A bill to protect pet stores riles up Baptists, foes of Big Tobacco

Credit: Humane Society

Credit: Humane Society

The state Capitol can produce the strangest bedfellows.

Over the last few years, as a means of boosting adoption rates for abandoned dogs and cats and discouraging “puppy mills,” several local governments in Georgia have banned the retail sale of pets in their jurisdictions.

The trend is an alarming one for chains such as Petland, which has a mixed history -- if you pay attention to Jim Strickland's reporting at Channel 2.

And so we have Senate Bill 418 and House Bill 948, which would strip cities and counties of their power to restrict the sale of animals. Here's some exact wording:

"No city, county, consolidated government, or other local governing authority of this state shall prohibit, ban, or otherwise restrict the sale by a retail establishment of goods, products, or items which are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Food and Drug Administration, or the Georgia Department of Agriculture…."

As you can see, the list of products that might be affected extends far beyond puppies and kittens.  And so the alliance of opponents to the bills has become eclectic, to say the least.

Georgia Baptists are among the naysayers. “First of all, we are concerned about any loss of local control because of a community’s right to uphold local standards,” said Georgia Baptist Mission Board lobbyist Mike Griffin in a text this morning. (There is an implied exception here: Georgia Baptists in the past have endorsed legislation that would bar cities and counties from prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians.)

“Second,” said Griffin, “we are concerned about what might be legalized in the future.”

Think marijuana.

Last night, the American Cancer Society joined the fight as well. Todd Rehm of GeorgiaPundit.com sent us the call-your-legislator email:

"The Georgia Senate is doing its best to stop our local governments from passing policies to protect their residents! They are working on bill that would stop cities and counties from passing any tobacco control regulations on the local level which would protect their residents. We must stop this bill, now."

HB 948 will get a hearing before the House Agriculture Committee this morning. SB 418 has passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee. We would say the legislation has little chance of making it beyond Crossover Day – except that Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, is one of the signers of SB 418.


Given the debate over guns and crime on Georgia's college campuses, this is a strange turn: Last week, the state Senate gave overwhelming approval to SB 348, a bill authored by Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla. It reduces the jurisdiction of campus cops, who can now make arrests within 1,500 feet of university property. The bill cuts the right to apply handcuffs to 500 feet. On campuses like Georgia Tech and Georgia State University, that could make a world of difference.


As we write this, the first state Capitol rally of gun control proponents since the Parkland, Fla., high school massacre is getting underway. State Sen. Michael Williams of Cumming, a Republican candidate for governor, has hung out a "come talk to me" shingle.

Late Tuesday, his gubernatorial campaign released his plan for increased school safety. He’s endorsing the arming and training of public school teachers and administrators, and would require schools to place “a plain-clothed, armed security guard at every building entrance that remains unlocked during school hours.”

The state, Williams said, would pick up the tab.


As he makes his exit after 23 years on the state Public Service Commission, chairman Stan Wise isn't backing away from his support for the continued construction of those two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, but he admits there's a risk.

"It clearly makes me squirm. It makes my colleagues squirm, that there was significant delays," Wise told Denis O'Hayer of WABE (90.1FM). O'Hayer pressed him on whether he thought Georgia Power would be able to keep to the newest timetable.

“I wouldn’t bet my house on a 2021 date,” Wise said.


A massive development emerging in rural Fayette County has undergone a slight but curious name change.

Curbed Atlanta reports that the developers of a 25-acre village district with more than 1,000 residences was initially to be called Pinewood Forrest.

It’s now Pinewood Forest. By dropping the “r,” they may have dodged a bullet.

The Forrest name is freighted with significance. Nathan Bedford Forrest was a famed Confederate cavalry general in the Civil War who later became a founder of the Ku Klux Klan.


At the end of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson's visit to the Atlanta Press Club on Tuesday, he was asked a final question: Is he seeking a fourth term in 2022?

Isakson, a Republican who coasted to victory in 2016, answered without hesitation that he’s planning to run for re-election.

His office said he filed paperwork for the run last year, in part so he can continue to raise campaign cash. Campaign records show he has about $1.1 million on hand.


As for the so-called Dreamers, the young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children whose fate senators could not agree on last week, Isakson said he still held out hopes that lawmakers can reach a consensus.

“We all know what we need to do,” he said. “We provide in the bipartisan coalition that Republicans and Democrats can vote for a plan with a pathway to citizenship, and eventually that’s what I hope we can get back to. It’s not going away.”

He said Congress, and not the president, should decide and that it might take another crushing deadline.

“We don’t reach any agreement without a deadline,” he said, but “failure is not an option.”

Trump has moved to end the Obama-era program that offered Dreamers legal status by March 5, but that decision is currently tied up in court.


The chair of the Congressional Black Caucus is picking sides in Georgia's Sixth District race.

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., has endorsed former newscaster Bobby Kaple’s bid for the suburban Atlanta seat. Kaple is among several Democrats vying to challenge U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R- Roswell, in November. Democrat Jon Ossoff has not yet said whether he will make a comeback bid -- but here’s betting he won’t.