Political Insider

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

The Jolt: On Stacey Abrams’ ‘08 vote against banishment of sex offenders


On Monday, the Georgia GOP again plunged deeply into the legislative record of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, launching an ad that assailed her vote against a sex offender crackdown as “too extreme for Georgia.” 

The 30-second spot targets her opposition to a 2008 bill that reinstated a range of restrictions that limited offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of a broad range of places where children gather, including schools, churches, community swimming pools and bus stops. 

The Republican measure was pushed as a public safety necessity to safeguard children, and was designed to answer a 2007 Georgia Supreme Court ruling that struck down even broader restrictions that were hailed as the toughest in the nation. The lead author was David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, who is now the House speaker.

The measure faced stiff opposition from some Democrats and civil liberties groups who argued it was too onerous. The locations of school bus stops, for instance, change from year to year. Ultimately, the legislation drove many offenders to desolate areas where few services were available. At one point, a tent city of homeless sex offenders was discovered in the woods behind a Marietta office park.

Eventually, lawmakers were forced to dramatically scale back the restrictions to cover a smaller fraction of sex offenders after a series of legal challenges. 

Abrams spokeswoman Priyanka Mantha called the ad a “blatant attempt to mislead.” Abrams, she said, “is the only candidate in the race for governor with a proven track record of working across the aisle to foster justice for victims of trafficking and assault.” Watch the ad here:

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The Monday decision by Ron DeSantis, the Florida Republican nominee for governor, to resign his seat in Congress to concentrate on his bid for governor prompted Georgia Democrats to revive their call to urge Brian Kemp, his Georgia counterpart, to step down from his job as secretary of state.

“Ron DeSantis resigned. It’s time for Brian Kemp to do the same,” said party spokesman Abhi Rahman, echoing an attack the party has leveled for weeks that Kemp shouldn’t stay in his role as the state’s top elections official while running for the state’s top office.

Kemp has frequently pointed to other secretaries of state who didn’t resign while seeking higher office, and has said he would serve out his term. 

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Our AJC colleague James Salzer reports that, for some reason, the governing board of the state Department of Community Health decided that a 300 percent increase in the cost of insurance coverage for some of Georgia’s retirees and employees was an ill-advised thing to do in the middle of a hot race for governor. The panel reversed its decision this morning. 

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State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, has posted an interesting Twitter message this morning:

Answer to Georgia substance abuse epidemic; what's the alternative? Families suffering & young people dying. I won't sit back & do nothing. Limited targeted population waiver.

We’ve talked to her about this topic before. It sounds like, come January, she’s ready to make a push to use Medicaid expansion cash to address the state’s opioid epidemic.

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The Georgia Ambulance Transparency Project announced itself on Monday. Its purpose, according to spokeswoman Julianne Thompson: “To fight the corporate cronyism that influences emergency medical service selection throughout the state.”

Thompson is a longtime GOP activist – her husband, Jason Thompson, was just elected to a Georgia seat on the Republican National Committee. The press release explains the situation:

Ambulance providers in Georgia are selected by Regional EMS Councils, and Georgia law allows private ambulance company executives to sit on these Councils. Georgia Regional EMS Councils are divided into 10 health districts that encompass all 159 counties. Existing private providers who serve on these councils can use their authority to suppress competition if they are the existing provider. In regions where private ambulance companies do not operate, they can use their power to throw out the incumbent provider and install themselves. 

Among other goals, the group wants ambulance operators banned from serving on Department of Public Health hiring councils.

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WSB Radio’s Jaimie Dupree has this up on his blog this morning: 

Eight weeks before the November mid-term elections, Republicans in the House have rolled out plans to permanently write a series of individual tax cuts into law, trying to change a sweeping tax cut approved in 2017 which allowed those tax cuts for individuals to expire in eight years, as GOP leaders labeled the effort “Tax Reform 2.0.” 

…No cost estimates were released with the package of three bills, which were immediately denounced by Democrats. 

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In case you missed it, a path for commuter rail in Cobb County has been preserved. From our AJC colleague Meris Lutz:

Georgia’s State Properties Commission announced on Friday the signing of a new, 50-year lease agreement with CSX for the company’s continued use of the state-owned Western and Atlantic railroad.

The contract preserves CSX’s exclusive control over freight access but also reserves Georgia’s right to install passenger rail at a future date.

 The implementation of passenger rail is subject to several caveats, including a prohibition on “high-speed” rail. The contract includes a stipulation that the introduction of passenger rail be subject to a “mutual agreement” between the state and the company on safety, planning and engineering.

CSX also agreed to abandon more than two miles of unused rail to be converted into an extension of the Silver Comet Trail in exchange for $10.

The lease payments are expected to bring in about $1.2 billion over the next 50 years. 

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