Freshman U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, hosted his first town hall meeting last week in Cartersville. The last question he fielded was on the hot topic of vaccines.
Specifically, a woman in the crowd wanted to know if Loudermilk would hold a hearing on whether some crucial data was withheld from a 2004 Centers for Disease Control study that found no link between vaccines and autism.
Time magazine has more background here.
Loudermilk answered, in part, out of personal experience:
"I believe it’s the parents’ decision whether to immunize or not. And so I’m looking at [my] wife – most of our children, we didn’t immunize. They’re healthy. Of course, home schooling, we didn’t have to get the mandatory immunization."
Loudermilk goes onto say he will look into whether he has the proper jurisdiction in the Science and Technology subcommittee on oversight, which he chairs, to hold a hearing on the issue. Last night, Loudermilk said, via a spokeswoman, that other committees have it covered:
“The Committees on Energy and Commerce and Government Oversight are already looking into this issue, and we’ve been assured they will continue to investigate the matter fully. We look forward to hearing the findings of both committees.”
The full video of Thursday's town hall is here, via georgiapolitics.org. Here you can watch Loudermilk's response to a suggestion that the U.S. place improvised explosive devices at the Mexican border to solve the problem of illegal crossings:
Roll Call interviewed Loudermilk on the topic of ousted Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, after Loudermilk recruited several of his Georgia Republican colleagues to write a letter to Mayor Kasim Reed urging Cochran's reinstatement. From David Hawkings' piece:
In a phone interview during last week’s recess, Loudermilk said members of the group did not time their involvement in an effort to help build momentum among their former colleagues at the state capital for the “religious freedom” measure. “There was no correlation at all between the two,” he said. At the same time, he expressed support for the legislation and predicted it would pass in large part because the Cochran case “has awakened a sleeping giant down here in Georgia, with people realizing how close they are to having their religious liberties violated.” ...
All the signatories have predicated their congressional service on the belief the federal government should be getting smaller and less powerful, and that the people in power in Washington, D.C., should generally steer clear of almost all state and local controversies — even when they involve questions of civil rights. But Loudermilk said his group concluded an exception to that adherence to federalism was warranted in the fire chief’s case, because “the protection of religious liberty under the First Amendment” is a federal issue Congress ought to care about.
An aide to the Senate Democratic caucus confirmed this morning that Curt Thompson, D-Tucker, lost his home to fire Tuesday afternoon. Several pets – including three cats and a dog -- died in the blaze. The senator was not at home at the time.
Crews were called to the two-story home in a cul-de-sac on Glenbrook Drive around 2:45 p.m.
“Firefighters encountered high heat on the main-level and an active fire in the walls and floor system,” Rutledge said in a news release. “There was also active fire burning in the basement and part of the attic. The blaze caused heavy damage to the interior of the home.”
Investigators think the fire originated around the furnace or water heater in the basement. Lobbyist Seth Weathers has started a fire relief fund here.
Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist isn't winning many friends among House Republican leaders.
Our AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin reports that Speaker David Ralston was peppered with questions about the House's transportation plan at a Monday press conference when Norquist came up. Norquist, the head of the DC-based Americans for Tax Reform, has labeled it a terrible, horrible tax increase.
Ralston told Sheinin that Norquist is breaking Georgia law by “lobbying this General Assembly without being registered to lobby.”
He added: "I’m totally not interested in him lobbying and faxing statements into this House from K Street in Washington,” Ralston said.
The Blue Ridge Republican would not say whether he or any of his allies files a formal complaint with the state ethics commission.
The proposal's sponsor, state Rep. Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, earlier said Norquist ought to mind his own business.
Norquist “isn’t from Georgia,” Roberts said. “And until he fixes Washington, I don’t want to hear from him. I don’t care what he says.”
There was a reason the sweeping tax overhaul plan introduced yesterday by House leaders wasn't the only tax plan to surface.
State law requires that any bill with a "significant impact" on state revenue should be introduced by the twentieth day of the legislative session - which fell on Monday.
Among the other measures were House Bills 466 and 467. Both were brought by state Rep. Jay Powell, the aforementioned sponsor of the transportation bill. And with one innocuous line apiece, both were clearly meant as placeholders in case a vehicle for a tax change is needed.
Neurosurgeon and likely GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson was in Duluth over the weekend. The Gwinnett Daily Post interviewed him:
He said he’s in four or five states a week these days, speaking to crowds of every persuasion.
All of them, he said, are concerned about the future.
“We’re in the process of completely destroying any chance that (our children) will have for a reasonable future,” Carson said. “And that made me decide that maybe I should be speaking out more. Whether I run or not, I definitely need to speak out more.”
Carson believes he’s gained popularity because Americans are “responding to common sense.” He said his lack of political experience is actually a positive (“The people who have had a lot of experience have done a fine job, haven’t they?”) and took on another one of his favorite targets: the so-called “PC police.”
“You can’t say this, and you can’t say that, and you can’t say these two things in the same phrase,” Carson said. “I say, ‘I can do anything I want, go jump in the lake.’ This is America.”
Atlanta could be a beachhead for the labor union's movement to build on its base and press efforts to address income inequality.
That's what AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told the AJC's Scott Trubey. The organization, an umbrella group for 12.5 million union members, is holding its annual winter meeting in somewhat unfriendly territory: Atlanta is the beating heart of the largely non-union South.
In addition to collective bargaining, the unions will also focus on civil rights policy and plan to create a labor commission on race and social justice.
Organizers are rallying around a national “Raising Wages” campaign. A town hall-style meeting on trade issues is planned Tuesday night with former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and Wednesday’s meeting will be devoted to issues of racial injustice, which Trumka said are used to divide the working class.
“We think it’s a discussion that we need to have,” Trumka said. “Any time that race is used to divide us we end up with lower wages and less solidarity. That hurts every working person out there.”
In other matters, Trumka said the AFL-CIO plans wage summits in the first four primary or caucus states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada – and will make raising wages a “yardstick” by which candidates are measured. He also said Hillary Clinton, the likely favorite for the Democratic nomination should she run, has a “good relationship” with labor. But she’ll have to make the case to union members.
A contributing factor to the Democrats' 2014 wipeout across the nation: Abysmal Latino turnout. From Buzzfeed:
Latino voter turnout was lower in 2014 than both 2012 and 2010 in three-quarters of the states, despite Hispanics making up a larger percentage of the electorate now, according to an internal Democratic document obtained by BuzzFeed News.
And while we're in a where-are-they-now frame: David Adelman, former U.S. ambassador to Singapore as well as a former eight-year member of the Georgia state Senate, has joined Reed Smith LLP in New York. He had been a managing director at Goldman Sachs in the firm’s Hong Kong office.
Adelman represented District 42 in the Senate when he was appointed to his ambassadorship by President Barack Obama. He was replaced by Jason Carter, the 2014 Democratic candidate for governor. The seat is now held by Elena Parent.