The Legislature rolls into town Monday, and some state officials are hoping it gets off to a “clean” start.
Specifically, Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston want quick action on an adoption bill that hit the skids last year.
The bill was designed to make the state’s adoption process more efficient, in part by reducing wait times. But then a fight erupted between the House and Senate after the upper chamber added “religious liberty” language to the measure.
Deal and Ralston saw that new language, which would have allowed some private adoption agencies to refuse to place children based on religious grounds, as discriminatory. Critics said it could have been applied against same-sex couples, people who were previously divorced and couples with different religions.
Like some of the Legislature’s other recent battles over religious liberty, this one was fairly nasty. Deal even made noises about vetoing an unrelated foster care bill that some senators held dear. The two sides never did reach an agreement, and the adoption bill languished as the 2017 legislative session came to a close.
So now that they’re dusting off the legislative machinery for a new session, they’ve pushed the reset button on the adoption bill.
Deal knows what he wants.
“I do think it will have a high priority within the General Assembly,” Deal said, referring to the adoption bill, “and I certainly support the clean bill. Hopefully, they’ll send it to my desk as early as possible.”
It could be an early sign about how things will go in this year’s session.
Emissaries from the governor’s office have tried to tamp down any talk of religious liberty legislation this year, mostly out of concern about the impact it might have on Georgia’s business-friendly reputation. That’s a familiar argument, but the stakes are higher now that metro Atlanta is trying to romance Amazon. The internet retailer’s plans for a second headquarters, complete with a $5 billion investment and 50,000 jobs, would add a shiny bauble to the governor’s legacy.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who directed operations on the Senate side in the feud over the adoption bill, is running for governor. And like most of the other Republicans aiming to sit behind Deal’s desk, he has pledged to sign religious liberty legislation that comes to him.
That hasn’t stopped Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, another GOP candidate for governor who also took the religious liberty pledge, from calling for a “clean” adoption bill.
We’ll see whether it turns into a clean fight.
Is Mom a card sharp? The prospects for casino legislation this year already appear unlikely.
High rollers — strictly in a state government sense — such as Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston have indicated they have no intention of playing.
Newly installed Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also shows no interest in coming to the table.
Shortly after her inauguration, she said that while she is open to debate whether the state should legalize gambling, she doesn’t want it in Atlanta.
Or maybe she just thinks Mom should get out more.
“I’d prefer that my mother have to drive to casinos,” Bottoms said.
Wait for it: When Bottoms was running for mayor, she got some help with an endorsement from former state Rep. Stacey Evans.
At the time, it was widely accepted that Bottoms would soon do a similar favor for Evans, who is now immersed in a race for the Democratic nomination for governor against former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. It’s a prize for Evans whenever a prominent African-American chooses to back her instead of Abrams, who is aiming to become the first black woman to become a U.S. governor.
But Evans will have to wait to see whether Bottoms reciprocates.
At her inauguration, the new mayor chose not to anoint either Evans or Abrams. Instead, pointing out that while the Democratic race features two women, the five candidates in the Republican contest are all men.
“I know we will do very well next year with a woman governor,” Bottoms said.
Stick to your strengths: Bottoms’ immediate predecessor, Kasim Reed, gave an exit interview of sorts to CBS 46’s Sharon Reed, where he took issue with criticism that he doesn’t respond well to, uh, criticism. Some have likened his behavior in that area, saying his tendencies to counterpunch when a slight comes his way, to President Donald Trump.
Kasim Reed said that’s a copious amount of hooey and pointed to Trump’s use of — to put it nicely, we’ll employ the jargon of one of the president’s key aides — alternative facts.
“This whole Donald Trump thing is nothing but a political tactic to try to make you stop using your strength and turn it into a vulnerability,” the former mayor told the television reporter. “It’s like people would tell you to be less attractive on television. They would take a natural attribute, and they would tell you to not do your hair. Or look plain. Or not speak as clearly and articulately as you do. And I know you’ve experienced it in your career.
“That’s what people who oppose you do,” he said. “It’s like being an athlete or a basketball player who’s strong going to the right. People tell you to go left. People who can’t do what you do.”
What was right is now left: Political scientists Sunshine Hillygus, Seth McKee and McKenzie Young decided to take a look at the voting tendencies of whites who move to the South. They found that these “migrants,” as they put it, are more likely to vote Democratic than native Southerners.
A Washington Post story about their work points out that the relationship between migrants and native Southerners has gone through a huge transition:
“In the 1970s, migrants were significantly more likely to identify with the Republican Party than were native Southerners. That’s because at that point, the South had a long history as a Democratic stronghold in reaction to the Republican Party’s history as the party of Abraham Lincoln, with many white lifelong Southerners holding fast to their Democratic roots.
But as the Democratic Party increasingly supported the civil rights movement, that changed. By the 1990s, there was no relationship between whether someone had grown up in the South and party affiliation; white natives and migrants were equally likely to identify with the Republican Party.
By the 2000s, that shifted again — and Southern migrants were more likely to be Democratic than their native counterparts. In other words, whites who weren’t born in the South were, on average, moving it to the left. The region’s most reliable Republicans were people who had grown up there.
Success breeds stalling: Some of President Donald Trump's nominees for Georgia-based judicial posts have hit a snag because the White House has been so good, up to now, in pushing through its judicial nominees.
Over the past year, the White House and Senate Republicans have set a fast pace in placing conservatives in lifetime federal judgeships.
Democrats have now decided it’s time to slow down the confirmation process.
Those caught in this slowdown include Georgia nominees Elizabeth Branch and Billy Ray.
Meanwhile, another position is opening up. The Daily Report says Atlanta-based U.S. District Judge William Duffey Jr. has announced plans to enter semi-retirement.
Campaigning women: The U.S. political scene is getting in touch with its feminine side.
The Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University reports that at least 79 women are running for governor or seriously considering it — filing deadlines have not passed, so that’s as hard a number as you can get right now. Forty-nine of those women are Democrats and 30 are Republicans.
The Washington Post reports the numbers are more than double what they were four years ago, and the record of 34 women who ran for governor in 1994 is likely to fall.
Georgia has two women currently running for governor, Abrams and Evans.
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.