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Jim GallowayGreg BluesteinTamar Hallerman

A White House directive on bathroom rules in public schools

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Fannin County School Superintendent Mark Henson. WSB-TV

Fannin County School Superintendent Mark Henson. WSB-TV

We’re about to see whether a White House attempt to undercut a debate in North Carolina (and Fannin County) over bathroom rules does just that – or throws gasoline on the situation. From the New York Times:

The Obama administration is planning to issue a sweeping directive telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.logo-all

A letter to school districts will go out Friday, adding to a highly charged debate over transgender rights in the middle of the administration’s legal fight with North Carolina over the issue. The declaration — signed by Justice and Education department officials — will describe what schools should do to ensure that none of their students are discriminated against.

It does not have the force of law, but it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.

We told you Thursday that House Speaker David Ralston, whose district includes Fannin County and who is in the midst of a primary fight, has weighed in on the matter – very carefully – with a letter to U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue. You can interpret as Ralston’s wish that the matter remain a topic for debate at the federal level.

In the meantime, much was said, but no action was taken at what surely was the best-attended school board meeting in north Georgia on Thursday. From the Associated Press:

Hundreds of Fannin County residents attended a school board meeting to voice concerns over the school system’s transgender bathroom policy.

Media outlets report a group of parents marched from a local church to the Fannin County School Board meeting Thursday evening.

Fannin County schools has a policy allowing transgender students to choose restrooms according to the gender they identify with. Superintendent Mark Henson says transgendered individuals are protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and giving up annual federal funding of $3 million to avoid the issue isn’t an option.

Parents are asking the school board to violate federal law and mandate that students use the bathroom of the gender assigned to them at birth, even if they identify as transgender.

Henson says the school district isn’t changing anything, and their policy has always been the same

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The most closely watched state Senate primary race in Georgia pits Republican incumbent Brandon Beach of Alpharetta against challenger Aaron Barlow, a self-funder attacking Beach’s proposals to address transportation issues in metro Atlanta.

Barlow has attacked Beach’s 2015 support for HB 170, the measure to boost spending on Georgia roads and bridges, and efforts to expand MARTA’s rail system. Beach has replied with charges that Barlow ain’t from around here — pointing to court filings that showed he listed a Chicago address as his home in 2014. Then there’s this new ad:

Barlow has defended himself with evidence to prove he’s been in Georgia since 2004 — the birth certificates of his two daughters attesting they were born at Northside Hospital. He also sent a utility bill that shows he lived in Milton since 2011, though he said he was gone for stretches between 2013-2015 for business.

“My opponent claims that I am from Chicago, and have never lived in Georgia except for the last eight months,” he said. “This is clearly untrue.”

Beach is likely to double-down on the residency issue — and not just the state statute that requires that candidates live a year in the district before running for office. Look for the Republican incumbent to start pointing out that the state constitution also requires a two-year residency — somewhere in the state of Georgia — in order to hold a state office.

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If you’re politically attuned, you’ve no doubt read that, in a setback for the Obama health care law, a federal judge ruled Thursday that the administration is unconstitutionally subsidizing medical bills for millions of poor people while ignoring congressional power over government spending. From the Associated Press:

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer was a win for House Republicans who brought the politically charged legal challenge in an effort to undermine the law.

If the decision is upheld, it could roil the health care law’s insurance markets, which are still struggling for stability after three years.

Collyer said her ruling would be put on hold while it is appealed. The White House expressed confidence it would be overturned.

What’s no one talking about? The fact that the current vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court could make the next legal step a most important one. If the high court were to split 4-4 on this in the future, while Congress and the White House are still at an impasse over a replacement for the late Antonin Scalia, whatever decision that comes out of the U.S. Court of Appeals could be the final word.

***

The influential FreedomWorks PAC, representing one of the original tea party groups, endorsed state Sen. Mike Crane in the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland. Six other Republicans are in the contest. From the press release:

“Mike Crane is committed to constitutionally limited government. He is a proven, principled fiscal conservative who will fight for economic freedom and his constituents, not big government cronies and rent-seeking special interests,” said FreedomWorks PAC Chairman Adam Brandon.

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No surprise, but former congressman Jack Kingston endorsed U.S. Rep. Austin Scott against his May 24 primary challenger, business woman Angela Hicks. It’s all about the military bases, Kingston asserts. The EighthDistrict has two.  From the press release:

“Austin fought successfully to save the A-10 flown out of Moody AFB despite strong objections from the Obama Administration, members of the Republican Party and the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on which Austin proudly serves. Austin prevailed and the A-10 is now the single most valuable asset in our fight against ISIS.”

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The U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, chaired by Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., quickly and quietly advanced a massive VA accountability bill yesterday. It now heads to the Senate floor, where it faces criticism from lawmakers such as John McCain and a short schedule in the lead-up to Memorial Day. That’s the deadline by which Isakson had initially hoping to pass the legislation. From the Military Times:

But several have questioned the total cost of the measure, and whether committee estimates are realistic.

Isakson said the $4-billion-plus in program costs are covered through a series of savings measures, leaving the final bill with a surplus of more than $330 million. Official Congressional Budget Office scoring of the measure is expected out later this week.