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Jim Galloway, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy

A bid to shape the 2016 GOP presidential calendar

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Former major league pitcher and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, left, who was honored by the House on Tuesday, autographs a scrap of paper for state Rep. Mickey Stephens D- Savannah. Niekro spent most of his career with the Braves organization, starting with the Milwaukee Braves in 1964. Niekro left the Braves in 1983 for stints with the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and the Toronto Blue Jays. In 1987 the Braves brought Niekro back, allowing him to retire as an Atlanta Brave. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

One year ago, top GOP honcho Reince Priebus was touring the country, with a stop in Atlanta included, to talk about the changes the national Republican party needed to make in order to get back in the presidential game.

One leg of reform was minority recruitment that moved beyond tokenism. Another was altering a presidential primary process that had become a meat-grinder.\

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

The Republican National Committee today opens its winter session in a wintry Washington D.C. In advance of the meeting, longtime GOP presence Randy Evans of Georgia has sent fellow RNC members this outline of changes he and others are recommending for the 2016 presidential calendar. The gist:

 Why Change The Rules?

This question is almost like asking Mrs. Lincoln “how was the play?”  We have lost and there is a strong consensus that some part of the problem is our nomination process.

By delaying our convention, Democrats can beat our nominee’s brains out from late June until August.

By stringing the process out, our candidates inflict irreparable injury on each other, making it extremely difficult, if not almost impossible, to win in November.  The media has created a term – “presumptive nominee” – which really means the media knows who has won but they can attack our candidate and divide the party until the nomination is official. And, by delaying the final nomination until August, we deny for weeks our nominee much needed resources to compete because of the way the federal election laws work.

There are no good reasons to continue to do stupid things.  And so, as we move to make our rules better and enforce smart changes to help us win, we need strict, harsh penalties to assure compliance.

Basically, the changes recommended by the group of our Members who studied these problems are very narrowly crafted to do four things: (1) move the Convention up from August until late June/mid July; (2) move the start date for states other than the four carve out states back to February 1, 2016; (3) move the end date up from the end of June until the middle of May, 2016; and (4) maintain a slow-down period in the middle so that there are no runaway nominations with candidates that have not been thoroughly vetted….

The changes do not impact Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada (known as the carve-out states).

The calendar changes would have to be approved by the RNC rules committee, then obtain the three-quarters approval of the RNC as a whole.

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Heritage Action for America, the conservative pressure group that helped fuel the “defund Obamacare” movement and has earned condemnations from such folks as Speaker John Boehner and Georgia GOP Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, is throwing a policy summit in D.C. next month on the heels of House Republicans’ yearly retreat.

 The Wall Street Journal reports the Heritage event is designed “to put forward an alternative to the muted, election-year agenda the group anticipates will emerge from the House GOP huddle.” From the WSJ;

“You’ve seen elections recently where Republicans have been afraid to be as bold as they could be on the ideas front,” Heritage Action’s chief operating officer, Tim Chapman, said in an interview Tuesday. “We feel very strongly we have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to our ideas and the policies we want to push.”

We’re told one of those ideas will be the transportation plan of U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, which would transfer all authority over highway projects from the feds to the states while drastically reducing the federal gas tax. The Transportation Empowerment Act also has a handy acronym designed for a certain “movement” constituency.

***

The Georgia Municipal Association reports  that U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey has agreed to attend its Monday debate of Republican candidates for U.S. Senate – meaning that six will be on the stage, before 800 mayors and other city officials from across the state. The other invivted: Paul Broun, Karen Handel, Jack Kingston, David Perdue and Eugene Yu.

On the other party front, Michelle Nunn is apparently sticking to her decision to skip the event, which leaves Branko “Dr. Rad” Radulovacki, the Vinings psychiatrist, as the sole participant in the Democratic forum.

***

The University of Georgia on Tuesday formally took possession of 1,055 acres of former federal land in Watkinsville that will be used for agricultural research.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is giving up 10 such parcels of land around the country, as directed by Congress, to land-grant universities that commit to performing research on the space for the next 25 years. On hand for the ribbon-cutting: Rep. Jack Kingston, the Senate hopeful who used to run the House appropriations subcommittee controlling USDA funding.

***

In the long run, it was just a photo op, but the memory still gnaws at Gov. Nathan Deal. In February 2013, when he announced his decision to suspend six of nine DeKalb school board members, the governor was flanked by a handful of DeKalb lawmakers from both parties. State Sen. Jason Carter, the DeKalb Democrat who would later decide to challenge him, was not among them.

022613 dekalb board01

From last February’s formal announcement by Gov. Nathan Deal that he would remove six DeKalb school board members. Jason Carter isn’t in the frame. AJC file/Jason Getz

Deal is still touchy about it. We know this because when we asked him about Carter’s role in the decision — the two met privately as Deal was weighing an intervention — he had this to say:

“I wish he had stood with me when we took the picture, when the announcement was made,” he said. “But yes we had almost universal support from the delegation and that was important to me.”

Carter may not have been at Deal’s side for the photo shoot, but he endorsed the governor’s six picks for the board. From the press release he sent at the time:

“Whatever you think about the process that put these members in place, we all need to come together to support them to ensure that the school system maintains accreditation for our students.”

***

We know some lawmakers are warming up to the idea of at least opening a legislative discussion on legalizing medical marijuana. But it sounds as if Gov. Nathan Deal is increasingly willing to hear the issue out.

“I am not going to take a firm position on it. I think there’s a strong case being presented by some of the families with very serious situations involving their children. The possibility of the General Assembly holding hearings is gaining momentum,” he said Tuesday.

Deal then quickly added: “But it’s very premature for me to take a position.”

***

We’ve been slightly late in picking up on this item from the Marietta Daily Journal, but it’s worth noting:

 Former Gov. Roy Barnes of Marietta has come out in favor of doing away with the sales tax exemption for groceries, if the additional revenue brought in goes toward education. There are more than 100 sales tax exemptions, the biggest being those for food and prescription drugs.

 “We should repeal the exemptions as necessary to properly fund our public schools,” he told the Marietta Rotary Club on Thursday. “Given the choice of saving our public schools and saving a few cents on my groceries, I will choose education and future prosperity.”

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