Nathan Deal: Ethics reform placed on hold for a year

One of the more noticeable absences from Gov. Nathan Deal's big state-of-the-state speech Wednesday was any mention of the ethics expansion he long talked about on the campaign trail.

For months, Deal had talked about a vast overhaul of the state watchdog agency as part of his re-election platform - and also to try to inoculate himself from the ethics questions swirling around his campaign.

Said Deal:

"They've asked me to hold back for a year to give them the opportunity to demonstrate that they can achieve the goals that I and the other members of the General Assembly had in mind ...

"I am willing to do that because I believe if they show good faith, we should reward them with hard work. And they obviously have made a significant difference without a change in the makeup or expansion of the ethics commission, they've made significant progress. We just don't want them to sit and languish."

***

Some were surprised yesterday that Deal offered no clear guidance for lawmakers on how to raise money for transportation funding. Here's his retort:

"It is important when you have someone who respects the role of the General Assembly. And I have respected their role. I get a whole lot more done when I let them do their job and I get my job done with them."

***

The Associated Press reports that, as of Jan. 9, more than 398,000 Georgians had enrolled for health coverage through the federally run insurance marketplace. As Andy Miller of Georgia Health News points out, that "greatly exceeds the state’s 316,543 enrollees during the first open enrollment last year. The enrollment period this year ends Feb. 15."

***

Two House bills worth noting were introduced on Wednesday, reports our AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin:

-- H.B. 60, dropped by state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, would eliminate the 4 percent sales tax on gasoline, create a lower, flatter state income tax and gradually raise the excise tax on fuel over the next eight years. It's the first outside counterproposal to those who say an increase in the gas tax is necessary to address the state's crumbling transportation infrastructure. Setzler has told us the approach relies on economic growth to increase the amount dedicated to transportation funding -- and all increases would be offset with cuts elsewhere.

-- Then there's H.B. 56, delivered as promised by state Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, which would bar service of most no-knock warrants between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The bill has significant bipartisanship support. From Sheinin's report:

It also requires law enforcement agencies to develop written policies and training for the use of the warrants, require a supervising officer to present when the warrant is executed, and requires police to swear that not using a no-knock warrant would pose “a significant and imminent danger to human life or imminent danger of evidence being destroyed.”

The bill comes seven months after at 19-month-old was severely wounded when Habersham County sheriff’s deputies executed a no-knock warrant at 3 a.m. A flash stun grenade was tossed into the playpen where the child was sleeping.

Police said an informant told them drugs were being sold from the house. No drugs or guns were found.

***

A new analysis from National Journal of population trends and congressional districts over the past two decades shows Democrats' challenge in Georgia mirrors what's going on across the country. The entire piece is worth a read, but here's a taste:

Districts high in racial diversity remain the last redoubt for the House Democrats' depleted caucus: As Next America has reported, almost exactly two-thirds of the 188 Democratic House members in the new Congress represent districts where minorities exceed their national share of the population, 37.6 percent.

But Democrats have clearly failed to squeeze all the possible advantage from growing diversity, particularly as Republicans have consolidated their hold over districts where whites are more plentiful than they are nationally. While Democrats continue to dominate districts where minorities represent half or more of residents, the GOP remains doggedly competitive in seats where the minority population is either slightly above, or slightly below, its national average. In fact, in the new Congress, Republicans will hold a majority of the seats in which minorities represent at least 30 percent and no more than 50 percent of the total population.

***

Debbie Dooley has gone South. The co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party is launching a new effort to get a ballot initiative in Florida to allow businesses and property owners to generate and sell solar energy -- making an end run around utility companies.

The coalition of conservatives and liberals mirrors Dooley's "Green Tea Coalition" in Georgia. Here's the top of an Associated Press report:

Tea partiers, Libertarians, conservative Christians, Florida's largest retail association, and clean energy advocates announced Wednesday that they are joining a petition drive aimed at expanding the use of solar energy in Florida.

Members of the unusual coalition said they want to take the issue to the voters because they are frustrated the Legislature has done little to advance use of the clean energy in the state that gets the most solar radiant energy east of the Mississippi River. They blamed it on the millions of dollars power companies pump into political donations and lobbying.

The group will try to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot that would allow private companies not regulated as utilities to sell up to two megawatts of solar energy to customers. The solar facilities would have to be on the same or adjacent property as the customer's.

Dooley's shift to the Sunshine state is timely. After camping out in House Speaker David Ralston's north Georgia district, helping to force Ralston to spend $1 million in a GOP primary, it's unlikely that her presence would add oomph to any initiative here.

***

Emory University on Wednesday proposed a new course in the fall semester on a timely topic.

The class would be called "The Ferguson Movement: Power, Politics and Protest." Faculty are being asked to develop "multiple approaches to Ferguson, including policing, social movements, comparative discussions of race, etc."

***

U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., will hold a ceremonial swearing-in Saturday at 1 p.m. at the federal courthouse in Macon. Expect a big Houston County contingent.

***

Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson had the task of the Democratic response to Gov. Nathan Deal's speech. Here's the video:

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

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.
X