A bill to restrict the wearing of Muslim burqa and veil in Georgia

We received word earlier this week of a potential bill that would reflect the new Donald Trump era, one aimed at illegal immigrants that would slap a new tax on cash wired to foreign destinations.

House Bill 3, authored by state Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, would bar women from wearing a burqa and veil when posing for the photo on their Georgia drivers’ license. The bill would also subject female Muslim garb to the state’s anti-masking statute – which originally was aimed at the Ku Klux Klan.

Spencer said his legislation was intended to apply to women who are driving on public roads, but the wording suggests the restriction might also apply to any kind of public property.

The legislation would insert this new line into the state's anti-masking bill: "For the purposes of this subsection, the phrase 'upon any public way or property' includes but is not limited to operating a motor vehicle upon any public street, road , or highway."

The state's anti-masking law is currently gender specific, using the word "he." Spencer would amend the legislation thusly:

"A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he *or she* wears a mask, hood, or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed or covered as the conceal the identity of the wearer and is upon any public way or public property or upon the private property of another without the written permission of the owner or occupier of the property to do so."


State Rep. Mike Cheokas, R-Americus, was in the state Capitol this week, presumably to start the process of clearing out his office. Cheokas, a 12-year veteran of the Legislature, was one of the few Republican incumbents who lost in the midst of the Donald Trump wave. State Rep. Valerie Clark of Lawrenceville, is another GOP incumbent who lost.

We haven’t talked to Clark, but Cheokas said he was done in by local opposition to Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed constitutional amendment to permit the state to take over individual failing schools.

Here’s the thing: We’ve written some about the governor’s intent to punish school boards and teachers for their opposition. But if Cheokas is right, you might find that lawmakers won’t be eager to side with Deal in any attempt at revenge.


Georgia’s  House Democratic caucus on Tuesday held caucus elections for the upcoming two-year term and while Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, fought back a challenger, there was a shake-up in the number three spot.

Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna, defeated incumbent Caucus Chairman Billy Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain. The vote total was not released.

Abrams defeated Rep Winifred Dukes, D-Albany. Dukes, a 20-year-veteran of the House, argued that Democrats under Abrams leadership have not made the necessary advancements to compete for a majority position and that Abrams’ fails to delivery transparency and unity to the caucus. Abrams countered that since she took over as leader the caucus has won previously GOP-held seats and defended more that were drawn for Republicans to win.

In other races, Rep. Carolyn Hugley, D-Columbus, defeated Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, to remain as minority whip, and Rep. Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville, defeated Rep. Erica Thomas, D-Austell for vice chair.


The Georgia Chamber's annual pre-legislative meeting is being held this week at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge at the Reynolds Plantation on Lake Oconee, and we hear there's much confusion about the unsettled governor's race and what next year's legislative agenda will be.

Among the interesting names making the round on the Republican side is U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who won a GOP leadership role on Tuesday, and state Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, who is one of many being mentioned as a 2018 candidate for governor. On the Democratic side, there was apparently ruminations about former U.S. Rep. John Barrow making a comeback.

But here’s another thought that might deserve some cogitation:

It appears that Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina has been done in by H.B. 2, that state’s transgender bathroom law. But there’s another, more practical reason that another battle over “religious liberty” legislation should be avoided. Which the Georgia Chamber would dearly like to do.

Republicans are now fully in charge of Congress. This summer, during his re-election bid, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson said that the fight over “religious liberty” legislation was something to be settled at the federal level  – not in a state Capitol in Atlanta.

“It’s Washington’s problem” sounds like a perfectly reasonable escape hatch for those who don’t want the issue to dominate the Legislature for a fourth year running.


The Daily Report has a lengthy interview with Gov. Nathan Deal focusing on the judicial appointments he sneaked in the day after the election. But it also includes this snippet about Trump's victory. From the newspaper:

"The only time I ever met him was when he came to Atlanta for a fund-raiser. They asked me to introduce him, which I did. In person he was a lot different, I thought, a lot more likable than he might appear in a big crowd. … We ought to all wish him the best of luck. Our country is going to demand that we heal some of the divides that are out there. But whoever had gotten elected was going to have that problem. It's more prominent now than it has been in modern history."


Looks like we’ve got more downstate pressure for a proposed constitutional amendment to permit casino gaming in Georgia. From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

By a 7-2 vote with Councilors Glenn Davis and Mike Baker opposed and Councilor Mimi Woodson absent, council approved asking the local legislative delegation to “introduce and/or support legislation to authorize a referendum to allow Georgia citizens to vote as to whether they want to allow casino gaming in Georgia for the purpose of Hope Scholarship funding.”


Council’s discussion followed five leaders in the black community who supported including the suggestion on the legislative agenda.


Local entrepreneur Robert Wright Jr. said Monday that he would like to see a $200-million casino go up in south Columbus. He and several other leaders came to Council on Tuesday to ask councilors to include the request on its legislative agenda.


President-elect Donald Trump's transition team hasn't exactly been organized when it comes to the team of reporters tasked with tracking their every move. The press pool has largely been confined to the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, giving reporters a view of who's coming in and out.

So far the pool reports have described a roster of visitors either with a hand in selecting Trump's Cabinet or folks who could be up for positions. Color us surprised when this name popped up yesterday:

At about 6:50pm, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex) unexpectedly emerged from the elevators with a group of aides...

This morning, Bloomberg reports that Cruz is being considered for U.S. attorney general.


Twitter has suspended a number of accounts associated with the alt-right movement, the same day the social media service said it would crack down on hate speech, according to USA Today.

Among those suspended was Richard Spencer, who runs an alt-right think tank and had a verified account on Twitter. Here’s his protest video:

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman is a senior reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's enterprise team, where she covers public policy.