Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

The Jolt: Framing adoption bill changes as ‘a loathsome act of sabotage’


We don’t often highlight editorials, but sometimes it’s important to recognize the very real advantages of having the hometown newspaper on your side.

State Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, is the author of House Bill 159, the adoption bill that has become a wet blanket smothering the early days of this legislative session.

Last year, a “religious liberty” amendment tacked on by the Senate blocked passage of the first rewrite of the state’s adoption laws since the 1990s. Two weeks ago, the Senate removed that provision, but added the contents of HB 359, a bill to let parents hand temporary custody of their kids to individuals of their choosing without state oversight. Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed it last year.

We now have two sets of negotiations going on over a single bill. The Senate and House are conferring on Senate changes made to HB 159 proper. The House wants private adoption attorneys to be able to offer living expenses to birth mothers (something only adoption agencies can do), while the Senate thinks that could lead to the buying and selling of babies.

The second level of bargaining is between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Gov. Nathan Deal, over what is essentially an end run around the state’s foster care system.

But about Bert Reeves’ hometown newspaper.

On Sunday, the Marietta Daily Journal waded into the situation on behalf of the favorite son in a manner that would have made its former fire-breathing publisher, the late Otis Brumby Jr., proud. The addition made by the Senate is a “legislative leech,” the paper asserted. And there’s this:

In a loathsome act of sabotage, they once again vandalized Reeves’ bill by adding legislation Deal vetoed last year.

With mandarin authority, Irene Munn, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s general counsel and policy director, walked the Senate Judiciary Committee through the changes. The committee smugly refused to allow Reeves to say a word during the hearing, approving it 8-2 on Jan. 10. A week later, the full Senate approved it 40-13.

We solicited a response from Cagle’s team. From the lieutenant governor:

“The Senate’s immediate action to move this legislation on Day 5 should make it very clear the importance of comprehensive child welfare reform in our state. I’m confident we will soon arrive at a consensus that is right for Georgia’s children and families.”

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You’ve no doubt heard about the molestation scandal that has rocked the gymnastics world. According to our AJC colleague Alaa Elassar, the appalling situation was brought to light by a Georgia case and a Georgia law:

State Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, filed House Bill 17, and the Hidden Predator Act was signed into law in 2015. The law temporarily extended the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases, making it possible for victims to confront their abusers in court.

Along with an extension, the law also included provisions that required private agencies to make records regarding child sexual abuse cases accessible to victims, whether or not the case was closed.

The law helped make it possible for a young woman from Savannah to come forward and sue USA Gymnastics. In the case Jane Doe v. USA Gymnastics, the woman claimed to have been assaulted when she was 11 years old by her gymnastics coach, William ‘Bill’ McCabe, in Savannah.

“This case is what started it all,” said Brian Cornwell, the lead attorney in the case. “This case is the ground zero of the litigation and the fallout of USA Gymnastics.”

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The first bill generated by a House probe into rural rural economic development was filed last week. HB 735 would create a tax credit for short line railroad track maintenance. The lead author, state Rep. Patty Bentley, is a Democrat from Butler. Look for more legislation to be dropped this week.

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The Georgia First Amendment Foundation is raising the alarm about several proposals in the works under the Gold Dome it warns could restrict the public’s free speech rights.

Among the measures it names to its “bad bills” list:

-- SB 331 would let the Georgia Lottery Corporation keep the identity of lottery winners secret;

-- SB 311 would make audio recordings of court reporters open to the public - but “radically change the way citizens get court records — all court records, not just recordings.”

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The Libertarian Party of Georgia has announced that its 2018 state convention will be held Saturday at Andretti’s in Marietta. There will be speakers, breakout sessions, officer elections, and a silent auction. And after that, everyone can drive the go-karts.

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Two Republican lawmakers are seeking details on whether former acting U.S. attorney general Sally Yates had any contact with the consulting firm responsible for an explosive dossier on Donald Trump.

U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sent letters this week seeking communications involving Fusion GPS and a host of government officials, including Yates and former attorney general Loretta Lynch.

Yates, a former federal prosecutor in Atlanta, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. 

The letters seek broader details about whether Hillary Clinton’s campaign was aware of the investigation into Trump during the campaign. The company was hired in 2015 by a conservative donor to vet Trump’s background and later was retained by the Democratic National Committee to continue the research.

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U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, plans to donate the $2,700 that a disgraced former Republican National Committee member gave her campaign to charity. NBC News reported the freshman lawmaker plans to donate the money to liveSafe Resources, a Cobb County-based nonprofit dedicated to aiding victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and elderly abuse.

The campaign donation initially came from casino mogul Steve Wynn, who resigned as finance head of the RNC over the weekend after the Wall Street Journal detailed numerous sexual assault allegations against the Las Vegas-based owner of Wynn Resorts. Democrats have pressured GOP lawmakers to donate money received from Wynn, months after Republicans pressured them to do the same following the Harvey Weinstein saga. 

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If you’ve got a spare few minutes, check out the piece in The Atlantic on Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman at the center of the Russian investigation. It’s the most thorough examination we’ve seen.


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