Through a spokesman, House Speaker David Ralston said he had no comment on the advisory panel’s proposed changes, saying he is focused on “moving the state forward on critical issues like transit, health care reform and rural initiatives.” BOB ANDRES / BOB.ANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Jolt: A ‘small cabal’ behind State Bar complaints against David Ralston, his attorney says

Several weeks ago, two women filed complaints with the State Bar of Georgia, accusing House Speaker David Ralston of  misusing his legislative privileges to delay hearings for clients of his legal practice.

In a response filed this week, Ralston’s attorney said the complaints are “without merit” and the work of a “a small, disingenuous cabal,” a ccording to Robin McDonald of the Daily Report. From her article:

“This group does not care about either woman and are only seeking to further their self-interested goals and obtain media attention,” [Ralston attorney James] Balli said. The bar “should not allow such political nonsense to sully its disciplinary procedure.”

***

Perhaps it wasn’t intended  as a compliment, but on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., all but endorsed Stacey Abrams’ efforts to persuade Hollywood types to eschew a boycott over Georgia’s new “heartbeat” law – and instead help Democrats fight the measure.

From an interview with Stuart Varney of Fox Business,  posted on Woodall’s Facebook page:

“Watch the guys who are saying, ‘You know what? We’re going to keep doing business there because [Georgia] is a great place to do business, and if we don’t like the issues, we’re going to fight them on the political playing field instead of the business field.’

“That’s exactly the right answer. That’s what America expects. If you don’t like ideas, fight them in the court of public opinion. You don’t have to shame your opponents for standing up for what they believe in.”

***

Meanwhile, the American College  of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is pushing back on the use of the word “heartbeat” to describe anti-abortion measures in Georgia and several other red states.  From The Guardian newspaper:

Arbitrary gestational age bans on abortion at six weeks that use the term ‘heartbeat’ to define the gestational development being targeted do not reflect medical accuracy or clinical understanding,” said Dr Ted Anderson, president of ACOG. The organization represents 58,000 physicians across the US.

“Pregnancy and fetal development are a continuum. What is interpreted as a heartbeat in these bills is actually electrically induced flickering of a portion of the fetal tissue that will become the heart as the embryo develops,” Anderson said.

***

This paragraph from a Hollywood Reporter piece on efforts in various states  to poach on Georgia’s suddenly at-risk film industry should be getting some attention in state Capitol hallways:

California is taking advantage by attempting to lure existing productions that could be displaced by a Georgia boycott. Gov. Gavin Newsom filmed  a video with state assembly member Luz Rivas to deliver a clear message: “This is the moment to come back home.” Rivas is crafting an assembly bill that aims to give additional tax incentives to productions that relocate to California from a state that has pending or existing abortion bans. New York’s Hudson Valley Film Commission, which last year hosted Jim Jarmusch’s Cannes opener The Dead Don’t Die and parts of Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, also pitched itself as an alternative, noting its support of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements and including a long list of female directors with whom it has worked.

***

Four of the leading Democratic presidential candidates are in Atlanta today, courting voters and donors. Click here for updates throughout the day :

-- U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., will both speak at the African-American Leadership Council Summit this afternoon at a downtown Atlanta hotel.

-- Former Vice President Joe Biden and ex-former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke will cap the day by headlining the Democratic National Committee “IWillVote” fundraiser in Buckhead this evening.

-- Biden has a campaign fundraiser in Atlanta this morning, then will attend an afternoon roundtable with African-American leaders that will be closed to the press.

-- Stacey Abrams is set to meet today with both Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and O’Rourke – who, like Abrams, has ridden to fame on a close-but-no-cigar performance in a 2018 campaign.

-- If you see Mayor Buttigieg today, don’t be surprised if Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi is at his elbow. Farokhi endorsed Buttigieg ahead of the latter’s visit. “We won't win by looking backward. We won't win by hurling insults. We won't win by leaving any American behind. We win with vision,” Farokhi said in a statement.

-- In a first campaign appearance in Atlanta on Wednesday evening,  O’Rourke highlighted his plan to “restore confidence” in elections by registering millions of new voters and impose new restrictions on campaign donations.

He cited Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race as evidence that “you need an incredibly strong civil rights division at the Department of Justice.”

*** 

Our AJC colleague Meris Lutz reports that Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren has renewed the controversial immigration enforcement program  known as 287(g), ensuring that the issue will be a factor in his upcoming bid for re-election.

***

Details are still scarce  when it comes to a nascent Trump administration plan to use Fort Benning as a holding station for the children of thousands of migrants who have crossed in U.S. border asking for political asylum.  From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson, who got a call Tuesday from HHS to let him know that Fort Benning was being considered, said officials didn’t tell him the specific sites at the base they were examining to house the children.

“Nobody has identified anything. I imagine they’ll let us know where it is and what they’re talking about,” Henderson [said]. “But ultimately, this is an agreement between two federal agencies. Columbus just happens to be a really supportive neighbor.”

Henderson said his city would support the effort should it materialize.

***

Former congresswoman Karen Handel on Wednesday  bestowed a Trump-like nickname on U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, her Democratic successor and would-be rival in 2020: “Lying Lucy.”

The Republican pointed to remarks McBath, D-Marietta, made at a press conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday in which she urged attendees to “stand-up for a gun-free society.”

Said Handel: “She says she supports the Second Amendment – except when she doesn’t.”

A McBath campaign spokesman said the congresswoman “misspoke.” “The prepared remarks read ‘gun violence free society,’” said Jake Orvis. “Congresswoman McBath is focused on protecting the right of responsible gun owners while keeping their families and kids safe from gun violence.”

McBath became a national gun control advocate after her teenage son Jordan Davis was fatally shot in 2012, and she’s made the issue a top priority since arriving in Washington. McBath summarized her views on firearms this way in a February interview with the New Yorker :

“I am a strong supporter and proponent of the Second Amendment. Always have been. It’s not about infringing upon the rights of people to own guns as gun enthusiasts or hunters, but what it is, is it is getting people to understand that we have to put in place common-sense measures. Just basic measures to keep guns out of the hands of individuals that should not have them.”

Handel’s attack on McBath showcases her focus on the 2020 general election, rather than the three GOP primary rivals she must face first.

Nicole Rodden , one of the Republican’s primary opponents, also stepped into the fray on Wednesday, tweeting that McBath's position on the Second Amendment “has been inconsistent,” but that Handel’s line of attack was just as faulty. 

McBath “should be held accountable for her record - but seriously, @karenhandel, name-calling? I'll #takebackdistrict6 and defeat Rep. McBath on the issues,” Rodden  tweeted

***

Speaking of Lucy McBath, the Sixth District congresswoman will host a town hall at Dunwoody High School on Saturday afternoon. She’s also participating in a closed-door roundtable discussion in Chamblee with local officials and advocates about gun violence this afternoon. Afterwards, she’ll the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta with U.S. House colleague Mike Thompson, D-Calif.

***

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, is calling for that panel to hold hearings about Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

“Without reservation, I concur with the Special Counsel that the sanctity of our elections must not ever be taken for granted or exposed to foreign threats,” Collins wrote in a letter to committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. “Congress should show the American people we are prioritizing the security of our democratic institutions above partisan posturing.”

Reuters offers more context:

Though there have been congressional probes into Russian meddling in the U.S. election and other lawmakers have called for more to be done on election security, Republicans have largely remained silent on the issue.

The request comes as the judiciary panel continues to seek documents and evidence stemming from the report written by (special counsel Robert) Mueller, who headed investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. election, whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow and if President Donald Trump had obstructed justice.

***

A bevy of top elected officials are heading to South Georgia on Friday to celebrate the  recent passage of the long-awaited federal disaster relief bill. Gov. Brian Kemp, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, agriculture chief Sonny Perdue and several members of Congress are expected to be on hand on a farm in Doerun, Ga. – about halfway between Albany and Moultree – for a roundtable discussion on the bill and the next steps.

Trump still must sign the $19.1 billion measure for it to become law.

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