Demographics haven’t shifted elections in Georgia, yet!

Vinson Institute-UGAAs more and more people become engaged in the presidential campaigns either as voters, caucus members or active campaigners, news articles and columns are speculating about which supporters are best positioned or angling for appointments and VIP statuses the new administration.

There is talk all over Atlanta about who will get the nod for which positions in which administration. Ambassadorships and Cabinet appointments are among the most mentioned. Hopes are high in political circles that at least a few Georgians will follow their predecessors – United Nations  Ambassador Andrew Young, White House staff person Rita Samuels, Director of Presidential Personnel Veronica Biggins, Ambassador Gordon Giffen or Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates are among the host of other Atlantans who have served among a President’s most respected and trusted advisors. Even as those considerations are being entertained, most voters and most polls expect Georgia to remain a red state in November. The growth of Georgia’s population over the last decades and the demographics – young, black, brown and international have changed the “color” and “culture”  of the state’s residents,  but we have yet to see a change from “conservative and right leaning” political philosophy in statewide or Congressional elections.

Last year Cabral reminded me about having thousands of qualified registered yet seemingly uninterested voters move to the state or the city doesn’t automatically change election outcomes. Even massive voter registration drives like Georgia House Minority Leader and State Representative for the 89th House District Stacey Abrams’ New Georgia Project in 2012 haven’t moved the needle much. The population of Georgia might be browner and more left leaning but so far election results haven’t shifted.

Before anyone starts packing for Washington, DC maybe we should ask them to focus on a few of the issues that face at least a million Georgians. Those who live on limited or fixed incomes have the greatest needs but all Georgians suffer when we “play politics” while Georgians face social and political obstacles to improve their everyday lives. From the LIMITED accessible, affordable, clean public transportation, affordable housing, healthcare and mental healthcare options, affordable post-secondary and higher education, funding for medical research, support for technology incubators, business retention and expansion incentives,  business opportunities for small, minority and female businesses to HIGH rates of incarceration and recidivism, high school, community college and college dropout rates, family and child poverty and persistent and growing high levels of homelessness in both cities and the suburbs, Georgia officials and civic leaders, all of us, have a lot of work to do at home before moving up the ladder to national leadership.

I count myself as responsible to do some of the hard work too. Whether Georgia is red, blue or purple in the November elections, we should choose the road less traveled and double down on getting Georgia on the right track for those who are most in need.

WHAT THE T-SPLOST MEANS TO ME

Like you, my friends and family have differing perspectives about the effectiveness of government and the necessity for more or less taxes to support local government, infrastructure investments and quality of life concerns.  Hardly anyone that I know believes the traffic congestion and air pollution in Atlanta is an acceptable living standard for a great city like ours.  Yet some of my friends voted for the T-SPLOST and others didn’t.

Now that the vote is over I have been asked what I think. Before I even begin to offer an answer to such a heady question, I should probably do a recap on what the T-SPLOST vote means to me.

It means almost 670,000 metro Atlanta voters have been paying attention to the mailings, e-mail blasts, radio, and television coverage. Most of them weren’t passive or uninformed. They differed in their views but they cared enough about this region, about the cities they live and work in to vote.

It means metro voters listen but don’t automatically follow business, civic or political leaders. Social media, smart phones and global internet access puts information at the fingertips of everyday voters, which allows them to conduct their own facts check and rally their “friends” and associates around their beliefs.

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Redistricting Causes Conundrum for House District 57 Voters

“Divide et imperia” (divide and rule) is as old as the Roman Empire when Julius Caesar, after his victory in Gaul, returned to Rome to divide and oust the Senate to become the sole ruler of Rome. Like Julius Caesar, the Republicans in Georgia have attempted to divide traditional Democratic political associates forcing allies into a primary battle for their respective political survival.

In an attempt to “politically assassinate” white Democratic incumbents, the Republicans drew district maps that pitted white Democratic incumbents against African American Democratic incumbents in majority minority districts. In the case of the House District 57 race, Pat Gardner, a white, gay-friendly legislator ended up in a majority minority district running against Rashad Taylor who is an openly gay, African American Democrat.

Interestingly, this race is in many ways reminiscent of the 1997 6th district Atlanta City Council race between Cathy Woolard and Mary Davis. How so? Like the 1997 race, for many of the residents of the newly drawn 57th district, the conversation will boil down to a debate on “we want vs. they want.”

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State Should Pay For Drug Tests

The letter below was sent to the editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution

As a small business owner, I could not agree more with Mr. Bookman’s premise regarding the required drug-testing of welfare applicants. However, business-wise, I have a different “spin” on what the Legislature did.

My company requires pre-employment drug tests,  which is not unusual in construction when you are working heavy equipment. In addition, the insurance company that covers us for Workers’ Compensation Insurance, requires us to drug-test any employee who is involved in any work-related accident. In both instances, my company is responsible for paying for the drug test.

Why should a job applicant incur the $25.00 per test expense? He or she should not have to do so as there is no guarantee they will be hired. In return, my company gets a discount on my liability and workers’ compensation insurance – my company directly benefits financially from this practice.

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GOP says: GED or No Soup for You

Blogging While Blue is a progressive Democratic site that invites civil dialogue and discussion among readers. The views expressed by contributors to this website do not necessarily reflect our views however occasionally we share other opinions in the spirit of free speech.  The post below is from a contributor who offers an interesting view on a bill currently before the Georgia legislature.  

The Georgia State Senate this week passed a bill (SB 312) requiringrecipients of food stamps to complete certain “professional growth activities”, to be determined by the Georgia Department of Human Services. I became aware of the Senate bill in a phone conversation with my wife who was outraged by the bill.

My wife and I are committed liberals, but I fancy myself much more of a pragmatist. She was concerned that members of her family and those people with whom she has been close in the past were to be subjected to some form of humiliation: grovelling for money from the state and having to submit to GED classes in order to receive their pittance. It was the idea of adding insult to injury to which she objected.

I was much more sanguine. I believe the social safety nety is of tremendous importance. It historically has kept many millions out of abject poverty and has prevented the children of the working poor from going without the basics of food and shelter. With that said, I and my wife are first-generation middle class, as are most of the people I know. For this reason, we have known those that are a little less engaged in the outcomes of their lives because they have the safety net to fall back on. That is not to say that they are lazy or unenterprising per se. It’s that a culture has developed around poor schools, low opportunity, and disaffection that makes life on public assistance palatable.

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The War in Georgia – The Session So Far

Misdirection is a familiar trope in comedies.  When caught misbehaving, the comic villain shouts and points in the opposite direction, and while all eyes are on some far-off point, the villain escapes.  And so goes the 2012 legislative session at Cross-over Day – Day 30.  As Georgia grapples with unemployment at 9.4%, a poverty rate that is 3rd in the nation and ranks 51st in job growth, the General Assembly has tackled the rampant use of the First Amendment, the danger of TANF beneficiaries and the tragedy of medically-necessary abortions.  The Governor’s signature jobs tax credits were gutted, MARTA remained handcuffed to a failed fiscal policy and we’ve demanded that the federal government give us no more money for transportation – while we plead for aid to dredge the Savannah River.

The session has yielded a few bright spots, including mandatory child health insurance (HB 1166), stronger regulation of metals theft (HB 872) and the restoration of tax exemptions for food banks (HB 318 and HB 334).

Among the disasters to pass through the House or Senate by Day 30:

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HR 738: Truth Prevails In Georgia Legislature

Rep. Scott Holcomb D-Atlanta

Representative Scott Holcomb from House District 82 shares a story from the Gold Dome

As a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, I have been receiving emails from Georgians concerned about government’s assault on their parental rights, asking me to support House Resolution (HR) 738, which calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to cure this grave problem.

As a parent and legislator, I wanted to make sure that I was well-informed, so I read the resolution, which is available here.

The resolution makes two key points. The first is that the U.S. Supreme Court in Troxel v. Granville (2000) produced six different opinions on the nature and enforceability of parental rights under the U.S. Constitution. As a result, this decision “has created confusion and ambiguity about the fundamental nature of parental rights in the laws and society of the several states.” Oddly, this was the first I’d heard of this crisis.

The second problem is that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child may soon be considered for ratification and it would,[hyperbole follows], end the world as we know it.

Conscientious legislator that I try to be, I read both the Troxel case and the Convention. This is what I found: the Troxel case does not undermine the rights of parents or create confusion and ambiguity. Instead, it is a slam-dunk decision in favor of parental rights. In fact, it held that a parent’s rights were so strong and fundamental that it permitted a mother to limit the visitation of her daughters’ grandparents. The grandparents sought visitation rights with their granddaughters after their son, who was the father of the two girls, committed suicide. In the plurality opinion, Justice O’Connor cites precedent after precedent concerning the fundamental rights of parents. For example, she wrote, “The fundamental interest at issue in this case – the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children – is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.”

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A Woman’s Right to Choose Under Attack in Georgia

The Georgia legislature’s obsession with dismantling the rights of others lead to hours of debate yesterday and the passage of House Bill 954. From the ridiculously ill advised immigration legislation and the notion of using prisoners as a statewide workforce, Georgia has once again stepped back in time with HB 954. Women have joined immigrants and prisoners on the legislature’s most wanted list.

Abortion seems to incite fiery debates—because it is such an emotional and personal decision. When legislators attempt to restrict a woman’s right to make her own decision in consultation with her physician, it is a debate worth having. HB 954 would remove the option of a woman and her family to make a decision about her medical care. It is a private decision that doesn’t need to be legislated. It is personal not political.

The anti abortion House bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks and subject physicians and medical personnel to licensing sanctions and criminalization. The bill changes the window of time that an abortion can be performed from 26 to 20 weeks.

The not so subtle attempt by Georgia legislators to disregard Roe v Wade is not missed by women and their supporters in this state. Demonstrate that you trust the women of Georgia and their physicians to do what is best for them and their families.  Contact your state representatives to voice your opposition to HB 954. It is not a political decision and politicians shouldn’t make that decision for thousands of Georgia women.

In Case You Haven’t Heard—Georgia House Democrats Have An Agenda Too

In previous blog posts, we at Blogging While Blue (BWB) have said that the Democrats in the Georgia General Assembly will have a difficult if not impossible task of passing any progressive legislation this year. What we didn’t mention is that it will be twice as difficult for Democrats to get meaningful media coverage for the 2012 legislative agenda. We have been asking legislators about their current agenda because we didn’t see much media coverage on progressive Democratic concerns. It seems the value of debating the issues or the “power of a good idea” is lost in the present political environment unless the proponent has the power of legislative majority.

The House Democratic 2012 Legislative Agenda was announced with little fanfare but we think it is important to make the information available to readers. One of the highlights of the agenda is that every Monday and Thursday, Georgia House Democrats are inviting citizens to join them in discussing the issues and providing the legislators with their feedback on any legislation. The legislators will also offer training to constituents on how to advocate for the legislation that addresses their concerns and issues.

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