About Nathan Deal's secretive water wars visit

Gov. Nathan Deal has high hopes for those quiet meetings he arranged with his counterparts in Alabama and Florida to hash out the water wars dispute.

The governor said his meeting last month with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley touched on Deal's plan to build a system of state reservoirs in north Georgia to beef up the state's water storage supply. The state has already committed $300 million to the reservoirs, which have stoked fears in Alabama and Florida that Georgia is trying to hoard more of the resource.

"These are long term projects, but it will give us a holding capacity in our state that can be called upon in times of drought in order to guarantee some water flow at the state line."

A breakthrough in the negotiations may yet prove elusive, and observers aren't holding their breath. But Deal sounded a note of optimism.

"It is a multifaceted problem, and one we'll never solve without imagination and ingenuity," he said. "We've made good progress on our side of the line, and both governors have indicated a willingness to re-engage to see if we can finalize it. It's better for us to re-engage than have a court try to decide it."

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State Rep. Beth Beskin was among the Liberty Three - the trio of Republicans who derailed the contentious "religious liberty" measure in the final days of the legislative session by pressing for an anti-discrimination clause.

She's also been mostly quiet on her reasoning. Until now.

In a letter to constituents, the freshman lawmaker from Buckhead said she's studied the evolution of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act since 1993.

Wrote Beskin:

As a Christian, I reread all of Jesus' words.  I consulted with many faith leaders, both those supporting RFRA as well as those opposed.  In the committee meeting March 26th, I voted to include an anti-discrimination amendment to SB 129 offered by Representative Mike Jacobs.  The vote on that amendment was 9-8 in favor, after which SB 129 was tabled in committee. 

After that vote, I received more than 1,000 emails and phone calls.  My constituents almost uniformly supported my vote to include the anti-discrimination provision, and for that I am deeply grateful.  I know this issue is divisive, and I expect it to return next session. 

***

How to reward state Rep. Calvin Smyre after helping broker a long-sought deal to raise more cash for transportation?

Gov. Nathan Deal tapped him to sort out another tough dispute: He's been assigned to serve as the "chief liaison" regarding fundraising efforts to finally put a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. on the grounds of the statehouse.

The Columbus Democrat has his work cut out for him. He'll have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, help find a sculptor and win approval from the King estate and his surviving children to use the civil rights icon's likeness.

Smyre, never one to skirt a tough task, has said he's confident an agreement can be reached.

***

The race for judicial posts is well underway.

A host of big-name Democrats held a fundraiser last week for Anne Barnes, who is running for another term on the Georgia Court of Appeals in 2016.

Among the hosts were former Gov. Roy Barnes, state Rep. Kathy Ashe and party insider Jeremy Berry.

***

When Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced his run for the presidency last month, we told you about two Georgians playing key roles in his bid with an allied Super PAC. But that wasn't the PAC making big news Wednesday with an eye-popping $31 million haul.

National Review explains:

Cruz, however, already had a super PAC devoted to boosting his candidacy. That PAC, Stand for Principle, was founded last year. Though it was loosely directed by Cruz’s longtime friend and former debate partner David Panton, it was officially led by former Newt Gingrich fundraiser Maria Strollo Zack. The PAC had pulled in a paltry $300,000 by the beginning of 2015, and, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, the senator’s would-be backers didn’t like what they saw, at least not enough to put their millions there.

So now, there is another group of PACs under different direction. Keep the Promise, Voelter said in his statement, “can provide the ‘appropriate air cover’ in the battle against Senator Cruz’s opponents in the Washington establishment and on the political left.”

“We plan to support the effort of millions of courageous conservatives who believe 2016 is our last opportunity to ‘keep the promise’ of America for future generations,” he said.

***

Georgia U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson joined their mid-Atlantic brethren from both parties in a letter to the top senators on the Energy Committee this week, requesting that any tax revenue from potential offshore drilling off the Atlantic Coast be shared among the affected states -- Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Gulf Coast states have a similar deal.

"In the Mid- and South-Atlantic, as in the Gulf of Mexico, we all agree on the principle that coastal states deserve a portion of the revenue from energy production," the senators wrote.

The Obama administration recently took the first step toward allowing drilling off the Atlantic in the coming years.

***

Our Channel 2 Action News brethren have the story that is sure to catch attention in the Gold Dome: When an Uber driver picked up a Channel 2 employee at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, he was stopped, ticketed and had his car impounded.

An airport spokesperson told Channel 2’s Amy Napier Viteri that all commercial vehicles need credentials and permits to pick up at the airport and added in a statement, “Companies that are operating illegally will be cited and their vehicles impounded."

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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