Georgia Political News for April 26, 2012

“Bear” and “Nick” are Golden Retriever brothers who ended up in an Alabama shelter but now are with Adopt a Golden Retriever Atlanta. They are available for adoption and need a foster home.

Governor Deal Continues Victory Tour

At the National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center in Columbus, Governor Nathan Deal signed legislation yesterday modifying the state’s Purple Heart car tag program to provide free tags to veterans who received the award, and the Interstate Compact to allow children in military families easier transfers between schools.

 

In Albany, Deal told a Rotary Club that tax reform and initiatives from his office have helped make the state more attractive to companies considering relocating or expanding here.

Speaking specifically of the General Assembly’s repeal of the state’s sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, Deal said that move will entice more manufacturers to relocate to Georgia or expand existing operations.

“It will make us much more competitive with the many states that are competing with us to try and bring jobs into the state. Many of them do not have that tax in the first place,” Deal said.

Deal also pointed to the bipartisan support of this year’s tax reform legislation as proof that both parties could work together in the General Assembly.

“In some cases they passed with no dissenting votes and the ones that did their were very few that is rather unheard of. It is Bi-partisan ship at its best and people putting aside differences in order to do what is good for the citizens of this state,” said Deal.

Newt Gingrich will exit, stage-right, the Presidential election on Tuesday and is likely to endorse Mitt Romney. The campaign says the delay is to allow family and staff across the country to join Gingrich at the Washington, DC wake announcement. Pro-tip for young campaign staff: make sure you have enough cash to get home, run with your paycheck to the bank before anyone else gets there, and be sure to take some “mementos,” as they may have some value on eBay.

It appears that a deal has been struck in House District 81, in which State Rep. Elena Parent (D-Passive-aggressive) and State Rep. Scott Holcomb (D) were placed in expectation of a cage death match.

I’m going to go ahead and assume this means that Rep. Parent will not be running for reelection, but is introducing Rep. Holcomb to parts of the district that are new to him.

Gov. Deal signed the first bill passed by State Rep. John Carson (R-East Cobb), who was elected in a special election runoff last year to fill the term of the late Republican Bobby Franklin, who died.

Republicans Dustin Hightower (Carrollton) and Kevin Cooke (Carrollton) told their hometown newspaper that they are open to ethics reform legislation.

“I am open to ethics reform,” said District 68 Rep. Dustin Hightower, R-Carrollton. “However, the true issue to me is the trustworthiness of the person in office. If you think your local state representative can be bought by a gift from a lobbyist, then I suggest you vote that person out of office. Ethics rules are like a lock on a farm gate. It will keep the honest man honest, but the corrupt man will still find a way in.”

District 18 Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton, said he has no problems with ethics reform legislation or putting caps on lobbyist gifts.

“I think ethics legislation is a necessary thing, but ultimately, the folks who elect you need to know they’re electing an ethical individual,” Cooke said. “There’s not anything in this world going to buy my vote — that’s not what I’m there for.”

Cooke said he feels Georgia already is one of the toughest in the country with ethics legislation. He cited the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, where people can go online and look at information on all lobbying and campaign donations.

“With respect to what a new bill would look like, I don’t have a problem with a cap,” Cooke said. “If it makes people feel better to have a limit, I’m OK with it. However, before I ever say I’ll co-sponsor a bill, I’ll have to see it first and go through it, word by word. I actually read all the bills I vote on.”

Kathy Schrader’s campaign for Gwinnett County Superior Court will be at the Gwinnett Braves game this evening at Coolray Field. [Disclaimer: Kathy Schrader is a client of mine.]

Congressman Tom Graves (R-Ranger) will hold a Town Hall Meeting in Hall County on May 2 from 1 to 2:30 PM at the Spout Springs Library, 6488 Spout Springs Road in Flowery Branch.

Former Floyd County Commissioner Chuck Hufstetler will run against David Doss for the Senate District 56 seat. Looks like a fun race:

Hufstetler said he has entered the race because he feels the district needs true conservative representation with proven leadership. He will draw a distinct difference between his 8 years on the Floyd County Commission (1999-2007) and the opposing candidate’s years known as the Dickey-Doss Democratic Commission of Floyd County.

Larry Lower will run for the Chatham School Board from District 6.

If you’re trying to decide whether to plaster your campaign literature, signs, and bumper stickers with QR-codes, those goofy Rorschach-test looking splotches, you might note that Forrester Research found last year that 95% of smartphone users did not use QR codes.

T-SPLOST

In Carroll County, Chairman Bill Chappell and Carrollton Mayor Wayne Garner are neither endorsing nor opposing the T-SPLOST.

“The good part is that the county would get 25 percent of the funds to use on road projects that are important to our cities,” Chappell said. “The bad part is that it’s an attempt to do a statewide tax increase masked onto regional governments. I wish they’d had the backbone to simply pass a tax or increase the gasoline tax, rather than put the monkey on our backs.”

Villa Rica Mayor J. Collins, who was reelected in 2011 opposes the tax:

“I’m a taxpayer like everybody else and I don’t want to pay another 1-cent tax,” Collins said. “We’re not going to be able to pave our way out of traffic congestion problems. The revenues being generated by taxes now is more than enough to deal with transportation problems.”

Temple Mayor Rick Ford and Mt. Zion Mayor Randy Sims support the tax hike.

Coweta Judicial Circuit

Emory Palmer, candidate for Superior Court in the Coweta Judicial Circuit, which includes Carroll, Coweta, Heard, Meriwether and Troup Counties, says he will “apply the law firmly and fairly” and “to treat everybody on the other side of the bench as I’d want to be treated.”

Coweta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Pete Skandalakis will seek reelection to a sixth term. Skandalakis received the 2007 “Georgia District Attorney of the Year” Award,  the Governor’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council of Georgia with their “Eagle Award” and served as president of the District Attorney’s Association of Georgia and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia.

As a prosecutor, I have represented the citizens of the Coweta Judicial Circuit for over 27 years, and for over 21 of those years as their district attorney,” said Skandalakis, a Republican. “I would be honored to serve as district attorney for another term. I love this job and I believe this is where the good Lord has put me, to serve the people of this circuit.”

“I absolutely love going to work every morning and representing the people of the circuit,” he said. “I’m particularly blessed with a good staff and I enjoy working with law enforcement and giving victims their say in court and the opportunity to seek justice.”

Meanwhile, Carroll County commissioners are discussing a resolution to ask the state legislature to split a Carroll County circuit out of the current Coweta circuit.

“This issue has been around for awhile,” commission Chairman Bill Chappell said. “Several years ago, it was brought up, but at that time, there was some opposition from the chief judge and other judges.”

Chappell said he feels those judges are more supportive of the move now. The resolution, scheduled for a vote at the regular May 1 commission meeting, would have no action in the process, other than to show county support.

Chappell said the first step in the long process of creating a new circuit would be for one of the Carroll County state legislators to make a request to the Administrative Office of the Court.

“The AOC would review all data, the court load, case load and personnel,” he said. “Then it would go to a judicial council, composed of 25 judges from the appeals and superior courts and one magistrate. They would review it, and if they agree, recommend it to the full state Legislature.”

It would then be presented to the 2013 General Assembly, and if passed, would become effective later in the year or on Jan. 1, 2014.

“There would be no extra cost to the county, none that I can see,” Chappell said. “The Superior Court judges, district attorney and assistant district attorneys are all paid by the state. The county has supplemented judges’ pay. Judges get a stipend for drug court.”

He said the same judges now in Carroll County would remain in office. A new district attorney would be added, strictly for Carroll County.

“By having a local district attorney, we’d see greater efficiency in prosecution,” Chappell said. “(District Attorney Pete) Skandalakis is a good man, but he is strung out over five counties, with an incredible case load. With a local district attorney, we’d see an improvement in prosecution levels.”

Ends & Pieces

Jim Galloway notes that Republicans who bring down Obamacare through litigation will be left to pick up the pieces. Republican lawmakers may wish to look at what the private secotr is doing: Aetna will now be offering individual health plans through Costco members in Georgia. In related news, Georgia officials are working to close a $63 million funding shortfall in the $3 billion state health plan for employees and retirees.

Charlie Harper has written an excellent piece about parallels between the housing bubble and the student loan debate now happening across the country. Reading it, I’m reminded that two of the most successful people I know who love their jobs every day are the guy who owns a heating and air company and a Porsche mechanic; neither of these professions requires a college education, but both of which require technical training.

Comedian Ron White is declaring victory after the Muscogee County School Board reversed its decision to reassign Columbus High principal Marvin Crumbsfor playing a comedy bit by White to adult staff. White will play the River Center in Columbus at 7 PM Saturday, April 28th.

On this date in 1865, Georgia Governor George Troup became the first in a long line of peach state lawmakers to nullify federal action. After Troup negotiated a purchase of almost all remaining Creek Indian land in Georgia, President J.Q. Adams negotiated different terms with the Creeks and threatened to send in federal troops. Troup threatened armed resistance to the feds and Adams backed down.

Reuters has an in-depth investigative piece on George Zimmerman’s background and some of the context in which the shooting two months ago took place. It’s the best-written piece I’ve read.

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