The Jolt: Transgender sports ban introduced with high-powered support

News and analysis from the politics team the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The anticipated move to ban transgender athletes in school sports took its first step forward with a Republican bill introduced Tuesday.

Specifically, the bill says it would be unlawful for public or private schools that compete against Georgia public schools to “operate, sponsor, or facilitate athletic programs or activities that permit a person of one gender to participate in an athletic program or activity designated for persons of the opposite gender.”

Since it’s Groundhog Day, it may feel like we’ve been here before.

But it’s new territory in Georgia. Although similar legislation has bubbled up from Republicans in the past, it has never earned the backing of powerful leaders. The new measure, SB 435, comes with the high-profile support of allies of Gov. Brian Kemp.

Among the bill’s sponsors is state Sen. Bo Hatchett, one of Kemp’s designated floor leaders. And it’s already got the backing of 24 more Senate Republicans, including Kemp’s other floor leaders, Clint Dixon and Russ Goodman.

In Kemp’s State of the State address in January, he said he’d be looking to sign legislation “to ensure fairness in school sports.”

That came along with a series of GOP-friendly promises related to Georgia schools. Kemp also said he wanted to sign a Parents Bill of Rights, keep “obscene materials” out of school libraries, and ban “divisive ideologies,” like Critical Race Theory.

Opponents of a transgender sports ban have warned it would ostracize transgender athletes, lead to increased suicide attempts by transgender children, and jeopardize large sporting events for the state by making Georgia a target of potential boycotts again.

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UNDER THE GOLD DOME:

  • 8:00 a.m.: Committee meetings begin;
  • 10:00 a.m.: The House convenes;
  • 10:00 a.m.: The Senate gavels in.

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For those following the Capitol action:

  • The state Senate Judiciary Committee passed Republicans’ “Constitutional Carry” legislation to allow Georgians to carry a gun without a permit. Maya Prabhu has the details.
  • After an extremely heated hearing, the House Governmental Affairs Committee passed a bill redrawing the local district boundaries for the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners. The map, from Gwinnett GOP state Rep. Bonnie Rich, passed over the loud objections of Gwinnett Democrats. Delegation chair, State Rep. Sam Park, called Rich’s map “gerrymandered” and accused her of manipulating the legislative process.
  • The House passed a bill to move cityhood for “the City of East Cobb” to a referendum for voters to decide later this year.

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One detail that caught our eye in Herschel Walker’s fundraising report this week: His campaign paid Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort roughly $135,000 in catering and venue fees last year. The Palm Beach club was the site of a Herschel Walker fundraiser in December.

The Walker event was part of a trend, identified by the Washington Post, of Trump-backed candidates holding confabs at the former president’s club and paying it bucks in the process.

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The pro-Herschel Walker super PAC 34N22 raised nearly $1 million from three major contributors.

Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, a GOP mega-donor, accounted for $750,000. Sanderson Farms chief executive Joe Sanderson chipped in another $100,000.

But what drew our attention was a $50,000 contribution from Newtown Racquetball.

That’s an athletic club owned by Jim Worthington, who has drawn criticism for organizing three buses to ferry Donald Trump supporters to the rally outside the Capitol on the day of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.

Read more about Worthington here.

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State Rep. Matt Dollar of Marietta surprised his colleagues Tuesday with his announcement that it would be was his last day as a legislator.

Dollar resigned to take a job as deputy commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia, setting up a special election in the coming months, the AJC’s Mark Niesse tells us.

Dollar, a Republican who served as chairman of the House Creative Arts and Entertainment Committee, had previously said he wasn’t seeking reelection this year.

He announced his departure just after the House advanced his bill to create a city of East Cobb.

“I wanted to conduct my business here and not be treated like I was dying,” said a tearful Dollar. “Thank you, House, for being such an important part of my life.”

Next, Gov. Brian Kemp will call for a special election to fill the now-vacant House District 45. An election will be scheduled for 30 to 60 days later, creating the possibility that Dollar’s seat won’t be filled until after the session ends April 4.

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The lone Jewish member of the state Legislature, two-term Democratic state Rep. Mike Wilensky, won’t stand for reelection in November. Wilensky said he decided to withdraw from the race to spend more time with his two children.

Shortly before Wilensky’s announcement, restaurateur Long Tran announced he would run for the newly redrawn district, which spans parts of Chamblee, Doraville and Dunwoody.

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Tyler Harper, an Ocilla farmer and the only Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner, gave a keynote speech last night at the Georgia Agribusiness Council that outlined the challenges facing the industry.

They include “access to capital, technology and resources – ensuring our state is on a level playing field in an ever evolving global marketplace.”

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Democratic State Rep. Bee Nguyen has raised a serious pile of cash-- just over $1 million-- for her run to be Secretary of State, her campaign announced.

The down-ballot race is already getting outsized attention because of the job’s role overseeing state elections.

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The U.S. House was unanimous in supporting a bill Tuesday night to rename Atlanta’s main post office in Hapeville after the late Congressman John Lewis. The legislation had 364 cosponsors, including every member of Georgia’s delegation.

Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy voted “present” on the bill, saying Lewis’ life of service was “unparalleled,” but also calling the Congressional process of designating post offices “swamp games of naming buildings while our nation crumbles.” (Jamie Dupree notes that Roy has voted to name post offices in the past.)

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, Lewis’ successor in office, was the lead sponsor, while U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter from the 1st District assisted in drumming up GOP support. Now the renaming bill goes to the Senate for approval.

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Several civil rights and voting rights groups, including Stacey Abrams-founded Fair Fight Action, are banding together again to counter what they warn are limits to voting access ahead of this year’s elections, the AJC’s Mark Niesse reports.

The Georgia Voter Empowerment Task Force relaunched after it first convened in 2020 in response to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s formation of a voter fraud task force.

The task force members include Fair Fight Action, Black Voters Matter Fund, Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta, GALEO Impact Fund, Common Cause of Georgia, All Voting Is Local – Georgia and the New Georgia Project Action Fund.

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Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler waded into familiar territory Tuesday with an op-ed in the Washington Examiner criticizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband for having an active stock trading portfolio-- the very issue that tripped up Loeffler and her husband, billionaire Atlanta businessman Jeff Sprecher, during her 2020 Senate campaign.

In her column, Loeffler writes that Paul Pelosi’s transactions should be investigated, citing recent criticism he faced for trading stocks in companies that are affected by decisions made in Congress.

Pelosi herself has not been accused of wrong-doing. Members of Congress and their spouses are allowed to trade stocks in individual companies as long as they report the transactions, usually within 30 days.

Loeffler’s portfolio, as well as that of former Sen. David Perdue, drew intense scrutiny during the early stages of the pandemic, when both bought and sold shares of companies whose bottom lines were impacted by the spread of COVID-19.

Loeffler said at the time that financial advisers handled all trading on her behalf, and was never accused of any illegal activity.

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As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.

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