House speaker: 'You're going to hear more discussion' about horse racing

The Monday edition of WABE’s “A Closer Look” featured a tribute to Harry Geisinger, the state lawmaker who was also a top advocate for horse-racing in Georgia.

Tucked into the program was a Denis O’Hayer interview with House Speaker David Ralston, who says he may be shifting his ground on pari-mutuel betting. Maybe.

Ralston: “We’re still looking at it. I think [Geisinger] understood the concerns that I had, and I started understanding his point of view as time went on. So I think that we were making a lot of progress on that.

“I think that’s a subject that you’re going to hear more discussion about as we go forward. Assuming that you do, that will be due to Harry Geisinger. It was an issue he was so intense about, and so passionate about. He’s brought me around a good ways.

O’Hayer: “All the way?”

Ralston: “I said a good ways. Up here in the mountains, that could be a little or a lot.”


Even as Gov. Nathan Deal signed the transportation bill into law Monday, he acknowledged a move afoot to chip away at its tenets.

The biggest push may come from the hotel industry, which is plotting already to scale back the $5 nightly fees that help raise about $1 billion in new annual revenue for transportation improvements.

Julie Ford Musselman, who directs the Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus, sent over a study that found about a third of leisure guests at Georgia hotels are in-state visitors, and about 20 percent of overnight visitors at Atlanta hotels.

"There is a misconception in the Legislature that this new fee will be mostly paid by out-of-state visitors," she said. "Some figures that we’ve seen in newspaper articles quote as high as 85% out-of state.  But in fact quite the opposite is true."


Wonder why Gov. Nathan Deal hasn't yet taken any action in Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill's strange case?

The governor said he would not yet move to oust Hill after he was involved in a shooting that critically injured a woman near Lawrenceville over the weekend.

Said Deal:

“I only know what I’ve read in the newspaper and heard on the radio. It’s very premature. I do not have the ability to remove anybody - sheriff or otherwise - at least until he’s indicted. He has not been indicted, and whether or not he will be is a question that remains to be seen. If and when that happens, we’ll follow the course and the process that the law allows.”


In case there was any doubt, you can count IntercontinentalExchange executive and owner of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream Kelly Loeffler out of challenging U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.

Both Loeffler and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, donated $5,200 to Isakson's campaign this year, a close review of Isakson's Federal Election Commission report shows. As we told you last month, Isakson raised $1.6 million in the quarter and had $3.75 million on hand.

Loeffler flirted with a U.S. Senate run in the wide-open 2014 field, but ultimately declined. She had not indicated she was interested in the Isakson race, but this confirms it.

Other notable Isakson donors: Jeb Bush's "Right to Rise" PAC, former Democratic attorney general Thurbert Baker, former Rep. Phil Gingrey and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.


Meanwhile, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., raised $127,000 in the first quarter, but is still paying down debts from last year’s campaign.

As of the end of March, the Perdue campaign owed $385,000, mostly to consultants such as chief strategist Paul Bennecke and the firm of ad-maker Fred Davis. The Perdue campaign is carrying an additional $750,000 in outstanding loans from himself, but probably is not expecting to recoup that money.


New presidential entrant Carly Fiorina has brought in a couple of aides with Georgia ties for her campaign.

Leslie Shedd, who worked for the Georgia GOP in Atlanta last year and before that on Capitol Hill for U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, is doing press for Fiorina's Super PAC.

Brandon Howell, who worked for David Perdue last year and blogged at Georgia Tipsheet, revealed on Facebook that he is now Fiorina's "social media/war room director," working out of the Fiorina campaign's Alexandria, Va., headquarters.

And Fiorina’s director of operations is Larissa Martinez, a University of Georgia grad and onetime Johnny Isakson staffer.


Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp gave the Athens Banner-Herald this rundown on the SEC Primary state of play:

Thus far, Tennessee and Texas are joining Georgia with a March 1 primary, while the Alabama legislature appears to be moving in that direction, Kemp said. The Arkansas legislature will be convening a special session where the issue of the presidential preference primary — Gov. Asa Hutchinson is a supporter of the SEC primary — could be discussed, according to Kemp.

Frontloading HQ notes this isn't a South-only party: Vermont and Massachusetts are also slated for March 1 primaries.


David Pennington, the former mayor of Dalton who challenged Gov. Nathan Deal in last year’s Republican primary, has endorsed DeKalb County attorney Alex Johnson in the race for state GOP chairman.

Johnson is running against incumbent John Padgett of Athens. From a note Pennington sent out this morning:

Our leaders, as shown by their actions, have abandoned the core Republican principles of fiscal conservatism and limited government. Our leaders lack an overarching strategy to change Georgia's economic paradigm such that hard working Georgians enjoy greater prosperity and quality of life. This is why five years into the economic recovery Georgia still has not regained the number or quality of jobs we had prior to the recession even while our population has grown.

Change comes hard. Getting Georgia on a path to true economic prosperity requires that we all step up to the leadership plate. Georgia's State Republican Convention will be held in Athens on May 15-16. At that convention we will have an opportunity to elect a young man who is a true limited government conservative to serve as Chair of the Georgia Republican Party. That man is Alex Johnson. Please join me in supporting Alex.


Students at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville are picketing a bar across from their campus that they say refuses to serve African-Americans. From 13MAZ in Macon:

The TV station has followed up on the above video with an interview of an ex-bouncer who said the owner had a quota policy. "It's getting too dark in here" was the signal to put a lid on black customers, the former gatekeeper said.


U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, civil rights legend and in-demand commencement speaker, will be giving a commencement address for Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy on May 14.

He also shared a little history on Twitter on Monday:


The AJC’s Kyle Wingfield, in his Sunday column, broke the news of a fracture within Common Cause Georgia. Here’s the Monday statement from the four board members who resigned – Republican Bob Irvin of Atlanta, Democrat Terry Taylor of Smyrna, Republican Lucius Morton of Columbus, and independent Phyllis Fraley of Atlanta:

We are four of 12 members – one third -- of the board of Common Cause Georgia (CCGA). We are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents and we include three board chairmen – past, present, and chairman-elect. We are leaving the board because we are moderates and conservatives and we are no longer welcome in the newly defined, ideological Common Cause created by the new national (CCDC) president, Miles Rapoport.

All four of us are also calling on both CCDC and CCGA to stop falsely describing themselves as “nonpartisan.”

Two of us (Bob and Terry) have been removed from the CCGA board by Mr. Rapoport. The other two of us have resigned from the CCGA board because we do not support the new ideological straitjacket being imposed. CCDC and Mr. Rapoport want to eliminate diversity on the Common Cause Georgia board and we object to that.

CCGA has been a nonpartisan watchdog organization and our board roster, leadership, and above all our positions and issues have reflected that. This has given us political credibility, and moreover we believe it reflects the desire of many Americans to work together for the good of all of us. We have been committed to holding power accountable – for transparency, accountability, and ethics in government. We have pursued issues that citizens of all ideologies and both parties can agree on: putting a cap on lobbyist gifts, eliminating pay-to-play, establishing strong ethics boards and policies in state and local governments, and nonpartisan redistricting. We have supported CCDC issues insofar as our board could reach a consensus for them.

CCDC has always allowed us to set our own agenda in Georgia. Now, however, the new national president has decided this is no longer acceptable. He has expanded CCDC’s positions to the left, beyond “holding power accountable” to include, for example, “social, economic, and environmental justice.” He has demanded that all of us on the CCGA board agree to support whatever positions CCDC takes, “without further complaint”, including even working on issues in which we do not personally believe. He has demanded that we do this, or that we must resign or be removed.

Instead of CCGA being nonpartisan, he insists we become, like CCDC, a left-leaning policy advocacy organization. We have said NO to Mr. Rapoport. As a result, former board chairman Bob Irvin, Republican, and incoming board chairman Terry Taylor, Democrat, have been purged by the national president. Current board chairman Lucius Morton, Republican, has resigned in protest. Board member Phyllis Fraley, Independent, has resigned protesting CCDC’s new ideological mandate.

Georgia needs a truly nonpartisan watchdog organization advocating for transparency, accountability, and ethics in state and local government. CCGA is no longer that. We hope a new organization will arise in its place to fill that role.


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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.