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Greg BluesteinTamar Hallerman
Jim Galloway

State senators to hold four debates over ‘religious liberty’ legislation

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In this April file photo, Lee Churchill, of Raleigh, shows her support of HB2 during a rally at the Halifax Mall in Raleigh, N.C. Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via AP

In this April file photo, Lee Churchill, of Raleigh, shows her support of HB2 during a rally at the Halifax Mall in Raleigh, N.C. Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via AP

With next January in mind, two state senators are putting together a three-day series of four debates across Georgia on the topic of “religious liberty” legislation.

The September debates, which would be held in Atlanta, Savannah, Macon and Tifton, would serve as a prelude to a fourth year of debate in the Legislature on the topic.logo-all

State Sen. Greg Kirk, R-Americus, said he and a Democratic colleague, Vincent Fort of Atlanta, are working with the Georgia Press Association and the Georgia Association of Broadcasters to plan formats and seek out moderators.

Fort has been a vocal opponent of the measures, intended to shelter conservative Christians from the impact of gay marriage.

Kirk was one of several authors of HB 757, the “religious liberty” measure passed by the Legislature earlier this year over sharp objections from the state’s business community and LGBT voices. Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the measure.

“During the session, many times I said we need more debate on this issue. The public needs to be engaged,” Kirk said Tuesday, while at a Georgia Chamber luncheon in Macon.

One debate – the one in Atlanta – would be held in a church. The other three would be held at Savannah State, Mercer University, and the UGA campus conference center in Tifton, Kirk said.

The re-introduction of “religious liberty” legislation may be a given, but its prospects could largely depend on what happens in North Carolina on Election Day.

Shortly before Deal’s veto, Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina signed into law a measure that barred transgender individuals from using public restrooms associated with their present identity rather than their birth gender.

McCrory is now locked in a tight re-election bid, and Democrat Hillary Clinton is now leading North Carolina polls in the presidential contest.

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Drip, drip, drip. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton may be having her worst week of the summer. Earlier this week, the FBI said it had discovered roughly 15,000 more emails from her private server when she was secretary of state.

Now the Associated Press says more than half of the non-government officials Clinton met with while secretary had donated to the Clinton Foundation, a revelation that may add to the New Yorker’s trust deficit with voters and overshadow her for much of her campaign:

At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.

Donors who were granted time with Clinton included an internationally known economist who asked for her help as the Bangladesh government pressured him to resign from a nonprofit bank he ran; a Wall Street executive who sought Clinton’s help with a visa problem; and Estee Lauder executives who were listed as meeting with Clinton while her department worked with the firm’s corporate charity to counter gender-based violence in South Africa.

The meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. But the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton.

Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue, a prominent Donald Trump-backer and head of a Senate subcommittee that oversees the State Department, was quick with his reaction. He called the news “just another example of Hillary Clinton’s questionable ethics and integrity.”

 “If then-Secretary Clinton potentially prioritized her time based on dollar signs instead of foreign policy goals, that should be thoroughly examined,” he said in a statement. “Any responsible leader would have avoided this situation all together instead of charging their friends a finder’s fee to connect them with charities in need of capital.”

Sounds like a topic for a Senate subcommittee hearing in October.

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Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, a different congressional inquiry just got much more interesting. From the Washington Post:

The growing congressional scrutiny of pharmaceutical giant Mylan over the high cost of EpiPens could prove awkward for Sen. Joe Manchin.

The West Virginia Democrat’s daughter, Heather Bresch, is chief executive of the company, which appears to have hiked the price of the epinephrine auto-injector by 400 percent since 2007. The device, which is used to treat severe allergic reactions, now costs more than $600 per dose.

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Consider U.S. Rep. Doug Collins the latest Republican to push back on Donald Trump’s warnings that the election is “rigged.”

The Gainesville Republican visited our offices on Tuesday for a lengthy sit-down interview that ventured into familiar territory: A question about whether he was worried about down-ticket candidates losing support because of a divisive presidential ticket. Said Collins:

“It’s too early to tell. One of the concerns I do have is that we have to be very careful about how we discuss our electoral system. That goes to the integrity of what we are. If you win, you win. If you lose, you lose. I want people to know there’s integrity – voting is a bought gift. I want to encourage it.”

He was pressed to elaborate on what he meant by that.

“When Trump says it’s fixed or rigged, my hope is that it’s taken in the vein that the media is against me – not that the voting process is,” he said. “That’s the danger of our democracy. We can argue the edges, but let’s not cut into the exoskeleton.”

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Another day, another candidate for Atlanta mayor. This time it’s M

That makes at least eight candidates — and counting — who have declared themselves or are considering a run to succeed Reed, who cannot run for a third term. Read more about the race here. 

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A proposal to create a lottery in Alabama won’t be on the ballot this year, news that has backers of Georgia’s HOPE scholarship breathing a sigh of relief.

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The debate over Newton County’s proposed mosque made the Economist. It somehow includes a Pokemon Go reference.

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Mike Wild, a deputy director of redistricting at the Republican National Committee, has died at age 49 after a brief bout with cancer. Wild was a D.C. resident, but GOP consultant Mark Rountree explained his Georgia connection last night in a Facebook post:

Mike was the Georgia Republican Party’s “data guy” in the very early years of politcal voter files (in the 80s and early ’90s). Mike, along with Mark Davis, Mark Newton, Bill Gentry, and Carter Taylor, did enormous technical advancements in that era to put the GAGOP way ahead of the GA Democrats.

Technology is much more equal today between the Parties, but not in those days. Much of the success of the GAGOP in those days was because of Mike and the “data guys.”

Mike Wild’s work ultimately helped impact millions of people — who will never even know it — by directly helping pave the way to a two-Party system and a Republican majority in Georgia.