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Jim GallowayJim Galloway

Nathan Deal gives tentative support to ‘opt in’ provision for campus-carry bill

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About 200 people attended the Moral Monday rally at the state Capitol, calling on Gov. Nathan Deal to expand Georgia’s Medicaid. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

Since the last legislative session ended without passage of legislation that would expand gun rights on college campuses, there’s been a push among lawmakers for an “opt-in” to allow college presidents to decide whether to allow guns on their campuses.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blog

The going wisdom is that the Board of Regents wouldn’t be as willing to fight the legislation since few — if any — college administrators would sign off on the changes. Yet lawmakers would still get to placate the Second Amendment advocates who roam the Gold Dome hallways.

Last year’s deal fell apart when all 18 members of the Board of Regents signed a letter declaring their opposition to the changes.

Since then, Gov. Nathan Deal has held meetings with legislators to hash out common ground. He’s still non-committal on the legislation, but when we grabbed him for an interview, he certainly suggested he remains a fan of the “opt in” strategy.

“Individual campuses and presidents get the opportunity to say yes and no,” he said. “That would address many of the concerns that college presidents and the chancellor’s office have expressed concerns about. They want to have some input into the final resolution.”

You can hear an echo of Deal’s sentiment in the comments of state Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Atlanta, contained in this Marietta Daily Journal report:

Hill, an Army veteran who’s seen combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, has concerns about the kind of regulatory burdens allowing guns on campus would put on university staff. In the military, for example, there are various statuses of a weapon.

“Are you locked and clear? Are you locked and not loaded or are you locked and loaded? The reason we have all those regulations is to make sure accidents don’t happen,” he said….

 “Because on some of our college campuses, it’s potentially not safe for our students,” Hill said. “I’m just not sure that us in the Legislature deciding that they can carry is the right answer because there are so many nuances, and we need to proceed with caution on this one and make sure, whatever we decide, that it’s been blessed by the Board of Regents who live and breathe every day dealing with our children, basically young adults being educated, and we need to make sure we proceed with caution.”

***

It was quite a welcome for state Sen. Jason Carter, Deal’s Democratic challenger. He arrived at the state Capitol on Monday only to find a GOP operative at the ready to record him every time he opened his mouth.

We’re told the cameraman waited outside Carter’s office and trailed him to the Senate floor — until he was eventually ousted for not having proper media credentials.

***

The first day of the session also marked Dalton Day at the statehouse, and lawmakers mingled with carpet executives munching on roast beef over at the Depot. Gov. Nathan Deal was there, and so was state Sen. Carter, but notably absent was another contender for the governor’s mansion: Dalton Mayor David Pennington.

***

The writers of the measure that moves Georgia’s primary to an earliest-than-ever May 20 date have engaged in a little game-playing to favor those already in office. From our AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin:

The bill would also require all candidates to file a campaign finance report on March 31. That date, however, would appear mostly aimed at unelected challengers because incumbent state officials cannot raise money during the 40-day legislative session. With little or no fundraising to report, incumbents would have little to disclose by March 31.

Incumbent lawmakers, in other words, could get a near-instant reading on the strength of their opponents.

***

Expect Wednesday to get even busier than first expected. Beyond the Eggs & Issues breakfast, the State of the State and the first (and possibly last) round of budget hearings, Democrats expect an announcement around noon.

We have a feeling it might be a showcase for state Sen. Jason Carter’s response to Deal’s big speech. Stay tuned.

***

We have not gotten a full report from Augusta Republican Rick Allen, who’s challenging Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta, but Allen told Southeast Georgia Today that he had raised about $373,000 by the end of the year. Given that his cycle-to-date total at the end of September was $256,000, it would mean Allen raised less than $120,000 in the last three months of the year – a slight drop from his $124,000 third quarter.

Alllen, who owns a construction company, has shown a willingness to put his own money into the contest. Also in the GOP race is former congressional staffer John Stone, who has considerably less money. Both Stone and Allen have made runs in the 12th District before.

One factor to watch in the 12th: The retirements of other Blue Dog Democrats – the most recent being North Carolina’s Mike McIntyre – mean fewer battleground races and likely more national money flooding in.

***

Speaking of campaign contributions: LaDawn B. Jones, D-Atlanta, ran up to the wire on Monday morning with an email that included this:

“Ok, I’ll keep this short—we have less than an hour before the legislative session begins, so we have just a few more minutes to receive contributions…. 

“The legislative session starts at 10AM this morning, so I only have until 9:59AM to accept contributions.  I hope you can fulfill a pledge, make a contribution to just chip in again before 9:59AM this morning.”

***

On Sunday, our AJC colleague Jaime Sarrio bumped into former Atlanta school board member Brenda Muhammad at the Wild Hog Supper, who said she’s planning a run for the District 5 seat on the Fulton County Commission.

Muhammad was booted of the school board in November after 14 years of service. She chaired the school board during some of its rockiest times, and took on much of the fallout from the test cheating scandal. Muhammad eventually lost her chairmanship to Reuben McDaniel (who was also booted out by voters during the last election).

Muhammad, who is the executive director of the Atlanta Victim Assistance, Inc., said she’s planning to file her paperwork soon, but has already heard from supporters who believe this is the direction she should have been headed in all along.

But first she’ll have to get past former state lawmaker Ralph Long, who told us this morning that he’ll have his campaign website by the end of the day. Long touted his south Fulton upbringing, his contacts at the state Capitol, and his connections to Atlanta City Hall, where his aunt, Carolyn Long Banks, was the first female city council member.

***

A Georgia Tech professor is one of five people who will testify on Capitol Hill on Tuesday recommending sweeping changes to the National Security Agency. From Channel 2’s Craig Lucie:

***

This from the New York Times is unlikely to be unwelcome news in Republican circles:

F.B.I. investigators do not believe Internal Revenue Service officials committed crimes in the unusually heavy scrutiny of conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status, a law enforcement official said Monday.

Prosecutors for the Justice Department who have been overseeing the case have not made a decision about whether to file charges against the officials — although that would seem unlikely given the F.B.I. investigators’ conclusion, according to the official, speaking anonymously because he could not talk on the record about a continuing investigation.

***

The Environmental Protection Agency has named a new administrator for Atlanta-based Region 4, Heather McTeer Toney. From a press release this morning:

“Ms. McTeer Toney was the first African-American and first female to serve as the Mayor of Greenville, Mississippi, holding that post from 2004-2012.  She joins EPA from Mississippi Valley State University, where she is the Executive Director of the Center for Excellence in Student Learning.  She is also the Principal Attorney at Heather McTeer, PLLC.

“Ms. McTeer Toney’s private-sector success is complemented by considerable experience in local and state politics. She began her career working as a member of McTeer and Associates Law Firm and handled a diverse group of cases ranging from racial discrimination to medical malpractice.  Later she served as the President of the National Conference of Black Mayors and in 2009, was nominated by former EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, to serve as the Chairwoman of the Local Government Advisory Committee. Heather is active in her community and an advocate for education, women’s issues, health and wellness. She is married to Dexter Toney and they have two children.

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