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Georgia Politics

    State legislation to be unveiled today could pave the way for transit expansions in Fulton and Gwinnett counties, part of Cobb County and in much of the rest of the Atlanta region in the future. The bill, to be unveiled at a press conference by House Speaker David Ralston, would allow 13 metro Atlanta counties to impose 30-year sales taxes for mass transit projects, if their voters approve them. At least two local counties – Fulton and Gwinnett – are finalizing transit plans and may ask voters to approve such taxes. The bill also would allow the Cobb County Board of Commissioners to create a new transportation district in the Cumberland Community Improvement District area. The district could impose a 1 percent transit tax, if voters in the area approve it. The tax would not be imposed on the rest of the county. However, it could pave the way for more mass transit in a portion of Cobb County, which has long resisted it. RELATED: Commission: Transit funding one of metro Atlanta’s top challenges RELATED: How bad is Atlanta traffic? It depends on how you look at it Other highlights of the bill include: *The bill would allow Fulton County (outside Atlanta) to impose a quarter-cent transit sales tax for transit, if voters approve it. *Create a new board to oversee transit planning in the 13-county metro area. The board would have to sign off on the project lists for any county transit referendum. But the taxes raised in any county would be spent only in that county. *It would impose a 1 percent tax on consumer goods provided at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. The proceeds of the taxes would be dedicated to transit projects in the respective regions. *It would impose a 50-cent fee on all taxi and ride-hailing service trips in the 13-county area. The money would be dedicated to transit projects. The state Senate is considering similar legislation. For more details, visit www.myajc.com. MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT. The AJC's David Wickert keeps you updated on the latest in what’s happening with transportation in metro Atlanta and Georgia. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories: Former MARTA exec sentenced to 33 months in $500,000 scheme Bill would require hands-free phone technology for Georgia drivers Metro Atlanta transit funding: MARTA's solution Never miss a minute of what's happening in Atlanta transportation news. Subscribe to myAJC.com.
  • After a few weeks of public discussion, a Butts County Republican this week filed a bill that would give the state more control of Atlanta’s airport. State Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, said he believes representatives from across Georgia should have input on how Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, since it services not just the city, but the state and region. More than 30 senators from both parties have put their support behind the measure, Senate Bill 379. Get the full story at myAJC.com, including details about the bill’s opposition.
  • Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration is making it clear it has no intention of backfilling federal funding if Washington’s government shutdown grinds on in coming weeks. If the shutdown persists, state agencies will have to start making decisions this week about whether they have the money to continue paying state workers whose positions are at least partially funded through federal contracts or grants. Deal’s budget director, Teresa MacCartney, sent state agencies a memo Friday detailing how state government would deal with the shutdown, letting officials know they would not get additional federal funds to operate their programs. It could mean furloughs of state employees who are paid at least in part with federal funding. “For federal funds approved under a previous continuing resolution or fiscal year, reimbursements may be slowed as the federal government may be unable to process requests,” she wrote, “As a result, your agency must be prepared to curtail federal activities to meet available funds. “The state will not be able to advance allotments to offset reduced federal cash flow. Additionally, your agency should not assume that funds expended for federal activities conducted during the shutdown will be reimbursed by the state or the federal government once the budget is enacted.” The state this year is expecting about $14 billion in federal funding for various state programs, mostly to provide health care and school nutrition efforts. Roughly a third of state government spending comes from the federal government. The federal government foots the bill for roughly two-thirds of the cost of Medicaid, the health care program for more than 1.5 million of Georgia’s poor, disabled and nursing home residents. Many other state agencies rely on at least some federal funding as well. Officials in the governor’s office have also raised concerns over funding for PeachCare, a politically popular health insurance program for children. They are concerned about delays in reauthorizing the program. The program, which covers 9 million children nationally, has been one of the issues at the center of the government shutdown debate in Congress. Chris Riley, the governor’s chief of staff, made it clear to reporters earlier this month that the state doesn’t have the money to fund programs like PeachCare without federal help. Georgia lawmakers are currently considering a state budget that counts on federal funding for PeachCare. “A lot of you like to ask, ‘will we backfill if the federal goverment fails to authorize (spending)?’ ” Riley said. “We fully expect the congressional delegation to fulfill the federal government’s obligation.” Riley, a former longtime congressional aide, said the state should be wary of replacing federal funding with state money. “You have to be very careful here,” Riley said. “If the state ever steps up and backfills, then the federal government says, ‘Uh-huh, we don’t need to pay for Georgia, we can pay New York twice as much because Georgia’s got the money to pay.’ “
  • “Saturday Night Live” is joking about Atlanta’s traffic, accents and Southern cooking after Amazon named the city as one of 20 finalists for its second headquarters. Not even Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A and Waffle House escaped comedians’ jibes on the latest episode of “SNL.” The episode also took aim at three other cities contending for the internet retail company’s business: Boston, Miami and Newark, N.J. Amazon is deciding where to locate as many as 50,000 employees at a headquarters that would supplement its main campus in Seattle.
  • A smattering of people wandered the grounds of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Park, trying to figure out what to do since most of the grounds were closed due to the government shutdown.  Freedom Hall, which is privately owned, remained open Saturday for visitors to take in exhibits about Rosa Parks, Ghandi and Kng and his wife, Coretta. Employees of the site said attendance had dropped dramatically for a Saturday.  Still, some were trying to make the best of what was their first visit to the historic site.  'According to the internet, it said everything would be open even with the shutdown,' said Aric Dupre, who traveled from Cincinnati for a weekend vacation with his wife, Kat. It was their first trip to Atlanta. 'It's disappointing. We have other plans, but this was going to be our whole morning.'  The visitor center, the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and King's birth home all were closed.  “It’s a shame because this is the weekend (after) the Martin Luther King holiday,” Kat Dupre said. RELATED: Kennesaw Mountain civil war battlefield closes public parking lot Aric Dupre said the average person isn't effected by what he called 'stubbornness on both sides.'  'Overall it doesn't affect your average day unless you're doing stuff like this,' he said.
  • The final list of speakers at a Saturday rally to mark the one-year anniversary of the Atlanta March for Social Justice & Women features two organizers of the 2017 national march in Washington, Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour, and a key catalyst of the #MeToo movement, actress Alyssa Milano. The three women will share the stage at the Power to the Polls rally in southwest Atlanta with U.S. Reps. John Lewis of Atlanta and Hank Johnson of Lithonia, and Stacey Abrams, a Democratic candidate for governor. Nationally, the Women’s March anniversary is being celebrated by rallies dedicated to getting people to the polls and on the ballot. The march in Washington last year drew an estimated half million Americans. There were 653 sister marches across the country on that same day, including one in Atlanta in which 63,000 people marched. Other speakers at the Atlanta rally cover a wide range of social justice issues and include attorney Anoa Changa, an activist and writer; Erica Clemmons, a labor activist and leader of 9to5; and Lucia McBath, a gun violence activist whose 17-year-old son Jordan Davis was shot and killed in 2012 by a motorist at a Jacksonville, Fla., gas station who objected to the rap music coming from the car in which Jordan sat. Also speaking will be Staci Fox of Planned Parenthood Southeast; Marisol Estrada, a Georgia DACA Dreamer; Mary Pat Hector, the national youth director of the National Action Network; Nse Ufot of the New Georgia Project; and Stephe Koontz, a member of the Doraville City Council and Georgia’s first elected transgender woman. The event will feature entertainment from DJ Sed the Saint, David Soleil, Chasing Lovely, and slam poet Royce Mann. The noon to 4 p.m. rally will be held at the Bakery, a warehouse events space at 825 Warner St. S.W. in Atlanta, along the Beltline. More details can be found at the Power to the Polls  website.
  • Georgia income tax refunds might not be issued until more than 90 days after returns are filed this year as the state guards against the threat of tax fraud. The Georgia Department of Revenue blocked more than $212 million in fraudulently filed refund requests last year. Meanwhile, the IRS is warning of an ongoing email scam in which people pose as potential clients to trick tax professionals into disclosing sensitive information. All businesses must file their employee W-2 information by Jan. 31, and the state will begin processing individual income tax returns Feb. 1. The deadline to file tax returns is April 17 this year — two days later than normal — because April 15 falls on a Sunday and April 16 is an official holiday in the District of Columbia for Emancipation Day.
  • Georgia is among the states wanting to land Amazon’s second headquarters, which could employ 50,000 people and change the economy of the city it chooses. And Georgia residents appear eager for Amazon’s HQ2, with most of those surveyed for an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll saying Georgia should pursue the internet retail company — even at a high cost. Such incentives could be worth more than $1 billion.  That’s just one of the key findings in our poll taken as this year’s legislative session gets underway. Georgians also talked about improving education, Medicaid expansion and some controversial issues that have residents divided. » Get the numbers: Click here to check out the in-depth report at myAJC.com. What’s next: On Sunday at myAJC.com and in Monday’s print edition of the AJC, we’ll have poll results on how Georgians feel about the Republican tax cut plan. In case you missed it: On Friday, the AJC released the first results in the poll, which examined President Donald Trump’s approval ratings in Georgia. Our survey found that 6 in 10 registered voters disapprove of his performance in office. That’s a decline from an AJC poll taken a year ago shortly before Trump took office. For more on Georgians’ take on Trump, click here to see the report at myAJC.com. 
  • U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s office said Friday he doesn’t recall President Donald Trump making disparaging remarks about Haiti and African nations during a private meeting in the White House, as Democrats pressured him to condemn the comments. Read the rest of the story on PoliticallyGeorgia.com.
  • Every Georgia legislative session is influenced by political machinations and maneuvering. But not every session features a bumper crop of open statewide races and a slew of newly competitive legislative seats up for grabs in an uncertain, combustible political environment. Which is to say: Get ready. The session that starts Jan. 8 could be a bumpy one. For a glimpse at the potential political pitfalls and tangle of alliances of the 40-day session, look no further than the Georgia Senate. Presiding over the chamber is Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, perhaps the biggest name in the Republican hunt for governor. He’ll be greeted each morning by the sight of state Sen. Michael Williams, a rival who is one of Cagle’s fiercest critics. A third contender, Hunter Hill, would have joined the spectacle if not for resigning to focus on the daily campaign slog. That’s just the start of the awkwardness. One of the Senate’s leading GOP figures is the brother-in-law of Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a fourth candidate for governor. And the uncle of the fifth top contender, Clay Tippins, is chairman of a key committee. To that stew, add two other senators seeking higher office: David Shafer for lieutenant governor and Josh McKoon for secretary of state. Across the hall in the Georgia House, the atmosphere is only slightly less fraught. Two recently resigned legislators, Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans, are dueling each other for the Democratic nomination for governor, a race that will test their competing strategies for returning their party to power. At least three other House lawmakers are jousting for lesser statewide seats. And every lawmaker not jockeying for higher office or calling it quits after this year will be on a November ballot with the highest of stakes. By then, Democrats hope to go on the offensive, surfing what they project will be a national wave slamming against their GOP adversaries across the nation. Republicans will seek to fortify the firewall they’ve painstakingly built since 2002, defending their grip on every statewide office and commanding majorities in both chambers. The next three months or so of legislative wrangling will help shape that debate, crackling with potential to offer candidates of both parties fuel to energize — or infuriate — voters. “For a lot of us, this is a first-time experience in a lot of different ways,” said state Rep. Trey Kelley, a Cedartown Republican who outlined one of them: “We haven’t had an opportunity to see an open race for governor. Or an open race for lieutenant governor. And definitely not at the same time.” Kelley, first elected in 2012, is right. He’s in a big club: Only a handful of lawmakers were in the Legislature in 1998, the last time both of the state’s highest offices — governor and lieutenant governor — were vacant at the same time. Political kabuki It starts at the top. Gov. Nathan Deal’s final year in office — he cannot pursue a third term — has triggered an all-out brawl for his seat that has so far yielded seven credible candidates, most of whom have already raised seven-figure campaign hauls. The domino effect, along with retirements, has left the posts of lieutenant governor, secretary of state and insurance commissioner wide open. And buoyed by special election victories that flipped three Republican-held seats, Democrats are homing in on more than a dozen legislative seats in districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, mostly on suburban turf. The pressure is sure to drive lawmakers from both parties to run for political cover — even if it’s in the form of election-year posturing with little chance of passing. The spotlight may shine brightest on the ongoing “religious liberty” debate over legislation that has split the GOP into two uneasy camps — one made up of establishment, pro-business Republicans and another that is more populist and socially conservative, particularly on issues such as same-sex marriage. Some GOP leaders have warned that merely reigniting the fight could damage Georgia’s reputation with industries who may be looking to expand or locate in the state. “We’ve made a lot of progress growing this state and making this state a real winner in job growth and so many other areas that I really hope our focus will be looking ahead,” said House Speaker David Ralston, who has become one of the more vocal critics of the measures. There will surely be a flurry of other proposals aimed at giving Republican incumbents, imperiled or otherwise, fodder for the campaign trail. Debates about some particularly juicy red-meat issues, including tax-cut proposals and new gun rights expansions, seem ripe. Democrats will try the same tactics, though without much realistic chance of approval in a Legislature where they are outnumbered by Republicans by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Expect efforts to expand Medicaid, limit sales of certain firearms and wipe the Confederate faces off Stone Mountain to struggle to reach a hearing, much less a vote. “A lot of political theater” was how state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver summed up her expectations of the typical election-year session. She knows of which she speaks: The Decatur Democrat ran for lieutenant governor in 1998 from the state Senate. “I want to do some real work,” she added, “and I have some hope that we won’t waste all our time on posturing.” ‘Impatient’ There’s plenty else on the table. Lawmakers must approve a budget expected to top $25 billion before the session can end. And gutty votes await on a range of proposals, including a potential framework for mass transit funding, a vast rewrite of adoption rules and incentives aimed at helping rural Georgians access the internet or start businesses. One of the toughest may involve Georgia’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, a $5 billion prize that would bring 50,000 high-paying jobs to metro Atlanta. It will also require a trove of tax breaks and other lucrative inducements that lawmakers could be asked to approve. And for Deal, the final session offers him a last chance to cement his stamp on the criminal justice overhaul he embraced in his first term as governor and vast changes to the education system he’s pursued in his second. But even as he chases what could be an understated agenda, he’ll face new questions about whether he can corral the competing factions of his party one last time as his would-be successors intensify their campaigns to replace him. Ralston, who opted against a run for governor, bristled at the idea that the specter of elections will deny him the chance to embark on an aggressive agenda that he hopes will center on the needs of rural Georgians. “When you get older, you get more impatient — at least I do,” he recently confided. “I don’t like the notion that just because it’s an election year we’re going to get out early,” he said. “We have elections every other year. Are we going to be an every-other-year General Assembly? Or one that will work each year?” The right answer, he implied, needs no explanation. Buckle up.

News

  • The woman accused of screaming at a mother and her baby on a Delta flight last week has now been punished at work. >> Watch the video here According to Fox News, Susan Peirez, who claimed to work for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the incident, has been suspended from her job with the New York state government. >> DOT reveals which airlines ranked highest for complaints in 2017 “State employees are and must be held to the highest standard both professionally and personally,” said Ronni Reich, a spokesperson for the New York State Council of the Arts, where Peirez works. “We were notified of this situation and have commenced an investigation. This employee has been removed from the office and placed on leave until further notice and until the inquiry is resolved.” >> On Rare.us: Woman kicked off Delta flight for complaining about baby Mother Marissa Rundell captured the incident on camera, and the video quickly made its rounds on the internet. The footage shows an annoyed Peirez complaining about having to sit next to a “crying baby” on the plane even though it doesn’t appear the child was crying at the time. When a flight attendant informed her that she couldn’t change seats, she threatened to have the employee fired and was soon removed from the flight.  >> WATCH: United Airlines plane loses engine cover on way to Honolulu, makes emergency landing Delta responded in a statement, saying Peirez’s actions and behavior failed to meet the airline’s standards for passengers: >> Read more trending news  'We ask that customers embrace civility and respect one another when flying Delta,' the statement said. 'This customer’s behavior toward a fellow customer on a flight from New York to Syracuse was not in keeping with those standards. We appreciate our Endeavor Air flight attendant’s commitment to Delta’s core values and apologize to the other customers on board Flight 4017 who experienced the disturbance.
  • Latest updates, results, photo galleries and stories from the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
  • A Minnesota man listening to emergency dispatch audio learned that his wife, a 911 dispatcher, was killed in a crash with a wrong-way driver as she headed for work, the Star Tribune reported. >> Read more trending news Jenna L. Bixby, 30, died Saturday night in the head-on crash in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Park, authorities said. Her husband, Daniel Bixby, was listening to the audio that first reported the crash, according to Andrew Williams, who heads two Twin Cities scanner monitoring groups online, the Star Tribune reported. The crash was reported at 8 p.m. Two hours later, State Patrol troopers contacted Daniel Bixby and confirmed that his wife had died. “A few of us were listening at the same time last night and messaging back and forth,” Williams told the Star Tribune. “Maybe two hours later, Dan sent a message on the board that troopers came and told him it was his wife. Yeah, it’s tough.” The wrong-way driver was identified as retired minister Richard J. Shaka, 72, of Blaine. He was in critical condition, authorities said. Troopers said alcohol consumption by Shaka appears to have been a factor in the collision. Jenna Bixby worked the past 3½ years as a 911 dispatcher for the city of Minneapolis, according to city records. “Minneapolis’ Emergency Communications staff work day and night to keep people safe,” Mayor Jacob Frey said Sunday. “As a 911 dispatcher, that’s what Jenna Bixby did for years -- and what she was on her way to do at City Hall when her life was tragically taken late last night.” Shaka taught at North Central University in Minneapolis in the Bible and Theology Department from 1996 until he retired in 2011. Shaka also founded a Twin Cities nonprofit organization that builds orphanages and youth centers in his native Sierra Leone, the Star Tribune reported.
  • A substitute teacher at Western Guilford Middle School, in Guilford County, North Carolina, was fired after a video surfaced of him body-slamming a student. The student, Jose Escudero, told WGHP that the altercation started because of a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. >> Read more trending news  Jose said the teacher took the box, throwing it into a sink, WGHP reported. The 12-year-old said he waited until end of class to ask for the chocolate to be returned. Jose said he put them in his bag and the substitute teacher tried to grab the candy, WGHP reported.  Jose said the teacher then grabbed him and held him against the wall before throwing him over his shoulder to the ground. The student said he had bruises on his elbow, shoulder and back. Jose’s mother shared the video of Jose falling to the floor on Facebook saying she wants justice. Guilford County Schools spokeswoman Tina Firesheets told WGHP that the teacher is no longer a district employee. The Escuderos told WGHP that they’re looking into legal action against both the school and teacher, whose name has not been released. WSOCTV.COM contributed to this report.
  • The Latest on the deadly Florida high school shooting (all times local): 1:50 p.m. A group of students who survived the Florida school shooting have started their 400-mile trip to the state capital to pressure lawmakers to act on a sweeping package of gun control laws. The students left Coral Springs on Tuesday afternoon and expect to arrive in Tallahassee in the evening. They plan to hold a rally Wednesday at the Capitol in hopes that it will put pressure on the state's Republican-controlled Legislature. The fate of the new restrictions is unclear. Lawmakers have rebuffed gun restrictions since Republicans took control of the governor's office and the Legislature in 1999. But some in the GOP say they will consider the bills. Wednesday will mark one week since authorities say a former student killed 17 students and faculty at Stoneman Douglas High School. ___ 1:15 p.m. Three buses are preparing to take about 100 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students to Tallahassee so that they can pressure state lawmakers to pass more restrictive gun laws. Dozens of reporters and cameras swarmed the students as they prepared to leave. Many of the students wore burgundy T-shirts of the school's colors. They carried sleeping bags, pillows and luggage and hugged their parents as they loaded the bus for the 400-mile journey. Alfonso Calderon is a 16-year-old junior. He says he hopes that the trip will start a conversation between the Legislature, Gov. Rick Scott and the students over commonsense laws on guns. ___ (Corrects to three buses instead of two) 12:20 p.m. Students from several Florida high schools have taken to the streets in a show of solidarity with students from a nearby school where 17 students were gunned down in their classrooms on Valentine's Day. Video footage taken from television news helicopter crews showed several dozen students who walked out of West Boca Raton High School on Tuesday morning, apparently bound for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland. Many of the students were wearing their backpacks. The distance between the schools is about 11 miles (17 kilometers). Several dozen more students gathered outside Fort Lauderdale High School, holding signs with messages that included 'our blood is on your hands.' On Monday, students at American Heritage High School held a similar protest. Former Stoneman student, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. ___ Midnight A hundred Stoneman Douglas High School students are busing hundreds of miles across Florida to its capital to urge lawmakers to act to prevent a repeat of the massacre that killed 17 students and faculty last week. After arriving late Tuesday, they plan to hold a rally Wednesday in hopes that it will put pressure on the state's Republican-controlled Legislature to consider a sweeping package of gun-control laws. Shortly after the shooting, several legislative leaders were taken on a tour of the school to see the damage firsthand and appeared shaken afterward. Chris Grady is a 19-year-old senior on the trip. He said he hopes the trip will lead to some 'commonsense laws like rigorous background checks.
  • When an accused teenage gunman opened fire on his former classmates last week, he wore a maroon polo shirt emblazoned with the logo of the school from which he’d been expelled -- Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The name Stoneman Douglas has become synonymous with the tragedy that ended with 17 people dead and the accused killer, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, charged with murdering them. But who was Marjory Stoneman Douglas? Douglas, who died in 1998 at the age of 108, was a journalist and advocate of the women’s suffrage movement. She may be most well-known, however, for her efforts to save the Florida Everglades, which are not far from the school bearing her name. >> Read more trending news Below are some of the details from Douglas’ remarkable life. Marjory Stoneman, who was born in 1890 in Minneapolis, showed a tendency for excellence early on. According to the National Park Service, she graduated with a 4.0 GPA from Wellesley College, where she was elected “class orator.” Following a brief marriage to a man named Kenneth Douglas, she moved to Florida in 1915 to reunite with her father, Frank Stoneman, who she had not seen since she was a child. The first publisher of the Miami Herald, Stoneman hired his daughter as a society columnist.  Moving through various duties at the Herald, Douglas established herself as a noteworthy writer, the National Park Service said. It was as a journalist that she embraced activism, fighting for feminism, racial justice and conservation of nature.  It was around 1917 that Douglas took on a passionate role in advocating for the preservation of the Everglades. NPR reported that most people at the time considered the Everglades “a worthless swamp,” but Douglas disagreed.  “We have all these natural beauties and resources,” Douglas said in a 1981 NPR interview, when she was 91 years old. “Among all the states, there isn’t another state like it. And our great problem is to keep them as they are in spite of the tremendous increase of population of people who don’t necessarily understand the nature of Florida.” Douglas in 1947 published her book, “The Everglades: River of Grass,” described by the National Park Service as the “definitive description of the natural treasure she fought so hard to protect.” Later that year, she was an honored guest when President Harry Truman dedicated the Everglades National Park, according to the National Wildlife Federation.   In the 1950s, Douglas railed against a major project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a system of canals, levees, dams and pumping stations designed to protect marshland -- now used for agriculture and real estate -- from flooding. The National Park Service credits Douglas with fighting the destruction of the wetlands long before scientists realized the effects it would have on Florida’s ecosystem. In 1969, she founded the nonprofit Friends of the Everglades, which continues to fight for the wetlands today.  Co-author John Rothchild, in the introduction to Douglas’ autobiography, described watching her speak at a 1973 public meeting regarding a Corps of Engineers permit: “When she spoke, everybody stopped slapping (mosquitoes) and more or less came to order. She reminded us all of our responsibility to nature and I don’t remember what else. Her voice had the sobering effect of a one-room schoolmarm’s. The tone itself seemed to tame the rowdiest of the local stone crabbers, plus the developers and the lawyers on both sides. I wonder if it didn’t also intimidate the mosquitoes. The request for a Corps of Engineers permit was eventually turned down. This was no surprise to those of us who’d heard her speak.” Douglas was inducted into the National Wildlife Federation’s Conservation Hall of Fame in 1999, and into the National Women’s Hall of Fame a year later.  When discussing the issue of mankind and humans’ attitude toward nature, Douglas pulled no punches. “I’ll tell you, the whole thing is an enormous battle between man’s intelligence and his stupidity,” she told NPR. “And I’m not at all sure that stupidity isn’t going to win out in the long run.” She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She later donated the medal to Wellesley College.  On the same day she received the medal from President Clinton, Douglas was invited to witness the signing of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, commonly called the Brady Bill, according to the Daily Beast. The bill, named for Jim Brady, the press secretary critically injured during the 1981 attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, established a federal background check for those wanting to purchase a firearm. Cruz passed a background check in February 2017 when he legally bought the assault rifle used in last week’s massacre at Stoneman Douglas.