Report: State Rep. Mark Hamilton to leave Legislature

We haven’t been able to confirm it independently, but zpolitics.com reports that state Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, chairman of the House Industry and Labor Committee, will resign from the Legislature to take an out-of-state job.

A spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston declined comment. One guess for the silence: Today's 1 p.m. House Republican caucus vote to elect a new majority leader. An imminent departure might cause others to question the legitimacy of Hamilton's (secret) ballot.

The race for House majority leader features Jon Burns of Newington, Chuck Martin of Alpharetta, and Allen Peake of Macon.

A second race is for secretary/treasurer of the caucus – Peake had to resign that slot in order to run for majority leader. Mike Dudgeon of Johns Creek and Bruce Williamson of Monroe are the two candidates. What does a secretary/treasurer do?

Rick Jasperse of Jasper explained it last week, in his letter of withdrawal from the contest. It began like this:

“Have you filled out your Personal Financial Disclosure form? It’s due July 1.

“I WAS looking forward to being the Caucus’ Mom, reminding you what to do, when…..”

Jasperse, incidentally, endorsed Williamson with his exit.

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We would be remiss if we didn’t note that Democratic strategist James Carville was the keynote speaker at the Young Harris College graduation ceremony on Saturday. Carville was Miller’s strategist in his 1990 race for governor. And when he was governor, Miller presided over the wedding vows of Carville and his bride, Republican Mary Matalin. To wit:

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Gov. Nathan Deal is signing the last high-profile piece of legislation of the session today when he inks the state's $21.8 billion budget in Dalton. And he's so eager to publicize the move that he'll hop on a plan and take three more state-chartered flights to sign it three more times in three more cities: Statesboro, Albany and Macon.

The signing spurt is nothing new. Zell Miller signed an anti-crime package seven times and a $100 million tax cut five times amid a tough re-election campaign in 1994. And Deal signed last year's budget plan four different times in four cities, leading to calls of election-year politicking from his opponents.

Multi-signed bills don't come too cheap: Aviation officials typically peg each flight at about $1,700 per hour.

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Cue Bob Dylan. The times, they are a-changing. There were a few surprising guests at last Friday's annual  fundraising breakfast for the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials in Norcross.

Along with traditional allies like Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Tucker, and Democrat Jason Carter, the former senator and candidate for governor, the crowd was speckled with Republicans.

Attorney General Sam Olens and Secretary of State Brian Kemp sat with Carter. Which led GALEO director Jerry Gonzalez to point to the table and quip that a future governor was sitting there.

State Rep. BJ Pak, R-Lilburn, was there as well. Gov. Nathan Deal was a late scratch. His office told Gonzalez he needed to stay at Gold Dome for last-minute Volvo meetings.

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Former President Bill Clinton will be paying the family bills in Atlanta on Thursday, with a speech to an annual gathering of the American Institute of Architects,

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Friday, the first of a two-day gathering of Georgia Republicans in Athens, can be considered the opening of the 2016 GOP presidential campaign in Georgia. Three candidates have committed to making an appearance: U.S. Sens. Tom Cruz and Marco Rubio, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. At least one more may show.

Scott Walker will not be there. But he has at least one fan in the state. The following letter, abounding in exclamation marks, went out to state Republican lawmakers from Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs:

“We live in a world where leadership is either missing from most candidates or for sale to the highest bidder. Neither of these is acceptable to me and that’s why I am backing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker!

“The first and most important fact that you should know about Governor Walker is that he took on the unions and won! In a time where budgets were thin and the unions had massive control, Governor Walker stood firm against incredible opposition and forced the unions’ hand. They threatened him, his parents and even went so far as to say they would ‘gut his wife like a deer’….”

The first and most important fact you should know about Ehrhart is that he is a quiet, restrained fellow who keeps his enthusiasm under tight rein. His friends worry when he bottles up his emotions like that.

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Jeb Bush is tacking closer to his brother on foreign affairs. Witness this -- and the swift Hillary Clinton jab -- on the Iraq War, via the Washington Post:

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush would have authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, as his brother and then-president George W. Bush did, he told Fox News' Megyn Kelly in an interview to be aired Monday.

“I would have [authorized the invasion], and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got,” the likely 2016 presidential contender said.

As a senator from New York, Clinton voted in favor of the invasion — a decision she has since said was wrong.

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A curious 2016 thought from the Washington Examiner's Byron York: Should we be taking Donald Trump seriously?

To some Iowa Republicans, Trump's hiring of the respected veteran GOP operative Chuck Laudner — last seen guiding Rick Santorum to a hard-won caucus victory in 2012 — is a sign Trump is serious about the possibility of running for president. Laudner has, in turn, hired three staff members — at this stage in Iowa, that's a fairly substantial campaign. ...

For Trump, the key was at the very beginning of his South Carolina speech. "Sadly, politicians are all talk and no action," Trump told the crowd. "They're not going to get you to the promised land, that I can tell you." Although Trump is appearing at Republican events, and pursuing, after a fashion, the GOP nomination, he's really running against the politics, and the politicians, of both parties. He's presenting himself as the man who gets things done, party be damned — and the man who is so rich he won't be beholden to any party boss or fat cat donor.

"One thing that sums it up for me is Trump is about the closest thing to a third-party candidate without having to leave the party," said Laudner. "He gets the I've-had-it-up-to-my-eyeballs vote. We're catching a lot of those people who are just fed up with both parties."

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The prospect of a high-speed rail network linking hot spots in the South is inching forward.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said last week that Georgia and South Carolina could join a compact to promote high-speed rail established years ago by North Carolina and Virginia. From the Associated Press:

Officials who advocate high-speed rail for the Southeast aren't talking about Japan-type speeds of 200 mph or more. Rather, the rails would allow for top speeds of 110 mph and average speeds between 85 mph and 87 mph. Speeds now top out at less than 80 mph.

Foxx met Wednesday in Raleigh with state Transportation Secretary Tony Tata, representatives from transportation departments in Georgia, Virginia and South Carolina, and others, including Amtrak officials, U.S. Rep. David Price and local officials. Foxx is a former mayor of Charlotte, which has a light rail system.

"I left the meeting very optimistic that there is an appetite for ramping up rail service," Foxx said.

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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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