Political Insider

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Faith & Freedom Coalition lists objections to medicinal marijuana, anti-bullying bills


Before Gov. Nathan Deal grabbed the headlines for his remarks on absent but “able-bodied” grandmothers in broken homes, Thursday’s gathering of the Georgia chapter of the Faith and Freedom Coalition was largely oriented to specific pieces of legislation before this year’s General Assembly.

State Rep. Sam Teasley, R-Marietta, and Sen. Josh McKoon, making a joint appearance, were declared “heroes” for their backing of a pair of religious liberty bills. McKoon says he is now gathering signatures for his legislation. Teasley dropped a revived and renumbered (H.B. 218) version that appears to address criticisms of a previous version made by a Macon district attorney.

Also at the gathering, Virginia Galloway, southern regional director for the FFC, also listed three bills on the organization’s watch list:

-- Attendees at the luncheon were offered a three-page list of objections to H.B. 1, the medical marijuana bill offered by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon. One line:

“[W]hat happens the next time someone has a potential ‘miracle cure’ for some other condition? Would the GA Legislature again set aside the protocols established by the FDA and legalize the product or conduct drug studies? Is the GA Legislature training in drug R&D? Do we really want the GA Legislature to set this precedent?”

-- Galloway also declared she and others were “keeping an eye” on a rewrite of state Sen. Renee Unterman’s “safe harbor” bill increasing penalties for sex traffickers. Galloway was not specific about any potential objections.

-- The FCC regional director also called out H.B. 40, sponsored by state Rep. Keisha Waites, D-Atlanta, which targets school bullying:

“The definitions of bullying were including your perceived gender orientation or gender identity. And then it was going to apply not only to the public schools, but also the charter schools and the private schools. I believe there are some private schools that teach the Bible, and they may have something to say about that.”

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The newly-formed Education Reform Commission gathered for the first time yesterday, and Gov. Nathan Deal set an ambitious timeline for the group.

He wants a subcommittee tasked with finding a new funding model to replace the 30-year-old Quality Basic Education formula to report its findings by Aug. 1. Ditto for another panel studying early childhood education.

AJC columnist Kyle Wingfield writes that the reason for the speedy timeline is so their recommendations can be built into the next round of budget proposals.

Other panels will study the "move on when ready" approach to student achievement, expanding school choice options and teacher recruitment and compensation strategies.

Writes Wingfield, who attended the meeting:

On school choice, Deal charged commission members with finding ways to expand public school choice, potentially including charter schools, new tax credits, Education Savings Accounts and the state’s tax credit scholarship . Giving students in failing schools an alternative was, he said, “perhaps closest to my heart.”

[Commission chair Charles] Knapp noted that, adjusted for inflation, the average weekly earnings for Americans have not improved since 1979. “We really can’t be satisfied with that,” he said, arguing that “shaking the box” on education was key to helping Georgians compete in a global economy.

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More details are emerging about the Georgia Film Academy, an initiative pushed by Gov. Nathan Deal to help fill a shortfall of skilled workers in Georgia's booming film business.

Cecil Staton, a former state senator who is now a University System of Georgia administrator, told Georgia economic development board members yesterday that an internal survey found about half of all film and television projects shot in Georgia faced worker shortages.

Our AJC colleague Scott Trubey, who was at the meeting, reports that the academy would be a largely virtual program. But it would also have a physical presence, likely near the sprawling Pinewood Studios campus in Fayette County.

The goal, said Staton, is to help Georgia students connect with Hollywood for Georgia-based internships and entry level jobs, create a certificate program to train carpenters and electricians for studio jobs and convince top graduates to stick around.

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At the same meeting, the chair of the economic development board announced his resignation.

Charles Tarbutton, a Sandersville Railroad executive, had served as chairman since January 2011 and has held a board seat for about a decade.

Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Jay Neely, head of public affairs for business jet-maker Gulfstream, to be chairman.

The possible reason for Tarbutton's move? He was just appointed by the governor to the powerful Georgia Ports Authority board.

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Georgia Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson's re-election campaign kicked into gear at the end of last year. Isakson raised $284,000 from October through December, bringing his cash on hand to $2.42 million at year's end.


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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.