Barack Obama, General Assembly get equal grades from Georgia voters

We’ll let you debate what it means, but according to the AJC’s latest poll of Georgia voters, the exiting President Barack Obama and members of the just-convened state Legislature share something very important.

Both received 50 percent approval ratings. (Gov. Nathan Deal earned a 52 percent approval rating.)logo-all

Naturally, the General Assembly and Obama share different cheerleaders. State lawmakers were graded highly by Republican (69 percent) and white (58 percent) voters.

Obama scored best among Democrats (92 percent) and African-Americans (93 percent.)

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The AJC poll also found that 44 percent of respondents oppose lawmakers again trying to pass a “religious liberty” bill. Only 40 percent support it.

But those aren’t the numbers that the majority of state lawmakers will be looking at. These are: 54 percent of Republicans support a renewed fight over what they see as government infringement on religious beliefs – but 54 percent of independents (who often vote GOP) oppose it.

Which helps explain why state Sen. Greg Kirk, R-Americus, who carried the “religious liberty” ball in 2016, says he intends to give the issue a pass this session. Said Kirk, in an interview with 11Alive’s Doug Richards:

“We’ve got a new leadership at the federal level, so let’s see what happens on the federal level.”

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That same GOP/independent split exists over legislation to allow the carrying of concealed weaponry on public university campuses in Georgia. Sixty-five percent of Republicans back campus carry, but 55 percent of independents oppose it.

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But two of the most interesting divisions displayed in the AJC poll are within the Republican camp itself – on cultural issues that only a few years ago were untouchable.

On the issue of casino gambling, GOB voters are split 47 to 48 percent. (The poll’s margin of error is four percentage points, so that’s a statistical tie.)

That’s not dissimilar to 47/52 percent split (opposed, support) among Republicans for the Mimosa Mandate – legislation to allow brunch-focused restaurants to serve alcohol before noon on Sunday.

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More AJC poll coverage:

Results, crosstabs and other details from the AJC poll

AJC poll: Georgians remain split over Trump presidency

In spite of support, Medicaid expansion in Georgia remains unlikely

Obamacare, transportation and snow on minds of top Georgia legislators

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Just in time for the start of the legislative session, Grover Norquist’s anti-tax group  is gearing up a for a fight against the “bed tax” plan that would leave a $600 million hole in the state budget if it fails. Over at STAT, Max Blau has more:

“States across the country should reject the notion that bigger government, more spending, and higher taxes are the only solution to any state’s policy priorities,” Paul Blair, a state affairs manager with Americans for Tax Reform, tells STAT…
Norquist’s group is entering the latest bed tax debate because, as his group tells STAT, it “remains opposed to the gaming of the Medicaid system whereby states like Georgia raise taxes on hospitals just to get paid off by Uncle Sam with matching funds.”
Only a few years ago, news of Norquist’s interest in a Georgia tax levy would have had lawmakers shaking in their boots. Despite the ATR’s no-new-taxes pledge signed by many GOP lawmakers, that spell was largely broken two years ago, when the Legislature raised taxes to increase state spending on road and bridge repair.
It would take a rank-and-file revolt to blow up renewal of the hospital levy. Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, and House Speaker David Ralston have all pressed for the measure to be among the first tackled by the Legislature.

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The special election to fill a northwest Georgia Senate seat will be held Tuesday. But the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports the bulk of the money going to the Republican contender is a “mystery.”

Chuck Payne said he has received about $90,000 but the newspaper’s analysis found he had accounted for less than a third of it in campaign disclosures. From the Times Free Press:

Payne did not return a call seeking comment Friday. But members of his campaign said those disclosures will come Monday, the day before the runoff election.

 

Their explanation? Byzantine state campaign laws, which allow some contributions to be reported at the last minute. In this case, Payne’s campaign left out most of the money it raised in December from its filings.

Payne, a former Whitfield County GOP chair, squares off against Debby Peppers, an independent backed by local Democrats, in the runoff to fill Republican Charlie Bethel’s seat.

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Kaiser Health News reports about U.S. Rep. Tom Price, Donald Trump’s pick for health and human services secretary, and his efforts to secure federal money for his biggest campaign donors. Their latest:

Price has been a go-to congressman, a review of his records show, for medical special interests hotly sparring with regulators or facing budget cuts. Over the past decade, he has waded into issues related to specific drugs and medical devices, making 38 inquiries with the federal Food and Drug Administration, according to federal records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. He questioned the FDA on his constituents’ behalf about matters as minute as a device for fertility treatment and an ingredient in pain creams.

 

 In other cases, he has gone to bat for companies whose executives and employees have generously contributed to his campaigns and political action committees.

The report comes as watchdogs worry that the Senate is moving too quickly to confirm Trump’s Cabinet nominees, given that Congress’ independent ethics board hasn’t received the financial disclosures of some picks.

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Republican National Committeman Randy Evans writes in the Atlanta Business Chronicle that Democrats might want to take a hint from outgoing RNC chair Reince Priebus on their next party leader. From the piece:

Following Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012, Priebus did not resort to blaming either the party’s nominee or even the Russians. Instead, he ordered an autopsy to zero in on exactly what happened and what Republicans needed in order to compete in the upcoming midterm election in 2014 and win in 2016.

In the end, he landed on two key components for success. First, Republicans needed a technology-based ground game capable of sustained involvement between elections touching every constituency regardless of geographic location or historical voting patterns.

Anyone watching the 2014 and 2016 election GOP ground games recognize the success he achieved. Not only did he bring in the best talent from outside the political world, he committed to using that talent year-round to build a ground operation capable of sustained community involvement through election day.

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