House Speaker David Ralston and AJC political columnist Jim Galloway speak at the AJC Politically Georgia's "Politics and Pints" event at Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta on Thursday. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Jolt: David Ralston nixes an ATL airport takeover, ‘pioneering’ payments for rural Georgia

So last night, a Q&A with David Ralston was the highlight of a “Politics and Pints” event Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta, held for AJC subscribers to Politically Georgia.

In the midst of a legislative session, a House speaker can’t help but make news, and Ralston did that:

-- No, the speaker said, the Legislature isn’t likely to pay people to move to rural Georgia through tax breaks, as a House economic development council suggested last month. What do you say to people already there who don’t get the pioneering incentives?

-- Also a stretch: The suggested tax on livestream internet services to pay for the expansion of broadband access in rural Georgia. Read more here from our AJC colleague Mark Neisse.

-- Ralston said the House Republican caucus isn’t in the mood to push for a Medicaid waiver to expand health care coverage, and more hospitals in rural Georgia will close before an economic stasis is reached. Ralston said mini-hospitals with a small number of beds and 24-hour emergency care might be one answer.

The House speaker even gave a refreshing “I don’t know,” when one member of the audience asked him how the state intended to handle the crush of aging Baby Boomers who will put more strain on an already overburdened state Division of Aging Services.

And then there’s that still developing Senate proposal to give the state oversight of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The House speaker said several times he wanted to take a “cautious” approach to the takeover bid proposed by Republican Burt Jones, R-Jackson. 

“I don’t know that he looked to see what the liabilities by the airport are before he’s done that,” Ralston said. “I haven’t heard the case for it yet. I will hear out the case. But I don’t think that it makes the case for economic development that we want.”

Let us try to translate Ralston-speak for you: He likes and respects Jones. But he’s not about to back a plan to take Atlanta’s prized jewel away from the city’s oversight.

***

The White House has announced that it will present the outline for a congressional deal on immigration next week. Details already leaking out indicate it will include many of the elements required by U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., including the end to so-called “chain migration” and a “diversity” lottery.

So this statement from Perdue wasn’t much of a surprise:

“The White House framework is something that both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate should be eager to support. We all want a good deal, and here it is.”

On the other hand, the Trump outline also backs a pathway to citizenship for 800,000 “dream” kids. And that is something we don’t recall Perdue endorsing before.

***

The rumor has been circulating in the state Capitol for days: Georgia’s bid for a Toyota-Mazda plant that went to neighboring Alabama was irreparably damaged by a controversial statue unveiled last year in Brookhaven.

Talk has gone something like this: Japanese officials were so outraged by the statue, which commemorated the “comfort women of World War II,” they decided to build a massive new plant in Alabama rather than Georgia.

Several officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations, speaking anonymously so they can be candid about the issue, say the swirling chatter is bunk.

First off, Georgia wasn’t even on the seven-state short list for the $1.6 billion facility.

And we’re told that among the company’s demands was a huge swath of already-graded land in a pricey part of the state. While Georgia has several potential mega-sites, including a tract in Pooler that’s been dangled to auto manufacturers, it couldn’t immediately offer one that was ready to be developed.

Still, the hand-wringing over the plant speaks to another very real issue percolating at the state Capitol. Lawmakers are nervous about any misstep –- imagined or not –- that could cost the state Amazon or another huge economic development deal.

***

U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, wants Congress to investigate former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison this week for systematically molesting scores of young female athletes.

Handel on Thursday joined other members of Congress, many of them female, who were calling for a full-fledged probe or even a special congressional committee to look into Nasser, whose crimes went unreported to law enforcement for years. 

"The sentencing of Larry Nassar is not the end to this story. Too many questions remain, and answers are needed to prevent this from happening again,” Handel wrote in a letter to House leaders and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, of which she is a member. 

House Speaker Paul Ryan also announced Thursday that the chamber would vote on a bill next week that would force amateur athletic organizations like USA Gymnastics to more quickly report sex abuse allegations to police. Our Cox colleague Jamie Dupree has more about that effort.

***

Former presidential candidate Herman Cain held a fundraiser reception this week for Republican Rick Jeffares, a former state senator running for lieutenant governor. 

***

It felt like every Republican official on Thursday was celebrating news that Home Depot would pay its hourly workers $1,000 cash bonuses because of the party’s recent tax overhaul. A taste of Georgia Twitter on Thursday:


***

The Oconee Enterprise reports that a Watkinsville man has been under consideration to be President Donald Trump’s science adviser. Former EPA whistleblower and microbiologist David Lewis was contacted by the Trump transition team last year to gauge his interest for the position, according to the paper. Trump has yet to fill the position, taking him longer than any modern president, according to the Washington Post.

***

This Georgia redistricting widget from the political blog FiveThirtyEight has us transfixed.

***

AJC colleagues Scott Trubey and David Wickert say the grand vision to turn the weedy tangle of parking lots and railbeds in downtown Atlanta known as the Gulch into a transportation hub may be all but dead.

***

How split are Catholics on the topic of immigration? The AJC’s Jeremy Redmon has a piece today on the young DACA priest at Atlanta’s Christ the King Cathedral, who faces deportation if Congress doesn’t cut a deal on those now-grown-up children brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents.

State Sen. Joshua McKoon, R-Columbus, is an outspoken critic of illegal immigration and a sponsor of a state constitutional amendment that would make English the official language in Georgia. McKoon attends the cathedral during the session – and was even married there.

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.

X