The Jolt: A Senate committee passes the adoption bill, but adds a poison pill

Gov. Nathan Deal addresses the Georgia Chamber’s Eggs & Issues breakfast on Wednesday. He’s called for a “clean” adoption bill. A Senate committee passed out one that contains language he vetoed last year. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

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Gov. Nathan Deal addresses the Georgia Chamber’s Eggs & Issues breakfast on Wednesday. He’s called for a “clean” adoption bill. A Senate committee passed out one that contains language he vetoed last year. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

A bill to make the adoption process in Georgia faster and easier passed out of a state Senate committee Wednesday, without a controversial "religious liberty" provision that stalled the legislation last year.

A floor vote could come as early as next week – meeting demands made by both Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston.

In last year’s session, Senate Republicans attempted to insert language that offered legal protection to private agencies that accept taxpayer-subsidized grants but don’t want to place children with same-sex couples.

That's the clause that Ralston and Deal wanted gone. But public threats often trigger a testosterone contest in the state Capitol. Before the adoption bill was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, it was laced with what might be considered a poison pill – the contents of House Bill 359, which the governor vetoed last year.

The pill is a complicated thing, so we'll let Governor Deal explain it. From his veto message:

House Bill 359, while well-intentioned, creates a parallel and unchecked system to our Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), unintentionally placing children at risk.

The Power of Attorney created by HB 359 allows parents and "agents" to go around the well-established confines of legal adoption and/or our child welfare system, granting a power of attorney for a child to an individual, or even a non-profit corporation, with no oversight.

The state has dedicated significant resources to DFCS during my time as Governor in order to improve the safety and outcomes of children in foster care.

The state should consider all options that help in streamlining the process for a child to be adopted, or placed in a loving home or improved foster care environment; however, creating a parallel system in which DFCS has no oversight runs contrary to the progress the state has made in strengthening our child welfare system.


On Tuesday, Republicans won special elections for two legislative seats that involved Henry County-based districts: Former House member Brian Strickland replaces Rick Jeffares, who resigned to run for lieutenant governor. Geoffrey Cauble won Strickland's abandoned House seat.

The GOP already held both seats. But several House Republicans – we’re looking at you, Earl Ehrhart – complained that the victories have gotten short shrift when compared to reports on Democratic gains on metro Atlanta’s north side.

And they have a point.

Henry County is a land of rapidly shifting demographics. In 2000, whites made up 80 percent of the vote. As of 2016, that percentage had dropped to 47 percent.

But the Henry County GOP has done what the Georgia GOP, in some ways, has not. It is a biracial operation. Henry County GOP chairman Pete Peterson is African-American. Check out the Henry County GOP's Facebook page:

In 2016, Republicans successfully elected June Wood as Henry County Commission chairman. She's an African-American, too.

Tuesday shouldn’t just be a celebration for Republicans. It’s a lesson, too.


Stacey Abrams, one of two Democratic candidates for governor, was the star of a tribute to African-American women on "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee" last night. Watch here:

Outside of the comedy bits, Abrams engaged in some serious talk about her effort to become the first black female governor in history.

“What the GOP has done effectively for the last 40 years is talk to people that other people ignored. That’s something Democrats have been afraid to do. Obvious but expensive,” Abrams said. “My goal is to reverse engineer what Republicans did.”


Whether Stacey Abrams or Stacey Evans, Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball says odds are against a Democratic victory in Georgia:

The Republicans currently hold six of the governorships in the 10 most populous states. The two most populous states, California and Texas, look like easy holds for, respectively, the Democrats and Republicans.

New York, now the fourth-largest state, should be an easy hold for Democrats. North Carolina, the ninth-most populous, is the only one not on the ballot this year (Democrats captured it in 2016), while Georgia, the eighth-biggest, is competitive, but the Republicans are favored to hold it.


But Roy Moore's stunning defeat in Alabama offers a counterpoint, Georgia's top Democrat suggests. From a column by DuBose Porter, chairman of state Democratic party, in The Hill newspaper:

Allow me to lay out the case for Georgia in numbers to demonstrate why this is both time sensitive and imperative. Where Alabama's white electorate is 70 percent, Georgia's is only 55 percent, and Georgia Democrats can count on a reliable 23 percent of that white vote, even in tough years. While Alabama's African American electorate is roughly a quarter of the population, Georgia's is more than 40 percent and a coalition of African American, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander voters comprise 45 percent of our electorate, and is rising.

Recall that Georgia outperformed Ohio in 2016. With just $100,000 in field investment from the Clinton campaign, Georgia was just shy of matching the vote deficit of neighboring battleground state North Carolina, where more than $30 million in investment poured in. Perhaps most plainly put, Donald Trump won Alabama with 62.1 percent of the vote. In Georgia, he won with just 51.3 percent. Where Alabama Democrats had to start to secure their victory, Georgia begins well more than 10 points bluer and nearly 20 percent more of our population are voters of color.


This AJC summary is worth your time today:

The Boston Celtics' Jaylen Brown endured repeated racist taunts when he was a young player in Georgia, he said this week. It's not clear, however, whether the incidents Brown described took place at Wheeler High School in Marietta, where Brown emerged just a few years ago as one of the top basketball players in the nation.

Here's the link to the original interview in The Guardian.


Over at the White House, President Donald Trump has plans to hold a roundtable on prison reform issues this afternoon. As Axios' Mike Allen reports, the issue has caught the attention of Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and is seen as a conservative issue because it's designed to cut recidivism rates and save money while not touching the political hornet's nest that is criminal sentencing.

You may recall that prison reform has also become a pet issue of U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, who introduced legislation last year aiming to replicate some of Georgia and Texas' criminal justice reform efforts on the federal level. We'll be watching to see whether the two efforts merge.


As we told you in our 2018 Georgia guide to Washington, topping the congressional delegation's list of unfinished business in this new year is approving a financial lifeline for the troubled Plant Vogtle nuclear project. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, the state's most senior D.C. Republican, says he's optimistic that Congress will approve a bill promising the project some $800 million in federal tax credits before the end of the month. "We're going to get it done," he said in an interview Wednesday. "I was involved in conversations today about that subject and it may get done pretty quickly here in the next 10 days or so."


Expect the Trump administration's first federal judicial pick for Georgia to cruise through the Senate later today. All but one senator (Hawaii Democrat Mazie Hirono) voted yesterday to advance the nomination of former federal prosecutor Michael Brown, with a final confirmation vote scheduled for noon today. If confirmed, Brown will take one of two vacant judgeships on the U.S. district court in Atlanta.