Priest announces candidacy for Superior Court

Election, Election 2018, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Mary Elizabeth Priest announced her recent qualification for and intent to run for the Superior Court bench in the May 2018 non-partisan General Election. Ellijay has been her home for 30 years.

The Superior Courts handle civil matters, including family and domestic litigation, criminal cases, ranging from traffic violations to felonies, as well as transfers and appeals from Magistrate Court and Probate Court. In our Appalachian Circuit, Superior Court judges are responsible for dockets and jury trials in Fannin, Gilmer, and Pickens counties.

Mary Beth is a graduate of Gilmer High School and North Georgia College and State University. Before
attending law school, she served as a case manager and investigator for the Pickens County Department
of Family and Children Services. She later received her Doctorate of Jurisprudence from Georgia State
University. She began her legal career as an associate attorney at Downey & Cleveland, in Marietta, in
2006. In 2010, she joined the law firm Clark & Clark, in Ellijay, where she practiced complex civil litigation.

Priest said, “It has been a great honor to serve on the bench for the past two years. One of my goals has
been to build a bridge between our community and our court system. I am proud of the progress we have
made in that regard. Being a judge is an enormous responsibility that I take very seriously. I ask the
people of the Appalachian Circuit to trust me with their vote. If they do, I will continue to work hard for
our community with the same commitment to efficiency, impartiality, fairness, and responsibility that I
have had since my first day on the bench.”

Judge Priest was appointed by Governor Nathan Deal in 2016 to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Roger Bradley. In addition to being involved with and frequently speaking at local civil organizations, she initiated and helped coach the Gilmer High School Mock Trial team’s inaugural season this year. As an adopted child born into foster care, she has also done outreach for adoption agencies as a strong advocate for foster and adopted children.

Her husband, Jeremy, owns and operates a scrap metal recycling company as well as a plumbing company, and they live in Ellijay with their two children. Her father, Mike Williams, and mother, Lorie Stanley Williams, originally of Stanley Creek in Fannin County, also live in Ellijay.

 

Update on Hurricane Irma Cleanup and Relief Efforts

State & National

ATLANTA (September 18, 2017) | On Thursday, September 14, 2017, Senator Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)  joined Governor Nathan Deal, local elected officials and first responders for a press conference in Habersham County  to address Hurricane Irma cleanup and relief efforts.

“First and foremost, I would like to extend my gratitude to the first responders and volunteers who are helping the ongoing recovery efforts in our local communities and throughout the state,” said Sen. Gooch. “It is an honor to join Governor Deal, our local elected officials, first responders and citizens in any and all efforts to get our state back up and running. Our citizens are resilient and I am confident that by working together, we can help those in need and rebuilt each and every community that was impacted. It was very uplifting to witness the outpour of assistance from the hundreds of employees of utility companies from all over the United States.”

On Monday, September 11, 2017, Hurricane Irma made landfall in Georgia leaving around 1 million citizens without power. The impact from Irma was felt from the coastal plains to the north Georgia mountains. The state of Georgia saw unprecedented damage caused by the tropical storm force winds that reached more than 400 miles from the storm’s center. Relief efforts are ongoing and first responders, power companies, state agencies, volunteers and citizens are working around the clock to rebuild and restore power.

Governor Deal and the federal government responded quickly and declared a state of emergency in Georgia so that funds could be appropriated to help with the financial burden of the storm. Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA) is coordinating their efforts with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state agencies and local authorities to ensure recovery, rebuilding and cleanup is completed in the most efficient and cost effective manner.

Additional information can be found on the GEMA and FEMA websites:

http://www.gema.ga.gov/Pages/default.aspx

https://www.fema.gov/

Deal Expands State of Emergency to Include ALL 159 Counties

News, State & National

Acting on a recommendation from the state’s Emergency Operations Command and ahead of heavy rains, strong wind and potential flooding from Hurricane Irma, Gov. Nathan Deal today expanded the emergency declaration to include an additional 65 counties. The state of emergency now includes all 159 counties in Georgia. State government will be closed Monday and Tuesday for all employees except essential personnel.

Following a briefing from officials and visit with emergency responders, Deal will hold a media avail tonight at the State Operations Center at 6 p.m.

Follow this link to read the executive order.

For more information on hurricane preparedness, visit the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency website.

Georgia Speaker of The House David Ralston Talks About Rural Georgia Issues, Health Care…

Featured, Politics

Our interview Friday with Speaker of The House David Ralston focused on rural Georgia. Ralston went into detail about the new Rural Georgia Economic Council. This council will be co-chaired by (R) Terry England from Auburn, (R) Jay Powell from Camilla and Vice Chair (R) Sam Watson from Moultry. The council will be holding meetings across Georgia to hear from elected officials, local businesses and citizens about how they feel rural Georgia economy can best be improved. Ralston said jokingly that he better not find out that one meeting took place in Atlanta.

Health care is a major concern in rural Georgia. Several hospitals have closed in rural Georgia areas including one in Ralston’s district in North Georgia. We spoke to Ralston abut one possible solution to meet rural Georgia health care needs. Ralston used the example of the first stand alone emergency room, opened by Piedmont Mountainside Hospital in Gilmer county. In this interview we asked Ralston if Gilmer county still had the possibility of having a full hospital.

Ralston told us that sometime within the next month Governor Nathan Deal would be visiting Gilmer county’s Fire Station 1 to sign the fire fighter’s workmen’s compensation bill.  We asked Ralston the difference in this years campus carry bill opposed to last year’s bill which Governor Deal vetoed. Not being able to speak for the Governor, Ralston said he felt they made the changes necessary to get Deal to sign the bill. We also discussed the pay raises agreed upon in the 2017 legislative session for teachers, state law enforcement, and D.F.C.S workers.  

Our final question in our interview friday: Speaker Ralston do you see the governor’s mansion in your future?

Karen Handel Welcomes Trump to Campaign with Her in the 6th District

Politics

(R) Karen Handel seems to be doing exactly what is necessary to get out the Republican vote in the 6th district. (D) Jon Ossoff has to spend the next two months convincing the Democrats just to go back to the polls. On the other hand Handel has to get every registered Republican vote she can; regardless of who they voted for last week or in the Presidential primary election. Within the next two months it won’t be hard to bump into a well known Republican in the 6th district. Handel has received endorsements from almost every single Republican. From her one time rival Governor Nathan Deal to what some consider controversial President Donald Trump.

BKP questioned last week what Karen Handel would do concerning Donald Trump voters. Would she embrace President Trump during her campaign or listen to the media and turn down the possibility to campaign with The President?

During an interview on CNN, Handel shared her conversation with The President stating “He just called to say congrats and encourage me and let me know as we go into June 20, it’s all hands on deck for Republicans.” When asked if she thought Mr. Trump might come down and campaign with her, Handel responded, “I would hope so,” adding, “I don’t think this is about any one person.”

The 6th Congressional district race could set the tone for the 2018 midterms. For Republicans the 6th district will look like a real “who’s who.” But who will the Democrats send to help Jon Ossoff in this important race; Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, or maybe even Maxine Waters.

 

  

Morning Monologue 3/29/16

Opinion

Governer Deal Caves to Business Pressure.

Author

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to Veto HB 757 “Religious Liberty Bill”

News

Transcript: Deal HB 757 remarks

March 28, 2016

The following is a complete transcript of Gov. Nathan Deal’s remarks regarding HB 757, delievered at a news conference on March 28, 2016.

The decision surrounding HB 757 has generated more intense feelings that most legislation, perhaps because it has highlighted the concerns of many in our religious communities regarding the actions of federal courts, especially the United States Supreme Court in its 5-4 opinion last summer which legalized same sex marriage. (Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ____(2015)).

HB 757 enumerates certain actions that religious leaders, faith-based organizations and people of faith shall not be required to take or perform. These include solemnizing a marriage, attending such marriages, hiring church personnel or renting church property when such acts would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs. While most people would agree that government should not force such actions, there has not been a single instance of such taking place in Georgia. If there has been any case of this type in our state it has not been called to my attention. The examples being cited by the proponents of this bill have occurred in other states that have very different laws than Georgia.

One example that is used is the photographer in New Mexico who refused to photograph a same sex marriage (Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock, 309 P. 3d53 (2013)).  That state has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but it was not applicable. It was the New Mexico Human Rights Act that determined the results in that case. Georgia does not have a Human Rights Act.

The second case that is cited is that of the bakery in Colorado that refused to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple. There the court ruling was based on Colorado’s Public Accommodation Act which prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation (Craig v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, Inc. ____ P 3d_(2015)). Georgia does not have a Public Accommodation Act.

Therefore, as I have examined the protections this bill seeks to provide to religious organizations and people of faith I can find no examples that any of the things this bill seeks to protect us against have ever occurred in Georgia. It is also apparent that the cases being cited from other states occurred because those state had passed statutes that specifically protected their citizens from adverse actions based on their sexual orientation. Georgia has no such statutes.

HB 757 appeared in several forms during the recent session of the Georgia General Assembly. I had no objection to the “Pastor Protection Act” that was passed by the House of Representatives. The other versions of the bill, however, contained language that could give rise to state-sanctioned discrimination. I did have problems with that and made my concerns known as did many other individuals and organizations, including some within the faith based community.

I appreciate the efforts of the General Assembly to address these concerns and my actions today in no way disparage their motivations on those who support this bill, Their efforts to purge this bill of any possibility that it will allow or encourage discrimination illustrates how difficult it is to legislate on something that is best left to the broad protections of the First Amendment of the United State Constitution. That may be why our Founding Fathers did not attempt to list in detail the circumstances that religious liberty embraced. Instead, they adopted what the late Supreme Court Justice Scalia referred to as “negative protection.” That is, rather than telling government what it can do regarding religion, they told government what it could not do, namely, “establish a religion or interfere with the free exercise thereof.” They had previously proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that Man’s Creator had endowed all men “with certain unalienable rights,” including “Liberty” which embraces religious liberty. They made it clear that those liberties were given by God and not by man’s government. Therefore, it was unnecessary to enumerate in statute or constitution what those liberties included.

In light of our history, I find it ironic that today some in the religious community feel it necessary to ask government to confer upon them certain rights and protections. If indeed our religious liberty is conferred by God and not by man-made government, we should need the “hands-off” admonition of the First Amendment to our Constitution. When legislative bodies attempt to do otherwise, the inclusions and omissions in their statutes can lead to discrimination, even though it may be unintentional. That is too great a risk to take.

Some of those in the religious community who support this bill have resorted to insults that question my moral convictions and my character. Some within the business community who oppose this bill have resorted to threats of withdrawing jobs from our state. I do not respond well to insults or threats. The people of Georgia deserve a leader who will made sound judgments based on solid reasons that are not inflamed by emotion. That is what I intend to do.

As I’ve said before, I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia of which my family and I are a part of for all of our lives. Our actions on HB 757 are not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business-friendly climate for job growth in Georgia. This is about the character of our State and the character of its people. Georgia is a welcoming state filled with warm, friendly and loving people. Our cities and countryside are populated with people who worship God in a myriad of ways and in very diverse settings. Our people work side-by-side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to. We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way.

For that reason, I will veto HB 757.

 

 

Will Governor Nathan Deal Sign HB 757 “Free Exercise Protection” Religious Freedom / Pastor Protection?

News

Senator Steve Henson Democratic Leader District 41. Henson said the bill allows for discrimination and it’s the wrong message for Georgia to send the world.

(Scroll to the bottom to read the entire amended Bill)

On the afternoon of March 16th, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives David Ralston (R – Blue Ridge, District 7) did what many of his critics said he would never do, allow a religious freedom bill to come to the floor for a vote.

 

The original sponsor of HB 757 “The Pastor Protection Act’ now known as the “Free Exercise Protection Act” Kevin Tanner (R – Dawsonville District 9) presented the amended version of the bill to the House for a vote.

 

Randy Nix (R – LaGrange District 69) and Allen Peake (R – Macon District 141) spoke in support of the bill as they shared with the House they have gay family members.

 

The original version of HB 757 passed the House with unanimous support from both parties but the Democrats did not show the same support for the amended version.

 

Karla Drenner (D – Avondale Estates District 85) said that if she would have known she was going to vote on this bill when she left the house this morning she would have worn a black suit, “The Bill is a license to discriminate.”

Taylor Bennett (D – Brookhaven District 80) shared that his mom is gay and has been married to her partner since 2014.

Stacy Abrams (D – Atlanta District 89) “Bill makes it lawful to discriminate.”

After House debate closed, the bill passed 104-65 and was sent to the Senate.

When Senate Democrats unsuccessfully attempted three amendments to the bill, Kirk gave a brief description of the bill before the vote.

The Senate passed the bill 37-18.

Senator Josh McKoon (R – District 29) released the following statement “After three years of speeches, meetings, town halls, debates, amendments and forums — many miles on the highways and byways of this state — final passage at last of a REAL religious freedom bill. Thank you to all who have been on this journey with us.”

 

The bill now ends up on Governor Nathan Deal’s desk. Will the governor accept the bill as a good compromise or feel it discriminates and will cause economic backlash against the state?

house

Free Exercise Protection Act Adopted in the house 3/16/2016 Ayes 104 Nays 65

Senator Vincent Fort Democratic Whip District 39. We will be endorsing a boycott of the state.

Senator Harold V. Jones II District 22 Democrat. What day and time did you become a heterosexual person? God made you that way. God made someone gay there is no difference. What difference does any of it make. There is nothing wrong with liking someone the same sex. This is not a proud day in the state of Georgia.

Senator Greg Kirk District 13 Republican. Sponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act. Kirk said this is a great compromise and encouraged the Senate to pass the House amended version of HB 757.

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