Georgia Political News for Thursday, March 1, 2012

Flower is an eight-month old female whom Walton Animal Services describes as a Pit Bull Terrier mix. At 20 pounds, I’d guess she doesn’t have too much Pit Bull in her. Her adoption fee is $40 and she’ll be available Friday, March 2 at 3 PM. She will have her shots and come with a $15 voucher toward her rabies shot and information on discounted spaying.

Legislative News

A controversial abortion bill passed the state house yesterday on a 102-55 vote. Senator Sharon Cooper, a Pro-life Republican from Marietta said Georgia Right to Life President Dan Becker threatened political retaliation to members who voted no. Jim Galloway has more at the AJC:

The language of the debate was more than emotional. On the GOP side, the central debate is over Georgia Right to Life’s refusal to recognize rape, incest and the life of the mother as exceptions in the abortion debate.

Unlike some national groups, GRTL recognizes only the life of the mother as an exception – and a strict interpretation at that.

The House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee passed House Bill 1160 by Rep. Jay Roberts, which will allow the PSC to elect its own Chairman. Commissioner Echols suggested the move was political retaliation by four of his colleagues for a vote last year, but failed to note that one of those colleagues supporting the change was on the same side of the issue as Echols.

The Senate debated a proposed Charter School Constitutional Amendment for two hours before tabling it without a vote. Apparently there is not currently a two-thirds majority in the Senate for the amendment.

A movement to build a $1 billion gambling establishment in Gwinnett County has picked up support from three Republican committee chairs and 21 members, mostly Democrats, in the state house.

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart told the Cobb County legislative delegation that he has secured the required signatures to pass a proposed redistricting map for the county board of education. Democratic Rep. David Wilkerson criticized the map.

The Senate passed legislation by Sen. Fran Millar that delays the effective date on legislation passed last session to reduce the number of members on the DeKalb County school board from 9 to 7 or fewer. The DeKalb County delegation has had difficulty agreeing on a map that reduces the number, or even on the number of members; one map draws seven districts while the other creates five.

A house bill to ease the burden on third-party and independent candidates seeking a ballot spot appears to be stalled.

After Senator Greg Goggans announced that he will not run for reelection, State Rep. Mark Hatfield announced he will run to succeed Goggans. Hatfield has gained notoriety for representing plaintiffs who sued the Georgia Secretary of State to remove President Obama from the ballot in Georgia and is drawn into a house district with another incumbent representative.

Executive Branch News

Governor Nathan Deal held a press conference in the State Capitol with Presidential candidate and former Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich. Gingrich addressed the House and said of Tuesday’s Presidential Preference Primary, he’ll “win it decisively.” Gingrich also addressed the Senate Republican Caucus with Gov. Deal privately.

First Lady Sandra Deal and State School Superintendent John Barge, along with Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Gale Buckner toured several schools and social agencies in Dalton yesterday.

Lawyers for the state of Georgia will argue in the federal Court of Appeals today, appealing a district court injunction against enforcement of parts of last year’s House Bill 87, a comprehensive immigration reform bill that remains controversial. Attorney General Sam Olens wrote in a brief that “The state does not regulate immigration but rather criminalizes its consequences.”

Secretary of State Brian Kemp noted that a surveyor to help end the border dispute between Bibb and Monroe Counties has not yet been appointed. “The counties can work together to solve this dispute. I’ve encouraged them to do that, and Gov. Perdue did that when he was in office, and certainly that would be the best way to remedy that, but if they elect not to do that, then we’ll follow the process set forth in law” for the survey, he said.

On news that Georgia’s unemployment rate dropped to 9.2 percent last month, Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said, “This job growth shows that Georgia is headed in the right direction,” and “[a] lot of economists consider that [employment growth in the personal business services] sector one of the leading indicators that businesses are gaining confidence.”

Presidential Campaign Visits Today

In addition to the continuing Gingrich bus tour, both of the major GOP presidential campaigns will have events in Georgia today. Rick Santorum will appear at Dalton City Hall at 9 this morning and headline a rally at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport at 11 AM today. Ann Romney will appear at Smokejack BBQ in Alpharetta at noon and at Romney Georgia Headquarters on Maple Drive in Buckhead at 5:30 PM. All these events are free to the public.

The SuperPAC supporting Romney has doubled its ad buy in Georgia, while the group supporting Gingrich bought air time in Georgia and five other states.

Georgia GOP

The Ninth District of the Georgia Republican Party will hold a banquet on April 13, the night before the district convention in Jefferson. Confirmed speakers include Gov. Deal, GAGOP Chair Sue Everhart and Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

Ethics

Common Cause Georgia has an interesting blog post that suggests that the danger in unlimited lobbyist gifts is not payoff for any single action, but an accumulation of influence by lobbyists who repeatedly dine with a legislator.

A legislator noted privately that one problem with the proposed cap on lobbyist gifts is that lobbyist disclosure often overstates the cost of a legislator’s meal. When lobbyists order expensive wine for the table, for example, the cost will be attributed to a legislator who attends whether he or she drinks any of it. The cost of other guests not invited by the legislator may also be attributed to a legislator.

Utilities

Plant Vogtle’s newest nuclear reactor could come online eight months late, according to a construction report filed with the Public Service Commission, which also noted that the project is running $28 million under budget.

Local News

Judge David Barrett has resigned his seat on the Superior Court for the Enotah Judicial Circuit in north Georgia after being accused of brandishing a firearm in his court during a hearing. Gov. Deal will appoint a successor.

Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill plead not guilty to a 37-count indictment that includes theft and racketeering. The prosecutor handling the case argued for a gag order on participants, while Hill’s attorney argued that he should be free to speak to the media, as he enters his campaign to regain the Sheriff’s office.

DeKalb County education SPLOST income has a $41 million shortfall, halting work on 41 projects across the county. It appears that at least part of the shortfall was caused by exceeding budgets on some projects.

A new ordinance passed by the Cobb County Commission will allow the county solicitor to prosecute driver who are caught on camera failing to yield to a school bus.

A commission considering consolidating the Dalton and Whitfield County governments is nearing the release of its report and recommendations.

Lori Davis will run for District 1 on the Augusta Commission, a seat currently held by Matt Aitken and already sought by Stanley Hawes.

Dunwoody schools will join in “Georgia Walk to School Day” on March 7th.

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