A legislative session built around two different elections comes to an end

The photo below, taken and Tweeted by Jeanne Bonner of Georgia Public Broadcasting, shows a momentarily estranged pair of likely November foes -- and neatly sums up the theme of Sine Die in the state Capitol.

It was all about setting the table for the 2014 election season. Those struggling to boost their chances in Republican primaries vied with Republicans who are more worried about a Democratic resurgence in November.

Twenty-four of 119 Republican state lawmakers face May 20 primary opposition. Five of 36 GOP senators have primary opposition. So does Gov. Nathan Deal.

But the governor also has a well-funded Jason Carter to worry about.

And so the most dangerous general election bills – from a political perspective – finished the session neutered if not defeated. Religious liberty bills, seen as threatening to gays and lesbians, were abandoned at the insistence of Georgia-based business giants.

A measure to pull the state’s public school system out of Common Core likewise cratered. HB 707, which would have barred the state insurance commissioner from enforcing mandates required by the Affordable Care Act – think pre-existing conditions – was reduced to weak tea. Though it will ultimately require the University of Georgia to abandon the training of “navigators” who point the uninsured to federal health care exchanges.

A gun bill necessary for the looming GOP primary was trimmed of its campus-carry provision out of general election concerns – but only after Deal was forced to make his opposition public:

"I think there was a fairly general consensus that (campus carry) wouldn't be in any piece of legislation this year."

Churches were given an opt-in provision when the HB 60 finally passed, also out of general election concerns. Beyond that, both sides are still scrutinizing the language approved last night. Washington isn’t the only place where you vote first, and read later.

The medical marijuana bill and a mandate for autism insurance coverage were tied together and died together – largely out of House reluctance to approve an insurance mandate that might rile a GOP base with anti-Obamacare fever.

“We did nothing for kids, but we passed a gun bill,” summed up state Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody.


Last night's final hours were a flashback to the House and Senate infighting that marked former Glenn Richardson's brief stint atop the House, or the epic tussles between Lt. Gov. Zell Miller and Speaker Tom Murphy.

A resurgent Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle held his caucus firm in support of the autism mandate, even if it did mean the death of the medical marijuana push. And he went toe-to-toe with Gov. Nathan Deal over foster care privatization -- though the lieutenant governor ultimately lost the fight.

Senate leaders focused much of their ire not on House Speaker David Ralston, but at state Rep. John Meadows, the House Rules chairman, whom they blamed for bottling up several Senate priorities – like the autism insurance bill, and the establishment of a city of Lakeside in DeKalb County.

Around 10:30 p.m. the Senate voted to approve simply a study committee to look into medical marijuana rather than take more substantive action. State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, who championed the push, looked devastated. That's when state Sen. Fran Millar came over and delivered a pointed message. "You can thank Meadows."

Word soon traveled back to Meadows, who confronted Millar on the Senate floor. Several lawmakers soon surrounded the two, who engaged in a brief and fiery discussion. At one point, Millar was seen brushing back Meadows' arm.

At least part of the conversation wasn't on a bill pending last night, but on the Lakeside legislation. As Meadows stalked off, Millar had some parting words: "You've disenfranchised 30,000 Republican voters."


Some catch-up links for you:

-- Some people had expressed concern about the Dickensian practices of private probation companies and the high fees they charge some of their, er, clients. The Legislature solved that problem on Thursday. HB 837 removes records of private probationers from public scrutiny. Don't you feel better now?

-- Four years after losing its own transportation system, Clayton County voters will be able to decide whether to join MARTA in November.


The race for governor in Georgia may be about to take a national turn. Former President Jimmy Carter will be on NBC's "Meet The Press" on Sunday, presumably to talk about Russia's Crimean land grab. But you have to figure his grandson's bid to follow his footsteps will come up.

As we told you yesterday, Jimmy Carter will also be in New York on Sunday for a fundraiser. Some Republicans, notably talk radio provocateur Erick Erickson, accused the Carters – both president and state senator/grandson – of skirting the Georgia law that bans fundraising for state elections, by state officials, during sessions of the Legislature.

But the Legislature has adjourned, so the entire argument is moot.


U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston has released the second television ad of his Senate campaign, a statewide broadcast and cable buy putting that $1.2 million investment to use:

The spot doesn’t take shots at his GOP foes, but is another introductory effort, showing him to be a thrifty guy who drives a nearly 20-year-old station wagon. He also touts his cost-cutting accomplishments in Congress.


Georgia GOP chairman John Padgett was on WGAU (1340AM) with Martha Zoller and Tim Bryant this morning. The topic was Michelle Nunn and her below-the-radar run for U.S. Senate. Said Padgett:

"My estimation is, if she doesn't start saying something soon, it's going to hurt her."


A day earlier, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun also had chat with the Zoller/Bryant team.

The Republican Senate candidate from Athens was still playing defense for his use of a taxpayer-funded rhetoric coach, Brett O'Donnell:

"One of my jobs is to try to communicate with the constituents, the people of the 10th Congressional District of Georgia and America. And so it's absolutely necessary for me to be able to communicate in a better way, and so that is the reason it is necessary and it is affordable."

Broun also said Channel 2 Action news reporter Justin Gray “jumped out of a group that was across the hall and he stuck a camera and microphone in my face.” Pressed by Martha Zoller on whether this was a judicious use of $33,000 of taxpayer dollars when he already had a communications director, Broun said:

"I don't have a communications director. My communications director left. And we have a press secretary now in the office. And the press secretary and this guy and we have another member, they're just outside contractors. He's been, this guy has been on board since May of 2012. We went through an interview process. It all started early in 2012. I had absolutely no idea at that point that I would be running for U.S. Senate."

Presumably he’s referring here to former Communications Director Meredith Griffanti, who left Broun’s office in June 2013 – a year after he first hired contractor O’Donnell.