or for worse.  Firearm legislation was a big player, as was immigration and terrorism as national and state issues collided under the Gold Dome. HB 406 – State Rep. Allen Powell’s gun reciprocity-with-Virginia bill passed the Senate with ease and goes to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk, where it will more than likely be signed into law.   HB 292 – This complex gun bill from state Sen. Rick Jasperse that would prohibit probate judges from altering the process of approving a GWL application along with allowing licensees of states with reciprocal agreements with Georgia a 90 day grace period to obtain a GWL, among other issues, will go back to the House for further debate before another chance to pass on Thursday. HB 280 – The 2017 version of ‘campus carry’ heads back to the House, expect it to be a major topic of debate on the session’s final day. HB 37 – State Rep. Earl Ehrhart’s controversial bill would take away state funding from Georgia universities that declared themselves as ‘sanctuary campuses.’  The bill passed the Senate with relative ease and heads to Governor Deal’s desk for his signature. SB 1 – An embarrassing end for one of the state Senate’s top priorities as the bill died after two separate votes in the House.  Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert and endorsed by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, SB 1 would have classified certain crimes as acts of ‘domestic terrorism’ and increased their punishments.  Opposition, which included nearly...

Gwinnett BOE turns to strategy for 2020s

  Gwinnett County Public Schools began work on its next 10-year strategy document Tuesday with the first of five area board meetings. The document, which will give the state’s largest school system direction for the 2020s, will replace a similar document formed in 2010. Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said the older document set the stage for a successful decade, and he expects the same from the product that will replace it. The system not only is the largest in the state, it is one of the most diverse, but it still competes nationally for honors.  Those honors, including twice winning the Broad Prize for the nation’s best urban school district, came because the system followed its plan formulated a decade ago. “The school district made progress educating all students, and I do mean all students,” he said. Tuesday’s meeting at Discovery High School, the county’s newest high school, included students, parents and educators from the Berkmar and Meadowcreek clusters of schools as well. Those two clusters are among the most diverse in Gwinnett. That wasn’t lost on Pam Buckland, a veteran middle school teacher in the Meadowcreek Cluster.  Buckland began teaching there in the middle 1990s, when the schools had a solid white majority of students. Within a few years, the student population spoke many languages and came from a vast array of cultures. “We were learning how to teach a different population,” she said. “They didn’t speak our language, and few of the adults at home had any education beyond middle school.  “These students came to us without previous knowledge. That scenario plays out every week at each...

Early Voting Underway in Sixth District

Early voting has begun in the hotly contested race to replace new Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Georgia’s sixth district. Eleven Republicans, five Democrats and two independents are hoping to win on April 18 and make a runoff scheduled for June 20th. Democrats seem to have coalesced around Jon Ossoff as local and national supporters hope to turn dissatisfaction with President Trump into grabbing a seat normally reserved for Republicans into a shocking blue pick-up. The last time the district was represented by a Democrat was in 1978 by Rep. John J. Flynt, Jr., once a staunch segregationist and signer of the Southern Manifesto. Newt Gingrich took the seat and its been in firm Republican hands ever since. Tom Price won the district 62% to 38% in the fall before his appointment. However, Donald Trump only won the district by 1.5%. Democrats are undoubtedly looking to tie any Republican to the president while the Republicans, whose party members mostly still support the president. A Quinnipiac poll last week found that more than 81% of Republicans approve of the job the president is doing, although that is down from 91% three weeks ago. Overall, the president’s job approval in the Quinnipiac poll is 37%. Democrats in Georgia’s sixth are hoping that number can drag them over the finish line. A recent Vox article highlighted how normally a Democrat would raise about $20,000 for this seat. Right now, the Ossoff campaign has raised somewhere around $3 million. Reportedly, more than 7,000 people have volunteered for his campaign. On Monday, apparently in town filming a project, actress Alyssa Milano...

Debate Over Role of Schools’ Chief Turnaround Officer

​The education turnaround legislation being debated before the General Assembly, now labeled the First Priority Act, has gone through several revisions. But on the second-to-last day of the session one section has remained: creation of a public school system “chief turnaround officer” who would report to the state Board of Education. Various groups — from teachers’ organizations to conservative think tanks — have asked that the CTO position report to the elected state school superintendent instead. Georgia Association of Educators President Sid Chapman says he’s hoping a majority of legislators change their minds about where the officer reports. “The state school superintendent is elected by the people,” Chapman says. “And he has no one else in that whole department who doesn’t report to him.” Gov. Nathan Deal and his legislative allies believe the state school superintendent has a dismal record when it comes to reforming, closing or turning failing schools into charters. They just want the superintendent to “consult” with the CTO. During recent testimony before the Senate Youth and Education Committee, Superintendent Richard Woods said the mission of the education department is to implement the state’s educational directives and that his agency should lead the process to improve schools. Woods also urged that criteria for what is considered a failing school should align with the federal definition. In the bill, a failing school would include one that has received “an unacceptable rating and any other factors deemed appropriate” by the CTO. Officials with the Georgia School Board Association as well as the state’s largest education association– the Professional Association of Georgia Educators– also cite concerns over the reporting...

Three gun bills on state Senate docket

  The Georgia Senate was scheduled to consider pro-gun bills, House Bill 292 , House Bill 280, and House Bill 406 last Friday. But InsiderAdvantage has learned that consideration will take place tomorrow— the second to the last legislative day of the 2017 General Assembly. The National Rifle Association, Georgia carry and other Second Amendment proponents are going with a full-court press to secure passage. Here is a synopsis, courtesy of the NRA, of the three bills: House Bill 292, sponsored by state Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-11), would make several positive and important changes to Georgia gun laws, including: * Providing licensees of states with reciprocal agreements with Georgia a 90 day grace period to obtain a GWL while continuing to carry legally using their previous states’ license * Prohibiting a probate judge from suspending, extending, delaying, or avoiding the process of approving a GWL application * Protecting any firearms instructor who lawfully instructs, educates, or trains a person in the safe, proper, or technical use of a firearm from civil liability for any injuries caused by the failure of such person to use such firearm properly or lawfully * Making a code change regarding permit reciprocity * Defines a knife in state code as a cutting instrument larger than 12 inches * Prohibits discrimination by financial institutions against the firearm industry simply because they are engaged in the lawful commerce of firearms House Bill 280, sponsored by state Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-23), seeks to amend restrictions in state law that prohibit law-abiding Georgia Weapons License (GWL) holders from being able to protect themselves on college and university campuses....

Georgia Allies Pave Way for Smooth Perdue Confirmation

After weeks of waiting, President Trump’s pick for agriculture secretary, former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, got his hearing on Thursday. With Rep. David Scott (D- GA 13) and former Senator Saxby Chambliss (and former Agriculture Committee Chairman) at his side, Perdue got a warm welcome from Agriculture Committee Chairman Senator Pat Roberts (R- Kansas). Rep. Sanford Bishop (D- GA 2) was also present for the hearing offering his support. Chambliss’ testimony focused on his long-time relationship with Perdue, including their campaigning together in 2002 as Chambliss ran for his first Senate election the same year Perdue ran for governor. “Sonny has been a leader in everything he’s been involved in doing. As a farmer, he was a leader in the field of agribusiness in our state. As a member of the state senate, he was elected by his peers to be the President Pro Tem of the senate. And as governor, he was chairman of the Republican Governors Association.” Rep. Scott, after a subtle jab from Chairman Roberts thanking him for appearing before “the upper body”, said he was honored to have the opportunity to stand with his “dear friend” Perdue. “I’m here to explain to you that indeed Sonny Perdue is the right person at the right time to do the absolute best job.” During his time in the state senate, Scott was chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and worked closely with Perdue while he was President Pro Tem. Scott wanted to be sure the record was set straight for Perdue and with that Scott faced the Confederate flag issue head on. This had been one area...

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