You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

Legislature


Watchdog: What does the Civil War have to do with us?

When House Speaker David Ralston punished fellow Republican Rep. Tommy Benton last week, stripping him of his committee chairmanship and removing him from a study committee on civics education, it came after nearly two years of provocative political acts. But it was the distribution to his House colleagues of an article from the magazine “Confederate Veteran” that triggered Ralston&rsquo...


Georgia ethics panel finally ending years-long backlog of cases

Georgia ethics panel finally ending years-long backlog of cases

Three years ago the state agency in charge of policing the ethics of Georgia politicians and lobbyists was a mess, with few staffers and a backlog of more than 150 cases, some dating to before the Great Recession. This past week the agency’s executive secretary, Stefan Ritter, told the ethics commission that the backlog had mostly been eliminated. There are still a few back cases the state...
Georgia ethics panel trying again to collect millions in late fees

Georgia ethics panel trying again to collect millions in late fees

The state ethics commission is trying to address what it sees as a long-running problem: getting local elections officials to pay the fees they owe when they don’t file reports — such as campaign disclosures — on time. Or at all. It’s not a small amount of money the agency is after. Officials said in 2015 that the state is owed between $2.5 million and $3 million in late fees...
Controversial Ga. lawmaker punished for Civil War mailer

Controversial Ga. lawmaker punished for Civil War mailer

A controversial member of the Georgia House of Representatives has lost his position in leadership and his place on a civics education study committee after sending colleagues an article challenging slavery as the root cause of the Civil War. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, announced Friday that Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, would no longer chair the House Human Relations and Aging Committee...
Fulton assessors say there’s nothing they can do about increased values

Fulton assessors say there’s nothing they can do about increased values

Thousands of Fulton County residents frustrated by high property assessments heard bad news from the Board of Assessors Thursday. “I wanted to be clear: we do not have the authority to rescind tax notices,” said Brandi Hunter, vice chair of the Board of Assessors. Instead, Hunter said, Fulton County residents who feel their property values are in error should file individual...
Georgia a high-tax state for beer-, wine-drinkers, group says

Georgia a high-tax state for beer-, wine-drinkers, group says

Many parts of the South, including Georgia, are not exactly tax-friendly to wine drinkers, according to a new state-by-state listing by the Tax Foundation. The foundation, a Washington D.C. tax think tank, regularly releases U.S. maps detailing various types of state taxes. On Thursday, it released one on state wine excise taxes, which made much of the South look like a regular Taxachusetts. As of...
Georgia ethics panel clears up years-long backlog of cases

Georgia ethics panel clears up years-long backlog of cases

Three years ago the state agency in charge of policing the ethics of Georgia politicians and lobbyists was a mess, with few staffers and a backlog of more than 150 cases, some dating to before the Great Recession. This past week the agency’s executive secretary, Stefan Ritter, told the ethics commission that the backlog had essentially been eliminated. There are still a few back cases the state...
‘Broadband deserts’ hinder growth in rural Georgia

‘Broadband deserts’ hinder growth in rural Georgia

When bells ring at the end of the day in schools across rural Georgia, the local fast-food joints know what to expect. Gobs of students descend on the McDonald’s, Burger Kings and Wendy’s in small towns across the state. But it’s not a Big Mac, Whopper or Frosty many of the kids are after. It’s Wi-Fi. Sixteen percent of Georgians do not have high-speed internet access, and...
Gov. Deal appoints former campaign ethics lawyer to state job

Gov. Deal appoints former campaign ethics lawyer to state job

A lawyer and lobbyist who was part of the team that defended Gov. Nathan Deal’s campaign against ethics charges during his first term in office was named Friday to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation by the governor. Benjamin Vinson, a partner in the mega-law firm Dentons, will take the $150,000 a year post July 1. Vinson served as majority caucus counsel in the Georgia House of Representatives...
Why was controversial Georgia lawmaker named to civics committee?

Why was controversial Georgia lawmaker named to civics committee?

Over the past two years, State Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, called African-American slaves “property” and fostered legislation requiring the state to recognize Robert E. Lee’s birthday, Confederate Memorial Day and Confederate History Month. He also said the Ku Klux Klan “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order,” he said. &ldquo...
Watchdog: Benton appointment demeans Georgia House

Watchdog: Benton appointment demeans Georgia House

When House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, considered Rep. Tommy Benton for a seat on a civics education study committee, he apparently saw nothing other than a retired middle school history teacher. That, in itself, says something about the political culture of the Georgia House. For the better part of two years, Benton, R-Jefferson, has made a name for himself with his remarks about the Ku...

Georgia 6th: Special interests dump cash in race ahead of debate

As Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel prepare for their first debate tonight on WSB-TV, special interest groups opened the spigots again on Tuesday. Republican and Democratic groups reported spending at least $1.3 million on the race Tuesday. Gabriel Debenedetti, a national political reporter for Politico, first announced the cash dump on Twitter: The crazy amount of $ in this race (more than any...
Officials need extra $400 million for Georgia teacher pension system

Officials need extra $400 million for Georgia teacher pension system

Taxpayers may have to chip in an extra $400 million next year to ensure the financial security of the state’s massive teacher and university employee pension system. That’s on top of the extra $223 million the state put into the system this year. The extra money will likely eat up a sizable chunk of new revenue the state expects to take in next year. Teachers say the money is worth it...
Ga. lawmaker who made controversial Klan remarks named to civics panel

Ga. lawmaker who made controversial Klan remarks named to civics panel

A Georgia state representative who said the Ku Klux Klan “made a lot of people straighten up” and tried to force the state to formally recognize Robert E. Lee’s birthday and Confederate Memorial Day as official holidays has been named to a study committee on civics education. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, made the announcement in a press release Friday appointing Rep...
Atlanta cannot annex South Fulton neighborhoods, court rules

Atlanta cannot annex South Fulton neighborhoods, court rules

The state supreme court nixed Atlanta’s expansion efforts Monday when justices decided that five neighborhoods the city attempted to annex instead will remain part of the new city of South Fulton. Residents voted to form the city in November, but there was contention about its borders even before the vote was held. Atlanta tried to annex the five neighborhoods last summer, in the weeks...
State of Georgia sees strong tax collections in May, surplus likely

State of Georgia sees strong tax collections in May, surplus likely

The state of Georgia saw a big bump up in tax collections in May, signalling that the government will likely end the fiscal year on June 30 with a sizable surplus. Overall tax collections were up 10.3 percent in May, Gov. Nathan Deal announced Monday. Through 11 months of the fiscal year, they are ahead of last year by 4.7 percent, or almost $900 million. The state saw a big increase in individual...
Big bump needed in Georgia’s contribution to secure teacher pensions

Big bump needed in Georgia’s contribution to secure teacher pensions

Georgia lawmakers raised the alarm earlier this year when they had to provide an extra $223 million to ensure the financial security of the state’s massive teacher pension system. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned that next year the government may have to put in almost twice that amount, eating up much of the new revenue the state expects to take in to pay for increased public health...
Democratic legislative leader to launch bid for Georgia governorship

Democratic legislative leader to launch bid for Georgia governorship

Democrat Stacey Abrams entered the campaign for Georgia governor on Saturday with a pledge to expand pre-kindergarten programs and make technical college education free, promising she’d bring a “bold and ambitious approach” to state government that will invigorate the economy. Abrams, who heads her party’s caucus in the Georgia House, said that as governor she’ll embrace...
Mandate on contraception coverage could be weakened further

Mandate on contraception coverage could be weakened further

Georgians reacted with dismay and cheer Friday to news that the Trump administration is moving to roll back a mandate that health insurance policies cover contraception. The mandate already exempted houses of worship, and it was weakened following a court case filed by the company Hobby Lobby, which is owned by evangelical Christians who did not want to include contraception in the insurance...
Metro Atlanta’s air quality improves despite population growth

Metro Atlanta’s air quality improves despite population growth

Just in time for summer smog season, the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday reported that metro Atlanta’s air quality has met an important standard for pollution. The federal agency said the 15-county metro region has “reached a significant milestone … in the midst of significant population growth.” Officially, the region has met the 2008 8-hour ozone standard, although...
Florida asks Supreme Court to dump pro-Georgia water ruling

Florida asks Supreme Court to dump pro-Georgia water ruling

The state of Florida has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a special master’s refusal to cap what it said is Georgia’s insatiable thirst for water.  In its filing, first reported by Politico, Florida says the high court is its “last remaining, legal remedy to save the Apalachicola Region—one of the nation’s most unique, diverse, and irreplaceable...
Williams enters Georgia governor race as pro-Trump loyalist

Williams enters Georgia governor race as pro-Trump loyalist

Republican state Sen. Michael Williams entered the race for governor Thursday, pinning his campaign on his outspoken support for Donald Trump as he hopes the same anti-establishment wave that elected the president propels him to Georgia’s highest office. Williams has signaled for months that he would join the crowded field to replace a term-limited Nathan Deal. And he has already attacked...
Early voting heavy ahead of Georgia’s 6th District runoff

Early voting heavy ahead of Georgia’s 6th District runoff

Nearly half as many voters have cast ballots over the past two days ahead of Georgia’s 6th Congressional District runoff than voted during the entire three-week early voting period ahead the original April 18 special election. Early voting for the June 20 contest between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff began Tuesday and runs through June 16. Already, 24,476 votes in the...

Sonny Perdue endorses former aide in race for GOP chair

John Watson was Sonny Perdue’s campaign consultant when the Bonaire Republican upended Georgia politics by becoming, in 2003, the first Republican governor since Reconstruction and was later Perdue’s chief of staff. So it may not be a surprise that now-Agriculture Secretary Perdue has endorsed Watson, now a lobbyist, in his bid to become the next chairman of the Georgia Republican...
Blue Cross in Georgia to limit emergency room coverage

Blue Cross in Georgia to limit emergency room coverage

The Obamacare exchange may survive next year in rural Georgia. But patients who depend on its last remaining insurer are now learning there’s a catch. Over the past week letters have arrived at homes throughout the state giving patients a jolt. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, the only insurer on the exchange for 96 of the state’s 159 counties, is telling patients with individual...
Georgia peaches: 80 percent of state’s crop lost

Georgia peaches: 80 percent of state’s crop lost

It will not be a peachy summer for Georgia growers of the iconic fruit. Nearly 80 percent of the state’s peach crop was wiped out this year by a combination of an overly warm winter and a hard freeze in early spring, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. The loss comes after a similarly devastating blow this year to the blueberry crop. All...
Early voting underway in Georgia’s 6th District runoff

Early voting underway in Georgia’s 6th District runoff

Early in-person voting is underway today in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, kicking off the official countdown to the June 20 runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.  The nationally watched race to replace former U.S. Rep. Tom Price covers a district that includes parts of Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties. Early voting for the runoff runs through...

Cobb Democrat files ethics complaint against Barry Loudermilk

A prominent Cobb County Democrat has filed an ethics complaint against Barry Loudermilk, claiming the 11th District Republican congressman has used his old state campaign account to funnel money to his congressional fund. A Loudermilk campaign spokesman dismissed the complaint as merit-less and “partisan hooey.” Will Fowlkes of Kennesaw filed the complaint last week with the Department...
Georgia lawmaker uses power of the purse to influence colleges

Georgia lawmaker uses power of the purse to influence colleges

Some call him the 20th member of the Board of Regents. He regularly uses his political power to influence policies he doesn’t like at Georgia’s colleges and universities, whether they be public or private. Kennesaw State, Georgia Tech, Georgia Gwinnett and Emory have all felt his wrath. He is Earl Ehrhart, a veteran state House member whose committee helps decide how much is budgeted...
How Trump is already shaking up the Georgia governor’s race

How Trump is already shaking up the Georgia governor’s race

President Donald Trump is shaking up the emerging race for Georgia governor, forcing Republicans to gamble on how closely to tie themselves to his presidency – and speeding up plans for Democrats who think they have a tantalizing opportunity to exploit his setbacks. A fight is already under way on the GOP side of the ticket between candidates pledging to “drain the swamp” vying against...

Georgia 2018: Rick Jeffares joins race for lieutenant governor

It’s been whispered about for a while now, but state Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough, has filed paperwork to run for lieutenant governor. Jeffares, first elected in 2010, is chairman of the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee and a member of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee. A small business owner, he is a former Locust Grove city manager and Henry County commissioner...
Panel named to study Georgia transit

Panel named to study Georgia transit

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, announced Thursday the members of the House Commission on Transit Governance & Funding.  The panel will study the state’s existing transit infrastructure and its future needs. It will also explore ways to pay for transit expansion.  “Transit is becoming more and more important to Georgia’s future,” Ralston said in a statement...
Change in District 6 poll spots; Here’s where you can vote in Fulton

Change in District 6 poll spots; Here’s where you can vote in Fulton

Voters in north Fulton County must go to a different polling place to cast their votes in the upcoming runoff. Fulton County announced on Wednesday that is changing the locations of 12 polling places for the June 20 election when voters will decide if Jon Ossoff or Karen Handel will fill the congressional seat in Georgia’s 6th District. The county cited “unforeseen circumstances&rdquo...
Campus carry law will allow guns at tailgating

Campus carry law will allow guns at tailgating

University System of Georgia officials laid out guidelines Wednesday about how the state’s new controversial “campus carry” law will be implemented. While concealed weapons won’t be allowed inside athletics events, guns will be allowed at tailgating events, according to a two-page memo released by USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley. The USG will not provide gun storage facilities...
Georgia 6th District voters can catch a free ride to the polls

Georgia 6th District voters can catch a free ride to the polls

A super PAC is raising thousands of dollars to make sure voters in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District can vote in the June 20 runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff. My Ride to Vote’s effort will pay for free rides to and from the polls. Any 6th District voter can take advantage of the nonpartisan offer. To get the group’s promo code and find out...
Thousands of Georgians dropped from food stamps

Thousands of Georgians dropped from food stamps

Thousands of Georgians are no longer collecting food stamps due to new work requirements, according to state figures released Tuesday.  The new work mandate applies to food stamp recipients in 21 counties - several in metro Atlanta - who are considered able-bodied and without children.  In January, the state informed 11,779 of these recipients that they had three months to find a job or...
Georgia would be vulnerable if feds made deep cuts

Georgia would be vulnerable if feds made deep cuts

While President Donald Trump’s budget plan is unlikely to gain approval, any cutbacks in Washington could have a major impact on services in Georgia. Home to eight major military installations, Georgia could be a major beneficiary of any increase the Trump administration proposes in military spending. Cuts to nonmilitary spending, however, could be big for the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for...
Police honored for swift work recovering stolen voting equipment

Police honored for swift work recovering stolen voting equipment

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp honored law enforcement officers Tuesday during a ceremony at the state Capitol for their work recovering voting equipment stolen last month. The theft happened days before the April 18 special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, when four electronic poll books were stolen from a Cobb County precinct manager’s car. The equipment is typically...
New council promises results, seeks patience in helping rural Georgia

New council promises results, seeks patience in helping rural Georgia

Members of the newly minted state House Rural Development Council heard a litany of challenges facing the rural parts of Georgia on Monday, as local officials, economists and experts tallied the woes. Rural Georgia is aging rapidly. It is losing population and jobs, it lacks infrastructure and it often struggles to educate its youth. House leaders promised answers but said they won’t come...
Rural council promises results, asks for patience

Rural council promises results, asks for patience

House Speaker David Ralston on Monday said rural Georgia can’t afford to wait for the next election to find progress and solutions. “Rural Georgia cannot wait on political seasons to come and go because they will always come and go,” the Blue Ridge Republican told the first meeting of the House Rural Development Council. “I refuse to allow any personal ambitions to get in the...
Problems of rural Georgia easy to find, difficult to fix

Problems of rural Georgia easy to find, difficult to fix

The summer before he graduated high school in 1963, Hasan Hanks helped build what he was certain was the future of his little town on Georgia’s southwestern edge. The Walter F. George Lock and Dam was near completion and would soon form a 45,000-acre lake, with 650 miles of prime shoreline property, and generate enough electricity to power 58,000 homes. “I was a kid then, but I had a vision...
Voter registration ends this weekend in Georgia’s 6th District

Voter registration ends this weekend in Georgia’s 6th District

Voter registration in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District ends Sunday, following a judge’s order earlier this month extending the registration deadline in metro Atlanta’s northern suburbs. The deadline comes as voter registration groups have tried to make the most of the extension, going door-to-door in some neighborhoods as well as hosting registration tables at area...

Georgia Republicans remember Roger Ailes’ impact

Doug Chalmers was 24 and working on his first political campaign in 1988 when he first met Roger Ailes, the veteran GOP operative and Fox News founder who died this week. It was a U.S. Senate campaign and Chalmers and others were in Ailes’ New York office in February. “All of a sudden a staffer comes in and says, ‘Mr. Ailes, you have a phone call,'” Chalmers, now one of...
How did your Cobb neighbors vote in the 6th District runoff election?

How did your Cobb neighbors vote in the 6th District runoff election?

Republican Karen Handel beat Democrat Jon Ossoff in the 6th Congressional District race Tuesday night, becoming Georgia’s first female Republican member of the U.S. House. What would usually be a tame special election in an historically red section of the Atlanta suburbs brought obscene amounts of national attention and dollars. You can see how voters at each precinct, ...
Hey, 6th District voters: Did the rain stop you from voting today? 

Hey, 6th District voters: Did the rain stop you from voting today? 

Now that most of the polls have closed in the hotly contested 6th Congressional District runoff, election officials will play the waiting game to see if heavy metro-wide showers and flooding hampered voter turnout.  Voters seeking to elect either Democrat Jon Ossoff or Republican Karen Handel in this special election to replace Republican Tom Price, now U.S. Secretary of Health...
Trump PAC misrepresents scene from Obama book to get 6th District blacks to vote Republican

Trump PAC misrepresents scene from Obama book to get 6th District blacks to vote Republican

In the eighth chapter of his memoir, "Dreams from My Father," former president Barack Obama describes a barbershop haircut he got in Chicago in the 1980s, just days after he moved to the city for his new job as a community organizer. Obama's barber, named Smitty, speaks in the passage of the racial and political tension in Chicago before the city elected Harold Washington as its first black...
Early voting for Senate District 32 race begins May 6 in Sandy Springs

Early voting for Senate District 32 race begins May 6 in Sandy Springs

Voters in north Fulton County will be able to cast ballots as early as May 6 for the runoff election to fill Judson Hill’s state Senate seat. The North Fulton Service Center at 7741 Roswell Road in Sandy Springs will be home to the lone early voting polling place for the District 32 election. Early voting will be available Saturday, May 6 through Friday, May 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Hill...
A closer look at individual donors to Georgia District 6 campaigns

A closer look at individual donors to Georgia District 6 campaigns

With less than a week remaining for the special elections for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, the AJC decided to look at where donations are coming from.  To answer this question, we combed through Federal Election Commission campaign filings for five candidates -- Democrat Jon Ossoff, and Republicans Dan Moody, Bob Gray, Judson Hill and Karen Handel -- to produce...
House OKs Cobb rep’s bill to try minors as adults if they shoot a cop 

House OKs Cobb rep’s bill to try minors as adults if they shoot a cop 

The Georgia Senate will be next to consider a bill proposed by a Marietta legislator that would uncomplicate the process to try minors as adults if they’re accused of shooting police officers. The state House passed House Bill 166 on Monday with a 130- 36 vote. Rep. Bert Reeves sponsored the bill after Marietta police officer Scott Davis was responding to a report...
Cobb rep’s bill would let minors who shoot cops be tried as adults

Cobb rep’s bill would let minors who shoot cops be tried as adults

A Cobb legislator’s bill making it easier for minors accused of shooting police officers to be tried as adults will be up for a vote on the House floor Monday. State Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta sponsored the bill after Marietta police officer Scott Davis was shot on duty early Aug. 11 by an unidentified 15-year-old member of the Bloods gang. That teen’s case started in...
Georgia settles federal lawsuit alleging it blocked thousands of minority voters

Georgia settles federal lawsuit alleging it blocked thousands of minority voters

Georgia has settled a federal lawsuit that accused Secretary of State Brian Kemp of disenfranchising minority voters because of a requirement on registration forms that critics said blocked thousands of them from voter rolls. The state will no longer reject applications that don’t exactly match identification information in state and federal databases as part of the agreement...
How to contact your Georgia congressmen

How to contact your Georgia congressmen

Why should I contact elected officials?Feedback from constituents is a powerful tool for those who’ve been elected and it’s an opportunity to voice your opinion about the issues that matter to you. How should I contact them?While phone calls are the best way of contacting senators or representatives, email and snail mail are effective options as well. Emails can be sent directly from the...
Bill would impose greater transparency on state parole board

Bill would impose greater transparency on state parole board

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles would be required to hold public hearings before granting pardons or commuting a death sentence under legislation introduced in the state House.  House Bill 34, from Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, would impose even greater transparency on the board by declaring all reports, files, records and other information related to the supervision of probationers and...
Bill would close school sex loophole

Bill would close school sex loophole

Legislation to be introduced in the state House on Wednesday would close a loophole in Georgia law that weakened efforts to punish school officials that have sexual relations with students.  Rep. Joyce Chandler, R-Grayson, will introduce House Bill 32, which would make state law clear that any “employee or agent of a school” is barred from having sexual contact with...
Winter weather postpones Wild Hog Supper

Winter weather postpones Wild Hog Supper

The winter storm bearing down on Georgia has claimed another victim: the Wild Hog Supper.  The event typically occurs the Sunday before every new session of the Georgia Legislature, a welcome-back-to-Atlanta event for lawmakers, elected officials and voters. The 2017 legislative session begins Monday.  Sarah Jackson, corporate partnership manager at Georgia Food Bank Association, ...
AJC January 2017 poll methodology statement

AJC January 2017 poll methodology statement

Abt SRBI conducted the survey of Georgia residents, 18 years and older, on behalf of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The survey included telephone interviews with a representative sample of 1,092 Georgia residents (including 919 registered voters). Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (n=396) and cell phone (n=696). Interviewing was conducted from January 2nd to January 5th, 2017. ...
More Georgia Legislature Stories