Teachers group lines up against Nathan Deal's school-rescue plan

The Georgia teachers group sparked into existence by changes to state insurance policies has taken aim at Gov. Nathan Deal’s effort to rescue troubled schools in Georgia. From the Facebook page of TRAGIC:

This accusation may require some sorting out:

By this law, any school deemed failing for three consecutive years on the Career College Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) may be closed and have their building shuttered for three years: no classes, no school, the facility is closed. However, the state can then give that building, paid for by taxpayers, to a for-profit charter school free of charge.

The charter school doesn’t just get the building, however, everything within the school building “including, but not limited to textbooks, technology, media resources, instructional equipment, and all other resources” shall “remain within the facility and be available for use by the opportunity school.” (Senate Bill 133, pg 15, lines 239-242). This clause legally grants the OSD Superintendent the power to declare a school failing and then hand over the entire building and facility to a for-profit charter school, transferring real estate, equipment, and materials purchased with public funds over to private companies.

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H.B. 171, a bill that its author insists is not an anti-sharia measure, struggled in a House subcommittee on Monday, and is not likely to make it to Crossover Day.

A House Judiciary subcommittee, chaired by Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, required several changes to the measure offered by Dusty Hightower, R-Carrollton, which will likely prevent it from advancing to the full committee.

H.B. 171 is latest iteration of an “American laws for American courts” movement that, until last year, spoke openly of attempting to halt the advancement of Islam-based sharia law being considered in Georgia courts.

Some still do. A description of H.B. 171 from the Gwinnett Tea Party's website: “Ensures that Sharia Law will not be used in Georgia.”

The Pickens County Tea Party has a more nuanced definition. From a sample letter to lawmakers:

“HB171 is tremendously important to all Georgia citizens, as it protects their constitutional rights from the incursion of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines, if those laws infringe upon their state or federal fundamental constitutional rights. No individual foreign law is singled out.”

The bill exempts business contracts in which parties agree to abide by the laws of another nation, but doesn’t offer that exemption to marriage, divorce or other family-oriented contracts.

Hightower said the bill was particularly aimed at upholding the rights of women.

“It’s not an anti-sharia law bill. It’s not in the bill. It’s just American laws for American courts. To label it an anti-sharia law would be a mischaracterization of it,” Hightower said after his hearing.

One reason that the measure can’t be an anti-sharia law may be the fact that many of the same people who support H.B. 171 also support the religious liberty bills now before the Legislature – bills intended to keep government, including the courts, from trespassing on an individual’s religious beliefs.

Mike Griffin, lobbyist for the Georgia Baptist Convention and a major force behind the religious liberty bills, testified for H.B. 171 on Monday. “When it comes to guaranteeing our personal liberty, as guaranteed by the Constitution, I don’t think we can be too careful,” he said.

State Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, chairman of the House Judiciciary Committee, appeared to question the non-religious intent of the bill when he asked Hightower to explain a change in this line of the Georgia Code:

“The laws of other states and foreign nations shall have no force and effect of themselves within this state further than is provided by the Constitution of the United States and is recognized by the comity of states.”

Willard noted that Hightower would strike the word “nation” and substitute the word “laws.” “What are we changing, and for what reason?” Willard asked.

“I’ll get this addressed, and I’ll find out,” Hightower said.

Even if it doesn’t make it pass Friday, H.B. 171 isn’t going away. Another of its sponsors, Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, said the measure is very popular in north Georgia:

“The people I represent up in the 11th District, believe it or not, have asked me more about this bill and the movement of it than any other. And that’s a lot. We’re talking about raccoons, fireworks and transportation.”

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Here's another bill to put on your Crossover Day watch list: A bid to give party caucuses in the House and Senate more power to protect endangered incumbents -- a timely measure for GOP lawmakers who voted for the $1 billion transportation funding bill last week. Jim Walls over at Atlanta Unfiltered explains:

Currently, political parties in Georgia can get around campaign contribution limits for individual candidates by paying for so-called “multi-candidate” advertising that endorses more than one. Parties can only donate $2,500 to each candidate but spend tens of thousands of dollars on ads for multiple candidates...
Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), sponsor of a pending campaign finance bill, got a House subcommittee to amend it Thursday to exempt party caucuses in the House and Senate from spending limits in the same circumstances...
[It would] eliminate the need for the caucuses to comply with party rules that prohibit endorsing candidates in a primary. Thus, the caucuses could spend as much as they wanted to help incumbents facing a primary challenger from, say, a Tea Party-backed candidate.

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The fiscally conservative pressure group Club For Growth put out its 2014 scorecard Monday. The numbers matter for Republicans in Washington because the Club often funds primary candidates against Republicans it finds insufficiently supportive of its goals. And unlike its preference for government, the Club spends liberally.

Here's how the returning members of the Georgia delegation fared, starting with their rank in their respective chambers, their percentage score and their lifetime score in parentheses.

- Sen. Johnny Isakson: 37th, 53 percent (74 percent)

- Rep. Austin Scott: 28th, 91 percent (84 percent)

- Rep. Doug Collins: 35th, 89 percent (89 percent)

- Rep. Lynn Westmoreland: 40th, 87 percent (90 percent)

- Rep. Tom Graves: 43rd, 86 percent (93 percent)

- Rep. Tom Price: 53rd, 83 percent (92 percent)

- Rep. Rob Woodall: 94th, 72 percent (82 percent)

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Because during election season, you’re still begging for more of those uplifting TV spots. From the National Journal:

A petition filed with the Federal Communications Commission could make it easier for candidates to secure TV and radio airtime for their campaign spots.

Candidates who want to run campaign ads already get special treatment by law. But now, a Democratic political-advertising buyer wants to change the rules to make it easier for campaigns to buy cheap airtime at the last minute—which is often when candidates need it most.

… If the FCC rules their way, political ads would be able to bump non-campaign ads from certain slots, even if the commercial spots were bought in advance.

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