The state Senate could be in something of an uproar today, as the chamber takes up two bills that would carve a new city out of the existing, majority-black city of Stockbridge in Henry County.
We’ve had fights over new cities before. This one is different, given that the new city of Eagles Landing would be involuntarily formed from an existing city. Stockbridge now has an approximate population of 25,000. Eagles Landing would have a population of 17,000.
The measures are proceeding in something akin to anonymity. The only name on the online versions of the bills are that of Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough, who is no longer a member of the chamber. He resigned in December to run for lieutenant governor. Brian Strickland, a former House member, has taken his seat.
In a new city of Eagles Landing, white voters would be on a parity with black voters. But Republicans are likely to argue that the move doesn’t affect black voting strength within Stockbridge and thus does not violate the federal Voting Rights Act. Here’s the population breakdown that Senate Democrats provided us last night:
Demographics of existing city of Stockbridge:
-- Voting-age population: 32.5 white, 53 percent black
-- Total population: 29 percent white, 56 percent white
Demographics of a city of Stockbridge with new boundaries:
-- Voting-age population: 31 percent white; 54 percent black
-- Total population: 28 percent white; 57 percent black
Demographics of proposed city of Eagles Landing:
-- Voting-age population: 43 percent white; 44 percent black
-- Total population: 39 percent white; 44 percent black
To accomplish demographic stasis in Stockbridge, Senate Republicans would draw 3,000 residents of unincorporated Henry County into Stockbridge.
The establishment of a city of Eagles Landing would require a referendum of its residents. But they would be the only ones allowed a vote on the matter.
That’s not the only objection that will be raised by Senate Democrats. Eagles Landing would be given the lion’s share of the two commercial thoroughfares that generate the sales taxes needed to fund government operations in Stockbridge.
Stockbridge currently has no property tax – a situation that’s likely to change if this secession effort is allowed to proceed.
Look for speeches rather than floor debate on these bills. Passage is likely to be followed by a fight in court, and Republicans will want to keep a tight rein on statements about motive and impact.
Spotted at the state Capitol: Kathy Cox, the former two-term state school superintendent, who has moved back to metro Atlanta after a stint in Washington D.C.
We wrote at length on Monday about the similar worldviews but very different approaches of U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue when it comes to their chamber’s unfolding immigration debate.
While Perdue has affixed himself to the worldview of President Donald Trump’s base, Isakson has been tougher to pin down on specifics. He’s paid lip service to many of the same proposals as Perdue, but has also maintained that he would remain flexible in order to cut a deal.
So the dueling Valentine’s Day press releases that hit our inboxes, suggesting that Isakson had more than one dog in this week’s Senate floor fight, weren’t all that surprising.
Isakson was listed as a co-sponsor of the plan rolled out by a bipartisan group of moderates last night. That proposal would beef up border security funding over 10 years -- not immediately, as the president would prefer -- and grant Dreamers a path to citizenship but bar them from sponsoring their parents.
But Isakson was also added on as a co-sponsor of the Trump and Perdue-backed bill on Wednesday that would impose more legal immigration restrictions and eliminate the contentious diversity visa lottery. Democrats have rejected that proposal outright.
Notably, Isakson was quoted with the exact same written statement for both bills:
“We have a real opportunity to secure our borders and address some of the issues in our immigration system,” he said. “I’m committed to continuing to work toward real solutions, and this legislation will help meet many of these goals.”
Former Georgia House minority leader Stacey Abrams was in Washington on Wednesday, swinging through the nation’s capital for a panel event with other Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls, a fundraiser and media interviews. Abrams was not particularly kind about one of the Trump administration’s most recent policy proposals, to convert some food stamp payments into government-picked “harvest boxes.”
Abrams, who says she once relied on public assistance, said the proposal was “offensive, tone deaf and mean-spirited.”
“It ignores the difficulty some families have with making ends meet, keeping the electricity on,” she said in an interview. “You may not be able to use what’s in that box if you don’t have a stove that works, if you don’t have a microwave.”
As for what she would do with food stamp rules if she were governor, Stacey Abrams said she would seek to end work requirements designed to usher recipients off the safety net program. Such requirements are “wrong-headed” and inflexible, she said.
Abrams said she would like to find ways to help “people stair-step their way out of it instead of completely cutting you off the moment you take in a little extra income,” pointing to programs that have been piloted in western states in recent years.
Georgia has been rolling out work requirements over the last two years on able-bodied recipients without dependents in roughly two-dozen counties, with plans to expand to all 159 counties by 2019.
U.S. Rep. Tom Graves is running … for the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee. The Ranger Republican’s office confirmed he plans to seek one of the most powerful perches in Congress early next year.
Graves would be a dark horse candidate for the position, which would give him immense power over the federal purse strings. There are several popular and more senior Republicans who have already declared their plans to try and succeed the retiring Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J.
But Graves has ties to leadership and the Republican Study Committee, an influential bloc of conservatives. He’s also built up some political capital after shepherding a 12-in-1 spending package to passage last year.
Graves isn’t the only Georgia Republican seeking a chairmanship in the House next year.
Gainesville’s Doug Collins is eyeing the leadership of the Judiciary Committee, which would give him jurisdiction over immigration, gun control, criminal justice and voting rights issues.
And Rob Woodall of Lawrenceville, who recently lost a bid to lead the House Budget Committee, said Wednesday he would also throw his hat back into the ring if that position or the chairmanship of the House Rules Committee were to open up in the new year.
Former state Sen. Vincent Fort is still ruminating about a possible bid for lieutenant governor. But the Atlanta Democrat said if he runs, he would challenge Sarah Riggs Amico and other primary opponents to one debate a week.
Call it a mulligan: Republican Houston Gaines is mounting a second bid to win a conservative-leaning state House seat that he lost in a special election last year. His defeat to Democrat Deborah Gonzalez was seen as an early sign of a blue wave in Georgia. The Athens-based district was considered so safely conservative that no Democrats had challenged the previous incumbent, Regina Quick, since the lines were redrawn earlier this decade.
White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney appeared to hint at why the Trump administration chose to give the Savannah port expansion project half as much money as advocates wanted in the fiscal 2019 budget. Mulvaney indicated at a Tuesday Senate hearing that the project might be able to tap into more money via the infrastructure bill the administration also proposed on Monday. Here’s the exchange highlighted by Perdue’s office:
Perdue: “In states like Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, their ports are trying to accommodate the new Panamax ships that would dramatically improve our ability to compete around the world. I believe those investments are caught up in the Army Corps of Engineers budget being cut but are not being moved over to the infrastructure investments in the President’s budget. These port investments actually offer a higher rate of return than some of the infrastructure investments I think we’ve contemplated. Can you address that?”
Mulvaney: “At the risk of making a small correction, we absolutely anticipate that the deep-water ports will be part of the infrastructure bill. In fact, the largest part of the infrastructure bill, 50 percent of the $200 billion, $100 billion, is in our mind set aside for programs that can contribute their own portion of the funding. As you know, the Port of Savannah is exactly that. We specifically had the deep-water ports in mind when we fashioned the infrastructure bill.”
Perdue: “Good. That’s comforting.”
Never mind that the political prospects for the infrastructure measure are fairly dicey at the moment on Capitol Hill.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson is sticking by Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin -- at least for now -- after a blistering report from an internal government watchdog about a trip the Cabinet secretary and his wife took to Europe last summer. Isakson, the chairman of the Senate VA Committee, along with several colleagues, said they were “disappointed by the details described” in the report and called on Shulkin to address the allegations. Other lawmakers on Wednesday called on Shulkin to resign.