Marietta Daily Journal
by Shaddi Abusaid, Mar 12, 2018
Thousands of students from across the county are planning to walk out of class Wednesday on the one month anniversary of the mass shooting that left 17 people dead at a Parkland, Florida high school.
While Marietta City Schools will permit its students to leave class, the Cobb County School District says anyone who walks out will be subject to disciplinary repercussions laid out in the student code of conduct.
But 17-year-old Hannah Andress, who is organizing the walkout at Lassiter High to commemorate those killed and call for stricter gun laws, said her class will be on the right side of history. She said her classmates believe the planned protest is far too important to let a few hours of detention silence their voices.
Andress, who will study Arabic and international affairs at Washington, D.C.’s American University in the fall, said when first period ends at 9:56 a.m., students participating in the walkouts will head down to Lassiter’s football field.
“As far as punishment goes, the most our principal said he’ll give us is four hours of time — whether that be Saturday school or community service,” Andress said, adding Lassiter students who participate will not be suspended.
DISTRICT’S DECISION SPURS ADDITIONAL SIGN-UPS
Natalie Carlomagno, a 15-year-old sophomore at Walton High, said Cobb’s stance has actually inspired more students to sign up.
“When the county posted its statement, we were just under 1,000 signatures,” she said. As of Friday, the number of participants had grown to 2,400.
“We’re doing this because we need stronger gun legislation in this country,” she said. “We’re not saying ban all guns, but there needs to be a point where people stop calling this a mental health issue because it’s not. This is a gun issue.”
But some say Marietta Superintendent Grant Rivera’s decision to allow students to leave class opens a can of worms for any future group who wishes to protest.
Cobb GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd said the decision could pose an Equal Protection issue for other students who want to follow suit.
“If the school system allows a protest on one issue, it now has no ability to deny that right to others,” he said. “It could really become a disruption.”
Shepherd said conservative Marietta students looking to host pro-life rallies at school or march in support of the Second Amendment, now have solid ground to stand on.
Rivera said he will cross that bridge when he gets there.
“Every situation is different. I’m certainly willing to work with the student body, as the principal will be, and as situations come up in the future we will handle them on a case-by-case basis,” Rivera said. “This is the first time in my experience that we have a national school walkout.”
MARIETTA STUDENTS ‘GRATEFUL TO BE HEARD’
Marietta students organized quickly after last month’s shooting, reaching classmates via texting apps and creating posters to encourage other students to join in.
The superintendent said the district wanted to “honor and respect” the voice of its student body.
For them, Rivera said, this is about school safety.
Mary Eldridge, an 18-year-old Marietta senior, said students will tie balloons to 17 empty seats set up at the school’s practice fields, one for each of the Parkland shooting victims.
On each chair will be written the name of one person killed in last month’s attack. Each minute, Eldridge said, students will say the name and age of a victim before cutting the balloon loose.
“I think this really hit home for Marietta students because one of the alumna’s daughters was injured in the shooting,” said Eldridge, the student body’s co-president. “We’re not walking out for political reasons, we’re doing it to honor the victims and to support school safety … I would like to see schools become safer so people don’t have to be afraid when they walk into their buildings.”
But Shepherd said whether or not students will walk out of class has already become a divisive political issue among Cobb’s students, referencing a friend who said her daughter has been bullied because she will not participate Wednesday morning.
He suggested that school districts across the country look at other ways to honor the victims of the Florida school shooting, such as moments of silence or after school vigils. Such events have been planned, and a group of Walton students will meet up before school Wednesday morning to pay tribute to those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
Across the nation, however, students are planning to simultaneously leave class when the clock strikes 10.
Atlanta Public Schools, DeKalb and Fulton’s school districts will allow the walkouts, while Cobb, Gwinnett, and Decatur’s districts have said students who leave class could be disciplined.
State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-west Cobb, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said while students have First Amendment rights, schools need to abide by their attendance and disciplinary policies.
“The way I see it if you waive those policies for one issue, any time a student group wants to have a walkout about anything you have set a precedent,” he said. “I don’t know of anyone who isn’t upset about the incident that happened in Florida, but I think the precedent this sets is a bad (one).”
Tippins, a self-described gun rights advocate, said he believes if someone is “mentally unbalanced and bent on mayhem,” they could find other means of harming people.
Shepherd said he believes if 18-year-olds can sign up for the military and die for their country, they should be able to purchase weapons.
In the case of last month’s shooting, he said safeguards in place aimed at keeping people with ill-intent from purchasing firearms failed.
One possible solution, Shepherd said, is to reform laws aimed at safeguarding medical information so would-be gun owners with mental health issues are flagged. Shepherd also suggested doing away with sealing juveniles’ criminal records so teens with histories of violence aren’t able to purchase weapons as soon as they turn 18.
But Andress said students should never have to worry about getting shot on campus.
“We need sensible gun laws,” she said. “In six months, when I turn 18, I should not be able to go out and buy a military-grade weapon.”
The walkouts will begin at 10 a.m. and last for 17 minutes, one minute for each person killed in the Florida shooting.
District officials say no visitors will be allowed on Cobb’s campuses Wednesday with the exception of those who are picking up or dropping off students.
By Greg Bluestein – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The room of chattering Democrats quieted when Valerie Habif strode to the podium with an announcement. After ticking off the names of politicians and political contenders in the room, she had an admonition for the crowd.
“Let me tell you who’s not here tonight: a Democratic candidate for this House seat,” said Habif, a psychologist deeply involved in Democratic causes. “This is keeping me up at night. Those days need to end.”
The hunt for a Democratic candidate for Habif’s Sandy Springs-based district was something of an anomaly. While Democrats won’t recruit challengers for every legislative seat during this week’s qualifying period, they are poised to contest a slew of now competitive seats that went ignored in the past.
That’s an improvement from 2016, when many Republicans in the Legislature faced little – or no – opposition. That meant potentially vulnerable incumbents, including a Dunwoody Republican who pleaded guilty to charges of drunken driving in the middle of the day, easily coasted to another term.
Now, a wave of retirements — particularly in the suburbs — is set to reshape the Legislature. About a dozen Republicans are leaving the Legislature, some who would have faced potentially tight races, others seeking higher office. More seats could become vacant as politicians have until noon Friday to decide whether to run for office.
At the top of the ticket, changes to state government are already assured. Crowded fields of candidates have already formed to run in open races for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and insurance commissioner.
Democrats are hoping to capitalize on outrage over President Donald Trump and upset victories in last year’s special elections to chip away at GOP control of the state Legislature and every statewide office.
The GOP is fast trying to fortify vulnerable seats — Vice President Mike Pence is raising cash for the state party this month in Atlanta — though even party stalwarts concede that won’t come easy.
“When you win a race like you did in Alabama, it makes candidate recruitment really easy for Democrats,” said Chip Lake, a Republican strategist, referring to Doug Jones’ U.S. Senate victory last year. “When you have momentum and you feel like you can benefit from a wave, a lot more people are going to run.”
He added: “They’re going to make us earn everything we get this election.”
Democrats don’t have to look far for signs of encouragement. The party put up candidates in all nine legislative districts up for grabs during special elections in November — including several that had rarely drawn Democratic challengers — and flipped three of them.
Republicans have their own reason to be confident. Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff last year in the most expensive U.S. House contest ever, and the GOP held a competitive Stockbridge-based state House seat in a special election in January.
Still, the map is daunting for Republicans — particularly in suburban areas where conservatives have long thrived.
In Cobb County, which Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, Democrats are targeting diverse districts around Smyrna and Marietta. One of the highest-profile contests pits Democrat Lucy McBath, a gun control activist whose son was shot to death in 2012, against state Rep. Sam Teasley, a Republican with an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.
Across town in Gwinnett County, which like Cobb also flipped blue in the presidential race for the first time in decades, at least five Republican-held legislative seats will be open this year.
Retiring incumbents include state Rep. Joyce Chandler of Grayson, who narrowly kept her seat in 2016, and state Rep. David Casas of Lilburn, the state’s first Republican Hispanic legislator. State Sen. David Shafer’s bid for lieutenant governor leaves Democrats another pickup opportunity for a Duluth-based seat.
“Gwinnett may be a battleground,” said Gabe Okoye, the county’s Democratic chairman, “and we are ready for it.”
Republicans plan to go on the offensive, too, starting with the three legislative seats they lost last year.
Houston Gaines, a few months removed from his stint as the University of Georgia’s student body president, was defeated by Democrat Deborah Gonzalez in a conservative-leaning Athens-based House district in 2017. He’s making another bid this year, hoping that heavier turnout will help.
“Special elections are — as evidenced by their name — unique,” Gaines said. “The dynamics in 2018 will be inherently different, as will our campaign.”
And Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan, who won a 2017 race to represent an Atlanta-based swing district, will have to fend off a challenge by Republican Leah Aldridge, who was the top GOP vote-getter in that special election.
“The more I hear the Democrats who are challenging our Republican incumbents talk and spout rhetoric that is extremely far to the left of most Cobb County voters,” said Jason Shepherd, the county’s GOP chairman, “the more confident I am that we will easily be able to defend those seats.”
A rush to qualify
The parade of candidates qualifying for office this week at the Georgia Capitol will be headlined by the seven leading candidates for governor.
The Republican race was jolted last week by the state GOP’s feud with Delta Air Lines after the air carrier ended its marketing ties with the National Rifle Association. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the GOP front-runner, catapulted into the national spotlight after he maneuvered to strip a lucrative exemption on sales taxes for jet fuel from a measure to cut the state’s top income tax rate.
Each of his GOP opponents — former state Sen. Hunter Hill, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, businessman Clay Tippins and state Sen. Michael Williams — has a seven-figure war chest and is racing for what could be a second spot in a potential July runoff.
A pair of Democrats — former state legislators Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans — aim to retake party control of the governor’s office for the first time since 2002, and the Democrats are also fielding viable contenders for every statewide post down the rest of the ballot.
There are already crowded competitions from both sides of the aisle for many of those posts. At least six candidates are in the race for lieutenant governor, seven are running for insurance commissioner and nine have filed paperwork to run for secretary of state. Some could drop out, and more could rush in: The week of qualifying always holds potential for surprises.
As for the Sandy Springs district without a Democratic candidate, it appears Habif got her wish.
A few days after she pleaded for a contender to stand up, attorney Shea Roberts filed paperwork to challenge the incumbent Republican.
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[LETTERS] Chairman Jason Shepherd has submitted the following Letter to the Editor of the Marietta Daily Journal:
Regarding your Feb 28 article, “Cobb schools to curb student protests”, I was surprised to see the Superintendent of Marietta City Schools, Dr. Grant Rivera, give a hall pass the students who plan a walk-out and protest against the 2nd Amendment on March 14. As he has set a precedent, I assume that he also plans to give the same right to students who want to stage a walk-out in support of the 2nd Amendment. Or next month, maybe a walk-out in remembrance of the millions of unborn children who have died in our nation’s abortion facilities. I suppose then the pro-abortion students will get their chance. As enterprising as high school students are, I’m sure they can find a way to have a walk-out nearly daily. After all, now that Dr. Rivera has set the precedent and opened the door to school-system sanctioned protest on controversial issues, how can he deny any group the same right without running the risk of Marietta City Schools ending up in court on Section 1983 violations of the Civil Rights Act for denying Equal Protection and the students’ right to freedom of speech?
Chairman, Cobb County Republican Party
No discount, no tax break: Former Ga. senator upset over Delta’s NRA decision
GRIFFIN, Ga. — Since Thursday, more than a dozen brands have severed ties with the National Rifle Association.
Much of this is in response to the most recent high school mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Delta Air Lines is one of those companies.
Saturday, the company tweeted they would be “ending their contract for discounted rates” with the NRA. Now some local politicians are pushing to hit the airline back in their pocket.
It’s turned into a battle and the timing could not be worse for Delta when they are close to getting what would be a huge tax break that could save the company millions of dollars.
Within about two hours of Delta reaching out to the NRA, former Georgia Senator Rick Jeffares tweeted “if Delta is so flush that they don’t need NRA members’ hard-earned dollars, they can certainly do without the $40 million tax break they are asking Georgia taxpayers for.”
He’s talking about the proposed jet fuel tax break that would save Delta $40 million if it passes. 11Alive spoke to a representative for Jeffares who sent us a statement on his behalf.
“I have supported this tax break for Delta in the past but not this time,” it read. “If Delta can afford to write off the travel business of all those folks, they clearly don’t need a special tax break from Georgians.”
In Delta’s full statement, the company said they are trying to stay neutral during the national debate over gun control. They want to focus on business, but the company continues to support the second amendment.
Cobb County Republican Party Chairman Jason Shepherd isn’t buying it.
“By making the statement at the time that they did, when there is a controversy, it sends the message that they are taking sides in this debate,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd said he’s not interested in helping Delta as a company anymore. He’s even thinking twice about booking his next flight with the carrier.
“It’s giving a subsidy to a company at the same time that they’re basically saying to the people in the state of Georgia, all those who believe in the second amendment, we really don’t respect that right,” he said.
Shepherd said that if Delta would have privately told the NRA rather than releasing information publicly, the response could have been different.
The proposed tax exemption could be introduced on the Georgia Senate floor in the coming week. It remains to be seen if this push by Republicans to get it thrown out will make an impact.
Georgia Lt. Governor Casey Cagle tweeted Monday morning saying he would kill legislation that benefits Delta unless they change their position on the NRA.
An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.
By Greg Bluestein
Some conservatives say the airline’s decision should ground a lucrative sales tax exemption on jet fuel
21h ago, February 24, 2018
Delta’s decision to sever marketing ties with the National Rifle Association on Saturday sparked outrage from Georgia conservatives who urged state lawmakers to defy the Atlanta-based airline’s push for a multimillion dollar fuel tax break.
Several conservative groups seized on the airline’s decision to end a discount for NRA membersto rally members against the measure. And former state Sen. Rick Jeffares, a candidate for lieutenant governor, urged his Republican colleagues to reject it.
“If Delta is so flush that they don’t need NRA members hard-earned travel dollars,” said Jeffares, “it can certainly do without the $40 million tax break they are asking Georgia taxpayers for.”
The airline’s decision came as several blue-chip companies broke ties with the gun rights group amid debate over firearms restrictions in the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida high school this month.
The NRA called the corporate retreat a “shameful display of political and civic cowardice” and said it wouldn’t distract the group from its mission.
It’s difficult timing for Delta in its home state, where the airline is on a mission to restore a lucrative sales tax exemption on jet fuel that was first adopted in the mid-2000s when the company was in financial distress.
Critics called it a special-interest tax giveaway after the company recovered to post record-breaking profits. It was done away with in 2015 when Delta officials got on the wrong side of lawmakers looking for extra cash for infrastructure improvements.
The tax break came roaring back this year after the airline hired David Werner, Gov. Nathan Deal’s former executive counsel, as its top state lobbyist.
This year, it has been pitched to lawmakers as an “airline tax break” rather than one that would exclusively help Delta. The jet fuel provision would save airlines and cargo firms more than $50 million, but the biggest beneficiary would be Delta.
Advocates say it would help Atlanta compete for flights with other hub airports where jet fuel taxes aren’t charged. And it quickly gained traction in the statehouse.
The governor praised it at a press conference and included the provision in a broader measure to slash the state income tax. That proposal easily passed the House last week and is pending in the Senate.
As word of Delta’s decision reverberated among Georgia Republicans, some conservatives ratcheted up pressure on the Senate to block the proposal.
Jason Shepherd, the Cobb GOP chair, questioned why lawmakers are considering a tax break if “Delta does not respect the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” The Atlanta Tea Party sent members a plea to “stand up for the Second Amendment” and call Deal’s office.
And state Sen. Michael Williams, a Republican candidate for governor who has long opposed the Delta tax break, called it proof that lawmakers “do the bidding of lobbyists.”
“Delta isn’t even worried about insulting a huge portion of voters who belong to the NRA,” said Williams, who on Friday tried to strip the jet fuel provision from the broader tax-cut bill. “They have their backroom deal in place & know the politicians can’t survive without their donations.”
Delta quickly took to the defensive. Werner tweeted that the company’s announcement “was not a political statement” and that the airline “merely confirmed its neutral status on a politically and emotionally charged debate by removing its name from the debate.”
Deal’s administration, meanwhile, signaled it continued to support the airline tax break.
Chris Riley, the governor’s top aide, said he and Deal “are assuming this decision was made by Delta to end their contract with all political groups in order to remain neutral.”
“Otherwise,” he added, “members may not trust our word moving forward!”
+ Friday, March 9 from 9 a.m. – Noon sharp
+ Solicitor General – Qualifying Fee $5,743.30
+ County Commissioner (Districts 1 & 3) – Qualifying Fee $1,395.93
The following Republicans have qualified for the Nov. 7 special election for State Senate District 6: