The Jolt: After a hard day of student protests, Georgia lawmakers were invited to relax at a firing range

What with all the kids protesting gun violence – some even using the words "gun control," things were a little strained in the state Capitol on Wednesday.
A few of the adults, as well as the students, wore buttons announcing they were Democrats – absolute proof of their impure motives, one tense GOP legislator informed us.
Fortunately, stress release for lawmakers was close by: An indoor firing range where "a variety of range guns" would be available, followed by a BBQ dinner. The Wednesday evening invitation to fire off a few rounds came courtesy of the Georgia Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus, and was coordinated by state Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen.
The timing was coincidental, but the irony was hard to ignore.

Over at Georgia Health News, Andy Miller reports that Senate Bill 31, a state health agency board item, has been loaded with language intended to help Cancer Treatment Centers of America escape an in-state patient cap at its Newnan hospital. The move came during a Wednesday meeting of the House Health and Human Services Committee.
The CTCA hospital, built in 2008, was given a waiver from certificate-of-need requirements usually imposed by the state on the condition that it limit the number of Georgia patients it serves. Surrounding hospitals feared that the hospital would poach well-insured patients, leaving public and non-profits to pick up the under-insured slack.


Our AJC colleague Mark Niesse reports that state Sen. Fran Millar has tacked an amendment to SB 430 that would require pay raises voted by county commissioners throughout the state to be delayed from going effect until after their terms end.
Specifically, Millar was motivated by a 60-percent pay raise that DeKalb County commissioners voted to give themselves:

"If you're in office when the pay raise is approved, you can't get it till the term expires," Millar, whose district includes part of DeKalb, told members of the House Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday. "Nobody should get a raise during the middle of their term."

DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester, a northside Republican, voted against the pay increase – but also opposes Millar's amendment. Last night, she explained why on Facebook:

(1) The pay raise would stand. (2) The pay raise would happen at staggered times resulting in only men getting the raise in 2019 while EVERY WOMAN serving on the Board would not. (3) All of the lady commissioners would make 62% of what their male colleagues are paid while doing the same job.


Speaking of Nancy Jester, the DeKalb County commissioner on Wednesday was named state co-chair of David Shafer's Republican campaign for lieutenant governor.
In the campaign press release, Jester is quoted in praise of Shafer's integrity and adherence to conservative values. Jester's appointment comes days after news broke of a sexual harassment complaint filed against Shafer by a longtime lobbyist at the Capitol.

Vice President Mike Pence's presence at St. Patrick's Day festivities in Savannah on Saturday will result in a 12-block enhanced security area in which fun will be under tight control. From the Savannah Morning News:

A number of items - including folding chairs, coolers, backpacks, purses, tents and alcoholic beverages - will not be allowed to enter the controlled zone. The selling and consumption of alcohol will still be permitted within the control zone, but only in to-go cups provided by the bars and restaurants within its borders. City spokeswoman Michelle Gavin said residents who live inside the perimeter of the zone will be able to take drinks outside of their homes, but only in to-go cups.

You can sip a can of Bud inside your own home, but can’t step out your own door with it? Good luck with that one.


Clay Tippins has filed his financial disclosure required for his bid for governor, and it seems clear that the Republican doesn't have the bank account necessary to self-finance a substantial part of his own campaign.

The technology executive reported assets of roughly $2.4 million and liabilities of $1.7 million, for a net worth of nearly $700,000. His properties include farmland in Juliette, Ga. and his million-dollar Buckhead home. Debts consist of several mortgages and a car loan.


But back to the topic of gun violence and schools: U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, broke with the vast majority of his House colleagues on Wednesday to vote against a school safety bill sold as Congress' initial response to last month's mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.

The six-term congressman was one of only 10 lawmakers, Democrat or Republican, to vote against the “STOP School Violence Act,” which would reauthorize $50 million annually in federal grants for school security efforts.

The bill would fund training for local law enforcement and school officials and pay for physical improvements at schools such as metal detectors, as well as federal teams to help school district handle safety threats.

Johnson faulted the legislation for being rushed through the chamber without any committee hearings. “Unintended consequences baked into the law can come back to haunt innocent students who may fall victim to the anonymous reporting systems, which could cause wrongful suspensions and expulsions while disproportionately impacting minority students,” he said. Johnson was the only member of Georgia’s U.S. House delegation to vote against the bill, which does not arm teachers or make any gun policy changes.


U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, told a group of students assembled at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday never to give in on issues such as gun control. "Keep your eyes on the prize and you will have a great victory," he said, according to The Hill newspaper. Lewis has become particularly vocal on gun violence in recent years, especially after leading a viral protest on the House floor in 2016.


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