Nathan Deal to journalists: We don't need you anymore

You could excuse the crowd at the Grady College of Journalism's Centennial gala for holding its breath when Gov. Nathan Deal strode to the podium with a glint in his eye.

"I've tempered my remarks," he assured the hundreds of professional communicators assembled in the Athens ballroom on Saturday. "I'm not going to take advantage of this opportunity tonight."

Not too long ago, he told the crowd, he needed a radio producer, TV broadcaster or newspaper reporter to buy into his pitch before it gained any traction. Nowadays, he tells his office to use Facebook account, Twitter handle and email newsletter to directly contact constituents.

"From a politician's standpoint, there's no group of editors or new directors that can prevent me from communicating directly with a mass audience," said Deal, adding: "We talk about the media. The fact is my communications office in and of itself is a medium in its own right. Now that's change. And we embrace it."

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We also learned another tidbit about Gov. Nathan Deal at the Grady gala: his family reunions must get more interesting when a certain cousin comes around.

That relative is Gloria Ricks Taylor, a veteran public relations consultant and, apparently, a die-hard Democrat.

Said Deal, to much laughter:

"Gloria has brought with her some of our other relatives, and they are some of our relatives unlike Gloria who actually voted for me. Gloria and I decided a long time ago that we would not discuss politics. I have also noticed that Gloria's viewpoint is also shared by some of your other alumni who I have come in contact with, especially in the Atlanta media."

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One of Columbus’ preeminent churches on Sunday narrowly voted against separating from the Presbyterian Church (USA) over same-sex unions. From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

The 900-member congregation [of the First Presbyterian Church], which has been divided over gay marriage and other doctrinal issues, voted 266 to 146 in favor of the measure. But the number fell short of the 274 votes needed for dismissal from the denomination, which required a two-thirds vote.

Some members were seeking to separate from the national denomination, which has become more liberal about same-sex marriage and other doctrinal issues in recent years. They had hoped to join the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, a new denomination formed out of churches that have separated from the national church.

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Count state Rep. Sam Teasley out of the hunt for the newly-opened Majority Leader gig.

The Marietta Republican, a leader in the House GOP's conservative flank, was rumored to be considering a run at the post after Larry O'Neal stepped down. But he told us over the weekend he was supporting Allen Peake, who is locked in a three-way contest with Jon Burns and Chuck Martin for the gig.

"Serving with Allen on the leadership team has given me an opportunity to work closely with him," said Teasley. "I have seen his passion for the issues and for the caucus. That is why I am proud to support him."

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State Rep. Rick Jasperse of Jasper has informed his House GOP colleagues that he intends to run for caucus secretary-treasurer – a position being vacated by Allen Peake of Macon, who is running for House majority leader.

Also running for caucus secretary-treasurer is Mike Dudgeon of Johns Creek. The election is May 11.

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Over at the Washington Post, columnist Dan Balz takes a look at research by Emory University’s Alan Abramowitz and Stephen Webster, who say the extreme partisanship that has been a feature of presidential elections has now leeched into local contests. A taste:

The authors coin the term “negative partisanship” for a condition that has been increasingly evident in politics, which are the increasingly negative feelings those from one party have for those in the other party. People don’t like their own party any more or less than they used to, but they dislike the other party much more. …

In the past, House members could count on their own attributes and skills to prevail in a district whose partisan leanings went against them. Today, with a sharp increase in straight ticket voting, that becomes more and more difficult. …

Abramowitz and Webster say the changes are even more dramatic in Senate contests because the link between presidential and Senate voting was often weaker in the past. Today it is four times as strong as it was only a few decades ago.

Michelle Nunn can testify to that.

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Nearly a month after the fatal shooting of a Smyrna man by police, the Smyrna City Council is considering equipping police with body cameras, according to the Marietta Daily Journal:

The suggestion to buy about 75 body cameras at a total cost of $68,000 was brought up by Smyrna Police Chief David Lee at a work session meeting on April 13, said Councilwoman Susan Wilkinson.

There are still unanswered questions, such as how often the department can clean out its video files, which can take up a lot of digital storage space, Wilkinson said.

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A group calling itself DeKalbStrong has popped up, to discourage this year’s cityhood referendums. The effort is aimed at consolidation instead. Below is a Power Point presentation from a meeting last week:

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There's a new mega-site in the making in Georgia.

Putnam County leaders are looking to sell as many as 2,500 acres for a huge industrial park after Georgia Power demolishes the coal-fired Plant Branch.

From the Telegraph of Macon:

[County Manager Paul] Van Haute has heard everything from an amusement park or horse racing track to a casino. ...
But the man who would be charged with policing the new territory is not as confident the property will lure a tourist mecca or aesthetically pleasing attraction.

“Even if they were going to legalize gambling and put a casino somewhere, it wouldn’t be there,” Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said. “It’s almost comical to me some of the stuff I hear about.”

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Gov. Nathan Deal has wasted no time in using his broad new powers to remake a key Georgia environmental commission.

He appointed five new members to the Soil and Water Commission just days after he signed legislation giving him more leeway to tap who he wants for the posts.

And he picked seven new members of the Erosion and Sediment Control Overview Council, which oversees environmental runoff guidelines that control new developments. They include state Rep. Terry England, Georgia Power executive Ronny Just, state tollway authority guru Bert Brantley and former Deal adviser Trip Addison.

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Two Georgia Republicans are on the House-Senate conference committee to hammer out a federal budget for the year.

Rep. Tom Price of Roswell is chairman of the House panel and has played a major role in getting the process this far. Sen. David Perdue is a member of the Senate Budget Committee, which was appointed in its entirety to the conference committee.

The group's first meeting is at 3 p.m. today, and you can watch on CSPAN if you're into that sort of thing.

The Associated Press breaks down what's at stake:

Separate House- and Senate-passed budget plans have plenty in common. Both chambers want to use the fast-track budget process to send a measure repealing the health care law to President Barack Obama. And both call for padding war spending — it’s exempt from budget limits — on new weapons and training of American forces. ...

Without a willing partner in the Oval Office, Republicans are showing few signs that they want to use their congressional majorities to actually try to implement their most controversial proposed cuts with binding legislation. That’s a more cautious approach than Newt Gingrich-led Republicans took 20 years ago when they stormed Washington and delivered a balanced budget to President Bill Clinton, who promptly vetoed it and won a subsequent government shutdown battle.

 There is little appetite now for a big budget battle, but House Republicans have opened the door to using a follow-up spending cut bill to do more than simply gash Obama’s health care law. Legislation to curb Postal Service costs and end Saturday mail delivery is an option, as are cuts to food stamps, Pell Grants, student loans and subsidies for rural air service, among others.

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Republicans in Congress want to be ready to step in if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare subsidies in states like Georgia that do not run their own exchanges. And Reuters reports their alternatives -- even if they won't admit it -- look a lot like Obamacare:

Two front-running Republican options at an early stage in Congress include a refundable tax credit that experts say is virtually the same thing as the Obamacare tax subsidy being challenged before the Supreme Court. Republicans deny that their ideas are tantamount to "Obamacare Lite" but acknowledge they will need bipartisan support for their plans to stand any chance of avoiding an Obama veto.

"It's not going to be like Obamacare, in my opinion," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, whose plan includes a refundable tax credit for low-and middle-income Americans.

“It’s not a literal subsidy, it’s a recognition that they should have this credit."

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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.
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