Posted: 8:57 am Monday, June 30th, 2014
By Daniel Malloy, Greg Bluestein and Jim Galloway
This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to deliver its verdict in the Hobby Lobby case, which weighs the religious rights of employers and the right of women to their choice of birth control.
Whichever way it goes, the decision will soak up today’s media attention – and that’s just fine with the state Board of Regents, which today will consider whether to recognize same-sex marriages for participants in a University System retirement plan.
Consider it the most important clash of state and federal policies since last year, when the Georgia National Guard refused to recognize same-sex marriage – and was ultimately pushed into a compromise by the Pentagon.
The [Board of Regents] vote, scheduled for a Monday meeting, would amend the Optional Retirement Plan to comply with federal tax rules. After a Supreme Court decision last year overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, the IRS issued new rules requiring recognition same-sex marriages in some qualified retirement plans.
More detail from the Athens Banner-Herald, which publishes in a company town:
After the Windsor case, the IRS issued notices in September and in April spelling out how IRS rules would be changed to comply with the Supreme Court ruling, and how qualified retirement plan policies must be change. The IRS also specified that marriages will be recognized under a “place of celebration” rule; that is, a same-sex marriage is valid in the eyes of the IRS if it’s legal in the state or country where the marriage was performed.
Georgia doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, so Monday’s vote won’t affect other University System of Georgia benefits denied to same-sex spouses, such as health insurance coverage.
But speaking of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Gallup organization today welcomes the high court bench to the Island of Misfit Toys:
Americans’ confidence in all three branches of the U.S. government has fallen, reaching record lows for the Supreme Court (30%) and Congress (7%), and a six-year low for the presidency (29%). The presidency had the largest drop of the three branches this year, down seven percentage points from its previous rating of 36%.
Because the state conducts an “open” primary, voters last month were able to pick their choice of ballots regardless of any political affiliation. Not so for the July 22 runoff. As a voter, you must stick with the party ballot you chose for the main primary May 20. (In other words, you can’t cast a Democratic ballot in the main primary and then vote in a Republican runoff.) Important: If you did not vote in the primary, you may still cast a ballot in the runoff. And you can pick the party ballot of your choice.
Jack Kingston, one of two remaining Republicans in the race for U.S. Senate, has a 10 a.m. presser today to talk about national defense and Georgia’s military bases.
On Sunday, his rival, David Perdue, was in at a Rock Springs, Ga., church, getting a little “Duck Dynasty” love from Uncle Si.
Former Pennsylvania U.S. senator and presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is backing trucking executive Mike Collins in the 10th Congressional District GOP runoff. Santorum’s unapologetic social conservatism might seem more in line with minister Jody Hice, but don’t forget Santorum served in Congress with Collins’ father, former Rep. Mac Collins. From the press release:
“Mike Collins is a rock-solid conservative who will be guided by the U.S. Constitution in Congress,” said Santorum. “Most importantly, Mike has laid out a bold plan of conservative policies that will push back overbearing federal regulations, revitalize the entrepreneurial spirit and provide more opportunities for blue collar Americans. We need more conservative businessmen like Mike Collins in Congress.”
In the 11th District congressional race, former state senator Barry Loudermilk is out with his first TV ad of the runoff period. It’s pure bio:
U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, spoke to the Gwinnett Daily Post about his expected temporary takeover of the conservative Republican Study Committee next week. Said Woodall:
“This is an affirmation of what I would call a 7th District leadership style,” said Woodall, referring to his Gwinnett- and Forsyth-based district. “This district isn’t about blaming people for things; it’s about trying to find solutions. …
“This Republican Study Committee is important in the process. … If it isn’t functioning properly, Congress isn’t functioning properly. That’s why I agree to take this challenge on.”
The Savannah Morning News endorsed state Sen. Buddy Carter in the First Congressional District Republican runoff. It requires a subscription but Peach Pundit clipped part of it.
It will be interesting to see where this goes. Politico reports on some of the fallout from the Mississippi U.S. Senate runoff victory by Thad Cochran, which came with the aid of crossover African-American voters:
Already the members of the Congressional Black Caucus are talking about what they want Cochran to do. The wish list is fulling up with ideas like maintaining funding for food stamps, beefing up programs that help poor blacks in Mississippi and even supporting the Voting Rights Act. …
“My hat is off to Sen. Cochran for being as desperate as he was, to actually go out and up front got out and ask for those votes,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.). ” Those votes were delivered and I’m hopeful he will be responsible and responsive to the voters that pushed him over the top.”
An interesting take on Gov. Nathan Deal’s recent appointment of Bobby Cagle as the new director of the Division of Family and Children Services, from the AJC’s Bill Torpy:
If history repeats itself, as it always seems to do with the long-troubled agency, Cagle will be filling a box with personal possessions as he leaves in April 2016.
It’s the state’s most impossible, no-win, politically dangerous job, a position almost certain to end in failure and frustration. Since 1997, Cagle is at least the 10th (it’s hard to keep an exact count) director of the agency charged with overseeing the safety of Georgia’s children. It’s like “Groundhog Day”; that is, if the movie featured battered and burned children.
Before you wade too deeply into the Cobb County case of Ross Harris, who has been charged with felony murder after leaving his toddler son in a hot car, consider these paragraphs from the AJC’s Bert Roughton:
Frankly, a public debate so steeped in ignorance has succeeded only in hardening public opinion against Harris. While I am as bereft of the facts as anybody else, I do fear that no matter what happens, Harris will never escape the condemnation that has already settled in so many minds.
The information void deepened and filled with wanton speculation because Cobb police have been so amazingly unwilling to share even the basics. In fact, Cobb police have made clear little more than that they believe their murder charges are justified. Trust them. The public shouldn’t worry its pretty little head over the facts.
Cobb investigators no doubt are working very hard to make their case. No one wants to undermine their investigation, but should they refuse to give the most basic of accounts just because they believe they can? Shouldn’t they be disclosing all that they can instead of as little as they can?
While no one wants the police to be irresponsible, it seems generally helpful in a free society that police are transparent as they can.
For a contrast, look at the way Gwinnett County police handled the arrest of Recardo Wimbush Sr., the former Georgia Tech football star, and his wife on charges of cruelty to children. Gwinnett police immediately provided a useful narrative allowing a basic understanding of what happened. Whatever public discussion ensues will at least have the benefit of a clear set of official facts. And a broader understanding of what the police know and are thinking would even allow the public to challenge investigators’ assumptions and perhaps provide more information.
About the Authors
Daniel Malloy is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington Correspondent, covering the Georgia Congressional delegation and other D.C. goings-on that affect the state since 2011. He's a zealous fan and proud graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He joined the newspaper in June 2012.