Deal Names New Paulding County Judge | Daily Report

Gov. Nathan Deal has named an associate juvenile court judge to the Paulding Circuit Superior Court bench.

Dean Bucci, who also handles domestic relations litigation at Plumley & Bucci in Dallas, will replace Judge James Osborne.

Bucci earned his law degree from the University of Georgia and was admitted by the State Bar of Georgia in 1997.

via Deal Names New Paulding County Judge | Daily Report.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 17, 2014

France formally recognized the United States as an independent nation on December 17, 1777.

General Ulysses S. Grant expelled all Jews from his military district, which covered parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky on December 17, 1862. President Lincoln ordered Grant to rescind the order.

President William McKinley visited Savannah, Georgia on December 17, 1898. While there, McKinley attended church at Wesley Monumental Methodist Church and visited Georgia Agricultural and Medical College (now Savannah State University) and the Seventh Army.

On December 17, 1902, legislation changed Georgia’s state flag changed to include the coat of arms on the blue band.

Flag_of_the_State_of_Georgia_(1902-1906).svg copy

On December 17, 1944, Major General Henry C. Pratt ordered the end of the imprisonment of American citizens of Japanese descent in prison camps.

WTBS began broadcasting under new call letters on December 17, 1976 and uplinked its programming to satellite to become “America’s Super Station.”

National Politics

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced yesterday that he is considering running for President. From his statement:

As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.

In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.

In the coming months, I hope to visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul went up almost immediately with Google ads that display when you search for “Jeb Bush.”

Hours after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced he would “actively explore” a run for the White House, the political action committee for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who appears certain to announce a bid for the Oval Office in the coming months, took out a Google search ad on his name, with a not-so-subtle dig at the more moderate Republican.

“Join a movement working to shrink government. Not grow it,” the ad states, with a link to RandPAC, Paul’s longstanding federal leadership committee, and a page asking supporters to give their email address and zip code to “Stand With Rand.” Bush announced Tuesday he would form a similar leadership committee in January. His Facebook announcement didn’t include any attempts to gather data on potential donors or supporters.

Paul’s PAC recently hired on Texas digital strategist Vincent Harris and his firm, Harris Media, in preparation for a 2016 run. Harris had also done work for another likely 2016 contender, Sen. Ted Cruz.

Later Tuesday, RandPAC added a second ad to its digital buy, implicitly attacking Bush’s strong defense of the Common Core education standards. “We need leaders who will stand against common core,” the search ad stated….

Last night, Paul said the former Governor’s support for Common Core would cause trouble in the GOP Primary.

“I think most conservative Republicans think that education should be more at the local and state level. So yeah, I think it will be a big problem,” Paul told The Washington Post in a brief interview in the Capitol.

The Orlando Sentinel has an editorial about Bush that says more about the writer’s view of Republicans than about Jeb.

Jeb Bush is a union-busting, school-voucher-promoting, tax-cutting, gun-loving, Terri Schiavo-interfering, hard-core conservative.

What makes Bush different from a lot of the other candidates is that he’s also sane.

And somehow, in our increasingly extreme society, sane is now mistaken for moderate.

Especially when it comes to Republican presidential campaigns.

If you’ll recall, the 2012 GOP primary was like the Island of Misfit pols. Everyone ran way right and became the front runner for about 15 minutes … until people actually heard them speak.

An ABC News poll released yesterday shows Jeb Bush in first place in a Republican Primary field without Mitt Romney.

Fourteen percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are registered to vote support Bush for the GOP presidential nomination. In a matchup assuming that Mitt Romney doesn’t run, that puts Bush numerically first, but not by a meaningful margin. Paul Ryan has 11 percent support, Rand Paul 10 percent, and six others have 7 or 8 percent apiece.

Having 14 percent support means that 86 percent of leaned Republicans aren’t Bush backers. Still, he has major name recognition, and some advantages in his support profile.

Chief is the fact that he does better among mainline Republicans, who are most apt to participate in primaries. Bush has 19 percent support in this group (compared to Ryan’s 14 percent). Among GOP-leaning independents, by contrast, Bush’s support declines to 9 percent. Paul has 15 percent among those independents; Christie, 10 percent.

Bush may have challenges in the strongly conservative wing of the party; his support ranges from 18 to 15 to 12 percent among moderate, somewhat conservative and very conservative leaned Republicans, respectively. On either side of him among very conservatives are Ted Cruz, with 14 percent support, and Scott Walker, with 10 percent.

If Romney were to run again, the poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that Bush would slip to the next tier: When included in the mix, Romney has 21 percent support, vs. 10 percent for Bush, 9 percent for Paul and 8 percent for Ryan. suggests that Bush’s early announcement will affect Garden State Governor Chris Christie’s potential bid.

Christie, who’s mulling a 2016 presidential bid, could lose a portion of his expected donor base and faces a tougher challenge putting together a seasoned team if Bush also pursues the Republican Party’s nomination. Not to mention, they say, Bush would cut into Christie’s moderate Republican base.

“I don’t think Christie doesn’t run,” said Ed Rollins, a Republican consultant who led Ronald Reagan’s successful 1984 campaign. “I just don’t think he’s going to get all that Bush money.”

A segment of the same donors expected to line up behind Bush would likely otherwise find themselves in Christie’s camp, said Rollins, arguing Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — another possible GOP presidential hopeful – stand to be harmed the most by a Bush candidacy.

“The Bush family organization is still a national organization and he can probably put a campaign together quicker than anybody,” he said. “Christie doesn’t inherit anything and he has to prove that he’s a viable candidate.”

“It’s a big deal,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of political history at Princeton University. “This is the one person who probably worries (Christie) the most.”

Speaking of polls, Mark Blumenthal of Huffington Pollster offers some advice on reading the tea leaves polls of 2016 matchups.

These early readings require many disclaimers: Sample sizes are typically small, with roughly 400 interviews for each party, and the polls often include those who either identify or “lean” to a party rather than trying to nail down the likely primary and caucus electorate. Initial support is also tenuous, reflecting little more than a reaction to the most familiar names listed.

Jonathan Bernstein writes in Bloomberg View that we should “Ignore those [2016] Polls.”

You know my answer: Ignore those polls!

OK … mostly ignore the polls. They are worth paying attention to only to the extent that party actors care about them.

But by themselves early polling numbers are almost useless. Voters aren’t engaged this early. The surveys are measuring only name recognition and, to a lesser extent, vague impressions of the candidates who are well known.

I would also argue that a spate of news stories like the Jeb Bush stories yesterday and today can bounce the numbers simply by reminding folks that a particular candidate exists and juicing name recognition in the short term.

It appears that the CRomnibus bill may have also helped the cause of medical cannabis, via a prohibition on federal interference with state marijuana laws, according to Huffington Post,

Over the weekend Congress passed the “cromnibus,” an end of year federal spending bill designed to fund most of the government through 2015. The bill contains the bipartisan Rohrabacher-Farr medical marijuana amendment prohibiting the Justice Department from spending any money to undermine state medical marijuana laws.

For the first time, Congress is cutting off funding to federal medical marijuana raids and saying no one should be arrested for complying with their state’s medical marijuana law.

Georgia Politics

“Certificate of need.” Remember that term, as it will be a hotly-contested but sometimes under the radar fight at the 2015 Session of the Georgia legislature. From Walter Jones at Morris News,

A lawyer for physicians and the companies argued that a 1979 state law reducing competition between health care providers is outdated and results in monopolies that keep prices artificially high.

“The problem is that if we force all the business to go to that one provider, all of us are paying more money,” said Victor L. Moldovan of McGuireWoods.

Hospital executives say they depend on the law that requires a state certificate of need before any health facility can open. Removing it would jeopardize an estimated 19 rural hospitals that are on the verge of closing, such as Putnam General Hospital in Eatonton.

“You take all the requirements off of hospitals to be open 24/7 and never being able to turn away a patient like these treatment centers enjoy, then our costs will go down,” said Gregory Hearn, the CEO of Ty Cobb Health­care System in Royston.

“Health care is changing, and hospitals are going to have to change, and physicians are going to have to change,” said Rep. Sharon Cooper, the chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Committee.

An op-ed by an Orthopedic Surgeon in the Augusta Chronicle discusses the issue in the context of the local community’s healthcare needs.

The Certificate of Need (CON) movementwas started because of a federal mandate in the Health Planning Resources Development Act of 1974. All 50 states were required to have mechanisms in place to review (and if necessary, restrict) hospital capital expenditures for buildings and equipment. The federal mandate was repealed in 1987, and 14 states have dropped their CON programs.

Georgia’s program continues, but not without controversy.

The CON programs were designed in an era of fee-to-service, in which hospitals were on a mission to increase their services with the promise of ever-more profits. The world of medicine changed in the 1980s and payments became prospective in nature with diagnosis-related groups and managed care contracts. Hospitals have been forced to run more like businesses, and the need of protective government regulations of investments and growth have become less relevant.

Virtually everyone agrees that the CON system in Georgia (and everywhere else) is cumbersome, expensive and often unfair. The debate centers around eliminating it or improving it. To date, efforts to reform the system have been ineffectual.

Kyle Wingfield of the AJC puts a libertarian spin on the issue,

It’s yet another way in which there is nothing like a free market, or even market-oriented approach, to health care in Georgia. One presentation to legislators Tuesday described Georgia’s CON law as the fifth-most restrictive in the nation. The incumbents in the hospital industry will fight many changes, but there were some indications of openness to some changes from some industry representatives Tuesday.

Senator-elect David Perdue spoke to The Federalist Society and discussed his view of the balance of powers in our three branches of government.

Perdue focused on themes of debt and spending reduction but also addressed his upcoming role as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The senator-elect said he anticipated at least one U.S. Supreme Court vacancy would arise during his upcoming six-year term.

“I’m not a lawyer, but I hope to bring to that committee just a common-sense approach,” said Perdue, who has spent his career in business and was CEO of Dollar General.

Noting several judges were in the room, Perdue continued, “I believe you go back to the Constitution, and you uphold what our founders had in mind to begin with, not what somebody in 1912 thought it meant or what some judge felt in 1998, but what did the founders really believe. I personally take a very hard stance about an activist judge. I’m sorry, but they shouldn’t create law.”

He added that the president shouldn’t, either, saying “that’s what happening right now with executive orders and regulatory mandate.”

In case you missed it, state officials continue to say that transportation funding will be an important issue this year.

Transportation will be a focal point for the upcoming legislative session, state officials said at meetings in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody on Dec. 15.

“Only 5 percent of our budget goes toward transportation and that’s just not enough in this metropolis that was basically created on the backs of transportation,” Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), whose district includes a portion of Sandy Springs, told members of the Rotary Club of Sandy Springs during its legislative roundtable.

Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) said that more money is needed to spend on transportation. “Finding the way to do that is going to be the $64,000 question,” he said.

Adoptable Georgia Dogs for December 17, 2014

Joshua D

Joshua D – German Shepherd/Great Dane
Joshua D is a real gentleman, able to charm any human into falling in love with him! He is smart and easy to train, we think he may be a mix of German Shepherd and Great Dane. He would do best in a home where he is the only dog. He is tall and lanky about 95 pounds, and about 3 1/2 years old. Although he follows basic commands, he is still a bit of puppy and needs more training. Because of size he needs a fence of at least six feet and a home with kids over age 10 or so. Although he follows basic commands, he is still a bit of puppy and needs more training. He barks occasionally . He is potty trained (phew!). He needs a home where he can get the attention he deserves! Come meet Joshua D and fall in love!


Shadi – Chihuahua/Dachshund mix

Shadi is an approximately 4 year old Chihuahua/Dachshund mix. This little momma is the perfect size at around 10 pounds, and she’s got all the great qualities from both breeds!

Shadi was found with her son, Magena, having been dumped at a business park at the side of the incredibly busy 316 Highway. She was understandably very shaken by her experience. To make matters worse, she was malnourished. But, after a long road to recovery, this little girl is ready to find a forever home and boy does she deserve it!

Shadi’s foster mom reports that she is the sweetest little dog EVER! She loves to snuggle up to her human and sleep knowing she is safe and loved. She enjoys playing with other dogs, but would need to be in a home where there are no cats or very young children. She is alert when visitors arrive, but will settles down quickly.

The perfect home for Shadi would be one where she had an understanding, patient owner, with a fellow dog to play with, and a fenced-in backyard where she could run freely. Shadi, true to her Chihuahua DNA, is extremely loyal – but it will take a dedicated person to show her much TLC. Could that be you?


Carmel – Golden Retriever mix

I am only a year and a half old so my story is pretty short so far: somehow as a baby I wound up in a kill shelter…I know it’s hard to hear it but something had happened to me: my jaw was dislocated, I had scratches and stuff too, and I was afraid.

Can you blame me? I didn’t know what to expect when the Angels came and saved me, didn’t yet know I would never have to be afraid again, that stories sometimes have happy endings.

I am a golden retriever mix. I LOVE to play outside so my dream home would have a fenced in yard and maybe even a really sweet dog to play with. I love kids! If I see a child I always want to go say hello. I like playing fetch with the little guy in my foster home, he is just a toddler and we have so much fun together! Sometimes I may get a little nervous around new people or bossy dogs. Hey, not everybody is a Prince Charming! My foster mom says I am a great running partner and I would love to go running every day. After all of that fun I love to cuddle with my family at night.

Since I am already spayed and up to date on all my shots I am ready to be adopted right now. You can adopt me for only $25 this month!

Jeb Bush: Onward – Actively Exploring Running for President

Your Washington Desk

From Governor Jeb Bush

Bush Family

A Note from Jeb Bush

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

Like many of you, our family was blessed with the opportunity to gather together over the recent Thanksgiving holiday.

Columba and I are so proud of the wonderful adults our children have become, and we loved spending time with our three precious grandchildren.

We shared good food and watched a whole lot of football.

We also talked about the future of our nation. As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.

In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans. (more…)

Fundraising expansion slipped into spending deal could power financial bonanza for parties – The Washington Post

The national political parties, weakened by a ban on soft money and the rise of super PACs, could see a financial resurgence due to a last-minute provision buried in a congressional spending deal struck Tuesday.

The measure would increase the amount individuals could donate to national parties tenfold by allowing wealthy contributors to give additional sums to separate party arms for financing presidential conventions, building renovations and recounts and other legal proceedings. Those three committees could accept triple the amount individuals can give now to the national parties.

Under the language in the bill, a couple could give as much as $3.1 million to a party’s various national committees in one election cycle.

While there would be some restrictions on how parties could use those donations, the creation of new, wider lanes for money to travel into the parties would be a major boon, campaign finance experts said. The expanded avenues for giving would dramatically undercut some of the last remaining provisions of the landmark McCain-Feingold Act, which curtailed the ability of parties to raise huge, unregulated sums.

via Fundraising expansion slipped into spending deal could power financial bonanza for parties – The Washington Post.

How often do former members of Congress lobby? Not as often as you might think. – The Washington Post

“K Street woos Mary Landrieu,” Politico’s headline reads. K Street, as you probably know, is the bucolic lane in Washington, DC that is home (at least symbolically) to most of the city’s lobbying firms. And Mary Landrieu, as you also probably know, is the current-but-not-for-long Demcoratic senator from Louisiana who lost her reelection bid last weekend. (If you don’t know what “woos” means, here you go. Now you can read the whole sentence!)

For readers, probably to a person, the response to the headline is: of course. Of course a former member of Congress is going to become a lobbyist. That’s what always happens. Which is where your friends at The Fix come in. We decided to try to figure out just how true that is.

via How often do former members of Congress lobby? Not as often as you might think. – The Washington Post.

David Ralston says tax reform could help boost Georgia’s economy | Kyle Wingfield

“When we passed the tax reform package here back in 2012, I said at that time that I did not view that as an ending, but just as a significant first step,” Ralston said in his office at the Capitol. “And that’s a discussion that I think we always need to have, and that’s a discussion that is ongoing.

“I know there are members of the House that have worked tirelessly looking at ideas, gathering data, doing economic analysis, to see what the next step might be and when would be the appropriate time to take it. And I support those efforts. I think you may well see some progress toward that next step this next session.”

“Obviously, when you talk tax reform, as we found out when we went through the other process … you have budget ramifications,” he noted. “And you have to weigh those in the mix.

“You look at the experience of other states. I know a lot people point to North Carolina, and they point to Oklahoma, and they point to maybe other states that have recently done some fairly comprehensive tax reform. But if you really research the experience of those states, it was not painless. And there are trade-offs.”

via David Ralston says tax reform could help boost Georgia’s economy | Kyle Wingfield.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 16, 2014

On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty, led by Patriot Sam Adams, boarded three British ships in Boston harbor and threw tea worth $700,000 to $1 million in today’s money into the water in what came to be known as the Boston Tea Party.

Boston Tea Party

Governor George Towns signed legislation on December 16, 1847 to build a State School for the Deaf and Dumb. The institution now known as the Georgia School for the Deaf was begun with a log cabin, $5000 from the legislature and four students and is still in operation in Cave Spring, Georgia.

On December 16, 1897, Gov. William Atkinson signed legislation recognizing June 3, the birthday of Jefferson Davis, as a state holiday.

On December 16, 1944, a German counterattack in the Ardennes region of Belgium created a “bulge” in Allied lines with particularly difficult fighting near the town of Bastogne. During the Battle of the Bulge, 89,000 Americans were wounded and 19,000 killed in the bloodiest battle fought by the U.S. in World War II. National Geographic has an interesting article published for the 70th Anniversary of the Battle.

President Jimmy Carter announced on December 16, 1976, that he would name Andrew Young, then serving as Congressman from Georgia’s Fifth District, as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

The last few days we’ve been reading and hearing a lot about the recovery of a time capsule placed in the Massachusetts Capitol in 1795 by then-Governor Sam Adams, Paul Revere, and William Scollay.

The box, which was discovered during building maintenance, is expected to be completely unearthed by Thursday afternoon.

But this isn’t the first time the capsule has surfaced. The Boston Globe reported that the box was discovered amidst emergency repairs to the building in 1855, and was returned to its spot following the construction, remaining unopened.

The new capsule will be taken to the Museum of Fine Arts by conservators, who will X-ray it before it is opened next week. The condition of its contents is currently unknown.

Earlier this year, another time capsule from 1901 was discovered inside the wooden lion statue on the Massachusetts Capitol.

A hundred and thirteen years ago citizens of the city of Boston put together a time capsule. The governor was involved, the mayor was involved, the local paper. They loaded it up with letters, news articles and photographs, it was a big deal. They hid it in a copper box and hid the box in the statue of a lion on top of the old Massachusetts state house. Then it was forgotten. Fast forward a century and no one knew the time capsule was still there. Until a descendent of the copper smith who sealed it up found a letter mentioning it. It turned out a Boston Globe story from 1901 detailed its contents, noting they should, quote, “prove interesting when the box is opened many years hence.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Qualifying closed last week for the January 6, 2015 Special Election in House District 120 in Greene, Oglethorpe, Putnam, Taliaferro, and Wilkes Counties:

Debbie Bartlett
Party: Republican
Age: 63
Occupation: CEO of Georgia Nurses Association
Qualified Date: 12/09/2014

Jesse Copelan
Email: [email protected]
Party: Republican
Age: 73
Occupation: Senior State Court Judge
Qualified Date: 12/08/2014

Gary Gerrard
Email: [email protected]
Party: Republican
Age: 62
Occupation: Attorney
Qualified Date: 12/08/2014

Jesse Johnson
Email: [email protected]
Party: Republican
Age: 37
Occupation: Realtor/Forester
Qualified Date: 12/08/2014

Trey Rhodes
Party: Republican
Age: 39
Occupation: Financial Advisor
Qualified Date: 12/08/2014

Maria Saporta writes that the Chamber of Commerce will again oppose the Religious Freedom Act expected to be introduced by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) and Same Teasley (R-Marietta).

Richard Anderson, the outgoing chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the CEO of Delta Air Lines, removed any doubts during his comments at the organization’s annual meeting on Dec. 2.

“If that means we need to stand up to a legislature that wants to treat gays and lesbians in a different way, we have to stand up to that,” Anderson said.

Specifically Anderson was referring to bills introduced last session by state Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) and state Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The bills, which died in committee, would have allowed companies to discriminate against gays and lesbians based on religious freedom.

When the Arizona legislature passed a similar bill, several major conventions and sporting events — such as the Super Bowl — threatened to cancel. The governor of Arizona ended up vetoing the legislation.

The issue apparently is not dead in Georgia. Sen. McKoon has said he plans to reintroduce his proposal during the 2015 session which convenes in January.

Major companies, such as Delta, AT&T, Home Depot, UPS and The Coca-Cola Co. as well as key business and civic organizations, including the Metro Atlanta Chamber, fought hard to kill the legislation last year.

“We will still be opposed,” Anderson said of Delta. “The Chamber will be too.”

Gary Wisenbaker writes for Valdosta Today that the Chamber misinterprents the RFRA.

A previous version was opposed by some business interests as well as the Georgia Municipal Association because they felt it would legalize discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and deny them access to needed services.

A plain reading of the legislation, however, says otherwise.

McKoon’s bill simply restricts the right of any governmental entity to “substantially burden a person’s civil right to exercise of religion” unless it can show that the burden is necessary to further a “compelling governmental interest”. Uprooting discrimination on the basis of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, what have you, is a well-established “compelling governmental interest”. Further, the burden must be the least restrictive means of alternative means to protect that interest.

Under this law, the government is barred from passing a law or imposing a regulation that interferes with one’s religious beliefs unless that law or regulation can pass a “strict scrutiny” test. It addresses government power and the free exercise of religion; it is not a law promoting or protecting acts of private discrimination.

Some critics take the position that it would hinder business and corporate recruitment in Georgia. Tell that to Texas, a state with a similar law on the books which continues to experience exponential economic growth.

Some on the left take the position that religious freedom laws and legislation set a “dangerous precedent”. They can be used to discriminate against the LGBT community, prevent women from accessing birth control, and prevent people from escaping domestic violence, according to Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham.

They also take the position that the Constitution does much the same thing, hence the need for “hate crime” and “hate speech” legislation as well as ordinances extending the rights of identified groups. And the left, in deference to their proclivity for “identity politics” will use state action to advance not only their agenda but silence any opposition.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Baptist Convention is coming out with a petition in support of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who was suspended for 30 days by Mayor Kasim Reed.

n response to the recent 30-day suspension of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran by Mayor Kasim Reed, the GBC’s Public Affairs Committee is initiating this petition. The committee has issued its own statement defending the Fire Chief and is calling on Reed to:

Acknowledge Chief Cochran’s First Amendment Rights.
Make a public apology for the suspension and grief it has caused the Chief and his family.
Restore Chief Cochran’s pay and reputation as an honorable Fire Chief.

GBC is requesting Christians and people of faith across Georgia to sign the related petition calling upon Mayor Reed to reverse his decision as outlined in the three areas listed above.

The text of the petition reads:

Mayor Kasim Reed,

The following signatures are of Georgia Baptists and others across the state of Georgia who are deeply troubled by your decision to suspend Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran and your complete disregard for his First Amendment rights. In your statement, you speak of making Atlanta “a more welcoming city for all of her citizens-regardless of their…religious beliefs.” It is unfortunate that you did not extend that regard to your Fire Chief who has an impeccable reputation in Atlanta and across the nation.

Senate Committee Assignments

In January, David Perdue will begin his Senate service with seats on the following committees:

Foreign Relations
Special Committee on Aging

Perdue hailed the Ag Committee assignment in a press release:

“Georgia has a long tradition of representation on the Senate Agriculture Committee. I am humbled and honored to serve in this capacity. Agriculture is a strategic industry, not only for Georgia but for our nation, and I will work to keep it growing. I want to help Georgia’s farmers continue to produce and sell Georgia grown products and ensure that we remain an agricultural leader in the future.”

Senator Johnny Isakson will chair not one, but two Committees:

Veterans Affairs, Chair
Ethics, Chair
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Foreign Relations

State Rep. Scot Turner (R-Cherokee) has introduced either the most-cynically named or the most Ameriawesomely-named bill, The American Heritage Celebration Act (HB 15), which would allow a greater variety of fireworks to be sold in Georgia, basically legalizing the sale of any fireworks allowed under federal law.

Turner has also pre-filed HB 14, the Fiscal Accountability Act, which would require legislative action for any local authority or government wishing to accept federal funds.

Three people showed up to speak to the Cherokee Legislative Delegation – any time you’re outnumbered by legislators, you should start looking for the nearest door or window.

The meeting, which was initially set to take place Wednesday after Delegation Day but was rescheduled for Friday night, gave residents a chance to speak directly to the Cherokee County Delegation.

Four of the eight members of the delegation attended the meeting at the Town Lake Hills Clubhouse in Woodstock: Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Macedonia), Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), Rep. Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock) and Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs).

West Georgia Technical College met with their legislators to discuss the College’s priorities during the coming Session.

State senators Mike Dugan and Josh McKoon, State representatives Kimberly Alexander, Randy Nix, Matt Ramsey, Lynn Smith and State Representative-elect Bob Trammell Jr. heard presentations from WGTC President Steve Daniel and local industry guests who supported the College’s initiatives.

Also in attendance were liaisons from Sen. Saxby Chambliss’s office, Sen. Johnny Isakson’s office and Rep. Lynn Westmoreland’s office, and officials from the Technical College System of Georgia, including Assistant Commissioner Laura Gammage.

WGTC President Steve Daniel explained the College’s $8.4 million portion of a $72 million total request from the Technical College System of Georgia. The TCSG request would renovate labs in the highest demand instructional programs across the state. Many of these programs are included in the Gov. Nathan Deal’s Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant and are listed as areas of greatest need by Georgia employers.

The TCSG is proposing the request for inclusion in Governor Deal’s Fiscal 2016 budget, which lawmakers will consider during next year’s legislative session.

WGTC’s request includes over $1.7 million to renovate labs in transportation and logistics, over $2.6 million for labs in health sciences and over $3.2 million for labs in trades, industrial and manufacturing programs.

Hall County’s legislative delegation heard local concerns:

“The concern I have in what I heard in testimony is there’s still a lot of concern out there on the Common Core standard,” said state Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville. “… I think the teachers are comfortable with it. Are they all comfortable with it? I can’t answer that.”

The debate has continued to swirl regarding the teaching standards employed by Georgia and 44 other states.

“It could be a continued spin down for public education, and you will see a boost in homeschooling and possibly a boost in private schools,” Rogers said.

Another topic Rogers has heard about was recent assessments on more than 6,000 properties resulting in higher tax bills.

“Whether we need to revisit that or not, I don’t know yet,” Rogers said.

When meeting with Hall County commissioners, Rogers and the delegation was asked to make the “hard decisions” regarding possible state tax increases, with Rogers rebutting about raising the millage rate for county property owners.

With SPLOST VII and other tax options floating locally, Rogers said there will probably be some tax legislation on the horizon under the Gold Dome.

The Augusta-Richmond County legislative delegation met with the public and with judges,

One of the big topics was Sentinel Offender Services. Delegates spent about an hour talking about the private probation company, which has been under fire in recent months. The Georgia State Supreme Court recently ruled that a law allowing private probation companies to partner with courts is legal.

“We will be looking at a new bill, I understand on the tolling portion of the sentinel, I am not certain what that will be, I have not seen it, but we will take a deep look at that,” said Representative Barbara Sims.

Within the budget, transportation is at the top of the list.

Richmond County voters approved the transportation sales tax last year, but it’s not the same story for other counties in Georgia.

“We are continuing to have roads constructed and maintenance, but I understand that in January and February of this coming up year, there will be no projects let in the State of Georgia, now we are an exception that fortunately for us,” said Sims.

“We know that medicinal marijuana is going to be coming back up, that fits into GRU because we know the Governor wants GRU to be a part of that process so that’s going to be important, that goes to economic development,” said [Senator-elect Harold] Jones.

State Court Judge Richard Slaby discussed the issue of “tolling” probation sentences.

The Georgia Supreme Court last month determined that although privatized probation wasn’t illegal, tolling sentences for misdemeanor and city ordinance violations was.

Slaby, who recently represented the State Court in its effort to have Sentinel’s contract renewed by the Augusta Commission, said the proposed bill would restore the ability to toll sentences and enforce probation terms.

“The new bill would give us all those same abilities that we had prior to the department of corrections forgoing supervision,” Slaby said to a panel that included Democratic state Reps. Wayne Howard, Brian Prince and Gloria Frazier; Democratic Sen. Harold Jones and Republican Rep. Barbara Sims.

Jim Wilbanks has been sworn in as a Superior Court Judge for the Conasauga Judicial Circuit , which comprises Murray and Whitfield Counties.

Wilbanks won the seat this past summer, beating out sitting judge David Blevins in a runoff in July. Willbanks won with 60 percent of the vote after none of the three candidates for the spot — Scott Helton was third — claimed more than 50 percent in the general election in May.

The Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce will hold a Campaign Academy 101 on February 4, 2015.

GAC Chairman Bruce Allred said he believes the program takes a significant step toward creating even more productive relationships with legislators. “Pro-business policy is crucial for our community, and we want to ensure that our business leaders have the very best chance possible for being elected into positions which will influence legislation affecting our area,” he said in a news release.

Allred acknowledged the importance of state and federal representation familiar with South Georgia. “With most of the voting population being located above Macon, we are working to make sure that the voices of our community are still heard by preparing local leaders for positions of even greater influence.”

The Savannah Morning News reports that Right Whales have been sighted off the Georgia coast, as they return to warm waters to give birth.

Flying 16 miles east of Cumberland Island on Saturday, researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spotted not only the first whale but also the first calf.

The mother whale has no nickname, unlike many right whales. She’s just number 2145, identified by the unique pattern of white markings on her head. Researchers do know, though, the 24-year-old female is an experienced mama, having given birth at least four times before.

Her calf joins a population estimated at about 450 individuals, making North Atlantic right whales among the most highly endangered of the large whales. Right whales were hunted to near extinction by the early 1900s because their slow-moving, shore-hugging habits and tendency to float when dead made them the “right” whale to kill.

Congratulations to Sydney Goad, a senior at Newnan High School, who set two new national records in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting at the American Open Weightlifting Championships in Washington DC.

The Newnan High senior established two new national marks for the 17-under division, winning the event with records of 64 kilograms in the snatch (141 pounds) and for overall total after adding a clean-and-jerk of 82 kg (180.77 pounds) while competing in the 48kg division.

It also may have given Goad even more initiative to think of a potential run toward the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, where she could join both her mom Robin (top-five finisher at the 2000 Games in Sydney) and father Dean (a top placer at the Pan-Am Games) as an international standout in the sport.

Just as impressive, she’s a top student at Newnan High, according to school principal Chase Puckett, while also handling five-day weekly training schedule in addition to competing at the highest level with the GymCats varsity gymnastics team. Goad qualified for last year’s All-Around at the GHSA Championships while reaching the state meet in her first three years of varsity competition.

Weightlifting, however, could be the sport where Goad may have the brightest future after having been named the nation’s best female lifter in the 16-17 year-old age group.

Her success in the sport has made her a contender for the 2016 Summer Games.

For those of you who don’t follow Olympic Weightlifting, which would be pretty much everyone, Georgia is a hotbed of strong women Olympic Weightlifters with Coffee’s Gym in Marietta and 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Cheryl Haworth from Savannah.