Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Carter Trump Air Force One
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter poses with then-President Donald Trump on Air Force One. Credit: buddycarter.house.gov


When Donald Trump enters a New York courtroom today, it will be the first time in American history that a former president has been indicted on criminal charges.

While some Democrats pointed out the constitutional principle that no one, including a former president is above the law, Georgia’s Democratic U.S. senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, had no public comment on the proceedings.

Coastal Georgia Congressman Buddy Carter, however, condemned the reported indictment. Without mentioning Trump by name, he tweeted last week:

“The indictment of a former president is an unprecedented, dark moment for our country. I will not stand for political persecution at any level of government. It’s a shame that Democrats are more concerned with Trump than they are with the crime crises in their own backyards.”

Trump and Carter have been close political allies.

The former president endorsed Carter for reelection to a fifth term in the House last year. And Carter was one of more than 120 representatives who signed an amicus brief filed in the state of Texas in December 2020 to overturn the Pennsylvania’s election results.

Carter was also one of 139 House members who voted weeks later to overturn those results hours after protesters had stormed the U.S. Capitol to disrupt certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Those protesters “should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Carter said at the time.

The actual crimes Trump is accused of are not publicly known, though they are believed to be related to a hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels, a former porn star who claims she had an affair with Trump. Upon his arraignment, the charges against him will be unsealed.

Georgia Capitol

It’s a wrap

The latest session of the 157th Georgia General Assembly is history.

The Current’s latest “Sunday Solutions” newsletter links to our story describing how local Savannah lawmakers performed against their legislative priorities going into the session.

In coming days, we’ll take a look at the fate of legislation that addressed — or didn’t address — issues that you, dear Current readers, deemed most important in a survey conducted in January just before the session began.

Word to the wise: These legislative portraits are incomplete, not least because a complete tally of lawmakers’ votes isn’t on their personal pages on the state’s official website. That’s just one of the many obstacles facing Coastal Georgia voters seeking accountability from their elected representatives.

Overall, the frenetic final days of the 40-day session were treated by lawmakers and the media mostly as a frat-like spectacle, just a drawback of Georgia’s citizen legislature.

Accountability-seeking voters, however, might be hard-pressed to find the sight of the state Senate casting 62 votes in the session’s final day, and the House casting more than 50, flattering to the lawmakers and institutions involved.

Some of the legislative chaos was attributed to the legislature’s new leadership, led by Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who serves as president of the 56-seat state Senate, and Rep. Jon Burns (R-Newington), speaker of the 180-seat House of Representatives.

But certainly, some of the disarray also reflected some of the divisions that drive politics under the Gold Dome and elsewhere in the state: urban versus rural; local versus state control; old boys club versus women and youth; anti-tax absolutists versus tax tolerators; and the Donald Trump, hardcore conservative wing of the majority Republican Party versus the party’s more moderate wing led by Gov. Brian Kemp.  

Lawmakers throw bunches of paper to celebrate the end of the session. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder Credit: Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder


As we note, votes don’t tell the whole story of Coastal Georgia lawmakers during the legislative session.

Senators Derek Mallow (D-Savannah), Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro), and Ben Watson (R-Savannah) may be most remembered for their eleventh-hour effort at a meeting of the Senate Economic Development & Tourism Committee to legalize online sports gambling, after it had already been voted down twice.

Their surprise maneuver looked more like an ambush of a novice female legislator than savvy legislating.

More notably still, Watson is also likely to be recognized for his backing of a bill that often appeared to be as much about political positioning and the country’s culture wars as health care, if not more.

A practicing physician, Watson co-sponsored legislation that bans most medical treatments that help transgender kids affirm their gender identity. Then, as chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, he played a pivotal role in writing and ushering the bill into law.

At a rally in Savannah on Friday evening condemning the legislation, a local teenager addressing protesters accused Watson of being afraid to speak about the issue face-to-face, according to a tweet by Savannah Morning News reporter Zoe Nicholson. “How do you represent me when you fear talking to me?”

A TitleMax store, Skidaway Road, Savannah, Ga. Credit: Jeffery M. Glover/ The Current

‘Cozy donor relationships’

In the latest installment of The Current and ProPublica’s joint series on Savannah-based TitleMax, Margaret Coker and Mollie Simon recount how one Georgia lawmaker sought during the latest session of the Georgia General Assembly to close a loophole that ensnares tens of thousands of state residents in debt.

Rep. Josh Bonner (R-Fayetteville), a military veteran and church deacon, wanted TitleMax, the nation’s largest title-lender, to stop charging triple-digit annual interest, more than three times what state law allows other financial companies.

The legislative remedy seemed commonsensical and fair: Require the company follow the same rules other financial firms in Georgia do. His bill died in committee, however, without even getting a vote. It was the sixth time in two decades that such legislation has failed.

The reason? Write Coker and Simon: “The top-down nature of the legislature meant the measure had no chance without the support of top GOP statehouse leaders — whose cozy donor relationships with title lenders have stood in the way of reform.”

Bonner later said other Republican lawmakers, industry executives and lobbyists commiserated with him after his bill stalled.

“They used the tired but time-honored excuse that they look forward to working with me in the future,” Coker and Simon quote him as saying. “I was hoping that future would start sooner.”

Marjorie Taylor Greene
Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene worked the crowd at a late March 2022 Trump Rally in Commerce. Greene will have to defend her right to appear on the ballot after a federal judge allowed a challenge from a group of voters to move forward. Credit: Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder


• ‘O.J. Simpson on steroids’: Team Trump preps for a post-indictment frenzy” (Politico, March 30) “For most people, getting indicted is a setback. From Donald Trump’s team, it’s viewed as an opportunity. Aides to the former president moved aggressively on Thursday to capitalize politically on news that a Manhattan grand jury had charged Trump — using it to fill their fundraising coffers, mobilize loyalists and further solidify his hold on his base of supporters in the GOP presidential primary. …”

• “ ‘60 Minutes’ had newsworthy reasons to interview Marjorie Taylor Greene. But she deserved more pushback” (Poynter, April 3, 2023) “In the end, Greene absolutely should be profiled by ‘60 Minutes,’ but not in the way ‘60 Minutes’ did it.”

• “In Georgia, DeSantis finds an enthusiastic GOP reception” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 30, 2023) Not long ago, it might have been inconceivable for prominent Georgia Republicans to so eagerly court an alternative to former President Donald Trump. Local parties frequently purged themselves of “never Trump” members, and many elected officials would only dare criticize him privately. But DeSantis’ visit to Atlanta illustrated anew how willing many Georgia Republicans are to encourage rivals to Trump’s comeback bid.”

How Georgia’s top GOP leaders have blocked title lending reform

In Georgia, political observers said, the top-down nature of the legislature meant the measure had no chance without the support of top GOP statehouse leaders — whose cozy donor relationships with title lenders have stood in the way of reform.

Continue reading…

Savannah-area state lawmakers find mixed success under the Gold Dome

Republican lawmakers, part of the majority, saw mixed results, but successes were fewer for Savannah Democrats.

Continue reading…

Sonny Perdue calls budget cuts to Georgia’s university system ‘unfortunate,’ ‘disappointing’

The chancellor of the University System of Georgia says the additional state budget decrease of $66 million will hurt USG institutions, especially smaller ones.

Continue reading…

Day care waitlists are so long, moms are quitting their jobs or choosing to stop having kids

While almost every industry has returned to pre-pandemic levels, child care is still short 60,000 teachers as of last month. Nearly 16,000 centers and home-based day cares closed between December 2019 and March 2021, according to a report by Child Care Aware, a leading child care advocacy organization. That amounts to a drop in the supply of child care of 9 percent overall and 10 percent […]

Continue reading…

As book bans gain favor, some target libraries next

From July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022, 138 school districts in 32 states banned books, according to PEN America.

Continue reading…

We want to meet your friends! If you like this newsletter be sure to share it.

Support non-partisan, solutions-based investigative journalism without bias, fear or favor on issues affecting Savannah and Coastal Georgia.

Craig Nelson is a former international correspondent for The Associated Press, the Sydney (Australia) Morning-Herald, Cox Newspapers and The Wall Street Journal. He also served as foreign editor for The...