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It seems unions are having a little too much success in Tennessee for the comfort of Republicans there, so the state legislature is planning to do something about it. Spurred by the fact that Tennessee added 31,000 union members last year, state Rep. Jeremy Durham has introduced a bill that would create a new “mass picketing” misdemeanor specifically aimed at labor activists: “I feel like if that’s such a growing part of our economy, we need to take preemptive measures to make sure our businesses have the rights and protections they should be entitled to.”

CBS reports:

The legally blind Florida man who shot and killed his friend after a drunken argument and was let free under the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law has been given his guns back.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that on Feb. 20, Judge John Galluzzo reluctantly ruled that John Wayne Rogers, 40, had a right to have the .308 caliber rifle he killed James DeWitt with and a 10mm pistol returned to him.

"It’s my constitutional right to bear arms," Rogers told the newspaper. Rogers, who reportedly lost most of his sight in a 2001 industrial accident, cannot drive.

Legislation moving quickly in the General Assembly puts Georgia squarely in the middle of a national debate about religious freedom and discrimination.

Supporters of separate bills in both the Senate and House claim Georgia needs to act to protect people of any religion from government intrusion on their beliefs. But critics say Senate Bill 377 and House Bill 1023 would open the door for private business owners to cite their religious beliefs in declining to serve people they believe are gay or having premarital sex.

"We support the concept of freedom of religion and certainly people’s right to have their own religious beliefs, but the language in these bills is just so broadly written that it will likely lead to serious and unintended consequences,” said Jeff Graham, the executive director of Georgia Equality, an advocacy organization for the state’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.

“How do we know the difference between someone who is biased vs. someone who has deeply held religious beliefs?”

The great Jay Bookman reported this sad news this Monday morning. Follow-ups to come:

Last week, the Arizona House and Senate passed a bill intended to give individuals, businesses and other entities, including government employees, the right to discriminate against gay people. If you claim that treating gay people like anybody else — hiring them, serving them in your restaurant, renting a hotel room to them — is against your religious beliefs, the bill excuses you from any legal consequences of that discrimination.

Now Georgia may be about to follow that bad example. House Bill 1023, “The Preservation of Religious Freedom Act,” was introduced last week in the Georgia House and is scheduled for a hearing this afternoon in a House Judiciary subcommittee. That quick action suggests that the bill has at least some chance of advancing. (It should be noted that the bill has bipartisan support, with at least three Democrats as co-sponsors.)

Andy Brack writes:

The eagerness that South Carolina’s Haley Administration showed in seeking federal disaster assistance during this month’s Great Ice Storm makes one wonder whether there is any sense to what kind of federal money is OK to take and what isn’t.

Less than two weeks after a federal judge declared Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, a new effort has been launched in the South seeking to build wider acceptance of gay and lesbian couples in the hope of overturning similar bans across the region.

The $1 million effort will be focused on field organizing and sharing the stories of gay couples through local community and business events as well as social media in 14 Southern states.

The key, supporters say, will be to share stories like those of Linda Ellis and her partner, Lesley Brogan, who appeared at Monday’s event. The two have been together since 1988 and are raising their sons John, 15, and Sam, 12, in Decatur, Ga.

"They will tell you we are just like any other old married couple," Ellis said. "They will tell you that, and it’s not true. Not yet. And we’re ready for it to be."

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was among those kicking off the “Southerners for the Freedom to Marry” campaign Monday, saying he believes gay marriage supporters are on the “right side of history.”

"This is about a trajectory. This is about the fact that marriage equality is on an irreversible path toward being legalized across the United States of America," said Reed, who spoke of his initial reluctance to move from civil unions to supporting gay marriage based on religious reasons.

Georgia and the 13 other states targeted in the campaign all have either a constitutional or statutory provision defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and Republicans still hold considerable sway in those states.

James Holland has dug into his archives from his days as the Altamaha River Keeper to remind us that it’s not just North Carolina that’s got a coal waste problem.

The Duke Energy coal ash spill in North Carolina has been in the news a lot, as of late. This tragedy on the Dan River in North Carolina started me to thinking about how one of Georgia’s main rivers and lakes may be quite vulnerable to a coal ash spill at Milledgeville, Georgia. The lake is Lake Sinclair and the river that is dammed to create Lake Sinclair is the Oconee River in the Altamaha River watershed.

Stephen Henderson writes:

A governor who doesn’t want jobs in her state. Not if they’re union jobs, at least.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says she’ll pass on automakers like the Detroit Three because “we discourage any companies that have unions from wanting to come to South Carolina because we don’t want to taint the water.”

Haley’s rant against the unions is seriously a new one on me — the idea that any state, but especially an impoverished one like South Carolina, would turn up its nose at high-paying jobs while bending over backward to offer incentives and other giveaways to attract lower-wage, nonunion work.

From Creative Loafing:

Yes, you read that headline correctly. Georgia residents now have the option to buy their very own Confederate-themed custom license plates for some bizarre reason. On February 1, the Sons of Confederate Veterans gained approval from the Georgia Department of Revenue for a custom license plate that boasts the Dixie Flag. The decision comes 12 years after state officials removed the stars and bars from Georgia’s flag in what was widely considered a long overdue move.

Jim Galloway reports:

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and mega-investor Warren Buffett are behind Michelle Nunn’s campaign for U.S. Senate, according to her year-end fundraising disclosure.

Both billionaires gave the maximum $5,200, split between primary and general election season – small change to these fellows. But they could also give unlimited amounts if and when a Nunn-friendly Super PAC is formed.

Bloomberg’s own Super PAC, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, spent money last year for ads attacking Georgia’s current senators on gun control.

Word of Nunn’s donations from former Republican Sens. Richard Lugar and John Warner had already gotten out, but being snowed in gave us an opportunity to finally sift through late-arriving full Senate campaign finance disclosures.

Happy to see Michelle Nunn gathering steam.