Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for December 3, 2012

This dog immediately caught my eye in the Murray County Animal Shelter’s listing. Almost certainly a purebred English Setter, he’s about 4.5 years old, gets along with other dogs and people, and is “a real tail wagger.” He’s available for adoption from the Murray County Shelter and transportation to Atlanta or elsewhere is available. All the dogs shown today must be rescued by 2 AM on Friday or they will be euthanized.

This lab-mix puppy is about 9 weeks old and gets along with other dogs and people.

And another puppy, this one about eight weeks old and male.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Last night Governor and Mrs. Deal invited Georgians into the Governor’s Mansion for the Christmas Tree Lighting and tours of the Mansion.

 

Tours are available to the public on most days through December 18th. We have a gallery of photos from last night on the website.

It’s a good thing we have liberal AJC columnist Jay Bookman to assure us that vote fraud is just a myth or I’d be worried about it. The Augusta Chronicle found at least two dozen registered voters listing addresses as abandoned or vacant properties.

A sample analysis of registered voters in Richmond County found more than two dozen individuals whose home of record was an empty lot or an uninhabitable structure.

Board of Elections Di­rector Lynn Bailey said she has no way of knowing whether a voter’s address is a vacant lot.

“That is a tricky thing to flag,” said Bailey, whose staff regularly updates voter registration lists with changes of address. “The lot may be flagged right now, but in six months it may not be vacant lot anymore.”

The Augusta Chronicle’s research found voters registered at empty lots and abandoned houses across the county by comparing voter registration information to county property records and Licensing and Inspection dates on abandoned properties.

Using similar techniques, the Chronicle has previously uncovered numerous voters registered at business addresses, including several who live in other counties and even outside the state.

It’s a good thing there’s no such thing as voter fraud.

A former ACORN employee told the Cobb Republican Women’s Club that Democrats broke election laws last month.

Anita MonCrief, who formerly worked for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, commonly known as ACORN, told a meeting of the Cobb Republican Women’s Club that Democrats broke voting laws.

“We had people that were coming in from other countries that were being allowed to vote,” she said. “We had poll watchers that were being kicked out of the polls for two and three hours while fraud was occurring.”

Republican poll-watching groups are starting to fight back, MonCrief said.

“We have let Democrats control the electoral system for so long that they set up their own rules,” she said. “Now that we’re trying to put Republicans out there like True the Vote, they are having a fit. True the Vote was attacked every day for 30-plus days leading up to the election … because they are the only organization on the right that’s working toward electoral integrity, which makes them dangerous because the system is rigged.”

But Jay Bookman says there’s no such thing as vote fraud.

Yesterday, paid canvassers were going door-to-door for Brookhaven Mayoral candidate Sandy Murray telling voters that her opponent J. Max Davis had been late paying his property taxes for six years in a row. Two problems.

First problem is that the tax liens in question were not filed against J. Max Davis, Jr., the candidate for Brookhaven Mayor, but against his father, J. Max Davis, who died before the liens in question were levied. Candidate J. Max Davis, Jr. was not the executor of his father’s estate, nor was he responsible for payment of property taxes. Turns out it was another screw-up by DeKalb County, and Sandy Murray was either ignorant of the fact that J. Max didn’t actually owe any money, or chose to spread false information.

The second problem was that one of the voter’s they spread this false information to was State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-City of Brookhaven), who researched it and found out the truth.

Also in Brookhaven, City Council candidate Rebecca Chase Williams has been endorsed by US Senator Johnny Isakson, DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer, State Reps. Tom Taylor and Mike Jacobs, and State Senator Fran Millar (R- it’s pronounced “Miller”).

Speaking of runoffs in the Augusta City Council election, the candidates are finding shortages of two commodities: campaign contributions are in short supply and only about 3 percent of voters cast ballots during early voting.

State Rep. Bill Hembree will meet Mike Dugan in the Special Republican Primary Runoff for Senate District 30 tomorrow.

But a major campaign hurdle seems to be making voters aware that there’s really an election coming up in just a few days.

“I’m encountering people who think we already won since we had such a large vote margin,” said Bill Hembree, of Winston, a former state House member who led with 48.3 percent of the Nov. 6 vote among four candidates. “I tell them, ‘Thank you for voting for us, but we need your vote again.’”

His challenger, Mike Dugan, a political newcomer, who captured 24.3 percent of the vote, finds a similar challenge.

“I’m talking with people, reminding them there’s an election,” Dugan said. “Before the last election, there was a long buildup. I think part of the problem has to do with the Thanksgiving holiday and some lost days. We need to get people back out there.”

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle’s hometown newspaper, the Gainesville Times,  concluded that Cagle was a likely winner in the Senate leadership elections held recently.

A change of leadership among state Senate Republicans may mean more power for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and lead to more influence for a local senator in the upcoming 2013 session.

The Republican Senate caucus will meet Dec. 15 to decide what responsibilities Cagle will assume in addition to his official duties as president of the Senate.

Cagle had broad powers in 2006, but Senate leaders relieved him of many responsibilities in 2010. With those revolutionary leaders remaining in the Senate but out of the top positions, friends such as Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, may help the second-highest elected official in the state regain some power.

Charles S. Bullock, political science professor at the University of Georgia, said he thinks Cagle will get some of his power back but not all of it.

“He won’t be just a figurehead,” Bullock said. “But he won’t have the power of his first term or historically.”

The Republican Senate caucus met Nov. 15 to elect leadership positions for the next term, choosing Sen. David Shafer of Duluth as president pro tem and Sen. Ronnie Chance of Tyrone, the governor’s floor leader, as majority leader. Miller was elected caucus chairman.

Miller said he was grateful and encouraged that he was the choice of his fellow colleagues. The caucus chairman for each party helps determine what bills reach the floor and helps directs the caucus on the bills and issues they’ll take up.

State Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville) continues to be one of the most quotable members of the General Assembly with these gems.

Kidd told The Telegraph on Friday that he’d become a Republican if it would help bring jobs to Baldwin and Putnam counties, which he represents.

“For 5,000 jobs, hell yeah I would change parties,” he said.

Kidd agreed with a different kind of majority, saying both the Republican and Democratic parties have a number of “weirdos” but most are mainstream.

Barnes, who was taken to a crisis center after being found at the Americus Walmart parking lot, asked Gov. Nathan Deal on Thursday to accept his resignation from the bench. Deal has accepted it.

Barnes had been under investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. According to a consent order posted Friday on the JQC website, Barnes was under investigation for various complaints that he had mismanaged or misappropriated funds that he held in a fiduciary capacity and that he “engaged in conduct which brought this judicial office in disrepute and undermined public confidence in the judiciary.”

The consent order states that in light of his resignation, the commission has agreed to drop its investigation on the condition that Barnes never seek an elected or appointed position as a judge.

The American Communist Lawyers Civil Liberties Union has filed suit seeking to block Georgia’s “fetal pain” bill that narrows the window within which elective abortions may be performed.

The law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks with exceptions for specific threats to the mother’s health. But the lawsuit contends the exceptions are narrow and “doctors treating women in accordance to the best medical judgment” could face prison.

Anti-abortion forces welcomed the lawsuit because they said it will help their efforts to reverse the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal across the land.

“We would welcome a (court) challenge simply because this provides the opportunity to place additional restrictions on abortion. It would be a challenge to Roe v. Wade,” said Dan Becker, president of Georgia Right to Life.

The lawsuit — along with a motion for an injunction to stop the law from taking effect until the case is heard — was filed on behalf of three doctors. The suit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court, says doctors would have to make “an untenable choice: to face criminal prosecution and up to 10 years imprisonment, as well as disciplinary and licensing sanctions” for providing the care their patients seek.

Fort Oglethorpe City Council member Charles Sharrock was removed from office by a unanimous vote of his colleagues. The death of another member of Council last week leaves the city with a slim majority of seats on the council occupied. Perhaps a female detective was not the right person to sexually harass (though there’s never a “right person” to sexually harass).

Sunday Sales of alcohol began this weekend in Columbus, Georgia.

Later this week the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners will consider levying a sales tax on energy following the state repeal of the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, which also hit city and county governments.

The Savannah Morning News opines that expansion of solar power will likely be a hot topic during the upcoming legislative session.

The Georgia Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities throughout the state, voted 3-2 to endorse efforts by a start-up company to overturn a law that has divided the Georgia into geographic monopolies for 94 utilities run by cities, rural cooperatives and Georgia Power Co.

This upstart company, Georgia Solar Utilities Inc., wants its own monopoly as a generator of solar power, with permission to sell to retail customers.

However, this firm has a built-in problem. Because it can’t produce electricity when the sun isn’t shining, it will always be dependent on more traditional power companies to serve customers.

Another hot topic will be the extension of the state hospital bed tax.

The 1.45 percent tax that hospitals pay on net patient revenue was levied by the 2010 General Assembly, under pressure from then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, to prevent a massive Medicaid shortfall. The fee allows the state to get matching federal funds on a 35 state-65 federal ratio. It also helps level the playing field among hospitals since Medicaid doesn’t pay what it costs to treat patients covered by the plan.

The tax has helped Georgia hospitals that have a large number of Medicaid patients, including Tanner Health System, which relies on Medicaid for about 14 percent of its revenue. Loss of the funds could cause extensive service cuts.

“We think renewal of this tax is very important,” said Tanner President/CEO Loy Howard. “We take care of many Medicaid patients, particularly in OB, so we’re in favor of the tax because it allows us to expand Medicaid and keep it at the level it is now. It’s imperative to maintaining access for many citizens, who without that option, would have no healthcare coverage.”

Howard said the tax is already in place and it’s working, so he feels it should be renewed so hospitals can take advantage of available federal dollars to provide coverage for as many people as possible.

“The bed tax is very important, especially considering that the governor is giving indication that he is not in favor of Obamacare Medicaid expansion or health care exchanges,” Howard said. “I’m going to defer to the governor on that call, and I think our legislators share some of the same opinions on Obamacare. Given that’s their position, we think the bed tax is particularly important.”

If you’re speaking to House Speaker David Ralston, you should be careful not to call it a bed tax; Ralston apparently prefers the term “Medicaid assessment fee.”

Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee will ask legislators to pass a bill allowing a “fractional sales tax” of three-quarters of a cent.

“Our county is getting mature to the point where we’re not going to have to add another courthouse or another jail or some major capital improvement,” Lee said at a joint breakfast between commissioners and the Cobb legislative delegation at the Safety Village on Friday.

“We’re going to have smaller capital improvement projects. We’re going to have more repair and renewal type of projects, and it’s important that we be able to start at the bottom of our list and let it figure out where it ends, so if it ends up at three quarters of a penny for four years we would like to be able to use that as a tool, as opposed to having to get ourselves forced into a penny increment. We think having the flexibility of putting a list together and having it end up where it needs to be is a stronger way to do that.”

Part of the sales tax would be used for property tax relief for homeowners.

Lakeside High School in Evans, Georgia elected Jessica Giddens as homecoming queen. Congratulations to Jessica Giddens on her election and to her classmates for a singluar display of class that should go far in removing the taint of Honey Boo Boo from our state.

Right whales are migrating off the coast of Georgia.

North Atlantic right whales have started their annual migration to calving grounds off the southeast coast.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources reports that a boater off Hilton Head, S.C., photographed the first mother and calf of the season on Nov. 27. The department has received other reports of right whale sightings off Georgia and Florida.

Wildlife officials planned to launch a plane Saturday to determine whether more whales were in the area.

The whales migrate this time of year to their only known calving area along the coast of Georgia, northern Florida and South Carolina.

Does anyone know if it’s possible to go out on a boat and see the whales? I’ll be in Savannah this weekend and would like to try to do this. Let me know, please.

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