Political Insider

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The Jolt: Water wars seeps into race for Georgia governor 


The June ruling that extended the never-ending fight over water rights has cascaded into a July campaign fight in the GOP race for governor.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp said he won’t strike a compromise for the sake of ending the waters wars that will leave “hardworking Georgians high and dry.” 

“I won’t back down, blink or sacrifice our state’s future on the altar of expediency,” said Kemp.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, his July 24 runoff opponent, told the LaGrange Daily News that he was ready to escalate the feud. 

“I am going to be a governor who is going to protect our water supply at every cost,” Cagle told the newspaper. “That’s the bottom line. We have a statewide water management plan, and we are being good stewards of that resource and will continue to be, but Alabama and Florida need to understand we will take it to every level we can in order to make sure Georgia’s economic prosperity continues to be strong.” 

His campaign manager Scott Binkley added a jab at his rival: “If Brian Kemp managed the water wars case the way he’s run the secretary of state’s office, Florida would soon drain Lake Lanier dry, taking breaks just to laugh at us.”

The tough talk comes after the U.S. Supreme Court last week directed an expert judge to reexamine Florida’s legal challenge to Georgia, a 5-4 ruling that extends a legal battle that has already cost the state nearly $50 million.

It jars with Gov. Nathan Deal’s lament just ahead of the ruling. In a candid conversation, he said he still regrets striking out on a broader compromise with the state’s neighbors that would have averted the costly legal battle. 

“We hoped we would have reached an agreement,” Deal said. “We got very close at one point in time, and I regret that it didn’t happen.”

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It didn’t take long for a pool of rural healthcare tax credits to be snapped up. And the lawmaker who dreamed up the policy is claiming victory. 

Former state Rep. Geoff Duncan, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, is the lawmaker behind the plan that created a $60 million pool for tax credits for individuals or corporations who contribute to “rural health care organizations.” 

“The answer isn’t always a bigger government program or a backdoor tax increase, and quite honestly we need more solutions like this in healthcare,” said Duncan. “Neighbors will help neighbors when government gets out of the way and gives them an opportunity to do it with their own money.” 

Duncan faces state Sen. David Shafer in the July 24 runoff for lieutenant governor. 

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We told you last week about U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s push to insert a funding mechanism into the farm bill for U.S. Rep. David Scott’s pet scholarship program for 19 historically black colleges and universities. Turns out the Republican was able to secure the $95 million for the program over five years in the legislation the Senate passed late last week.

That money was not in the House-passed version of the bill, but its inclusion in the Senate measure at least gets the scholarship program on the docket as a House-Senate conference committee begins to iron out differences between the two. 

The Senate passed-bill also includes a provision allowing those 19 HBCUs, including Georgia’s Fort Valley State, to carry over more than 20 percent of their equity from year to year, fixing a disparity in the law. Other land grant colleges had long been able to do that. 

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Rep. Drew Ferguson  had particularly sharp words for Democrats calling for the elimination of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency that enforces the country’s immigration laws. 

The first-term Republican from West Point said such calls constituted the “political last gasp of a dying national political party” and suggested that Democrats were backing lax immigration laws in order to “import new voters.” 

“The Democrats have failed, their policies have been repudiated and they are slowly being forced from national political relevance,” Ferguson said in a campaign statement yesterday. “As American voters reject them, they are seeking to import new voters from countries with a weaker tradition of Democratic principles to replenish their ranks.”

Ferguson was the only Georgia Republican to reject both of the GOP-authored immigration plans that came before the U.S. House last month.

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