Unfinished business: State GOP leaders take up resolutions on ‘religious liberty,’ gaming

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Cash, chips and dice on a craps table at a casino. AP file/Wayne Parry

Over at our subscription site, we have an item on some leftover business from the state GOP convention in Augusta two months ago:

Among the raft of resolutions up for debate at Saturday’s meeting of the Georgia GOP state committee is a particularly juicy one: It would urge gubernatorial candidates to pledge they would support a state version of the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act if elected.

 

There are four GOP candidates in the race, but this seems aimed at Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. He was an outspoken supporter of the legislation in 2016, but said this year it should be up to federal lawmakers to decide the issue.

Newly elected state GOP chair John Watson will be under pressure to defuse that particular bomb. But there’s another explosive topic in that mix of resolutions: One endorsing continued opposition to casino gaming in Georgia.

Watson is a lobbyist at the state Capitol. His many clients include Boyd Gaming Corp.

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The Thursday column addresses the proposed annexation of the Emory University campus and other privately-held properties into Atlanta – the first major change in the city’s boundaries in 65 years. In the past, annexation and race have been inseparable companions. That may not be the case today.

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Politico.com followed around Republican gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams and his top surrogate Dog the Bounty Hunter for a memorable magazine piece that includes this eye-opener:

From behind the wheel of his very on-message car, a fiscally responsible Honda Accord with a small crate of munitions in the trunk, Williams says he’s considering the idea of making Georgia the first state to accept tax payments in the form of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. “That would put us on the map.”

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Atlanta attorney Christopher Wray was sworn in as FBI director on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after he was easily confirmed by the Senate on a 92-5 vote. The Buckhead resident assumes one of Washington’s highest profile jobs at a time of major turmoil for the bureau, as it investigates President Donald Trump and his campaign associates for alleged contact with Russia before and after last year’s election. Wray called his new job “the honor of a lifetime.”

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The New York Times this morning has a piece on President Donald Trump’s emphasis on keeping conservative groups and their leaders happy – among them Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, which is headquartered in Woodstock, Ga. From the Times:

Ms. Martin recalled reminding Mr. Trump in March that her group had made over two million phone calls last fall to voters on his behalf “after a certain video came out” — meaning the tape of the president boasting about grabbing women by the genitals. Mr. Trump turned to his chief of staff at the time, Reince Priebus, and ribbed him with a reminder that [House Speaker Paul Ryan], who is Mr. Priebus’s friend, had publicly disavowed Mr. Trump at the time and disinvited him from a rally in Wisconsin. Then he turned to Ms. Martin and said, “Thank you, Jenny Beth.”

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Attention history teachers: By now, you’ve probably seen the video of the heated exchange between White House senior adviser Stephen Miller and CNN’s Jim Acosta over the meaning of the poem “New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus at the base of the Statue of Liberty. The Washington Post has a backgrounder this morning on why anti-immigration forces think the “huddled masses” verses are an “ahistorical” misdirection. In case you missed it:

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The race to replace state Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth,  just got a lot more interesting. Democrat Zahra Karinshak, an attorney and graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy — she rose to the rank of captain as an intelligence officer — qualified for the seat this week. So far, the only Republican in the race is Matt Reevees, a Duluth attorney with a sweep of support from local GOP officials. With Shafer’s decision to run for lieutenant governor, Democrats are salivating over the chance to flip the seat. It’s one of about a dozen GOP-held state legislative districts in Georgia that Donald Trump lost in November.

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To the lawmakers who are ramping up their calls to replace Georgia’s voting machines – and there’s a growing number – Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s supporters have a rejoinder: It’s no simple switch. Changing the process requires changing the law, picking a new vendor through a competitive bidding process, building out a voting system, retraining elections employees, poll workers and others; then rolling it out to the public. It also requires millions upon millions of dollars.

 


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