Brian Kemp tries to quell a nurses revolt

Secretary of State Brian Kemp. AJC file/Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

Secretary of State Brian Kemp. AJC file/Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

If Secretary of State Brian Kemp runs for higher office, he first needs to quell a rebellion among one of Georgia’s most important constituencies.

Our AJC colleague Chris Joyner reports Thursday that Kemp removed the head of the state nursing board, which is steadily clearing a backlog of complaints against nurses, without consulting the agency’s board members. And he’s replacing him with a less experienced director from the cosmetology board. The board members, as well as associations representing the more than 160,000 nurses in Georgia, are worried.logo-all

Here’s Joyner on the fallout:

State Sen. Renee Unterman, chair of the Health and Human Services Committee and a nurse herself, started getting word of Kemp’s proposed change last week in concerned emails from nurses around the state. Unterman, R-Buford, discussed the change with Kemp’s staff and said she is “very disappointed” with the decision.

The board has more money and staff than ever before and board members are all working together to manage its massive workload, she said. Now this.

“That director has been fabulous in helping the board reform,” she said. “Why on earth, when you are being more constructive and going in the right direction, do you pull the wheels out from under the wagon?”

For years there has been sentiment among the nursing profession that the board needs to follow the example set by the pharmacy and dental boards, which revolted and left Kemp’s office by convincing lawmakers in 2013 to transfer them to the Department of Community Health. This latest decision only furthers the conversation, Unterman said.

Kemp, often considered a candidate for governor, met with the board members Wednesday to propose a six-month transitional period, though it’s not clear if that pacified the revolt.

He’s already dealing with the aftermath of an embarrassing accidental disclosure of confidential voter information and a lawsuit alleging his office of illegally bumping voters from Georgia’s rolls. Now he’s got another fire to put out.

Read more of Joyner’s story here.

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“It’s sort of silly.”

That’s what Rep. John Lewis said after his Wednesday town hall meeting in Atlanta on the ethics complaint filed by a conservative watchdog arguing that his history-making sit-in broke the chamber’s rules.

Rep. John Lewis. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Rep. John Lewis. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

“Several members of the ethics committee participated in our action, so they may not have a quorum to hold a hearing,” he said. “Most of the Democratic members of the ethics committee were sitting on the floor of the House” during the sit-in.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust filed a complaint Monday to the Office of Congressional Ethics arguing that several participants arguing that Lewis and other Democrats violated the chamber’s ethics rules by fundraising off the protest. “This type of behavior is precisely why the public distrusts elected officials,” the complaint states.

Check out the rest of our piece on Lewis here.

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Usually, we try to limit what we aggregate from other sources, given copyright protections and such. But because Chuck Williams of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer let us know of his latest column, we’ll assume we have permission to exceed our normal limit.

Williams captured a Facebook exchange between state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, and Republican political consultant Chip Lake, former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland. Westmoreland recently endorsed Drew Ferguson, the former mayor of West Point, as his replacement in Congress, over state Sen. Mike Crane of Newnan. McKoon has endorsed Crane, and objected to Westmoreland’s endorsement as an example of elite GOP preference.

Lake challenged McKoon to take on more responsibility in the Legislature. We’ll let Chuck Williams pick it up from here:

“To understand why running for leadership would be futile I need to give a little background,” McKoon posted. “Most people know that when I introduced my ethics reform legislation that (House) Speaker (David) Ralston let it be known that (a) the House wouldn’t be moving my legislation and (b) that he would be recruiting a primary opponent for me in 2012. It is important to understand that most legislators are afraid of the Speaker of the House because he can stop their legislation, ax items in the budget that are of concern to their local community, … etc.”

McKoon then went into details about a constitutional amendment this year to abolish the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the state watchdog agency that oversees judges. McKoon said the bill was a personal vendetta by a couple of House members and the speaker put out word he would “shut the building down” if it was not passed. That amendment got through the General Assembly and will be on the ballot in November for the state’s voters to decide.

“So with that as background, imagine my candidacy for a Senate leadership position,” McKoon posted. “Members would be intimidated and told if I am elected to leadership that those who supported me will find it difficult to pass bills, get budget items that they are requesting, etc. If by some miracle I overcame the mafia like tactics that are routinely employed, I would simply be excluded by the Speaker from leadership meetings. He would refuse to meet with me (as he has done for the past 6 years) and the rest of Senate leadership would wind up meeting with House leaders without me. So no, running for a leadership position would not change anything for me. …”

It prompted this response from Lake:

“Here is what frustrates me: I don’t doubt that you are a strong conservative. I don’t doubt that you are trying your best to make Georgia a better place and I don’t doubt that you are one of the brightest, most articulate members of the legislature. … You yourself said in reference to my question about why you won’t offer yourself up for a leadership election. … ‘Members would be intimidated and told if I am elected to leadership that those who supported me will find it difficult to pass bills, get budget items that they are requesting, etc. …’”

Lake found that a startling admission.

“We can argue right/wrong until the cows come home but you have positioned yourself, as a legislator, to not be in a position to influence policy,” Lake wrote. “You don’t have the relationships to do so… and I’m not talking about ‘go along to get along.’ People know, and you seem to know with your response, that if your name is on a bill as a Lead Sponsor then it is DOA. That’s probably not fair but how can you possibly influence policy when such a dynamic exists? … As smart as I know that you are, that’s why I have come to the conclusion that you love the space that you are in and you thrive in it because you are too smart to not see what the rest of us see.”

***

Jill Stein of Massachusetts, a third-party presidential candidate, will be in Atlanta for a 7 p.m. session at the Interdenominational Theological Center at 700 Martin Luther King Jr Dr SW, Atlanta, Georgia 30314. The Green Party is backing her tour.

From the Facebook announcement:

This “Meet Jill Stein” event will include updates and support on the time-sensitive signature petition work in getting Stein’s name on the ballot in Georgia for the November presidential election by July 12th.

Ballot access requirements in Georgia were reduced in March 2016 through a ruling that the number of signatures required for a third party presidential candidate to have their name be on the ballot this November are now reduced from 54,000 signatures to 7,500 signatures.

Stein was in Athens on Wednesday. Here’s a snippet from The Red & Black on her event:

To give you some idea of the make up of the gathering, when Stein asked how many of those assembled had been involved in the Bernie Sanders campaign, at least one third of the hands went up.

When Stein arrived she opened by acknowledging the work of her “fellow partners in revolution,” and began to speak about the unique circumstances of this election.

“I think this election we’re in right now is not only about what kind of world we live in, but whether we will have a world at all,” she said.

***

An interesting development that could have significant relevance in Georgia lobbying efforts, via The Daily Report:

Capitalizing on its extensive U.S. lobbying practice, global megafirm Dentons is launching an initiative, Dentons 50, to offer on-the-ground lobbying services to clients in all 50 states.

No single professional services firm has been able to provide a full-service, 50-state public policy and advocacy solution for clients until now,” said Eric Tanenblatt, co-leader of the firm’s U.S. public policy and regulation practice.

***

Herman Cain and Erick Erickson may serve the same radio overlords at WSB, but the conservative talk show hosts are split over which candidate they’re backing in next month’s GOP runoff in the 3rd Congressional District.

Cain came out in favor of dentist Drew Ferguson yesterday. In his endorsement, the 2012 presidential candidate praised Ferguson’s experience as the former mayor of West Point while taking a jab at his opponent Mike Crane, a state senator.

“Drew Ferguson has helped rebuild a community knocked into the dirt by Washington trade deals, taxes and regulations,” Cain said. “His record as a mayor and a small businessman makes him a better candidate than any ten legislators who talk and campaign for a living.”

Ouch.

Crane, for his part, already has the backing of Erickson. The two are fundraising together tonight at a dinner in Fayetteville.

The Crane campaign on Wednesday also unveiled endorsements from Fayette County commissioners Randy Ognio and Steve Brown, as well as Barry Marchman, a member of the Fayette County Board of Education.

Note: WSB and your Political Insiders share the same parent company.

***

Georgia’s two U.S. senators split last night over a last-minute financial relief measure for Puerto Rico.

Senior Sen. Johnny Isakson voted in favor of the bill, which passed on a bipartisan vote of 68-30 two days before the island owes a $2 billion debt payment, while David Perdue came out against it.

“With this bill, no taxpayer dollars will be used to help Puerto Rico reduce its debt; it instead ensures that creditors, not taxpayers, bear the cost of bad investments,” said Amanda Maddox, Isakson’s spokeswoman. 

In a statement, Perdue called the bill “a band-aid for a long-term fiscal illness:”

“By giving Puerto Rico the ability to remove debt payment priorities guaranteed by its own Constitution, Congress is setting a dangerous new precedent that will make it even harder for the Commonwealth to access capital markets in the future. Furthermore, without structural changes that get at the failed fiscal policies that pushed Puerto Rico to this point, the Commonwealth will potentially find itself facing another unmanageable debt situation down the road.”

The bill was negotiated by the White House and congressional leaders but split both the Democrats and Republicans. An unorthodox coalition of liberals and conservatives, including Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, voted against the proposal. In a statement, Sanders said the legislation would put a “small group of hedge fund billionaires” in charge who would demand “extreme austerity policies that would decimate public services, including the firing of teachers and the closing of schools.”

Read more background about the bill here via the Associated Press.


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