In Atlanta, Bernie Sanders will be Inauguration Week’s opening act

In this 2016 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., arrives to a primary night rally in Essex Junction, Vt. AP/Jacquelyn Martin

In this 2016 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., arrives to a primary night rally in Essex Junction, Vt. AP/Jacquelyn Martin

It’s just what woebegone Democrats needed. Just in time to open Inauguration Week and Donald Trump’s swearing in as the next president, former Democratic presidential Bernie Sanders will make his first appearance in Atlanta since the early in last year’s primary campaign. From the press release:logo-all

On Sunday, January 15 at 7 p.m. Sanders speaks at The Ferst Center for the Arts on the Campus of Georgia Tech–350 Ferst Drive NW Atlanta 30332. Tickets ($32) are required to attend. Each ticket is good not only for admission but also for a copy of Sanders’ new book, “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In.” Sanders will speak about the book and take questions from the audience (pre-submitted to during the hour-long program.

More details can be found here.


As we write this, Republican leaders of the state Senate are engaged in a two-day, marathon session to determine which of their colleagues are assigned to what committees.

And who will chair those committees.

We told you last week that it’s likely that state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, will lose his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

McKoon has been an essential part of the coalition that has pressed “religious liberty” legislation during the last three sessions of the General Assembly. Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed last year’s effort.

But in an interview Tuesday with Brian Pritchard of, a north Georgia news website, McKoon indicated that the loss of his leadership position won’t prevent him from pursuing the matter again this year. McKoon placed his “religious liberty” legislation on the same list with fights over campus carry, school choice and ethics in government. Said the Columbus lawmaker:

“All of these are bills that have been offered by members that have been frustrated by committee chairs or by Republican leadership. So if we say that because it’s hard to pass, we’re not going to work on it, then there’s not a whole lot left for us to work on, to be completely frank with you.”


Speaking of Josh McKoon: Our AJC colleague Jeremy Redmon broke the story on Tuesday that a Fulton County judge had given children brought to the U.S. by their illegal immigrant parents a significant victory:

Georgia residents who have received a special reprieve from deportation from the Obama administration may begin paying in-state tuition here under a state court ruling released Tuesday.

At issue is the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which grants work permits and temporary deportation deferrals to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children without authorization. Ten DACA recipients living in Georgia sued the Board of Regents in the Fulton County Superior Court for the ability to pay in-state tuition, which is about three times less expensive than Georgia’s out-of-state rates.

Redmon adds this:

Republican state Sen. Josh McKoon of Columbus reiterated on Tuesday that he would file a countermeasure in the legislative session that starts this month. McKoon’s bill would prohibit anyone without legal status from paying in-state tuition at Georgia’s public colleges. In-state rates are three times — or thousands of dollars — less expensive than out-of-state rates.


Has anyone else noted how unusual it was that state Rep. Stacey Evans, a Democrat from Smyrna, would write President-elect Donald Trump, asking him not to give up on the F-35 stealth fighter — which is partially made at the Lockheed plant in Marietta?

Her letter was drafted after Trump tweeted that he was shocked at the cost overruns experienced by the sophisticated fighter, asking “Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!”

Doug Birkey over at Breaking Defense offers an explanation of why that can’t be done — including the fact that the F-18 chassis isn’t designed to be radar-evading;

President-Elect Trump’s recent announcement that he is considering acquiring the F/A-18 Super Hornet in place of the F-35 Lightning II does not add up for a leader who seeks “to make America great again.” Too much is at stake for the United States to rely on a fighter aircraft design whose roots extend back to the Nixon Administration. While the President-Elect’s concerns regarding the cost of weapons procurement is wholly valid, such decisions must be weighed in the context of current security demands.

But back to our main point: A state lawmaker has pointedly inserted herself into a national dialogue. We don’t have any indication that U.S. Rep. David Scott is anywhere near retirement, but if/when that happens, Evans may be someone to watch.


If you’re a lobbyist with a client at the state Capitol, you’ll want to spend Thursday at the state Capitol. It’ll be a day for unveiling priorities.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, has scheduled a gab session with reporters first thing in the morning. That will be followed by a 10:15 a.m. press conference in which Lt. Gov. Casey and the Republican leadership of the Senate will discuss their priorities for the session that starts Monday. Not to be left out, House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams will meet with reporters that afternoon. We have yet to hear from Senate Democrats.


Our AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin updated you several days ago on state Rep. Allen Peake’s plans to pursue the expansion of medical marijuana’s use in Georgia:

[Peake] said he will ask lawmakers in 2017 to at the very least expand the number of conditions that qualify for the state’s program. His “home run” scenario is for his legislative colleagues and Gov. Nathan Deal to agree to a narrowly tailored in-state program to grow and cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes.

But in an interview that aired Tuesday on WABE (90.1FM), the Macon Republican seemed to place new emphasis on pursuing a 2018 statewide referendum that would medicinal marijuana protection within the state Constitution:

“Maybe the best solution is let’s let the Georgia citizens decide by referendum in 2018, and we’ll let the next governor decide how it’s implemented,” said Peake.


DeKalb County chief executive Michael Thurmond is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to block an Athens real estate developer from forcing the sale of their condo development.

The Athens Banner-Herald reports the lawsuit targets Fred Moorman, who has slowly acquired the condominium units over the last 10 years at Heritage Square. He now has 80 percent of the units – the threshold that allows him to seek to force the other owners to sell. Here’s more from the Banner Herald:

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who include former Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Jack Lumpkin and Athens native Michael Thurmond, now CEO of the government of metropolitan Atlanta’s DeKalb County, are seeking monetary damages of “not less than $100,000 per condo unit” in addition to attorney’s fees and “such other relief that this court deems proper.”


Following the Nov. 29 condominium board meeting, Moorman said he has been acquiring the Heritage Square units as part of a long-term effort to transform the neighborhood into a mix of residential, commercial and retail buildings.


That effort would also include other properties he owns in the area, including the Sunset, Park Place and Boardwalk apartment complexes, he said. The area is already home to a number of office complexes, most of them hosting medical offices.


The Daily Report has a revealing interview with Charlie Bethel, the Dalton Republican who went from state senator to appeals court judge after the November election. Here’s a snippet:

Bethel and his father seemed to choke each other up a bit in their speeches talking about their respect and affection for each other. But the most emotional moment came when the new judge thanked his wife, pharmacist Lynsey Nix Bethel. “It’s a pleasure to share life with someone whose kindness, peace, patience, gentleness and self-control leave no question about the state of her spirit,” he said, looking misty-eyed at his wife and their three children.


Bethel said he had thought about becoming a judge for a long time, but such a prospect seemed too remote to a young lawyer. He said friends suggested he apply last year when the governor appointed three new judges to the Court of Appeals, but he said that option was prohibited by the Georgia Constitution because he was a member of the General Assembly that created those jobs. This year, when Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Hugh Thompson announced his intention to retire in January, Bethel decided to apply for that opening.


One of your Insiders spotted Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on Capitol Hill yesterday. The Democrat said he was cheering on his longtime friend Kamala Harris as she was sworn in as California’s junior senator. There’s this as well:

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