AP file HANDOUT/AP
Photo: HANDOUT/AP
Photo: HANDOUT/AP

The Jolt: A Georgia ban on cell phone use while driving just hit a wall

A House measure that would require Georgia motorists to use hands-free mobile phone technology when they drive is suddenly in trouble.

House Bill 673, authored by state Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, received a tepid response from all five leading Republican candidates for governor at Tuesday’s Columbus/Muscogee GOP forum.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the Republican frontrunner and president of the Senate, said it faced an “uphill battle” in his chamber -- signaling that it’s unlikely to pass without significant changes.

The proposal, which was approved with a 151-20 vote by the House on last week’s Crossover Day, would ban watching movies, recording videos and otherwise fiddling with gadgets in a way that takes your eyes off the road while driving. It would also double the fine for distracted driving to at least $300.

Advocates say the bill would stem a rising tide of highway fatalities on Georgia highways. Critics say it’s another layer of government intrusion. The state already bans minors from using a wireless device while driving and adults from texting and driving. 

Cagle said at the forum that sometimes lawmakers have a “sense of wanting to go a little bit too far in one direction” when it comes to public safety and that it’s likely to get a tough reception in his chamber. 

Other candidates cast it as a Big Brother-like intrusion. State Sen. Michael Williams of Cumming pledged to vote against the measure because drivers need to take “personal responsibility” for their actions. 

Businessman Clay Tippins said the “last thing I want to do is insert government” deeper into motorists’ daily commutes, while former state senator Hunter Hill said the crackdown defies his pledge for a more limited state government. 

Secretary of State Brian Kemp had a different approach. He called this debate the “seat belt issue of the 21st Century” and suggested such bans would soon be widely accepted. But, he added, he worries “about us continuing to mandate things on law enforcement and not giving them the resources to be able to fundamentally do their job.” 

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Several prominent Democrats were celebrating the decision by Lucy McBath, an anti-gun violence activist, to challenge U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, for Georgia’s Sixth District. State Rep. Scott Holcomb was not one of them. The DeKalb legislator said McBath should have stuck to her initial plan to challenge state Rep. Sam Teasley, a Republican in a suddenly competitive Marietta-based district. Tweeted Holcomb: 

Two Democrats are already in the race. Former newscaster Bobby Kaple qualified on Monday. Businessman Kevin Abel is expected to qualify this morning.

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Another sign of rural Georgia’s presence on Republican radar screens: Gov. Nathan Deal today announced that Amy Carter, a former state House member from Valdosta, had already been pulled into the administration, will now serve as deputy commissioner for rural Georgia at the state Department of Economic Development. Carter will lead state efforts to help rural Georgia communities become more competitive for economic development projects outside metro Atlanta.

Carter, a former teacher, currently has a position within the Technical College System of Georgia.

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The Washington Post is out with a detailed look at the national African-American movement to stake out influence commensurate with their numbers in the Democratic party.

The piece puts Georgia’s Stacey v. Stacey race for governor in a larger context, and is well worth your time. A taste:

Much of the fraught history involving Democrats and black voters took place in the South — and for a long time, it appeared far-fetched that Democrats could ever compete in that Republican-dominated region again. But Doug Jones’s victory — which relied so heavily on black voters — raised hopes anew. Now [DNC chair Tom] Perez is waiting to see what happens in Georgia, where Stacey Abrams (who is black) and Stacey Evans (who is white) are vying in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. “I predict the nominee will be Stacey,” he jokes with a slight smile.

Abrams was in D.C. at the National Press Club on Valentine’s Day. She had come as part of a panel that included Florida’s Gillum and David Garcia, running for governor in Arizona. They received an endorsement from the progressive group People for the American Way. Abrams says she’s seeing indications that the party is paying better attention to mobilizing black voters. However, she told me, more is needed: “I’ve seen initial signs, but what I want to see is a plan for consistent and sustained and deep investment that is not just about special elections but about systemic change in how we value and invest in black voters.”

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So you know that Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s chief economic advisor, announced his resignation Tuesday, cooling stock markets across the globe out of fears of a tariff war.

Some of our Jewish friends heard a dogwhistle in this Tweeted-out statement last night from Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget:

At minimum, we’ve just learned that “globalist” is another thing one can’t be within the new Republican party.

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U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, officially announced his plans to run for the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. The Republican has flirted with a run for the position, which would give him jurisdiction over issues like immigration and intellectual property, for the last few months.

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