Scott Pruitt, administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. AP/Carolyn Kaster
Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP
Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP

It’s Atlanta’s fault that EPA’s Scott Pruitt flies first-class

Turns out you’re why Scott Pruitt, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, needs to fly first-class. He doesn’t want to -- he has to.

Specifically, we’re looking at you, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Politico.com has interviewed Henry Barnet, director of the agency's Office of Criminal Enforcement, who explained that flying first class helped the administrator to avoid unpleasant clashes with those who disagree with him:

Barnet said Pruitt's detail has been alarmed at some of the confrontations they have had to defuse while traveling in public.

As an example, Barnet recounted on incident from October at the airport in Atlanta. An individual approached Pruitt with his cell phone recording, yelling at him “‘Scott Pruitt, you’re f---ing up the environment,’ those sort of terms,” Barnet said.

The logic of this isn’t quite water-tight. One could argue that Pruitt would have far less exposure to the public if he boarded early with the elderly and parents with small children, and was seated at the rear of the plane.

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It won’t happen here, given that members of the state Public Service Commission are elected, but this article from The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., is worth noting:

Members of a state commission that approved nine rate hikes to bankroll SCE&G’s failed nuclear project soon could lose their jobs.

The S.C. House voted 108-1 Thursday to fire the seven members of the state Public Service Commission over the next two years. The move would shake up the utility regulator ahead of one of its most important rulings ever.

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Somebody wants to be Georgia’s Joe Arpaio. Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, who compared Gov. Nathan Deal to Lucifer earlier this week, is now marveling at the state Capitol stir he’s caused.

On Thursday, Sills said the volatile reaction he’s received for criticizing the governor’s new bid to reform the use of cash bail requirements for minor crimes was a sign that other law enforcement officers should “immediately go directly to the public” with their concerns.

By way of background, here’s what Sills put in a first email broadside sent to law enforcement colleagues:

“This governor has done more for those who perpetrate crime than Lucifer and his demons combined, and every piece of his criminal justice reform that has been passed into law has complicated or burdened our duties and/or endangered the citizenry of our state.”

From the floor of the House, one member called for the Georgia Sheriffs Association to censure Sills. House Speaker David Ralston had this to say:

“When I read those comments this morning, I got sick to my stomach. Few things in my public career have I found as disgusting and deplorable as that statement made by a man who wears a badge,” said Ralston. “They are wrong, and they are an embarrassment to an honorable profession.”

Which explains this line from Sills on Thursday:

“The last thing the Speaker and many others at the Capitol want is to hear is an outcry from the public on this issue,” he wrote, adding: “We must actively, loudly, and very publically stand up for the women and men of local law enforcement who are the first to respond and protect our citizens.”

Sills proposed creating a new group -- he dubbed it the “Georgia Sheriffs’ Borax Squad” -- to oppose the governor’s cash bail program.

He described them as “sheriffs who will throw political correctness to the wind, speak as loud as God’s most ferocious thunder, and pull the heaviest train of truth about criminal justice and public safety ever towed and drive it from Trenton to Tybee and Bainbridge to Blue Ridge.”

On the other hand, it’s also worth noting that Georgia sheriffs are elected officials who are often in need of campaign contributions. And historically, one major source of this cash has been the bail bond industry.

***

Lt. Gov. Cagle has unplugged the measure calling for a so-called Netflix tax. 

In an interview on GPB’s “Lawmakers” that was broacast Thursday, the Republican candidate for governor said he had no appetite for a House measure that would impose a 4 percent sales tax on digital-streaming services that aims to expand broadband Internet to rural areas. 

He echoed other Senate leaders who back a separate plan that would make it easier for broadband companies to get clearance to extend lines on the public right of way.

***

U.S. Term Limits, a group advocating limited service for members of Congress, has been at the state Capitol collecting signatures on a petition demanding a constitutional convention.

The organization claimed six new commitments from House Republicans this week:

-- Paul Battles of Cartersville;

-- Dale Rutledge of McDonough;

-- Kevin Cooke of Carrollton;

-- Steve Tarvin of Chickamauga;

-- David Stover of Newnan; and

-- Jeff Jones of Brunswick;

Overall, 19 of 180 House members have signed the petition, which is tied to Senate Resolution 195, a measure passed by the Senate last year.

There’s a reason for the group’s push. Should the House fail to take it up this session, the measure dies and the work must begin all over again.

***

With the U.S. Senate stuck on immigration, lawmakers will return to Washington after a week-long recess to try their hand at something a little simpler: Trump’s judicial nominees. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has teed up confirmation votes for Georgia Court of Appeals Judges Elizabeth Branch and Tripp Self for later this month. Branch was tapped for a vacancy on the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Self is nominated to be a U.S. district court judge in Georgia’s central district.

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