Gov. Nathan Deal. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
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June 22, 2016 Atlanta - Gov. Nathan Deal speaks during an announcement at The Georgia State Capitol on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday announced $100 million in state-funded transit projects, the most significant state investment in buses and rail in years. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Nathan Deal’s school-takeover proposal sparks opposition in GOP strongholds

Gov. Nathan Deal. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
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June 22, 2016 Atlanta - Gov. Nathan Deal speaks during an announcement at The Georgia State Capitol on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday announced $100 million in state-funded transit projects, the most significant state investment in buses and rail in years. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Gov. Nathan Deal at a June event at the state Capitol. AJC file/Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

Gov. Nathan Deal at a June event at the state Capitol. AJC file/Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

The campaign team behind Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed constitutional amendment to allow the state to take control of “chronically failing schools” has begun the mechanical process of identifying its supporters for the November referendum.

From an email blast that went out over the governor’s signature on Tuesday:logo-all

A “YES” vote on Question 1 supports the creation of an Opportunity School District (OSD) that would govern certain elementary and secondary schools determined to be chronically failing. In Georgia, there are currently about 68,000 students languishing in 127 failing schools around the state.

No child in Georgia should be forced by law to attend a failing school. Voting “YES” for the OSD amendment is a vote to ensure that future generations of Georgians will have the best opportunities available.

Supporters were asked to make themselves known. The effort is cranking up none too soon. Opposition has erupted in several Republican strongholds. From the Post-Searchlight in Bainbridge:

At Tuesday’s Rotary Club meeting Decatur County Superintendent Tim Cochran came out strongly in opposition of the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the governor of Georgia to assume control of schools that are deemed to be “chronically failing.”

“There is already a process that the state Department of Education and the governor’s office can intervene in school systems,” Cochran said. “They’ve done it for decades. They can come in and they dictate your budgets, your initiatives, your school improvement plans. They have a lot of control and power in what you do.”

Back up in north Georgia, Barrow County Board of Education member Lynn Stevens has urged her school board to pass a resolution in opposition to the governor’s proposed amendment. But she went a step further last week in an interview with the Barrow Journal:

“If our teachers are happy being teachers in the cultures in the schools that we have created, then they need to fight this with their heart and souls,” said Stevens. “…And they have the power, along with the administrators, to send a message to the governor to go to hell and take his money with him.”

Well, Deal’s been called worse.

***

Over at the Daily Report, Robin McDonald reports that Mark Dehler, the former executive director of the state’s judicial watchdog agency, used five pages to tell lawmakers that he’ll fight any effort to force his testimony on Thursday.

Dehler’s lengthy refusal was addressed to state Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. From the Daily Report:

Dehler called Willard’s study committee “problematic,” explaining that the JQC’s confidentiality provisions and its rules make public testimony about specific disciplinary matters handled by the watchdog agency “potentially improper if not illegal.”

Dehler also said he distrusts the committee’s motives in launching an investigation, suggesting it “is really trying to find ways to make the JQC look bad in order to justify what the General Assembly … has already done—setting the stage to dismantle a constitutionally created judicial branch agency.”

***

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s stab at a conservative-minded approach to Medicaid expansion didn’t play well with a trio of contributors to Forbes magazine.

In a post Tuesday, they wrote that the plan would create a “new welfare class of more than 700,000 able-bodied adults” and urged Gov. Nathan Deal and state lawmakers to reject it. From the Forbes post:

Overall, it looks like the Chamber cherry-picked some of the most expensive components of expansions across the country to produce what it calls the “most conservative, most sustainable” Obamacare expansion in the nation.

The reality is that the “Georgia Way” is simply a more expensive way to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Despite what the Chamber may suggest, expanding welfare to able-bodied adults – at the expense of help for the truly needy – is neither conservative nor sustainable.

The Chamber last week unveiled a trio of proposals that could offer more coverage to Georgia’s poorest residents under the Affordable Care Act, casting it as a starting point for state legislators who are preparing for a bruising 2017 debate over a potential expansion. It calls it the “Georgia Way” – though it spares many crucial details, such as the cost of each option, how it could be financed, or how many people it could cover.

Brian Robinson, a former Deal aide who is now an adviser to the Chamber’s efforts, dismissed the criticism from the Forbes contributors and said the three plans are “starting points for potential legislation.”

“We’ve focused on what we can control and that’s finding a pathway to save the healthcare network critical to Georgia families and to our economy,” he said. “We can bring home billions of our federal tax dollars or we can just send those dollars to cover patients in more than 30 other states. We don’t get a refund for what we don’t use. That’s the real choice we face.”

More: More Georgia Republicans push to expand Medicaid in 2017

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St. Simons Island’s Fort Frederica National Monument would be expanded under a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday.

The legislation would increase by 20 percent, to 350 acres, the maximum size of the park and its surroundings, which mark the fortified site where British colonial forces, led by James Oglethorpe, sought to fend off Spanish invasions from Florida in the mid-1700s. Areas that could be folded into the park include the site’s fort, ruins of soldiers’ barracks and a magazine.

Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, the bill’s sponsor, said expanding the monument would help “ensure future generations are given the opportunity to learn about the fort’s history first hand for years to come.”

The Senate still needs to approve the bill, one of several Georgia-related parks measures winding their way through Congress this year.

***

And, yes, try as we might to ignore it, there is still a presidential race. The New York Times offers this look at Donald Trump’s continuing struggle to create a ground game in all-important Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich remains indifferent to the GOP presidential candidate, if not hostile:

But after a sulfurous feud between Mr. Kasich and Donald J. Trump, which boiled over in July at the Republican nominating convention in Cleveland, almost none of the governor’s seasoned political staff members are helping Mr. Trump in his close Ohio battle with Hillary Clinton….

Mr. Trump’s small paid staff in the state is led by Bob Paduchik, a veteran of President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election race. It is filled out by a handful of operatives from second-tier Ohio Republican officeholders.


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