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The bill was opposed not only by gun-control groups, but also by the state’s police chiefs association and restaurant association, Episcopal and Catholic churches, and the federal Transportation Security Administration. A majority of Georgians also opposed it, according to several polls.

[Gov. Nathan] Deal, a Republican, who is expected to sign the bill, is up for re-election this year, but there is no sign of a political backlash against him or anyone who voted for the legislation. The governor’s Democratic opponent, State Senator Jason Carter, President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, also voted for the bill.

Carl Hulse reports:

When Democrats changed Senate rules last year to limit the filibuster against White House nominees, it raised hopes among some liberals that President Obama would use his new power to reshape the federal judiciary. Now, just over three months later, some Democrats and progressive groups are instead trying to stop two of the president’s latest nominees to the federal bench on the grounds that they are too conservative.

Black lawmakers, civil rights advocates and abortion rights groups are challenging two Georgia nominees put forward by the White House under an agreement with the state’s two Republican senators. The two Republicans were given a say in picking candidates for district court in exchange for allowing a stalled nominee to a federal appeals court to advance.

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.”

Thom Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina state House and a Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, isn’t quite saying he wants to abolish the minimum wage outright. But only because “you can’t unring that bell.” As for raising the minimum wage, Tillis is obviously opposed. But this is the best part:

Asked what he considered a living wage, Tillis dodged. He pivoted to say private industry ought to answer the question. “I think for the most part the market needs to define that,” he answered.

The Lower Oconee Community Hospital in southeastern Georgia has just 25 beds, but it is a “critical access” hospital. It’s closing because, without Medicaid expansion, there are too few patients in the area who can afford to pay for their medical services.

Patients in the Wheeler County region who need more extensive medical care after the hospital closes will need to travel upwards of thirty miles in order to receive it.

“We just did not have sufficient volume to support the expenses,” said CEO Karen O’Neal in an interview with local CBS affiliate WMAZ. “It’s a terrible situation, and it’s tragic, the loss of jobs and the economic impact.”

Last fall, Bloomberg reported that at least five public hospitals in Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia — including three in Georgia alone — were cutting staff and services in the wake of their refusal to expand Medicaid. These hospitals are so-called “Disproportionate Share Hospitals” — providers that serve a disproportionate number of poor and uninsured Americans, and as such don’t always receive payments for the care they give patients.

Lawmakers writing Obamacare assumed that the Medicaid expansion would reduce the number of uninsured and poor people these hospitals would serve, and that Medicaid would pick up those costs. So those payments have been cut back, and a steady stream of these hospitals are going to be closing in red states unless the states’ Republican leaders relent on expanding Medicaid.

I live in Georgia. The General Assembly is in session. It is our annual celebration of stupidity, ignorance, pandering, baiting, and hate. It is open season on history, the Constitution, science, mutual respect, and common sense. It is a loathsome time. 40 days and $20 billion in public cash. One party, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for some.

This is an election year and our elected cannot legally accept campaign contributions while in the legislature is in session. The pressure is on in a hurry to protect poor little Georgia from big meanie pants Washington. Blame Obama. Praise Jesus. All hail the NRA and Georgia Carry [our most rabid pro-gun group]. Cut taxes, but give give give to bidness.

Now please don’t misunderstand, many of our leaders are not stupid. They just lead the stupid. To be elected from most places in Georgia, a candidate has to have a Bible in their pocket, one hand on a gun, the other in your pocket and both feet on the poor. The more outrageous cruelty they can spew, the more electable they become.

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.