Capitol Recap: Warnock seeks tweak to climate law to help Georgia’s EV industry

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Hyundai could get grace period to benefit from tax credit until Bryan plant is ready

Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is working to tweak a portion of the the climate and health law recently passed by Congress that threatens Georgia’s biggest economic development project, a $5.54 billion EV factory that Hyundai Motor Group plans to build near Savannah and employ 8,100.

The law requires that vehicles be assembled in the U.S., Mexico or Canada and meet strict material sourcing requirements, among other stipulations, to qualify for tax credits.

Before President Joe Biden signed the climate law, electric vehicles built by Hyundai Motor brands Hyundai, Kia and Genesis qualified for tax credits of as much as $7,500.

Warnock, in a tough reelection fight against Republican Herschel Walker, has faced attacks over the law from GOP critics who say it puts Hyundai at a disadvantage against competitors already building EVs in the U.S.

His bill would delay the battery sourcing provision until 2025 and the final assembly requirement until 2026. That would allow Hyundai vehicles to qualify for the tax credits until the company completes its Bryan County plant in 2025.

The legislation is unlikely to clear Congress before November’s elections.

Warnock also said he’s encouraging the U.S. Treasury Department to “be flexible” with its interpretation of the new tax credit requirements.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who is facing a reelection challenge in November from Democrat Stacey Abrams, has also sought alterations to the tax credit requirements to assist Hyundai and another electric-vehicle manufacturer, Rivian.

Rivian plans to build a $5 billion EV factory an hour east of Atlanta that will employ about 7,500 workers. But many of its models would be too expensive to qualify for federal tax credits.

Warnock said he’s proud of the climate and health law that Democrats passed without any Republican votes, especially a provision he wrote capping the cost of prescription drugs for seniors.

He said his bill will strengthen what’s already passed.

“Here we have a partner (Hyundai) working with the federal government to create green energy jobs and a clean energy future,” Warnock said. “We ought to incentivize them in that work while at the same time encouraging manufacturing in America, which they are doing.”

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Rift opens in Democratic Party over nominee for school superintendent

The Democratic nominee for state school superintendent says members of the party have blocked her from sitting with the other candidates on the ticket at the cool kids table.

In a Facebook post, former state Rep. Alisha Thomas Searcy said she’s been “ostracized and excluded” by fellow Democrats.

That, she said, includes powerful groups aligned with gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams that have yet to endorse her bid against incumbent Republican Richard Woods.

“To my Democratic friends in leadership (because rank and file Dems don’t operate this way),” Searcy wrote, “we are supposed to be the party of the big tent, the party to embrace diversity, and the party that stands up for those who are left out.

“As we seek to lead at the highest offices of our government, we must operate from those values starting in our own backyard. I ask you to stand with me. Speak up. Stop the silence.”

Abrams spokesman Alex Floyd said there has been no effort by the campaign to exclude Searcy.

“Stacey Abrams supports the Democratic ticket and is dedicated to fundraising for candidates up and down the ballot,” he said.

But Searcy definitely has opponents within the party.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Russell Edwards gave voice to that enmity, pointing to Searcy’s support in 2014 for a proposed constitutional amendment that would have given the state more power to take over struggling schools. Voters rejected the measure.

“Democrats support public education; Searcy has undermined it,” Edwards wrote in Flagpole, an Athens-based alternative newsweekly, in September. “What can she possibly run on?”

Searcy first bumped heads with fellow Democrats about a decade ago as a member of the Georgia House by supporting Republican-backed efforts to expand charter schools and allow tax-funded private school scholarships.

After losing an earlier bid for state superintendent in the 2014 Democratic primary, Searcy took a job with a Gwinnett County-based charter school operation.

For her part, Searcy has tried to remind Democrats about the times when she sided with the party, including her opposition to GOP-sponsored voter ID legislation in 2005.

“I have a track record of working across the aisle on education issues,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This is about putting children, families, teachers, administrators and paraprofessionals first — not politics. Not everyone likes that at the party leadership level.”

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Walker ‘captain’ faces charges in U.S. Capitol insurrection

One of Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Herschel Walker’s “county captains” has an eye-catching item on her resume/rap sheet: She is charged with participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Walker’s campaign included Mandy Robinson-Hand, the chairwoman of Taylor County’s GOP, in an August press release that named dozens of grassroots supporters.

Robinson-Hand and her husband, Charles Hand III, were arrested about 14 months after supporters of then-President Donald Trump staged the insurrection at the Capitol.

Court filings indicate the two — who face four misdemeanor charges, none involving accusations of violence or property damage — are engaged in discussions with the Justice Department on a possible plea deal.

Some people who took plea deals after facing charges similar to those leveled at the Hands have received probation and performed community service, but they generally had clean records before the attack on the Capitol.

That’s not so for Robinson-Hand. State records indicate that in 2009 she served four months of a five-year prison sentence on a drug charge involving opiates.

Robinson-Hand’s name isn’t the only one on the list of captains to raise questions. Kay Godwin, a Pierce County activist, was among the fake GOP electors who tried to cast Georgia’s Electoral College votes for Trump despite his loss in 2020 by roughly 12,000 votes. Godwin and others on the phony slate could face criminal charges linked to an ongoing Fulton County investigation.

The webpage that listed the captains has been deactivated, with traffic routed to a campaign fundraising site.

An appeal on a Christian fundraising site described the Hands as “targets of the left.”

“They did, and still do, believe that the 2020 presidential election was tampered with and the results are fraudulent,” a fundraising pitch states.

Not quite as certain is what Walker believes. His position has been evolving.

In the months after Trump’s defeat Walker promoted phony conspiracy theories about voting fraud and called on Trump to “get to the bottom of who stole this election.”

In May, Walker wouldn’t say during a campaign stop whether he thought Democrat Joe Biden won the election. Instead, he said the vote in Georgia had “problems.”

Lately, however, his campaign has highlighted the “narrow margin” of Biden’s victory.

Three separate tallies upheld Biden’s victory in Georgia, an audit of absentee ballot signatures in Cobb County found no cases of fraud, court challenges by Trump allies were quashed, and bipartisan officials — including Trump’s attorney general — have said the election was fair.

Credit: Curtis Compton/AJC

Credit: Curtis Compton/AJC

Pence to return to Georgia to help GOP hopefuls, including a Trump candidate

Former Vice President Mike Pence’s feud with his ex-boss at the White House will take an interesting turn upon his next visit to Georgia.

Pence will be participating in a fundraiser for state Sen. Burt Jones, whose first major campaign win of this election cycle was gaining the endorsement of former President Donald Trump over a fellow Republican in the race for lieutenant governor.

The Oct. 13 fundraiser in Atlanta will bring together two people who played distinct roles in the turmoil that followed the 2020 presidential race.

Jones was one of the 16 fake electors from Georgia who tried to cast the state’s votes in the Electoral College for Trump even though he had lost to Democrat Joe Biden by about 12,000 votes.

Trump and his allies had encouraged Pence not to certify the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, 2021 — the day of the riot at the U.S. Capitol — and accept alternate slates of electors from Georgia and six other states that would cast their votes for the then-president.

Jones, in fact, traveled to Washington on Jan. 5, 2021, to take part in a fundraiser hosted by Pence. He also carried a letter signed by 16 Georgia legislators pressing Pence to delay certifying the election results, but Jones never delivered it.

Pence resisted the pressure, asserting that he had no authority to not certify the election. That spurred calls from some of the rioters to hang the vice president, who has since had a falling-out with Trump. Both could pursue the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.

The Atlanta fundraiser will also benefit state Sen. Tyler Harper, the GOP contender for agriculture commissioner.

The same day, Pence will also travel to Thomasville for another fundraiser supporting the campaigns of U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson and Chris West, a Republican running against veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Celebration of Braves at White House turns into game of hardball

The Atlanta Braves celebrated their World Series championship this past week at the White House, where President Joe Biden called them the “upset kings of October.”

Then came a game of political hardball.

A reporter asked press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre whether Biden supports the team’s name and its tomahawk chop. Jean-Pierre responded that the administration believes “it’s important to have this conversation.”

“And Native American and indigenous voices, they should be at the center of the conversation,” Jean-Pierre added.

The National Congress of American Indians and other advocacy groups have criticized the team’s name and fans’ use of the tomahawk chop to cheer the players as exploitive of Native American culture. The team’s executives have long said they have no intention of changing the name or scaling back the use of a tomahawk as a logo.

Top Georgia Republicans jumped.

Herschel Walker, the onetime football star who’s running in November against Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, called the pressure to change the team’s name “ridiculous.”

“Renaming a beloved team like the Braves is a sideshow from the Democrats’ failures,” the former Dallas Cowboy said. “We need to address the serious issues in this country, not woke distractions.”

On social media, Gov. Brian Kemp said the team name should “always be the Atlanta Braves.”

“Go Braves and Keep Choppin’!” he said.

Top Georgia Democrats showed less than full commitment to backing up the White House, not addressing the team’s name directly.

Stacey Abrams, the party’s nominee for governor, said through a spokesman that she is rooting for the team in its newest run for the championship.

Warnock, like Abrams, stressed support for the team

“I want to see the Braves win the World Series again. I am aware that the Braves organization is having conversations with the Native American community,” he said. “I trust them to work through that process and come to a conclusion that makes sense.”

Political expedience

  • Walker backs McConnell: Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Herschel Walker told Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser that if he’s elected, he will support U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s return as majority leader. “Right now I would, he’s the leader,” Walker said. “But right now I’m not in the Senate.” McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund recently reported that it’s adding an additional $3.25 million in support for Walker’s campaign. Walker also said that if former President Donald Trump comes to Georgia, he will campaign alongside his longtime friend. But Walker made it clear who is the candidate. “I think people want to try to use Donald Trump and this and that. Herschel Walker is running for the Senate here in Georgia,” he said, “not Donald Trump.”
  • Democrats stress abortion rights in appeal to voters: The state Democratic Party made a push to build voter support through a “Weekend of Action” that focused on restoring abortion rights following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The party said more than 600 volunteers reached out to about 32,100 likely voters through phone calls and canvassing at homes across the state. Organizers also said their volunteer base roughly tripled over recent weeks.
  • ‘Neither red nor blue”: Charles Bulloch, a longtime observer of the state’s politics as a professor at the University of Georgia, wrote in The Washington Post that “statewide elections in Georgia increasingly hinge on just the slightest moves in the electorate,” a condition “that will probably be true for years to come in this neither-red-nor-blue state.” He said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams needs a “29-29 election,” a twist on the belief that to win, Georgia Democrats must attract 30% of the white vote and push Black turnout to 30% of all votes cast. “Now, as the state’s electorate becomes more diverse,” Bulloch wrote, “29-29 suffices.”

More top stories online

Here’s a sample of other stories about Georgia government and politics that can be found at www.ajc.com/politics/: